Christians are often accused of idolatry for saying that Jesus, a man, is God. If so, then the Christians are in good company. Abraham also referred to a man as God. Let’s examine the eighteenth chapter of Genesis where the encounter between Abraham and the man he addresses as God takes place.
Abraham sat in the doorway of his tent probably thinking that it was going to be just another ordinary day. Then he looked up and saw three men. The account recorded in Genesis eighteen, begins in verse one by telling us that it was God, YHWH (Yahweh), who appeared to Abraham. The word for God’s name, YHWH appears ten times in this chapter in the original language (verses 1,13,14,17,19 twice,20,22,26,33). In some Bibles, when this word is used it is substituted by the word LORD in capitals.
Abraham also addresses God as lord, Adoni, in verses 3,27,30,31,32. This is the first time the word Adoni appears in the scriptures.
We note that the other two men are called angels, but the man Abraham is addressing as YHWH is never referred to as an angel. The two angels were sent to Sodom in verse twenty-two, while the one that is called God remains talking with Abraham and answering his questions for the remainder of the chapter.
The word of God makes it very clear that God has no form (Deuteronomy 4:15) He is an invisible spirit. People are expressly forbidden to make any image that represents Him and worship that image as God (Exodus 20:4,5), to do so is idolatry. In Islam, to call a man God would be the highest form of blasphemy that anyone can commit. Yet in this instance in Genesis, Abraham is deferring to a man, calls Him God, and it is not idolatry or blasphemy. Why? Because the man in this event really is God. How can this be?
Whenever God is represented by an image in scripture, the image or representative is called a “theophany.”
God is an invisible Spirit to us in this dimension, but we are shown in Exodus 33: 18-23, that He permitted Moses to see His “back.” While God is invisible to us and has no form that is like anything in our realm, His glory can be seen only when God chooses to reveal Himself as He did with Moses.
Moses was told that He could not see God’s face. “No man can see My face and live” (Exodus 33:20). God’s face or presence, is so holy and brilliant, a man would be incinerated as if he had come in direct contact with the sun. Abraham is obviously having a conversation with God, YHWH, and can behold His face safely.
God is one Spirit and the scriptures also record that He has a soul, a person (Isaiah 42:1, Jeremiah 6:8, 32:41, Leviticus 26:11,Psalm 11:5) which is His being. His soul operates with His Spirit, which is His substance. We are shown this example in Psalm 104:30. - “You send forth Your Spirit and they are created.” We see from this scripture that God’s Person/Soul/Being commands and His Spirit responds, much like a brain giving instructions to pick something up with a hand.
So we can conclude that God is constructed as “two,” soul and spirit; two invisible components that operate as one. When these two are combined with a representative image, we have three, a tri-unity, or trinity, operating as one.
In this instance the man, or image, is also addressed as Adoni in verses 3,27,30,31 and 32. Is the distinction in the wording between the two names, YHWH and Adoni also a recognition of the distinction between God and the image He is obviously indwelling?
In Psalm 110:1, the prophet David records God addressing the pre-incarnate Messiah. – The LORD (YHWH) said unto my Lord (Adoni) “Sit on My right hand, and I will make your enemies your footstool.”
The early Jews recognized that the Messiah pre-existed. In a commentary on Genesis, Rabbi Moses (The Preacher, 11th century), wrote; - From the beginning God has made a covenant with the Messiah and told Him, “My righteous Messiah, those who are entrusted to you, their sins will bring you into a heavy yoke’…And He answered, ‘I gladly accept all these agonies in order that not one of Israel should be lost.’ Immediately, the Messiah accepted all agonies with love, as it is written: ‘He was oppressed and He was afflicted" (quote from Isaiah 53:7).
Can we safely conclude that the Messiah, the Adoni, the One who is higher than the angels, is the chosen representative of the Most High? Is this why the Messiah Jesus, a man, declares without hesitation, “Before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:58), linking Himself to the I AM that spoke to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3:14?
In the sixth chapter of Isaiah’s prophetic book, the prophet is permitted to behold God on His throne. Isaiah is undone because of the instant recognition of his sinfulness in contrast to God’s holiness and purity. Yet in this instance, Isaiah is not being incinerated, he is not beholding God’s actual face. He is seeing God as represented by His image.
The image on the throne is addressed as Adoni in verse one. In verse five Isaiah proclaims, “Mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.” In the original language this is a reference to God, YHWH the LORD of hosts. So we see here again the identification of the image as Adoni, also being declared as Yahweh.
The Jews had a custom in Jesus’ day, that when a man had a business transaction to complete, if he sent his son to represent him, the son was treated as if he was the actual father. So when Jesus said that God was His Father, the religious leadership picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy (John 10:30-33). In relation to that custom of representation, when Jesus said God was His father, He was declaring that He was equal with God.
We return to Abraham’s luncheon with God and are reminded again that Abraham is addressing an image of God as God, Yahweh, with no distinction between the image and the God who is indwelling that image through His Holy Spirit.
The New Testament writers saw Jesus the same way. “God was in Christ (Messiah) reconciling the world to Himself” (II Corinthians 5:19). God was in Messiah, and His disciples could eat with Him just as Abraham could eat with a man He addresses as God.
When the Apostle Thomas fell to his knees before the resurrected Savior, he cried, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28); the Adoni and the I AM, unified and inseparably One.
If no one would dare accuse our beloved father Abraham of idolatry and blasphemy for addressing a man as God, then Christians should be exempt from those same accusations for also recognizing as did Abraham that God is capable of interacting with humans by indwelling the Chosen Image of Himself.
The Apostle Paul declared, “But to us there is but one God (YHWH) the Father, of whom are all things, and all we in Him; and one Lord (Adoni) Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him (I Cor. 7:6).”
“I and My Father are One.” - Jesus (John 10:30).
Copyright 2021 by H.D. Shively
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