There is really only one way to hike up a mountain: You must use the switchbacks. It would seem shorter to walk straight uphill, but you’d have to leave the trail that everyone else has been taking, which is safer, and you would be exhausted a lot faster. Yes, I am very glad that we stuck to the trail.
It may take longer, but the only way to really walk with God is one step at a time, always uphill, and you will only ever see in front of you as far as the next turn. That is the path that has been patiently trodden and cleared by those who have walked with God before us, all the way back to Enoch, Abel, and even Adam “in the cool of the day.” Each of them took the long path but in the end they found it was worth it.
Abraham did not see around the next hairpin. God told him to get out of his father’s house, “to a land I will show you.” He did not know many of the consequences that would come, and God left the next page unturned–Abraham had to take the next step, and it wasn’t until after he obeyed that the Lord made a covenant with him, gave him a son, and promised to him the land of Israel.
The Lord required of his son Isaac a similar hike. Like Abraham he had learned to pray, but had to learn to take a step without seeing ahead; the Lord commanded him, “stay in a land I will tell you about.”
All great men of God, I believe, have learned to walk the trail before them, whether or not they knew how far, how long, until the destination was reached. Moses didn’t know how he would speak boldly to the Pharaoh, Paul didn’t know the way to Ananias’ house–he was blind!–yet they walked, like Abraham, “not knowing whither he went.” None of them were concerned primarily with where they were headed, but with Who was walking with them.
The footfall of the saints on the mountain of the Lord has left a trail for us–it is a narrow way, but it is also the only way. And as one of Abraham’s descendants sang long after him, he who ascends the hill of the Lord will receive “blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
And the path didn’t level out; there were many more switchbacks for Abraham. Even after Isaac was born they could not see the peak, for the Lord asked him again, “Go to a mountain I will tell you about.” So the switchbacks continued even after he had walked with God for decades. But there is always blessing after obedience; and when Abraham set his face to do what the Lord asked of him, there was an unforeseen blessing on him, his family, and even the nations of the earth. And Abraham never became a king, but after millennia the King of kings came to the same mountain and offered not His son nor an animal, but Himself–and when He rose again indestructible in glory the full blessing brought by His attuned heart of obedience to the Father we have not yet seen–but He saw it from the beginning, and perhaps that was His secret.
[*See also John 10:18, Isaiah 49:4]