Ascend

Everest is a thousand atmospheres below you.
Because altitude pales to its maker.
But it is high above me.
Six feet pale to six miles.
This mountain reveals two things:
Your magnitude and my limitations.
To know you would be glorious.
But this mountain is an inadequate means.
A climb is a difficult prospect.
And success would still be failure.
An ascent towards infinity bears no approach.

Sinai stands higher than nature.
Because law shows the maker’s heart.
But it also shows my own.
Ten fingers fail to ten commands.
This mountain reveals two things:
Your righteousness and my sin.
To know you would be good.
But this mountain is a miserable means.
A climb is an impossible prospect.
A failure could never succeed.
An ascent towards holiness bears only shame.

Calvary is higher indeed.
Because the promise proclaims grace.
But it also lays a condition.
One cross nails one man.
This mountain reveals two things:
Your accomplishment and my opportunity.
To know you would be life.
And this mountain is a beautiful means.
A climb is a simple prospect.
Where failures become successes.
An ascent towards sacrifice bears forgiveness.

Zion towers above all.
Because it is where you are.
And a city will have its citizens.
Myriads of angels hail to myriads of saints.
This mountain reveals two things:
Your joy and ours.
To know you would be love.
And this mountain is a present means.
A climb is a daily prospect.
Where success swallows failure.
An ascent towards Jesus bears worship.

Author’s Notes:

This poem  compares the possibilities of ascending four different mountains.

Everest, being the highest place on earth, represents the limitations of natural revelation. The creation reveals God’s existence and power, but it cannot help us to know him rightly.

Sinai is obviously about the special revelation of God’s moral law. The Ten Commandments go beyond natural revelation in that they explicitly reveal God’s goodness and his holy standard for men. However, they are woefully inadequate to bring us into a true knowledge of God because they do not address the idolatrous condition of man’s fallen heart.

Calvary of course refers to the work of Jesus on the cross. His redemption purchased forgiveness for men and made the regeneration of fallen hearts possible.

Zion is about the full glory of living in God’s presence. The imagery in this stanza is greatly derived from Hebrews 12:22-24. Though Jesus died on Calvary, he is not there anymore. He is seated at the right hand of God and is the church’s present and future possession.

The first and last words of each stanza summarize the meaning of each mountain. Everest – no approach; Sinai – shame; Calvary – forgiveness; Zion – worship.

Beyond the symbolism of the four mountains, I decided to structure the four stanzas identically in order to aid the nuances of comparison. I encourage the reader to compare lines that are located in the same place in different stanzas. For example, compare line 4 in each stanza or line 10.