On Transfiguration, Revelation, and Crosses – Luke 9

The ninth chapter of Luke is not the longest chapter of this gospel, but there is a great deal going on in it as Luke picks up the pace in his account. After the feeding of the five thousand, we pick up in verse 18 with Jesus asking the disciples who people are saying that He is. Their answer is that they either say He is John the baptist, Elijah, or one of the other prophets (so in all cases, one raised from the dead). So the bulk of people that are referred to here are familiar enough with the signs and wonders that Jesus has done to know that He is definitely not some ordinary man. And in each case, they obviously believe that He was sent from God.

Jesus is transfigured on a mountain. Moses and Elijah join him, while Peter, James and John watch--Matthew 17 1-13; Mark 9 1-13; Luke 9 28-36.

Jesus is transfigured on a mountain. Moses and Elijah join him, while Peter, James and John watch–Matthew 17 1-13; Mark 9 1-13; Luke 9 28-36.

But now that Jesus has His disciples thinking about this, He wants to know what they have come to think about who He is. It is here that Luke records the fact that it was Peter who first spoke the correct answer – that He is the Christ (the long-awaited Messiah) and the Son of God. In verse 21, Jesus “strictly charged and commanded them” not to tell anyone else. But why is that? The Bible does not explicitly answer that question for us, but it is really not too difficult to figure out the answer from the other information we have in the Scripture.

Given the fact that the people, by and large, already believe that Jesus was sent from God, it would be very easy for most of them to believe that He is the Messiah, once that word started spreading. But what would the reaction be? Given also that Jesus knew that the sort of Messiah they were expecting was one that would lead them to the end of Roman dominance and lead Israel to its former place as a world power, belief in Him as the Messiah before His death could be problematic.

The crowds (5,000 men plus women and children most recently) had become vast in numbers. An expectation that Jesus was there to be their earthly king would result in chaos. It is in this light that Jesus tells them in verse 22 that He must “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Nothing could be allowed to hinder this – and it would happen on God’s timetable.

Simon of Cyrene is compelled to carry Jesus' cross

Simon of Cyrene is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross

In verse 23, Jesus talks to the disciples about what it will mean to follow Him. He speaks of it as “taking up” one’s cross and following Him. The context of the next few verses culminates with the statement that some of those present at that very moment would not “taste of death” before they see the kingdom of God. Being a disciple and following Him before such time would not have been an easy thing to do. But Jesus seems to be referring to the cost of following Him after He has risen, and the kingdom has been established.

Taking up one’s cross would mean bearing the burdens that discipleship that just might make life a great deal more difficult. Indeed, many of those first-century Christians would know persecution and suffering unimaginable to us. Jesus knew that many would even be killed for being a part of that kingdom. But those who would lose their lives would gain everlasting life with God. Those who would rather be safe and pursue worldly pleasure and gain, turning their backs on the kingdom, would suffer a worse fate in the end.  In a very real sense, taking up one’s cross often means doing what one would much rather not do.

Eight days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him to “the mountain” to pray. Which mountain it was, we do not know. One traditional belief is that it was Mount Hermon because of its height. It is estimated that this mountain is about 45 kilometers from Capernaum, so it is definitely possible. Others believe that it was Mount Tabor. But the mountain is not the focus of the gospel in verses 28-36.

Mount Hermon is one traditional site for Jesus' transfiguration

Mount Hermon is one traditional site for Jesus’ transfiguration

As Jesus was praying, “the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” We are not given much detail about just what was happening or in what way His face was altered. But clearly, the Holy Spirit brought about some changes to Him that were important to God’s plan. Peter and the others woke from a deep sleep to see two men talking with Him (Moses and Elijah). Luke says that they appeared in “glory” and they saw Jesus’ glory as He spoke with them. This is a term that was used in the Old Testament to describe the dramatic visual effect of the presence of God; and that is exactly what was going on here as well.

Peter, either having it revealed to him or learning from what he heard, knew who the two men were. But he did not understand what was happening, as he suggested they make some extra tents for them.  They became afraid as a cloud came and surrounded them. Then the voice of God sounded out as He told them “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Peter, James, and John probably would not fully understand until after Pentecost, but the point for them (and for us) was made when Moses and Elijah left, and Jesus alone was standing there. God was telling them that it was the words of His Son that they would listen to from now on – not Moses, and not the prophets.

Another point to ponder from the record of the transfiguration is the fact that Moses had died hundreds of years ago (Deuteronomy 34:5). Elijah had been taken up by God many “lifetimes” ago (2 Kings 2:1-12).  What does this tell us about life after death and everlasting life? It certainly tells us that we can count on God’s word, as always. But what conclusions should we draw from Moses’ presence? Something to ponder for perhaps another time.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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The Conception of John the Baptist

Nowhere in the Bible but the Gospel of Luke are we told about the events leading to the birth of John the Baptist. Though certainly not predicted for as long of a time as the birth of the Lord Jesus Himself, it had been anticipated for hundreds of years – at the very least, since the time of Malachi (Malachi 4:5), which most scholars place at about the middle of the 5th century B.C.

