2.13 Messianic Messages I: From Eden to Israel (924-942)
Volume 2: What Maimonides Missed—Chapter 13
Messianic Messages I: From Eden to Israel
The concept of a coming “Messiah,” an “Anointed Savior,” was unveiled only gradually in Yahweh’s scriptures. By the close of the Old Covenant canon, the keepers of those scriptures had some fairly well-defined expectations of who He might be and what He might do, but most of the prophecies were cryptic, to say the least. There is no single passage where Yahweh laid out His whole program concerning the Messiah in one comprehensive declaration: I’m going to make it possible for people to regain the harmonious relationship I once shared with mankind, before Adam sinned against Me. At a certain pre-determined time, I will shed My glory, humble Myself and take the form of a man, born into a specific family. I will offer Myself up as a sacrifice, shedding My blood so that those who choose to trust and believe in Me will be reconciled, purified, and redeemed. I will then reassume My former glory and return on a pre-ordained date to reign as King of Kings upon the earth, separating those who trust in Me from those who do not. Yahweh did tell us all of these things in His Word, but not all at once, and not necessarily in plain English (or Hebrew, as the case may be). Rather, He doled out His plan one small clue at a time over the course of several millennia, pieces of a puzzle often presented in such obscure language that by themselves in isolation, they might have led to any number of conjectures. It is only by putting the puzzle pieces together that a clear picture begins to emerge.
The Messiah Himself, as He matured from boy to man, recognized that His coming and mission had been foretold in God’s Word—a remarkable epiphany in itself, considering how few people had discovered this when He was born into the world. Even Anna and Simeon (Luke 2) didn’t so much figure it out from the scriptures as they did learn of the Messianic advent through the exercise of their prophetic gifts—listening to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit. The Jewish religious leaders of the day were convinced that the key to everlasting life was to be found in the Law of Moses, and Yahshua agreed with them, in a left-handed sort of way. He told them, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39) In other words, they were looking in the right place for answers, but they weren’t prepared to accept what was actually there. What saved someone wasn’t the outward observance of the Torah’s individual mitzvot (something no one was able to do perfectly), but rather what these precepts meant—what they signified, what they pointed toward. For example, the scribes and Pharisees knew they were supposed to sacrifice a spotless lamb on Passover and remove the leaven from their homes. But they didn’t comprehend that this lamb was symbolic and prophetic of the means God would use to provide eternal life for them, and that the leaven represented the corruption of sin that the Messiah’s sacrificial death would (or at least could) banish from their lives. John the Baptist had introduced Yahshua to the world by declaring, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) John understood the concept that Yahweh had planted in His Word. The Pharisees did not.
But like I said, the concept was by no means obvious. Even those who wanted to believe in Yahshua didn’t really understand what had happened when He was suddenly condemned and crucified. It seemed to them as if God’s promise had somehow been thwarted, for they, like the scribes, had embraced only the “reigning Messiah” prophecies, while largely ignoring all those unsettling and incomprehensible “suffering Savior” passages. But on the afternoon of His resurrection, Yahshua—concealing His identity—discussed what had happened with a couple of disciples as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He asked them, “‘Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:26-27) We’ve grown used to hearing of Messianic predictions from prophets like David, Isaiah, and Daniel. But Moses? Yes. Yahshua declared that the story begins here, at the very beginning, in the Torah.
You’ve stuck with me for what is turning out to be a very long book. Along the way we’ve seen hundreds of places where the Torah does indeed indicate a coming Messiah. But these truths are presented in such a way that you can choose to see them or not—that is, you can decide to perceive Messianic significance in God’s precepts, or you can restrict your comprehension to their “face value,” denying that they might mean anything beyond merely being orders we’re required to follow. It is only in hindsight that we can see what Yahweh was in the process of communicating to us. It is only in the shadow of Calvary that we can perceive the evidence God left behind for us—evidence that His plan of redemption was in motion from the very beginning, even before Adam proved there was a need for it. And even now, the evidence is not so blatantly compelling that men are forced to accept it, for that would make it impossible to freely reciprocate God’s love—our affirmative response would have become nothing more than acquiescing to unassailable logic, like obeying the “law” of gravity. Yahweh has, in fact, made the evidence easy to deny—and easier to ignore—if we want to. But it is there by the boatload for those of us who choose to seek and receive God’s truth.
The richest repository of these Messianic Messages in the Torah is contained in the blood sacrifices demanded by Yahweh. But judging by these instructions alone, in isolation from the rest of the Bible, one might conclude that the God who required them is capricious and unreasonable. There are lambs, rams, bulls, goats, and more—always with very precise rituals to follow and specifications to meet: a particular number, of a particular gender, in a particular order, offered on a certain day, at a certain time of day, butchered in a certain way by certain people, eaten (or not) by certain participants, accompanied by a certain amount of grain and wine and oil. Always with salt; never with leaven. Always made at a central worship location of God’s choosing; never where the worshipper just happened to live.
Then there are the “contradictions.” First, Yahweh demands that these sacrifices be made; then He says He doesn’t really want them. God issues excruciatingly detailed instructions for a place and priesthood to administer the blood sacrifices, and then He allows idolaters from foreign lands to come in and destroy His sanctuary and scatter His people to the four winds—leaving them without a temple and priesthood for thousands of years. Why haven’t the Jews figured out that there’s something wrong with this picture? How can they follow a God who, for all they can tell, is both a fickle control freak obsessed with unattainable perfection and woefully incapable of blessing, or even protecting, His own chosen people? It’s no wonder so many Jews today are practicing atheists. Without the Messianic Messages of the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets—fulfilled to the letter in the life and work of Yahshua of Nazareth—their religion makes absolutely no sense.
Yahshua Himself revealed the problem with rabbinical Judaism: without the recognition of the Savior-Messiah prophesied in the Tanach, it is a religious system empty of God’s truth and devoid of life. “The Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me…. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…. 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?” (John 5:37-40, 45-47) That’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? For all the Pharisaical veneration of Moses, they didn’t really believe what he’d said. Oh, they tried like crazy to adhere to the maze of regulations he had handed down from God. But they refused to see what (or Whom) these Instructions were really about. So Moses, Yahshua says, stands in witness against them—against the most scrupulously religious, faithfully observant practitioners of the Mosaic Law the world had ever seen, before or since! The line, then, has been drawn in the sand. Either the Torah is a compendium of pointless (and ultimately impossible to perform) rules and rituals imposed by a sadistic, micromanaging control-freak of a god, or it is a signpost pointing out the way to an abundant and joyous eternal life: Yahweh’s Anointed One. If the Torah is indeed God’s Word, then either the Pharisees were correct or Yahshua was. But there can be no middle ground: they cannot both be right.
It is not my purpose here to compile every shred of evidence in the Torah that points toward the life and mission of Yahshua as God’s Messiah. We have already covered much of it. I do not intend to revisit the vast body of material explaining the sacrificial rites Israel was instructed to perform, all of which were Messianic prophecies, one way or another. I won’t repeat what we’ve already seen concerning the design of the Tabernacle, which with every nuance reveals the coming Christ as the centerpiece of God’s Plan for our redemption. Nor do I wish to return in detail to the seven holy convocations of Yahweh, though they too reveal the Messiah’s mission as He brings to pass the seven most significant milestones in Yahweh’s Plan. We’ve covered these subjects elsewhere in The Owner’s Manual (though I reserve the right to revisit a few “high points” heralding the Messiah’s role that I touched upon earlier—some of this stuff is too wonderful to say only once). My primary intention now is to sweep the Torah for indicators we might have missed. Up to this point, everything we’ve discussed has been somehow connected with God’s instruction—what He specifically told Israel to do. In the interests of identifying these references to the coming Messiah, I will henceforth be ignoring that convention, opening up the field of inquiry to the Torah’s historical commentary as well. To keep things consistent, however, I’ll maintain the number-precept-scripture-commentary format I’ve used throughout this book.
CREATION, EDEN, AND BEYOND
(924) SYNOPSIS: The Messiah must appear on the fourth “day”—i.e., during the fourth millennium of the Plan of God.
TORAH: “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14-19)
I have become convinced that the creation week (six “days” of creation followed by one of rest), mirrored in the seven-day week and seven-year sabbatical cycle, are God’s way of telling us the timing of His plan for our reconciliation, informing us of the duration of our allotted time on earth as fallen mortals. That is, from Adam’s fall—the inauguration of our need for redemption—to the commencement of our “rest” under King Yahshua’s rule during the final Millennium, we will have had six thousand years to “work it out,” to make our choices as to whether to honor Yahweh or not. This “one-day-equals-one-thousand-years” formula is stated in both Psalm 90:4 and II Peter 3:8. Although we tend to read these verses as pure metaphor, as if they’re merely saying, “God is really patient with us,” I can’t shake the feeling that He’s also imparting specific information to us, if only we’ll take Him at His word.
