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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

The story of the Bible is a story of mountains. From the Garden-temple of Eden to Ararat, Horeb, Sinai, and Zion—mountains play an important role in the story of the Bible. Time and time again, God chooses mountains as the place of special communion with his people. In this episode, Michael Horton, Walter Strickland, Bob Hiller, and Justin Holcomb survey the biblical mounts and consider the unique role that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount plays in the biblical story.  


ON THIS EPISODE:

  • Michael Horton is White Horse Inn’s founder and co-host. In addition to serving as a J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, he is a minister in the United Reformed Churches. He is the author of more than 30 books.
  • Justin Holcomb is a Senior Fellow with Sola Media’s Theo Global. He is also the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, where he has served as the canon for vocations since 2013. He teaches theology and apologetics at Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
  • Bob Hiller is the Senior Pastor of Community Lutheran Church in Escondido, California. He is also the author of Finding Christ in the Straw.
  • Walter Strickland is Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has contributed to, edited, and authored multiple books in his areas of research interest, which include the African American theological tradition, education theory, and theology of work.

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Transcript 

The Mountains of Scripture

Bob Hiller

Life under the reign of Christ tends to turn the way we view the world on its head. St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, says it this way, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

 When it comes to our salvation, another way of saying this would be that on account of the dying and rising of Christ Jesus, God saved you by his grace, apart from anything in you, which is radically different from our inborn belief that we are righteous by our performance. Luther says it this way in the Heidelberg Disputation, “The love of God does not find, but creates that which is pleasing to it.” What’s more, he then calls you into a way of life that does look foolish to the rest of the world, a life of faith exercised in love and sacrifice. Jesus lays out this way of life for us in his wonderful sermon on the Mount. But lest we think that this sermon is Jesus merely performing as a new Moses or a spiritual guru, telling us how to work for our righteousness, he speaks with the authority of God on the mountain, and with that authority introduces the sermon with the wonderful gospel promises that we call the beatitudes. 

If we think of the sermon on the mount like a house the disciple lives in, the beatitudes serve as the entranceway into the house. But what is so surprising is who Jesus lets in the door. Here, as St. Paul did for the Corinthians, Jesus shows how God calls to himself the poor, the meek, the hungry and thirsty. In other words, those who are weak, those who lack any ability in themselves to come to God, those who, in the eyes of the world, are foolish. Over the next two months, we’re going to take a deeper dive into these wonderful beatitudes and be surprised again by the wonderful, gracious heart of our Lord, who comes not for the righteous, but for the empty, for the sinner. And to do this, I’m here with my friends Michael Horton, author and professor of theology at Westminster Seminary California, Justin Holcomb, Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida, author and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Walter Strickland, professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and elder at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. And I’m Bob Hiller, senior pastor of Community Lutheran Church in Escondido and San Marcos, California, and the Content Editor for Craft of Preaching over at 1517.org.

Gentlemen, sometime back we did a series on the misunderstood passages of scripture, and it strikes me that the Sermon on the Mount, and especially the beatitudes, are often wildly misused. So to get our bearings today, let’s talk a little bit about the context of this sermon and what’s going on here, maybe in the Gospel of Matthew, within the entirety of Scripture. How should we look at these beatitudes and the sermon that Jesus gives us?

What are The Beatitudes?

Justin Holcomb

One issue with how you first start reading it is, okay, this is what I need to do to enter the kingdom of heaven. Like, there’s these statements, “be poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger, and thirst for righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, be peacemakers and persecuted for righteousness,” that’s the way to get in, or its viewed as the idealistic description of a way of life and how life will function if you’re in the kingdom of God, like this is what’s going to happen to you. Either” this is how you get in,” or “this is what you should expect to happen,” if you are in the family. So there are postures toward the beatitudes that I think stand out as things for us to avoid or be aware of as we’re discussing it. Does that sound familiar to you all from ways people have read it or how you have read it before?

Michael Horton

I think the first thing that I remember about the beatitudes was that it was in the imperative mood. This is, as you were saying, this is what you have to do to get in the kingdom of God. Here’s my checklist. We’re always looking for a checklist. And so Jesus gives us a checklist, and it’s revolutionary, because it’s in the indicative mood.

