Friday, December 19, 2014

The Glories of the Mount by Hamilton Smith (Part 1)

The Glories of the Mount
Luke 9:28-62

Following the Lord in His perfect path we are led, in Luke 9, into two scenes of surpassing interest. One scene unfolds itself on the Mount of Transfiguration; the other is enacted in the Plains of Galilee. On the Mount we find ourselves in company with Christ in the midst of heavenly things, learning the secrets of the Father's heart. In the Plain we have Christ in company with us amid the sorrows of earth, there to learn the secrets of our hearts in the presence of the grace of His heart.

For the good and prosperity of our souls we do well to linger awhile in both these scenes. The Mount, however, must precede the Plain. Our hearts must be assured of our part in the glories of the Mount before we can face the sorrows of the Plain.

Let us then for awhile turn aside from man, and his small world, and, as it were, ascend the Mount, seeking in spirit to breathe its holy atmosphere and delight our souls in its varied glories.

We are not left to our own spiritual discernment to interpret the scene on the Mount, for we have the inspired account of one who was present. Referring to the time when he and others were with Christ on "the holy mount," Peter can say "we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His Majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (2 Peter 1:16-18). Thus Peter plainly tells us that the holy Mount gives us a foretaste of the glories and the joys that we shall share at the coming, or "presence" of the Lord. For long He has been absent, but when at last He is present and we in His presence, we shall see His majesty. We who have seen the shame and dishonour heaped upon Him by man, shall see with great delight the "honour and glory" that He will receive from the Father. In company with Christ we shall be ushered into the Father's presence and hear the Father's voice telling us of His delight in His beloved Son.

The holy Mount gives us a foretaste of these coming glories. Here, indeed, we partake of the fatness of God's house, and drink of the river of His pleasures.

Entering upon this scene of blessedness we are at once encountered with a holy mystery. For all this eternal weight of glory is introduced with a praying Man. "It came to pass . . . He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered." The sorrows of earth can be traced back to the disobedience and independence of one man. The glories of the world to come commence with the obedience and dependence of one Man. The coming glories of heaven centre round a praying Man on earth.

Then, as with great delight we gaze upon the Lord in prayer, we are permitted to see the praying Man changed into the glorified Man. "His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistening." When man became independent of God, he ceased to glorify God and became the dishonoured man (Romans 1:21-32): here is One who became the dependent Man, glorified God, and He Himself is glorified. On earth we see the glory of man which, Peter reminds us, is as the flower of the field, for it "falleth away"; but on the Mount we get with Peter a passing vision of a glory that will never pass away. We see "His majesty" and His glory.

But the Mount has further blessed disclosures, for it tells us not only that we shall see His glory, but we shall share His glory. We shall not only be delighted beholders, but privileged partakers. And so we read "there talked with Him two men." To be spectators of a scene of unparalleled glory would not satisfy the heart's deep longings. Again to have part in a glory from which Christ was absent, would not be enough. Such, however, the grace that leads to glory, that we shall beholdthe glory, and share the glory, and share it with Him.

Furthermore the Mount tells us another blessed fact, that we shall not only be with Him but shall also be like Him; and so we read not only that Moses and Elias appeared, but they "appeared in glory." We shall not only see the glory and share the glory, but we shall be suited to the glory. Moses has done with his wilderness staff; Elias has laid aside his prophet's mantle. The days of their humiliation have for ever passed away and they appear in glory. Not only are they with Christ, but they are like Christ, and they are suited to be with Christ, because they are like Christ. On earth it does not yet appear what we shall be, but on the Mount we get a glimpse of what we shall be when He appears. We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)

Nor is this all, for the Mount discloses another secret. Not only shall we share the glory and be suited to the glory, but we shall be at home in the glory. For we read of Moses and Elias that they "talked with Him." This speaks of the holy, happy intercourse of saints in glory. Had it been written merely that He talked with them, we might judge that they would have been delighted but silent listeners. If, however, they can talk with Him, all distance and reserve are gone. The disciples had indeed held sweet intercourse with Christ on earth, howbeit, at times with a measure of restraint, but in glory there will be holy, happy intercourse with the Lord without a trace of reserve.

