Chapter 5: Moses and the Wilderness experience
At the very end of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible – which comprise Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) we read: “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, In all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel” Deuteronomy 34: 10-12.
In Chapter 4, we argued why an understanding of the Book of Genesis is essential to our overall understanding of the prophets of the Bible. The same is true about the remaining four books of the Pentateuch, with its focus on the covenant God made with His special people, Israel, and in setting out the Law which Israel was expected to obey, as well as what perhaps was the most momentous event of the Old Testament, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt into the Promised Land and the happenings in its wilderness journey. God promised to bless; Israel promised to obey – that in essence was the Covenant. The main character in these four books is Moses, but before we get to the Covenant and Law and how God dealt with Israel and how Israel responded, we need to go back to when Moses was born and the situation that was prevailing at the time.
We ended Genesis with Jacob taking his family of 70 coming to Egypt to live, under the patronage of a sympathetic Pharaoh. Four hundred years later, that family had grown to over two million and the then Pharaoh was anything but sympathetic. Not only did he force the Hebrews into slave labour but, in order to reduce its size, ordered new born baby boys to be killed. Enter Moses. So she could save him, his mother hid the baby in the bull rushes, to be later discovered by Pharoah’s daughter, who adopted and brought him up as her own son, where he lived a privileged life, with a well-rounded education, up to aged 40. It was then he stood by a Hebrew slave who was being beaten by his Egyptian task master, who he killed, soon realising his action had been seen and retribution would be exacted. He fled as a result and spent the next 40 years living in the wilderness taking care of sheep etc. It was there he had an encounter with God (I AM WHO I AM) and he then spent the next 40 years leading the Jewish people out of Egypt to just before they entered the Promised Land.
One commentator has summarised Moses’ life as 40 years thinking he was a somebody; the next 40 years learning he was a nobody and the final 40 years discovering how God can use a nobody (all experiences God was able to use). There is much in Moses life that is instructive concerning how He dealt with and could use His prophets, despite their faults. When Moses met God at the site of the burning bush, he used many excuses to try to escape the task God had given him to do – to liberate and lead his people but, as invariably happens, God won the argument. Thereafter, Moses was to be mightily used by God to lead His people from captivity to the verge of entering the land. The fact he could not enter himself was due to God’s judgment, because he did not give God the glory in the matter of striking the rock. Yet we read of times his authority was being questioned and undermined, but who was repeatedly affirmed by the Lord, and this included the two people closest to him, Aaron and Miriam, who God after judged: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Numbers 12:3-9.
Exodus means “a going out; a departure or emigration, usually of a large number of people” and the thrilling story of how the Jewish people escaped from Egypt to camping by Mount Sinai, where the Law was given to Moses, is recounted in chapters 1-18. The story of the plagues, the celebration of the Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea and the early experiences of wandering in the Wilderness, including instances of grumbling contained in that account, is enormously significant and an important part of Israel’s shared history that provides a backdrop for the work of the later prophets. Throughout that 40-year period, Moses heard from God, often on a daily basis. Some of this was prophecy, including far into the future; a lot of it was the receiving of the Law (613 in total including the 10 Commandments) covering all aspects of life, and some was instructions as to how to deal with the people and their enemies, made more difficult because of their propensity to break the Law. Interwoven between these things was narrative of happenings, which serve to instruct us.
From Exodus 19, through the Book of Leviticus and the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers, the Bible narrative is about the people that remained camped at Mount Sinai for over a year and the giving of the Law, including precise details of what God intended and expected. For the remainder of the Pentateuch (Numbers 11 – 36 and the Book of Deuteronomy) our attention is drawn firstly to the Children of Israel wandering in the Wilderness for the next 38 and a bit years and then as they were about to enter the Promised Land, not under Moses’ leadership but that of Joshua. Ironically, from Sinai to the Promised Land, the journey could have taken two weeks and it nearly did. When 10 of the 12 men that Moses sent out to spy out the land came back with unfavourable reports as to why this could not be done, the people accepted that report and rebellion followed, born out of unbelief, and was one of a number in the years following. It was part of God’s judgment that only Joshua and Caleb, the two spies that gave favourable reports, who believed God, would be able to enter the Land.
