Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains. Its elevation is higher than the ground around it. When one visits Israel, they must literally go up to get to Jerusalem. Look at Psalm 122:3-4. "Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel." The city is seen as a stronghold for the Lord's people in Psalm 125:1-2. "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore."
There are 15 psalms (Psalm 120 - 134) that are called the "Songs of Ascents." Some believe that those psalms were sung by the Jews as they were going up to Jerusalem for the three required festivals. Psalm 121:1-2 gives us a good visual of what would have been going on. "I lift my eyes to the hills--Where does my strength come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Regardless, it is not an accident that the holy city sits high and requires us to ascend. Going up to Jerusalem is a picture of what the Jewish people are meant to do physically and what the entire Believing community is meant to do spiritually. The Hebrew word ascending is "Alijah." Physically moving from one country to Israel is called "making Alijah," or "the upward journey."
How do we see our lives in relation to the Lord? We are meant to pursue Him for our entire lives. Thus, we are on a journey, an upward journey, and it is one of a daily ascent. We have choices to make daily; we have paths to choose. Climbing higher toward the Lord is not easy. There are battles to fight on the journey of ascent. However, when we choose the high path it will bring us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord.
Moses sent 12 men, one from each tribe of Israel, to explore the Promised Land. He said, "Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country." (Numbers 13:7) The children of Israel would have to move up to take the land that the Lord wanted to give to them. As we are obedient to go up, God will give us more ground. "See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 1:21)
Moses told Caleb that he and his children would inherit the land on which his feet walked because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly. Caleb was not afraid to go up to the hill country and was rewarded for walking the challenging path up. He told Joshua, "Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as He said." (Joshua 14:12)
God has a unique spiritual Promised Land for each of us that requires us to persevere in taking the high road. Life is meant to be like a journey up a mountain--always ascending to draw closer to the Lord. We were made to ascend. This is confirmed in Habakkuk 3:19. “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights."
Joan E. Mathias