That’s me at the top of 10,358’ South Sister in Oregon. I look better than I felt. Even in August, the summit had an ice cap and a howling wind. I was exhausted by the long climb over energy sapping scree and my body needed more oxygen than the thin air could provide. Nonetheless, my friend and I had made it and that felt good. Years earlier, I climbed 15,000’ Mount Kenya. In spite of weeks of planning, altitude sickness almost ended the adventure prematurely. I only made the peak because mountain rangers carried my pack the final few miles.
King David was a spiritual mountaineer. He cherished the presence of God so much that the theme fills his psalms. Two in particular provide a checklist for a lifetime expedition to the summit of God’s presence.
O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
3 He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the Lord;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken. (Ps. 15:1-5)
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face—even Jacob. (Ps. 24:3-6)
David called his objective the hill of the Lord. Geographically it was a minor mountain; spiritually it seemed major peak. On MountZion stood a tent (or tabernacle) where the presence of God dwelt above the Ark of the Covenant. David rightly asked who might ascend and remain there. He recalled stories of ungodly people stuck dead by the presence of God. He knew that mount as a holy place.
In the two psalms, David provides us with an expedition checklist. It touches all the main parts of our lives—actions and words. If we are to reach the goal of the presence of God then the following are necessary:
- Walk or live with integrity.
- Work or do righteousness rather than evil.
- Speak truth rather than slander or deceit.
- Speak no reproach to a friend.
- Honor those who fear God.
- Remain firm and unswaying even when it would be advantageous to bend a few principles.
- Charge no interest that takes advantage of another person’s financial vulnerability.
In Psalm 24 David summed them up—clean hands, a pure heart, and a soul that avoids falsehood. Our inner life eventually finds expression through our hands (and lips). We must be uncontaminated to experience the presence of God.
God-seekers will do all the preparation they can, knowing that it will never be enough. God loves our attempts, but without Him meeting us more than half way, we would never make it. Jesus’ death on the cross dealt with our sin-stained hearts, tongues, and hands so that we can approach God freely. He drew alongside us, removed the contaminating burden of sin, and escorted us straight to the throne room. It’s no longer a mountain—it’s a short heart journey.
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