|| The Orthodox Faith (Dogma) || Family and Youth || Sermons || Bible Study || Devotional || Spirituals || Fasts & Feasts || Coptics || Religious Education || Monasticism || Seasons || Missiology || Ethics || Ecumenical Relations || Church Music || Pentecost || Miscellaneous || Saints || Church History || Pope Shenouda || Patrology || Canon Law || Lent || Pastoral Theology || Father Matta || Bibles || Iconography || Liturgics || Orthodox Biblical topics || Orthodox articles || St Chrysostom ||
The Jews have the Old Testament in the Hebrew language (parts in Aramaic), they hand-transcribed it and preserved it from age to age. The well-known Masoretic Text of the Old Testament Scriptures is still in use to this present day. Officially, they read and memorize the Holy Bible in the Hebrew language; here I’m speaking of the Torah, the Psalms, and the prophets.
As for the New Testament, of course the Jews do not recognize it, but our Holy Bible includes the Old Testament and New Testament. It was preserved in the Christian churches in the Greek language (Old Testament or New Testament). As we explained before in our discussion on the impossibility of distorting the Holy Bible, there are Manuscripts available in the British Museum, and one at the Vatican, from the fourth and fifth Centuries of both Testaments; the Old Testament is called the Septuagint translation of the Holy Bible. The Septuagint is a translation from the Hebrew to the Greek conducted by seventy elders of Israel by the order of King Ptolemy Philadelphus in the third century BC in the city of Alexandria. Jewish elders, specialized in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, are the ones who undertook this translation; it was not Christian persons who translated it. Considering that the New Testament in the Holy Bible was written in Greek, the Christian church preserved the Old and New Testaments in the Greek language, because most church fathers were teaching in the Greek language; it was the national language at that time, equivalent to English today (there is French, German, and many languages in the world, but English is the common language in universal conferences, alongside the readymade translations). Therefore, if we speak of the Greek text of the Old Testament, the church had no influence on this translation.
For this occasion I have brought with me the Old Testament in Hebrew from the Holy Bible Society; it is not printed (as the Arabic version) in Beirut or Egypt, but is printed in Israel by The Bible Society in Israel.
Why do we care about the version present in Israel? The answer is that Jews are against Christ, they rejected Him, and do not confess Christianity, so when we come to explain something from the Old Testament, it is very important to use the version available in their hands, and the version that they are its publishers and distributors. Based on this we will start today’s study and discussion.
Due to the difficulty of the language I will use the Arabic translation taken from the Hebrew original and not the Greek. In this version it is written: The Holy Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, translated from the original languages; this translation if renowned as the Vandyke Translation; Holy Bible House; the Middle East. From the original languages means it was not taken from the Greek translation of the Hebrew, but taken directly from the Hebrew original. Furthermore, I will read some passages that are important to our discussion in the Hebrew language; therefore, if a Jewish person is listening to us, he should take out his Holy Scriptures and open to the parts we are at, and review what we say; if he has any objection he may write to us; we are not opposed to any objections –it is an open discussion. Our concern is to prove the testimony of the Holy Scriptures written over time, and left in the hands of the Israelites; though they rejected the Lord Christ, their scripture testifies to Him, a very powerful clear testimony.
The Lord Christ Himself rebuked the Jews for this point saying: “Do not think that I shall accuse you… there is one who accuses you -- Moses, in whom you trust… for he wrote about Me.” I’m not quoting this as verification now, but simply as an indication. The Lord Christ tells the Jews:
Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you -- Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (Jn 5:45-46)
Moses’ writings, which He is referring to, are the five books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The exception is the last chapter of Deuteronomy, which speaks of Moses’ death, which was completed by his disciple –Joshua the son of Nun- who further wrote the subsequent book of Joshua. Logically the chapter dealing with Moses’ death had to be completed by one of his disciples, and indeed Joshua is the one who was handed the leadership immediately after Moses, and thus he is the one who wrote this chapter.
Why do Jews not believe that God could have a Son despite the passages available in their Scriptures? Is there any mention to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?
There are very clear passages, and there are passages from which this point could be inferred. Being cautious for time’s sake, I will use the clear passages, and perhaps during the discussion other passages might arise. In the book of Proverbs, one of the books written in the Hebrew language, a poetic book, written not only in Hebrew, but Hebrew poetry, it says:
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know? (Pro 30:4)
All these metaphors of God and His ability as the almighty (the Pantocrator) of all creation are repeated often in the Holy Bible, not only here. The important thing here is that he follows the questions referring go God’s might and power with: “What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?”
The Jews knew God’s personal name as Yahweh. Yahweh is the name God revealed to Moses on the mountain when Moses asked Him, “What is Your Name?” Asking about His name reminds us of the Lord Christ on the night of His Passion during His prayer to the Father; concerning the disciples He said: “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17:26). I have declared to them Your name, all Jews know that God’s name is Yahweh! But, when our Lord Christ began His prayer, what did He call Him? He said,“Father, the hour has come… O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You” (Jn 17:1,25). Therefore, the intended name here is Father; and His Son’s name was declared at the annunciation of the birth of the Lord Christ, “And you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). The word Jesus is Hebrew (yahoo shoa) meaning Yahweh is Savior. So, regarding the question mentioned in the book of Proverbs not everyone could precisely pinpoint these names at that time the book of Proverbs was written, but now we can answer this question (What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?). Yet, I would now like to ask any Jewish person the same question and am awaiting a response. I don’t think it could be any clearer; they should not ignore such an obvious passage!
Another example: “The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You’” (Ps 2:7), this indicates that God bore a Son. Yet, here He did not say I have begotten You, in the past tense, but says today; and one day with God is, as one French poet puts it, “The existence of Yahweh is not measured by months and days, for His day is an eternal day as His existence perpetual”. So, Today I have begotten You means that this birth is ongoing, before time, before all ages, and beyond the limits of time, that is why he says today. Also, in the same psalm, verse twelve he says, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” The Holy Bible in the Old Testament says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man” (Jer 17:5). So if it is written “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry… Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” meaning that God calls us to trust in Him, then this can’t be an ordinary created being; but the Son.
Regarding the Holy Spirit, one of the poetic Hebrew psalms says:
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. (Ps 139: 6-10)
Therefore he is speaking of the Spirit of God filling all of existence. He not only ties it to His Spirit, but further says, Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? So, God’s omnipresence is continually immanent with the presence of the Holy Spirit; where the Father is, there the Holy Spirit is found.
Another example of reference to the Holy Spirit is in the Old Testament, in the book of Job chapter 33 in the speech of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite (whose speech pleased God). In verse 4 he said: “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life”. So, the Spirit of God is Omnipresent, and He is the Creator.
From the beginning, in the Book of Genesis, the first chapter and first verses it says:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)
Why is He hovering over the face of the waters? Because God will create; this is at one of the stages of creation: “Then God said, "Let there be light”; and there was light” (Gen 1:3).
God said means ‘by His Word’ He created; it does not say God ‘did’ or ‘willed’ for something to be and it was. It always says: God said let there be… because God always creates by the Word. Even in the case of humans, what did He say: “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”” (Gen 1:26). Every time He comes to create it is written, “And God said”. Who is God saying to? It’s not that He is speaking to anyone, it’s that He utters His Word, and His Word creates, as it says, “In the beginning was the Word… All things were made through Him” (Jn 1: 1,3). By His Word God created the heavens and the earth. So, here God said means that God created by His Word; but the Holy Spirit was not absent from the scene, as, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters… The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep; it had no life or light or anything. He first created out of nothing, and then He put life into the material He created out of this nothing. Here he is speaking of creating life out of non-living materials; this is beyond the ability of any created being. These are just some examples, and there are many other examples in the Old Testament Scriptures which point to the Holy Spirit as well as the Son.
As He said, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”, in another translation He says: From the womb, before the morning star I have begotten You.
Another case, “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand” (Ps 110:1), and the Lord Christ Himself pointed to this psalm in His debate with the Jews. He said to them, if He is the son of David, then how does David call Him Lord saying, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand”, and they could not answer (see Luke 20: 41-44); they still could not answer even to this day, therefore we repeat the question: How did David, by the Holy Spirit, addressing all, say, “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand”? How is this expression interpreted!
