Bishop Michael Jenkins
By Bishop Michael JenkinsExecutive Pastor, Abundant Grace Church
Charles Dickens succinctly summarizes the Christian life when he declared, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
Life has a way of taking us to great heights and then dragging us to deep depths. One minute, we are on the mountaintop and in an instant, life can plunge us down into a valley.
The first time the Syrian King Benhadad came to lay siege to the city of Samaria, they fought Israel in the hills and even though they outnumbered Israel, the Syrian army lost. Benhadad assembled his advisors to determine what caused their defeat. His servants declared, "...Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we..." (1 Kings 20:23a).
The answer they gave to their king gives us insight into the eyes of the enemy. The Syrians concluded that the God of Israel was a mountain God. After all, Samaria was built on an elevated plateau in the middle of a basin. It was an elevated city and so they concluded that Jehovah must be a good God in the mountains.
This idea that national gods were able to assist people given a very particular set of circumstances was a fact to the heathen nations. So, one nation's god might be a good god in the groves and another's god might be a good god on the sea. So, they concluded that the God of Israel must be a good God in the hills.
To support this idea, they checked the Hebrew writings and found David's declaration that his help came ‘from the hills' (Psalms 121:1). They were convinced that God was able, when it came to helping people in the mountains. So, they deduced, through their superior Syrian scholarship, that the God of Israel was a God of the hills.
According to the Syrians, when you're on the ‘mountain' and doing well, God is a pretty good God! On the mountain, you can see where you're going. You're not uncertain or afraid. Life is good. All is well on the mountain.
But, our lives don't just exist on the mountain. Many times, we find ourselves in the valley. In the valley, we are weak, tired, empty and alone. It's easy to feel disconnected from the presence of God in the valley.
"...But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they." (I Kings 20:23b)
In the valley, it is more difficult to see ahead; the valley is where the fog settles and distorts and disorients us. We lose our sense of direction in the valley. The Syrians made the mistake of assuming that God was helpless in the valley.
The Syrians had not learned what Campbell G. Morgan learned as he read the Scripture to some senior saints one day. He came to the end of Matthew's Gospel and read, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'
Campbell closes the Bible and exclaims, "Isn't that a wonderful promise?" And one of the mothers declared aloud, "That's not a promise, that's a fact!"
The Syrians forgot that there is a Lily in the valley. They didn't realize that there is a fourth man in every furnace and the form of the fourth man is like the Son of God.
The Syrians missed one important Psalm in their research where David declares, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me!"