God Comes as Man in the Old Testament

God Comes as Man in the Old Testament

From Patty:

Please could you tell me if David ever did a sermon on Genesis 18? I find this absolutely incredible that God came down as a man. Also is there anywhere else this happened? Also could it happen again? It’s incredible story and if not in the bible I never would have believed it. Thank you in advance.

It is a remarkable thing – we have several instances in the Old Testament where God appears in some kind of human form.

Sometimes the Being is described as a man, such as in Genesis 18 when it says that the Lord – Yahweh – appeared to Abraham at the terebinth trees of Mamre, appearing as one of three men to visit Abraham. Two of those “men” went on to Sodom and Gomorrah, and were revealed to be angelic beings. The “third man” – against, someone appearing as a man – was actually Yahweh, the Lord Himself.

We see this repeated, even emphasized in the text of Genesis 18 itself:

Genesis 18:1-2

Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground.

Genesis 18:13

And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?”

Genesis 18:17

And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?”

Genesis 18:20

And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave…”

Genesis 18:22

Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.

So, it’s very clear that this Being who met Abraham, stood with Abraham, and spoke with Abraham was the Lord – Yahweh Himself.

Other times the Being is described as the Angel of Lord. For example, in Genesis 16, when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar and rescued her. In Genesis 16:10, the Angel of the Lord speaks as the Lord Himself – showing that this was an appearance of God, yet in an angelic form (or human, in some sense).

We can assume that this was God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, appearing to Abraham before His incarnation and birth at Bethlehem.

We assume this because of God the Father it says, No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18), and no man has ever seen God in the Person of the Father (1 Timothy 6:16).

Therefore, if God appeared to someone in human appearance in the Old Testament (and no one has seen God the Father) it makes sense the appearance is of the eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, before His incarnation in Bethlehem.

We know that Jesus existed before Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); why should He not, on isolated but important occasions, appear in bodily form?

However, this is not the incarnation in the same sense that Jesus was as a baby in Bethlehem. At Bethlehem Jesus was truly and fully human (while also being truly and fully God). Here, it is more likely that Jesus took the mere appearance of humanity, doing so for a specific purpose.

Here are some places we see God appearing in human form:

  • To Hagar in Genesis 16
  • To Abraham in Genesis 18
  • To Jacob in Genesis 32
  • To Israel in general in Judges 2
  • To Gideon in Judges 6
  • To Samson’s parents in Judges 13

Here is a good but unanswerable question: what did Jesus look like in these pre-incarnate visitations? Did Jesus look like He would later appear as an adult man as recorded by the gospels? Did He always have the same appearance?

Spurgeon speculated that this what these pre-incarnate appearances looked like:

“Not in such a body as God had prepared for him when he took upon himself the form of a servant, but in such a form and fashion as seemed most congruous to his divine majesty, and to the circumstances of those he visited, this angel of the divine covenant whom we delight in came and spoke unto this people.” (Spurgeon)

Patty also asked, “Could this happen again?” I would simply say this: We should not expect this or look for this. Jesus Christ is God’s perfect and final revelation of Himself, and Jesus ascended to heaven. If someone were to tell me, “God appeared to me in human form” I would be very cautious and suspicious of this. The ascension of Jesus communicates the idea that God has finished revealing Himself in this way.

Why was Jesus’ risen body scarred? Do you think our resurrected bodies will be wounded too?

I suspect I know what you’ll say about why Jesus’ risen body was scarred. Do you think our resurrection bodies will be wounded also?
I would just say we have no reason to think that. When the book of Revelation describes our new bodies, it really seems to stress the idea of all things being new, all things being restored. So we really don’t have any reason to suspect that our resurrection bodies will be scarred in any way or contain wounds from our life on Earth.

Ezekiel 38 talks about Gog who comes from the north of Israel. In Daniel 11 it mentions the king of the north. Are these people the same person?

No. The king of the north, described in Daniel 11, refers to a very specific political and military situation happening between the time of Daniel and the birth of Jesus. The Ezekiel 38 reference is about Gog coming from the north. It’s really not the same personage at all as the king of the north, which would actually be the Seleucid dynasty, in the history of the Greek Empire following the death of Alexander the Great.

We’re not dealing with the same groups at all. The only thing they have in common is that they’re north of Israel. The kings of the north mentioned Daniel 11 would be the kings of those Seleucid dynasties immediately to the north of Israel. If you were to draw a line on the map going north from Israel, you would see that Gog/Magog is considerably north of Israel.

Are there any sins that are unforgivable according to Scripture?

Yes. The unforgivable sin is the sin of rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony about who Jesus is and what He did to rescue us. Jesus called this the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. For someone to be hardened and permanent in their rejection of who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do to rescue us, that person is hardened in their rejection of the Holy Spirit and rejection of Jesus. And that’s unforgivable. If a person comes to Jesus, and surrenders their life to Him, and repents and believes, any sin can be forgiven. That’s the great news of the gospel.

If our bodies are a temple, does this apply to tattoos, piercings, makeup, etc.?

I don’t think that the Scriptures absolutely prohibit tattoos. The one reference to tattoos in the book of Leviticus speaks of tattoos for the dead and seems to refer to Canaanite pagan practices done for the dead. So I would say, No, don’t do that; don’t imitate Canaanite burial customs. But there is no hard and fast command against tattoos or piercings or makeup in general, at least in my perspective; there are people who disagree with that, and I understand that. But as believers, since our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, we should prayerfully consider such things.

