On the readings for October 26

Transfiguration by Lorenzo Lotto

The Transfiguration, where Moses – at left – realized a centuries-old dream…



The readings for Sunday October 26 are Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 90:1-6,13-17, First  Thessalonians 2:1-8, and Matthew 22:34-46.  For more on Psalm 90, see Psalms up to October 26.  The full Bible readings are at Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.  Here are some highlights.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 tells about Moses, climbing to the top of Mount Nebo, to see the “Promised Land” he had struggled so hard to reach but would – apparently – never enter:

Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.  The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan…   According to the final chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended Mount Nebo to view the Land of Israel, that he would never enter, and to die; he was buried in an unknown valley location in Moab (Deuteronomy 34).

See Mount Nebo – Wikipedia.  As to why God didn’t let Moses enter the Promised Land, there are several theories – some them pretty far-fetched – set out in sites like Why was God so upset with Moses and Why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land.

The best answer seems to come from God’s faithful servant, Moses, which noted that in the fullness of time Moses made a comeback, in Matthew 17:1-8, when Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, “and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah:”

Moses’ faith had its ultimate reward and vindication centuries later.  In God’s economy, promises and fulfillment are not measured by our calendars.  Centuries run their course.  Yet some day in the future, the full meaning of our acts and life of faith will become evident.  That was true for Moses, and it will be true for us.

See also Transfiguration of Jesus – Wikipedia, emphasis added.  Note that Mount Nebo is six miles northwest of Madaba in Jordan, some 19 miles southwest of Amman (Jordan’s capital), and just opposite the northern end of the Dead Sea.  On the other hand Mount Tabor – which according to tradition is where the Transfiguration occurred – is located “in Lower GalileeIsrael, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 11 miles (18 km) west of the Sea of Galilee.”

In other words – in case I’m being too subtle – Moses eventually did make it to the Promised Land, inside Israel and west of the Sea of Galilee, just not when he expected to.  Which is another way of saying that quite often God has a different timetable than ours.  Put another way, you could say if you wait long enough you will – with God’s help – eventually enter that Promised Land…

(In modern terms, Moses died some seven miles due east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, inside Jordan, while in the Transfiguration he “met up” with Jesus on Mount Tabor, inside Israel and 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.)

Anyway, the reading ended with the “torch being passed” from Moses to Joshua; “Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

As to 1st Thessalonians 2:1-8, the International Bible Commentary (IBC) noted that the “ancient world was full of wandering ‘philosophers’ and ‘holy men’ who were greedy and unscrupulous,” and that some of Paul’s enemies accused him of just that.  In the reading Paul presented his defense, including his declaring the “gospel of God in spite of great opposition” and that as God was his witness, “we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed.”  Instead “we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.”  (The “we” referred to Paul, Silvanus and Timothy.  See 1st Thessalonians 1:1.)

In Matthew 22:34-46, Jesus listed the Two Great Commandments when the Pharisees tried to trick Him.  See Great Commandments – Wikipedia, “cited by Jesus in Matthew 22:35–40, [and] Mark 12:28–34.  These two … are taken from the Law of Moses in the Old Testament and are commonly seen as important to Christian ethics.”   In turn Jesus foiled the Pharisees by a display of His dazzling knowledge of the Book of Psalms, in this case Psalm 110:1:  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'”  He then asked, “‘If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’  No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.”

All of which was a prelude to “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees…”



The upper image is courtesy of The Transfiguration of Christ – Lorenzo Lotto – WikiArt.org.  See also The Transfiguration – Images Bible, which added these notes about the painting:

Jesus, surrounded by Moses and Elijah, is “transfigured,” suffused with light coming from Heaven and acknowledged as Son of God by a celestial voice that here takes the shape of a written text.  On the left, Moses recognizable by the tables of the Law and on the right, the prophet Elijah, bend the knee before Christ…   The three men on the ground are the apostles, Peter recognizable by his keys, John always young and beardless and James without any distinguishing sign.  They have been thrown down and they protect their eyes from the light coming from Christ.

For another view of Moses – his entering “the Promised Land” temporarily put on hold – see Tissot Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar.jpg.  For more paintings by Tissot of the Moses saga, see Paintings of Moses and the Exodus featuring watercolors.

The locations of Mount Nebo and Mount Tabor were gleaned from the Wikipedia articles noted, along with Mount Tabor – Wikipedia and Mount Nebo – Jordan – Sacred Destinations, and Google Maps. Note also the Bible said Mount Nebo was at “the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho,” which could cause confusion.  (A mountain on top of a mountain?)  But as Wikipedia explained:

Some translators [list Pisgah] as a name of a mountain, usually referring to Mount Nebo … east of the Jordan River and just northeast of the Dead Sea.  Mount Nebo [] is the highest among a handful of Pisgah summits; an arid cluster of hilltops…

“Pisgah” in Hebrew means “summit” or “peak,” but in translation the term lost its meaning and now has come to refer to a “collection of mountain summits.”  See also Mount Pisgah (Bible)

As to other people sharing the perceived negativity and close-mindedness of many who call themselves Christian, in his article Mooney noted, “While I don’t believe in organized religion, I do believe in God, and I do have faith in the narrative of Jesus…”   See Why I’d Still Believe In God.

As to finally entering “that Promised Land” (if you wait long enough), see also:  “If you wait by the river long enough, you’ll see the bodies of your enemies floating by.” Quote by Sun Tzu: “If you wait by the river long enough… 

The lower image is courtesy of Woes of the Pharisees – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that the “woes mostly criticise the Pharisees for hypocrisy and perjury.  They illustrate the differences between inner and outer moral states.”   Jesus went on to announce the “woe to you … hypocrites” in the following chapter, Matthew 23:1-39.  For a related image see Brooklyn Museum: European Art: The Pharisees Question Jesus, with the caption, “The Pharisees Question Jesus (Les pharisiens questionnent Jésus),” an opaque water color by French artist James Tissot, 1836-1902.


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