Further, we not only see that in glory there will be free and happy communion, but we learn the great theme of heaven's intercourse. They "spake of His decease which He should accomplish." Immediately before, as directly after the scene on the Mount, the Lord refers to His death (vv. 22, 24), but we read "they understood not" (v. 45). In the Plain they are dull of hearing; on the Mount there is divine intelligence in the mind of heaven and the heart of Jesus. There Moses and Elias commune with Christ about that which fills His heart. They lose sight of the enmity of men; they no longer think of the death of Christ as brought about by wicked hands, but rather of "His decease which He should accomplish." Man's part in that great transaction calls aloud for judgment upon the world. What He did sends the glad tidings to earth's remotest bounds. Moreover they see that His death would be accomplished "at Jerusalem." How passing strange to a Jew. In the very place from whence the Messiah is going to reign, and where He will receive a throne and a crown, that there He should accomplish His death, and receive a cross and a grave. But on the Mount such wonders are spoken of without astonishment. There all is clear. The glory of the kingdom must be established in righteousness. To meet the righteous claims of God He must accomplish His decease. The sufferings must come before the glory. Righteousness must be met in the death of Christ at Jerusalem, if the grace of God is to flow out world wide "beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47).

Moses had given the law, but none knew better than Moses how utterly the nation had failed under the law. Elias had been raised up to recall backsliding Israel to Jehovah, only to prove their hopeless condition. Christ Himself had come, full of grace and truth, only to be utterly rejected. Moses, Elias, and above all Christ Himself, are the witnesses of the nation's guilt and the deep necessity for the sufferings of Christ if they are to reach the glories of the Kingdom. No longer does Moses call the people "rebels"; no longer does Elias charge the children of Israel with having forsaken the covenant, thrown down the altars, and slain the prophets. They look beyond the nation and the wickedness of men; they see Christ, the death that He shall accomplish, and the glories that are beyond. They indeed looked on to the glory through the death of Christ; we shall look back from the glory to the decease which He accomplished. It was their theme on the Mount, it will be our song in the glory of which the Mount was but a blessed earnest.

Finally, in this great scene we are carried into a glory that exceeds the glory of the Kingdom, for we are led into the Father's house. "There came a cloud and overshadowed them." They were surrounded and covered by the cloud. These Jewish disciples would well understand the significance of the cloud telling them of the Shekinah glory that of old filled the dwelling place of God and spoke of the presence of God. In the days of their wilderness journey the cloud was over Israel, but they never entered the cloud. Here on the Mount, on the ground of the death of Christ that He was about to accomplish, and in company with a glorified Christ, these disciples enter into the Father's house. And in the Father's house they hear the Father's voice, and the Father's voice declares the Father's heart. They hear the Father saying, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him." As one has said, "the Father does not say, This is the Son whom you ought to adore and admire, but He tells us His own thoughts about Him." "This is My beloved Son." It is not simply that we are reminded that Christ is our Beloved, as the bride in the Song of Songs can say, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His," but we hear the Father saying, "This is My Beloved." Beloved indeed because of His own intrinsic excellence, but "Beloved" also because of the decease He was about to accomplish. "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again." We have just learned that the heart of the Son is occupied with the obedience of love to the Father in going into death, and now we learn that the Father's heart is delighting in the Son. Here, then, it is our privilege to have fellowship with divine Persons; to have fellowship with the Son in His thoughts of perfect obedience to the Father's will, and have fellowship with the Father in His delight in the Son.

What a portion and prospect is thus opened to the believer by the death of Christ which He should accomplish at Jerusalem, and the glory of Christ that would follow, a prospect that gives us to enter the Father's house, to hear the Father's voice, and discloses to us the Father's heart!

Again we say what a scene is this which brings us into touch with things which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him!" Truly a foretaste of the universe of bliss where man will be brought into dependence upon God, in a scene of glory, with Christ and like Christ. There to be at home with Christ, speak of all that is in His heart, and learn the secrets of the Father's heart.

Small, indeed, may be the measure in which we taste the blessedness of such a scene. Like the disciples the heaviness of earth clings to us and the infirmities of the body hamper us, so that we see but little into the heart of these heavenly mysteries. Yet for our comfort we read, "When they were awake they saw His glory." Nor will it be otherwise with ourselves, for, says the apostle, "Awake thou that sleepest . . . and Christ shall shine upon thee." And in His light we shall see light; we shall see the coming glories, we shall look beyond the shadows on the valley and see the sunlight on the hills, but above all we shall see "the King in His beauty," the One who is "the chiefest among ten thousand," and "altogether lovely."

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