We need to be able to zealously give the Holy Spirit lordship over everything in our life. If the Holy Spirit were to give liberty to somebody else to get a tattoo, or piercing, or to wear certain kinds of makeup or whatever, but not give you liberty to do so – in other words, the Holy Spirit speak to your heart and say, “Child, I don’t want you to do this” – then you need to listen to the Holy Spirit. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I think it’s common for Christians today to just go with the flow and to not carefully considered or carefully ask, “What would the Holy Spirit have me to do in this situation?”

What do you say about dating or marrying someone who is not a Christian?

What do you say about dating or marrying someone who’s not a Christian? I guess it is perhaps more advantageous to godly living to date or marry someone who is also a Christian.

Well, yes, it is. I do believe that the Bible says that believers, disciples of Jesus Christ, followers of Jesus Christ, should not marry, and therefore I would say should not date, those who are not believers or disciples or followers of Jesus Christ. It’s not because it’s impossible to have a good marriage with an unbeliever. That’s not the reason why. It’s possible. It’s not because there’s something so inherently unclean in that person. No, that’s not it at all.

The idea is simply this. If you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, a true follower of Jesus, then the most important thing in your life is honoring and serving Jesus Christ. Oh, your family is important to you, your career might be important to you, your physical health might be important to you. There are many things that could be important to you. But supreme above all of that is following and honoring Jesus Christ.

Now, if you have one person for whom that’s true, and another person who doesn’t honor or glorify Jesus Christ at all in their life, there’s a fundamental mismatch there. And sometimes, the bad effect of that mismatch does not appear immediately, but only later. So, that is the fundamental reason why I would say that it’s not wise for a believer, a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ, to marry or to date someone who is not one.

In what proportion would you allocate church budget between building, welfare, utilities and salaries?

There’s no Bible answer to that, other than just the responsibility to be a good steward and to manage money wisely. I would say that oftentimes, we see a church budget made up of one third for facilities, one third for ministries, and one third for salaries. I think those proportions are okay. Obviously, the less you can spend on facilities and salaries, the more you have for ministries including generosity, welfare, missions, evangelism, and so on.

But I think in general that’s a pretty good rule: one third to facilities, in which I would include building and utilities, one third for ministries, and a third for salaries. Again, that’s not law, but it’s a good principle by which to judge things.

I do also want to say that in different places in the world and in different cultures, economics can work very differently. I’m answering that question from my experience as a pastor here in the United States. But I suppose those proportions could be different in different cultures and different places.

Are faith and belief synonymous, or is faith a knowledge claim?

Are faith and belief synonymous, or is faith a knowledge claim? And what are some of the things you would present to an atheist when discussing this?

Biblically speaking, faith and belief are synonymous. The New Testament vocabulary given to us to express faith and belief can translate either way. I can see it being more synonymous.

The big thing I would emphasize with an atheist in discussing faith and belief is that we have reasons to believe. This has been true in philosophical Christianity. Sometimes Christians really want to emphasize the idea that faith is a blind leap into the unknown. I agree that there is a step of faith involved, for sure. But I don’t look at it as a blind leap because God has given us many reasons to trust Him and to believe in Him.

When considering mourning sin as mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, how should we approach this without completely pushing others away from Christ and the message?

I think what you’re getting at here is how important it is for us to be honest in our speaking. I don’t think that a Christian who is mourning or being sorry over or repenting from sin will push away an unbeliever if they just explain it right. “Hey, God’s really speaking to me about my sin, and I’m really grieved about it.”

Now, if a person stays in that place for an extended period of time, of course, I could see difficulty with that. But if a person is grieving or sorry over their sin, and they can explain it correctly, I think that could be something very helpful for an unbeliever to see.

Did Cain, Abel, and Seth marry? If so, what were the names of their wives?

Yes, they did marry because they had offspring. They were joined together in unions with women. Although I wouldn’t say we know that about Abel. Abel didn’t seem to have had any children, so probably Abel did not marry. But Cain and Seth did have children, so they had wives. We have no idea what the names of their wives were, other than they were their sisters. There at the very beginning of the human race, people would simply marry their sisters. That’s how it was. There was enough purity in the genetic pool that it resulted in no ill effect.

What are great books to read or resources?

That’s a hard question because I love books. I’ve benefited from so many different books through the years. But I did a very quick look, and I’ll show you some good books that I’ve really appreciated.

  • Full Surrender by J. Edwin Orr – Here at Enduring Word we have republished this book in an inexpensive paperback version. You can find it on Amazon in print or Kindle version.
  • The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin – This is an amazing book, and I think it’s very needful for the moment. It talks about the servant nature of Jesus and how we should live it out. I strongly recommend to you the resources from my friend, my brother, Gayle Erwin, but The Jesus Style is top on the list. Other books of his are very helpful as well.
  • By Searching by Isobel Kuhn – I love this little book. I’m sure this is still in publication somewhere. By Searching is the great story of a young woman raised in a Christian home, who said, “My parents’ faith is not good enough. I want to know God for myself.” And this book tells how God revealed Himself to her “by searching.”
  • Dedication through Fasting and Prayer by Nils-Erik Bergström – You can find it on Amazon. People have many questions about fasting, and this book will help you with that.

Is it a sin and/or dishonoring to God if one lies to protect a life?

I’m going to give you the very straightforward, upfront answer to that: No. It is not dishonoring to God, it is not a sin, if somebody lies to protect a life.

In the early days of Christianity, Christians were being persecuted mercilessly. If Roman soldiers came to a household and demanded to know where the Christians were hiding, I don’t think that somebody would be obligated to tell the Roman soldiers the truth. They may pay a price for telling a lie, but I don’t think they would be obligated to tell the Roman soldiers the truth. Of course, that kind of scenario plays out in many different ways.

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