The Torah Code—Volume 4: The Human Condition—Chapter 1
Normally, I wouldn’t have signed up for this little two-unit anthropology course, but it was 1964, there was a war on, and they were drafting college students who didn’t carry a full course load. I was desperate. So there I found myself in Dr. Osborne’s class, sitting next to a bubbly blonde freshman who decided to make it her mission to push the good professor to the brink of distraction by passing notes to me, whispering in my ear, and generally being too cute for her own good.
So what could I do? I married her. (Well, three years later.) Looking back, it seems mildly ironic that my lifelong relationship with this girl would have begun with what was supposed to be a serious study of human cultural interaction. For us, life has most definitely not been some dry academic exercise. It has been one big adventure from one end to the other—eleven children, including nine adoptions, sickness and health, life and death, joy and grief, poverty and plenty, pleasure and pain, betrayal and reconciliation, a few setbacks but more than our share of minor triumphs. We’ve both made mistakes, but neither of us can remember ever having a single serious argument, for somewhere along that road we became one person—not a partnership, but a corporation. How can you fight against yourself?
It has not been boring. What it has been is a half-century long post-graduate course in relationships. If you’ll recall, in Volume 1 of this book I mentioned that my profession as a graphic designer prepared me to deal with symbols—to understand why they were used and how they were supposed to work. I suppose you could say that my personal life has similarly prepared me to see the correlation between what happens in our social interactions and what God ordained in order to teach us about His nature—and the relationship He wishes to share with us. Not that it’s any big mystery to believers.
You must admit: the idea of a human being (or any other mortal entity) having a relationship with a God so awesome that He created the universe with a word fairly boggles the mind. It’s not just a question of scale (though that’s compelling enough). Everything we know about Yahweh leads us to the conclusion that no one on this earth can witness His unfiltered, undiminished glory and live to tell the tale. As Yahweh told Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20) The writer to the Hebrews reminds us to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29) He was paraphrasing Moses, who wrote, “Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of Yahweh your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which Yahweh your God has forbidden you. For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24) A “consuming fire,” by definition, destroys anything in its presence that is not designed to withstand the heat. And let’s face it: we mortals can’t even survive the benign environment God made for us.
(It should be noted that destructive heat is not Yahweh’s only—or even His primary—character attribute. This “consuming fire” is a simile, a metaphor, pointing out that mortal man cannot endure in the unabridged presence of a Holy God. That is why Yahweh has—from the Garden of Eden forward—revealed Himself to people only in diminished, “dialed-down” manifestations like theophanies, the Shekinah, the Holy Spirit, or the human Messiah. See Volume 1, Chapter 2 of this work—“the Nature of God.”)
Yahweh characterized Himself as “a consuming fire” as part of a warning not to participate in idol worship. Why was He so concerned with people making images whose purpose was (ostensibly) to remind them of Him in some tangible or visible way? As we saw previously, even the “golden calf” that Aaron had made at the insistence of the ignorant Israelites was probably meant to be a representation of the best, strongest, most worthy thing in nature they could imagine—a young bull. It wasn’t that they had a silly bovine fixation; they weren’t so stupid they thought a statue of a calf was actually God. It was just supposed to represent what they knew about Yahweh, the God who had rescued them from Egypt: He was powerful, and the bull was the most powerful symbol they could think of.
Their errors were fundamental and numerous: (1) Yahweh is actually so awesome, any image borrowed from nature would necessarily fall infinitely short of reality. (2) The imagery tacitly compared God to something that was created, though Yahweh had revealed His primary attribute in His self-revealed name: “I Am”—the One who is self-existent, uncreated. (3) Other nations (notably the one they had just left—Egypt) also used bulls as representations of gods, but they didn’t worship Yahweh. The fraud factor was palpable: we do not all worship the same God. (4) Yahweh didn’t want them trying to “reinvent Him in their image.” Rather, they were to receive Him as He revealed Himself. In short, he wanted to establish a familial relationship with Israel (and through them, the world), not invent a new religion. (5) The gold they used to build the idol was lifeless. The best that one could say about it was that it didn’t corrode like other metals. But you can’t really sculpt Life out of death. And (6) Yahweh had already instructed them not to make images for worship. Even if they didn’t understand why, this was a clear case of blatant disobedience, revealing their disrespect for the One issuing the Instructions—and I don’t mean Moses.
