Isaiah wrote: "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:" [Isaiah 40:4]
Surely he does not mean the earth will be flat and featureless! So why does he say every mountain and hill will be made low? Clearly the mountains and valleys are symbolic. What do they represent? He refers to a highway being prepared in the desert, to prepare the way for God. A route that traverses a mountain may be steep and difficult, even where little change in elevation is involved. That was especially so in the days when most people travelled on foot, and roads were mere paths. Crossing a mountain involved some difficulty, and required extra effort. Isaiah's prophecy about every mountain being made low, and crooked places being made straight, suggests that the obstacles and unsolved problems that mountains represent will be overcome, mysteries will be solved. I think he means that many of the misunderstood passages of the scriptures will be explained.
In ancient times, mountains were places of sacrifice, as for example the mountain on which Abraham offered up Isaac. This episode was a prophecy, as it foreshadowed Christ's sacrifice for us. It was also a test, and a challenge to Abraham: "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." [Genesis 22:2]
In Egypt, the Israelites were given the land of Goshen to dwell in. This was a fertile area, but had no mountains. It was located in the Nile delta. In contrast, the promised land was a land of hills and mountains.
On Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with the Israelites, which that mountain represents in the New Testament. Paul wrote: "Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." [Galatians 4:24-25]
On Mount Nebo, Moses looked over to the promised land, to which he was denied admission because he struck the rock which yielded water, instead of speaking to it as God had told him. [Numbers 20:8-12]
The problems or mysteries that mountains represent will be solved: "The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel." [Judges 5:5]
Mountains are the most prominent features of the land of promise. Thus the mountains of Israel are symbols of the main concepts of the gospel. They are symbols of its covenants and promises, blessings and cursings.
Mountains are prominent landmarks for travellers. They are permanent over long periods of history, and remain while borders fluctuate, and empires rise and fall. Because mountains are unchanging over long spans of time, the Psalmist compares God's righteousness to great mountains. "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast." [Psalm 36:6]
The city of God, Jerusalem, is called a mountain: "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness." [Psalm 48:1]
The house of God, to which many people will come to learn God's ways, is also called the mountain of the Lord. "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." [Isaiah 2:3]
Isaiah admonished those who bring good tidings to go to the mountains. "O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" [Isaiah 40:9]
Again, Isaiah writes, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" [Isaiah 52:7]
On Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged all the prophets of Baal, to determine whose sacrifice would be accepted. He turned the hearts of the people of Israel to the true God. [1 Kings 18]
Ezekiel 6 is a prophecy addressed to the mountains of Israel, as well as hills, and rivers, and valleys. The context shows it is referring to the people who dwell in that land. Verse 7 says, "Ye shall know that I am the Lord". A remnant of the nation will be left, which is scattered. These remember God in the nations where they are taken captive.
Ezekiel calls God's people "a mountain of the height of Israel". "For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things." [Ezekiel 20:40]
The prophecy of Ezekiel 36 is also addressed to the mountains of Israel. They were occupied by an enemy, and made desolate; they had become a possession of the heathen, and were topics of infamy, a prey, and a derision to the heathen, and they bore the shame of the heathen. God said the mountains will shoot forth branches, and yield fruit to Israel, they shall be tilled and sown, men will be multiplied on them, the cities shall be inhabited, they shall bring forth fruit, the wastes shall be built, and it will be better than at the beginning. Perhaps this means that the promises of God, represented by these mountains, are to be fulfilled for those who believe the gospel.
The kingdom of God is a mountain which fills the whole earth, in Daniel's prophecies: "Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. [Daniel 2:35]
Again, Daniel wrote, "Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure." [Daniel 2:45]
The mystery of the kingdom of God is called a mountain. It is a puzzle, or parable, that will become plain and crystal clear to everyone: "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with soutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it." [Zechariah 4:7]
A puzzle or mystery that is solved is no longer a "mountain", but a "plain"!
In Zechariah's prophecies the Mount of Olives represents the Olivet prophecy of Jesus. It is split in two, representing two opposing interpretations, Preterism and Dispensationalism, both of which deny the application of prophecy to the Church today. "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." [Zechariah 14:4-5]
The vision of the New Jerusalem was revealed to John when he was upon a figurative high mountain. This city is symbolic of the Church. "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." [Revelation 21:10]
Copyright © 2010 by Douglas E. Cox
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