Jeremiah 23 & Mark 9

Jeremiah 23

    “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.

    “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

    “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

    Concerning the prophets:

    My heart is broken within me;
        all my bones shake;
    I am like a drunken man,
        like a man overcome by wine,
    because of the LORD
        and because of his holy words.
    For the land is full of adulterers;
        because of the curse the land mourns,
        and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
    Their course is evil,
        and their might is not right.
    “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
        even in my house I have found their evil,
                                                                                                                                                                    declares the LORD.
    Therefore their way shall be to them
        like slippery paths in the darkness,
        into which they shall be driven and fall,
    for I will bring disaster upon them
        in the year of their punishment,
                                                                                                                                                                    declares the LORD.
    In the prophets of Samaria
        I saw an unsavory thing:
    they prophesied by Baal
        and led my people Israel astray.
    But in the prophets of Jerusalem
        I have seen a horrible thing:
    they commit adultery and walk in lies;
        they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
        so that no one turns from his evil;
    all of them have become like Sodom to me,
        and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
    Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:
    “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
        and give them poisoned water to drink,
    for from the prophets of Jerusalem
        ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”
        Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

    For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD
        to see and to hear his word,
        or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
    Behold, the storm of the LORD!
        Wrath has gone forth,
    a whirling tempest;
        it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
    The anger of the LORD will not turn back
        until he has executed and accomplished
        the intents of his heart.
    In the latter days you will understand it clearly.
    “I did not send the prophets,
        yet they ran;
    I did not speak to them,
        yet they prophesied.
    But if they had stood in my council,
        then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
    and they would have turned them from their evil way,
        and from the evil of their deeds.
        “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD.

    “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household. Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has the LORD answered?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But ‘the burden of the LORD’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man's own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the LORD answered you?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But if you say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the LORD,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’” therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’”

(Jeremiah 23 ESV)

Mark 9

    And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

    And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

    And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

    And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

    They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

    And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

    John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

(Mark 9 ESV)

The Man on the Mountain

The story of the Transfiguration is reminiscent of Moses’ experience in the presence of God upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). In the Exodus account, God strictly orders the people to not approach the mountain or even stand near it. To do so would bring immediate death. Man’s dilemma is that a holy and perfect God can not be approached by sinful man. Man sinfulness has separated him from God and the boundary was not to be crossed. The people were terrified!

Every time we see someone in the Bible experience the presence of God, the reaction is always the same. They immediately find themselves terrified! God wouldn’t even allow Moses to see His face because He told Moses that a glimpse would be fatal. The gap between sinful man and a holy God was too great for man to even catch a glimpse of God’s full glory. A glimpse would bring immediate death. 

However, something happens in the Transfiguration that never happened on Mt. Sinai. Three disciples get a glimpse of God’s glory and stand in the midst of God’s presence, and death is not the immediate result? What is so different about the disciples’ mountain top experience versus the Israelite’s experience at Sinai? The difference lies in the Man who brought them to the mountain.   

Christ, who the Bible describes as the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of His nature, has come on behalf of God and on behalf of man. Man has no access to God unless he goes through Christ and Christ alone. In the name of Christ, we now have access and are able to stand in the midst of God’s presence and glory. (Romans 5). Christ is the greater Moses who has come to bridge the infinite gap between sinful man and a holy God.