Where is Martin Top?

Where on earth is Martin Top? No offence to people who live in its vicinity, but it’s a non-place. Is it Rimington? Not really, the sign for that village is 1.5 miles away down Newby Lane. Gisburn? That’s even further. Ribble Valley? Technically, yes, although this huge district extends from Lancaster in the north, Preston to the west and Yorkshire to the east. Furthermore, we are some distance from the actual valley of the River Ribble. Martin Top is a hamlet, with a few farms, cottages and a post-box, which is of little help enlightening the perplexed visitor.

We really sit in a place called Middop. The 2011 census numbered its denizens at 43. It’s not known by many people, and suggesting it as our location is unlikely to alter the puzzled expressions. Middop is referred to in the 1086 Domesday book as Mithope and had become Mydhope by the 1100s, meaning '(land) between the valleys’.

We are indeed in a hilly location with valleys on a number of sides. Salem is a city on hill, whose light will not be hidden. The chapel’s original Minute Book from 1816 describes our location as Newby Hill. Many times does God operate on the mountain top- Sinai, Carmel, Pisgah, Zion et al. Newby might be a mere molehill by comparison, but it’s still the little mound upon which the lively oracles of God are heard among the sons of men.

I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah Psalm 3:4

Nevertheless, we can be assured that the God of Salem is with His people as they stumble through life’s troublesome valleys and dreary vales. Even the valley of death’s shadow will not be travelled alone; the footprints will be doubled or the child will be carried. Indeed, the words of the man of God from 1 Kings 20:28 apply still today, not to Syrians, but to all of life’s difficulties and trials:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ”

Martin Top is in the land between the valleys, but the Lord our God will be with us whether we be high on the brightly-lit mountainside, or low in the dark depths of gorge and glen.