Exodus 24:12 contains this wonderful invitation, direct from the Lord God Himself. He calls Moses to come up and meet with Him on Mount Sinai. I guess we all to some extent long for mountaintop experiences. We long to get away from the press and the burdens of our daily lives and come a bit more tangibly into the presence of God. We long for the clean air, the clear view, the undistracted opportunity to listen to the Lord.
The idea of going up high to meet with God is seen in many places in the Bible. In Matthew 17, Jesus takes Peter, James and John ‘up a high mountain by themselves’. Here they see Jesus transfigured before them, with Moses and Elijah also appearing. Elijah himself experiences the most awesome outpouring of God’s power on Mount Carmel. And when Jesus needed to discuss with His Heavenly Father the choice of His disciples, He went out to a mountainside (NIV), or (as NLT puts it) ‘up on a mountain’.
You might even consider the Garden of Eden to have been at least partway up a mountain. I’m indebted to David Anthony for pointing out, in a sermon years ago, that the four rivers, Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates, flow out of the garden (Genesis 2:10-14). And hence the garden must be higher than all the lands the rivers flow through.
For some reason, reading Exodus 24 made me think of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21:16. Its length and width are given as around 1400 miles each, and its shape is square. But it intrigues me to note that its height is the same 1400 miles. Now we are fascinated by height and depth, but we are rather limited: our highest mountain is about 5 miles high, while our deepest trench is about 7 miles deep, or 12 miles lower than the peak of Mount Everest. But in the heavenly city we see 100 times as much height to play with! What mountains, or canyons, waterfalls, slides and zipwires, ridges and valleys, and other features way beyond our current understanding, might be possible in our heavenly home?
So what relevance does this have to worship, or worship leading? Two things, the general and the specific. In general, we must make space for the presence of God. We must seek His face. We can’t always go off up a mountain, or even find a lonely place to pray. But Jesus’ example challenges us to find a place and a time when we can be undistracted. A place where we can hope others won’t disturb us, and a time when the business of the day does not intrude. This will be different for everyone of course, but Jesus often seemed to use either the night or the early morning to pray, and I would say if we aren’t sure we would be wise to follow Him in this.
As to the specifics, we can come back to Exodus 24. What is it God calls Moses to talk about? Nothing less than how to arrange the worship life of the nation of Israel for the next thousand years or so! The Lord wants to explain about the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant, the table, the altar, the lamps, the priests and their garments, the incense, etc. Moses is to prepare the nation to worship ‘according to the pattern shown him on the mountain’.
The same principle applies when we lead worship. The Lord wants to meet with us, He wants to impart some flavour of the worship of Heaven, and we must develop a deep desire to come to Him, to meet with Him, and learn how to hear His voice more and more clearly, so that what we bring when we lead worship is coming from the very heart of God.