Earlier this month, our family was having breakfast in Springdale Utah, planning a day of hikes in the awe-inspiring canyons of Zion National Park. Before we set out, it seemed like providence that we stopped to read these words from my One Year Bible for March the 5th --
“Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God. His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth….Walk about Zion, go around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts, go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” - Psalm 48: 12-14
Walk about Zion? We couldn’t stop smiling. Of course the Psalmist was speaking of the Holy City, and its impressive walls and towers. The writer knew nothing of the awesome canyon we were about to explore. I on the other hand, had the privilege of knowing both “Zions.” In fact, I had quoted this passage in a devotional for our church’s Holy Land Pilgrimage last summer. “After 4500 years of continuous habitation,” I wrote, “this mountain city continues to be ‘beautiful in elevation’ and the existing ramparts inspiring to behold.”
As I read this Psalm again at the gateway to Zion National Park, one beautiful truth came to mind: God knows where we are. Each day that we awake, there are things of beauty and majesty that await us in God’s word and in God’s world. It can begin with our meditation on a Psalm. An hour later, we may see him in the smile of a child, a stranger or family member in need, or the comfort of one of God’s creatures. We may discover his glory in a roaring waterfall, or the congregation of God’s people. “Walk about Zion… consider well its ramparts.” God invites us to consider and to behold the beauty of His creation, whether it be a majestic mountain, or a lovely friend, and to know that He accompanies us on every trail of daily life.
“Consider well,” says the Psalmist, but then do one thing more: “Tell the next generation.” Share what you have experienced, and give God praise in the midst of his people. As a teenager, I will never forget a father in our church who would take us up to the Sierras each year for a backpack trip. I am so grateful to Jim Greenwood for introducing us to that world. As a youth pastor back in my 20’s, I had the opportunity to bring students up to the mountains for summer camp. One guy I remember had never been out of the city, and as he looked up from Mill Creek to Mt. San Gorgonio at 11,503 ft., he was in awe. Later that week, this same young man experienced the awesome love of Christ for the first time too.
What a privilege to walk with others to Zion, to scale the mountaintop of God’s love in Christ together, so “beautiful in elevation.” On that majestic trail we are lifted up from sin and shame, comforted in times of adversity and sorrow, and carried into heaven’s healing light. We are invited to set out from the trailhead this day knowing that God “will be our guide forever.” Give God praise for the gift of your life, for this world, and for your eternal salvation. Find true joy as you share the love of Jesus with the next generation. “Walk about Zion, go around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts, go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever.” Amen.