The Book of Leviticus is to do with God graciously providing a way for people to live in His presence. The Book of Numbers maps Israel’s journey from Mount Sinai, through the Wilderness of Paran, and onto the Plains of Moab, overlooking the Promised Land, combining both Law and narrative. The Book of Deuteronomy is to do with Moses recounting and reinforcing the Law, and new laws, to what was now a new generation who were not there to hear Moses recount the Law at Sinai. In a series of speeches, Moses counsels them as to how they should act and their need to be faithful to God. He also hands over the baton to his successor, Joshua and goes off to die. But before we consider the main subject of this chapter, the life of the prophet (i.e. Moses) and what it was that he prophesied, as well as other examples of prophets and prophecies that can be found in the Pentateuch, we need to reflect on Israel’s Wilderness experience, given it is essential to our rest of the Bible understanding:
- God’s holy covenant with Israel
- The Law
- Religious worship
- Blessings and curses
God’s holy covenant with Israel
There is enough about the character of God, worth discussing, to fill the rest of this book, but for this section we will consider one attribute: holiness. Holiness is to do with perfection and being set apart, which for God is a given but for humankind something to aspire to. God commands His people to be like Him: “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy”, Leviticus 20:26 and reminds them “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth”, Deuteronomy 7:6. It is also something His New Covenant people need: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” 1Peter 1:15,16. Moreover, just as Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests to God and a holy nation, so has the Church. Without recognising and respecting God’s holiness, we will not be able to understand the message of the prophets.
There is much in the Bible and especially the Pentateuch that humanly speaking is difficult to comprehend concerning modern sensibilities. The Law includes instructions to execute those who break parts of it, that might be deemed vastly disproportionate by today’s standards, e.g. stoning the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath: “and while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, the man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp” Numbers 15:32-36, or wiping out whole nations: men, women and children, e.g. “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them” Deuteronomy 7:1-2.
We raise these examples not so we can defend God (He doesn’t need it) or explain God’s justice (He is answerable to no-one) but rather to make the point that God is holy, and we won’t begin to understand God if we don’t get this. If we do see this, while we may still confess our own ignorance, we might also see marvels beyond belief. Repeatedly, Moses and Israel would find out what God’s holiness meant in real terms and that in its dealings with God, and their dealings with everyone else, holiness was a principle consideration. As a balance to this is God’s mercy, without which the Israelites could never have survived.
This brings us to the real point of what took place at Mount Sinai, of which the giving of the Law, while being an important part of what took place, was not the most important. It is here God made His Covenant with His People, much as in a similar vein a man and a woman makes a covenant with each other when they marry. As far as the Mosaic covenant goes, it is about God and Israel coming together to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities. For His part, God promises to protect and bless Israel and in return Israel promises to obey God’s Law. While there is the sense of fear and reverence there is also the mutual love between the two parties. While God remained ever faithful to the Covenant He made with Israel on Mount Sinai, the same cannot be said for Israel, who continually broke it. As well as Moses during 40 years wandering in the wilderness, later prophets confronted Israel with the fact they had broken the covenant along with the consequences.
Moses and the Law
The matter of keeping the Law was one of the big issues the Jewish dominated church had to come to terms with in its early days, as what started off as pre-dominantly Jewish became increasingly Gentile, and we read about some of its conclusions in Acts 15. The Law was far more than the Ten Commandments, which has become the basis of the legal code adopted by countries like the UK and USA. Most would see many of the other laws given by God to Moses as the Israelites camped around Mount Sinai as not applicable to Christians today.
Rather than argue concerning specifics, we might consider the following:
- The rule and norm for God’s holiness was God’s law.
- Underpinning the Law was the need for moral purity, actual and ritual.