The second observation I must make is that the case for a literal six-day creation period (that is, getting it all done within 144 hours as measured by the earth’s rotation relative to the sun) is scientifically untenable, no matter what a surface reading of the King James text may lead you to believe. Nor does the scripture (in Hebrew, anyway) demand such an interpretation. Call me a heretic if you must, but the scientific data seems to indicate a “big-bang” creation about 13.7 billion years ago, with our solar system being formed somewhere in the neighborhood of four billion years ago. The whole procedure is so exquisitely balanced, it fairly screams that an Intelligent Designer with infinite power and wisdom controlled the process from the very beginning, and did it all with a very specific purpose in mind. Life does not and cannot spontaneously generate itself, nor can one life-form evolve into something fundamentally different (though small changes within a genome happen all the time). The geological history of our planet, rather, is the record of a Creative Deity introducing life into our biosphere, one “kind” at a time, as soon as the earth was ready to receive it—just as the Genesis record reports it.
There is, however, a glitch in the Genesis 1 account—something that is not scientifically possible in any literal sense. The passage upon which our precept is based declares that the sun and moon—and the stars, for that matter—showed up after plant life appeared on the earth. Since the earth is made of heavy elements formed by the collapse of second generation stars, the creation of the stars on the fourth day can’t be what God meant to describe. The simple answer, of course, is that earth’s atmosphere wasn’t transparent enough to clearly reveal the heavenly bodies until plant life had taken hold, taking greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and putting free oxygen in. But I believe there’s more to it. The Bible, though scientifically accurate (allowing that it’s written in common vernacular), is not about science—it concerns only the redemption of fallen mankind. Could it be that Yahweh was trying to tell us something significant by planting an obvious “mistake” in the creation account?
Malachi reports, “‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says Yahweh of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.” (Malachi 4:1-2) It’s a Messianic prophecy, with both of Yahshua’s advents in view. Judgment is coming, he says, for the proud and wicked, but those who revere the name of Yahweh shall experience healing. And both the judgment and the healing will be accomplished by the “Sun of Righteousness,” obviously a reference to the Messiah. Judgment will be visited upon the earth during the Tribulation—when all these wicked ones will be consumed as stubble in the flame—and onward into the Millennial Kingdom, when Yahshua will rule mankind with a scepter of iron. But when will the God-fearing people receive healing? When the “Sun of Righteousness” arises. And when will that be, according to the Genesis creation account? During the fourth day!
By my reckoning, the first thousand-year “day” of Yahweh’s redemptive plan began with the fall of Adam; the second at the time of the flood; the third with Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah; the fourth with the building of Solomon’s temple; the fifth with the sacrifice of Christ (33 A.D.); the sixth with the low water mark of the Christian faith in 1033 (see Mitzvah #535 and The End of the Beginning, Chapter 3); and the seventh day will begin with the commencement of Yahshua’s Millennial reign (due in 2033, unless my theory is seriously flawed). The “fourth day,” then—the day when the Sun of Righteousness would arise—ended in 33 A.D., as Yahshua’s earthly mission was completed. We are “healed” by what Yahshua our Messiah did during His first advent—or we aren’t healed at all.
(925) Understand the relationship between God and Man.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26-28)
Anthropologists will tell you that Man created gods in our own image: that is, part of being human is the compulsion to worship a deity of some sort, something we conceive as being in control of the awesome forces of nature that we ourselves cannot comprehend—much less harness and manage. We invest these gods (they say) with human-like attributes—feelings, needs, volition, etc.—because that’s all we understand. We fear them and try to appease them because we perceive that they have the power to harm us but also the ability to help us. The tacit message of the anthropologists’ science is that if Man can learn to comprehend and control his environment, we will have no more need for these primitive superstitions—we will be free at last to live our lives without the inconvenient moral standards imposed upon us by these gods and their self-appointed spokesmen.
God, on the other hand, contends that just the opposite is true: He made man in His own image—complete with feelings, needs, and volition—because He wished to share His own innate nature—Love—with someone who had the capacity to reciprocate that love, even if He had to create that “someone” first. That explains whatever similarities the anthropologists find between mankind and their objects of worship: they are either Yahweh Himself or false gods we’ve substituted for Him.
Where is the Messianic Message in all of this? Note that the Creator has invested man with “dominion” over the earth. This is our first hint that God—the One to whom dominion intrinsically belongs—intended to manifest Himself as a man—not as an animal (a serpent, for instance) or an angel or some other glorified being. If you think about it, that’s a remarkable and counterintuitive turn of events, one nobody could have seen coming. We can understand the converse, of course—a man wanting to be worshiped as a god, grasping for himself power and glory beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. But this—that God Almighty would elect to exercise dominion over His creation through the agency of a mortal man—frail, feeble, and subject to death—is unexpected, to say the least. Man would never invent a God who would humble Himself in such a way—it’s not in our nature.
(926) God’s work on our behalf is finite in scope.
“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
Yahweh has informed us that He set Himself a task—one that would have a beginning and an end. His “work” would be followed by “rest.” If you think about it, this is a rather remarkable thing to do, for this God purports to be eternal and unchanging. When man conceives of god, he sees a never ending cycle of confrontation and gratification: the god (through his priests) makes demands, and people sacrifice to appease him, either to receive his blessing or prevent him from hurting them. It’s the original “protection racket.” But the God of the Torah does things quite contrary to our natural expectations. He works, He sacrifices, and then He invites us to enjoy the fruit of His labor. Yes, He tells us what we should do, but not in order to gratify His own desires. He does this because He loves us: He wants us to prosper physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And having built us, He knows precisely what it will take to attain this blessed state.
But right here at the beginning, He starts hinting at the temporary nature of our mortal existence—the “work which He had done.” There is something beyond this, He intimates, something outside our present experience in a physical universe comprised of “the heavens and the earth and all the host of them.” There is a day of rest awaiting us, and He is working so that we might enjoy that rest with Him. Although He doesn’t say so here, it would transpire that the work He would perform in our finite world would be accomplished in and through His Messiah—making Him the bridge between today and tomorrow, between natural and supernatural, between God’s work and our rest.
(927) Know that man is a spiritual being.
“And Yahweh, God, formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man becamea living being.” (Genesis 2:7)
We’ve encountered this verse several times in our exploration of the scriptures, and for good reason. This is God’s explanation of what makes mankind different from the animals: we have Yahweh’s “breath of life” within us. It’s not just that we’re living beings, that is, that we have souls (nephesh) that are alive (chay), even though those very words are used here to describe our condition: “man became a living being.” But other animals—apparently all of them—are described in exactly the same terms: “living creatures” that abound in the waters (Genesis 1:20), every “living thing” that moves (1:21), more “living creatures” like cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth (1:24), and beasts, birds, and creeping things that have “life” (1:30). But none of these are described as having received the neshamah, the breath of life, from Yahweh—only man is. In other words, animals are “alive,” but not in precisely the same way that men are. The difference is our capacity for spiritual life: we alone, among all of God’s creatures, have the opportunity to remain alive even after our bodies have perished, for just as the soul makes the body of an animal physically alive, a spirit, indwelling our neshamah, can give a soul (our nephesh) spiritual life. And since spirits are eternal, our souls will endure as long as their spirits dwell within them—forever!
That is good news, of course, but it also has a potential downside. First, there’s the eventuality about which Yahweh warned Adam and Chavvah (Eve) in the Garden. If they disobeyed Him by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, they would “surely die,” and not just “someday,” but on the very day of their sin. Because we are then told that Adam lived on as a mortal man for 930 years, begetting sons and daughters, it’s obvious that physical death (the separation of the soul from the body) was not what Yahweh had been talking about. No, it was the departure of God’s Spirit (His Ruach) from Adam’s neshamah. The withdrawal of His Spirit, for all intents and purposes, rendered them mere animals, spiritually lifeless, subject to corruption. But their capacity for spiritual indwelling remained intact, and I believe Adam and Chavvah, by accepting the coverings of the slain-animal skins Yahweh provided (a picture of the imputed righteousness still available to us today), demonstrated their repentance—and their acceptance of the salvation Yahweh had made on their behalf through His blood sacrifice.
