A week ago I took the youth group up to Mt. Jeez to do a lesson on the transfiguration. I think a lot of what I said was probably familiar to them. The comparison of the transfiguration to a mountaintop experience is not a new one. The thing that struck me that I had never considered before is how God's statement, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!" fits within that comparison. Moses wrote the Pentateuch and led Israel out of Egypt and Elijah was probably THE preeminent prophet of Old Testament times, the one for which Israel was awaiting. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the prophets," so it seems reasonable to consider Moses and Elijah as representative of those two categories. But on the mountain of transfiguration, God doesn't say, "listen to Moses," or "listen to Elijah"; He says, "Listen to [my Son]." The question that may immediately spring to your lips then is, "Does that mean the Old Testament is no longer valid or relevant?" As Paul would say, "May it never be!" All Scripture points to Jesus and Jesus Himself said He came "to fulfill" the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17). What strikes me is that God distinguishes between "listening to Jesus" and "listening to Moses and Elijah." Yes, all Scripture points to Jesus, yes, Jesus IS the Word, but even Scripture can become an idol. I'm reminded of a story I heard when I was younger: our relationship with God, often, is like a child visiting his mentor, but when the child arrives at the mentor's house, instead of spending time in the living room having fellowship with the mentor, he goes into the mentor's study and begins reading his diary. He wants to know about him, rather than actually knowing him.
It is possible to READ Scripture and get nothing from it. The goal is to grow closer to Jesus. Knowing Scripture well helps with that, but knowing it is not enough. Matthew 5:20 says, "I tell you the truth, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." The Scribes and the Pharisees had the Old Testament memorized and yet Jesus tells them that it wasn't enough. Ezra, "a Scribe skilled in the Law of Moses," (Ezra 7:6), one who knew the Law inside and out, tells us the other components necessary, components that are often overlooked. He writes in Ezra 7:10, "For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord and practice it and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel." Ezra doesn't just know the Law; He understands it, he puts it into practice, and he teaches it to others. It's not enough to read the Word of God; even memorizing the whole Bible would not necessarily draw you closer to God. The call to us is to "Listen to Him!" As is often pointed out, listening is different from hearing. We need to assess what God is calling us to do and then we need to DO IT! Our faith requires action! This is, I think, what James is talking about when he says, "Faith without works is dead." If you really believe it's true, you'll try to live it.
I've often wondered if we really have the faith we say we have. Scripture is transformational! If we really believed what it said, completely, utterly, and with no reservations, wouldn't our lives look at lot different? Wouldn't they, at the very least, look different than the lives of our non-Christian friends? We spend so much time trying to be "in the world," that we forget not to be "of it." After the disciples left the mountain of transfiguration, the first thing they encountered was a demon possessed man who they were not able to help. Life, friends, is difficult. Very little of our lives are spent on the mountain. More often, we dwell in the valleys amidst the depraved and destitute. As you wander through the valleys, remember the word spoken on the mountain: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!" It is the only way to survive the difficulties of everyday life.