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The Word on the Week

Malaysian Mountain

I suppose it could be said that the backpackers who created a breach of the peace in Malaysia had a mountain top experience! However this was very different from the type experienced by our charismatic friends in their more ecstatic forms of worship – in fact more of a pagan party!

With global holidays becoming more accessible it pays to learn some rudimentary things about the country, its customs and religion before visiting it if you want to avoid giving offence to the locals.

Mt. Kinabalu in East Malaysia is sacred to some of the Dusun peoples. At 13,435 feet it is the highest peak in the national park which is a world heritage site, a place of rare beauty and unique habitats of flora and fauna.

Last week, near the summit, 10 backpackers from the West ignored their guide’s protestations and decided to strip off. As is the custom they photographed themselves and the results were posted on social media and so came into the public domain.

The escapade was followed by an earthquake measuring 5.9 in which 18 people were killed.

For those who worshipped the mountain its desecration by the backpackers and the earthquake are linked. In their mind the mountain gods were angry and the earthquake is evidence of their anger. The local judiciary also were none too pleased and when 4 of the backpackers were caught they spent 3 days in prison and were fined £1,000 each.

The Bible tells us that God clothed our first parents. Stripping off in public is simply one of the signs of our rebellion against God disguised as a lewd prank.

This one may have started as a dare, something risqué done away from the gaze of others. There was the added incentive at making fun of the guide’s sensitivity by urinating on his holy mountain. Perhaps there was the belief that this was being done in private and the thought “who would see?” or “who would tell?” (Isaiah Chapter 29 verse 15).

Any hopes of it going undetected were blown away by “that half-witted Canadian guy who stirred up a media storm” as the father of the British student put it! Presumably this referred to the cameraman whose actions seem to have been planned – why else would the other 6 have given false names to the guide? He unwittingly fulfilled the Proverb “A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord” (Chapter 5 verse 21).

Thankfully the Lord is more discreet and keeps his counsel till the day of judgement (St Matthew Chapter 12 verse 36).

On that day and indeed every day we need the forgiveness that comes to the repentant believer in Jesus. God does not need a cameraman to see what we are like but to the believer comes the promise that our record that stood against us has been cancelled by being nailed to the cross and cancelled forever. (Colossians chapter 2 verses 13-15).