Why is it that so many people like to worship on high places? This morning, a friend and I hiked up a steep mountain at the end of a peninsula in Prajuab province, Thailand. At the top, there was a glorious view of the surrounding area - ocean to the east, coast to the north and south, and distant mountains to the West in the direction of Burma. But on top of the mountain, there was also a small shrine to the Buddha’s footprint with accompanying Buddha images. Throughout Thailand, there are lots of shrines and yellow Buddhist prayer flags on the tops of hills and mountains. Every time I see them, I can’t help but think of the high places in the Old Testament that the Israelites worshipped on. When the Israelites worshipped on these high places, it was usually idolatrous worship in violation of the First Commandment (and probably the Second Commandment as well).
What is it about worshipping on top of a mountain that so many people find attractive? Does it make people feel closer to God (or whatever it is that they are worshipping)? I suspect that the animist peoples living all around Old Testament Israelites are not that dissimilar to modern Thai Buddhists in that both regard certain spots as more sacred than others, especially high places. In fact, in looking around me, I am sure that many Thai regard some spots as more sacred and hence shrines and altars pop up in places that one would not always expect. Perhaps somehow more merit is earned in building a shrine on a mountain top than in a plain because it takes much more effort to lug all the building materials up the mountain. Some shrines and temples have long long staircases going up to the top so that worshippers can earn merit through merely walking up that oppressively long flight of stairs.
As a worshipper of the Lord Jesus Christ, I rejoice in the glory of God that I see through the things that he has created. The view from the top of the mountain this morning was especially beautiful and was wonderful testimony to the creativity and power of the Lord of heaven and earth. I also rejoice that God is present in all places and that I do not need to climb a mountain or walk up hundreds of steps to be closer to God. Instead, I humble myself in the knowledge that none of my efforts will carry me up to the heavens to God, but only the Lord Jesus Christ who came down from heaven can bring me up to heaven on that final day.