The term majestic comes to mind whenever we think about
mountains, those towering features of the earth’s landscape
that are both beautiful and mysterious. Whether it is Everest or
Kilimanjaro, Ararat or Arenal, Fuji or the Matterhorn, we are
drawn to the mountains because of their height, their glory, their
majesty—reminders of the glory, grandeur, and majesty of God.
When my family lived in Africa, we went on safari in hopes
of seeing Kilimanjaro. Clouds almost always shrouded the
mountain. This fact added to the mysterious quality of the mountain.
Over the course of several days the mountain only revealed
its full glory on one day for a brief period of time. The mountain,
like God, is seldom fully visible, and this hiddenness amplifies
the mystery. God, like these great mountains, fascinates us but
repels us at the same time. Something overwhelms us when we
encounter these mountains or meet the one, true God.
The account of Moses’ mountaintop experience includes
many symbolic references. The cloud—God’s presence—covers
the mountain for six days. But on the seventh day—a symbol
of completion—God calls to Moses. A blazing fire crowns the
mountain’s summit. For forty days and nights—a traditional
period of testing—Moses dwells on the mountain. Joshua, the
representative of the next generation, and the elders who serve
as leaders of the people accompany Moses only so far. Then God
summons; Moses enters the cloud and waits in silence.
Sometimes we feel that God is distant and inaccessible, or
the waiting becomes unbearable. But Moses emerges from his
time in God’s presence filled with wonder, transformed and
empowered to be a true child of God.
Holy God, sometimes we feel like you are shrouded in a cloud like a great mountain. In those moments, give us courage to move into the cloud and abide in your presence. Amen.
In deep deference and careful obedience, Moses enters the zone of God’s glory, which certifies Moses’ authority. Psalm 99 praises the kingship of Yahweh, while bringing to mind the human agents of God’s rule who facilitate Yahweh’s conversation with the people. The Gospel lesson, like Exodus 24, characterizes what is not fully seen or clearly heard. Jesus is taken up into the zone of God’s glory and so is filled with transcendent authority. Speech about glory points to the assignment of new authority. The epistle reading asserts the authority of the true teachers of the church who rightly present and interpret the scriptural tradition.
• Read Exodus 24:12-18. When did you last experience a life-altering encounter with God?
• Read Psalm 99. Have you ever felt that if God really knew you, you would be hopeless? What changed your mind?
• Read 2 Peter 1:16-21. For the epistle writer, the Transfiguration event focuses more on hearing than on seeing. How do you listen for God’s words?
• Read Matthew 17:1-9. What dark places have you seen brightened by Christ’s presence—through you or others?
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