If the Jews have these verses, why do they not believe? The Lord, in the book of Isaiah, said: “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it” (Is 5:4); what more can I do for My people? Yet we still have a responsibility towards them to try from generation to generation to highlight the events that verify the genuineness of the coming of the Lord Christ. Christ told His disciples, “You shall be witnesses to Me” (Act 1:8), and it is the church’s responsibility is to proclaim the teachings of the Holy Bible and explain it to the people. We find that the Lord chose His Holiness Pope Shenouda III (may the Lord preserve his life) as Bishop of Education in our generation. He personally taught in the Theological College, and his teachings spread to the general public, producing an enormous meeting open to all. And as patriarch he is careful to hold his weekly meeting, with thousands of people in attendance, whose questions he answers. Furthermore, he has published tens of books (currently over one hundred books), and also recorded thousands of tapes (both video and cassette);
UNDENIABLE APPEARANCES OF THE SON OF GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
This is a very important and very big topic, perhaps one meeting will not suffice, but we will try as much as possible to touch upon this topic, and maybe we will continue it hereafter, God willing. The Lord Christ, the only-begotten Son, God the Word, did not appear only when He incarnated from Virgin Mary; as we address the Heavenly Father in the Divine Liturgy:
In the Last days You manifested Yourself to us, who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, through Your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
There is a difference between Old and New Testament conditions, but generally, before we dive into the differences we want to speak of very clear appearances of God in the Old Testament.
We start with the question: “Can God really appear or is He unable to appear? Is He prohibited from appearing or can He appear (setting Incarnation aside. Incarnation is an event that occurred for the salvation of humanity in the New Testament)?” We want to see how God wished to reveal, over thousands of years beforehand, what He was preparing to do in planning this issue.
v Example Number 1
Look at the book of Judges: “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Jud 6:1). The Lord started rebuking them because they worshiped idols and abandoned worshipping the true God. So, they began crying to God from their misery at that time. Starting with verse eleven, pay attention to this:
Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Jud 6:11-12)
At first glance a reader would say: ‘This is an angel who appeared to Gideon’, but when one continues reading he will find very amazing things:
Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Jud 6:13-14)
Suddenly we realize that, after it said the angel of the Lord, it now says the Lord turned to him. Just as Peter and John were in the boat, after the Lord Christ’s Resurrection, and they found someone on the shore asking if they caught anything, and they started to tell Him, ‘we have been fishing for a while and caught nothing’, etc., and then John turns to tell Peter, “It is the Lord” (Jn 21:7). If the Lord turned to him, then it is not the case of an angel; furthermore He told him, have I not sent you.
So he said to Him, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel [from the Midianites]? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” Then he said to Him, "If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. (Jud 6:15-17)
Here, as if Gideon said, ‘Now we are talking serious! I need a sign as to who You are! A sign that You are the one speaking with me!’ Here it says the LORD turned to him, not only that He spoke, because one might claim that it was an angel sitting before him while the voice heard is the Lord’s. At first the Angel’s face was not directed toward him, but when Gideon asked O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us, then He looked at him. Notice that there is sound and movement together, and these are very important in debating this incident. So in summary, before I continue, God is the one who appeared to Gideon, and not simply an angel. Why? Soon we will return to this word ‘angel’ in the Hebrew language and see its meaning.
"Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.” And He said, "I will wait until you come back. So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. [Gideon cooked a whole goat, brought flour, and made bread; this took time.] The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot [He did not bring the meat and keep back the broth for himself; when one offers something to God he must offer it wholly, he can not hold back something on the way.]; and he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them. (Jud 6:18-19).
Notice the wording here: the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree; the One to whom he said I will set it before You, and the One of whom it was written It is the Lord, is one and the same who was called the Angel of the LORD.
The Angel of God [After it said the Lord, it returns to say the Angel of God] said to him], "Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. [There is a reason why he poured out the broth.] Then the Angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. (Jud 6:20-21)
This is in spite of the broth, which was drenching everything; fabricated fire cannot consume. If we tried to burn meat until it turned into ashes, it would take many hours.
And the Angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the LORD [Now he started to understand]. So Gideon said, "Alas, O Lord GOD! For I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to face.” [Keep in mind that he means angel with a specific significance; we will yet explain what Gideon means.] Then the LORD said to him, "Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar there to the LORD, and called it The-LORD-Is-Peace [Yahweh-Shalom: Yahweh = the name of God, the Being, in Hebrew; Shalom = peace; because He said to him, Peace be with you; do not fear, meaning ‘the peace of Yahweh’]. To this day [in which the book was written, not today] it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites” (Jud 6: 21-24).
So, what did we come out with from this story: that God appeared in the form of an angel. It was not just an angel, Gideon did not even know Him as an angel, He appeared to him in the form of an ordinary man. This is why he asked to give him a sign that it is You who talk with me. It says that the Angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the LORD; he had thought that it was an ordinary man.
Researching The Word Angel
This leads us to investigate the word angel. The word angel in Hebrew is $alm (Mel-akh), which, according to the Hebrew dictionaries means: agent, representative, messenger, commissionaire, ambassador, envoy. It does not mean an angel with wings flying in the air. So angel means messenger; even John the Baptist was given the title angel; it said, “Behold I send My messenger [‘angel’ according to the Douay Rheims American Edition, and the Arabic Translation], and he shall prepare the way before Me” (Mal 3:1), “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD’” (Mt 3:3): this is John the Baptist; he was not an angel in the sense of Michael and Gabriel and the other angels that we know.
In the book of Revelation He addresses the bishop saying, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write” (Rev 2:1), because the bishop is the successor to the apostles; he has a message. Angels were titled angels, and the appearances of the Son in the Old Testament were titled ‘the angel of Yahweh’, the messenger of Yahweh, or the angel of God (Malakh Elohim); sometimes it says ‘the angel of the Lord’ (Yahweh in Hebrew), and sometimes ‘the angel of God’ (Elohim in Hebrew). Elohim in Hebrew is Aloho in Western Syrian, and Alaha in Easter Syrian, from which was derived Alah (God) in the Arabic language. Elohim means God, singular or plural. It occurred often in the Old Testament singularly of God, and singular or plural of idolatrous gods, about thirty-three times. The word Elohim means God or the gods, but the word Yahweh means the Being, the existing, and it is the name God chose for Himself when He spoke with Moses. Now we have to open our understanding, when Gideon said that he knew that it was the Angel of God, it does not mean that the one who appeared to him was an angel meaning one of the servants, but the envoy, representative, commissionaire, ambassador, messenger, or the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), as St. Paul said of the Lord Christ. So, the word angel, for the Hebrew person has a broader understanding than the word we are accustomed to using.
v Example Number 2
Another example of the appearances of the only-begotten Son in the Old Testament, and here I will read to you a segment in Hebrew (so the Jews can share us in this point) from the book of Judges chapter thirteen. There was a man called Manoah (the father of Samson), and he and his wife had no children, his wife was barren, “And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son” (Jud 13: 3). After He appeared to her and told her what to do, she ran to her husband and told him:
A Man of God came to me, and His countenance was like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome [Here she specified two things: that He is a man, and his appearance is the appearance of the Angel of God; she is confused, not knowing if this is a man or an Angel]; but I did not ask Him where He was from, and He did not tell me His name… Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, "O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came” (Jud 13:6, 8-9).
Keep in mind that the ‘Angel of the Lord’ is ‘Malakh Yahweh’ and the ‘Angel of God’ is ‘Malakh Elohim’. Why did the Arabic translator not write Yahweh? The word Lord in Hebrew is supposed to be ‘Adonai’, and in English Lord (Master), but Yahweh is stronger. He did not write Yahweh because the Arabic reader does not understand the meaning of the word Yahweh, so to bring the meaning closer he wrote the Lord, especially since the Jews fear pronouncing the name of Yahweh, the name of Majesty, so they write it Yahweh, and when they come to read they say Adonai, meaning the Master.
Returning to our story, the Angel came to them again,
“Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, "Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You.” And the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, "Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the LORD.” For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the LORD. Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, "What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass [my wife bears a son] we may honor You?” And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Jud 13:15-18)
Here we make a link to the book of Isaiah, where the prophet says of the Lord Christ:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6)
If it is angel Michael or Gabriel, he would reveal his name; no one would say Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful, except a personality around whose identity are many question marks, like Proverbs where it says: “What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, If you know?” (Pro 30: 4). The name here always has a question mark (?).
“So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on -- it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar -- the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD. [Again, not in the meaning we are accustomed to using] And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” (Jud 13: 19-22)
He understood that the Angel of the Lord is God.
Here we will run into a big problem: the word Mal’akh means messenger or ambassador; could the Father send the Father, or could the Son send the Father, or could the Father to be sent by any other being? Then, this messenger of Yahweh, of which he says, we have seen God, is clearly God the Word who appeared to Gideon, appeared to Manoah, and appeared to many, as we will see.