But perhaps the most fundamental reason that Yahweh did not want us making images of Him is (7) that He planned on providing His own “graven image” for our consideration. It was the very heart of His plan for enabling our reconciliation with Him. Yahshua the Messiah was God, but manifested in a form to which we could relate—human—and not coincidentally, a form that was not lethal to fallen men. As John said, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared [Greek: exégeomai—revealed, explained, shown the way to] Him.” (John 1:18) But it was the way John described Him—as One “born” to Yahweh, a beloved only begotten “Son,” One who relates to God as a son does to his father—that should alert us to the symbol God is employing here, and throughout scripture. That symbol is family relationships.
Christians grow used to thinking in these terms because of innumerable scripture references that use this “family” metaphor, but we should remind ourselves that “personally relating to God” is the last thing one might expect. Manmade religions invariably picture gods that are distant and demanding. They are said to “want” our obedience, appeasement, alms, penance, attentiveness, or devotion, but not our love, and certainly not any sort of personal interaction with us. We are told (invariably by a self-appointed clergy who stands to gain materially) to give the “gods” what they want, because if we don’t, bad things will happen to us.
In Hinduism, for example, failure to sufficiently appease the gods (and there are as many as 330 million of them) with rituals and sacrifices will presumably result either in the gods proactively punishing them, or worse, losing focus and forgetting to do whatever it is such gods are supposed to be doing to keep the world running smoothly. For all intents and purposes, then, these gods are dependent on their people. “Salvation” for the Hindu is called Moksha (akin to Nirvana for the Buddhist), defined as achieving release from the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. So their idea of “heaven” or “paradise” is being nothing, knowing nothing, feeling nothing, and (not to put too fine a point on it) being freed at last from whatever “god” one worshiped in life. Ironically, “success” in eastern religions is tantamount to ridding oneself of god.
Islam, meanwhile, is the only religion on earth outside of Judeo-Christianity that purports to follow scriptures handed down by “god” himself—in this case, Allah. That being said, “what god wants” (with one exception) must be derived piecemeal from the ramblings of Muhammad, Islam’s sole “prophet”: (1) a confession of faith in Allah and his prophet, (2) paying an alms-tax called the zakat, (3) ritual prayer bowing toward Mecca five times a day, (4) daytime fasting during the month of Ramadan, and (5) (if you find it convenient) a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. The one Islamic “pillar” that can be derived from the Qur’an (supposedly the word of Allah) is jihad—fighting and killing (and with any luck, martyrdom) in Allah’s cause. In fact, getting oneself killed in jihad is the only Islamic precept with a promise attached—unending debauchery in Paradise: low hanging fruit, rivers of wine, and (of course) unending sexual pleasure with seventy-two virgins. But the really “nice” thing about the Islamic Paradise is that Allah isn’t there. According to the Qur’an, he spends his time in hell, turning the spit upon which Jews, Christians, Islamic hypocrites, and other assorted infidels are roasted for all eternity. So “success” in Islam is by definition much like that of Hinduism and its spin-offs: it’s ridding oneself of god.
Another major “religious tradition” today is atheistic secular humanism, whose “gods” are blind chance (a.k.a. “nothing,” a.k.a. dumb luck) and a human race so flawed it is in constant danger of wiping itself off the face of the earth—either accidentally (through war, disease, or famine) or on purpose (ironically enough, also with war, disease or famine, or through the abortion of one child out of every four conceived: 45 million souls per year). An oft-stated objective of secular humanists is to rid the world of 90-95% of its human population—supposedly to give the planet a fighting chance at survival. So, as insane as it sounds, atheistic secular humanism too seeks to rid itself of its own “god.”
Judeo-Christianity is the only belief system on earth whose scriptures teach that the eternal disposition of the faithful will be everlasting life in the very presence of God. There is a bond of love between God and His faithful people: we actually enjoy each other’s company—a phenomenon apparently unique among the world’s religious traditions. This is Yahweh’s idea of how we should interact with Him: “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright.” (Leviticus 26:12-13) In the larger sense, Yahweh is not just talking about Israel or the Jews here, either. “Egypt” is symbolic of a world that wants to enslave us all in sin. If we honor Yahweh, we may all “walk with Him,” just as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac were said to have done before Israel was even born. It is possible for any of us to be free of our chains—if we will but choose to walk with Yahweh and be His people.
