Psalm 99: God’s Holy Mountain
During the summer of 1980, I spent two months in the Dominican Republic, living in the mountains with two religious sisters in the small town of San Jose de Ocoa. At night I would sit in a rocking chair on the porch and enjoy the sight of the mountains. Much like the early Hebrews and the writer of Psalm 99, I experienced God in the mountains.
Growing Up without Mountains
Growing up and living in the lower peninsula of Michigan, I’ve enjoyed the abundance of fresh water lakes, rivers and streams. I’ve never lived far from a body of water. But I’ve been a stranger to mountains. Our rolling hills are beautiful, but don’t compare to mountains. I had to travel to experience that.
I’ve been to the Alps, traveled across Norway in the summer, riding a train that at one point went through snow covered land before coming down to a fjord. This has given me a glimpse of the reality of mountains, a reality that played a significant role in the Hebrew community.
God was said to be found on the mountain. Moses and other prophets spoke to God on the mountaintop. This inspired fear and trembling, awe and wonder. Standing at the foot of a grand mountain can bring home the immensity of our God and our smallness and seeming insignificance.
As someone who grew up without mountains, I wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by so much majesty. Would I be a different person if I had grown up in a different terrain, at the foot of a mountain?
Psalm 99 is the last of the enthronement psalms (Psalms 47, 93, 96-99). They are characterized by references to God as king who reigns over creation.
The psalm begins with calling upon all people to tremble before our God, even the earth quakes before him. “The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim, let the earth quake!” (1) This trembling isn’t from fear of God but awe, reference, before the Lord. There is a fear that is rightfully due to our God, a fear that acknowledges how great and powerful our God is. A fear that respects God but isn’t afraid, as a child before a loving parent.
God is a mighty and just King. “Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” (4) Our God is a God of history, of Moses and Aaron and Samuel, “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the Lord, and he answered them.” (9) He offers forgiveness, “You were a forgiving God to them,” but also avenges, “but an avenger of their wrongdoings,” (8) for he is a just God.
Psalm 99 ends by calling all to worship on God’s holy mountain. “Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!” (9)
Mountain Top Experiences
I may not have lived by a mountain top, but I have had mountain top experiences. I have experienced God in the beauty of nature all around me and while in prayer in the quiet of my room. While I may not physically live by a mountain, I know what it is to tremble in awe and wonder before my God.
We are all called to worship at God’s holy mountain, wherever that might be for us.
Where do you find your God? How does where you live affect how you see God?
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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