The Hebrew segment I promised you starts from the part where it says: “Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the LORD [Malakh Yahweh (or Yeheva in the modern pronunciation)]. And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God [Elohim]!”” This is from a Hebrew-German interlinear with phonetic pronunciation below the Hebrew text, under which is the meaning in German. This volume starts the book of Joshua and ends at Kings. Chapter thirteen of Judges verses twenty-one and twenty-two:
´äz yäda` mänôªH
Kî|-mal´ak yhwh hû´
wayyöº´mer mänôªH ´el-´išTô môt nämût
Kî ´élöhîm rä´îºnû
hwnm cdy za
aWh hwhy $alm-yK
tWmn twm wtva-la, xwnm rmayw
Wnyar ~yhla yK
We read the Hebrew; perhaps they might reconsider their stand against the Lord Christ.
v Example Number 3
There are many appearances in the Old Testament, but now we will go to the peak of the appearances. Although this appearance seems to differ externally from the other two appearances we already mentioned, there are quotes within this appearance that could not accept more than one interpretation no matter how hard the interpreter tries; this is the significance of this appearance: the appearance of God to Moses the prophet to send him to the people of Israel. Notice that this appearance included a symbolic indication to the Incarnation, but it has some exiting expressions.
Exodus chapter three says:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. (Ex 3:1-2)
There is something strange, it gives no details: was the Angel of the Lord in the same image that appeared to Manoah and Gideon as the Man of God, and he called Him Angel because He is sent? Is He appearing inside the fire or is the fire only in the bush? Honestly, this is a mystery yet to be unsealed, but the scripture suffices us; we will not add anything to it of our own.
So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God [Elohim] called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!” (Ex 3:2-4)
After it said the Angel of the Lord, here it says God called to him. Here some might say that one appeared to him, and another One was speaking to him but the wording will prove otherwise, it will prove that the voice is that of the One appearing.
And he said, "Here I am.” Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father -- the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. (Ex 3:4-6)
He specified, lest someone objects that the word God is a common word; for Jews the word God does not specifically indicate the God of Abraham; it came as Elohim, and as we have said, Elohim can apply to the god(s) of any of the nations. Here He did not only say God, He said, I am the God of your father -- the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob specifically, not just any god. Also, if the children of Israel consider themselves a branch from Abraham, the Jacobic branch, then He is saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Then it is written, “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God”. So, it is auditory and visual, not only a sound but also an appearance.
And the LORD [(Yahweh) At that time He did not introduce His speech, He spoke directly. The Lord means Yahweh, but God had not yet uttered that word to Moses.] said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. (Ex 3:7)
At that time Egypt was an idolatrous Pharonic country, so the people who worshipped God at that time were the people of Israel –we do not deny this fact, but we wish they would accept what God revealed to them in the Holy Bible, and if they accept it there will be no problem, because the problems come from their denial and rejection of the Lord Christ.
So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. (Ex 3:8)
God promised to give them this land, on the condition that they would worship Him in it, and this promise had restrictions, as His Holiness Pope Shenouda III said during his lecture on Israel from the Christian Viewpoint, which he delivered as a bishop during a press conference during the days of President Gamal Abdel Naser in the journalist corporation, and was published by the Advertisements Administration. (The Iranians requested from us a copy of this lecture in order to translate it into the Persian language). His Holiness said that God’s promise is restricted. What restrictions? Fulfilling God’s commandments. So, after they crucified the Lord Christ, how are they fulfilling the restriction? He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (Jn 1:11). Therefore, the Old Testament should not be wronged by some thinkers who attack it, claiming that it supports the assault against the Arabs. No, everything was with restrictions, the restrictions are present, and His Holiness explained them thoroughly! Back to Moses,
Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” [After He told him I am God, and you will worship God on this Mountain, Mount Sinai, the Mount of God, Horeb]…Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, 'What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.” [Aheh Asher Aheh in Hebrew meaning I AM who I AM (like when someone says, ‘this is just that’), The Being necessarily and not the Being brought about by another –the necessary Being.] And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex 3:9-10, 13-14)
In Hebrew, Aheh is the verb ‘to be’, or ‘I am’ in the singular nominative case, and Yahweh is ‘He is’. It is the derivative of the verb ha-ve or ha-ya from which comes Yahweh or Yehevah, meaning The Being.
Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’” (Ex 3:15)
Jews refuse to pronounce the word Yahweh, they say Adonai, but we say it, we say YahSoe (Jesus), which is Yahweh Savior, the name has to be kept in memorial. So, why do they not mention it? If they say the Lord Jesus Christ, then they will have mentioned the name.
Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying…” (Ex 3:16)
This is very important! What did it say in the third verse of this chapter? The Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and in verse sixteen it says The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, this is undeniable confirmation that the one who appeared is the Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. So, how can it say that the angel of the Lord appeared to him? Here angel means the messenger who reveals God, a total revelation, i.e., confirming what the Lord Christ said: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father… [To Philip He said] Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” (Jn 14:9-10). I want one of the teachers of Israel, without becoming upset, to tell us how the angel of the Lord is God?
Why do Jews not confess that the Son of God, the Logos, appeared, through the signs you pointed to in the Old Testament scriptures?
St. Paul tried to explain this point, so he said that the Jews have a veil over their eyes, borrowing from the incident of Moses. In the book of Exodus chapter thirty-four, after Moses saw God and came down from the mountain, it is written:
So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him… And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. [A man never puts a veil on his face!] But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.” (Ex 34: 30-35)
As long as he was with them, Moses would put the veil, so St. Paul borrowed this image and said that the children of Israel to this day continue to have the veil over their faces, blinding them not to see the glory God revealed in the Holy Scriptures, concerning the Lord Christ, Who is the Image and Glory of God. We are trying now to yank that veil a little… but not by force; anyone who wants to debate has to use an acceptable method, you have to convince the person you are speaking to, not just attack his doctrine.
WHAT MORE COULD GOD HAVE DONE TO PREPARE FOR THE INCARNATION
As I have already mentioned, the Lord said in the book of Isaiah, “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it” (Is 5:4). But there are many things that God did. Two examples are the story of the flood and the Ark –symbolic of baptism, and the sacrifice of Abraham. When God told Abraham to kill his son but then redeemed him with a ram, this was symbolic of the Redemption and the sacrifice of the Cross. Abraham truly saw Christ at the time when he was about to sacrifice his son and he called the name of the place Yahweh –yer’ah ‘The Lord has seen’, so, he must have seen the Lord in this place, and Christ Himself later said: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (Jn 8:56).
This is on the one hand; on the other hand, there are many prophecies. I met a Jewish lawyer at Haifa who was defending our case of the Sultan Monastery that chiefly belongs the Coptic Church. I was on official business in Jerusalem. After completing my official duties, we took a trip to our monastery and the Coptic structures in Haifa. This lawyer, who was at a meeting with the Coptic Church lawyer, is a Jew from Russia who knows Arabic, Hebrew, English, and Russian. After we finished the meeting I asked him:
H.E.M.Bishoy: “How do you receive forgiveness now that you have no altar or sacrifices?”
Lawyer: “We beg forgiveness.”
HEMB: “But does the Mosaic Law say this?”
Lawyer: “No, our leaders have changed the religion.”
HEMB: “So then, the true sacrifice is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. This is how you will be forgiven, since you have not been absolved for two thousand years”.
I was surprised by his sudden attack against myself and Metropolitan Abraham.
Lawyer: “God does not accept human sacrifices!” He shouted and became red…
They tell them that Christians accuse God of accepting a human sacrifice -the sacrifice of the Lord Christ. HEMB: “Do you know psalm twenty-two”.
Lawyer: “I memorize it in Hebrew and I can translate it to you instantly.”
HEMB: “Let us read it in Arabic.”
Metropolitan Abraham brought the book, and he began to read.
Lawyer: “A psalm of David.”
HEMB: “Who wrote this?”
Lawyer: “David”, he continued, “They pierced My hands and My feet… They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
HEMB: “This is enough. Did anyone pierce the hands and feet of David the prophet?”
Lawyer: “No, he died on his bed a dignified honored king, and appointed his son Solomon king, and he was even anointed king during his father’s lifetime, during his last days.”
HEMB: “Then who is he speaking of? It is obvious from the choice of words from the beginning of the psalm to the end that he is speaking of a very blessed personality who was accepted by God.”
He sat silent for a while, and then answered.
Lawyer: “This is a very precise description of Christ’s crucifixion”!
