he enables me to go on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)
“But it is too near the time for the child to be born,” Mary answers.
Neither of them says it, but they know. It will be next to impossible for Mary to complete the journey without giving birth along the way. Surely they are worried. Do they hide this from one another, hoping to give each other strength? They trust the Lord, but they are human. And humans worry.
Joseph has to make a tough choice—which route to travel. The easiest, through the plains, is also the longest. Certainly, Mary will give birth along the way. Joseph wonders, is this what God wants? An old trading route provides the shortest way. But it winds for 70 miles through the rocky highlands. Mary will have to travel on uneven ground, up and down hills. Impossible, Joseph says to himself. But nothing is impossible with God. His still, small voice echoes in Joseph’s heart. “Take the highlands. Walk where you most fear to tread.” With some reservation, Joseph chooses to follow God instead of his own human judgment. If God wants them to take the roughest route, then that is what they must do. Again, Joseph trusts in the words of Jeremiah 29:11. He believes that God has a plan to prosper and not harm them.
How does Mary react to Joseph’s decision? Do the words of the scriptures enter her mind?
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will find joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19
In life, God sometimes leads us to take the roughest route, one rife with rocky hills and deep valleys. We might ask why. Why not the easiest way? But we remember that it was in the rocky hills that God gave Moses His Ten Commandments. It was in the hills that Abraham offered sacrifices to God, and Jacob dreamed of angels climbing a ladder to Heaven. In the hills we find God, like a Good Shepherd, leading our way. In the hills, we grow stronger in our will to make the journey as we learn to put our faith and trust in Him.
When Mary and Joseph left the next morning, they might have offered this prayer, these words from Psalm 121:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.