Psalm 85:1-7; Deuteronomy 26:1-27:13; Luke 9:28-36

Psalm 85:1-7: In this prayer of supplication, the psalmist reminds God that he had once looked on Israel with favor and has restored and forgiven before: “You favored, O LORD, Your land, / You restored the condition of Jacob. / You forgave Your people’s crime,/ You covered all their offense.” (1,2)  God’s anger has been quenched before: “You laid aside all Your wrath, /You turned back from Your blazing fury.” (3)

But clearly, something has gone dreadfully awry and the psalmist believes God has turned his back once again on his chosen people. Of course, one casual glance at Israel’s history and it’s easy to see that Israel had turned its collective back on God. So, the psalmist pleads “Undo Your anger against us” and like a small child asking its parent, “Will You forever be incensed with us,”–and not just we who are standing here praying, but “will You draw out Your fury through all generations?” (5)

The poet answers the question in the next line, as confidence increase: “Why, You—will again give us life, / and Your people will rejoice in You.” (6) Notice the symbiosis: God gives us life and we respond by “rejoicing in You.” That’s what relationships are all about; they go both ways. Yes, like the psalmist, we know that God will “again give us life” and rescue us, but if we are not changed, even transformed, by that, then we have abandoned the relationship. It is not God who turned His back on us, but we who turned away form Him.

Deuteronomy 26:1-27:13: Like the psalm, the bringing of tithes as an offering reflects the two-sidedness of a covenantal relationship. After all, God heard Israel’s cries in Egypt and “He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (9) It is an honor, not an obligation to be able to bring first fruits as an offering.

Wo knew there was a billboard set up at the entrance to the new land? “You shall set up for yourself  great stones and coat them with plaster. And you shall write on them the words of this teaching when you cross over, so that you may come into the land that the LORD your God is about to give you,.”  (27:3) Inscribing the words of the Torah on stone underscores their permanence.  They are in effect the constitution of the newly formed nation of Israel.

And not just “write the words,” but “you shall write on the stones all the words of this teaching  very clearly .” (27:8) It’s not unfair to take “clearly” in both its meanings.  That the law is clear and transparent to all.  These are the rules, guys; abide by them.

Also, “clearly” as in easy to read.  In big letters. You cannot claim you did not see the law, whence our concept of “ignorance of the law is not an excuse.”  If we really, truly followed God’s words, inscribed, as it were, on our hearts, we would spare so much energy by not being in denial of our sins, or continue to offer up lame excuses for our wrongdoings.  God’s law is clear.  But so, too, his mercy.

It is with the crossing of the Jordan that this ragtag difficult-to-control mob at last becomes the nation of Israel: “Moses, and the levitical priests with him, spoke to all Israel, saying, “Be still and listen, Israel. This day you have become a people to the LORD your God.” (27:9)  God made Israel a nation.  But there are responsibilities, as well: “And you shall heed the voice of the LORD your God and do His commands and His statutes which I charge you today .” (27:10)

Luke 9:28-36: The divine and the human meet on the mount of Transfiguration. It’s clearly night because “Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep” (32) and something seems to have awoken them.  The three men see a strange sight in their half-awake half-dream sleep: Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.  

It’s fascinating that as they awakened, Peter, James and John recognized exactly who Jesus was speaking with. The speculation of Herod and the crowd thinking that Jesus was perhaps the returned Elijah or another “awakened prophet” (Moses would be a fine candidate) is fully answered here. Jesus is not any of them, but at this point anyway he is clearly their peer.  Astounding enough.  But then the theophany in the cloud and God’s clear voice making it crystalline that of the three, Jesus is his Chosen One.

God has now made it clear for all time that Jesus is greater than Israel’s most renowned prophets. Jesus is greater than Israel. As the OT states many times, God is the God of all creation, not just this little nation. Jesus has been chosen by God not just for Israel, but for all humankind.  And if I were an eyewitness I’d say stupid things like Peter and I’d be terrified, too. 

This was one time where it was easy to “keep silent.” The Transfiguration–which I’ll argue is second only to the Resurrection in terms of God interceding in history–was just too fantastic to be able to tell others and not bet thought a lunatic.

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