Everything pertaining to Christ: His birth; His ministry; His crucifixion; His death; His resurrection from the dead; and His ascension to heaven are all available in the Jewish Scriptures. God prepared this over thousands of years using symbols like the flood and the sacrifice of our father Abraham. He also set the texts of the Holy Scripture. I told Metropolitan Abraham that this lawyer also needs chapter fifty-three of the book of Isaiah, where it says:
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… He was led as a lamb to the slaughter… When You make His soul an offering for sin… And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… And they made His grave with the wicked -- But with the rich at His death.
With the wicked means with the two thieves –they had opened the criminal’s grave to put Him with them, but Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus requested the body from Pilate the Roman governor who granted it, and Christ was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. So, His grave was prepared with the wicked, but He was buried with the rich. It says, at His death, so then, He did die!
It also says, His soul an offering for sin, also, the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and again, By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore God did accept a human sacrifice, but not just anyone can go kill another claiming it a human sacrifice. God accepted a human sacrifice from several angles: one, He personally accepted to be offered as a sacrifice saying, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again… I lay down My life for the sheep” (Jn 10:18, 15); and two, He raised Him from the dead, defeating the pains of death, in glory and honor which far surpasses what He received from sorrows and grief. Therefore it says, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth”, He was not oppressed by God, but by humanity; but regarding God it says, “God raised up, having loosed the pains of death” (Act 2:24), therefore, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Lk 24:26) He entered into His glory through the cross, and then He entered into the resurrection and the ascension, and was lifted up to the right hand of God in heaven,
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9)
So, to review: one, He accepted to be offered as a sacrifice, and two, this sacrifice was not a final end to His life, but was the entry into the glory of resurrection and ascension; so, here God returned to Him all that He had sacrificed. As long as He raised Him from the dead, then all the conspiracies of the Jews (who insisted on His crucifixion) ended as such. Of course, any Jewish person should believe in the Christ. One Jew might argue that he personally did not participate in the crucifixion of Christ. Our respond is that if a Jew wants to be justified of the blood of Christ has to: admit that His Crucifixion was not right; confess that He is the Holy Just One sent from God for the salvation of the world; and believe in His mission, in order to avoid condemnation at the judgment on the Last Day. Regarding hatred, we do not call for hatred toward anyone in the world, no matter how much he might differ from us in faith or in thought. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:43).
God did much; we would not have time today to cover all the angles of the topic, I just gave quick examples, but perhaps we will one day have an opportunity to speak of the topic of ‘the fullness of time’. It says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law… that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5) What is the fullness of the time? It is God’s way of preparing all humanity to accept the idea of incarnation and redemption, all humanity, not only the Jews.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN APPEARANCE AND THE INCARNATION
Any incarnation is an appearance (although there is only one incarnation for the Son), but not every appearance is an incarnation. All the appearances of God in the Old Testament are appearances of the only-begotten Son –because, to the Son is revelation while to the Holy Spirit is inspiration. The Holy Spirit inspires us, He works without us seeing Him, but the Son appears, and did appear in His Incarnation. Therefore, it is a set fact, all the appearances of God in the Old Testament were appearances of the only-begotten Son, God the Word, or the Word of God. We say in the Divine Liturgy:
In the Last days You manifested Yourself to us, who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, through Your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
St. Paul also says: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” (1 Tim 3:16) Also, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Therefore, the Incarnation is also an appearance. But there is a difference between the Angel of the Lord appearing to Gideon and then disappearing from before him, and the Lord Christ appearing after the Resurrection and telling the disciples, “Touch Me and see, see my hands and the nails and my side, I am the one who was crucified and rose” (Cf. Lk 24:39), this was a true existence on earth before His ascension into heaven. It was not simply the issue of a manifestation; a spirit does not appear except if it takes on a certain form in which to manifest. If an angel appears here right now, we might not see him, but he can suddenly appear, either in a luminous body or in the form of man, then suddenly he disappears, thus we realize that this is a spirit and not a body. However, the Incarnation of the only-begotten son is different. The Lord Christ, being God the Word, took a complete human nature from Virgin Mary; a perfect human body and a perfect rational human soul, with His same Person He took the human nature: the Person of the only-begotten Son born of the Father before all ages according to His Divinity, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not created, a spiritual birth and not bodily. In His same Person, He took a perfect human nature from Virgin Mary and made it His very own, and became, as St. John described in His Gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:1,14)
He incarnated, means that God appeared in the flesh, yet this does not mean that God changed. If God appeared, that does not mean that He has changed, and if He incarnated, that does not mean that His Divine nature changed, because God is almighty (able to do all things), He cannot sin, and He cannot change; as for appearing, this is within His ability, and appearing in the incarnation, this also is a divine power or might. If God is almighty, then He is able to appear, and He is able to appear bodily for a very lofty purpose –the salvation of humanity, to pay for our sins on the cross.
The Lord appeared in the Bush in the form of fire to Moses the Prophet. If the Jews believe in the Mosaic Law why do they not believe in what Moses saw in the Bush?
As the Lord appeared to Moses in the form of fire, He also appeared to others of the children of Israel. In the book of Exodus chapter twenty-four the following is written:
Now He said to Moses, "Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.” [This is in the wilderness of Sinai, at Mount Horeb.]… Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Ex 24:1, 9-11)
They saw the image of Christ: they saw His hand, they saw His feet, they saw under His feet, and that He did not extend His hand to them. This reminds us of the vision which Isaiah saw:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz… In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” [This is symbolic of partaking of the Lord’s Body and Blood during the Liturgy, to purge one from sin.] Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, "Here am I! Send me.” And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” (Is 1:1; 6:1-10)
This might bear part of the answer to the previous question. The issue is that there is a kind of blindness, deafness, and hard heartedness. What is God to do! Not only did Moses tell them what he saw, but also seventy elders of Israel saw the God of Israel. Here some might quickly ask: ‘But God told Moses, “No man shall see Me, and live” (Ex 33:20)’. How can we reconcile between this verse and the verse that says: they saw the God of Israel? In understanding the Holy Bible we cannot take one or two verses and leave the rest of the book, you have to read the entire Holy Bible, and weigh the issues, and then you will be able to understand what is behind the words. There is no contradiction; there is only connectedness.
We find that Moses is the one to whom this declaration was made, but if we read the whole story we are able to understand what God means by this statement. Moses was alone on the mountain with God at another time:
Then Moses said to the LORD, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me…” [And the Lord answered him:] "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” So the LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” [When He told Moses My presence will go with you, and you have found grace in My sight, Moses was emboldened and dove in.] And he said, "Please, show me Your glory.” (Ex 33:12-18)
This request is what prompted the verse that confuses people. How did Manoah say We shall surely die, because we have seen God, yet they didn’t die? His wife answered that if God wanted to kill us He would not have told us that we would have a child. Also, Jacob said, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. There are also other verses, like the one we just mentioned: they saw the God of Israel. So, what brought about this restriction, that no man shall see Me, and live? The answer is that Moses told Him, show me Your glory, he did not want simply to see Him but wanted to see His glory. Moses, who went in to talk with God and came out and the skin of his face shone to the extent that people could not look at him, and he had his face covered with a veil, is seeking to see more. Moses wanted to see God in His full glory, (regardless whether it is the glory of the only-begotten Son –because the glory of the Father is the very glory of the Son), from here sparked the discussion we are about to enter.
He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Ex 33:19-20)
The Lord said, “You cannot see My face”, meanwhile Jacob says, “I have seen God face to face” when “A Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” and said to him, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel”, and Jacob begged Him, “Tell me Your name”, to which He answered, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” … “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel”, etc. (Gen 32:24-30) Peniel means the appearance of God, here ‘El’ is one of the names of God, same as in Bethel.
