“These are the days of Elijah, Declaring the word of the Lord;
And these are the days of Your servant Moses, Righteousness being restored
Robin Mark, songwriter, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
In the days of Moses, the enslaved children of Israel suffered under an Egyptian Pharaoh who made their lives miserable. It took ten powerful plagues to make Pharaoh listen to reason and let the Israelites go free. Moses delivered this message and God delivered the results. Once free, it took 40 years for Moses to lead God’s people through a barren wilderness to the Promised Land. Many times, they wished they were back in Egypt and blamed Moses for their troubles. They were a rebellious and ungrateful lot who desperately needed guidance, especially moral guidance. So God revealed His will to them through the Law which Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai and labored to implement.
In the days of Elijah (9th century BC), Israel was reeling from endless civil wars leaving her dangerously divided between North and South. Elijah lived in the North under the rule King Ahab who sold himself to evil. Ahab married a devout and ruthless Baal-cult evangelist named Jezebel. Elijah began his ministry declaring that God would use a severe drought to turn the land of milk and honey into a desert. Elijah delivered the message and God delivered the results. This angered Ahab forcing Elijah to flee for his life. Jezebel began purging the prophets of Yahweh from the land. Elijah escaped her religious cleansing leaving him quite lonely assuming he was the only faithful one left. He lived much of his life in the wilderness far from courts of nobility and luxury.
In the days of Jesus, Moses was a 1,400 year old memory and Elijah came 900 years before Christ. So, when all three met on the Mount of Transfiguration “in glorious splendor” (Luke 9:30), they had a lot to talk about.
The transfiguration defies explanation, but it is described in each of the first three gospels. Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes were dazzling white. Yet, he was standing in the looming shadow of the cross. In fact, Jesus’ imminent death was the topic of conversation between Moses, Elijah and Jesus (Luke 9:31). Then, a cloud enveloped all three and a voice declared, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
Why Moses and Elijah? Perhaps it is it was because these two humble and powerful agents of Yahweh had so much in common already:
- Both confronted arrogant kings, boldly!
- Both were sustained by God with bread and meat in a wilderness (1 Kings 17:6).
- Both journeyed to Horeb (it took Elijah 40 days and nights, 1 Kings 19:8).
- Both got aggravated over Israel’s faithlessness.
- Both were reduced by self-pity to death wishes (Numbers 11:15 & 1 Kings 19:4).
- Both practiced intercessory prayer and saw God answer them.
- Both were mentors who commissioned their successors (Moses mentored Joshua and Elijah mentored Elisha).
- Both miraculously parted bodies of water (Exodus 14:21 & 2 Kings 2:8).
- Neither had a marker to identify a burial place (important to Jews).
Moses was God’s agent of freedom and righteousness! He was called to deliver God’s people from slavery and establish God’s gracious law for His free people through the Sinai covenant. Elijah was the archetypal Hebrew prophet, a bold and blunt man of God who in evil times declared the word of the Lord to earthly powers at great cost to himself. And Jesus, well, He was God’s beloved Son, sent into a sinful world as an agent of divine forgiveness at great cost to himself.
Strangely enough, the bodies all three (Moses, Elijah and Jesus) were not to be found after they accomplished their respective missions on earth. There was apparently some sort of dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9). That baffles me. A chariot of fire swung low in a whirlwind to sweep Elijah up into heaven (2 Kings 2:11), leaving Elisha in awe. And we all know what happened to Jesus’ body.