In the region of Moriah on Mt. Zion, two significant events took place. This spot, chosen by God, is one where burnt offerings were offered to Him. This type of offering gave off smoke that ascended to heaven. The purpose of the burnt offerings was to make atonement for the people and to present an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Leviticus 6) Two individuals in the family line of Jesus were told to ascend the mountain for the purpose of giving God burnt offerings. We should note that since the location was on a mountain, one had to go up. Abraham, the Father of our faith, was the first one to ascend the mountain with his son Isaac. He had been instructed to offer his only son as a burnt offering. The Hebrew word for burnt offering used in this Genesis 22 story is "Olah." Rabbi Jonathan Cahn explains, "Olah is the whole offering because it ascends."
Years later, King David found himself in the same place where Abraham had ascended to present God with a burnt offering. David had committed a sin against the Lord by taking a census of his fighting men. A plague was sent to the land of Israel as a punishment for David's sin. Seventy thousand people died until God had mercy on them. David was instructed to "Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." (2 Samuel 24:18) "David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped." (2 Samuel 24:25) 1 Chronicles 22:1 tells us God's intention for this spot. "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel."
The Jewish people who lived in Israel were required to "go up" to Jerusalem to present their offerings to the Lord at the temple built on this sacred spot. Scripture tells us multiple times that Jesus went up to Jerusalem to the temple. Ultimately, He would go up the mountain to become the very offering that ascended into the heavens. Actually, the entire life of Jesus was an "olah." Jesus did this by offering His life as a sacrifice. He died to His own will and gave Himself completely to Father God, becoming a forerunner for us.
In King David's Psalm 24 there is a question that we should pay attention to: "Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?" The Passion Translation says it this way: "Who, then, ascends into the presence of the Lord? And who has the privilege of entering into God's Holy Place?" Here is the answer: "Those who are clean—whose works and ways are pure, whose hearts are true and sealed by the truth, those who never deceive, whose words are sure. They will receive the Lord's blessing and righteousness given by the Savior-God. They will stand before God, for they seek the pleasure of God's face, the God of Jacob." (Psalm 24:4-6 - TPT)
Proverbs 30:4 also asks a question: "Who has ascended into heaven and descended?" (NKJV) The Hebrew word for ascended in this verse is "Olah." Jesus was sent to earth as an offering that would ascend into the heavens. He is our model for how to live life on earth—how to be an "Olah." He gave up everything to ascend as a whole offering. He was exalted as He bowed low. We are called to live as Jesus did, dying to the flesh and giving ourselves completely to God. It is the only way to go up!
Joan E. Mathias