This point is deep –Moses did not simply say, show me your face, because He had told him, My (face) Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest, to which Moses responded, If Your (face) Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. The issue is not over His face (or His presence), the issue is over His glory, the key to this whole piece is the statement, “Please, show me Your glory”. God said, ‘Now you have entered the high-voltage zone’! (What is the high-voltage zone? The electricity coming from the high dam is at 500,000 volts. If you touch a 12-volt current (the basic voltage) you feel a slight tingling in your fingers, 110 can electrocute you, 220 can kill, 11,000 chars, 220,000 burns to a crisp, and this 500,000 can turn a person into vapor.) Thus, the stages of vision vary! If Moses enters into the fullness of glory, he will not live; he cannot handle the high voltage. (When an engineer enters the city local circuit-breaker site to work, which is at 11,000, the voltage for the city is at 11,000, inside the house it is at 220 volts, and 3-phase is at 380 volts, he wears distinctive safekeeping dielectric cloths, and nevertheless from time to time someone is shocked; if he is not very careful he is a goner.) The rest of the words confirm what we are saying:
And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock [symbolic of Christ]. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen. (Ex 33:21-23)
The point is that the face is not only linked to the countenance, because in other appearances we often find it say, “I have seen God face to face”, or, it was obvious that He was seen face to face. Here the point is that he is seeking God’s face alongside God’s Glory. This is what is impossible! So, He told him, I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by… and you shall see My back. All these details: My hand… My face… My back, reveal that this is one of the appearances of the Lord Christ before Incarnation; just as when they saw things under His feet and He did not extend His hand to them. These are all progressive, yet they are connected to what we have already said. Thus, we conclude that we, not only cannot see the Father, but even the Son, we are unable to see Him in His full Glory, in our current bodies.
What about the resurrection body with which we shall enter Eternity? John the apostle mentions one point: “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). St. Paul mentions a second point: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). So, it is expected that the saints who enter the Kingdom of Heaven will be able to see Christ is His Glory. I wonder, will the glory that they see be that same glory from which the angels cover their faces, due to the magnitude of His Glory? Or is it a certain degree relative to the resurrection body and its endurance? These are issues and heavenly mysteries that we are unable to give answers to right now, but what we know is that, at the time when He told Moses no man shall see Me, and live, Moses was in the body of death of which St. Paul said, “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.” (1 Cor 15:42-43); there is an earthly body which will decompose in the grave, and a heavenly body in which we will rise on the Last Day of resurrection. The glorified body will have a much higher capability of seeing the Divine Glory and the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. It says we will share with Him in the glory: “Partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col 1:12), but of this light the Lord Christ mentioned: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3) –his eyes are unable to bear this kind of illumination. Not only are his eyes unable to bear (He said no man shall see Me, and live, but what is the benefit of God raising someone and bringing him into the Kingdom, only to die there), he also has to take the glorified resurrection body, the one he will take as a result of rebirth from the water and Spirit, in order to see the glories of the Kingdom.
As for the question laid before us: if Moses saw the burning bush, how did the people of Israel not believe? Did only Moses see the burning bush? The God of Israel appeared to Moses, seventy elders, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and they saw Him. This is written in the Torah, so why do they refuse to believe that God appeared in the flesh!
The punishment they sought for the Lord Christ was because He said that He is the Son of God:
Pilate said to them, "You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God”. (Jn 19:6-7)
So, according to their opinion, by simply saying that He is the Son of God, He is deserving of death. And when the Jews wanted to stone Him they said: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (Jn 10:33). Because He appeared in a human form they considered it a kind of blasphemy for Him to say (about Himself) that He is the Son of God. Also, “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath [when He healed the infirm man by the pool of Bethesda], but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18). The idea that God has a Son, and this Son is a Man, is an idea completely rejected by the Jews.
You might say, ‘Now, you returned to the New Testament, and they do not believe in the New Testament, they only have the Old Testament.’ Back to the old testament, if we ask the Jews if they believe that God has a Son, and that this Son will be born of the Virgin, as it is written in the book of Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Is 7:14) what will their respond be? Also, do they believe that this Son, who will be born, incarnate of the virgin, is the Word of God and His only-begotten Son, born of Him spiritually before all ages? They considered this the worst possible accusation against a man -that He says He is the Son of God, or that He is God appearing in the flesh. Also, during the trial of the Lord Christ, they questioned Him regarding this issue:
Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed [God]?” Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power [Father], and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. (Mk 14: 61-64)
The official accusation (there were other motivations, like envy, etc.,) with which He was condemned to death was that He said ‘I am the Son of God’.
GOD APPEARS IN THE IMAGE OF MAN!
Now the question remains: why are they upset that God would appear in the image of a man, if the entire Old Testament is loaded with such examples? When God appeared to Abraham under the terebinth trees of Mamre, as was mentioned in the book of Genesis chapter eighteen? As Abraham was sitting in his tent by the terebinth trees he saw three men coming; and being known for his hospitality, he quickly arose and bowed to them to the ground:
Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; [The three men are not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? The three are Christ and two angels. All appearances of God in the Old Testament are appearances of the Son. If three appeared, then it is our Lord and two angels with Him, and this will become clear now. (Three certainly can be symbolic of the Holy Trinity, but only as a symbol)] and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” [They agreed to eat and he prepared a meal for them, then after they finished eating.] …and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. [here it says three men, while the beginning said the LORD appeared to him. Also it is an appearance with eating. God not only appeared to him in a human image, but He also ate. Certainly this food was not digested, but only to accomplish the purpose of the appearance.] Then they said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, "Here, in the tent.” And He said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, "After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? [It is amazing that the Lord is speaking, and He is saying, Is anything too hard for the LORD.] At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh!” [He is sitting with Abraham, Sarah can hear Him, and He hears Sarah, although they are not together, one is inside the tent, the other is outside. He was speaking to Abraham, when she said, I did not laugh, then He answered her and said, No, but you did laugh.] Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom [Sodom and Gomorrah had homosexuality and displeasing issues], and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. [They walked in the direction of Sodom, and in the next chapter it says, “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening”, so when they walked, you will notice something: they divide into two groups, Christ continued with Abraham, and the angels entered Sodom. The journey began in the direction of Sodom.] And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”… And the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, [The issue of homosexuality greatly upsets our Lord. At this time Lot had chosen the region of Sodom and Gomorah because it is good ground and lived in it, meanwhile Abraham had stayed in the wilderness.] I will go down now and see [Notice the word go down, because in the Creed of Faith we say, ‘He came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit’.] whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” Then the men [(the two angels) as the next chapter reveals, “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening”] turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked [here he uses logic]; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” [Here it is obvious that he is speaking to God.] So the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: [It is obvious that the speech is between Abraham and God. He began to tell Him, what if they were ten less, and God agreed; and he asked about even ten less, and God agreed; another ten, God agreed; another ten, God agreed. The last time Abraham asked about ten he said] …"Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place. [They had walked a distance, so the Lord left, and Abraham returned to his tent.]
But a problem will occur if the Lord destroys ten righteous persons with the rest of the city. In the objection that Abraham raised, “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked”, Abraham didn’t notice a very important point. He raised the exact objection, which God was originally solving; God had sent the two angels to Sodom, who brought out Lot, his wife, and two daughters. But Lot’s wife was undeserving and she looked back because her heart was attached to the world, so she turned into a pillar of salt. The whole thing came down to three persons. First of all, God did not find ten; secondly, the three in whom there was hope, He did bring out of the devastation. Abraham stopped at ten, but God did not stop, not even at one person. Abraham told the Lord, “I will speak but once more”, ten and he was too ashamed, but God put us to even further shame, saying that He cannot give up even one soul. The heavens rejoice over one soul saved, because God does not wish the death of a sinner but that he turns from his way and his soul lives (Cf. Lk 15:7, Ez 33:11), or desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4).
The most important appearance of God to Abraham was when Abraham went to offer his son as a sacrifice. The Lord Christ referred to this in a very popular verse:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:56-58).
This word I AM in Hebrew is ‘Aheh’, which He said to Moses on the mount, from which the word Yahweh is derived; in Greek it is ‘ego emi’. Notice He did not say ‘Abraham saw Me’, or ‘Longed to see Me’, unless you tell me that Abraham saw Him under the terebinth trees of Mamre, He said,“ to see My day”. There is a difference between ‘to see Me’, and,“ to see My day”. The psalm says, “This is the day the LORD has made” (Ps 118:24); this is the day of salvation of which the Bible also says, “The coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Mal 4:5), therefore there is such a thing as the day of the LORD. The day of the LORD is the day of salvation, and the day of His second coming for judgment –this is the great and dreadful day of the LORD. This is mentioned in the book of Joel: “Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joe 2:31). Keep in mind that He said, “rejoiced to see My day”. Yet this does not mean that Abraham did not see Him. When they argued with Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” He answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM”; He did not deny that Abraham saw Him.
