Perhaps Christ’s transfiguration was the most significant biblical event other than the creation and Christ’s resurrection. It is described in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. Three men meet together on a mountain–Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
The Law and the Prophets were the basis of Judaism. Exodus 24:13-18 tells us that Moses went up on Mount Sinai and received the Law. Deuteronomy 34:6 indicates that he had no known grave. Elijah, the prophet, went up Mount Horeb (Sinai) according to 1 Kings 19:8, where God spoke to him. Like Moses, Elijah had no grave (2 Kings 2:11).
God told the people through the prophet Malachi that the Law and the prophets would lead to Christ (Malachi 4:4-6). In Luke 9:34-35 we read of Christ’s transfiguration and the cloud which symbolized the covering of divine presence. God spoke and said, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” The message is clear. Don’t let the Law or the prophets guide you–follow Jesus.
To this day, people want to snip out various parts of the Law or the prophets and use them in their religious practices. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that He fulfilled the Law and the prophets. Jesus summed up the Law and the prophets in Matthew 7:12 with what we often call the “Golden Rule.” Colossians 2:6-23 states that Jesus blotted out the written code with its regulations by nailing to the cross (verse 14).
Christ’s transfiguration leads us to real freedom. Just as Moses led Israel out of slavery to Egypt, Jesus leads all of us to real freedom from sin. Romans 6:4-23 speaks of Christians having a new life, not a legalistic political system. The Law was impossible to keep perfectly because of human weakness. Romans describes the new life we are called to. We can be completely and totally free by God’s grace and the power of love.
In 1347, history’s worst disease outbreak began when the bubonic plague, or “black death,” spread across Europe. In the following years, one-third of the human race died from that disease. Five-hundred years later in 1847, a cholera outbreak threatened London. In one year, 72,000 people died. These events bring up some questions. Can we blame God for these tragedies? Does God cause disease outbreaks? Do these plagues prove that God does not exist, because a loving God would not have allowed them to happen?
An Italian doctor first presented the concept of germs in 1546, but the idea was not proven and accepted until the late nineteenth century. During those hundreds of years, there were more outbreaks of the plague, cholera, and other diseases. Very slowly, people began to realize how to prevent these deadly outbreaks. The answer was in proper disposal of sewage, prompt and proper burial of the dead, cleanliness and washing, and quarantine.
It seems obvious to us today, but it took centuries for humans to discover those secrets. Actually, they were not secrets at all. Thousands of years earlier they had been revealed in a book. Dispose of sewage properly—Deuteronomy 23:12,13. Bury the dead promptly; avoid touching dead bodies; clean and wash with water, ashes, and hyssop (which contains the antiseptic carvacrol); and quarantine—Deuteronomy 21:23; Numbers 5:2, 3; Numbers 19:1-22; Leviticus 13:45, 46. Those instructions were written in the first books of the Bible by Moses, a man trained in the customs of Egypt for 40 years.
So did Moses learn this from the Egyptians? Absolutely not! Ancient Egyptians mummified dead bodies with their bare hands and then spread the germs around to others. Even Moses admitted that there were “horrible diseases” in Egypt. (See Deuteronomy 7:15.) How did Moses have this life-saving information 3500 years ahead of his time? We think that God revealed it to him.
Yesterday we began to consider Exodus 4:21 which says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. What did God mean when He told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart? Can we see how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened?
Pharaoh was a political leader whose kingdom was under siege. He would obviously be on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. God simply allowed Pharaoh to see the cost of letting the slaves go. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by strengthening his resolve as a political leader to realize what was happening. It made Pharaoh strong intellectually and emotionally, but that doesn’t mean he was a robot with no choice in the matter. He would not want his people to see him as a weak, condescending ruler giving in to a bunch of slaves over things his own court magicians could do. At least in the beginning, Pharaoh would become strong, hard, and determined to stop Moses. That is how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.
Let me give you a personal parallel. Many years ago my wife Phyllis and I made arrangements to adopt a child. After a month or so, we saw that the child had many congenital problems including blindness, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, a form of muscular dystrophy, and mental retardation. Our awareness of all of this came one step at a time beginning with blindness and ending seven years later with a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy and schizophrenia. By law, the adoption agency was obligated to take the child back. However, we could choose to go ahead with the adoption.
My heart and my wife’ heart softened and hardened. Mine more than hers. My atheist parents tried everything to make us give up the child. They even threatened the agency with a lawsuit if they didn’t forcibly take him from us. My fellow teachers almost universally told me I would be crazy to keep the child. Close friends showed me what keeping him would mean financially, socially, and professionally. My heart was hardened to the point that one afternoon I put him in the car seat and prepared to return him to the adoption agency.
I started the car and then decided to pray about what I was doing. At that point, a Christian brother walked up to the car and began to talk about what might be possible. Could this baby be a messenger to the blind? Could I walk down the street 20 years in the future, see a blind man and wonder if it was the child I gave up. I realized my heart had been hardened. It was not hardened by God, but by all of the world that surrounded me.
One of the interesting studies of the Old Testament is the account of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Moses, and God. In Exodus 4:21 we read that, “The Lord said to Moses when you go to return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” What does it mean that God hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?