Now, what’s the difference again? Well, it’s the difference between law and gospel. He is not commanding them to be persecuted. He’s not commanding them to be meek. He’s not commanding them to be poor in spirit. He is blessing them. This is an objective blessing from the King of the kingdom. This is akin to the absolution, you know, “I forgive your sins in the name of Christ for his sake.”

This is, “blessed are.” Jesus is not saying your situation is blessed, you are a really kind of blessed person because you’re victorious and you’ve survived a lot of trouble, he’s saying, blessed are the people who are shut out of the world’s splendor because they belong to me.

Justin Holcomb

The two that I was describing go together. It’s really an “if you do this, then you get that.” If you do the imperative, then you get the blessing. And so this is how you get in. And once you get in, this is what you get for it. This is the reward. But you really have to distort the actual sentence structure to make that case. Jesus starts out every sentence with, “blessed be” those who can’t do something from themselves.

The blessing is first to the people who can’t earn, deserve, or even really advocate for themselves. And this is the first thing in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s coming out with the blessings as opposed to, you know, ending with them. That’s important.

Walter Strickland

I thought coming into this, yes, when we’re blessed, when we’re in the kingdom, we get these things automatically. And I think for me, that was one of those sort of over-realized moments that I had to take captive. The tense there in verse three and then also verse ten, it says, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So that’s a present reality. And then verse ten, “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But everything in between, verses four to nine says, “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted, or blessed, they will be comforted.” And so it’s always will or shall, depending on your translation, throughout the rest.

Bob Hiller

When I used to work at the Christian bookstore, we had the bookmarks and it would say the ‘B space attitudes,’ so the attitudes you’re supposed to have. And then they would list the attitudes you’re supposed to have. So what I’m telling you now, friends, is if you have that bookmark, you can burn it and you can feel very good. That’s a mark of sanctification right there.

Why the Sermon on the Mount Isn’t Like Mount Sinai

Michael Horton

It’s a blessing, not a command.

Justin Holcomb

The beatitudes get treated like the fruit of the spirit, because the fruit of the spirit literally is called the fruit of the Spirit. Who’s the gardener here? The Holy Spirit. But somehow those get turned into, “Okay, you need to cultivate this fruit in your life, and you’re the primary gardening agent of it, of course we have something we can qualify for. Qualification. Qualification, etc. But it’s the fruit of the Spirit and the beatitudes getting twisted into our imperative in a similar way.

Michael Horton

It’s important too, I think, to remember that this is deliberately juxtaposed to Moses on the mountain.

So Moses received God’s commandments on the mountain and they were, “blessed are you if you keep them.” And then he splashes the blood on the people in accordance with their oath. “All this we will do.” So they’re making the oath. They’re swearing at that mountain with Moses as the mediator and its commands. Do this and you shall live. Jesus is giving his sermon from another mountain, and he’s not delivering commandments to the people. He’s not just mediating the word of God, he is the word of God.

And he speaks as if he wrote the Ten Commandments. You have heard it said. But I say Moses would have been struck dead if he had ever said that. Jesus says, you’ve heard it said, “tooth for tooth. I say no. If somebody wants your tunic, give them your robe.” This is regime change. This is what Jesus is doing here on his mount.

Justin Holcomb

Can we camp out on that for a second? I know we need to do some theology of mountains, and we have plenty of time to get to that.

Bob Hiller

Let’s camp on this mountain first.

Justin Holcomb

Let’s build some shelters, maybe.

Walter Strickland

Oh, watch out, theology nerds.

Justin Holcomb

I’m feeling our conversation…transfiguring.

Michael Horton

Oh, my goodness.

Justin Holcomb

Are we done now? But I think this is important, Mike, because Jesus seemingly intentionally did this. This wasn’t just, like, an artistic thing so people could hear him. There’s probably a reason that he actually did this on a mount. And Matthew tells us this and highlights this. So there’s an intentionality. You’re not just making up a neat point about Moses and Jesus, but it’s actually, the Sermon on the Mount is framed like it’s looking at the mosaic law on purpose, and that’s intentional. Let’s unpack that.