- Everyone, high and low, were considered as equal under the law and judges were required to be impartial.
- While the Law provided the harshest of penalties for certain offences, it was always fair and just e.g. distinguishing intentional and unintentional, as well as proportionate in its provisions and in seeking restoration.
- The Law governed all aspects of life for Israel.
- The Law provided for ways to settle disputes.
- When it comes to issues like hygiene, social justice, sexual morality, family life, dealing with the poor and foreigners, there are many principles that are mind bogglingly amazing and applicable.
- Gentile Christians can still say amen to many of the sentiments of the Psalmist, e.g. “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” Psalm 119:97, “More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” 19:10.
- An important section of the law might describe as “religious” and to do with worship, which we will consider in the next section.
- There is the question of how Christians, especially Gentiles, come to terms with the Law, and how they apply the principles, if not the letter.
A good deal of the Law was to do with religious worship – how Israel was to approach God (YHWH) along with God’s expectations regarding worship. Worship of God was a central part of the life of the nation of Israel and at its centre (literally) was the Tabernacle (Tent), which was later replaced with a Temple. When it came to interceding to God on behalf of the people, this was given to priests, drawn from the Tribe of Levi. This prescribed worship told us much about God and how that covenant relationship was to play out, and would feature significantly when we consider the later prophets. In a real sense, God dwelt in the Holy of holies, right from the time the Tabernacle was constructed and commissioned until when the glory of God left the Temple in Ezekiel 10.
Worship centred around the Tabernacle, situated in the centre of the Israelite camp, comprising three sections: the Outer Court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, including five offerings to do with thanking God and saying sorry, six Tabernacle highly symbolic furniture items, along with seven annual feasts. Much could be said of these, which would feature significantly in our later Old and New Testament studies. It could be said that every part foreshadowed something deeper and more spiritual, but given the focus of our book, these are mentioned mainly in passing with the subjects meriting further profitable study.
- The Burnt Offering
- The Meat Offering
- The Peace Offering
- The Sin Offering
- The Trespass Offering
- The Altar of Burnt Offering
- The Laver
- The Table of Showbread
- The Lampstand
- The Altar of Incense
- The Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat
- Pesach or Passover
- Unleavened Bread
- Shavuot the Festival of Weeks
- Rosh HaShanah or The Feast of Trumpets
- Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement
- Sukkot or The Feast of Booths
Blessings and curses
In the final section of Deuteronomy that deals with Moses last words and death, he sets out the choice the Israelites needed to make and provided warnings and ultimatums should they make the wrong choice. It they were to listen and obey there would be blessings. If they were to rebel, there would be devastation and exile from the land i.e. curses. It could be summarised: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” Deuteronomy 30:15-20.
The reason why we bring up the matter of blessings and curses here is that this is a recurring theme throughout Israel’s history, which over and over again reveal blessings when Israel obeys and curses when they don’t. When prophets warned them of the consequences of straying from the Mosaic covenant, which later came to pass, they could have just as easily been referring to the blessings and curses that are so graphically listed and described in these later chapters of Deuteronomy. As we will see, Israel (ten northern tribes) were taken into exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC and Judah (two southern tribes) were taken into exile by the Babylonians in 586 BC. While a remnant from the Judah exile returned from 539 BC, that did not happen for the ten tribes. Until Israel became a sovereign state in 1948, those that lived in the Promised Land always did so under the patronage of a foreign power exercising its control over them.
To complete this chapter, we will consider five further topics, although as with all our studies in the books of the Bible there is so much more that is worth pondering, but the focus for this book has to return to prophets and prophecy:
- Law and grace
- Moses the prophet
- Other prophets
- Christ in the Pentateuch
- Moses and Jesus
Law and grace
It is written: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” John 1:17. It would be wrong though to conclude that Israel and the Old Testament is exclusively about law and the Church and the New Testament is only about grace. God has always been gracious and His dealings with His people as recorded in the Old Testament provides plenteous evidence. While Christians are not bound to follow all the letter of the Law, they do need to uphold its principles. The following is universally applicable, as much now as it was then: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” Matthew 22:37-40.