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri

English: Herod the Great Suomi: Herodes Suuri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Verse 5 opens with “in the days of Herod, king of Judea…” There tends to be some confusion as to which Herod the Bible refers to between the gospels and the Book of Acts. This one is the one known as “Herod the Great.” He was the vassal king of Judea by virtue of his relationship with the Roman government and the favor he found with Octavius. He was born in Edom (Greek “Idumaea”) and thus a descendant of Esau. His family converted to Judaism, and he referred to himself as a Jew. The main portion of his reign was from 37 B.C. to his death in 4 B.C.

John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, is said in the same verse to be “of the division of Abijah.” The number of priests was extremely large, and they were organized into 24 divisions. Each division would have one of their priests serve in the temple twice per year – the question of who served being decided by casting lots. But none was allowed to burn incense more than once in their lifetime – some never at all. This was Zechariah’s once in a lifetime event – in more ways than one.

Imagine Zechariah’s excitement as he contained himself with the expected dignity and reverence when he entered the temple and approached the altar of incense to perform the task that he had likely been anticipating for a great length of time. But as he did so, there appeared an angel of the Lord, and his excited happiness was immediately changed to overwhelming fright! But the angel uttered words to put him at ease that would change not only his mood (once more), but his life – forever! Though he knew his wife, Elizabeth, to be barren, he was told that they would have a child, and that his name would be John.

Zechariah & the angel

Zechariah & the angel (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

John, the angel told Zechariah, would not drink wine or strong drink, and would be great before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” turning many people back to God and make them ready for “the Lord.”  Significant also in verse 15, the angel said that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” For us as Christians, this is just one of a few passages that should forever put to rest any question of whether an unborn baby is a person!

Zechariah’s doubt, when he asked how he could know this would really happen, knowing that Elizabeth was beyond child-bearing years, was met with a rebuke that would cause him to be mute until the child was born. The angel, who we learn here was named Gabriel, informed him that he stands in the presence of the Lord, and was sent by God to give Zechariah this good news. This is only the second of the angels we read about in scripture that is mentioned by name (the other being Michael, in Daniel 10:21 and Jude 1:1-9. Revelation 8:2 tells of seven such archangels that stand before God.

Zechariah finishes his service in silence, making signs to those who were inquisitive at his delay inside the temple for so long, and then went home. Elizabeth, we are told in verse 24, did conceive in the following days, and kept herself hidden from public view for 5 months.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Hebrews 11 – By Faith

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the Babylonian king's golden statue, so the king ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace. But God protected them (Daniel 3)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the Babylonian king’s golden statue, so the king ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace. But God protected them (Daniel 3)

Famous for the great description of faith in verse 1 (“faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”), Hebrews 11 is (arguably most unfortunately) often called the “Hall of Faith” or the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Most of the accounts of people in this chapter are familiar to most people.  Some of the references are not so clear, and some maybe not so familiar.  Verse 33’s reference to those who “quenched the power of fire” is likely of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 2:49-3:30.  Verse 35’s women who “received back their dead by resurrection” is likely (among others) of Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha raising the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:18-37).  Verse 37’s gruesome deaths may refer to the extra-biblical accounts of the deaths of Jeremiah and Isaiah.

But this chapter is not an account of extraordinary men and women with supreme faith.  It is rather the story of ordinary men and women like you and me, who because of their faith in God, were blessed with the power and grace of His mighty hand.  It is the story of their endurance and perseverance through all manner of evil against them and bitter times, and how that endurance saw them through it by their faith.  It is the assurance that the recipients of this letter can persevere by their faith through the endurance the writer encouraged them to have in chapter 10.  It is the assurance that we can do it as well.  We have a better promise, through a better covenant, and if we are faithful, we will receive our reward – which will be the same perfect reward those mentioned in this chapter will ultimately receive (verses 39-40).

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 2 – Elijah Taken To Heaven

For the most part, the Old Testament speaks very little about life after death, at least compared to the New Testament.  Some take that to mean that God’s people knew nothing about it then.  But how much the people of God knew or thought about it is actually pure (and often, I believe, incorrect) speculation.  It is clear from God’s word that His people were told something about, and had been given hope for, some sort of fellowship with God after death.  Among the notable places in scripture where this is evident are Genesis 5:24, where Enoch was “taken” by God, Psalm 23:6, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and certainly here in 2 Kings chapter 2, where Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind.

The Ascent of Prophet Elijah, a northern Russi...

The Ascent of Prophet Elijah, a northern Russian icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know little about most of the prophets of the Old Testament because God gave us what we need to know through the prophets that gave us His word in the scriptures.  But there were many more than most people think (remember Obadiah hiding 100 of them from Ahab in caves in 1 Kings 18:4).    Here, Elijah has been preparing Elisha to be his successor as God told him in 1 Kings 19:15-18; and some of the prophets make it clear that God has revealed to them what is about to happen to Elijah (verse 5). Clearly, Elijah is in some way their leader, and is held in reverence. When Elijah asks him what he would have Elijah do for him, Elisha asks for a double portion of his spirit.  Though God had already declared that Elisha would be Elijah’s successor, this could have symbolic meaning as Elijah is like a father to him (verse 12).  He has already left his old life behind and an inheritance with it; and a first son would expect a double portion in his inheritance.