Bob Hiller

What you want to see when you read Matthew’s Gospel for the first four chapters, Matthew has been at pains to demonstrate to you how Jesus is the ideal Israelite. With the genealogy, you have him as the son of Abraham, the son of David. And then he’s fulfilling all of these prophecies. He’s born of a virgin, he goes to Egypt. And out of Egypt the son is called just like Israel. And then he comes out of the waters just like Israel. And then immediately after he’s out of the waters, he’s being tempted in the wilderness, just like Israel.

But through all this, Jesus is doing all of it without sin. The next scene you have is Jesus ascending a mountain, just like Moses does for Israel in the wilderness, only here, just as you said, Mike, Jesus doesn’t speak merely as an Israelite and merely as a new Moses. He says things like, “you have heard it said, but I say to you,” when I gave Moses the law, this is what I meant by the words. And so he’s claiming to be both the ideal Israelite but also God in flesh himself. And this is all done now on that mountain to remind us of Sinai. So maybe we should get into the mountains.

Justin Holcomb

Was there anything on the intentionality? Because this is an important point. “Okay,” people say, “he’s the new and better Moses.” I mean, that’s kind of one way that people have talked about. That’s highlighting the intentionality of the mosaic law. But the difference between what’s happening here is something that I just wanted to make sure we highlighted in it.

Walter Strickland

Yeah, that’s very simple. I mean, even the structure of Matthew’s gospel is built around these five major teaching blocks. And the Sermon on the Mount is the first of those five. All that to say, he’s trying to demonstrate that what’s happening on this mountain is juxtaposed with that previous mountain. That’s a very simple note about the structure of Matthew’s Gospel. However, I think this first teaching block is on, like, the spatial reality of where this happened is done in such a way where he’s trying to demonstrate, “hey, I’m the one you’ve been waiting for.”

And as you said, Bob, “it’s been written, but now I say this.” And he’s even going to, in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, interpret, or even one up, if I can say it that way, some of the teachings that happened on that particular mount.

The Beatitudes and the Law

Michael Horton

Great point. So he starts out, it’s important to see, as the king pronouncing blessing on his people, whether they feel blessed, whether they act blessed, whatever. They’re not being or doing anything. Well, they’re being blessed by Jesus as the king. But then Jesus goes on to give them the regulations of the kingdom, and this is how the kingdom is regulated. This is how my disciples, who are blessed apart from works by grace alone, through faith alone, in me alone. This is how my kingdom is set up.

This is how you live. This is how it’s going to be until I return and consummate my kingdom finally one day. And so you do have commands. Absolutely. You have expectations. Hey, you have expectations that are a lot harder than Moses’ law.

Bob Hiller

We want these from the heart, not just with the hands. We want all of you.

Michael Horton

This is what I meant as you’re saying, Bob, this is what I meant when I wrote the Ten Commandments. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” You could keep from breaking the Sabbath, you know, you could tithe, you could do all these outward things, and people think you’re righteous. But loving God with all you’ve got and your neighbor as yourself, “you’ve heard it said,” for example, “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” I say, no. Jesus says that if you’ve lusted in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery. So Jesus is not a kinder, gentler Moses. Jesus is saying, no, no, no.

You really need to understand what the righteousness of God is. The righteousness of God is about your heart. It is not just about your rituals and all that you do to show people you’re religious. Your heart, God wants your whole heart. And that’s the law. That’s what the law says. Whether it’s to crush us and send us to Christ or to direct us. You say, well, it’s an impossible law.

Yeah, well, yet it is impossible to fulfill it perfectly. But now it’s not impossible to practice it.

Justin Holcomb

You said a sentence there. So there’s an idea. Jesus is the newer, better Moses, as if he’s like gentler, like he’s toning down the sting of the law. And when people say that they might mean something different. I don’t know what they mean when they say new or better Moses, because he’s actually doing something different. He’s saying he’s not muting the effect of the law. It’s almost like Jesus is sharpening the spear of the law to plunge it deeper into our hearts. But he’s also using the law summary of itself, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

The summary of the law is “love the Lord your God,” which is the Old Testament, the law’s summary of itself. And the same thing about loving your neighbor. So Jesus picks up on that and says, that’s going to be the tip of the spear of the law. And so he’s doing something way different. He’s not a more gentle version of Moses.