The relationship between the Law and the Gospel is one that is explored to some depth in the New Testament. One thing is clear – people cannot be saved by keeping the Law, which at best reveals God’s expectations of His people, even though they fail to keep it due to having a sinful nature. It is one reason why a system of sacrifices was introduced under the Law of Moses, with Jesus being the ultimate and perfect sacrifice. If there is a significant difference between the Old and New Covenants, it is in the latter we find the Law being written on people’s hearts, as prophesied by Jeremiah: “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” Jeremiah 31:33, and Ezekiel “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” Ezekiel 11:19.
While recognising positive aspects, a lot is made of the shortcomings of the Law in the New Testament, not that the Law was anything but perfect but those who followed it were imperfect, as well as the importance of faith, for example, referring back to Deuteronomy: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” Galatians 3:6-14
Moses the prophet
While on the subject of keeping the Law, in his final speeches, Moses prophesied that Israel would turn away from obeying the Law and sent into exile but, because God is faithful when it came to keeping His covenant, there is invariably a way for His people to return to Him and for the blessings to be restored, which still remains a hope. He also foresaw what Jeremiah and Ezekiel were to later prophesy: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” Deuteronomy 30:6.
As discussed in Chapter 3, while he would be regarded as primarily a prophet, Moses was probably unique in the Old Testament in combining the offices of prophet, and to a lesser extent priest and king, and part of his prophesying was to look forward to the one, Jesus, who was to perfectly combine all three roles: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” Deuteronomy 18:15, even though like all the prophets, what he saw was a shadow of what was to come. If we were to cite only examples of pure prophesying, i.e. predicting future events, over and above Moses hearing what God was saying on a regular basis and sharing this with the people, we would still be spoiled for choice.
Besides suggesting this could be a useful exercise, let us leave one example of how Moses not just predicted what was about to happen e.g. regarding the plagues of Egypt or far into the future, as discussed in the last paragraph, but in the not so distant future, e.g. following Israel’s first battle after crossing the Red Sea, against the Amalekites, which it won. “And the Lord said unto Moses, write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah nissi: For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” Exodus 17:14-16. History records that it was as Moses predicted.
As far as the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy goes, the stand out prophet was Moses, who God repeatedly affirmed in that role, often when his authority was being undermined. But there were other prophets too, including Miriam, discussed in Chapter 7, as well as false prophets, like Baalam, discussed in Chapter 6. Aaron, besides being a priest, was also a prophet, but only insofar as he was Moses’ spokesman. One unexpected account of a group of people being bestowed the gift of prophecy, albeit temporarily, reads: “And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp”, Numbers 11:24-26. While some including Joshua objected to others taking on the prophetic role, Moses’ reply was surprisingly modern and maybe sets a precedent for our attitude today: “would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” Numbers 11:29.
One unlikely “prophet” who we would probably overlook when searching out prophets is Phinehas, brought to our attention because the Talmud names him as a prophet. He was a priest, a grandson of Aaron and son of Eleazar. Displeased with the immorality with which the Moabites and Midianites had successfully tempted the Israelites (Numbers 25:1–9) to inter-marry and to worship Baal, Phinehas personally executed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman while they were together in the man’s tent, running a javelin or spear through the man and the belly of the woman, bringing to an end the plague sent by God to punish the Israelites for sexually intermingling with the Midianites. He is commended by God (Numbers 25:10-13), as well as in Psalm 106:28-31, for having stopped Israel’s fall into idolatrous practices brought in by Midianite women, as well as for stopping the desecration of God’s sanctuary. After the entry to the land of Israel and the death of his father, he was appointed the third High Priest of Israel, and served at the sanctuary of Bethel (Judges 20:28). While he never spoke words of prophesy, his actions and its results may be seen as prophetic.
