A pause on the stifling, constrictive, skin-wrapped humanity, the glory of God peeks through Jesus up on a mountain. It isn’t a reflection of light from another source, but a light within Jesus bursting forth, finally uncontained.
Moses – the recipient of the law -- is there. Elijah – the great prophet – is there. Jesus – the fulfillment of the law and the prophets – is there. A beautiful, holy encounter.
Roughly 1,400 years earlier Moses died on a mountain overlooking the earthly promised land God didn’t permit him to enter. This Moses, who was born a Hebrew, adopted into the house of Pharaoh, the mighty king of Egypt. This Moses, who after murdering an Egyptian for mistreating his people, fled to the desert; a shepherd for 40 years. This Moses, who was called by God from a burning bush to return to Egypt to usher the Israelites out of slavery. This Moses, who was entrusted by God with the law; the commandments for daily living. This Moses, who lead a grumbling, hard-hearted, stubborn, ungrateful nation of millions in the wilderness for 40 years en-route to the land God set aside for them. Forty years of living in temporary dwellings, unsettled, always prepared to pick up and move on when God instructs while living on manna provided daily by God for sustenance. But also, forty years of ongoing communion with God.
During one of the many instances of grumbling by the people, God instructs Moses to speak to a rock, which would pour out water for the people. Instead, Moses strikes the rock with his staff. God says because of this, Moses would not enter the land God had given them. All of his faithfulness, all of his obedience, all of his difficult shepherding, all of his communion with God, and this one act of disobedience prevents him from reaching the destination he spent his life traveling towards.
Our human nature feels a deep sting of disappointment for Moses, shouting, “unjust, unfair!”
But we are looking at it all wrong, and I think that is what this current mountaintop experience is showing us. We measure success in the world’s terms. In human accomplishments, achievements, arrivals. Perhaps Moses, in his constant nearness and communication with God, was able to grasp success through God’s eyes; in finally being near to Him in an even more excellent and more intimate way. We feel sad that Moses wasn’t able to step foot in this land, while Moses is rejoicing with God in the true promised land. Moses’ mission was accomplished. In him, God was pleased. Moses was exactly where he wanted to be.
Now all these years later, Moses is again on a mountaintop, this time with Elijah and Jesus. Moses, who died 1,400 years earlier, Elijah who died roughly 900 years earlier, and Jesus who is about to die on a cross…all talking with one another (oh, and Jesus is glowing). It doesn’t say what they are talking about, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the world-changing events that are about to take place. Events that according to worldly standards would be considered an utter failure, but according to God’s plan are the gateway to redemption; to the true and eternal promised land. Only a short time to go and the glory of Jesus would no longer be squeezed in human flesh; the sacrificial system no longer necessary; the sins of the people washed clean once and for all time; the pathway to righteousness before God in place. Perspective and God’s truth changes everything.
How often do we find ourselves in the mundane, unsettled, tedious wilderness surrounded by grumbling and feeling like a failure because we don't measure up to the world’s definition of success? Perhaps we too need a perspective change. There is so much more than what we see. There is so much God wants to give us and show us; a longer, eternal view. Success is obedience to God. Success is nearness to Him in the middle of the journey. Success is shepherding others to truth. Success is going where and when God tells us to. Success is constant communion with God until the glorious day we see Him face to face.
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