In considering some of the events in the life of the prophet Elijah these past couple of weeks we’ve noted a number of similarities between his life and the life of another servant of the LORD, Moses. This morning we’re going to look at some of these similarities and then turn to the reappearance of both men, hundreds of years after each had died, at Jesus’ Transfiguration.
First, the LORD revealed himself to both men at Horeb, the Mountain of God, also known as Mount Sinai:
Moses had three encounters with God there. The first occurred while he was “tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.” When Moses went to take a closer look, “God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’” And then the LORD identified himself saying, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” And as we noted last week, Jesus later took this account of God appearing to Moses in the burning bush as evidence that belief in the resurrection from the dead was part and parcel of Old Testament teaching for God is not the God of the dead but of the living for all live unto him. And the burning bush incident wasn’t the only time the LORD met Moses on Mount Sinai for this mountain of God was also the place where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
As to Elijah we saw that Mount Horeb was the place where he went when he sought the LORD as he attempted to flee from Jezebel when she sent him a messenger and swore with an oath that she would have him put to death.
And in Elijah’s fleeing from Jezebel we’re presented with another similarity to Moses for after being fed by angel of the LORD a second time, “Strengthened by that food, [Elijah] traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” Forty days and forty nights is the same amount of time that Moses spent on Mount Sinai when he received the commandments from God both times: for the LORD not only originally gave him the Ten Commandments there but did so again when Moses broke the two tablets after the Golden Calf incident and returned for forty days and nights to Mount Sinai where he received the Commandments a second time.
A third similarity between Moses and Elijah is that the LORD passed before both of them. In the case of Moses, when he requested to see his glory the LORD placed him in a cleft of a rock and covered him until he passed by. In the case of Elijah, the LORD told him, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” And after displaying his power in a great wind, earthquake, and fire, he spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper. In the LORD manifesting himself in the natural world—especially fire and earthquake— there may be further connections with Moses for when the LORD appeared to him on Mount Sinai, we’re told that it “was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” This was so much the case that “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.” And later in the New Testament, the author of Hebrews reminds his audience that God is a consuming fire. So throughout Scripture we see that it wasn’t unusual for wind, earthquakes, and fire to be associated with the LORD’s appearing to his servants.
Yet another similarity in the lives of Moses and Elijah occurred when they parted waters. As we know, the LORD enabled Moses to part the Red Sea and walk on dry land along with his fellow Israelites when the Egyptians were in hot pursuit. In the case of Elijah, prior to his being taken up to heaven by the LORD in a whirlwind he, too, was enabled to part the Jordan River so that he and Elisha were similarly able to cross over on dry ground.
Well if these similarities in the lives of Moses and Elijah aren’t enough to catch our attention and spark our curiosity, then certainly the fact that they both were present at Jesus’ Transfiguration ought to. And though we’re focusing on Luke’s recounting of this momentous event, I should mention that Matthew and Mark also include it in their Gospel accounts. According to Luke, “[a]bout eight days after Jesus” told his disciples that “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life,” “he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray” (verse 28). And then Luke tells us, verse 29, “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” In Matthew’s telling, Jesus’ “face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” And according to Mark, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” How does one describe the indescribable? Clearly the Gospel writers were grasping to find earthly analogies to describe this mysterious transformation that had occurred not only in Jesus’ person but also in the clothes he wore. For what occurred at the Transfiguration is that Jesus disclosed that he is God by allowing the glory of God, the presence of God, the light of God to transform his entire countenance and being. The Transfiguration was a physical and tangible demonstration and corroboration of Jesus’ declaration, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As his entire being was transformed, the light that he was broke forth in all its glory and splendor.
And as if this explosion of light breaking forth from Jesus’ person weren’t enough for the disciples to try and wrap their minds around, in verse 30 we’re told, “30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.” Now we have to ask, out of all the people the LORD used to bring about his plan of redemption to restore his image bearers back to God from the image from which they’d fallen, why were Moses and Elijah the two who now appeared with Jesus? What about Abraham? What about David? What about Joshua? What about Ruth? What about Samson? What about Deborah? What about Jeremiah? Why is it that Moses and Elijah are the two we see appearing with Jesus rather than these other Old Testament saints? Well, obviously, we can’t know for certain for God is who he is and he does what he does according to his perfect will. But we can speculate and many agree that it’s because of what Moses and Elijah uniquely represent in the Old Testament that they were the ones to appear with Jesus at his Transfiguration.
