The Manifestations of God
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
FOLLOWING ADAM'S BANISHMENT from Eden, God made Himself manifest through various forms of fire. Speaking to all generations, it was limited to Abraham and his descendants and the people of Israel, who represented the nations of the world. They were manifestations that consolidated the relationship between God and sinful mankind who was distant from God. This form reached its end in the form of "the Shakinah," God's dwelling in the "Holy of Holies."
From the Old
Testament's "Shakinah" for Sinful Man
To the New Testament's "Shakinah" for the New Man
Immediately upon his removal from God's presence and his banishment from Paradise, Adam lost both his inner cognition of God and his fellowship with Him. Thereafter, Adam and all his descendants began to live according to their sensory perceptions and to visualize Him only with their senses. This was the greatest loss to mankind, because progress in knowledge and life with God ceased. Adam went out into the world, depending only on his bodily senses. In daylight, groping about without God in order to learn about the matters related to his existence. His relationship with God was severed and his knowledge of Him dropped to a bare minimum.
God did not want to alienate man completely, so that he would not lose his knowledge of God. Therefore, on well-known and important occasions, He began to appear to man in visible form. He proclaimed His power in the form of fire of various shapes and functions. These demonstrated His presence and omnipotence so as to established a feeling of awe, fear, and veneration.
We mention here all the situations in which God's Glory appeared before man in one of the forms of fire. He first appeared to Abraham as God's flaming torch when the darkness of the ignorance of God had reached its peak. Then He appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Next, He appeared to the children of Israel as a pillar of light that led and guided them as a sheltering cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
Through patient observation, the reader will realize the extent of God's attempts throughout the ages at proclaiming His Being. He did this, through sensory experiences and external knowledge, in order to preserve man from dropping below a certain level of the knowledge of God.
God's Manifestations as Forms of Fire
God's appearance to Abraham at the time that the first covenant was established with Abraham, when the darkness was at its worst:
"As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him... When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day our Lord made a covenant with Abram" (Gen. 15:12,17-18.)
God's appearance to Moses at Horeb, the mountain of God, in preparation for the exodus from Egypt with the children of Israel:
"Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, 'I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.' When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, "Here am I." Then He said, 'Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which are standing is holy ground" (Ex. 3:1-5.)
Note the word "place," for it is the same word that is used to express the "Tabernacle," the "Tent of Meeting" or the church "Altar," i.e., the "place" of God. Mention of the exodus from the bondage of Egypt was the beginning of the creation of God's people to live in the land of Canaan.
God's appearance to the people of Israel during forty years, leading them day and night until the crossed the Sinai desert:
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in pillar of fire to give them light, that the might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people" (Ex. 13:21-22.)
"Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him" (Ex. 23:20-21.)
God's appearance to give the two testimonial tables, along with laws and commandments which God wrote to them as a beginning to teach the people:
"The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sina, and the cloud covered it six days; and on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sigh of the people of Israel" (Ex. 24:16,17.)
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