1.2.5 The Son—Yahshua of Nazareth: God as Sacrifice
Volume 1: Foundations—Chapter 2.5
The Son—Yahshua of Nazareth: God as Sacrifice
Undoubtedly the most tangible of Logos manifestations was the advent of Yahshua of Nazareth: God as man. I’d also have to say this was the most unlikely, illogical, counterintuitive, and dangerous thing Yahweh could have done—Yahshua was the Logos expression most likely to be misunderstood, misconstrued, despised and rejected. But He was also the most necessary manifestation of the six if loving, restoring, and redeeming us was God’s purpose.
Think about it: if all Yahweh wanted to do was inform us, then an endless string of theophanies would have done the trick. If all He wanted to do was impress us—compelling us to humble ourselves before Him in awe and reverence—then the Shekinah would have been pressed into service every time we turned around. If Yahweh only wanted to inspire individual believers, to encourage us to heed His word despite temporal obstacles and satanic opposition, He could have made do with a liberal use of dreams and visions revealing His unmistakable glory. If all He wanted to do was comfort, console, guide, and admonish His people with an indwelling influence—a still, small voice within us—then sending His Holy Spirit would have been quite sufficient for the task. And if Yahweh only wanted to rule the human race with a scepter of iron, exercising perfect justice and unerring wisdom as He reigned over the whole earth, He could have skipped the rest and presented Himself as the glorious Messiah-King at the very outset.
But as it turned out, though Yahweh wanted to do all of those things, the picture remains incomplete. There is still something missing. In all of these manifestations, the data all flows in one direction—from God to us. That would be expected if God were Allah or Ba’al, but not if He’s Yahweh. That is, if God’s agenda were merely top-down control, submission, conquest, and the unquestioning obedience of mankind, then it wouldn’t really matter if He didn’t provide some means through which we could choose our own destiny. But as I’ve said until my cheeks hurt, Yahweh’s primary gift to man is free will! It is therefore a logical necessity that He would, somewhere along the line, manifest Himself in a manner that presented a choice, an opportunity for us to either accept or reject Him, a door through which we could opt to walk—or not. Let’s face it: it would be awfully hard to “choose not to accept” Yahweh’s lighting up the top of Mount Horeb like a highway flare if you happened to be there when He did it. You can’t say, “No, I don’t allow that,” to a vision of God’s glory you receive in your sleep. There is no record of anyone ever doubting the veracity of a theophanic appearance. And although it will be theoretically possible for someone to “just say no” to King Yahshua during His Millennial reign, there will be no way to pretend He isn’t there, large and in charge.
Therefore, there logically had to be, somewhere in God’s plan, a manifestation of Yahweh’s Logos that not only spoke, but also listened—that not only taught God’s precepts, but also fulfilled them. Somewhere, Yahweh had to physically, tangibly, become the expression of the choice of which Moses had spoken: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of Yahweh your God that I command you today, by loving Yahweh your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” The choice, he says, is between good and evil, between life and death, between walking in God’s ways by heeding His commandments (literally, “words”) or serving “other gods,” whether Ba’al or yourself. “But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving Yahweh your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
Please note a very subtle distinction here, something that’s invariably overlooked or misunderstood. Yahweh says that He is the source of the life and goodness that are ours if we’ll obey His words. But He doesn’t state the converse, that He will personally go out of His way to harm us if we refuse. He merely warns us that we “shall surely perish.” His is not a “carrot or stick” approach; rather, it’s a “carrot or no carrot” way of thinking. The “stick” is self-inflicted: it’s merely the inevitable result of our refusing to accept the carrot He’s offering; it’s something from which He would spare us. Yahweh is the source of life (the consequence of obedience); it doesn’t follow that He’s also the source of death (the consequence of disobedience). It’s simple logic: one cannot blame X for the consequences of my having chosen Y. One thing has nothing to do with the other. I can’t fault General Motors if the Ford I bought breaks down.
As I’ve pointed out, everything in the Torah, one way or another, was a symbol—a road sign, if you will—that pointed toward Christ, who in turn pointed toward Yahweh. Just before His ascension, Yahshua told His disciples, “‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’” (Luke 24:44-48) So the choice Moses had put before the Children of Israel (and through them, us) was in reality the choice of whether or not to accept Yahweh’s plan for their reconciliation with Him—a plan brought to fruition through the life and mission of Yahshua of Nazareth. Yahshua was the mechanism by which we could exercise the free will Yahweh had bestowed upon us. He was the fulfillment of the Levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle symbols, the Instructions concerning reverence, purification, civilization, consecration, relationships, and even diet. He was (or will be) the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies recorded in the Psalms and Prophets. If we choose not to embrace His mission, if we opt not to accept His sacrifice, then we have, in effect, rejected everything the Scriptures were designed to reveal—the very plan of God. Conversely, if we proclaim the Messiah as our Savior, we have by definition kept the Law.
