God speaks to us in a soft voice, not that He cannot shout, but that we do not get scared of Him and flee. This dialogue starts in the silence of the heart and prayer begins with listening to God. But we can listen only when we stop putting words in His mouth, the words that we want to hear. Believing that what God spoke to us does not contradict Scripture, then moving to obey what we think we heard and then seeing what happens is the slow process of learning to listen to Him and it gradually becomes easier. Reading, meditating on and adapting to our life the commands of God from the Scripture prepares us to ‘hear and obey Him’, for listening without obedience is futile.
Purpose of Lord Jesus’ Transfiguration – Even before the birth of the messiah, various prophesies were made hundreds of years before His arrival. Before the onset of His ministry, the moment He emerged out of the waters of Jordan River, God the Father declared His pleasure in His Son and the Holy Spirit descended in Him in the visible form of a dove, revealing the Triune nature of One God. The process of transfiguration was preceded by various events which revealed the purpose in itself. Luke 9 records the event of transfiguration but before this Herod, the Roman authority of the region, had received various reports about ‘all that was done by the Lord’ and he wanted to see Him (Vs 7 – 9). The purpose of this desire of Herod was simple curiosity to see a miracle worker and not to know Him and His true identity. Then the Lord miraculously fed 5000 men and their families, totaling approximately 12,000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish while the disciples collected 12 baskets full of leftovers. Thereafter, the Lord inquired of the disciples as to His identity as perceived by the masses and then as understood by them. Simon Peter declared Him to be ‘the Christ of God’, the Chosen and Anointed by God for the specific purpose of redeeming mankind from the clutches of sin (Verse 12 – 21).
Every fact of the scripture is required to be established by 2-3 witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15) and this was also established in the New Testament as a command from God (2 Corinthians 13:1-2). The 2 witnesses provided by God to confirm the status of His Son were Moses and Elijah along with the voice of God declaring His being the Son of God. The three disciples present on the mountain top, Peter, James and John, were privy to all the happenings in the Messiah’s ministry prior to the transfiguration and this event was aimed at strengthening their faith. The amazing claims of His being the Son of God, about His Kingdom, miraculous healings, control over demonic spirits were about His authority and status. Just before this event He had declared that “some present here will not face death till they see the Kingdom of God” and the Kingdom was revealed on the mountain top (Verse 27).
Peter attempted to assure the Master that their presence was for the good and he, not knowing what he spoke, wanted to make three tabernacles for the Lord, Moses and Elijah – one for each of them. Peter not only placed Moses and Elijah at the same level as the Creator Messiah but also tried to bring past to live in the present. We can learn from the past to adapt the lessons into the present but we cannot live in the past. Moses was considered faithful as a servant while Christ was declared faithful to His house as a Son over His own house – His people, all believers or the Church – His body (Hebrews 3 : 5-6). The Old Testament is full of commands from God to the Israelites which they never obeyed, since all of it was conveyed through the prophets. What was confessed by Peter in Verse 20 was confirmed by the Father on the mountain top – my Son, my Chosen One.
Effects of Listening on the Soul – It is a Jewish belief that soul of a man consists of 3 parts – Nephesh, Ruach and Neshama. Nephesh is derived from the root word Nefash meaning “Rest”, while Ruach is translated as “Wind” and Neshama is derived from Nesheema meaing “Breath”. Neshama is the closest to God and is the highest since it emerges from His lips while Nephesh comes to rest in man and is closest to man. Ruach travels between the two as wind and connects man with his spiritual source. Neshama is affected only by thought and our good or evil thoughts move us closer or away from God. Nephesh or our rest is affected by actions as a result of our sinful or righteous deeds while Ruach is influenced by our speech – the words we speak reveal our connection with God. God desires to connect to the centre of the soul – Ruach through listening and acting accordingly.
“My sheep listen to my voice and obey me”, declares the Lord, where obeying is the natural consequence of listening (John 10:3). God declares that the Israelites have not obeyed me wherein the Hebrew word Shama is used (Judges 2:2). At the time of giving of the Law to Moses the command was “Shama, O Israel” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), where this word means to listen with understanding and then obedience with action. There are two parts to this command from God on the mountain top – first, listening to God, understanding and then responding to His command through obedience. It is this sequence of actions that confirm our relationship to God of being His children. The second part, which is more important, is that God speaks to us despite our disobedience and our sinful nature. The three disciples clearly heard the voice of God from the pillar of cloud and could therefore attest to this. That is the basic reason of this command – I speak to you through My Son, listen to Him, understand and walk in obedience to enter into all the blessings that He brings for the believers.
In the Old Testament God spoke to the Israelites through His prophets but since they did not obey He finally spoke to mankind though His Son to reveal Himself to us (Hebrews 1:1-2). The most important skill for anyone is to be able to listen, to understand what is said after establishing the true identity of the speaker and then obedience in faith. Lord Jesus through the parable of the landowner and the vineyard users, leaseholders who refused to obey the contents of the lease agreement and killed the heir, warned us of the likely results of such disobedience (Matthew 21:33- 38). God is always clear in His commands and there is no ambiguity thus there cannot be any doubts, which arise only because of our faulty listening and understanding. We cannot say God wasn’t clear or He said something and meant something else or we could not fully understand – these are excuses and not facts. Unless we hear we cannot obey and without obedience there cannot be any relationship.