But the “bad news” doesn’t end there. You see, Yahweh’s Ruach Qodesh—His Holy Spirit—is not the only spiritual being in existence, even if it is the only uncreated spiritual entity. But God also made angels, beings of pure spirit, some of whom rebelled against Him and became demons. These too are capable of indwelling the neshamah of a man—with eternally disastrous results. We are warned about this in Proverbs 20:27, “The spirit of a man is the lamp of Yahweh, searching all the inner depths of his heart.” “Spirit” here is a bad translation. It’s not ruach. The word is neshamah, the place within us where the spirit resides. Solomon is informing us that the neshamah discloses to God the “inner depths of the heart” of man. That is, the neshamah is the light that reveals his spiritual condition: it is indwelled either with Yahweh’s Spirit, with no spirit, or with the spirit of a demon. It is the litmus test that determines whether a person is alive, dead, or damned for eternity.
None of that, of course, reveals anything directly about the coming Messiah. But there’s one more word we should examine a bit more closely. What did Yahweh do after He “formed man from the dust of the ground?” He “breathed” into him the neshamah. Not surprisingly, we find that the verb translated “breathed” is related to nephesh, or soul. It’s the Hebrew naphach. It means “to breathe, blow at, sniff at, seethe, or [and here’s what we need to take note of] to give up or lose one’s life.” (S) The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains points out that when used in conjunction with nephesh (as it is here in Genesis 2:7) naphach can mean “die: formally, breathe out life, i.e., enter into the state of death, as an extension of breathing out one’s last breath of air.” In the same vein, it can also mean “to die: formally, cause to pant, i.e., make another to be in a state of anxiety or distress, as an extension of causing a person to exert great energy and so gasp for breath.” I realize that as Messianic clues go, this one’s awfully esoteric, but try to visualize what Yahweh is telling us here: by “breathing into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life,” He gave him a choice: either God could breathe out His own life on behalf of man, or His death would “make another [i.e., the one whose neshamah was empty or had been indwelled with a satanic spirit] to be in a state of anxiety or distress.” And how did Yahweh intend to “breathe out His own life?” By setting aside His glory, becoming a man Himself—the Messiah—and offering Himself up as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of a fallen human race.
(928) The Messiah will become joined as “one flesh” with humanity.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
It seems to me that if ever there was an unassailable argument disproving Darwinian evolution, it’s the existence of sexual reproduction. What conceivable environmental stimulus would it have taken to induce an organism to shift from simple cell division to the impossibly complex systems involved in dividing a species into distinct male and female components? It would appear disingenuous indeed for an evolutionist who believes such an unlikely eventuality to flippantly accuse a Christian of exercising “blind faith.” But right here at the beginning, Yahweh describes His spiritual pattern in biological terms: a man and his wife become “one flesh” when their DNA is blended in the conception of their child.
If Yahweh designed us that way—male and female—we should ask ourselves the obvious question: why did He do that? It has to be something more profound than merely figuring we might enjoy the process of getting from one generation to the next. The structure of the family as God ordained it—a man joined with his wife and becoming “one flesh”—is of fundamental importance, not only as biological imperative, but also as a spiritual principle. This becomes clear when we realize that Yahweh symbolically characterizes His followers as being “joined” in marriage to Him. Israel is called His “wife,” and the called-out followers of Yahshua are referred to as “the Bride of Christ.” Like human children, believers are spiritually “conceived” through an act of love—the love of the Messiah toward His ekklesia.
This discourse began with an observation. Yahweh had noted, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18) The word translated “comparable” bears closer scrutiny. It’s neged, meaning: “before, in front of, straight ahead, i.e., pertaining to a spatial position anterior to another object…being in the presence of another; opposite, beyond, i.e., a spatial position in front of another object, but with a space between; nearby, i.e., pertaining to a spatial position which is in proximity to another object” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains). The noun form of neged denotes a counterpart, that is, an object that corresponds to or is like another object. Considering the fact that Yahweh had “created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” (Genesis 1:27) we can begin to see what was on His mind. He’s really talking about Himself. He’s saying, in effect, “It is not good for Me to be alone in the universe; I will make a helper, a companion, comparable (in a way) to Myself—made in My own image and likeness, with a spiritual nature—to stand before Me, near Me, in My presence.”
The Messianic Message in this is evident. It is not for nothing that Yahshua is called the “Son of God.” In order for Him to take us as His bride, He had to “leave His Father and Mother,” that is, set aside the power and privilege that were rightfully His in heaven, humble Himself, assume the form of a mortal man, and do whatever it would take to reconcile us to Himself. Thus Paul reminds us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
(929) The “woman’s seed” will conquer Satan.
“The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ So Yahweh, God, said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field. On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’” (Genesis 3:13-15)
We covered this passage in the first chapter of this volume, under Precept #615, where the lesson was: “Recognize your enemy.” Here I’d like to emphasize instead that the “seed of the woman” Who was destined to crush the head of the serpent (Satan) is ultimately Yahshua the Messiah. That may seem obvious to many of us today, but the Jews still don’t get it, and most of the world is oblivious to the ramifications of the prophecy. What’s lost on us these days is the tremendous impact this prediction had on the generations immediately following Adam’s fall. It shaped their expectations and colored their outlook. Ever since being kicked out of Eden, they were looking expectantly for a redeemer, someone who could reverse the curse of Adam’s sin. I have no doubt that Chavvah (Eve) fully expected her firstborn son to fulfill the prophecy, naming him Cain, which can be translated “spear.”
But it was in the proto-Babylonian mystery religion a few generations after the flood that the counterfeit fulfillment of the “woman’s seed” prophecy gained traction—influence that’s still being felt today. It was here, after the death of the first demigod worthy of the name, Nimrod (some say, at the hands of the righteous Shem), that his widow, Semiramis, bore a male child near the winter solstice—late December. This son (or “yule”) was marketed as the reincarnated Nimrod, and more to the point, the fulfillment of the Genesis 3 prophecy. Tammuz thereby gained the dubious honor of being the world’s first “false messiah”—almost three thousand years before the Real Thing showed up.
Queen Semiramis, having conceived Tammuz long after Nimrod’s demise, invented the fiction of an “immaculate conception” to explain her situation. Had not the prophecy declared that the woman’s seed would crush the serpent’s head? The worship of this unholy trinity, Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz, became the prototype for false religions and pagan cults from one end of the earth to the other. All of them, of course, ignore the other requirement of the prophecy: the woman whose Son would conquer evil would be “at enmity” with the serpent—she would be an adversary to our Adversary, and a friend of Yahweh. Mary was; Semiramis was not.
The idea of the Deliverer being the seed of the woman—implying that He would not at the same time be the seed of a man—would be developed and refined in subsequent Messianic prophecies (cf. Isaiah 7:14). The only way that could happen, logically, is for the “woman” to be a virgin, pure and undefiled—like Mary of Nazareth was when she conceived Yahshua through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Satan, though an accomplished illusionist and a master of spin, cannot perform creative miracles. He had to settle for the bastard child of an illicit sexual liaison to perpetrate his forgery. Considering the success his false messiahs have enjoyed over the centuries, it makes me shudder to think of what he could have done to us if he had any real power. The devil has “bruised” the heel of Yahweh’s Anointed, the seed of the woman. We have only to wait for the second half of the prophecy to be fulfilled: the Messiah will crush the head of Satan. Soon.
(930) Innocent blood had to be shed in order to cover our shame.
“Also for Adam and his wife Yahweh, God, made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)
After they had eaten of the fruit of the forbidden tree, Adam and Chavvah (Eve) suddenly realized that they were naked before God. I get the impression that a vague sense of inferiority now swept over them. They somehow knew what they had never comprehended before, that Yahweh was fundamentally unlike them: totally pure, awesomely majestic, on a different plane of existence altogether—in a word, holy. The serpent had, in a way, told the truth: having disobeyed God, they could now see the difference between good and evil. The shocking epiphany for them, however, was that they were evil, utterly unworthy of being in the presence of such a holy being as Yahweh. They had not expected that, for their inferiority had never been an issue until now. Yahweh had never brought it up, and they had been blissfully unaware of it. Sure, they knew that He was in charge, but He had always conversed with them as a friend and companion, not a master or overlord. They had been treated like family, like the children of a loving father, not merely the subjects of a powerful ruler, or worse, the chattel of a slave owner. That secure feeling had now departed, leaving in its place a vague sensation of dread, a shame that compelled them to hide, to flee, to cover themselves. They couldn’t let Yahweh see them in this condition. What would He think of them? It was all to horrible to contemplate.
For His part, Yahweh seems to have been saddened, but not surprised. He first asked Adam and Eve what they had done, not because He didn’t know, but because He wanted them to come to terms with their own sin—that it was their doing, their responsibility, and that it had fundamentally changed the nature of their relationship with Him. There would be consequences—the most basic of which they had already discovered: sin had separated them from their God, for His Spirit had departed, making them unworthy to stand in his presence.