Elisha tearing his clothes before he takes the cloak that Elijah left behind (verse 12-14)appears to have a double meaning.  The tearing of ones own clothing in the Old Testament was an act of mourning or deep dismay, but it also seems to symbolize the transformation of Elisha to Elijah’s role.  Upon Elisha’s return, the other prophets can tell that Elijah’s spirit “rests on Elisha” (verse 15).  And in verses 19-22, he makes it clear that he has the favor of the Lord.  The fate of the “boys” in verses 23-24 when they were disrespectful to Elisha may seem harsh, but remember that Bethel was at the center of Israel’s apostasy; and traveling in a gang of around 50 (or possibly many more), their behavior and intentions were likely more threatening than mere taunts.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

1 Kings 18 – The Prophets of Baal Defeated

Verse one says it has been three years since it rained (James confirms in James 5:17) since Elijah proclaimed that the Lord would shut the heavens up; and the Lord sent word to Elijah to go to Ahab and he would make it rain.  Obadiah was the head of the house of Ahab and Jezebel, but he feared the Lord, and had hidden a hundred prophets from them.  But he is afraid that Elijah is setting a trap for him.  Elijah reassures him, and Obadiah tells Ahab of Elijah’s requested meeting.  Elijah lets him know in verse 18 that the crisis they are in is the result of his abandonment of the Lord to worship Baal.  He then challenges Ahab to meet him at Carmel with their Baal prophets.

University of Haifa atop Mount Carmel in 1996

University of Haifa atop Mount Carmel in 1996 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Mount Carmel Elijah challenges the people and the prophets of Baal, as he points out that it only he against the 450 of them.  The challenge is for each side to be given a bull and some wood but they may use no fire themselves.  Instead, Elijah will call upon the Lord, and they will call upon Baal; and the God who answers by fire is God.  The people agree that this is a worthy challenge, and they begin.  Notice Elijah’s rebuke of the people “limping” between serving God and Baal (trying to hedge their bets?) in verse 21.  Then in verse 26, the Baal prophets were described as “limping” their altar, as they call out to a god that does not exist.  Elijah’s mockery and taunting of the false prophets efforts in verses 26-27 is amusing.

Elijah builds an altar with twelve stones (for the twelve tribes of Israel that God would rather be still united), and digs a trench around it.  Then he has the people pour water from 4 jars onto the sacrifice three times, filling the trench with water.  Then, Elijah called upon God and fire consumed the bull, the wood, the stones, and the water (verse 38).  The people fell on their faces as they realized the true God was the Lord, and Elijah had them seize all the prophets. The fact that Elijah slaughtered the prophets of Baal in verse 40 was necessary, and is best explained by the law in Deuteronomy 13:13-15.

(Side note: There are good photos of the area around Mount Carmel in this article at Ferrell’s Travel Blog)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.3

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1 Kings 16:30-17:24 – Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath

English: Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the W...

English: Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since Jeroboam, there were a few other kings in the scripture since chapter 12.  At the end of chapter 16, Ahab is king; and he marries a foreign woman, Jezebel.  Then he erects an altar for the idol Baal, and worships it.    So under his reign, the people are turned from the perverse worship of the Lord through idols into the outright worship of Baal.  The lines of loyalty to the Lord have gone from blurred to blind, and worse.  Baal worship was appealing in the dry regions of Canaan when the Israelites first came because Baal was the “god” of rain.  This is fitting, just as the plagues in Egypt in Exodus were a mockery of their gods (see blog on Exodus 7).

In chapter 17, we meet the prophet Elijah – arguably the most important prophet since Samuel.  Right away, in verse 1, we find him telling Ahab “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” because of this Baal worship.  This is exactly what God had told them would happen in Deuteronomy 11:16-17.  God then sends Elijah to the brook at Cherith, where he commanded the ravens to feed him; and he remained there until the brook dried up from the lack of rain.  He then sends him to Zarephath, where he has commanded a widow to feed Elijah.

But Elijah finds that the widow is expecting that she and her son will die, saying that she only has a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug.  Elijah tells her that until it rains, the jar and the jug both will never be empty, and God made it so (verse 16).  Then, her son becomes so severely ill “that there was no breath left in him,” and she believes that Elijah has brought that upon her because of her sins.  In verse 21, it is Elijah’s prayer to God that revives the boy – not the physical ritual described that the prophet did.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Elijah’s Entrance \ Week 22 Summary Posted

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are moving along in the Books of Kings.  Like the Books of Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings were actually considered one book at one time.  It’s just sort of hard keeping scrolls that large :-).  More expedient to divide it up.  This week, we will skip over the visit of the Queen of Sheba in chapter 10 to read about Solomon’s greatest sins.  Then, we will move through the division of the kingdom, and Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal.  We will be in the 2nd book of Kings by weeks end.  Hope you are learning as much as I am in this “big picture” study of God’s word.

Summing Up

Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week.  I have posted the summary for Week 22 (May Week 4) of the schedule I am following.  This short PDF document contains condensed comments about 2 Samuel 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.