Theme: Listen to Him
In this week’s lesson we are told what to expect of God.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As we mentioned at the close of yesterday’s study, the cloud that enveloped the group present at the transfiguration is suggestive of the Shekinah Glory cloud of the Old Testament. This cloud is first mentioned at the exodus when it appeared to lead the people. The text says,
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day not the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
The cloud protected the people from the pursuing Egyptians (Exodus 14:19-20). Probably it was this cloud that descended upon Sinai when Moses went up into the mountain to receive the law from God (Exodus 19:16-20). When the wilderness tabernacle was completed the cloud of glory filled it so that even Moses could not cut (Exod. 40:34-35). After this, the cloud is referred to many more times throughout the Pentateuch‘ It appeared at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10). It is even possible that the same phenomenon was involved in Jesus’ ascension, when “a cloud him” from the disciples’ sight (see Acts 1:9).
Luke says that the disciples were afraid as the cloud began to envelop them (Luke 9:34), which is quite understandable. But they became even more terrified when they heard a voice which they knew to be God’s. What God said was similar to what had been uttered at Jesus’ baptism, recorded in Matthew 3:17: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” It was an echo of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, which indicates Jesus was both the Son of God, who is mentioned in the psalm, as well as the suffering servant, who is described in Isaiah, an important combination of ideas. What is new here is the command: “Listen to him!”
Just as the first part of this instruction is an echo of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, so this part seems to be an echo of Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers You must listen to him.” This was an early messianic prophecy, indicating that the Messiah would function among other things as God’s spokesman. Now this Messianic figure has been raised up. He is Jesus, and the duty of Peter as well as all others is to be quiet and listen to what Jesus has to say.
Could anything be more relevant today? We sometimes hear people say in a crisis situation, “Don’t just stand there; do something.” But one sharp theologian I know says when he is thinking about the truths of God revealed in Scripture, “Don’t just do something; stand there.” He means that it is more important to stand firm on the truths of Scripture than to be active in Christian work. Similarly, we might say as we work at trying to understand what God said to Peter, “Don’t just say something [which is what Peter was doing]; listen to Jesus.”
I know that we need to speak. The Bible needs to be taught; it is what the minister; of the gospel are chiefly called to do. Every believer should be witnessing. But it is no activity we need so much as to hear the words of Jesus. It is not a vision we need so much as to learn from him. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “It is better to hear the Son of God than to see saints or to build tabernacles.”‘
Do you hear Jesus? Do you obey Him? Or are you so caught up in the theories of mere men or even in otherwise worthwhile Christian activity that you miss that which alone is really needful (see Luke 10:39-42)?
What were God’s words? Mention times when similar words were spoken.
The duty of Peter as well as all others is to be quiet and listen to what Jesus has to say.
Pray that you will not let activities distract you from listening to the words of Jesus.
What do we know about the Shekinah Glory cloud? Read Exodus 13:21; 16:10; and 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Nehemiah 9:19; Psalm 78:14; Ezekiel 1:4; and Revelation 14:14-16 for more information.