Everyone knows the story of when Abraham took his son to slay him, it is mentioned in the book of Genesis chapter 22; God gave the command in order to test Abraham. The sensitive point is: when Abraham built the altar, placed the wood on the altar, having the torch and knife ready, he bound his son and placed him on the wood, (he will first slay him, then he will light the fire): “And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!”” (Gen 22:10-11) It can’t get past me that the Lord Christ confirmed once and again that He is sent from the Father; the word messenger applies to the Lord Christ, and this is very acceptable in all its angels. For example, He says: “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn 5:23), He continues, “As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (Jn 5:30). The phrase ‘the Father sent Me’ is mentioned tens of times in the Gospel according to St. John, for example, so to us it is not strange for Him to be called the Angel of God, or the Angel of the Lord –signifying that He is sent. It says the Angel of the LORD (Malak Yahweh) called to him from heaven, there is nothing here to prove that He is God, or the Son of God, but wait, it is yet to come:
So he said, "Here I am.” And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen 22:11-12).
Is it correct for Abraham to offer His son (in obedience to a command from God) as a sacrifice to an angel? This would be idolatrous worship! Then the angel would be a partner to God! Because He said, “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me”, then the one speaking must be God.
Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide [Yahweh Yer’ah –the Lord has seen]; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided [Yehwa Yer’ah –the Lord was seen].” (Gen 22:11-14)
In Hebrew this phrase, ‘Yahweh Yer`ah, can mean ‘the Lord sees’. Remember the Jews asked the Lord, “Have You seen Abraham?” (Jn 8:57) So the vision was interchangeable. Of course God sees everything in existence, but Abraham felt that the One he was speaking to also saw him. For example, you can see me, but I am unaware that you can see me, but when you sit in front of me, talking to me and looking at me, then I will feel that you can see me. God saw Abraham’s love, and redeemed his son for a ram.
Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, [Here the Son is speaking of the Father] because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son -- "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed [Christ] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. (Gen 22:13-18)
Here Christ was telling Abraham that the Father has sworn that, In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
What are the two proofs here that the Angel of the LORD speaking to him was the only-begotten Son? The first proof is that He said, you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me (it is impossible for this to be an ordinary angel), and secondly, because Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Has Seen [Yahweh Yer`ah –the Lord was seen]. So, when did Abraham see the day of the Lord? The answer is at the time when he offered his son as a sacrifice, and the Lord offered redemption in its place. This is when he saw, he saw My day. As if the following conversation went through between Abraham and God. Abraham asked, ‘How can salvation be accomplished?’, God answered him, ‘Abraham, it is very costly for you to understand’, Abraham answered, ‘Name your price, I want nothing more than this, why else did I ask to have a son, was it not for the salvation of humanity, and Your glory?’ The Lord answered Abraham, ‘Can you handle it?’ Abraham answered, ‘I’m at Your disposal, whatever You want’, so the Lord ordered, ‘Sacrifice your son’, ‘Ok’. When Abraham’s receptive wave was moving parallel to the transmitting wave the vision occurred.
But, unless someone thinks Abraham is the only one who saw God, the same happened with Isaac: “And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD” (Gen 26:24-25); He did not only appear to Abraham, He also appeared to Isaac.
He also appeared to Jacob, when he fled from his brother Esau:
Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it… Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” …and [he] took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel (Gen 28:12, 16-19)
And he vowed that he would return and worship God in this same place. This was an appearance because it says that he saw God standing on the ladder: “And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac”” (Gen 28:13). He saw the Lord standing on the ladder; now one who is standing at the top of a ladder, what is He intending to do? He intends to come down! So, what is this pointing to? It is to the concept of the Incarnation. Therefore, in the Saturday Praises of St. Mary (Theotokia), we tell her, “You were likened to the ladder which Jacob saw rising up to heaven” –the hymn Aritenthonti. The Lord is standing on the ladder and will descend, so this ladder is symbolic of St. Mary, and it is also symbolic of the church. This is why he consecrated this place with oil; it was the first church in history to be anointed.
Next is the critical appearance of the Lord to Jacob. (Although in the interim between these two events He had appeared to Laban the uncle of Jacob, and warned him not to touch or harm Jacob when Jacob fled from his uncle Laban, taking along his wives and children.) The appearance we have to stop at is: “A Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Gen 32:24); this is when Jacob was returning, and afraid to face his brother Esau. As he was praying and keeping vigil, a Man appeared to him and started to wrestle with him. Jacob was afraid of his brother Esau because he was returning after twenty years. When Jacob had taken the birthright from his brother, and Esau wanted to kill him, his father advised him to flee and marry his cousin from the land of Mesopotamia. He went, married, and was returning. He prayed (and his prayer is recorded), but then a Man appeared to him and invited him to wrestle. They wrestled all night.
A Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him [Jacob was struggling hard], He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, "What is your name?” He said, "Jacob.” And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob [the supplanter – because he held onto his brother Esau’s heal when they were born, as they were twins], but Israel [a prince with God]; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray.” [Jacob is asking the person he is wrestling.] And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God [Elohim] face to face, and my life is preserved.” Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. (Gen 32:24-31)
This is the district of the ford of Jabbok, which they crossed over to pass from the district of Iraq to the district of Syria and the southern lands towards Lebanon. He crossed from north downwards. Hebrews were called ‘Beni-Eber’ (sons of Eber) because one of Abraham’s forefathers was called Eber; simultaneously Eber means to cross-over.
What concerns us here is that it says, A Man wrestled with him, and he said, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. What did the Jews tell Jesus: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” (Jn 10:33)! What would they say about this incident of Jacob? In all this, is God not coordinating that He will incarnate, and appear in the form of a Man in the New Testament!
Notice he did not ultimately win, because in the end, when He saw that Jacob was prevailing, He pulled his hip out of its socket, he even could have completely destroyed Jacob. Certainly it has many meanings. Let us take the simple meaning first: if you see a father playing with his children, or perhaps training them, for example a father teaching his son how to wrestle, he doesn’t have to pin him every time, he could give him chances to win. We see this often between fathers and their children when there is affection between them. This is the simple explanation. In addition, unless we actually believe that Jacob is stronger than God, thereafter God showed him that He is stronger; on the one side He showed Jacob that he won, and on the other side He showed him that this victory does not mean that he is stronger than God. He wanted to encourage him because he was afraid of his brother Esau, He wanted to give him the impression that he could win, He told him, “You have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed”. “You were able, so what are you afraid of, you are valiant!” Then He reminded him, “But don’t think this is due to your muscle, if you don’t rely on My help you will lose yourself.” This is why He said, “I will take your hip out of its socket, so you know that My face will go before you. None will be able to withstand you to harm you, My strength is made perfect in weakness (Cf 1 Pt 3:13, 2 Cor 12:9), the important thing is for your heart to be strong internally.” The first victory was to strengthen his heart, and the blow was to the effect that he does not depend on his personal strength.
The deeper theological explanation is this: Jacob, although he is a person beloved by God, a patriarch, and a great saint, we cannot forget that his descendants, the people of Israel, are the ones who will crucify Christ. This has a prophetic and figurative spirit: He will hand Himself over to them, allowing them to fulfill in Him all they want (and so Israel will seem to have overcome Christ -God incarnate), afterwards He will strike them by His resurrection from the dead, taking their hip out of its socket.
APPEARANCES OF THE SON TO PEOPLE OTHER THAN LEADERS
In the Old Testament God dealt with all the peoples of the earth. The people of Israel were considered the people of God because they worshipped God amid pagan nations, yet God did not refuse any nation that revered Him and worked righteousness. Take the Ninevites for example, God had mercy on them, forgave them, and took away His anger from them by sending to them Jonah the prophet. Also the mariners, on deck with Jonah, believed in God and offered sacrifices to the God of Jonah, after they had been pagans. God worked with Melchizedek who was not of the lineage of Abraham. He was the priest of the Most High and the king of Jerusalem (known as Salem at that time), who offered the sacrifice of bread and wine, took the tithes from Abraham and blessed him, and as our teacher St. Paul said: “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Heb 7:7).
God worked with all the peoples of the earth, but the important issue is, who believed in Him as their sole true God. One can’t say I believe in one god: the sun the creator! This is not unity! Unity is knowing the God who created the sun and created everything in existence, and is willing to enter into a covenant with Abraham, and also will comfort all nations of the earth, as He told Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 22:18). God does not withhold Himself from any person, whether of the seed of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, or even someone who has a specific relationship with Abraham, like Melchizedek who met Abraham, or like Hagar whom Abraham married and was not of his seed; we cannot say that God is specialized only for the people of Israel. If, at one point they had a specific role in preserving the Holy Scriptures, keeping religious rituals and refusing idolatrous worship (Although they strayed in this issue also. At times they would worship idols, God would punish them, and they would repent, and so forth), until the Lord Christ came and He became the Desire of all ages and the Desire of the nations; this is the One of whom God told Abraham In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
Appearing to Hagar:
I want to speak of an appearance that perhaps very few people notice: the appearance of Christ to Hagar the mother of Ishmael. Rarely do people notice this; yet this incident is eye catching, because it gives the notion that Christ is for everyone, not only the Jews. He is for the seed of Isaac, and also for the seed of Ishmael; He is for everyone who believes.
