You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game…Psalm 76.4
Today my body aches. It is a good ache. An ache of achievement. We climbed our annual 14er (14,000 ft mountains) in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We are not serious mountain climbers. We stay away from the technical stuff. But we love the mountains.
This year it was Mt. Belford in the Collegiate Peaks—14,197 ft, about 9 miles round trip. Give it to our kids; they “bagged” both Belford and Mt. Oxford (2 miles away). By the time I reached the summit of Belford, there was a bolt of lightening that struck so close that I fell to the ground and laid low for fifteen minutes. I did not want to hang around the top too long. Still, the climb to the top, the beauty, the silence, the panoramic views, even the thunder, make every 14er an incredibly rewarding experience.
We climbed with members of our small group from church. At the end of the day, after putting our feet in a cold mountain river, and relaxing, we talked about what we saw. We spoke of the majesty of the mountains.
The word majesty comes from a Latin word meaning greatness. When you describe the majesty of something, you describe its greatness. We observe the heavens, or gaze at mountains and call them majestic because they are so great. But why are they so majestic? I asked.
One person said, the mountains are majestic because the are so old and weighty. Looking at and climbing the massive rock above tree line, you can’t miss this. Like the ocean and the heavens, they confront us with something that dwarfs us. Next to them you feel small. We climbed a 14er. Mt Everest, on the Nepal-Tibet border is 29,028 ft., the tallest mountain on earth from sea level. If you measure from under the sea then the prize goes to Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, which rises 33,476 ft. from the Pacific Ocean floor. Outside the earth, but in our solar system, there is Olympus Mons on Mars, at 88.580 feet, the largest mountain known anywhere.
Another person noted that the mountains are majestic because they are filled with life. From the herd of big horn sheep we saw, to the marmot and humming birds, animal life abounds. Below tree line there are areas of lush vegetation. Higher up you can observe groves of aspen trees that emerged out of avalanche fields. There is the perpetual water flow from mountain streams. The mountains have their own mini weather systems. One minute it will be sunny, the next hailing and snowing. Thunder echoes through the valley. Still higher up, the wild flowers of the Alpine zone are ablaze with glory in July and August.
Someone said they are majestic because from the top, you have an extraordinary 360 panoramic view that is stunning. We were on top of the world.
Another person said that the mountains are majestic because you both love and fear them. You love those pastoral, peaceful vistas. But you have to respect the mountains. They are untamable and fearsome. If you do not approach them reverently, you will die.
With all of this in mind it struck me the other day that the Bible describes God as “more majestic than mountains.” Though our Rocky Mountains are massive, Isaiah 40.12 says that he has weighted the mountains on scales. He is the one who created the life that teems in the forests. His glory eclipses anything we might see on the best day above or below tree line. The mountains that we love and call majestic, are only majestic because they reflect the creator’s majesty. They point to him.
A long time ago, the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner wrote to a friend in the year 1541 about his own love of the Swiss Alps. He wrote “I am resolved henceforth, most learned Avienus, that as long as it may please God to grant me life, I will ascend several mountains, or at least one, every year, at the season when the flowers are in their glory, partly for the sake of examining them, and partly for the sake of good bodily exercise and of mental delight.” Then he adds, “For how great a pleasure, think you, is it, how great delight for a man touched as he ought to be, to wonder at the mass of the mountains as one gazes on the vastness, and to lift up one’s head as it were amongst the clouds?” Gesner concludes, that when he hikes in the Alps, he is driven “to think of the Great Architect who made them.”
Theologian J.I. Packer asks in his classic book Knowing God, how we may form the right idea of God’s greatness. One way to do this, he says, is to compare him with powers and forces we regard as great. (p. 85). When we do this we will discover that God is the incomparable one. He is more majestic than mountains. His majesty and greatness are displayed in his power, his wisdom, his righteousness and ultimately in Jesus Christ.
In a sermon sometime ago, John Piper said, “God means for us to be stunned and awed by his work of creation. But not for its own sake. He means for us always to look at his creation and say: If the work of his hands is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself!!” These are but, he says, “the backside of his glory.” (Morning Sermon Feb 8, 1987, Bethlehem Baptist Church)
So whether you walk the beaches, or gaze in the heavens, or climb mountains and then ache like I do today, let your exposure to majesty lead you to think of the great architect who made them. Let them serve in your life as an invitation to worship—to say with the psalmist, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.!” (Psalm 8.1)