But since our Creator is an eternal Spirit, our ongoing walk with Him logically requires that we (at some point) must be rendered immortal as well. So we are promised, “The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) Being with God is the last thing a Muslim or Hindu (or an atheist, of course) would want, even temporarily, for the “gods” they worship are nasty and vicious (or are at the very least blood-sucking, life-crushing parasites). But our Lord and God (manifested as Yahshua the Messiah) is Someone any sane person would naturally want to be with always and forever—He is love personified.
Prior to Christ’s resurrection, however, it must have been hard to comprehend how Someone who had come in the form of a man could actually be God in the flesh. But Yahshua, immediately preceding His crucifixion, assured His disciples that He and Yahweh were actually the same. Christ told them, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4) In the idiom of the day, the son’s interests were identical to the father’s. One was the extension of the other. What the father decreed, the son implemented; what the father thought, the son proclaimed. They shared attitudes, agenda, ability, and at the end of the day, authority. Again, adherents of manmade religions would be horrified at the prospect of spending eternity with their various deities. By all indications, their gods don’t like them very much. How utterly different was this God, who so fervently wished to share everlasting life with His creation that He offered Himself up as a sacrifice in order to bring it to fruition.
We keep hearing from our misguided politicians (and alas, from some of our clergy) that “We’re all children of the same God.” While it’s true that Christ’s offering—His death, burial, and resurrection—was sufficient to atone for the sins of all mankind, the fact remains that the choice of whether to receive it—and Him—remains our prerogative. My wife and I adopted nine of our eleven children, and a few of them were half grown (eight to twelve years of age) when we brought them home. Those older kids had the option of saying “No” when the judge asked them (as he invariably did) if they wanted to be part of our family. In the same way, every human ever born stands before The Judge and either affirms or denies that he or she wishes to be part of Christ’s family. Remarkably, many choose to remain orphans.
But for those of us who wish to be adopted by Yahshua, we are given this glimpse of our new life: “And I [John] heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.” Every detail concerning the Wilderness Tabernacle as delineated in the Torah was a prophecy of Yahweh’s plan for the reconciliation of mankind with Himself—all of which is brought to fruition in the life of Yahshua, our Messiah. “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:3-4) Here, in the next-to-last chapter in the Bible, we are shown what should have been apparent all along: that all of our death, sorrow, tears, and pain were due to our estrangement from our Creator—separation that was caused by our sin. But it is His intention—and promise—to heal that breach.
It can’t be stressed enough: whereas manmade religions’ idea of “heaven” (i.e., ultimate success) is evading God’s inconvenient presence, God Himself says He wants to dwell with us in a personal relationship of love, harmony, and peace—forever. Our universe is a vast and amazing place, but it is infinitely less significant than its Creator. So it is with awestruck wonder that we note the incredible lengths to which Yahweh has gone in making Himself accessible to fallen man. Isaiah predicts, “Yahweh Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) And then (in Matthew 1:23) it is explained that “Immanuel” means “God with us”—a concept that is, quite frankly, beyond human imagination.
But a few verses previously, Joseph had been told by the angel, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) “Jesus” (more accurately rendered Yahshua, Yahowsha’, Yahusha, Yahuwshuwa’, Yahushua, Yəhowsu‘a, Yâhowshuwa`, Yâhowshu`a, Yehowshu‘a, Yehoshua, Yĕhôšûă‘, Yeshua, Yahoshua, Yeshuwa’, or Y’shua) means “Yahweh is Salvation.” By calling the infant Messiah both names in the same context, God has given us invaluable insight into His plan: in order for Yahweh to save us, He would have to be with us. It couldn’t be done from a distance, at arm’s length, or by divine fiat, as it were, for human free will was involved. Our reconciliation would have to be up close and personal. It wouldn’t be easy, never mind expected, for achieving justice and mercy at the same time is not exactly a straightforward endeavor. No, the infinite God would have to manifest Himself as a finite, mortal man, living among men.