When Hagar became pregnant her mistress was despised in her eyes, so Sarah dealt harshly with her and Hagar fled:
And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence. Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, "Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” The Angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” (Gen 16:6-10)
Who has to right to say "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude”, except God alone? Notice at the beginning it is written that it is the Angel of the LORD. As we said the Hebrew word for angel means messenger, representative, ambassador, envoy... This messenger told her I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude. God said the same expression to Abraham: “I Almighty God… will multiply you exceedingly” (Gen 17:1-2), moreover, when Abraham came to offer his sacrifice He said to him, “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD…blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven” (Gen 22:16-17). Who said this to Abraham: By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD? It is the Lord who said it, therefore, the Angel of the Lord who appeared to Hagar is the Son in one of His appearances in the Old Testament.
And the Angel of the LORD said to her: "Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction. [So, Christ is the one who named Ishmael; He linked it to the word heard, Ishmael means ‘the Lord heard’]…” Then she called the name of the LORD [not the name of the Angel her!] who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees [El-Ro`i –‘God whom I see’. People need to go back and see what Hager said, and imitate her.]; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered. (Gen 16:11-14)
This district of Kadesh is found in the southern third of the distance between the Mediterranean Sea and the beginning of the Gulf of Aqaba. That’s not all for Hagar, it gets even better; I just wish the Jews would answer these words.
When another argument broke out between Hagar and Sarah, and Abraham had to let Hagar go, he gave her a skin of water:
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy [Ishmael] to Hagar, and sent her away. Then she departed and wandered in the Wilderness of Beersheba. [This is present until today.] And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs. Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, "Let me not see the death of the boy.” [But God had promised her, and told her multiplying I will multiply your descendants! So how can this be?] So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad [Ishmael]. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, "What ails you, Hagar? [This is again Christ –so gentle.] Fear not, for God [Here He means God the Father] has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.” [This also shows that the one speaking is the Lord, because He says: I will make him a great nation.] Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. [From Sinai of course, because Hagar was also an Egyptian from Sinai.] (Gen 21:14-21)
In the first time He had told her, “He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Gen 16:12), which means he will not go far; therefore when Abraham died Ishmael came to his funeral. He was not far from the place where Abraham died.
Therefore, the Lord Christ appeared to Hagar at least two times. In the second appearance the Bible didn’t specify that she saw Him, but at least she heard His voice. Yet as we are accustomed, in the many appearances that we have passed over, there had been also vision. In the first time when He called her from heaven and spoke to her: Now the Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water… Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, "I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, she even responded by calling the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees [Whom I see]; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Here it is not only sound but also vision. At least there are two times in which He spoke to her, and the first time she saw Him. This proves that God is willing to deal with whoever is prepared to know Him. The important thing is for a person to open his heart to knowledge, as the Lord Christ told the Father in His prayer on the night of His passion: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn 17:3).
Appearing to Laban:
After God appeared to Hagar, He appeared to Jacob as we mentioned, then He also appeared to Laban, or spoke to him. It is written: “But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, "Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad”” (Gen 31:24), He also warned Laban because Laban wanted to harm Jacob but God prevented him. Laban says, “But the God of your father [the God of Abraham and Isaac] spoke to me last night, saying, 'Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad’” (Gen 31:29). Here God dealt, not only with Hagar (a person who believes in God, the God of Abraham, the true God), but even dealt with Laban, Jacob’s uncle, who worshipped idols –as he continues: “And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?” (Gen 31:30) –a few golden statues which Rachel hid as they were leaving. Here, his appearance to Laban was not because Laban believed in Him a true faith, but to ward off his evil from Jacob. Here He might not have appeared to him, but at least Laban says the God of your father spoke to me last night. However, it does say, God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night; had come means He did not simply speak, there is vision –he saw something, but in a dream and not while awake. Jacob told Laban: “Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed” (Gen 31:42).
Appearing to Jacob again:
This is one phase (we have already mentioned the struggle with Jacob all night), next, “Then God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother”, also, “Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him”, and again, “Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him… And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel” (Gen 35:1,9,13-15). This is a very beautiful thing: in the very place where He was standing on the ladder, it says God went up from him. In the exact spot in which Jacob saw the ladder and the vision with God standing on top of the ladder, God appeared to him below, and after He appeared to him it says God went up from him. So, one time He appeared to him standing on the ladder ready to come down, and one time He appeared to him and ascended. All of this is symbolic of the Incarnation and Ascension.
Appearing to Balaam:
Most amazing is God’s appearance to Balaam the son of Beor. All the previous appearances were to believers (except Laban whom God was warning against harming Jacob), and God had appeared to them not because He was upset with them but because He was blessing them, giving them a promise, comforting them, or assuring them that He had heard their prayers. But, His appearance to a prophet called Balaam the son of Beor, this issue is very strange, because He appeared to him, and was ready to kill him, three times. “The children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho” (Num 22:1), (in the Eastern coast of the plains of Moab, before entering the western coast). Moses the prophet was still alive at that time. The king of Moab, Balak the son of Zippor, feared the people of Israel, and hearing of the prophet Balaam he sent for him saying, “Please come at once, curse this people for me… Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them… For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed” (Num 22:6). He sent a deputy to Balaam telling him that the king wants him to cure this people and will reward him if he did. Balaam asked God, who commanded him not to go with them: “And God said to Balaam, "You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Num 22:12). Balaam answered that God did not agree, so they returned to the king who sent them a second time saying, “Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me’” (Num 22:16-17). Balaam told them ‘I cannot go against God’s word, wait this night and I will see what God tells me’:
And God came to Balaam at night [surely in a dream] and said to him, "If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you -- that you shall do.” [Notice, who came? God came to Balaam.] So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God’s anger was aroused (Num 22:20-21)..
Why was God angry, while He had told Balaam to go with the people if they come to him? God was angry with Balaam because he told them: stay here tonight, that I may know what more the LORD will say to me (v. 19). God had already told him you can never curse this people: You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people for they are blessed; now is this something to be questioned? Will God change His mind?! (What if God tells someone plainly that the journey he is going on will ruin him? Or tells a lady very clearly that the man who is proposing to marry her will lead her to destruction, so she should not marry him, then the man buys her a more expensive wedding band, so she says, ‘Wait until I go ask God’?) The same applies to Balaam, he was bargaining with God! So what did God do? God decided to teach him a lesson. He told Balaam to go with the deputy but not to curse the people, but say only the word which I speak to you.
Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. [How did the donkey see the Angel of the Lord? Normally a donkey could not see an angel, but this is considered a miracle; just as we cannot see an angel, but if he wants us to see him he will appear, he can also appear in a form that the donkey can see, just as it sees trees and walls.] So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left [He cornered him]. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” So the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” And he said, "No.” Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” [Certainly the donkey was better than him at this point.] And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, "I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” [This is the important phrase, God said it to him in the dream, and now the Angel of the Lord said it to him.] So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. (Num 22:22-35).
Now, every time Balak brought Balaam to the outskirts of the camp of the children of Israel Balaam would say, ‘I can’t say anything but the word God tells me’, so Balak asks him to curse, but Balaam would bless; then he asks Balak to prepare another seven altars and seven sacrifices, and so on… but every time he blesses them. What concerns us here is the following phrase: “Then the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, "Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak”” (Num 23:5). Now when Balaam answered this way, Balak asked why he had blessed his enemies, to which Balaam answered: “Must I not take heed to speak what the LORD has put in my mouth” (Num 23:12), he repeated this sentiment often.
Now, who is the One who told him this word? Let us review:
v Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, "Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak. (Num 22:35)
v The previous night God had told him: only the word which I speak to you -- that you shall do. (Num 22:20)
v Then the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth. (Num 23:5)
v And when the king rebuked him, Balaam answered: Must I not take heed to speak what the LORD has put in my mouth? (Num 22:12)
This means that the Angel of the Lord is the one who put the word in Balaam’s mouth. Balaam said: what the LORD has put in my mouth, He is the Angel of the Lord who met him on the road and was going to kill him three times; He Himself told him, only the word which I speak to you. Therefore it is very obvious that this is the Lord Christ who appeared to Balaam. Our teacher St. Peter pointed to this incident:
They [accursed children] have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet (2 Pt 2:15-16).