Michael Horton

“I did not come to abolish the law.”

Justin Holcomb

He’s making sure it plunges.

Bob Hiller

“Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” isn’t comforting to me. It’s not gentle Jesus. It’s not gospel. But you think about this, there’s a sense in which Jesus, who is greater than Moses, he is ushering in a new creation. He’s showing his disciples how they are to live until the new creation arrives. There’s a sense in which what he’s doing here is very similar to what goes on in Eden.

Here’s who you are. You are blessed. I’m giving all of this to you. Here’s conditions, how life is going to go for you here in the land, do this, don’t do that. But there’s still a sense in which there’s something very divine about how Jesus speaks to the disciples here, the same way God in the Garden of Eden spoke to Adam and Eve. 

Mountains in the Bible

Now, with that in mind, let’s think about the Garden of Eden.

Because it seems from some places in scripture that Eden itself was depicted as a mountain, and when God comes to visit his people, so often he does so on mountaintops. So you have these, I’m sorry for this one, Walter, but you have these mountaintop experiences with the Lord. Like, this is where the Lord seems to be showing up. So let’s look at some of these mountains.

Justin Holcomb

Just like we said about Moses. This is intentional. God reveals himself and his redemptive plan on mountains.

Walter Strickland

I think that the average, western Bible reader is more…we don’t value the creation as we ought.

And so when we stumble upon these consistencies, there’s 500 times in the Bible where things are happening that are very significant on mountains. And I think we belittle that spatial reality when we read the Bible. I mean, when we see, in general revelation, in a Psalm 19 sort of way, there’s a majesty that comes with it. Even with Psalm 121, because this popped into my head, it talks about how our help comes from the Lord. It says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills.” That’s intentional. “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1). In verse one, you have the hills, but then you have the maker of those hills. And so the stability of a mountain.

So we’re understanding that God will not be moved. There’s some characteristics that the presence of that mountain bespeaks that coincides with the message that’s being communicated. To continue, Psalm 121:3-4 says, “He will not let your foot be moved.” And just thinking about the Psalms of Ascent, ascending up a mountain, that means something to somebody who’s ascending up a hill. “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

The God who is going to keep us is the one who is mighty. Just like that mountain is so stable and still, he’ll never slumber or sleep. So I think the idea of the mountain is communicating something. I don’t want to get too deep into that and press it for more than we ought. However, I think the spatial reality is sort of doubling down on some of the message that is being communicated to us.

Michael Horton

Yeah, definitely. I think too of Psalm 48:2. 

“It is high and magnificent

    the whole earth rejoices to see it,

Mount Zion, the holy mountain,

    is the city of the great King.”

 And it goes on in the next verse to say, “beautiful in loftiness, the joy of all the earth. Like the peaks of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the great king.” Zaphon is now taken over by Zion.

And Zaphon was called the “mountain of assembly” by the Canaanites. And it was where the gods sat in council, sort of like Mount Olympus with Zeus, and Baal was the Zeus figure at the top of that mountain. Well, now Zaphon has been appropriated, let’s just say by God. He has taken it over. And when you read Mount Zion in the north or Zaphon in the north, it’s referring to this mountain where the Canaanites used to worship Baal. God has completely taken over that mountain, “high and majestic.” All the other mountains are embarrassed. That’s the high mountain. And then Isaiah 14 carries this forward of this great mountain of God.

It’s the hill of assembly. Once again, the same word, the mount of assembly. This is where God assembles first of all his trusted counselors and then sends them out on missions, but also where he assembles his people and he meets with them on the sabbath and he comes down in a cloud and so forth. The tent of assembly looks like a mountain. You have all these references, and then finally you get to Revelation 16:16, where God assembles all the people, the believers and unbelievers, it says the angels assembled them at the mount of assembly, which is called in Hebrew, Harmageddon. Armageddon. So Armageddon is actually the mountain of assembly.