And just to make His point, He would have to be the lowliest, poorest, least privileged human imaginable, for after all, He was to take upon Himself the persona of a servant—nay, a sacrifice: the innocent Lamb of God who was to bear the sins of the world. Yahweh didn’t want to risk leaving the impression that Yahshua achieved our salvation through human strength, cunning, or resources. That might have been fine if His intention had been to start a religion, a cult based on the abilities and philosophy of a single charismatic individual. But what He actually wanted to do was form a relationship with us.
So the prophet Isaiah points out that our Savior was to be both man and God, both Son and Father, both mortal and eternal, and both ruler and confidant: “For unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Isaiah’s prophecy predated Christ’s advent by seven centuries, but it wasn’t remotely the earliest Messianic prophecy to speak of God’s amazing relationship with mankind.
In fact, Eve had barely had time to swallow her bite of forbidden fruit in the Garden before Yahweh promised her slithering nemesis, Satan, “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 3:15) Eve couldn’t “fix the problem,” nor could her husband Adam, for they had both sinned. But Eve’s “seed,” One who would be her biological descendant, would bruise Satan’s head, though Satan would first “bruise” Eve’s offspring’s “heel.” (To “bruise” is the Hebrew shuph: to crush, break, strike, overwhelm, engulf, or cover.) “Heel” is another interesting word study: not only was the heel of Yahshua’s foot literally bruised or crushed during His crucifixion, the word aqeb also denotes that which a heel leaves behind—one’s steps or footprints—or the hinder part, as in a rear guard. This is a not-so-subtle warning that Satan’s sting would plague all of Eve’s offspring, for all of us (save one) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Eve’s name indicates that she was the mother of all living, but alas, she is also the mother of our mortality.
The very next story in the Genesis narrative tells us of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Right from the beginning, it seems, God chose to use our familial relationships—our status as parents, children, and siblings—to teach us what we needed to know about our fallen condition, our need for salvation, and the way He would eventually bring it into being. But on a more visceral level, I believe God used our human relationships to show us how we could relate to Him. Yahweh is described as our “heavenly Father.” Yahshua is not only the “son of man” (i.e., fully human) but is also called the “Son of God”—God in flesh dwelling among us: Immanuel. And is not the Holy Spirit who indwells us described with “maternal” attributes? “She” is the one who consoles, comforts, convicts, and counsels us. In the same way, our association with our fellow human beings is spoken of as the relationship of brothers—offspring of the same Mother and Father.
Indeed, it may be backward to state that “God used our human relationships to show us how we could relate to Him.” Consider this: perhaps our Creator designed us to reflect that which His relationship with humanity was intended to be. Our race is perpetuated through the formation of families—men and women becoming fathers and mothers, bearing and nurturing sons and daughters. We reproduce ourselves through sexual intimacy—a process through which two people literally become “one flesh” (as it’s put in Genesis 2:24). This “blending of parental DNA” happens throughout the animal kingdom, of course, but with humans, the whole reproductive process is considerably more complicated than it is with birds or bees.
Ideally, humans are conceived through expressions of love and mutual devotion, not merely through fleeting biological urges. Our species has an unusually long gestation period, and birth is followed by a nurturing period that lasts not days or weeks, but years—even decades, all things considered. Emotional bonds among human parents and children (or mates, for that matter) tend to run far deeper than those of other mammals. This means that, unlike most animals, human fathers are needed for far more than their DNA contribution. And this is where the spiritual lessons commence. In Yahweh’s symbolic parlance, a father is meant to fulfill a role—the same role that He fulfills for the whole human race. A mother’s role is, in the same way, supposed to demonstrate how the Holy Spirit operates in the lives of believers. And we “children” are to recognize our bond as siblings, and love each other accordingly.
God’s symbol lexicon teaches us what the connection between being a man, a bridegroom, a husband, and a father is intended to be; or between being a woman, a bride, a wife, and a mother. Our place as sons and brothers, or as daughters and sisters, is symbolically significant as well, as is our status as heirs, or even neighbors. In short, our natural relationships with each other can (ideally) teach us something about the God who ordained those relationships—for they were meant to reveal to us something about His character and plan.
It’s no wonder, then, that Satan tries so hard to break up families, blur gender roles, and foster “diversity.” If we saw our relationships as Yahweh intended them to be, we would see Him as well.
(First published 2016)