Song of Solomon 4:8 “From the mountains of the leopards…” What is the king’s request when he asks his bride to look “from the mountains of the leopards”? The king has asked his wife to view the kingdom from the mountain tops to obtain a heavenly perspective and to traverse the open grassland domain of the roaring lions to face and overcome the dangers of the world. Now he asks her to follow him through the treacherous forests and mountains where there is practically no view at all…to go up and down through the “mountains of the leopards,” however dark and mysterious the way, however dangerous and frightening the circumstances. The pattern goes something like this: See what Christ sees; do what Christ does; follow Christ at all times.
Although the lions are gone from modern Palestine, the leopards are returning and have been found roaming the remote, forested mountain ranges right up to the snow line. Leopards are noted for their speed more than their strength (Habakkuk 1:8), and for their preying nature (Jeremiah 5:6). Although they rarely hunt man, once leopards discover that man is an easy prey, they have been known to become even more brutal killers than lions. According to Grolier Encyclopedia, one leopard in India was thought to have killed 125 people over an eight-year period. Unlike lions, leopards typically hunt alone in the night, often springing down on their quarry from an overhanging tree. Panthers are black leopards, and in the dark of the midnight, a silent panther waiting in the shadows of the trees would be almost impossible to detect. To walk alone through “the mountains of the leopards” would be asking for almost certain death: the trail through the forest too obscure; the wiles of the opposition too treacherous. But, we are never asked to walk alone! Our heavenly husband’s invitation is always, “Come with me.” Have you ever been hiking in a forest and gotten lost? Our family once got lost trying to find our way down the side of a small mountain without knowing where the trail was. It was one of the most frightening experiences of our lives! It began to snow, and the sun began to set. We had trouble keeping our compass readings straight, and we became totally lost. The way back to our van, which had appeared so obvious from the top of the mountain, became a complete mystery to us as we struggled through the thick undergrowth and circumnavigated small swamps. By God’s tender mercy, we eventually found a road and did survive, but we learned to never climb mountains without following a trail!
Going up had been relatively easy, because if you just keep climbing upward you eventually get to the top. But, going down was not so simple, because mountains have very large bases and you may arrive at the bottom miles from your car or anything you recognize (which we learned the hard way)! So, to repeat another so-oft-used-that-it-almost-seems-trite but nevertheless very true saying, always “Go with God!”
Spiritually, life is exactly the same. We should climb up with Him…and down with Him! How often, after a mountain top experience, Christians fall into depressed confusion as they descend into the valley below. Rather than stumbling along trying to find our own way like teenagers who refuse to believe their parents’ reasoning for “Why not?”, we would be wise to follow our Savior and the wisdom of his Word, which is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). To survive and thrive, we need to learn lessons “as cheaply as possible”…through devoted study of the Bible, through prayerful attention to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and through listening to the loving counsel of those God has given to lead us, rather than through costly and painful experiences of encountering evil on our own.
Have you been called to follow the Lord through “the mountains of the leopards?” All who have been called to become one with Christ will be called to this experience. Rather than fear, we just need to follow…holding tightly to his hand!
(I took the picture of the leopard at the Philadelphia Zoo, but the picture of panther is from Wiki. The picture of our family was from years ago when we climbed Hogback Mt., near Marquette, MI.)