Matthew 17:5, "While he yet spake, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."
This morning, the Bible remains as timeless as ever. Quite often, the world will loudly proclaim that the Bible is out-of-step with modern society: such an archaic book not worthy of intellectual consideration. However, I have discovered that the Bible is not only relevant, but I also have to run to keep up with it. The smallest things in this world can cause so much trouble. As James said about our little tongues, "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (James 3:5b) Those words are as true today as they were when first penned. Man's tongue continues to get him in trouble, and though he might like to claim otherwise, the evidence is overwhelming that what we say gets us in trouble and snowballs into other things as well. The start of any sentence that should make us cringe is when someone says, "Well I just think…." Brethren, what we think is of far less value than what God has commanded. Likewise, man today likes to say, "God just wants me to be happy." God is far less concerned with our happiness as He is interested in us doing what is what right.
Our study verse is found in the midst of the account of the scene on the Mount of Transfiguration. In this lesson, Peter, James, and John are privileged – as they were quite often – to come "a little farther and further" with the Master. While all 12 disciples walked with Him where others did not and heard things others were not privy to, these 3 in particular were able to go places the other 9 did not. This is one such time. As many times as I have looked at this lesson and tried to preach from it, something stuck out to me recently in the lesson that I had not ever considered before. It has reference to Peter and how his mouth gets him in trouble, as it often did with him and sadly often does with me as well.
The main thrust of this verse is that Peter is speaking through ignorance and anxiousness, and God answers, pointing out Peter's folly in what he said. Now, some of the other accounts of this lesson tell us that Peter's rash statement in verse 4 was because he did not know what to say. (Mark 9:6) Peter sees Moses and Elijah speaking with Christ in glory, and he immediately says that he, James, and John can rear three tabernacles: one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. So, Peter says something rashly, because he does not know what to say. How often has that been our case friend? We say something just to say something. Even if it does not make sense, we would seemingly rather say something senseless than deal with the silence. If I could encourage people today in something, it would simply be this: do not be afraid of silence or stillness. Those times when we are quiet can yield the greatest scenes of pleasure and joy with our Master in sweet fellowship with Him.
However, what I had not noticed until recently in this text is that the Lord interrupts him. While he was yet speaking those rash words, the Lord cuts Him off to say something truly worthwhile and at the same time point out Peter's foolishness. Now, I freely confess that I hate being interrupted and cut off in my speaking. One of the hardest lessons we are undergoing with our children right now is to instruct them not to interrupt others while they are talking. Interestingly enough, my children's actions have showed me something quite revealing. Why does a child so often interrupt someone else? As children, they think that what they have to say "can't wait." In our constantly interrupting society, we see a whole culture of adult children. What they have to say "can't wait" as there is a complete dearth of patience in our world at large.
Consider what would have most likely happened had the Lord not interrupted Peter. Have you ever seen someone (or been the someone yourself) that talked without thinking and kept talking and talking? Have you ever seen a preacher that had zero liberty, but he just kept talking and talking to no purpose whatsoever? Men have a propensity when talking in this manner to just keep talking and talking and talking. Who knows how long Peter would have carried on had the Lord not interrupted him? Who knows how long I would carry on in my foolishness had the Lord not cut me off from time to time to realign with that which is good and proper?
Instead of letting Peter ramble on for a while in foolish talk that boiled down to idolatry, the Lord refocuses these 3 disciples' sight. Moses and Elijah (who had no doubt fixated much of their attention) vanished when the voice began to thunder. The voice redirects their minds and eyes to the only One who should have ever had their minds and eyes: His Beloved Son. Had they been listening to what Moses and Elijah said? Obviously, since the Lord instructs them to hear His Son. While we may value what respected and sage men say and do, we should measure everything ever spoken or done by the standard of the Son and what He has said and done. No matter how high our level of esteem is for another, His must be higher. No matter the love and devotion to a dear one, His must be stronger.
We might look at this scene today and indignantly say, "How foolish to raise up an alter to Moses or Elijah! The very idea when surrounded by glory and the Master Himself!" Indeed, Peter's is a thought fraught with foolishness. But consider friends. Our actions are no less patently foolish. How often have we been surrounded with glory in our lives while touched, blessed, and visited with the presence of our Husband and Friend? How often has our mind when so blessed with a sense of His love, presence, and glory seemed to immediately drift to the throes of life? We raise up alters to those inferior things by placing things either before or on the same level with Him. Notice that Peter was not contemplating an alter to Moses and Elijah "above" the Lord. He was contemplating it "with" the Lord. Friends, Christ cannot even be worshipped "with" other things much less "below" other things.
Our lives seem day by day to be a constant turmoil of care and activity. However, who should be above all others in our minds, hearts, and eyes? The same One with whom we sit so many times in glorious scenes above the things of this world. These 3 men were already blessed above all others in the earth to see and experience things that no one else did. How often have we been blessed above all others to come above the world for a time to experience blessing, glory, and rich scenes like none other at that time? Sadly, sometimes those same scenes are muddied with the same sentiments that Peter espoused, "Wow! He sure is a good preacher!" Exalting the preacher – no matter how much you love or think of him – equates no less foolishly than Peter's 3 alter statement.
In my short little experience, I have become convinced that God still speaks to us through His word and in our lives through a still, small voice. The strongest scenes of His fellowship with us have been in the courts of His pavilion while in halls of glory in His house. May those scenes find us looking solely upon the well beloved Son, and may our ears be listening to Him. If He is speaking so sweetly to us through the mouth of His minister, then by all means listen. If He is singing back to you in songs of love as you sing songs of praise to Him, then by all means listen. If He speaks to you in the resonance of your own heart, while the prayers are fervently being offered up, then by all means listen. May we not get caught up in the rich sights of the experience but always remember to keep our eyes and ears upon Him. As Habakkuk said about the Lord being in His holy temple, "let all the earth keep silence before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20)