High Places: Fearfully and Wonderfully

It seems that this is the second time in this Lent series that Dan Wilt, author of Jesus in the Wild, has referenced a personal experience of being on a high place, a tempting prominence where the view is breathtaking, and the heady (and frightening) feeling it can invoke. As I think of those two emotions co-existing side-by- side in such a place I am reminded of Psalm 139:14 NIV – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” I have meditate on Psalm 139;14 before and not seen the connection and purpose before.

“Fearfully made”…. capable of experiencing fear, terrifyingly so, perhaps with bone-rattling quaking and fainting of heart …..or humbly reverential fear at the majesty and power one is privileged to kneel before,  to an extent that can be said to be “full”, complete, and consuming ….

“Wonderfully made” …capable of experiencing a full, even overflowing capacity of superlative wonder and awe, exquisite, transcendent, and perfect, eliciting love and joy known only in such a moment of revelation of God’s Goodness…. or so very blind and deaf, feeling solitary, alone, and omnipotent or cast down, that one is conscious of nothing but having her own desires fulfilled or whether she will ever be rescued from her own lostness and wondering.

Each state offers an antipathetic extreme of positive or negative response of emotions that can turn in an instant or drag on for season after season.  The Psalmist says he knows he has been made to know fully the “fearful-ness” AND “wonderful-ness” of God’s works.  He knows it “full well” and it causes him to praise God.  Where in that spectrum of potentially conflicting or harmonizing emotions would we consider he landed?  in Psslm 139?  How did he find that balance?

Thirty-three years ago I was emotionally in such a place that evoked both fear and wonder. It was alluring, heady, seducing…… and dangerous. I wrote the poem at the bottom of this post during that time.

God speaks of false gods’ altars as “high places”, cautioning against worshipping there and instructing His people to tear them down. We are to have the solid footing of “hinds feet in high places” and not allow ourselves to be led into such places unequipped. And, at the same time we may be confident that, with Christ’s Holy Spirit present with us, we can meet any challenge knowing we are safe.


“High places were originally dedicated to idol worship (Numbers 33:52; Leviticus 26:30), especially among the Moabites (Isaiah 16:12). It seems that, at times, high places were set up in a spot that had been artificially elevated; 2 Kings 16:4 seems to differentiate the “high places” from the “hills.”

The Israelites, forever turning away from God, practiced Molech worship and built high places for Baal (Jeremiah 32:35). Although Solomon built the temple of God in Jerusalem, he later established idolatrous high places for his foreign wives outside of Jerusalem and worshiped with them, causing him the loss of the kingdom (1 Kings 11:11). The people were still sacrificing at the pagan high places before the temple was built, and Solomon joined them. After the Lord appeared to him in a dream at Gibeon, the king returned to Jerusalem and sacrificed offerings; however, he continued to waver between the two places of worship.

Not all high places were dedicated to idol worship. They played a major role in Israelite worship, and the earliest biblical mention of a site of worship, later called a “high place,” is found in Genesis 12:6–8 where Abram built altars to the Lord at Shechem and Hebron. Abraham built an altar in the region of Moriah and was willing to sacrifice his son there (Genesis 22:1–2). This site is traditionally believed to be the same high place where the temple of Jerusalem was built. Jacob set up a stone pillar to the Lord at Bethel (Genesis 28:18–19), and Moses met God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1–3).

Joshua set up stone pillars after crossing the Jordan (Joshua 4:20) and considered this a high place of worship because the Israelites “came up from” the Jordan onto higher ground. (eben ezer… stone of help set up to commemorate God’s help.) The high places were visited regularly by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 7:16). High places as sites of Canaanite idol worship (Judges 3:19) extended into the period of Elijah (1 Kings 18:16–40). God would name only one high place where sacrifice was authorized, and that was the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1). God commanded that all other high places be destroyed. King Josiah destroyed them in 2 Kings 22—23.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/high-places.html)

If we lack Holy Spirit well developed biblical discernment and mature experience with hearing and knowing the Voice of God and the Person of Christ, can we be deceived in such “high places?”

I was in a “high place” one time that became quite dangerous, when I realized just how much danger I had been in, I was terrified to consider what could have happened to me there. But I had been protected and had not even realized the magnitude of the danger at the time. Later the Lord showed me that He had allowed me to be taken there to see the Enemy at work and to be able to lead others away from such danger. It was a “high place” moment, a place of idolatry that was later torn down in my life. There can be many “high places” in our lives that can be a place of seduction.


It is as though time has halted briefly,
Allowing me to reach back and grasp
That which I thought forever lost.
A sensation of standing at a scenic lookout,
High up a mountain road,
Leaning over the edge,
Enraptured by the view.
With my full weight resting against the rail
Aware that I can step -or fall- across the rail
And become part of that which I see.
Imagining that I can fly into it and avoid the fall,
Yet drawn back to myself by a brisk wind
That gives me back the breath
Such a thought would take from me.

Cathy Byrd

Recently, I came across my baptism certificate. I thought I remembered having been baptized at age 12, but it was actually the tender age of 10 when I gave my inexperienced baby heart to Jesus. Considering that it would be 28 years later before I would surrender all of every thing else of who I was to the Lord, it appears I spent 28 years after my baptism in the wilderness, too, but thoroughly unaware of who was leading me most of the time, and why.