It’s not a valley somewhere where Russia is going to have a war with Israel over oil. This is the Last Judgment. So the mount of assembly is where God assembles his people. And what is Jesus doing here? This is another Armageddon. This is another Harmageddon. This is another mountain of God, where God is assembling his people to give them his blessing and send them out with their marching orders.

Bob Hiller

When we look in the old testament, it seems to me there are two mountains that tower above the rest of the mountains. There’s Sinai and there’s Zion. Right? So Mount Sinai is where the law is given. And there’s Mount Zion where the temple is built, where the sacrifices are made.

Michael Horton

“The Lord will provide.”

Bob Hiller

Yeah, the Lord will provide. These two mountains. And maybe we can talk a little bit about this, because I think it’s themes get picked up in Galatians as well as other places. But Sinai so often is the place where people try to find their identity, where the Israelites try to find their identity with the law. This is where the law is given and all of this. But when God shows up on Sinai, the people don’t want to go near the mountain. They’re terrified. “Moses, you go.”

Michael Horton

They could not bear the command that was given.

Bob Hiller

That’s right. So you have this law and the presence of God on the mountain with the law, without any sacrifices. It’s a terrifying place to be. But then God says, ‘I won’t be present with you in only that way, I’m going to be present with you at Zion. And there I’m going to put my presence in a temple where sacrifices will be made so that your sins will be forgiven, or this will be pointing to the forgiving of your sins, that will take place here, so that I can dwell in your midst’…here we get to the psalms of ascent and what you have here is the people saying, “I look to the hills, from there my help comes. I’m looking up at Zion. I’m ascending to worship the Lord, who I get to go worship. And I delight to be in the presence of the Lord because the sacrifices are there for me and I’m going to hear his word and his teachings” and all of this. And so God comes in a gracious way. Throughout the Old Testament, you have this law gospel dynamic that is conveyed with the pictures of these two mountains.

Walter Strickland

Something you just said, Bob, got me thinking. They’re at Sinai and they’re looking up, which I think, again, one of those very, that physical act of looking up, I think is significant. They looked up at the top of the mountain and they were horrified. They didn’t want to go. But then because of the provision that we see on Zion, then they’re able to ascend. I just think that now, as we are looking back at scripture and we’re thinking about the access now that we have because of Jesus, who climbed another hill, that’s just very significant for us to be able to ascend that hill of the Lord, to be in the presence of God.

Mount Sinai and Mount Zion

Michael Horton

And you’re not making this up when you say these two mountains represent the law and the gospel. A great book by the distinguished professor of jewish studies at Harvard University, Jon D. Levenson wrote a terrific book, Sinai and Zion, that discusses this very thing. He goes through all these passages in the prophets that talk about, he says, ‘somewhere above the vicissitudes of human obedience and disobedience, there is an eternal covenant that’s everlasting, that is by grace alone.’

Bob Hiller

Really?

Michael Horton

Yep. And then you have the Sinai tradition, and he goes through those passages and the history of Sinai’s mountain, the old covenant, which of course, he doesn’t call the old covenant. And you’re just weeping and saying, “this is amazing!” And then he says, but when the temple was destroyed, Christians had Jesus as the temple and they didn’t need the temple in Jerusalem. When we lost the temple we said that ‘it’s going to be each man for himself, basically. And we’re going to offer sacrifices of repentance, and we’re going to offer works to ascend the hill of the Lord, because for us, Sinai will always speak the loudest.’ See, now, if a person who just reads the Bible very closely like he does can come out realizing that these represent two mountains, then it’s not surprising that the apostle Paul could say this in Galatians 4. “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children” (Gal. 4:21-26).

You could just imagine.

Bob Hiller

Imagine that the Judaizersare loving this.

Michael Horton

Yeah. ‘Paul, you’ve had a long day and everything, been teaching a lot. I think you misspoke. Yeah. We’re not children of Hagar. We’re children of Sarah. It’s the Arabs who are the children of Hagar.’