Consider this. The Second Commandment seems to many to be the least “practical” of the ten. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6) I mean, if you place Yahweh first in your affections (Commandment #1), and you don’t accept or advance anything that is false, deceptive, or destructive in His name (Commandment #3), then what possible difference could it make if you made yourself a statue or a picture of what you think Yahweh might look like, to help you keep Him at the forefront of your awareness? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
No, for two reasons (at least). First, as Yahshua said to the woman at the well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) So whatever image you might come up with on your own is, by definition, wrong. Second, and more to the point, Yahweh planned to provide His own image, so we could all see what He was really like, in terms we could relate to, understand, and appreciate. This “image,” of course, is Yahshua the Messiah—the Logos: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) If we want to know what Yahweh “looks” like, we have only to look at Yahshua—not in physical form, of course, but in character, purpose, nature, and identity. That’s why He told Philip, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
Now we know why Yahweh was so adamant about our not bowing down to “carved images” we had made. If we really want to “worship God in spirit and in truth,” we’re going to have to refer to the “carved image” of Himself that He made: Yahshua. This explains why He described Himself as a “jealous God” in this context. Any “image” of Him that isn’t Yahshua is actually a rival for our affections—to put it bluntly, a false god. Of course, when looking at Yahshua (in order to perceive Yahweh) we have to be looking at the real Messiah—not a caricature of Him drawn by imaginative but mistaken purveyors of religious dogma. He is Immanuel: God with us, the Word made flesh—not the founder of a great religion, not an innovative moral teacher, and not some pacifist who failed to bring down Rome through a policy of passive resistance, getting Himself executed for His trouble. He’s neither a baby in a manger nor a condemned man hanging on a cross. Because He is the very image of Yahweh, He has life within Himself—life that couldn’t be held forever in a mortal human vessel.
Scripture continually uses one metaphor that trips us up: we just don’t understand it these days. This passage is typical: “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on Me, but I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:28-31) Yahshua is constantly heard talking as if He (the “Son”) and the “Father” are two different people. Or at least that’s how it sounds to modern ears. In our world, fathers and sons see themselves as separate, different, and as often as not, at odds with each other. But this was not always so.
All through my teenage years and for the first quarter-century of my adult life, I had the distinct impression that my dad didn’t really “get” me, appreciate what I was doing with my life, or understand what made me tick. And the feeling was mutual, I think. It wasn’t that we fought, or anything like that; there was nothing adversarial about our relationship. But we lived completely separate lives: distant (not geographically, but socially), disconnected, detached. It wasn’t until my mother passed away that my father (who had worked as an accountant all his life) bothered to look into what I did with my days (running a modestly successful graphic design agency). It was only then that he realized that my life wasn’t so very different from his. I wasn’t the unrealistic “artiste” he’d pictured; I ran a profitable small business, solved real-world problems, kept my clients satisfied, and fed my family. Only then, during our last few years until he died, did we grow close: we finally saw things eye to eye.
Father-son relationships in scripture aren’t pictured like that at all. Sons—especially firstborn sons—are seen as extensions of their fathers’ interests. They usually followed their fathers into the same trades, had the same agenda, and lived on the same land. Businesses were family affairs, with knowledge and assets passed down from one generation to the next. Whereas in our world, we “start over from scratch” with every new generation, the ideal—the norm—in Biblical times was continuity: the father serving as leader, master craftsman, and mentor in the family enterprise, until the son had matured and seasoned to the point where he was ready to assume those roles himself. The Psalmist puts it this way: “Behold, children are a heritage from Yahweh; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5) A man’s children, in other words, project and extend their father’s agenda in the community—an agenda that always has the best interests of the entire family in view.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this “father-son” picture comes to fruition in the “relationship” between Yahweh and Yahshua. Lay the biology aside and consider only the connection, the affiliation, that exists between the Heavenly Father and the Son of God: Yahshua is the first “arrow” in Yahweh’s quiver. It is He whom the Father sends to “speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Note that the Father’s “enemies” are the Son’s as well.) The metaphor is telling us that Yahshua is the “front man” for Yahweh’s interests in the physical world. And what are those “interests?” What is the family business? It’s salvation: the redemption and reconciliation of mankind to our Creator.
So don’t think of Yahshua as a second-generation deity—the Son of God, who is therefore somehow junior to Yahweh. And certainly don’t think of Him as a messenger boy, a prophet, or the founder of a new religion. Think, rather of Yahshua of Nazareth as a reflection of Yahweh in the mirror of our lives: reduced in dimensions and voluntarily bereft of God’s power, and yet the very image of Yahweh presented in a form we can perceive. What Yahweh does, His reflection does. He who has seen Yahshua has seen the Father.