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Definition of Love: Devotion

Here is an incident in Matt. 17:1-8 that illustrates both our present attitude as well as God’s desire towards us. Right from Matthew 16:27-28, Jesus had promised his disciples that some of them present then with him would soon see his glory. You know, up till this time, the disciples had not yet fully understood exactly who Jesus was. In that same chapter, Jesus asked them who they thought he was. "The Son of God," Peter had answered. So, when Jesus took Peter, James and John, His closest apostles, to the top of the Mountain, it was with the intention of revealing himself to them. He hoped for them to see him in all his glory and spender. He hoped to make them see that every other thing was insignificant compared to the supreme task of knowing him for who he is and loving him thus.

So, Jesus got transformed before their very eyes. Rather than fall before him and soak in the glory and spender of his person, they were attracted instead by the appearance of Moses and Elijah who came to speak with Jesus. Now, you need to understand the situation here. First, you will recall that Moses represents the Law, and Elijah represents the prophets. In other words, these two men represent, together, the whole revelations and dealings of God with Israel until Jesus came. Second, you will remember that for the Jew, Moses was a hero. So in looking at the law, all that Israel sees is that great Moses who brought these wonderful laws. It does not really matter much if there is a God who gave the laws through Moses. The law was really great, so the guy who could receive such a law must be very great in deed.

How about Elijah? He was a great prophet of faith and power. He was steadfast even when almost all the other prophets went astray. He was a prophet of fire! A fellow who could call down fire from heaven at will has be a close friend of God. In fact, Elijah was so great that Israel believed that even the coming of the Messiah would have to be preceded by the coming of Elijah (Matt. 17:10-13, Malachi 4:5-6). This was a no-nonsense prophet and all Israel revered him generations after. So, you can then imagine the thrill the three apostles of Jesus felt when they saw these two men live! Nothing was greater, no experience higher. This was the peak; here they were, seeing these great Fathers of Israel, all at once. And boy, they won’t let such an opportunity pass them by. Trust Peter - he quickly spoke up. “Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here, if you wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” I suspect that Peter mentioned Jesus first as a matter of courtesy, mere politeness. He was after Moses, representative of the Law, and how Peter loved the Law. You remember even in Acts, after many years of God’s dealings with him, it was still difficult for Peter to drop the law and its restrictions (Acts 10:10-16). Simply put, Peter was eager to camp with Moses. He preferred Moses. Jesus can wait for now. It’s not every day one gets to meet Moses like this! (My take on it, of course).
          What of Elijah’s camp? Who would camp with him? Your guess is just as good as mine. James. That fellow too was a no-nonsense person. You remember at one time, he asked Jesus' permission to call down fire on a village that did not allow them passage. In fact, James was so hot amongst all the 12 apostles that Herod had to kill him first in attempt to halt the rapid spread of the gospel (Act 12:1-3). So, Elijah was certainly James kind of guy. He would easily identify with Elijah. Hence, you can count on James to have camped with Elijah, I think.

 So, where does that leave Jesus? “Poor him.” He was left only with beloved John, the “one who leans on the bosom of the Master.” John will always stick with Jesus. He was the “one who loved Jesus,” one whom the master also loved. Is it clearer now? If Peter’s proposal had worked, there would have been three camps. And Jesus' ‘camp’ would been have just one of many camps. While Peter was yet making his proposal, though, God answered him. God was so angered that he didn’t let Peter finish. Read it yourself: “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed him; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said “Arise, and do not be afraid”. When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only (Acts 17:5-8).

Do you understand what is happening here? Is it not becoming quit clearer now? Jesus had taken these three to the “mountain of peak experience with God,” so that they can see that Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the prophet) all end up in Jesus Christ the Lord. God transfigured him and showed forth his glory so that they could fall and revere him. Instead, they were carried away by the Law (holiness) and the prophet (faith and power and success) as if these were, in themselves, anything of glory. To make matters worse, Peter was proposing building three different camps and making Moses and Elijah of equal status, unconsciously, with the master himself. God couldn't take this anymore. So he spoke up. You can only imagine the displeasure in his voice as He said, “This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased. Hear Him - not Elijah, not Moses. Jesus is my focus, the conclusion of all the law and prophets, give your devotion to Jesus, not to the message as good as it may be, nor yet to his messengers.” God seemed to have been shouting, “I got you boys up to this mountain to see Moses and Elijah, not so that you will camp with them, but so that you will understand that everything they both represented is fully completed in my Son.”

No wonder the apostles fell down on their faces, greatly afraid. I think they got the message.  In fact, God was so displeased that he quickly withdrew Moses and Elijah, so that when they finally got up, “they saw no one but Jesus only”! Thank God for that. May we also wake up today to see nobody but Jesus only. May the church today also wake up to see no message (holiness, faith, success, power, deliverance) as the ultimate, but to see Jesus only. To love God is to be wholly devoted to him- spirit, soul and body. To love God is to focus all our energies, our teachings, our emotion, our followers only on Jesus the Lord.

 If we really love God and devote all to him, will it not be easy then to live holy, have faith, receive power and have what the Bible calls ‘good success’? “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” These issues are being presented not to criticize, but to offer useful suggestions to the beloved bride of Jesus - that all the master ever wanted is our whole-hearted devotion to him. To love him with all our heart. If he ever gives any special revelation, it is only to help us devote all to him - not to organize a new camp around his revelation.

This article is an excerpt from the book, "Treasures of Love: Celebration of God's Extravagant Love," available on All rights reserved.