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Mountains are an essential part of the landscape of our planet. They affect our climate, they divide our geography, and they add beauty to our scenery. They are “storehouses of the snow” (Job 38:22), preserving precious water that feeds mountain springs to water the valleys. Mountains also provide recreation in the form of hiking, skiing, and mountain climbing.
Tectonic or volcanic forces form the mountains. The outer shell of Earth, called the lithosphere, consists of seven large tectonic plates and many smaller ones. Mountains form where those plates move against one another, pushing up the surface. Volcanoes also erupt at those joints when molten rock, called magma, breaks out from inside the Earth. Mountains can grow or change quickly when a volcano erupts or very gradually through the movement of tectonic plates. They also erode gradually by the action of wind, rain, and glaciers.
The highest mountain peak on Earth is Mt. Everest in the Himalayas between Nepal and Tibet. It rises to 29,032 feet or 8,849 meters above sea level and was formed by tectonic action. However, it is not the world's tallest mountain. That distinction goes to Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which is more than 33,500 feet (10,210 meters) when measured from its base on the ocean floor. It was formed by volcanic action.
Because the volcanic and tectonic forces bring minerals from inside the Earth to the surface, the mountain formation process is essential for life on Earth. Volcanic soil is very fertile and productive for agriculture. Where mountains are too steep for farming, they can be sources of useful minerals from inside the Earth.
At the high mountain elevations, the climate is much colder, and the air is thinner, creating various ecosystems at various levels. Each ecosystem has its own flora and fauna providing a rich diversity of life on our planet. Mountains also offer excellent locations for astronomical observatories above the pollution and distortion of our atmosphere.
If you have ever gone to the top of a mountain, you know that it is an exciting experience. I have hiked, driven, and taken a ski lift to the top of mountains in various parts of the United States. We use the term “mountaintop experience” to describe a high point in our lives or in our faith. We can apply that term to the experience of several Bible characters.
Noah experienced God's protection and grace through the flood, which placed the ark on a mountaintop where God made a covenant with him. Abraham journeyed to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. There God released him from that terrible moment and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in jubilation with his son. On Mount Sinai, Moses was in God's presence as he received instructions written by the hand of God. On Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal, and God showed his power. Jesus was transfigured on a mountain in a miracle experienced by his closest disciples. There Moses and Elijah, men with previous mountaintop experiences, appeared with Jesus. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus taught his disciples.
However, in this life, we cannot stay on the mountaintop forever, and the valleys can be very deep and dark. It was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus was betrayed by Judas and forsaken by the other disciples. Noah became drunk on wine after he had survived the flood and received God's covenant. After Elijah's mountaintop experience, he ran for his life to escape the wrath of Jezebel.
We have mountains and valleys in our lives. God gives us the mountaintop experiences to sustain us through the valleys. The COVID-19 valley has been a challenge for people worldwide, but for Christians, we know that something better is ahead. As he fled from Jezebel, Elijah ran to another mountain, Mount Horeb, where God spoke to him in a soft whisper and sustained him with food and water. King David built his city on Mount Zion, and in that city of Jerusalem, Jesus was tried and sentenced. As he climbed Mount Calvary, he gave us the gift of grace and hope to sustain us through our deepest valleys.
No, we cannot always remain on the mountaintop. We must go down into the valley where there are people who need to know God's love. We can be thankful that Jesus climbed Mount Calvary, where he showed us his love and grace. Mountains are a blessing from God that give us a better view of the universe, the world, and life.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.