I’m not much of a water connoisseur, but I do appreciate fresh, clean water. If it’s cold, I like it even more. My husband and one of our daughters have their preferences in bottled water, claiming that certain brands taste better than others. Personally, I think they’re crazy. Water tastes like water, with little variance to my tastebuds (maybe I’m the one who’s crazy?!) Of course, I can taste the difference in water when it is impure. Some tap waters taste like straight chemicals!
Recently, I took my little ones on an adventure, and on our way to the destination we passed a fresh spring water runoff coming out of the side of a mountain. A pipe had been dug into the mountain, to make the water easily accessible from a nice spout so that people could stop and enjoy this marvel of nature. Pure, clean water. We stopped to see what it tasted like, and ended up dumping out the current contents of our water bottles so that we could fill them up with the pure water. Even though my little ones are young, they could taste the purity of this water and wanted more!
While we were there, we saw people come and fill up jugs to take back home with them, so they could enjoy it a little longer. If I had had a jug, I would have done the same. It truly was wonderful to the taste, and left us feeling clean and healthy inside. If it was closer, we would go more often, so that we could have that water daily. But we have to climb (drive) a mountain to get to it, so it’s not really all that convenient. In order to make that a part of our daily lives, we would have to rearrange a lot of our current priorities.
So, instead, we buy a commercialized version of “mountain spring water” already packaged in nice plastic bottles from the store. It tastes less pure, but the label tells us we’re still getting the real deal. Our bodies know the difference, but the difference is small enough that we’ve learned to live with it, and to look forward to the mountain trip as a treat.
In the Bible, in part of the Old Testament, worshipping God was only possible if you climbed a mountain. First in Exodus, Moses had to climb to the top of a mountain to access God’s presence, and then when the temple was built by King Solomon, it was built on the top of a mountain. Getting there was a journey that took time and intention, but was prioritized because it was where they met God and fulfilled their religious commitments.
When King David purchased the temple mount and stood imagining the future worshippers – streams of people from every direction all coming to that mountain for one thing, he wondered to himself:
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?” Psalm 24:3
In other words, David, imagining the future place where people would encounter the presence of God, recognized that this would not be a place of casual encounter. This was serious business, and although the multitudes would come, out of duty, David knew that not just anyone would be given access to the actual glory and presence of God. He understood that God was holy – there was no one like Him and anything impure could not stand in His presence. So, who, then, could? His answer, at the time it was spoken, left little hope for the men of his day:
“Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.” (verse 4)
Well, that ruled out just about all of humanity! Even the best among us are far from perfect. The Bible says we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). It also says that, while some of us may imagine our own ways and hearts to be pure, only the Lord can actually weigh the purity of our hearts (Proverbs 16:2). And since He is the purest that pure can be, it becomes obvious that we are a far cry from being as clean as we might want to think we are.
So, where did that leave the people who climbed the mountain to worship God? Did they give up? No, because tradition wouldn’t allow for such a thing. Instead, they still went up, and most just stood and worshipped at a distance. There were 3 different “courts,” or sectioned off areas where different groups of people were allowed to worship, and in the center was the most holy place – the place of encounter with God. Only one person was allowed in there, and that person’s life was completely devoted to the service of God. That person had to go through intense preparation to enter into that place, and if there was any sin in his life, he would die on the spot and have to be drug out.
It seems kind of unfair, then, for David to make such a statement about the need to be so pure in order to climb the mountain and experience the presence of God, doesn’t it? Unless we realize that David was seeing something that hadn’t yet been experienced in his day. He was receiving a vision of a future day, when the most holy place would be open for all to encounter God’s presence, because everyone would have access to pure waters which purify the heart.
We live in that day, and we no longer have to climb a physical mountain to find the pure fountain of water that cleanses our souls. Because when Jesus died for us, the veil that separated the other courts from the most holy place in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom (from Heaven to earth), and access was granted for all of humanity to worship God up close and personal. If we have a relationship with Jesus, our hearts are purified by Him, and our lives become pure reflections of Him, and we get to see the face of God through His presence.
However, there is still a metaphorical mountain to be climbed, because we should never take such a privilege casually. If we truly recognize the privilege we’ve been given to freely worship God, and to have our hearts and lives purified through faith in Jesus, we will understand that His presence is worth making sacred. While I can worship anytime day or night, I also prioritize my time so that my soul reverences the right to encounter His presence. I don’t treat it like convenience store water. I treat it like fresh mountain spring water. I make room and time to not only climb up to that place, but to spend time marveling there.
God has, in Christ, done away with the outer courts where people once stood, limited to a one-dimensional, religious experience of His presence. He has invited all of humanity into His presence, to encounter His purity and be changed by it. This astounds me! And it breaks my heart all at the same time, because I still see so many people settling for an outer court, a bottled water version of worship. A second-hand tradition rather than a right-from-the-source experience.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, have you tasted the purity of the presence of God lately? Or are you still drinking from a packaged version of religious tradition, because you’re too afraid you won’t be allowed to draw as near as you want to? Or because it takes less time and effort to get it? Have you determined that His presence is worth the climb, worth the time and the intention and maybe even the heart preparation it may take to prioritize worship? He has made it so simple for us! All we have to do is value Him above everything else.
And the most beautiful part is that, where the human heart, in a world full of distracting lures, would have a difficult time valuing God’s presence above everything else, He offers us a trade-in. As we come to Jesus, He takes our old heart, full of everything impure, and gives us His heart – a brand new heart full of the desire for more of Him and more of what He wants. Then He gives us His Spirit, to empower us to live in that direction, to make choices that line up with His desires.
It isn’t as hard as we make it, dear one. True worship, real encounter with the one, true God is something we can experience daily. Often, the only mountain we have to climb is that of our own fear or complacency. And for that, He offers a promise that is hard to refuse: if we will draw near to the pure water of His pure presence, we will see His face.
I can tell the world this much: seeing His face has changed everything for me. There is no place I would rather be than His presence, because His eyes have burned their way into my heart, and I have tasted and seen that there is nothing purer than Him.
May your heart seek the fountain of living waters today, and may you become willing to climb any mountain that stands between you and the pure presence of God. He will extend His hand and help you, because more than we desire to be near Him, He desires for us to come.