And what about the clothing they had sewn together out of fig leaves? Yahweh’s response said, in so many words, “Okay, you understand the problem, or at least part of it. You’re naked and guilty before Me. But you don’t yet understand the solution. Not only must you be covered, but the penalty for your sin must be paid. I warned you about this: ‘In the day that you eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, you will surely die.’ And as things stand now, you are dead, spiritually, anyway. My Spirit has departed from you, leaving the neshamah I breathed into you an empty shell. If nothing changes, when your body dies (as it must) your life will be destroyed, for a soul not indwelled by an eternal spirit cannot survive without its body. But I have provided an alternative to this death you’ve earned yourselves, because, let’s face it, I love you and don’t want to see you perish.
“You must understand: the wages of sin is death. You knew that going in. Because you’ve sinned, death is decreed. It doesn’t have to be your death, however. It is possible for Someone else—Someone also made in My image and likeness, as guiltless as you were before you threw away your innocence—to die in your place. But none of your children will ever fit that description, so I have resolved to become a human being Myself. I will come to the earth at a time of my choosing and offer Myself up as a sacrifice on your behalf. In the meantime, I’ll give you a demonstration guaranteeing my intent: I will kill an innocent animal and make clothing for you from it’s hide. If you will trust Me, accept My offer, and wear this clothing as a sign of your faith, I will re-establish the spiritual relationship we once enjoyed together in the garden. But if you insist on trying to cover your sin your own way with those ridiculous shriveling fig leaves—or worse, decide to walk through life butt naked—My Spirit will not return to dwell within you. The choice is yours.”
(931) Innocent blood must be spilled for an offering to atone for sin.
“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to Yahweh. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And Yahweh respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” (Genesis 4:3-5)
Yahweh evaluated two things when Cain and Abel brought their offerings. First was the attitude of the supplicant: Abel was honestly trying to follow God’s own lead, shown in the act of atoning for the sins of his parents. But Cain was still “wearing an apron of fig leaves,” as far as Yahweh was concerned—he was practicing a religion of his own invention, not following in faith what God had instructed by example.
Second was the nature of the sacrifice. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the value of Cain’s vegetables and Abel’s lamb or goat were equivalent. God is not complaining that Cain should have brought more, or even that his sacrifice should have been better. It was not a question of quantity or quality. The problem was that there was no “life” in Cain’s tomatoes and cabbages—at least not in the same way that Abel’s lamb was alive: with a soul, with blood coursing through its veins. God had made it plain in the Garden: our sin carried with it the penalty of death. You couldn’t buy your life back with non-living sacrifices—not with garden produce, and not with gold. Only Life could redeem life. Only Innocence could buy back innocence.
We aren’t told how, but it became painfully obvious to Cain that his bloodless sacrifice had been rejected. But his reaction was neither remorse leading to repentance, nor perplexity leading to inquiry. It was anger—the child of pride. “So Yahweh said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” If he had not sinned, there would have been no need for an atoning sacrifice. “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’” (Genesis 4:6-7) I believe this enigmatic statement is a play on words. The word for “sin” here (chata’ah) is closely related to another Hebrew noun, chata’t, which as we have seen, denotes the offering for sin. Yahweh seems to be saying that if Cain would but acknowledge his sin, the proper blood sacrifice was readily available to him—a lamb or goat crouching right outside his dwelling—a metaphor for the Messiah that Yahweh would Himself provide. But if he would not humble himself, a personified “Sin” was laying in wait, preparing to pounce upon and devour him. Yahweh’s counsel was for Cain to “rule over” the wickedness in his heart that desired to overcome him. Yahweh had given Cain another chance to get it right, as Abel already had. He was now faced with a choice: repent or rebel.
He chose poorly. “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then Yahweh said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’” As usual, it was not because He didn’t know the answer, but because He wanted to give Cain a chance to come clean. “He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He [Yahweh] said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.’” (Genesis 4:8-10) Let me ask a provocative question. If God had decreed that innocent blood must be shed in order to atone for the sins of mankind, then why wasn’t Cain’s murder of Abel considered a “good thing,” an offering on a par with the slaying of the innocent lamb for Abel’s sacrifice? We get the impression that God had given mankind very little instruction (outside His own example) of how and what to sacrifice. Furthermore, Yahweh at this point had issued no proclamation prohibiting murder. Let’s look at the evidence.
First, there is no indication that the death of Abel was intended to be a sacrifice. Cain merely lashed out in a fit of anger and jealousy. His actions demonstrate the danger inherent in religion, in the sense of being a manmade attempt to approach God, rather than a corporate response to God’s offer of redemption. Cain wasn’t apathetic: he truly wanted to be accepted by Yahweh—but on his own terms, through his own efforts. He had offered a sacrifice. Yahweh, knowing Cain’s heart, had rejected it.
Second, Cain knew that murder was wrong. This is demonstrated in his deceptive answer to Yahweh’s question. If his conscience had been clear in the matter—if he had not realized that murder was morally wrong—then he would have answered by saying something like, “Abel? Oh, he’s lying out there in the field. I crushed his head with a rock ’cause he was annoying me. Why, is there a problem?” As with the fig-leaf fashions of Adam and Eve, an attempt to conceal the crime proves the awareness of one’s guilt.
Third, Abel’s life could not be given (or taken) as a sacrifice to atone for the sin of Cain because Abel wasn’t actually “innocent.” Even though he was a far more righteous man than his brother, Abel was aware that he too had fallen short of Yahweh’s standard of perfection. That’s why he had offered a sacrifice of the “firstborn of his flock.” The point is that God doesn’t grade on the curve. There is no point at which our good deeds outweigh our bad ones, making us worthy to be God’s children. In fact, our behavior has nothing to do with our salvation, except as an indicator of what (and Who) we believe. If we really love Yahweh, we will at least try to keep His commandments. Abel did; Cain did not.
THE ANTEDILLUVIAN WORLD
(932) The names of the men in the godly line during the first millennium tell the story of Yahweh’s redemptive plan.
“In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:1-3)
Genesis 5 is one of those passages everybody skips over, because it’s “just” a genealogy. There’s “obviously” no doctrine there, precious little narrative, and no great spiritual truth. Or is there? What would happen if we analyzed the ten names we find here, looking for clues in their meanings? After all, names in the Bible invariably mean something—and these meanings are often significant in the grand scheme of things.
(1) Let us begin at the beginning, with Adam. “Yahweh, God, formed man of the dust of the ground.” (Genesis 2:7) The word translated “man” is adam, and the “ground” from which he was formed is a related word: adamah. (Since the ground was rich in iron oxides, adam also means “red,” reflected in such derivatives as “Edom,” named after Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of red porridge, and adem, meaning red or ruddy—the color of blood). So the first name on the list simply means man, or mankind.
(2) The godly line continued through Adam’s third recorded son, Seth, for Cain had slain the godly Abel. “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’” (Genesis 4:25) “Seth,” as revealed in the text, means appointed.
(3) The next in line was Enosh or Enos, which is another word for mankind, but this time stressing man’s mortality, his vulnerability to death. “And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of Yahweh.” (Genesis 4:26) It was finally sinking in: the curse of sin had indeed doomed the entire race of mankind to a slow death. Enosh is from the root anash. It means mortal, frail, weak, sick, miserable, or incurable; it is a word used of a wound, grief, woe, sickness, or wickedness. So the root meaning of Enosh is mortal frailty.
(4) The name of Kenan or Cainan (Qeynan) continues in the same pessimistic tone as that of his father Enosh. It means “a possession,” but it is apparently derived from a word (qiynah) that denotes lamentation, sorrow, a dirge or elegy—the doleful expression of one who finds himself someone else’s possession—a slave to sin. Kenan is sorrow.
(5) The next name in the godly line, Mahalalel, is a compound of several Hebrew words (an arrangement more common than not). Ma means “what,” or “that which.” Halal is a verb meaning to bless or praise, or to shine, radiate, or reflect light. (Thus we find it a component of the quintessential exclamation of praise to God—Hallelujah, which literally means, “shine forth the light of Yahweh.”) The last piece of Mahalalel’s name is el, which is the generic designation for deity: God. The fifth patriarch’s name, then, could be translated: what is blessed or praised by God, or that which shines of God, hence the Light of God.