In the case of Moses, as already noted he’s the one the LORD chose to bring his people his law, the Ten Commandments. And, again, he did so twice. For part of the result of the Fall is that humanity no longer knew God and his will nor desired to do his will or fulfill his plans as the LORD had designed. Therefore God’s people had to be given basic instruction on how it is that their Maker and LORD intended them to live. And the first thing humanity needed to be taught was that having been made in the image of God, they were made to love and worship him and him alone. Hence, the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The only One that God’s image-bearers are to worship is the LORD himself for, as he went on to disclose, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Humans were made to know, love, and worship the one, true God who made them.
And humans were also made to know and love each other. Yet because the Fall left humanity with a damaged knowledge—and ability—and desire to love not only God but each other as well, the LORD by means of the commands he gave Moses similarly had to provide basic instruction on what loving others looked like in practice. To love others begins at home with honoring father and mother. To love others means we won’t murder—or commit adultery against—or steal from—or give false testimony against—or covet what others have. As Jesus later noted, fallen humanity needed the law for the law given by God was the means of our learning how to love the LORD with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. And Moses was the one whom the LORD initially chose to bring that holy law of love to his fallen and beloved people. The law was part of the LORD’s answer to humanity’s sin. And perhaps because the LORD had Moses be the messenger of that law, he was present at Jesus’ Transfiguration.
Similarly, Elijah was Israel’s greatest prophet. When Israel, the LORD’s chosen people, chose to commit adultery against their true Maker and LORD by pursuing the false gods and false prophets of Asherah and Baal, goddess and god respectively of foreign nations, Elijah was the man he chose to do so. In the contest between the LORD God of Israel and the 400 prophets of Asherah and the 450 prophets of Baal, Yahweh was the decisive winner. As Elijah had prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
And the LORD’s answer to Elijah’s prayer? “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”
And the people’s response to this answer from the LORD? “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!’”
And then Elijah ordered that all of the prophets of Baal be destroyed. Therefore the LORD used his great prophet not only to cleanse his chosen nation from the sin of following false gods and prophets but also to bring a message of destruction to Ahab, its most evil king, and Jezebel, his wife, for having led his people astray in the first place. Again, as was true with Moses, the LORD chose to use Elijah, his prophet, to bring God’s Word to his people that they might receive it and return to their true Maker and LORD.
Now in returning to Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, he provides an important and interesting detail, not included by Matthew or Mark, concerning what Jesus was discussing with these two Old Testament saints. Namely, verse 31, “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” As the LORD had used Moses to bring his law and thereby teach his fallen image-bearers what it means to love God and each other; and as the LORD used Elijah to call his people back to himself when their leader had led them astray to follow foreign gods and foreign prophets; so now the LORD had come to earth in human form that he might, once and for all, remove the sin of those who turned to him by taking it away, placing it upon himself, and thereby destroying sin and death when, on the third day, he rose from the dead. This is the “departure,” the exodus, spoken of in verse 31.
For ultimately, Jesus is the one who fulfills both the Law and the Prophets. He taught as much in the Sermon on the Mount when he proclaimed, “17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” And after he had risen from death, he again taught this to the fortunate disciples whom he met on the Road to Emmaus. For after rising from death, he first chided and then taught these two followers saying to them, “‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” All the Scriptures given by God were in anticipation of God sending his Son to save any and all who believed and received him as their Savior and LORD.
And in confirmation of the Triune plan to reclaim fallen humanity through the death of God’s eternal Son, we read in verse 34 that as Peter nervously spoke, trying to make sense of what he, James, and John were witnessing, “a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’” As the LORD had led his people out of the oppression of the Egyptians by means of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so now he confirmed his Son’s mission of leading and delivering humanity out of the oppression of the Fall’s consequences by covering them all who with the cloud of his presence and acknowledging not only his divine relationship—Jesus was indeed his Son, his chosen Son, the Son whom he loved—but also his divine authority—they were to listen to him, they were to follow and obey him.
Sisters and brothers, this deliverance is what we celebrate this morning for God’s Word has ever been God’s Answer to the problem of sin:
Because of his great love for his children, he gave his law through his servant, Moses, that we might know what love for God and for each other looks like in practice;
Because of his great love for his children, he called his people back to himself when they ran after gods who were no gods and removed their evil leader, Ahab, through the prophecies of his servant, Elijah.
Because of his great love for his children, he sent us his Son that we might know how he intended humanity to live and see what God’s love looks in the flesh.
