Removing the High Places

English: PEin Karem, nestled in the hills in s...

The books of the Kings in the Old Testament have a fairly simple way of evaluating leaders: they either did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord, or they did what was evil. The rest of the information about their kingdoms we are told we can find in the Annals of the Kings of Israel.

One phrase is used over and over in these books: removing the high places.“He did evil, he did not remove the high places” or “He did good, but he did not remove the high places, “He did good, he removed the high places”.

The High Places were places of idolatry. They were literally ‘high places’: hills and ridges looked up to by those in the lower lands. They usually had an altar or a pole — something symbolic of worship focusing on man and not God. It was an exchange; exchanging looking up to Heaven and to a sovereign God with looking up to the hills. “Exchanging the truth of God for a lie”; a poor substitute yet a comfort of sorts.

The Psalmist speaks of those high places. “I look up to the hills, where does my help come from?” The question lays it out – does help, does security, does strength, come from the hills? Come from the high places – those places of false promise and deceptive dreams?

It got me thinking about the ‘high places’ in my life. The high places have included jobs, status, reputation, ministry, even parenting (when they were little and did what I wanted) — sadly the list is endless. I hang onto these high places with a tight fist and greedy fingers. If I give them up, what then? Where will I hang my allegiance? The high places are often compelling – they are present and I can see them; they give instant gratification and temporary security; a pay check and affirmation. The high places are easy. They are already there and besides, others look to them, why not me?

And yet I want to be known as one who did good and got rid of the high places, no matter what it takes.

There are times when God has forcibly removed those high places; times when I have sensed he loves me too much to allow me to continue on the path of idolatry. Other times, while there have been warning signs not to look to the high places, I haven’t always heeded them.

The Psalmist answers his own question later in the verse “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth”. It’s the verbal commitment to renounce that which is false and exchange it with truth; to take down those high places and replace them with God himself.

Today may my prayer echo that of the Psalmist and in that echo may my worship be transformed.

2 thoughts on “Removing the High Places

  1. Thanks for reading and I appreciate you posting this. I do disagree based on my study of scripture – My understanding is that the Canaanites used the “high places” as places of idolatry. The Holman Bible Dictionary states this: An elevated site, usually found on the top of a mountain or hill; most high places were Canaanite places of pagan worship.

    Heathen Worship at the High Place The average high place would have an altar (2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chronicles 14:3), a carved wooden pole that depicted the female goddess of fertility (Asherah), a stone pillar symbolizing the male deity (2 Kings 3:2), other idols (2 Kings 17:29; 2 Chronicles 33:19), and some type of building (1 Kings 12:31; 1 Kings 13:32; 1 Kings 16:32-33). At these places of worship the people sacrificed animals (at some high places children were sacrificed according to Jeremiah 7:31), burned incense to their gods, prayed, ate sacrificial meals, and were involved with male or female cultic prostitutes (2 Kings 17:8-12; 2 Kings 21:3-7; Hosea 4:11-14). Although most high places were part of the worship of Baal, the Ammonite god Molech and the Moabite god Chemosh were also worshiped at similar high places (1 Kings 11:5-8; 2 Kings 23:10). Scripture speaks negatively about these heathen places of worship; still they played a central role in the lives of most of the people who lived in Palestine before the land was defeated by Joshua. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of high places at Megiddo, Gezer, and numerous other sites.
    Would love to hear your thoughts.

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  2. I questioned whether or not to post this …

    First of all, I want to say that I agree with the intent behind your blog post. I think you made some very good points about overcoming idolatry in our own lives.

    My comment, however, is simply to say that “removing the high places” did not exactly mean removing places of idolatry. As a matter of fact, many of these places were actually used to worship Yahweh. The issue, however, was one of centralization. The goal was to centralize worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.

    I know that this is not a terribly big deal, and it does not change the importance or impact of your message, but I just thought I’d mention that.

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