(6) Mahalalel’s son, Jared, reminds us that there is no “J” sound in Hebrew. The “J” is an artifact from the evolving English language dating from the 17th century. It should be pronounced as a “Y” (as we saw above in the word Hallelujah; Joshua therefore is rightly pronounced “Yahshua”). We should also be aware that vowels weren’t part of the Hebrew text until well into the Christian era: thus they are a matter of some conjecture. The root verb of Jared is yaradh, which means to descend. We are familiar with a related word: the “Jordan” River is actually the Yaraden: the “descender,” emptying into the lowest spot on the face of the earth, the Dead Sea. Jared, then, means shall come down.
(7) Enoch, the next in line, is a transliteration of the Hebrew Chanowk, from the verb chanak, meaning to train or to dedicate. We see the concept emerging in the name of the Jewish holiday, Chanukah—the festival of dedication, commemorative of the cleansing and re-dedication of the second temple under the Maccabees. Enoch means dedicated.
(8) Methuselah is another compound word. Muth means death, and shelach is a verb denoting to bring or send forth. (It’s related to the word for “dart” or “spear,” i.e., something “sent out.”) It seems an odd thing to name one’s child, but remember, Enoch his father walked closely with Yahweh: so closely, in fact, that Yahweh “took him”—raptured him, if you will—long before his natural life span had run its course. His son’s name was meant to be prophetic of a significant event. What was to be “brought” or “sent forth” at the death of Methuselah? God’s judgment upon a corrupt and unrepentant world. As it turns out, he died in the same year as Noah’s flood, at the extremely ripe old age of 969—making him the oldest man on record. This demonstrates, if you’re willing to read between the lines, that although Yahweh is inordinately patient with us, there is eventually a place where mercy ends and judgment begins. Methuselah means his death shall bring it.
(9) Lamech, or Lamek, is a bit harder to pin down. One source I consulted defined it as lamenting, or despairing. Another said it means powerful. Another claimed it denotes a wild man. Worse, none of these sources offered any corroborating evidence, no root verbs or other obvious linguistic origins. So allow me to stick my neck out a bit and propose a theory. The final letter of Lamech, the “K” sound, is the Hebrew khaf (ך), which as you can see looks quite similar to the dalet (ד), the “D” sound. They would be formed with virtually identical pen strokes, the main difference being a slightly longer “tail” on the final-khaf. I realize, of course, that the original text would have been written not in Babylonian Hebrew (shown here) but in paleo-Hebrew. But there too the letters are similar, and they are in the Aramaic alphabet as well. Depending on the scribe, there is potentially almost no difference between LMK and LMD. (By the way, we have no ancient manuscripts of this passage to consult: it is missing in the Dead Sea Scrolls.) So where does this take us? Lamad (LMD) is a primitive Hebrew verb meaning to teach, to learn, to be taught or trained. Thus limud is one who is taught, one who learns, a disciple, as in, “The Lord Yahweh has given Me the tongue of disciples (limud), that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning; He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple (limud).” (Isaiah 50:4) It seems to me far more likely that Methuselah would name his baby boy “one who learns” than calling him wild man, powerful, or despairing. If you don’t believe me, compare what Isaiah said about “weary ones” to the meaning of the name of Lamech’s son, Noah, below. Lamech (Limud), then, means disciple.
(10) Noah, the last name on the list, is derived from the verb nuwach: to rest, repose, make quiet, comfort, or to permit. So we read, “And he [Lamech/Limud] called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which Yahweh has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29) Noah means rest.
The ten names from Genesis 5 together, then, form a comprehensive thought, one that explains our condition and Yahweh’s solution for it: “Mankind…(is) appointed…(to) mortal frailty…(and) sorrow…(but) the Light of God…shall come down…(being) dedicated…(and) His death shall bring…(His) disciples…rest.
Does anybody but me have goose bumps?
(933) The ark of Noah is a picture of God’s Messiah.
“Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9) “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.’” (Genesis 6:11-14)
We talked about Noah’s little adventure a bit in the first chapter of this volume. But there I didn’t emphasize the Messianic symbology of the ark. Note first that although scripture makes it clear that all men have sinned (and pointedly records one of Noah’s lapses), Noah is said to have been “just,” “perfect,” and walking in fellowship with Yahweh. At this late hour we should all realize that this “righteousness” wasn’t merely in comparison to his less well-behaved neighbors, but was something attributed or imputed to Noah by God in response to the man’s faith and love for Him.
Second, when God sees universal corruption upon the earth, His natural response is to wipe it out and start over again. As its Creator, this is His prerogative alone, and the decision as to when mankind has become irretrievably corrupt is His to make as well. Note that the only stated evidence of this corruption is the sin of violence. In a delicious coincidence (maybe), the Hebrew word for this violence is hamas.
Third, notice that the ark was to be “anointed” with pitch inside and out to keep God’s implement of judgment—the flood—from leaking into it. The word translated “cover” is kapar, which means both “to cover, purge, make atonement or reconciliation, pacify, or propitiate” and “coat or cover over with pitch” (S) And the word for “pitch” is related: it’s koper, which in addition to denoting asphalt or pitch, also means “the price of a life; a ransom or bribe.” I’m sure you’ll recognize these words as being the root of the name of the sixth miqra in Yahweh’s schedule: the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippurim. The lesson is, the atonement provided by the Messiah’s sacrifice insulates and separates us from the wrath of God, just as the coating of pitch insulated and separated the hull of the ark from the waters of judgment.
The narrative and its lessons continue: “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you….” Being in the ark for protection from God’s wrath is a picture of being “in Christ.” “‘And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.’ Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” (Genesis 6:18, 21-22) Not only would being in the ark (i.e., in Christ) shelter Noah’s family from wrath, but this would also be where his temporal needs would be met. Yahweh didn’t miraculously stock the ark with food, however. Noah had to go out and gather it, acting in faith on God’s instructions. The only “miracle” consisted of the foreknowledge Noah needed to make his preparations in a timely fashion. God warned him, and he heeded the admonition. We too have been advised of the coming judgment; we too have the opportunity to find shelter in an ark of safety—Yahweh’s Messiah. But what we’re going to “live on” there—if anything—is up to us. We can stock the ark with beets and Brussels sprouts (dour religious legalism), with Skittles and soda pop (shallow, self-centered feel-good theology), or with a balanced variety of nutritious and tasty spiritual provisions—a healthful and enjoyable diet including all four spiritual “food groups,” doctrine, fellowship, prayer, and worship.
“So He [Yahweh] destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.” (Genesis 7:23) As in the days of Noah, we are living in a world ripe for judgment. And now as then, only those of us who have sought shelter in Yahweh’s ark—Yahshua the Messiah—will survive.
MESSIAH’S FAMILY TREE
(934) God’s plan will come to pass through Shem.
“And [Noah] said: “Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.” (Genesis 9:26-27)
As is often the case with prophecy, we can only see in hindsight what God (through Noah) was talking about here—that is, we can only discern the meaning of the prophecy by examining its fulfillment. First, Yahweh is described as “the God of Shem,” though both Ham and Japheth were believers as well. The promised Messiah, He’s saying, would come through the line of Shem, not through one of his godly brothers. Yahshua was indeed born into Shem’s family, a lineage later prophetically narrowed to Abraham, to Israel, Judah, and David.
Second, Japheth would follow Shem—his descendants would somehow be dependent upon Shem’s prophetic role. Geographically, from the resting place of the ark on the mountains of Ararat, Shem’s line spread mostly to the south and east; Japheth’s descendants went north, and Ham’s family settled to the south and west. Noah’s prophecy intimates that although the Messiah would come through Shem’s line, the family of Japheth would comprise the core of the world’s believers, and this has indeed been the case: the ekklesia of Yahshua spread fastest and farthest in Asia Minor and Europe—Japhethite territory.
Interestingly, Ham’s prophetic spiritual destiny isn’t mentioned, for good or ill. But one of his sons, Canaan, is singled out for condemnation: he would find himself subservient to both Shem and Japheth. The conquest of Canaan by Israel under Joshua is a fulfillment of this prophecy.
(935) God’s plan will come to pass through Abraham.
“Now Yahweh had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)
One doesn’t have to be in the lineage of the Messiah to be blessed by God, though I’ll admit, getting singled out like this is pretty remarkable. But what would have to happen for “all the families of the earth” to be blessed through you? What kind of universal accomplishment would have to be made in order to bless everybody? Create fire? Invent the wheel? Harness the power of chocolate? No, there’s only one thing that could bless everyone—including people who lived before Abram. Find a way to reverse the curse of Adam’s sin; reestablish the fellowship the human race had with Yahweh before we decided we’d rather follow our own road. Yahshua, a descendant of Abram, did that very thing for us.