And Paul said, ‘no, no, you’re children of Hagar all right. You are children of the slave woman. The present Jerusalem is in slavery. And by the way, Mount Sinai. Where is that on the map? Somebody get me a globe. Oh, Mount Sinai in Arabia.’ So basically he’s saying, you are disinherited if you don’t trust in [Christ]. I am Zion. I’m promise. And if you don’t trust in me, you’re in slavery.

A Biblical Theology of Mountains

Justin Holcomb

I want to zoom out real quick on mountains too, because the highlight of that, just to underscore where we’ve been, because you started this conversation, Bob, talking about Eden being a mountain, the holy garden mountain of God. We have other places where there are some promises made, like Abraham in Genesis 22, where you actually have God revealing himself to Abraham on a mountain about a sacrifice that God would provide. So before Sinai, it’s important to make sure we have these other promises. This is connected to the promise of Genesis 3:15, “the seed of woman will crush the head of the serpent” and all this language. And so you have this idea of God providing a sacrifice that we know would one day be Jesus Christ. And then you have, again, God revealing himself to Moses in Exodus 3, Mount Horeb, and then Sinai. It’s not just two mountains that we are talking about.

Justin Holcomb

There’s a lot. There’s Eden, Abraham, Moses, Horeb, Sinai. And then you have promises about mountains that we are talking about where God would say, “okay, the land of Cana starts out with the promise of, first, in the hills of Shiloh, Joshua 18:1, that kind of the promise of the land. Then you have 2 Chronicles 3:1, which is the site of the temple.

And so then, and this is before you even get to Jesus doing this. So this is not saying anything except just giving more of the kind of texture to this mountain conversation. The two obviously are Sinai and Zion.

Bob Hiller

But there’s more to it than just that.

Walter Strickland

Certainly, even if we look at Jesus himself, he begins his ministry by defeating Satan on a mountain. And then he feeds his disciples on a mountain. And so this is just a continuation.

Justin Holcomb

He was not just doing Moses stuff better. He was saying, ‘OK, you know how Moses brought you food? I am the bread of life.’

Walter Strickland

That was so significant.

Michael Horton

I am the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Justin Holcomb

I wrote the law, I’m not just modifying it. I didn’t give bread, I am the bread.

Michael Horton

And as you said, Mount Moriah there, the sacrifice of Isaac. But God withheld his hand and said, ‘Nope’. A ram was caught in the thicket. And the Lord provided. The Lord provided a substitute in the place of Isaac. So he named it, “the Lord will provide.” And it was on exactly that mount that the Lord did provide so many centuries later, where Jesus was crucified. The temple was built there and then Jesus was crucified there.

Justin Holcomb

That’s a great coincidence.

Walter Strickland

A coincidence if we didn’t have a sovereign God.

Michael Horton

Yeah, exactly.

Walter Strickland

I mean, just to kind of continue down the Jesus path with the mountains, he communes with the father on a mountain, he was transfigured on a mountain. I mean, it’s just such a significant time in the life of our lord.

Justin Holcomb

Where he’s focused on his death. This is where literally, you learn, I don’t know which Gospel it was, where it says, they talked about his departure.

In Mark, he makes a death march. He’s like, ‘I’m going to my cross.’ And it’s clearly because Peter’s like, what in the world is going on? Because they started talking about what he’s going to do. So they’re on a mountain, talking about Jesus’s death which will be on another mountain.

Bob Hiller

So Jesus does remarkably very divine stuff on mountains, including giving his life as a ransom for many, which is really quite remarkable. I mean, the mountain that culminates all of this is Golgotha. He’s crucified on a mountain.

Michael Horton

And then you’ve got the mountain coming down from heaven, the city of God coming down from heaven, talking about a whole mountain just coming down out of heaven. And after that, there’s no difference between heaven and earth. The mountain is God dwelling forever with his people. Another one is Ezekiel 28, referring to Eden as God’s mountain: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:

“You were the signet of perfection,

    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

 You were in Eden, the garden of God;

    every precious stone was your covering,

sardius, topaz, and diamond,

    beryl, onyx, and jasper,

sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;

    and crafted in gold were your settings

    and your engravings.

