The Lord in Human Form
Finite human beings simply cannot understand the greatness or holiness of an infinite Creator. The only way we can even begin to comprehend God is to understand Him in finite terms.
This is where the concept of the Messiah comes in. Isaiah 53:1 asks, "Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" In the context of this chapter, it is obvious that when Isaiah says "arm of the Lord," he is referring to Messiah. They are the same.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell of a number of occasions before the birth of Jesus when God revealed Himself in human form. Theologians refer to these instances as theophanies.
Theophany is Greek, meaning "God" (theo) and "to reveal oneself" (phaneia). As already mentioned, Daniel 3:24-25 is one of the Old Testament's most dramatic theophanies. But there are many others. Here are a few others among the more than 152 contained in the Old Testament:
The Son of Man. Four chapters later, the same "Son of God" figure who Nebuchadnezzar saw in the fire makes another appearance, this time to Daniel in a vision.
Daniel writes: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
"He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14, NIV).
Yeshua often used the title "Son of Man" when referring to Himself (see Matt. 20:18, 24:30, 44; Mark 10:45, 14:62; John 3:13). Obviously this Son of Man Daniel saw is divine, or He would not accept the worship of "nations and men of every language."
The Mysterious King. The first theophany may be a bit controversial due to scholarly interpretation of the passage, but it is worth mentioning. In Genesis 14 the patriarch Abram (Abraham) has a mysterious encounter with King Melchizedek:
"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.' Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything" (Gen. 14:18-20, NIV).
Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, which says a great deal about his regard for this man who was both a priest and a king (as we'll see). Abraham is the paramount character in Judaism—the father of the Jewish people. And yet he pays homage to Melchizedek by giving him a tithe. He clearly recognizes that Melchizedek is greater than he is.
Centuries later, the psalmist tells us that Messiah is "a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4). While this is a mysterious passage and there are differences of opinion about it, some Bible scholars believe that Melchizedek was God in human form.
In fact, the name Melchizedek comes from two Hebrew words: melech, which means "king," and Ts'dek, which means "righteous" or "righteousness." Hence, "king of righteousness." I believe this is the first Old Testament reference to Yeshua.
The Judge With a Warning. The next theophany takes place in Genesis 18. The "angel of the Lord" appears to Abraham along with two other angels, who all look like men, to warn the patriarch of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham clearly understands that one of the men he is talking to is God Himself, for he refers to Him as "the judge of all the earth" (v. 25).
The Nameless Stranger. Another appearance of God in human form is found in Genesis 32, where Jacob, father of the 12 tribes of Israel, wrestles all night with a stranger. Jacob holds his own in the fight and then asks his foe for a blessing. The Bible tells us the stranger answered:
"Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.' Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.' And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved'" (vv. 28–30, NKJV).
Peniel means, "face of God." The meaning of this story is that Jacob believed he had been face-to-face with God.
The Angel of the Lord. Judges 6 says that "the angel of the Lord" sat down under an oak tree and had a conversation with Gideon, a man chosen to rescue the Israelites from their oppressors, the Midianites. At first Gideon does not realize who the "angel of the Lord" is. When he discovers the truth, he thinks he is going to die.
"But the Lord said to him, 'Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.' So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace" (Judg. 6:23-24).
God the Son. In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, the prophet talks about a "Son" who will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (see v. 6).
No devout Jew, and especially not a prophet like Isaiah, would refer to a mere human being as "Mighty God" or "Everlasting Father." This language would be blasphemous if it were not true.
Theophanies occurred, then, throughout the Old Testament. Perhaps their purpose was to begin to give human beings a glimpse of God in terms we could understand. If Jesus is indeed God in human form, then it follows that these theophanies were appearances of Him.
I am convinced that Yeshua HaMaschiach was God, who came to Earth in human form so that we might better relate to Him and understand Him.
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