Not only was this incident mentioned in the book of Numbers, in the Torah of Moses, but also St. Peter mentioned it in his second epistle.
How Can a Donkey Speak?
Donkeys, and all animals do not have the ability to speak, because this was specified for humans, out of all the earthly beings; angels also praise and speak, and God speaks. Animals might use certain signals to express their needs or their condition, or to relay information, but not an organized language coming from deep thought. The speaking of the donkey of Balaan is considered a miracle; nothing is impossible with God. That does not mean that this donkey received the gift of speech and continued speaking thereafter, debating with people, and turned into a person, otherwise this would go against God’s wisdom –that He does not allow a human to turn into a monkey for example, or a monkey to turn into a human. This is against our understanding of the creation, and of God’s wisdom. This donkey did not turn into a human, and after this conversation it returned a normal donkey, not speaking, but living according to the natural donkey instinct. It was a miracle. Do you not make a plastic strip speak –the cassette or video tape! It not only speaks, but you make it bring up images, and sometimes it comes up in stereo sound, meanwhile it is a deaf object. If humans, with the advances in technology, are able to make a deaf speaker hanging on the wall bring forth 3-D sound, is it impossible for God to make the mouth of a donkey bring forth sound -expressing what God wants? This does not mean that the donkey understood what she was saying, but God allowed the sound to come out of her mouth without her knowing what she was saying. Proof of this is that St. Paul said (pardoning the similarity), in speaking of the gift of tongues,
For if I pray in a tongue [a language unknown to me], my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding (1 Cor 14:14-15)
This is why St. Paul advised a person who is praying in a tongue to ask God to give him understanding and interpretation of this tongue, in order to understand what he is saying. One cannot pray, not knowing what he is saying! The apostles received the gift of tongues, and it was also given to some believers, so, some had the gift of tongues without the gift of interpretation, while others had both gifts. The one who had the gift of tongues speaks but does not understand; the one who had the gift of interpretation interpreted the words in order for there to be guidelines to the heavenly messages; this was before the New Testament was written and available to be read in the church; so, when the church gathered, each person had a psalm, had a revelation, had a tongue, had an interpretation. Pardoning the similarity, if the human is able to miraculously speak a language, not knowing what he is saying, how much more if it is something inferior? In my opinion the donkey did not understand what she was saying, but God miraculously made the sound come out of her. As I told you, we can cause anything to make a sound; even kids’ toys sold in the market nowadays make different sounds and speak some words; these are all coming out of human manufacturing, how much more is God’s ability in this matter.
Appearing to Joshua:
There is a quick appearance: the appearance of Christ to Joshua the disciple of Moses the prophet.
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?” [Joshua was valiant, because he saw Him holding a sword and still went to talk to Him.] So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (Jos 5:13-14).
This expression comes here for the first time –this time it is not the Angel of the Lord, but Commander of the army of the LORD. This might startle slightly, because we said that angel, is a ‘messenger’, and this applies to the Lord Christ, but the commander of the army of the Lord might be Archangel Michael, Gabriel, or any of the archangels. But there is the high-commander of the heavenly hosts. Who is this high-commander? It has to be the Word of God; He is the high-commander. Likewise we have the minister of defense, but the higher authority for the armored forces (the army) is the president –the highest-ranking position in the nation. Let us look at the rest of the words.
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, [one might say that perhaps Joshua by bowing offered reverence and not worship, but how does the story continue?] and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Jos 5:14-15).
Now, what made this place holy? It has no altar to the Lord? Abraham had not prayed there? And there is no previous mention of it as one of the holy places? The only answer can be is that this is a divine appearance! It reminds us of incident of the burning bush where God similarly commanded Moses saying: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (Ex 3:5); this makes an instant connection between both incidents. What does it say next?
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.” (Jos 6:1-2).
He continued His conversation with him, and instead of saying the Commander of the LORD’s army said, this time the Bible wrote, the LORD said. Therefore, the two signs that cannot be doubted are: that Joshua worshipped, and that He told him, take your sandal off your foot –this expression could not be said unless he was in a divine presence.
Appearing to Ezekiel:
There are many appearances available in the Old Testament. Among the appearances, for instance: God’s appearance twice to Solomon; God’s appearance to Isaiah (which we already mentioned); and God’s appearances to Ezekiel several times. God’s appearances to Ezekiel alone would need a separate meeting, because almost the entire book of Ezekiel is full of appearances. The throne, the Cherubic chariot, the firmament above the throne, and above the throne like a Man, etc.. Ezekiel says this is the glory of God and the glory of the God of Israel; the expressions are very many in the book of Ezekiel. It begins with: “And above the firmament… on the likeness of the throne [the glory of God] was a likeness with the appearance of a man” (Ez 1:26); this expression is important.
Appearing to Daniel:
Also in the book of Daniel there is an appearance of Him on the clouds of heaven:
And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom… His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)
Here is a clear portrayal of the relationship of the incarnate Son (the Son of Man) who took the image of man, with the heavenly Father. The heavenly Father of course gave the Son glory and eternal dominion, being the judge of the world, the head of the church, and the representative of humanity before the heavenly Father, as the great High Priest. Christ pointed to this when He told the chief priests during His trial: “You will see the Son of Man… coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mk 14:62). Daniel said, “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven!” (Dan 7:13).
There is also an appearance to the prophet Zechariah in chapter six, in which Christ speaks of His Holy Spirit living in the north country, and the expressions point that this is one of the divine appearances. The appearances of Ezekiel and Daniel will need another special meeting.
With the Three Youth in the Furnace
Among the appearances of Christ in the book of Daniel is His appearance with the three youth in the fiery furnace. When Nebuchadnezzar threw the three youth in the furnace of fire, it is mentioned that a fourth appeared with them: “I see four men loose… the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Dan 3:25). Four men means that He looks like them, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God means that He has a distinctive glory. The three youth are ordinary humans, and the fourth is in the image of a human but radiant, this is why he said He is like the Son of God. His presence with them in the fire, not only kept the fire from burning them (although the furnace was heated seven times), but even their clothes were not burned.
We praise with the story of the Lord Christ with the three youth during the Midnight Psalmody, and during the night of Great Saturday (Apocalypses –the vigil after Great Friday) –the renowned hymn of Aripsalin. The church realized that this scene and this event were symbolic of the Lord Christ descending into Hades to bring out the saints –when they were cast into the fire He brought them out safely. Not only “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Ps 16:10), but You will not leave Your saints in Sheol, but will lift them up and glorify them after You have reconciled us with Your Father and opened paradise, to enter Your saints therein, then you ascended to the highest heavens to prepare a place for us, and will come again to take us, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
 From the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil
 It is forbidden for Copts to go to Jerusalem, but I once went for the enthronement of our new Metropolitan of Jerusalem, Metropolitan Abraham, and the second time was for the Theological Dialogue of the Orthodox Leaders, alongside the Orthodox world Patriarchs. I was also commissioned by His Holiness to meet with the Catholic Patriarch in Jerusalem.
 From the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil
 LXX translation: And Abraam called the name of that place, The Lord hath seen; that they might say to-day, In the mount the Lord was seen.
|| The Orthodox Faith (Dogma) || Family and Youth || Sermons || Bible Study || Devotional || Spirituals || Fasts & Feasts || Coptics || Religious Education || Monasticism || Seasons || Missiology || Ethics || Ecumenical Relations || Church Music || Pentecost || Miscellaneous || Saints || Church History || Pope Shenouda || Patrology || Canon Law || Lent || Pastoral Theology || Father Matta || Bibles || Iconography || Liturgics || Orthodox Biblical topics || Orthodox articles || St Chrysostom |||| Bible Study || Biblical topics || Bibles || Orthodox Bible Study || Coptic Bible Study || King James Version || New King James Version || Scripture Nuggets || Index of the Parables and Metaphors of Jesus || Index of the Miracles of Jesus || Index of Doctrines || Index of Charts || Index of Maps || Index of Topical Essays || Index of Word Studies || Colored Maps || Index of Biblical names Notes || Old Testament activities for Sunday School kids || New Testament activities for Sunday School kids || Bible Illustrations || Bible short notes
|| Prayer of the First Hour || Third Hour || Sixth Hour || Ninth Hour || Vespers (Eleventh Hour) || Compline (Twelfth Hour) || The First Watch of the midnight prayers || The Second Watch of the midnight prayers || The Third Watch of the midnight prayers || The Prayer of the Veil || Various Prayers from the Agbia || Synaxarium