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Hills and Valleys January 4, 2008

Posted by Kevin in Deuteronomy 11, Hills, New Years, Valleys.
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Many of you are aware that I am in an accountability relationship with my best friend Dave. I am holding him accountable for, among other things, Spiritual journaling. To that end, I have begun the same practice and Spiritual discipline. And during my quiet time today I was reading the Deuteronomy account of Moses charge to the people about their relationship with God and the Promised Land.

Here is the passage:

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your forefathers to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.
The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today — to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul — then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow — to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him — then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the western sea. No man will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.
As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, west of the road, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.

Deuteronomy 11:8-32 NIV

What stood out to me was the description of the land. “But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.” That got me to think. And a question formed in my wee little brain.

What is the purpose of the hills and valleys?

In this passage they are to show the stark difference between the flat land of Egypt where the crops were watered by the overflowing of the Nile River or by labor intensive irrigation systems and the Land of Canaan where water fell from Heaven and flowed down the hills and valleys and onto the land. They were also a barrier of protection for the Children of God. And they were to be used for purposes of worship. But I believe that there is a metaphor here and it is a metaphor for the Spiritual life.

If we accept that our Spiritual life is journey, then we see the significance of the hills and valleys. We view every mountain as a hardship to climb and every valley as something that we must rise above and come out into the sun soaked plains. No one wants to carry a heavy burden up a steep slope. In fact, very few of us will ever see the great vistas that the mountain tops provide because we are unwilling to place foot after foot and climb to the top. Many times human nature has us looking up at the mountains and we stare in awe without ever knowing what it is like to look down from up high.

But the hills and valleys have a Spiritual purpose. They save us from the dullness of the plateau. They difficulty of climbing the hills and valleys drives us to Throne of Grace. We reach the end of our own strength and resources only to find that there are vast untapped resources from our Heavenly Father that gives us the strength we need to carry on.

The Psalmist David said it this way:

“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. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Psalm 121:1-4 NIV

As I look forward to the new year, I take courage from these passages.