Two sentences prepared my heart for my Bible reading this morning.
First, while reading Thomas Watson (reading a Puritan immediately after awakening is good and enlivening for the soul), I came across this sentence:
“A man may be carnal while he is doing spiritual things…He delights in hearing [the Word of God] but it is not the spirituality of the Word he delights in, not the savor of knowledge, but the luster.”
Then I also read John Piper’s I.O.U.S. prayer before reading Scripture, and I particularly focused on one phrase:
“Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. (Psalm 119:36)”
So as I began to read Matthew 17 this morning, I was already thinking, “Beware of reading hypocritically; read to stimulate your joy in Christ above all else.”
It was with that in mind that I read these verses:
Six days later Jesus *took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (vv. 1-4)
In one sense, Peter had the right idea. He was thinking of building tabernacles not only as a remembrance of God’s provision for Israel under the leadership of Moses in the wilderness, but he was also thinking of the promised Kingdom that was yet to come and all of the blessings that would come from in the permanent residence with God.
Yet Peter also made a mistake. He wanted to erect three tabernacles — one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. And at that suggestion, God the Father quickly intervened and humbled Peter and his suggestion with the words, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (v. 5).
Peter’s attention is on the group of three; the Father’s attention is on the One — Jesus. Peter’s desire indicated that he perceived a similarity and equality between the three. The Father’s declaration asserted the supremacy of the One. Peter forgot that while the lives and ministries of Moses and Elijah were significant, their lives still only pointed to the Messiah, to the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
We may also fall into a similar trap when reading Scripture. It is tempting to become enamored with the linguistic details of the Epistles, or intrigued with the lives and accounts of Israel’s history, or perplexed by the words of the prophets. But the reading of Scripture is to saturate our minds with the supremacy and greatness of the triune Godhead. Through this word we are to be amazed by the Father, preoccupied with the Son, and empowered by the Spirit.
Peter was right in one final sense. It was good for he and the other two disciples to be there on the mount. But the goodness was being in the presence of the Son of God. And so it is also good for us to be in the Word, to feed our passions for the living God.