Preparing for a forty day camping trip … or … How to put on a glow

Updated: Jan 30

We are on the verge of Lent … about to spend forty days of having our faith tested.


Well, I say that, but often our faith is tested about like Moses’ was, when he came down with the original set of tablets, having spent forty days on top of Mount Horeb (aka Mt. Sinai, but “horeb” means “glowing / heat”).


All the people Moses thought were holding down the fort at the foot of the mountain, being good Israelites, were dancing and carrying away around an idol of a golden calf they had erected.


golden calf

So much for the agreement they had with Moses.  Everyone had told Moses, “Sure, go ahead.  We will spend forty days here, honoring God and his prophet Moses by not worrying about anything.  We fully believe we are in good hands and protected.”


A guy named Art Linkletter made famous the phrase, “Kids say the darndest things.”  Alter that as now include, “Israelites say the darndest things.”  Heck, go ahead and amend it to say, “Christians say the darndest things.”


Is that a Mardi Gras Calf I see?

Is that a Mardi Gras Calf I see?


Moses was so mad he slammed that first set of tablets down on a rock and broke them into pieces.


Moses’ face was not shining bright white, like God was with him then after forty days.  Instead, his face was glowing red with anger.


Sometimes we forget, but Moses ordered the Levites to the killing of all the pretend priests for God who had suggested building that idol of worship.  They killed 3,000 Israelites that day … because they really did not have what it took to serve God.


One way to look at it is as this: The 3,000 Israelites would have died slow deaths from heat, thirst, famine, and scorpion bites, if they had just been banished and not allowed to follow Moses and his gang.  So, killing them saved them all the pain of slow, sure death.


Perhaps, it was because of Moses having been filled with the Holy Spirit, from spending forty days with God, that God caused Moses to break the tablets and kill the unworthy?


<pause>


What we read today is after Moses had gone back up the mountain and spent another forty days with God, reproducing the agreement.


The first Covenant was etched by the finger of God and was written on both front and back of the tablets.  The second was chiseled by Moses as God dictated, and it was only on one side of each tablet.


Ever think that the golden calf caused God to hold back on a few graces and rewards He had written before, the second time?  Ever think God determined, “They had a wonderful agreement with the first set of tablets, but they blew it.  Now I really need to lay down the law?”


<pause>


When Moses finally got the Israelites to agree to God’s terms, they had to tell Moses he was scaring them with his glowing face.  They feared, after having seen wrong-doers executed, that at the first mistake they too might be killed by Moses, because Moses’ glow was like God watching them.


They made Moses wear a veil so they would not be afraid.  They liked not being so close to God.


Behind-the-Veil

It seems that Moses made a compromise, just to keep from killing most of those would-be priests for God, leaving few remaining at the end of the journey (forty years) to divide and conquer the Promised Land.


Maybe Moses took forty years getting to the Promised Land because he felt like he was Sergeant Carter leading a group of Private Gomer Pyles in that new army of priests for God?


<pause>


When you read what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, you would think he heard the sound of cymbals and tambourines around a golden calf in the background, trying the patience of the new Apostles he had left behind in Corinth.


He wrote, “We act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.”


Isn’t it just like most people, to see the goal as being in hand, well before having done what is necessary to actually achieve that goal?  The Israelites loved being chosen by God, but they really didn’t care too much about having to do priestly work.


Paul surmised about those people, “Their minds were hardened.  Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.”


Golly gee willikers, can you believe that?  There were Israelites whose hearts could not see why they had made an agreement with God, just like there were Jews who could not understand what it was for?  Could that veil thing be why so many Christians have hardened minds about Bible Studies?


That is almost like calling some Christians, those who worshiper things of value, things that could symbolically be melted down and shaped into a golden calf, people who wear the veils of ignorance.


Some quite proudly, I might add.


idolatry

Veil wearers don’t understand why Moses giving them the Law, in exchange for eternal happiness in heaven with God, was a good thing.  Many figured all it meant was having to memorize all those laws.


Not just ten commandments, but 613 laws.  You knew that, right?  You could pass a test on listing the first 200, right?


<pause>


Memorizing laws is the simple part, because one doesn’t have to understand why a law is.  People put more effort into devising tricks of memory than they do into understanding why they need to remember in the first place.


However, Paul set the Corinthians straight about what Christians do: “Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.”


Christians are ministers, not royalty inheriting special recognition.  Christians are voluntarily Christian, because they love God.


Paul went on, saying, “We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word.”


Nope.  Not us.  We think Christians are allowed to wear our skeletons proudly, while using cunning to get perverseness accepted as a character trait worthy of becoming a high religious leader.  We gladly welcome false shepherds to come and make Scripture seem to be approving of all lifestyles, saying, “Jesus would forgive skeletons.”


Hmmmmmmm  And Jesus told us how to melt our religion down and form idols of Mammon, because Jesus wants all Christians to be rich, is that it?


pope squared

<pause>


Now in the Gospel setting, Jesus was in the northern city of Caesarea Philippi.  There he left all his followers except Peter, James and John (of Zebedee), with the four of them hiking up the tallest mountain in Israel, Mount Hermon.


