The High Places?
by Marty Breen
As I address this subject of what the Old Testament often referred to as "the High Places", Iíll work mainly from this passage found in the book of Micah. Micah was what is called one of the "Minor Prophets" due to the relatively smaller length of that book. Micah 1:1-9 states...
1 ∂ The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
2 Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
3 For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4 And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
5 For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
6 Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.
7 And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.
8 ∂ Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
9 For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.
While time wouldnít permit me to expound all that this passage is declaring, it can be surmised that God via the instrumentality of Micah is describing an awesome act of His Judgment to fall upon Samaria (which represented the ten tribes of Israel to the North) and Jerusalem (representing the two remaining tribes of Israel left to Davidís posterity). Both Samaria (the chief city of the 10 tribes) and Jerusalem (the chief city of the remaining two tribes) identified corporately with Godís Old Testament church-the nation of Israel. After King Davidís reign and his son Solomonís reign, the tribes split-ten tribes followed Jeroboam, and the other two remained under Rehoboam. The situation under the 10 tribes consistently decayed as one bad king after another reigned over them, and apostasy was a constant. The two remaining tribes, however, experienced periodic reprieves as an occasional good king would reign in-between bad kings. Yet, both entities as a whole degenerated into deeper and deeper apostasy as they forsook the True and Living Jehovah God while embracing idols. I would highly encourage the reader(s) to read both I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles, along with the prophetic books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and the Minor Prophets like Hosea, Joel, and this book of Micah.
Eventually, God brought a historical Judgment upon first Samaria and then the two tribes of Judah (Jerusalem) via the Assyrians and then Babylon-Jerusalem was burnt by fire, and the temple was plundered of its golden and silver cups and such. This captivity encompassed a 70 year period, and is representative of Godís Ultimate and Final Judgment upon Israel for its idolatry and apostasy-He only allowed Israel to be re-gathered for a time so that the Messiah that was to come would fulfill other Old Testament promises; when Christ was rejected in 33 A.D. at Calvary, Israelís Final Apostasy was complete. After 70 A.D. (By the destruction of Jerusalem via the Roman Emperor Titus), Israel was forever finished as a corporate entity or institution of God, never to be resurrected or used of God again!
Moving back to the time prior to Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, both Israel and Judah had what was often referred to as the "High Places"-these High Places were where idolatrous worship took place. For the most part, these "High Places" were engaged in outside of the context of Temple worship. The Temple at Jerusalem represented the one place on earth where true worship of Jehovah God was to take place. God Himself endorsed the Temple and all of the offerings and sacrifices which took place there, because these activities pointed to THE ONE SACRIFICE and THE ONE OFFERING that was to come-the LORD JESUS CHRIST! But, the ultimate problem with Israel and Judah (even when those in Jerusalem engaged in the true Temple worship there) was that they trusted in the outward rituals and not in what these things pointed to. When they did do the right things, they did them for all the wrong reasons-their trust was in these animal sacrifices and priestly rituals, and not in what these things pointed to-CHRIST! As a result, its no wonder that the Nation of Israel rejected and crucified the One True Messiah! Thus, even the God-ordained worship in Jerusalem became a "High Place"...surely, this is what God has in view here in Micah 1:5...
5 For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?
God here isnít admonishing Jacob for the high places IN Jerusalem; Heís admonishing His people for making JERUSALEM ITSELF A HIGH PLACE! Even the means of the Grace that was to find its ultimate fulfillment in Christ became a work and an idol-Israel desired to be "under the law" rather than trust in a Divine Mediator. Those with eyes of faith, however, would have (or should have) seen that the "Jerusalem below" in its earthly state was ultimately a type or portrait of the "Jerusalem above". Galatians 4:21-26 tell us...
21 ∂ Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (The "Jerusalem which now is" was the earthly Jerusalem still under Moses-while it pointed to the Heavenly Jerusalem consisting of all believers in Christ, it wasnít itself this Heavenly or New Jerusalem which is to come down from Heaven...Rev. 21:2)
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (The "Jerusalem which is above" IS the body of all true believers in Christ-both Old Testament and New Testament sides of the Cross.)
What are we to conclude? If these Old Testament Jews (those of Judah) had recognized that their earthly Jerusalem only pointed to the New Jerusalem ruled by Christ, then the earthly Jerusalem would have been a means of Grace that was to be fulfilled by Christís Atoning Work and finally at His second Coming-it would have been a blessing. But, since the Jews by and large viewed the earthly Jerusalem as special in itself (Didnít Solomon build a glorious temple, etc.?) and didnít look past it, the earthly Jerusalem became a "High Place" for the idolatrous Jews. Thus, what should have been a means became an end in itself-their trust wasnít in God Alone, but in man. Jeremiah 17:5-8 warn us of this sin...
5 ∂ Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
This is the ultimate issue-those whose trust is in man and maketh flesh their arm are cursed of God! Even though men donít outwardly digress from the means of Grace by going after false gospels or false teachings, they can be snared in true religion due to a wrong attitude-PRIDE! Even as Jerusalem itself became a "high place" due to too much religious pride, so a church or denomination or evangelical ministry can become a "high place" for some due to the same kind of pride. Just as the earthly Jerusalem was a means toward the building of the Heavenly Jerusalem for a time, so a church or denomination or even an evangelical ministry is simply a means whereby God builds HIS Heavenly church-the body of true believers! A church, denomination, or evangelical ministry stands in relationship to the True Temple of God (the eternal church) even as a scaffold stands in relationship to a permanent building or structure-when the True Temple or the permanent building is completed, then the scaffolding comes down (which, in this case, would be the church/denomination/ministry).
Thus, it always behooves the true believer to keep his/her eyes on Christ and not put too much trust in the temporary scaffolding of religion, not to be lifted up in pride because he or she is part of a "great ministry" or a "great church"! While it can be gratifying to our carnal flesh to belittle other denominations or ministries for their relative unfaithfulness to our perceptions of "truth" and accuse them of doctrinal "high places", have we taken a good look at the ministries or organizations WEíRE involved with? Are we mourning over our own "high places" and beseeching God for His Mercy to US, or are we even as the Pharisee described in Luke 18:11-12..."God, I thank thee, that our ministry or church isnít as others are, unjust, adulterers, no "high places". We "fast twice on the Sunday Sabbath", etc.". PRIDE! On the other hand, we should consider the Publican of Luke 18:14..."God, be merciful to this organization of sinners.". HUMILITY! Who went home justified? The ones that humble themselves will be exalted while those that exalt themselves shall be abased! That applies both individually and corporately! May God teach us to both appreciate His means of Grace while enabling us to see past them to the ultimate finished Product-His Glorious Eternal Church which is without spot or wrinkle to be found only in Christ!

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