For the week of October 27, 2007 / 15 Heshvan 5768
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 18:1 - 22:24
Haftarah: 2 Melachim / 2 Kings 4:1-37
Adjusting Our Thinking
And the LORD appeared to him (i.e. Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. (Bereshit / Genesis 18:1,2; ESV)
We picture God in many different ways. While it is popular to accept everyone's understanding of God as equally valid, he is not a matter of personal perception and interpretation. Either God exists or not. If he does, then he is who he is. just as he told Moses, "I am who I am" (Shemot / Exodus 3:14). God is exactly who and what he is, nothing more, nothing less.
I assume that those of us who accept the inspiration of the Scriptures would allow the Bible to form our understanding of God. I assume that whenever there is a clash between what we read in the Scriptures and our own ideas, we would quickly adjust our thinking. But apparently this does not happen often. We might say that we believe the Bible, but time and time again we prefer to preserve our traditions over and above the truth. Our commitment to ourselves and our affiliations take precedence over our commitment to the Bible.
But who are we fooling? The truth is the truth. God is God. If who he is is not based on our perceptions, but upon who he actually is, then we should be glad to adjust our thinking as needed. That doesn't mean that we should be constantly changing our understanding of God to prove how open and flexible we are. We should take our understanding of him more seriously than that. But if that understanding is not based on the Scriptures, then it has no basis, and we should adjust accordingly.
The week's Torah portion gives us a special glimpse of God that may challenge some of our thinking about him. The portion begins with our being told "The LORD appeared to Abraham" (18:1), but then we read that when he looked up he saw "three men" (18:2). After conversing with them for a while suddenly it is God who is speaking to Abraham (compare 18:9 with 18:10). When the men leave to go to the city of Sodom, we read "Abraham still stood before the LORD" (18:22).
The story continues, "The two angels came to Sodom in the evening..." (19:1). This is the only time they are called "angels." Every other time they are called "men" (19:5,8,10,12,16). The word "angel" in Hebrew means "messenger". It is possible therefore that these "messengers" are not heavenly beings, but simply human messengers. On the other hand the way we are introduced to them at the beginning of chapter 18 suggests that all three of them had heavenly origins.
Whatever the true identity of the two individuals that went on to Sodom, it is clear that the individual who stayed with Abraham was God himself. This means that God came to Abraham that day in human form.
God came to Abraham in human form. This is not the only time in the Hebrew Scriptures that he does so. Jacob wrestled with God (Bereshit / Genesis 32:22-32); He revealed himself in human form to Samson's parents (Shoftim / Judges 13); and we read in the Torah that Moses saw God's form (Numbers / Bemidbar 12:8).
This is not to say that God in his fullness exists in human form, but it does show us that he doesn't have a problem coming to people that way. Since the Torah attests to this, then we should not find it offensive - as it is to some people - that in the Messiah God came to us in human form.
Believing in Yeshua as the Messiah may take some major adjustments in our thinking, but they are adjustments based on the truth of Scripture.
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