Compassing the Mountain
by Inglis Fleming
“And we compassed Mount Seir many days . . . And the Lord spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough” (Deuteronomy 2:1-3).
They were to go forward towards the land of promise.
There is food for serious thought in these words for us who live in our glad gospel days. We are in danger of compassing some mountain of blessing instead of going on. So it was with the believers to whom the epistle to the Hebrews was penned, and they were urged to “go on to perfection” instead of resting in that to which they had already come.
“Speak to the people that they go forward,” had been the word of the Lord to Moses on the Egyptian bank of the Red Sea. They were not to fear the dark waters. And the Lord had caused the Sea to open before them. Now they were in the wilderness where they had wandered long because of their sin, but the time had come for them to continue their way towards Canaan and so the word came to them to address themselves to the journey.
“Compassing the mountain.” We may be found doing this in our individual experience. One may know that he is saved from the wrath to come, and that heaven is assured to him in the future and then settle down content with going to certain meetings on the Sunday and possibly one in the week (if he is not too tired with his day’s work!). Such an one is not thinking of making any advance in spiritual things, or of helping others into the pathway of truth.
Alas! this seems to have been the case all down the history of the church. The apostle Paul had to lament in his day that this condition was prevalent. Writing to the Philippian Christians he said of Timothy, “I have no man like-minded who will naturally care for your state, for all seek their own and not the things of Jesus Christ.” They were “compassing the mountain.” They were not willing to move on and to occupy themselves in the interests of the Lord Jesus. They were losing their opportunities, they were living lost lives, lives that would count for nothing in eternity.
Said a Christian to me, “I know that my sins are forgiven and that I am going to heaven, what more do you want?” This was putting it baldly of course, but are there not many who are “compassing the mountain” in that way? Is that all that our Lord who died for us wants? Is He content that we should live for ourselves now that He has saved us? Did He not die for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him that died for them?
“Compassing the mountain.” Yes! We are all in danger of doing this. Unknown to ourselves we get into a routine, into certain habits of thought and action and then consider that all is well with us. The routine may be termed “Rut-in.” And once in the rut it is hard to escape from it. So it is that we may compass the mountain and satisfy ourselves that all is well when it is otherwise. As it has been said we may be “earnest within the sphere of traditional religion but unwilling to submit to a fundamental revision spiritually.”
Round and round we may go and make no advance as the days and weeks and months and years pass from us. “Compassing the mountain” will get us nothing of advantage.
How different was the apostle Paul in his Christian course. He could say, “Forgetting the things which are behind and reaching forth to those things which are before I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” There was no “compassing the mountain” with him, and he exhorts us to be like-minded with himself.
So the apostle Peter bids us to “give all diligence” and to “add to our faith.” He warns us not to be content with the precious faith given to us, lest we be found barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“Compassing the mountain” is akin to being asleep spiritually. So the call: “Awake thou that sleepest and arise from among the dead and Christ shall shine upon thee.” “It is high time to awake out of sleep.” “Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
May it be ours to be found going forward, seeking to possess our possessions, earnestly desiring to enter upon all the wealth of blessing which is ours in Christ and seeking to serve His interests so that we may be for His pleasure while we wait for His appearing.