God’s Word is God’s answer to the evil, sin, and suffering humanity has undergone ever since the time of the Fall. For God’s Word in his law teaches us how we should live; and God’s Word by his prophets calls us to turn away from evil thoughts and deeds and instead turn to our Maker and LORD; and God’s Word made incarnate in his Son has provided a way not only of our knowing and loving him but also of our becoming like him by his Holy Spirit whom he sends to all who believe in and receive Jesus Christ as Savior.
For as we’ll now celebrate, in partaking of the bread of communion we are reminded of the price God in Christ paid to restore us to himself: his body was broken and bruised as he took upon himself our judgment and death that we might live in and through him;
And in partaking of the cup we are reminded that as at the time of the Passover only those who placed the blood of the sacrificed lambs on the doorposts of their houses were spared God’s wrath for sin, so now only those who accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s life and blood, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, are similarly spared God’s wrath and provided a means of knowing and loving him now and forevermore.
So let us now and always thank God for his written Word and let us not take that word for granted but instead read and study and meditate upon it that we might learn to live according to his law as we seek to know and love him and each other as he calls us to;
And let us now and always thank God for the prophets he sent and heed their exhortations to ever worship the LORD of creation who loves us with a jealous love that demands that we love him and him alone and live according to his just and merciful and compassionate ways;
And let us now and always thank God for his incarnate—and risen Word, Jesus Christ, who did indeed “suffer many things” and was “rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and teachers of the law” and was “killed and on the third day [was] raised to life”  and thereby has made it possible for us to be reconciled to our heavenly Father by taking our sin and punishment upon himself and giving us his righteousness and eternal life by the Holy Spirit he sends to indwell all who believe in him.
Let us now and always thank God that in the midst of our lostness, he has ever provided his Word as the answer to our sin.
Let us pray.
 Exodus 3:1–2.
 Exodus 3:4.
 Exodus 3:6.
 Luke 20:37–38: “37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” See parallels in Matthew 22:31–32: 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”; Mark 12:26–27: 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
 Exodus 19:20: “The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up….” Later Moses was also given the actual tablets on Mount Sinai. See Exodus 24:12: The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
 1 Kings 19:2: Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
 Exodus 24:15–18: 15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.; Exodus 34:27–28: 27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
 1 Kings 19:8.
 Exodus 24:15–18: 15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
 Exodus 32:19: When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.
 Exodus 34:27–28: 27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
 Exodus 33:18–23: 18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” 19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
 1 Kings 19:11.
 1 Kings 19:11b–12: Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
 Exodus 19:18.
 Exodus 20:18.
 Hebrews 12:28–29: 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.” He is referring to Deuteronomy 4:24: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Notice, too, the contrast the author of Hebrews makes with Mount Zion in Hebrews 12:18–24: 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[Exodus 19:12, 13] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[Deuteronomy 9:19] 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
 See also Exodus 24:17: To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.; Deuteronomy 4:11–12: 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.; Deuteronomy 5:23–27: 23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me. 24 And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”
 Exodus 14:21–22: 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
 See Sermon preached on 2 Kings 2:1–18 on June 26, 2016, Preparing God’s Way.
 2 Kings 2:8: Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
 Matthew 17:1–8.
 Mark 9:2–8.
 Luke 9:22. Jesus also went on to tell them that whoever wanted to save their life, had to lose it (vv. 23–26) and that some who were standing there wouldn’t taste death before they saw the kingdom of God (v. 27).
 Matthew 17:2.
 Mark 9:3.
 John 8:12. See also John 1:1–4, 9, 14:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
 Exodus 20:3
 Exodus 20:5b.
 Exodus 20:12: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
 Exodus 20:13: You shall not murder.
 Exodus 20:14: You shall not commit adultery.
 Exodus 20:15: You shall not steal.
 Exodus 20:16: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
 Exodus 20:17: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
 Matthew 22:34–40: “34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” and Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
 1 Kings 18:18–19: 18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
 1 Kings 18:36–37.
 1 Kings 18:38.
 1 Kings 18:39.
 1 Kings 18:40: Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
 1 Kings 21:17–26: 17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ 23 “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ 24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.” 25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)
 Matthew 5:17–18.
 Luke 24:25–27.
 Exodus 13:21–22: 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
 See parallels in Matthew 17:5: 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” and Mark 9:7: Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
 Exodus 12:7, 12–13: 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs…. 12 On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
 Luke 9:22.