Maybe you remember this primary school song, sung to the tune of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”:
Was the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain,
The song’s message seems to be that there’s not much to see on the other side of the mountain. I guess that was our teachers’ way of preparing us for all of life’s disappointments to come. How uplifting and inspiring!
Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through forty years of wilderness wanderings. Near the end of his life, the Lord brought him to the top of Mount Nebo in Jordan, from which he could view the panorama of Israel, the Promised Land:
It was not in God’s will for Moses to lead the Israelites any further, and he died on the mountain.
Dr. Martin Luther King identified with Moses. Sometimes the burden of leadership seemed very heavy to him. In his last speech, April 4, 1968, in a Memphis church, King said:
The harsh reality is that no important positive change in society comes easily. The truth about the struggle is better expressed in the version of the song my weird friends and I sang during the long bus ride to youth camp:
You’d be amazed how this song made the minutes and miles fly by for antsy young-teen boys. The lyrics could outlast any trip.
And that’s the way it is. In this life, there’s always another mountain. It’s been true for the Civil Rights struggle; the victories are only partial and usually short-lived. It’s true also in the life journey for each one of us individually; get the kids successfully through school and married off, and you’ve got to deal with long-ignored marriage issues; resolve some of these in time for a relaxed retirement, and the seemingly non-stop health issues of old age start confronting you — one mountain at a time, a whole range of them.
It’s also true of your spiritual life. Some popular teachers and preachers promise nothing but prosperity and happiness as you move forward in your faith and Christian growth. Just wait, they say, until you look over the top of this mountain you’re currently climbing. Let me save you from the suspense — you’ll see another mountain.
But if you have the gift of spiritual vision, as Moses did, as Dr. King did, you’ll be able to lift your eyes from your mountaintop vista and look beyond the seemingly endless ranges to see the Promised Land. Jesus called it Eternal Life. And he taught that we can begin to experience it right here and now, in the middle of our uphill struggle.
— Pastor George Van Alstine