A false summit can be discouraging to a climber. A false summit looks and feels like the top until one gets there only to find the true summit is still farther along. Mount Massive, pictured above, is located in the Sawatch Range of the Rockies in Colorado; it actually has five summits above fourteen thousand feet!
Illusions are like those false summits. They promise completion; they give disappointment.
The Bible is filled with disillusionment, disappointment.
Israel had come to hope that her status as God’s chosen people gave security from the treacherous nations surrounding the land of promise. Can you imagine the heartbreak when the entire nation was taken into exile in Babylonia? Disillusionment, indeed. And many false prophets offered the promise that Israel would soon return to her homeland; but that was a false summit! God saved Israel from the false summit of privileged security, replaced by the promise through Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you…, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). But that promise would follow seventy years of disillusioning captivity.
The Apostle Paul was exalted to experience God’s presence in ways that far transcended the perception of normal, even devoutly serious climbers to the heavenly places in Christ. But he was given a problem which prevented his thinking he had arrived. He said, “…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said, ‘My grace is sufficient…’” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). God saved him from the false summit of spiritual arrogance; He gave Paul humility by the gift of disillusionment.
The opening commandments of the Decalogue represent God’s protection from the disappointment of false summits, of false gods: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Deut. 5:7-9).
Our world is replete with false summits; we are an idolatrous society.
We have presumed, for example, that America, in an arrogant reminiscence of “manifest destiny,” can not disintegrate. We are privileged and, we assume, beyond the decline experienced by Israel in her exile to the powers of Babylonia. The Bible cries out, “Beware the false prophet, the false summit!”
We have presumed also, for example, that the plight of the homeless, the refugee, the poor can never befall us. We are, after all, the people of God, with privileged protection from such woes. Until the day comes that our false securities are ripped to shreds by medical, accidental, or other circumstance beyond our control.
It is then, when life shows that we but stood on a promontory, not the summit, that we become eligible for a gift.
The gift of disillusionment.
When our false summits evaporate before the majesty of the mountain of God, when our presumptive, privileged securities crumble under the weight of life’s heavy hand, when all we arrogantly assumed was beyond disintegration shatters in the earthquake of disillusionment, then…then and perhaps only then can we see Jesus, exalted alone as Lord of our life, alone our hope, the author and finisher of our faith, alone our life, our love, our joy.
And if we come to see Him, to hear Jesus, as preeminent above all else in our lives, then we may hear the words of God to Paul, to Israel, to America, to all who will listen,
“I am with you, that is all you need” (2 Cor. 12:9, TLB).