There are numerous cases throughout the Bible where the hardening of the heart is an issue. Is God making Pharaoh a robot with no choice but to make the catastrophic decision not to allow the Israelites to leave? Does God make a person’s heart hard and then send them to hell because of their hard heart? How can that picture be harmonized with the concept of a loving and kind God who wants everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, what does that mean and how did it happen?
Like a lot of questions about God and the Bible, we can answer this at least in part by a careful study of the meaning of the biblical words. The first word we need to understand is the word “heart” which is the Hebrew leb or lebab. In 1 Samuel 25:37 we read about a man named Nabal, and we are told his heart died within him and he became as a stone. In 2 Samuel 18:14 we see Joab thrusting three darts through the heart of Absalom. In 2 Kings 9:24 Jehu shoots an arrow at Jehoram and hits him in the heart. The word heart is used in a physical sense 29 times. However, most biblical uses of the word “heart” do not involve the organ that beats in our chest.
Proverbs 23:7 gives us a different use: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. He tells you to eat and drink, but his heart is not with you.” The Bible uses the word heart 257 times referring to personality characteristics, and 166 times it refers to states of consciousness. First Samuel 1:8 says, “Hannah, why do you weep, and why is your heart grieved?” Heart refers to intellectual activities such as in 1 Kings 3:9 where God gave Solomon an understanding heart. We find the word used 195 times referring to volition or purpose. In 1 Samuel 2:35 we read, “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and my mind.”
The other keyword to understand in this discussion is the word “hardened” which is the Hebrew chazaq which means “to make strong.” Normally this word describes things that make us insensitive. Hebrews 3:13 tells us that we can “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and verse 8 and 4:7 indicate humans choose to do the hardening. Job says he was hardened in sorrow in Job 6:10. Daniel 5:20 talks about a king’s heart being lifted up and his mind hardened by pride. Psalms 95:8 indicates we can harden our own hearts and references the Israelites in the wilderness as an example. Nehemiah talks about Israel hardening their necks and their rebellion against God.
People on both sides have their minds made up. Debates have been conducted more for scoring points than for seeking the truth. The supposed conflict between science and faith is often caused by either bad science or bad theology–or both.
Scientists who say the physical universe is “all there is or was or ever will be” have contributed to the problem because that is a statement of faith, not science. The conflict between science and faith has also been caused by theologians who tell us to “put on your Bible glasses” and ignore the plain facts of science.
The truth is that the Bible doesn’t tell us how old the universe is. The truth is also that 14 billion years is not long enough for all life on this planet to have evolved without any intelligent direction. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. It does not tell us how. Science can tell us how God formed the elements in the stars, but it can’t tell us how all matter/energy and space/time came from nothing. Science also cannot tell us how lifeless chemicals became complex, living cells.
Centuries ago some theologians wrongly believed that planet Earth was the center of the universe, but they were only following what earlier scientists had believed. The theologians interpreted the Bible to say something that it didn’t say, and it was hard for them to give up their mistaken idea. It was also hard for the scientists to accept the fact that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It was scientists who were also Christian believers who first pushed the idea of a heliocentric system in spite of the disapproval of the established church leaders.
Three thousand years ago Moses recorded in Genesis 1:1 that the universe had a beginning. From the time of Aristotle, science insisted that the universe was eternal. Not until the early twentieth century did science begin to get a clue that there was a beginning. Then it was hard for scientists to give up their mistaken idea. The truth of a beginning was finally confirmed near the end of the twentieth century and reconfirmed in the twenty-first century.
Roy Nance of Murphreesboro, Tennessee, has spent a lifetime investigating the scientific credibility of the Torah. One of the areas he has specialized in is the medical teachings of Moses in the context of the time and culture in which he lived.
In his lectures, Nance discusses the Egyptian medical journals discovered by archaeologists over the centuries. Lee Strobel has discussed many of these in his books, and also Dr. S.I. McMillan discussed some of them in a book he wrote over 50 years ago titled None of These Diseases.
The Egyptian list of medicinal materials includes lizard blood, the blood of worms, swine teeth, putrid meat, pig ear moisture, goose grease, and the excrement of various animals. Moses grew up in the Egyptian culture that used these materials in medical treatment. In spite of his Egyptian education and the culture in which he was raised, Moses gave hygienic laws and practices that not only contradicted the teachings of his day but are correct by today’s standards.
The results of treating infections and cuts of all kinds with animal products had to be catastrophic, and the writings of Moses contain none of that. We understand the list of “unclean” animals in Leviticus 11. We see the importance of burying waste instead of throwing it into the street. Other hygiene standards presented by Moses are correct.
One of the most interesting of the teachings of Moses is the instruction for the timing of circumcision. Infants have two chemicals that develop in their bodies to allow clotting. Vitamin K is one, which at birth is at only about 20% of the adult level. The other is prothrombin which is at about 30% of the adult level by the fourth day of life. It isn’t until the eighth day that these two chemicals reach the adult level. Leviticus 12:3 says to circumcise boys on the eighth day. The timing couldn’t be better.