When studying scripture, I often find that strange parts of scripture are often linked to something, somewhere else, that helps bring it deeper meaning. I find this often across the Old and New testament. I have found it often enough that I tend to operate out of a simple assumption: if something is confusing, or appears random, it is possible that it I have failed to make the correct connection. I have failed to see what it is referring to.
There’s a popular passage in the New Testament where Jesus talks about having faith to move mountains. I’ve heard this explained many times, everything from referencing the mountain that King Herod moved, to the idea that it simply means that faith allows us to do the impossible. Yet, in all my studies, I missed a very clear reference in the Old Testament.
I was reading this morning from the prophet Zechariah. In it, the prophet talks about a time of great judgment, war, and violence. He says, “the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped” (Zechariah 14:2). It’s not a very pretty picture, and it’s all the more terrible because this kind of violence still happens today. Often. Right in my city. Right in my neighborhood. Just down the street. It’s the world we live in.
And yet, in the midst of this passage, there is a glimmer of hope. God would deliver the people. God would provide a way out.
How would God provide a way out?
Well, that’s the most interesting part.
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. (Zechariah 14:4-5, NIV)
Here, the prophet references the Mount of Olives, a hill that runs north and south for about two miles, providing a natural wall. It would protect them from their enemies, and trap them in if their enemies entered Jerusalem. As the prophet paints a picture of violence in the city, he ays that that this mountain will spilt. That two mile stretch of the mount of olives will split in two, and one will move north, and the other south, and in the middle a valley will form. Imagine the mountain is a giant body of water, blocking them in, and yet it splits in two, forming a path between the two. And in this path, this “mountain valley” they will escape.
Think about it. The prophet paints a picture of a mountain moving, but for a particular purpose. It will move to provide a route, for them to find their way to safety. It’s an Exodus image. It’s an echo to the story of the Red Sea in the times of Moses.
I wonder if it’s possible that this image is what Jesus has in mind when he’s telling his disciples that the faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains? Is it possible, that even in the midst of our greatest problems, our greatest tribulations, that through faith God has provided a way out?
Is it possible that when violence is ripping through our city, destroying God’s people—all people—that God promised a day when a way to safety would be made through the mountains, and that Jesus says, all you need is the faith the size of a mustard seed to make that way in the mountains? That a way out, a way to safety is possible if we just have faith?
I’m not sure. Sounds too easy. But I find pondering on it adding depth to a passage that I had almost squeezed dry of meaning. Maybe faith, even just a little bit, is more powerful, than I thought. Maybe it’s the ingredient we need to help people escape a city of violence.
What do you think? Do you think these passages are connected? Or are they simply conicidence?