For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Around 150BC some rabbis wrote a commentary on this psalm. They suggested there was a time of rejection for the land, and then light and truth would assemble together.
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
Elijah, being a prophet, represents the light. Moses, bringing the law, represents the truth.
The Jewish Rabbis all agreed that when the Messiah came each of the three sections of Scripture (law, prophets and wisdom writings) would agree and point to Him. Here all three point to the messiah, and there was also a present experience of God in the cloud and voice from heaven.
So, why does Peter offer to make shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus? Along with the others he would have known the rabbinical interpretation and wouldn’t have wanted to lose the moment. You can read it as man spoiling the moment: “don’t leave but lead us to this glory – I want this to stay” or “Where is your glory Lord? What must we do to keep it or get it back?”
The disciples were ‘heavy with sleep’ – it can feel like this sometimes. Things feel dull, we realise we’re becoming passive and a sense rises that there must be more.
JB Phillips wrote ‘Your God is too small’. We keep our relationship with God at the level we’re used to but He wants us to pursue more.
Occasionally God steps in in special ways with His light and truth.
New Testament Greek had three words for time:
Kairos moments are when God breaks in. These experiences stay with us – they are terrifying but life changing. This experience stayed with Peter all his life (see 2 Peter 1:17-18).
There was an aura around people who had been with Jesus. They had been up the mountain to pray. God is more likely to give a Kairos experience to those who are already seeking, hungering and thirsting, praying.
We are working through lots of things practically and morally but what we really need is a fresh revelation of God as that is what renews the church. Let’s cry to God for another gracious drawing aside, a thinning of the veil which will cause us to see Him in new glory.
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