By that time in Jesus’s ministry the disciples were showing flashes of the Holy Spirit.  They could do some things.  The could preach and heal a little.  Peter had even blurted out that he knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God.


Of course, I am sure that revelation surprised Peter when he said that; but when the Holy Spirit takes over one’s body, one just sits back and watches … with the experience leaving a lasting impression.


Peter believed what he said, after he said it.


So, Peter was on this trip with Jesus; and hiking up a real high mountain can be exhausting.  The oxygen gets thinner at high altitudes.  For that reason, Jesus took three disciples with him because they were needed to carry supplies for camping, and maybe ever carry ropes to make sure if anyone fell off a ledge, that disciple could be rescued.


It gets cold at night in the high mountains, even in the summer time.  There is a snow pack at some elevations year round.  So, they would be carrying some stuff to pitch tents for a place to sleep overnight.


We read, “Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep,” so the story is focused on a time that was after a long hard day of hiking, when it was time to sleep.


Jesus was off alone, praying.  The disciples did not want to go to sleep without Jesus in their tent (or in his own tent), so they waited on him to finish his prayers.


Then they saw him begin to glow.  Jesus was talking to God, and just like Moses would glow after coming out of the tent of meeting, after talking with God … low and behold there was Moses with Jesus … and Elijah too!  All three were glowing brightly in the dim lighting.  God must have been nearby!


transfiguration

Peter got so excited, he offered to pitch some more tents so everyone could have a warm place to stay the night; but then a cloud overshadowed him and James and John.


All three disciples were suddenly in the dark and that “terrified” them.


The darkness is when there is no glow, no light, no truth, no God assisting one.  But, God then spoke, saying, “This is my son, my Chosen: Listen to him!”


<pause>


You have to see the parallel to a golden calf and a tabernacle for a dead prophet as being what Peter had just proposed.  Building a tabernacle to a patriarch was idolatry!  That was a written Commandment, where a recommendation to sin then led to such a terrifying response by God.


What is in the past will not save you, so worshiping anything or anyone other than God will always leave you in the dark and terrified.


Don’t do it!


Listen to what Jesus Christ preaches.  Be Jesus by putting him in your heart.


<pause>


Now after this camping trip was over, the four returned to Caesarea Philippi.  There a crowd had gathered to get the disciples who had been left behind to heal them.  There was a clamor about a man’s son having a demon in him.  The disciples did not have that power of healing yet.


Jesus greeted that crowd by saying, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?”


Does that sound like a little anger … kinda like how Moses might have greeted the crowd of Israelites dancing around the golden calf they had erected?


The people in that crowd all wanted something for nothing.  Maybe they called themselves Jews, but they all had on thick veils that blinded them from becoming like the disciples.  Their woeful existence was their excuse for not themselves being healed AND them then out healing others.  They even had the gall to complain about the disciples not being as good as Jesus.


Jesus then cured a boy of a demon; but what you have to be able to see – by removing the veil from your eyes, like Paul said Christians do – is see how the boy was punished by an evil spirit from his past.


Evil spirits from the past are like the karma of a past life still haunting one’s soul.  The demons Jesus cast out (which the disciples could not do) were done so by him commanding them to die … to return to the past, which no longer exists.


Jesus, in essence, forgave a boy in a present life for the sins his soul’s body had committed in a past life.  The boy was healed through forgiveness.  Jesus rebuked the demon for not having sought forgiveness when repentance was first due God.


When Jesus was seen with Elijah and Moses, those were spirits from his past lives.  Those spirits were far from evil, just as Jesus was not haunted by past demons.  Good spirits accompanied Jesus and encouraged him in his prayers.  Jesus had the spirit of the Law and the fulfillment of the spirit of prophecy within him.


Jesus’s words still ring true today, however.  We are a faithless and perverse generation.  All generations are and always have been, which is why God chose a lineage that would become His priests who would instill faith and prevent perverted natures.


But, we drag our sins around with us like the chains that surrounded the ghost of Marley, when he appeared to warn Ebenezer Scrooge to change or suffer eternally.  Like Paul said, our minds are hardened, with veils over our minds when we read these holy passages each Sunday.


ghost of marley

We cannot see ourselves as the ones Jesus scolds.  We no longer try to go through the motions of renouncing the shameful things that used to be hidden in our closets.  Instead, we bring them out and flaunt them!


Televangelists falsify God’s word to make a buck.


It is just like what Moses saw when he came down from spending forty days in the presence of God, so God could put down in writing everything that a holy person must do in order to be considered one of God’s chosen.


Jesus was Chosen!  We must be like Jesus.


<pause>


Those who were deemed unworthy by Moses were eliminated from consideration as Israelites.  The 3,000 pretenders became like the Egyptian chariot men … all spirits of the past.


Jesus has asked, “How much longer must I be with you and bear with you?”  That asks, “When will the Jesus hammer come down on the sinners of the world?”


I imagine more than 3,000 will be judged unworthy on that day.


<pause>


This Wednesday is when Lent begins.  We have forty days to get our glow on.


Let that time be when we start “proclaiming the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One.”


Moses and Elijah were God’s holy guides.


Jesus is God’s true Chosen Son, who will attend to your needs in the wilderness and in ministry.


Listen to him!


Amen

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