That’s not to say it wasn’t “impossible,” but Yahweh seems to enjoy doing what can’t be done. It separates the Real God from the riffraff. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’” (Genesis 17:1-2) I realize people lived longer back then than they do today, but ninety-nine years old back then is still like, say, sixty-nine these days. In other words, good luck, Abe: Viagra hasn’t been invented yet. And what was merely improbable for Abraham actually was impossible for his wife. At ninety, she was well past menopause. Think of Sarah as a sixty year old—looking good for her age, maybe, but simply not equipped to bear children any longer. Yahweh didn’t care. Our barrenness is no particular obstacle to the Creator of life. “Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16) Just as Abram (“Exalted Father”) had been changed to Abraham (Father of Many), so Sarai’s name would be changed to reflect her prophetic status as the “mother of kings.” Baker and Carpenter explain that “The change in name indicated the multitude of persons who would come forth from her…. The name means ‘princess’ or ‘woman of nobility.’”
(936) God’s plan will come to pass through Isaac.
“Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’” (Genesis 17:19) “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” (Genesis 21:12)
The child of promise would descend from Isaac, not Abraham’s firstborn son, Ishmael. Why? Because Ishmael was not the son of Abraham’s lawful wife. No marriage covenant existed between Abraham and Hagar. Since the lifelong marriage union between a man and a woman is designed to mirror Yahweh’s covenant relationship with us who love and trust Him, the child of promise would have to be Sarah’s son, even if such a thing was physically “impossible.” “Is anything too hard for Yahweh? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14) And so she did. Yahweh is very serious about His metaphors.
(937) God’s plan will come to pass through Jacob.
“Now Isaac pleaded with Yahweh for his wife, because she was barren; and Yahweh granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of Yahweh. And Yahweh said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’” (Genesis 25:21-23)
Once again, the lineage of the coming Messiah was refined: He would come through the younger of Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons—through Jacob, not Esau. On his deathbed, though, the half-blind Isaac had apparently forgotten all about this prophecy, for he thought he was giving the covenant blessing to his firstborn Esau when he told Jacob, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!” (Genesis 27:29) Later, having learned of Jacob’s deceit, but having also been reminded of his own spiritual lapse, Isaac admitted that Yahweh had indeed called Jacob, not Esau: “May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.” (Genesis 28:3-4) And Yahweh confirmed the blessing. “And behold, Yahweh stood above it [the ladder to heaven in Jacob’s dream] and said: “I am Yahweh, God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 28:13-14) Jacob (later known as Israel) received virtually the same promise his grandfather Abraham had been given—to be fulfilled in the life and mission of the same anointed Man, Yahshua the Messiah.
We tend to take these prophetic pronouncements for granted, but we shouldn’t, for they’re unique in the annals of religious tradition—Judeo-Christian or otherwise. The world thinks that “Jesus” was merely a man, a great moral innovator, the founder of a great religion. He was none of those things, but rather, the One in whom “all the families of the earth would be blessed.” In order to fulfill that mission, He would have to be more than a mere man. He would have to be God incarnate, not the arbiter of a manmade moral code but the very personification of goodness. That’s why Yahweh began laying down subtle hints concerning Him within hours of Adam’s fall, and why we were given stunning and specific prophecies like this one several millennia before the fact. We’re not only being told what the Messiah would accomplish, but who His distant ancestors would be. Later prophets would pinpoint the time of His coming, His birthplace, and even His name (subtly revealed over seventy times in the Old Covenant scriptures—invariably translated “salvation.” See Chapter 16 of this volume).
This is on a whole different level than predicting that someone will come and do something someday, for example, Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, or the Antichrist—all of whom are mentioned, though not by name, in prophetic scripture. This is more like sticking your neck out and declaring something like, “The Antichrist will be the direct descendant of Cnaeus Domitius and his lovely wife Agrippina, through their son Lucius.” (The Bible makes no such prediction, you understand. This is just to give you a feel for the kind of boldness it would take.) It’s one thing to make the prediction, but if it’s going to be meaningful, the genealogical records linking Cnaeus and the Antichrist must be extant and unbroken. They are for Yahshua of Nazareth—the verified physical descendant of David, Judah, Jacob, Abraham, Shem, and Seth, just as prophetic scripture requires, recorded in Luke 3:23-38. Furthermore, since the Hebrew genealogical archives were destroyed when Vespasian sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., any rival claimant to Yahshua for the throne of David would have a tough time proving his case. False christs are a dime a dozen in our world, but only because their followers are ignorant of the requirements of Yahweh’s scriptures. If they knew the prophecies, they’d know that the Messiah has a specific prophetic bloodline, including being in the legal lineage of Israel’s kings and being born of a virgin. Yahshua of Nazareth is the only man in history who fits the profile.
(938) God’s plan will come to pass through Judah.
“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise. Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies. Your father’s children shall bow down before you.” (Genesis 49:8)
Jacob/Israel had twelve sons, and it is here, in his prophetic blessing near the end of his life, that we see Yahweh’s pick for which tribe would convey the Messiah to the world. He begins by noting the character of his fourth son, Judah. “Judah is a lion’s whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?” Yes, no one messes with the lion, does he? He has a well deserved reputation as the King of beasts, the authority figure among God’s creatures. Thus the messianic prophecy: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people….” Shiloh means “he whose it is,” or “to whom it belongs.” It’s based on a verb (shalah) denoting to be at rest, to prosper, or to be at ease—like the young lion Israel was imagining in his mind, the very picture of confident authority backed by awesome strength. The prophecy itself states that once a king from Judah has ascended the throne, no dynasty from another tribe of Israel will supplant him. This was fulfilled in the line of David, after the scepter did depart from the tribe of Benjamin. After the kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians, they had no king at all until Herod the Great showed up—but he wasn’t an Israelite. He was an Idumean, a descendant of Esau. Thus the “King” who finally revealed Himself as Shiloh—He to whom it (the throne) belongs—was Yahshua, a descendant of Judah through King David.
The prophecy isn’t done, however. “Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:9-12) The donkey and the colt are, of course, prophetic references to the humble mode of transport that Yahshua employed during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:1-9; John 12:12-15). The rest is a reference to His second coming, this time in bloody judgment upon a world that has rejected Him (Isaiah 63:1-4).
Moses has the last word on the messianic destiny of Judah: “And this he said of Judah: Hear, Yahweh, the voice of Judah, and bring him to his people; Let his hands be sufficient for him, and may You be a help against his enemies.” (Deuteronomy 33:7) His prayer, in essence, is that the promise made to Abraham would be fulfilled in a son of Judah—that through the sufficiency of His work, all the families of the world would be blessed. We who have accepted this blessing with thanksgiving still pray to Father Yahweh, “Bring Him to His people.”
(939) Melchizedek is a picture of the coming Messiah.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’” (Genesis 14:18-20)
Abram’s encounter with this enigmatic character tells us quite a bit about God’s relationship with mankind. But Melchizedek might have remained a mystery to us, were it not for the commentary we’re given about him in the Book of Hebrews, where he’s described as being “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God…a priest continually.” (Hebrews 7:3) At the very least, Melchizedek is a metaphor for Christ. But many commentators, myself among them, feel that he was probably a theophany—a pre-messianic manifestation of Yahweh in human form, not unlike the “God” who walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden, or the “Angel of Yahweh” who conversed with Abraham before the destruction of Sodom.
As the writer to the Hebrews points out, Melchizedek’s office was the “king of Salem,” that is, the king of peace (shalom), but his name means “king of righteousness.” (Melek means “king,” and tsedeq denotes justice, rightness, righteousness—an ethical, moral standard defined by the nature and commandments of God.) Melchizedek’s symbolic role as “king” is mirrored perfectly in the life and legacy of Yahshua, the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6) who was born of the royal tribe of Judah, in the lineage of King David, as the scriptures demand—and who in His glory is to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Thus we read in the Psalms, “Surely His [Yahweh’s] salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:9-10) These things are not coincidental.
