He climbed slowly up the mountain, knowing it was the last mountain he would ever climb. And there had been so many, so much climbing. Long ago there had been the slight hills of Egypt, where one had stood to watch the slaves labouring away on Pharaoh’s latest crazy building project. There had been the steep places he had crossed when he fled Egypt, and the hill he had just come over when he saw, ahead of him, the bush that burned but was not consumed. He often pondered that bush, seeking to understand the mind of God through the symbols He used to communicate. Only now did he wonder if perhaps he himself was perhaps that bush – inhabited by the very glory of God, and driven by Him to actions he himself would never have imagined, nor thought himself able to accomplish, and yet, never eaten away by that inhabiting glory. He remained himself, whatever mighty wind the Lord breathed through him, and that, in itself was a marvel, utterly different from man-made explanations of the way gods worked.
There was the hill, too, where he had stood above the battle against the Amalekites with his hands raised in prayer, until he grew so weary that Aaron and Hur had to hold his hands up for him. And the Israelites, led by Joshua, had prevailed, because his prayers had prevailed. And now he felt the weariness of his approaching end, and with it a great peace. There would be no more battles, and no more mountains, it was Joshua’s turn now to lead the free children of slaves into the glory of the promise, to fight against all kinds of evil and teach them to follow the God who called them home. Once it had hurt him terribly to know that, by his presumption, he had forfeited his own right to enter the Promised Land, but now he no longer minded. He had done his part, and it was enough, and now, once more, he could be alone with the God who had called him. The Promised Land was precious, but he had met with the One who gave the Promise, who was, in Himself, the fulfilment and meaning of every good promise that had ever been made. It was time to move from the symbols and the tokens into the True Reality, and, step by step, as he climbed, he felt as i9f his heart was making its own pilgrimage back home. It was time to be done with the busyness and clamour.
And he thought then, of the greatest mountain he had climbed, more times than he could now remember, Sinai, where, while the people below him trembled in terror, he had walked up into the very presence of God. Even now he had no words for that encounter, only a memory of such glory that all his tears were turned to rainbows, the sign of God’s mercy to man. He had walked with God, and in the tent of meeting he had talked with God face to face, as a man talks to his friend. And now there was no terror in the approach of death, it was no harder than walking to a friend’s house and accepting their hospitality contented gratitude. God would take care of the rest