On the day that you were created

    they were prepared.

 You were an anointed guardian cherub.

    I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;

    in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

 You were blameless in your ways

    from the day you were created,

    till unrighteousness was found in you.

 In the abundance of your trade

    you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;

so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,

    and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,

    from the midst of the stones of fire.”

Michael Horton

Two really brief things. One, these precious stones are the stones that were in the breastplate of the high priests. They are new Adams. New high priests in the garden of God, the sanctuary of God. This is the king of Tyre, some say, ‘oh, well, this is about Satan or it’s about Adam.’ No, it’s a taunt to be said to the king of Tyre, but the illusions are obvious. Here’s another son of Adam who has failed to do what God has called him to do. And God had him in such a high position in his cabinet, but he was a traitor.

And this is recapitulating what human beings since Adam have always done. The second thing really quickly is the mention of, “in the midst of the stones of fire.” So you have the mountain, but also in the midst of the stones of fire, the book of revelation, where it mentions in Revelation 16, the mountain of God being called in Hebrew, Harmageddon, the mount of assembly, where it mentions that, it begins by saying, referring to the sea of glass, but for the first time, which was fiery. There’s something there about this mountain of God being so glorious, everywhere you look there are precious stones and a sea of glass that seems like it’s on fire.

Walter Strickland

As I think of just how precious those materials are and looking back at Sinai and then heading to Zion and then to Golgotha and then what emerges from that? It’s such a doxological moment. And I guess I’m just wanting to pause there because we do have this blood of the lamb who then we look back at Zion, in light of that blood that was the once for all sacrifice. And then we look back farther at Sinai and we think, how much, because of what happened on the mount at Golgotha, has our ability to relate to God changed?

Bob Hiller

Right?

Michael Horton

“Come boldly.”

Walter Strickland

Yeah. And in Hebrews, we’re like these little children who burst into our father’s office beyond the secretary, beyond all the checkpoints that everybody else would have to stop and get permission, we boldly approach the throne. We go into the holy of Holies. In Leviticus, I’m struck by the fact that the work of the high priestess just happened once a year, and then even still before that, doing the sacrifice for themselves, and if for whatever reason, they were struck dead in there they’d be drug out by their ankles. I mean, like, and we look back at this sort of biblical theology of the mountains, and we see what God is doing. We see what’s happening.

We see how God is working. And so this is just a wonderful theme that I think that we can just glean so much from.

Justin Holcomb

This mountain theme that you all are hitting reminds me of Isaiah 65, 

“they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,

    and their descendants with them.

 Before they call I will answer;

    while they are yet speaking I will hear.

 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;

    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,

    and dust shall be the serpent’s food,”

Can’t help but hear Genesis 3:15

“They shall not hurt or destroy

    in all my holy mountain,”

says the Lord.”

Bob Hiller

Got me thinking of Isaiah 25, 

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.”

And what we see here, there’s again this wonderful mountain imagery, and it always brings to mind, how do we get to that point? How do we get to that point where we enter into the mountain and have this feast prepared for us by the Lord? Who can ascend to that place? Well, because Christ Jesus has done it for us, he’s ascended the mountain of Golgotha to pay for our sins on the cross, and on account of his death, he has declared us to be righteous and holy. That is what is promised to us.

We can ascend the mountain of the Lord as the righteous people of God because of the dying of Jesus on Golgotha and his shed blood and his sacrifice and his fulfillment of the law. And all of these mountains come to a culmination in the dying of Jesus, so that when he rises from the dead, he can promise to you and to me that we will dine with him on his mountain.

More from this Series: Citizens of the Kingdom: The Beatitudes

  1. The Mountains of Scripture Listen Now ›
  2. A Kingdom for the Poor in Spirit Listen Now ›
  3. Comfort for the Mourning Listen Now ›
  4. An Inheritance for the Meek, Humble, and Unimportant Listen Now ›
  5. Righteousness for the Hungry and Thirsty Listen Now ›
  6. Mercy for the Merciful Listen Now ›
  7. A Vision for the Pure in Heart Listen Now ›