Melchizedek was also said to be the priest of the “Most High”—One who is then identified as being the same God Abram serves, later revealed by name: Yahweh. A priest is one who serves as an intermediary or intercessor between God and man. As the writer to the Hebrews points out, priests of the Levitical order of Aaron had to keep getting replaced, because they were “prevented by death from continuing.” (Hebrews 7:23) Yahshua, on the other hand, is a priest of a different order—that of Melchizedek (since you can’t descend from both Judah and Levi). As David prophesied, “Yahweh has sworn and will not relent, You [referring to Yahshua] are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4) In other words, He, being eternal, will always be our liaison with Yahweh, the form of deity through which Yahweh chooses to reveal Himself to mortal men. As Yahshua explained to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
And what else did Melchizedek do to clue us in to his real identity? He brought “bread and wine” to Abram. Once again, the Messianic connection is too blatant to ignore. On the night He was betrayed, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28) As we have seen, these two substances figure heavily in the imagery of the Tabernacle. Grain is a recurring symbol of God’s provision, and the bread into which it’s made is a picture of the ultimate expression of that provision—the body of Yahshua the Messiah, broken for us. As an offering, it was always accompanied with olive oil (a metaphor for the Holy Spirit) and was often sprinkled with frankincense as well—a picture of purity achieved through sacrifice. And the cup? Wine oblations accompanied every animal sacrifice. This nesek, or drink offering, was a transparent symbol of the blood of Christ poured out on our behalf. It was always poured out on or before the altar, and the amount was invariably the same as that of the oil that was brought with the minha, or grain offering, symbolically equating the blood of redemption to the eternal life afforded by God’s Spirit.
(940) Abraham’s test was a dress-rehearsal for Yahshua’s sacrifice.
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” (Genesis 22:1-2)
People who aren’t prepared to face the fact of Yahshua’s atoning sacrifice are apt to look at this passage and declare that the Hebrews’ God, Yahweh, is a cruel and bloodthirsty figment of Abraham’s imagination—sort of like Molech was to the Canaanites. Offering a human sacrifice to appease a local deity, hoping to procure some temporal benefit—numerous children or bountiful crops—was not unheard of, even this far back. But notice that Yahweh offered Abraham nothing in return for the life of his son. He just said, “Do it.” That Isaac had been born at all was a miracle, one God had promised and then delivered on. So written between the lines in Yahweh’s instructions was a challenge: “You believed Me before, Abraham, and I didn’t let you down. Your son Isaac is still the child of promise. Trust Me on this, and do as I ask. I will provide.” Abraham couldn’t have known—even after it was all over—that his obedience would give the world a stunningly accurate preview of how Yahweh would provide salvation for the entire world: every detail foreshadows some facet of Yahweh’s impending sacrifice of His own Son, Yahshua.
Let’s look at those details. “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey.” Yahshua too would begin His journey riding a donkey, amid the optimism and celebration of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “…and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son….” The players in this drama are Abraham (which means “father of many”) playing the role of Father Yahweh, Isaac his son of promise, playing the part of the promised Son of God, Yahshua the Anointed Savior, and two “young men,” servants in Abe’s household. These two, I believe, represent the two branches of Yahweh’s household of faith, believing Israel and the assembly of Yahshua, the Church, we who are called out to be witnesses of God’s unfolding plan.
“…And he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” We’ll get to the wood in a moment. Note that God told Abraham of a specific place where He wanted this act of worship to take place. Earlier it had been described as being “in the land of Moriah,” on “one of the mountains” there. This is the future site of the city of Jerusalem. The ridge that would become identified as Mount Moriah runs roughly north and south, flanked on the west by Mount Zion, and on the east by the Mount of Olives. At its northern end, its highest point would later come to be known as the Bizita Hill, a.k.a. Golgotha, a.k.a. Calvary. Being the highest spot on the “mountain of Moriah,” I believe this is where Abraham took Isaac. “Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off….” Yahshua and His Father also made a journey, and then too the destination only came into view on the “third day.” Their destination was heavenly glory: following a day of sacrifice (Passover), and a day of separation (the Feast of Unleavened Bread), the third day of that journey was a day of celebration—resurrection Sunday (the Feast of Firstfruits).
“And Abraham said to his young men, [the two witnesses, representing Israel and the ekklesia] “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” Where did they stay? I’m guessing, of course, but I believe they camped out on the lower plateau of Mount Moriah, the place where the temple of Solomon would eventually stand—a few hundred yards short of the site of the actual sacrifice. “So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son….” The “wood of the burnt offering” is seen again in the wooden stauros, the upright pole of the cross of Christ. If we reverse-engineer the prophecy, it becomes clear that it wasn’t really the Romans who sent Yahshua to the hill of crucifixion. It was Yahweh Himself. I should reiterate that the word translated “burnt offering” (olah) doesn’t really contain the concept of being “burnt.” It’s based on the verb ala, meaning to climb, ascend, or go up, which in the olah is descriptive of the smoke of a fire, hence the connection. But the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes, “The key appears to be that alone among the Israelite sacrifices the olah is wholly burned, rather than partially burned [that is, the fatty portions] and eaten by the worshipers and/or the priest. Thus, the whole animal is brought up to the altar and the whole is offered as a gift in homage to Yahweh. ‘Whole offering’ would be a better rendering in English to convey the theology of the olah. It is indeed burned, but the burning is essentially secondary to the giving of the whole creature to Yahweh.” So the burning of the olah is in reality a metaphor for judgment—subjection to the “fire,” i.e., the agent that separates the pure from the worthless.
“…And he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’” The plot thickens, as they say. Isaac (who, I would guess, was about twelve years old at this time) noticed that they had everything they needed for a sacrifice except for the animal. “And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order.” So far, so good, Isaac may have thought, but then Abraham “…bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son….” It’s at this point that we wish we had a little more information. Did Abraham explain to Isaac what was going on? Did Isaac willingly agree that following Yahweh’s instructions was the right thing to do, even if it cost him his life? Isaac was a “lad,” old enough and strong enough to schlep a load of firewood up the hillside, while his dad was, like, a hundred and ten years old—Isaac could have escaped if he’d really wanted to. But no, I believe Abraham’s faith in Yahweh had, long before this, been taught to his son. Both of them, I’m convinced, were sure that if Abraham slew his son as God had instructed, that God would also raise him from the dead. His birth had been miraculous; his resurrection would be no more so. So they proceeded in utterly unshakable faith.
“But the Angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’” At this point, some of us would have said, “Gimme a minute, Lord. I’m a little busy right now. As soon as I’ve cut my son’s throat and got this fire going, I’ll be right with you.” We need to learn to be not only obedient to Yahweh, but also sensitive to His voice. We need to learn that God doesn’t always give us all the information up front. And in these Last Days we’re living in, we need to learn that He has His timing down to the nanosecond, and He apparently likes to cut things close, if you’ll pardon the expression. Fortunately, Abraham was listening. “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….’” Nor would Yahweh withhold His only Son from us—which is the only reason I’m here to write about it.
“Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.” The ram (a mature male “lamb”) is a transparent metaphor for the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” i.e., Yahshua. The thicket is reminiscent of the crown of thorns He wore as He was crucified. Note that the ram’s horns indicate authority or power. The point is that Yahshua was not crucified in weakness. He wasn’t hunted down, captured, and killed for his crimes by a higher authority, though that was the story published by the Jewish religious leaders and their Roman allies. No, He was restrained by His own power: He, being the only one whose death could make a difference on our behalf, was “caught” on the horns of a dilemma, so to speak. If he walked away from this death (as He was certainly able to do) He would have been untrue to His own nature—love. So at this point the metaphor shifts: “Abraham [standing in for Yahweh] went and took the ram [symbolic of Yahshua], and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” That’s the nature of Yahshua’s sacrifice: His life was offered up in place of ours—it’s a substitute. And because of this, we can now become adopted children of Yahweh ourselves! “And Abraham called the name of the place, Yahweh-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of Yahweh it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:3-14) That’s now past tense. In the “Mount of Yahweh,” that is, Moriah, it was provided. Now it’s up to us to accept God’s gift of the substitutionary ram, for if we do not, we will have to atone for our own sins—we will be the burnt offering.
(941) The Master’s bride must come from His Father’s house.
“Now my master [Abraham] made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell; but you shall go to my father’s house and to my family, and take a wife for my son.’” (Genesis 24:37-38)
There is more to this than mere history. The symbols of the Moriah experience continue: As before, Abraham represents Yahweh, and Isaac stands in for the real Son of promise, Yahshua. The issue being decided is who is going to become Isaac’s (i.e., Yahshua’s) bride. Abraham gave His servant strict instructions: he was not to espouse Isaac to any of the pagan women from the communities that surrounded them, for even though they might make good matches from the world’s point of view, they wouldn’t from God’s. The one thing that would sanctify a marriage, the one thing that would make it truly blessed—a common faith in Yahweh—was not to be found among them. So Abraham’s servant (metaphorically, any servant of Yahweh) was instructed to be selective, patient, and resourceful in finding Isaac’s bride—going to great lengths to find her, avoiding what was merely attractive, convenient, or available.