Important Factors of the Transfiguration Narrative – Lord Jesus’ face was changed while he was praying and He revealed His true identity and glory which He received through prayer (Luke 9 :29). Thus prayer is the only way to receive glory and power from God to affect our earthly lives. Secondly, Word became flesh and is eternal in His being (John 1:14). Moses received the Word from God as His Commandments and Elijah was taken in the Chariot of Fire to the Living Word in heaven. Nobody saw both of them die and the One to whom they came on the mountain top would die and conquer death. Third, pillar of cloud revealed God’s presence to the Israelites and was to guide them through their walk in the wilderness (Exodus 13). The cloud on the mountain revealed God’s presence and both the Father and the Son were united in oneness in the cloud. Lord Jesus’ face was transformed and was shining like the sun. His clothes became intensely white, whiter than anyone could bleach them, revealing His glorious state and strength in fulfillment of what was revealed to Apostle John later during his visit into heaven from Patmos Island in the power of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:16).
What did Moses and Elijah discuss with the Lord? The Greek word used about the departure of the Lord during His talk with Moses and Elijah is ‘Exodos’, about the movement of the Son of God from this world into the promised land – in the heavenly presence of God (Luke 9:31). Moses led Israelites out from slavery in Egypt and was present on the mountain top to witness the onset of the process of Exodus from slavery to sin into the righteousness of God of not only his people but of the entire mankind. Second, Moses prayed to the Lord to enable him to see His glory but was allowed to witness the departing glory of God through His back (Exodus 33:18). His prayer was answered and Moses came face to face with God, the Son on the mountain top. Third, Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land but was brought into the same land to see the victory of the Messiah over Satan and second liberation of His people.
Elijah represented all prophets of the Old Testament and witnessed the fulfillment of all prophesies made over the years, from the process of creation onwards about the Son of God. The three disciples could witness the event and the true identity of the Savior by claiming that, “the Word of God came to me”. For them this mountain top experience was unique in itself and nothing could equal that. Most people experience such glorious moments in their lives without even realizing its importance and thus being impacted through this. Abraham had this before his movement into an unknown land and on mount Horeb during the offering of Isaac as a sacrificial lamb; Isaiah saw God in the Temple and was over awed by this; Jeremiah’s commissioning, Apostle Paul being confronted by the Lord on the road to Damascus, Apostle John being lifted into heaven from Patmos island are some such examples of people undergoing such wonderful happenings in their lives. These events have the power and must change the lives of those experiencing such miraculous events in their lives by being in the very presence of God.
Why Can’t we Properly Listen to God – Isaiah heard God mentioning– “Who should we send”, and though this was not meant for him, volunteered to go (Isaiah 6:9-10). He was tasked to make the Israelites hearts hardened so that they would not perceive, hear, understand to return and be healed. The same situation prevailed during the Messiah’s time and even today (Matthew 13:15). We listen to what we want to hear and ignore the rest of the message thus distorting the content and the intent. We listen to the promises of God about answering our prayers, abundant life (Matthew 7:7 and John 10:10). However, we ignore the command regarding seeking first the kingdom of God or denying ourselves or to love one another. Even in the Holy Bible we highlight what we want to hear. Second, we start rationalization of the commands of God using our own interpretation to suit our lifestyle. Thus, the command to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-45) is rejected on the plea that God could not have meant this. We convert the command of God to suit our pre-conceived beliefs and values, thus, attempting to make God in our image and likeness. Those unable to hear the spoken Word of God either in the Scripture or through the Holy Spirit specifically to them have their hearts and minds blinded by the ‘god of this world’, so that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the Son and image of God, should not shine on them (2 Corinthians 4:4). Thus they may hear and not understand for their sins act as a barrier between them and God denying them the knowledge of God’s forgiveness and mercy, available through faith in the Son.
How can we listen to the commands of God properly? – Read; meditate on the Word of God while accepting the contents in totality, giving equal weight to every word is the key to listening to God and understand His commands for us. Apostle Paul commanded believers to live like Christ Jesus by putting on the Lord – like wearing a costume (Colossians 3:12-14). This is best illustrated by the story of the prince who wanted to marry the princess from the neighboring state. This prince, not very handsome, wanted to marry the very pretty princess of the neighboring kingdom and sought the help of a tailor to design a wonderful costume for him to ensure that his external appearance must be so good that the princess would like him. The tailor offered to design a mask instead with the direction to the prince to behave in front of the princess as if he was the most handsome man on earth. The princess, very impressed by his courteous manner in dealing with her and others, agreed to marry him on the condition that he would first remove the mask. She was surprised to see the handsomeness of the prince on removal of the mask for his external behavior had so transformed his inner being that the external appearance had also changed. Listening properly to the advice of the tailor, accepting and obeying to the full had transformed the prince completely. The adapted lifestyle of the man had fully changed his image and in the like manner we also must get transformed into the image of the Lord.
It is not only important to listen, for in the clutter of the sounds emanating all around us, and the distractions divert our attention from the main task of listening attentively, but also to fully comprehend what is being said. It is common to see couples moving around in public places, totally absorbed in their mobile phones and the messages from others while paying least attention to the partner or his words. Our prayer time, the time spent in communication with the LORD, is also spent in like manner with minimum attention being paid towards to Creator God, from whom we desire to seek all the blessings. That is the reason for the command from the Lord to “enter into your closet and closing the door” before starting to offer prayers to God (Matthew 6:6). The closing of the door is to leave all distractions and other imagined sources of blessings outside to focus completely on God, who alone can answer our prayers. The act of listening is thus preparation to surrender to God to act on us through His Word to change our hearts and minds to enable us to live the life of His Son in us by leading us to perform all those righteous deeds that He would have done.
We must become like clay in the hands of the potter to enable him to shape us into His glorious image for His Son prayed for us and gave us His glory through the oneness with the Father and the Son (John 17:22). Our lives must be tuned in to be ever ready to listen to the voice of God available through the scripture as also through the indwelling Holy Spirit and to obey without any doubt or hesitation. This is what is desired by God and for what we were created – to listen, to understand and to obey, for in this we give Glory to God.