Christ in the Pentateuch
One aspect of prophecy that can be overlooked is how particular events may be seen as types and shadows of things to come, which some Christian traditions emphasise more than others. We know this is a valid way of looking at things, given the number of references given in the New Testament, linking an event, happening or saying in the Old with some profound truth. This is particularly noticeable concerning the person of Jesus. We have already seen in Chapter 4 how Isaac who was willing to be sacrificed by his father Abraham but was saved in a nick of time by the provision of a lamb to be sacrificed instead, prefigured how Jesus was a willing sacrificial lamb, dying for the sins of humankind. We conclude with four further examples, one each from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, which might be considered prophetic.
One of the most significant celebrations in the Jewish calendar, still, is the Feast of the Passover. Passover was first celebrated just prior to the Israelites leaving in haste Egypt for their Promised Land. There had already been plagues as God sought for Pharoah to let His people go, but his heart was hardened and then the final plague when the Angel of Death flew over the land and slew the firstborn son of each house. The Hebrews were spared by staying indoors but before that a lamb had to be slaughtered and its blood had to be put over the door. God declared “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” Exodus 12:13. As far as Christians are concerned, Christ is the Passover Lamb, and because he shed His blood when he was crucified, its application is good enough to save us.
When we come to Leviticus, one of the most important (maybe THE most) aspects of religious life is what took place on the Day of Atonement each year, which was described in detail in Leviticus 16. During this time, the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, on behalf of himself and his family, sprinkling the blood of slain animals over the Mercy Seat, for a sin atonement. The New Testament reflects on this event directly or otherwise as being highly important, given sin atonement was essential if we are to have fellowship with a holy God. In particular, the writer of the Hebrews argues that Christ is both a High Priest and an atoning sacrifice and is better than that provided under the Law because His priesthood and the efficacy of his shed blood is Eternal. One aspect taking place at the end of this Feast was the High Priest laid his hands on a goat’s head, referred to as the Scapegoat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people to the animal, which was then released into the Wilderness. Jesus is our Scapegoat.
One of the most memorable Bible verses is “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16. But we need to consider the verses preceding: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:14,15. This refers to yet another incident in Israel’s wilderness sojourn, when the people grumbled against God. Here God sent fiery serpents to punish, that bit the people and many died. The people cried to God, confessing their sin. “And the Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” Numbers 21:8 – which is what happened.
We read in Deuteronomy 21:23, referring to what the Israelites did with the conquered Canaanite kings: “his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God” which as we saw earlier was picked up in Galatians 3:10. Where the Canaanite kings opposed the rule of Yahweh, Jesus was the rightful and true ruler. He was the Christ. Where the Canaanites kings conspired against the Lord’s anointed, Jesus being the Lord’s anointed did the unthinkable: he gave up his life as a ransom for many. He became a curse for us so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles. We have salvation because He was cursed. One goal of Jesus’ death and resurrection was to bring the blessing of Abraham to all nations. Jesus being cursed means that others will be blessed.
Moses and Jesus
According to Wikipedia: “The transfiguration of Jesus is a story told in the New Testament when Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36) describe it, and the Second Epistle of Peter also refers to it (2 Peter 1:16–18). It has also been hypothesized that the first chapter of the Gospel of John alludes to it (John 1:14). In these accounts, Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James, and John, go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called “Son” by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father”.
Christian preachers down the century have made much of this important event, including the significance of Jesus meeting with Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets, and how both the Law and the Prophets were fulfilled in the life, death and ministry of Jesus. As we turn from Moses to Joshua who leads the Children of Israel in the Promised Land and then up to the coming of Jesus, some 1300 years later, we might reflect that while the focus of the Old Testament is on Israel and that of the New on the Church, the overriding focus has to be on God, whose grand design was to call a people for Himself, whether it be Israel or the Church, and prophecy should be seen in that light. How Israel and the Church as God’s covenant people are to become reconciled as one is not only unravelled in the Bible story, but is still to happen.