The point is obvious. In order to become part of the ekklesia, the bride of Christ, we must be part of Yahweh’s household. That is, we must have a relationship in faith with our Creator, not with the world. If you take a pagan, stick him in a church pew and put a hymnal in his hand, you can’t expect him to magically become a “Christian.” Oh, you might induce him to clean up his language, stop kicking the dog, and drop money in the offering plate. But in the end, without a fundamental inward change of spiritual address, all you’ll really have is a well-behaved pagan. Baptize a heathen, and all you’ve got is a wet heathen. It’s not a question of conduct, appearance, or convenience. It’s a question of relationship. Servants of God are instructed to be discerning—resisting the temptation to pair Isaac with a pagan bride—that is, to compromise with the world’s values and practices in order to gain prestige, power, or popularity. Yahshua made this abundantly clear in the warnings given to the churches in Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, in Revelation 2.
Pagans (and other mis-believers) can, of course, become related to Yahweh—through adoption, as it were. (You don’t have to be born into a Christian family to become a believer; nor will being born into a Christian family make you a believer.) In order to understand (in this context, anyway) how the process of becoming part of the bride of Christ unfolds, let’s return to the text, and be prepared to stretch God’s metaphor a little. “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her.” (Genesis 24:67) What is “Sarah’s tent?” Sarah had been Abraham’s wife, Isaac’s mother. So in this elaborate metaphor, Sarah is a type of the Holy Spirit of Yahweh. Moving “into her tent” is a picture of spiritual regeneration, the act of being “born from above” that Yahshua described in John 3. It is only upon being indwelled with Yahweh’s Spirit that we become “the bride” of Yahshua.
Compare the imagery of Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah with Yahshua’s words: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The foremost of these commandments is to trust Him. “And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” You’ve heard me say that the Ruach Qodesh is feminine in character (indicated by “Her” role in our lives as well as the gender of the Hebrew words describing Her.) Don’t let the masculine pronouns for the Holy Spirit here throw you. In the original Greek, they’re neutral: “It.” But beyond that, the Father (Yahweh), His Spirit (our heavenly “Mother”), and the Son (God’s Messiah, Yahshua) are all seen as having the same identity here—interchangeable in persona, if not in form: they’re all the same God, just manifested in different ways. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” In the terms of our present precept, Sarah (metaphorical of Yahweh’s Spirit) was “in”—was part of—Isaac, and he, with his bride Rebekah, dwelled “in her tent” in a matrix of love. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:15-21) Love happens when we dwell in wedded bliss with the Son of Promise in the shelter of the Holy Spirit.
(942) Yahweh allows us to “wrestle” with Him.
“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, 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!’” (Genesis 32:24-26)
This is one of the most revealing passages in all of scripture, mostly because it’s so counterintuitive, so contrary to the way we normally think of God. Yahweh is Almighty God, Creator of the universe, so big and powerful that we can’t even begin to comprehend His greatness, and so holy that we can’t appear in His presence in our natural state and survive the encounter—His very essence would destroy us as light destroys the darkness, not out of malice, but simply by its nature. But here we see Jacob wrestling with God who has assumed the form of a man (Hebrew iysh: a human being, i.e., a person, in contrast to deity). It's what we call a theophany.
Even here, we can sort of comprehend it, since we’re familiar with the concept of Immanuel, Yahshua coming as a human being to walk among men: God with us. But what we (or is it just me?) can’t quite get a grip on is how God could wrestle with Jacob and not prevail against him—struggling with him as an equally matched “opponent.” I guess I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that even when God condescended to interact with man (which He did because He loves us and seeks to develop a rapport with us), He did so under “false pretenses”—that is, He merely refrained from using the awesome power that was His by right and nature. I imagined that He was just “holding back,” concealing his divine attributes, and that even in His humanity Yahshua actually retained the power (at least some of it) that was rightfully His as God—though He refused to use it for vindication or defense because of His love for us. But this passage has shifted my perception, and I’m even more awestruck than I was before. It appears that God actually emptied Himself of His divine power for the purpose of edifying Jacob—He didn’t merely assume the form of a man, but He became one, with all the frailty, risk, and limitation that implies. The implication is that what He did here for Jacob, He also did for us, becoming a mere man in the person of Yahshua of Nazareth, stripping Himself not only of heaven’s awesome glory, but also of every vestige of divine power and knowledge, holding nothing in reserve.
If I’m right about this, then the ramifications are stunning. (1) The only thing empowering Yahshua during his first-century advent was the Holy Spirit of Yahweh—the very Spirit that indwells us as believers. The same “power source” that fueled Yahshua’s miracles resides within us today. (2) The knowledge, insight, and perception that Yahshua displayed were due to two factors, both of which are available to us: the written Word of God, and the illumination of God’s Spirit. He saw and understood the things that Yahweh had communicated in the Scriptures—things that nobody else comprehended—because He was in perfect conformity with God’s Spirit, who communicated with Him freely and naturally. And (3), the Messiah’s perfect, sinless walk before God allowed the Spirit to be manifested without restriction through what He did and said. The only reason the Spirit’s power is not similarly displayed in our lives is that we (unlike Yahshua) are fallen creatures whose sin and disbelief quenches and grieves the Spirit of God dwelling within us, to one extent or another. I’m not suggesting that if we try hard enough to harness the Spirit’s energy we can become, just like Yahshua, unfettered channels for the power of God. Yahshua’s soul was Yahweh’s own life residing in the shell of a mortal man. It was not encumbered with Adam’s sin nature as ours are. No, I’m only saying that we believers fall far short of our potential as mirrors of Christ’s love and power in this world because we restrict and hamper the Spirit of Yahweh who dwells within us.
We are told, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) But what happens if we resist Yahweh? This is where our Genesis 32 passage gains traction: unlike the devil, Yahweh will neither “flee” from us nor crush us with His awesome strength. Rather, He is willing to “wrestle” with us all night long. That is, He gives us the opportunity to try Him, test Him, probe for weaknesses, and find out through experience what He’s “made of.” But there are some things we need to notice about this process. First, we can’t “beat” Yahweh: He will be proven worthy, true, and faithful at every turn. Second, though we might run away from Him, He will never flee from us. As long as we’re willing to challenge Him in faith, as long as we “wrestle” as honest seekers after the truth, He will never give up on us. Third, our wrestling match with God cannot go on forever. When the “day breaks,” a decision has to have been made. This dawning can represent either our own physical death, or, for the last generation (the one that walks the earth today, if I’m not mistaken), the commencement of the Kingdom of God on earth.
How did this wrestling match turn out for Jacob? “So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’” (Genesis 32:27-28) His new name means, “God prevails,” or “Prevails with God.” It wasn’t that Jacob/Israel had “beaten” Yahweh, or vice versa. It was that his objective in wrestling with Him all night had been achieved: Jacob had stubbornly held on until God had blessed him. Thus he was no longer the “Cheater,” the “Supplanter.” Now he was the one who had tried God and found Him to be true: Jacob had prevailed with God, and Yahweh had likewise prevailed with Him. By the way, in case you’re not convinced that it was actually a theophany—a manifestation of God in human form—with which Jacob had been wrestling, the issue is clarified by the prophet Hosea: “He [Jacob] took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—that is, Yahweh, God of hosts. Yahweh is His memorial name.” (Hosea 12:3-5)
The Genesis record continues. “Then Jacob asked, saying, ‘Tell me Your name, I pray.’ And He said, ‘Why is it that you ask about My name?...’” Twice in scripture a theophany is asked his name, and both times this rather evasive answer is given. The other instance is in Judges 13, where the “Angel of Yahweh” is announcing the miraculous conception of Samson to his parents. As far as I can tell, the reason for God’s elusiveness is that He didn’t want to leave a false impression. If He said, “My name is Yahweh,” as He had to Moses at the burning bush, Jacob (and Manoah) might have gotten the impression that “God” was restricted to a human form, when the reality was so far beyond this it was virtually incomprehensible. But if He had used the name of His future human manifestation, Yahshua, that too would have been misleading, for the Messiah’s name implies His mission: Yahshua (or Yahushua) means “Yahweh is salvation.” His first century advent would prove the name to be matched to the mission. But here in Genesis (and in Judges) although the man/messenger was indeed God in human form, the immediate task at hand was not the salvation of mankind, so the name of the theophany was withheld.
“And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.’” (Genesis 32:29-30) For his part, Jacob, now Israel, was under no illusions: the One with which he had wrestled was God in human form. The name he gave the place reflects this understanding. Peniel (or Penuel) is made of two Hebrew words: Panah means to turn, as in, to turn to face someone; and El is the generic word for God. So Peniel means “turning to God” or “facing God.” The remarkable thing, as Jacob noted, is that one can “face God” and live to tell the tale. Actually, facing God is the only way one’s life can be preserved.