It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but Jesus is God, both in the Old and New Testaments.
Recently I was almost shocked to perceive this in the words of Jesus, something I had known well but had not properly understood.
In debate with his countrymen, that is, law-abiding Jews who asked Jesus for proof of his status, Jesus replied with statements that would have shaken them to the core. So astounding was his statement that even today we have trouble grasping it: Jesus is the Old Testament God to whom Israel had always prayed.
Where am I going with this?
At this point I need to reassure readers that I believe in the Trinity. I am not “oneness pentecostal” and I haven’t departed from the classic Christian understanding of the God who is three in one. Nonetheless I sense that there will still be consternation when I point out that Jesus claimed to be the God who appeared to Moses, the God who led the Israelites out of Egypt, the God who took up Elijah in the chariot – and more.
Imagine the horror of the Jews who heard him say that! Not only did they believe in only one God, who had no son, but the Messiah they were expecting was a Davidic ruler and not God. This must have sounded like the utmost blasphemy.
To ourselves as Christians who have been fed a diet of religious images over the centuries, we tend to see pictures of God the Father as a benign far-distant personage on a Throne, with Jesus in the forefront as the approachable human being who pities, loves and cares for us. In more ancient images Jesus is often reduced to a sweet little baby who poses no threat to anyone.
Although there is some truth in those images, it has removed the power, might and awesome nature of who Jesus is, and in some cases turned him to a friendly Helper and Comrade who demands little to nothing of us.
Once we see that Jesus is the same glorious, awe-inspiring and holy God whom the Israelites feared and obeyed, we can readjust our perceptions. And I believe we should do!
Awesome and Mighty
Only fairly recently have I begun to grasp more of the truth about this Man we call Jesus.
In reading again the book of Isaiah, I read over and over that the LORD (ultimately identified as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53) is the same One who created the universe, who is the First and the Last, and the God who has communicated Himself to mankind throughout all ages.
Isa 43:3-13 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Saviour… “You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no saviour. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “that I am God. Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand…
The Person speaking here is the Saviour, whom we know as Jesus, who also testified to being the I AM of the Old Testament. They are the same!
This should not be a surprise, because we know that Jesus is the WORD – the going-forth of the nature of God – and “through whom also He [God] made the worlds; being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Heb 1:2-3).
That was written of Jesus as the incarnate Word, but before the incarnation what was he?
We know the answers in a theological, doctrinal way, but I believe we fail to fully grasp the nature of Jesus in the Old Testament.
The Great I Am
Sometimes, like the Jews, we think of an Old Testament deity who is somehow distinct from Jesus.
But who else could there be, communicating with us on earth, but Jesus the Son of God who declared of himself that “before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58 I AM = the very name of God. This is why the “Jews took up stones to stone him”, for blasphemy.)
In the Garden of Gethsemane likewise, when Jesus said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am [He].” …Now when He said to them, “I am [He],” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:3-6) The text does not contain the word “he” so again Jesus had used the divine name of God “I AM” to describe himself, which is why even his enemies fell to the ground.
But what, then, of the God who appeared to Moses in the bush that burned with the brightness of God’s glory? There also we encounter the “I AM” and we are to understand that it is the one and same. NOT the father, but the Son!
Exod 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them? And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,’I AM has sent me to you…”
Time hinders me from pointing out all the many instances of Jesus appearing to man in the Old Testament, but it’s a book I would love to write. Nonetheless, in this one instance we have the assurance of Jesus that it was not the Father who was seen by Moses.
How? Read this:
John 5:37-47 The Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form….. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me…. 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.
There we have it. Moses was writing about Jesus the Son of God. Because nobody has heard the voice of the Father or seen his form at any time. Read that again!! NOBODY HAS SEEN OR HEARD THE FATHER AT ANY TIME.
So WHO do we encounter on earth as the appearance of God? Who descended to Moses on the Mount?
Who snatched away Elijah? Who spoke with Abraham, or wrestled with Jacob? Who walked with the three Israelites in the fiery furnace?
We are told that “No man has seen God [the Father] at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him”.
But Moses certainly did speak with the Lord “face to face”, and others in the Old Testament beheld the face of the “Angel of the Lord” fearing they would die as a result. (Judges 6:22; 13:22)
This alone tells you that the God and Lord of the Old Testament in many if not all instances is actually the pre-incarnate Christ and not God the Father.
- John 6:46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father
- Matt 11:27-28 Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
- John 10:38 The Father is in Me, and I in Him
- John 10:30 I and My Father are one
We are told that God the Father “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see…” (1 Tim 6:16) but that Jesus the Son of the Father is ONE with him, and has made him known to man. “For he who has seen me has seen the Father”.
That is a very unfathomable statement, but one aspect of it supplies more confirmation that on earth, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, the God that mankind encountered was not God the Father, but Jesus.
Jesus on every page
When Jesus met with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he opened every book of the Old Testament to their understanding and showed them that he (Jesus) appeared in them all. Luke 24:27 “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” And although this could have been mere mentions of himself, instead of appearances, I am sure his lecture covered both. I wish I had been there.
Readjustment of Perception
Once we can grasp the enormity of the consequences of this truth, it changes our attitude towards the Lord Jesus – at least in my case it does.
I will not be tempted to trivialise the Lord or his nature. I will not take his blessings for granted. I will not be cocky or arrogant before him, and I will at all times consider the greatness of his holiness and power.
The God who sent the plague after Korah’s rebellion is the same God who had the graciousness and mercy to pity me in my sin and include me in his salvation, so that I could escape the just punishment for my unclean and fallen condition.
Rebellion Against Moses and Aaron
Now Korah … took men; and … gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy…” (16) And Moses said to Korah, “Tomorrow, you and all your company be present before the LORD”…. And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation. And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?” (25) Then Moses … spoke to the congregation, saying,”Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” …By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.”
(31) Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up…(35) And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
(41) On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the LORD.” Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. (47)… “wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.” Then Aaron … made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped.
Do we realise that THIS is not a different God to the loving Saviour that we picture as being all-forgiving, kind and as some say “meek and mild”. Do we not tremble at his judgement, his holiness, and do we not fear to defy his ways?
Unfortunately some in the churches today do defy the Lord, thinking to escape all judgement and then trade in their “ticket to heaven” regardless of their beliefs or behaviour. But listen to this mention of Korah’s rebellion in the NEW Testament, just as relevant today as when it was first written:
Jude 10-21 But these [apostates] speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. … (16) These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
To gain the right attitude towards God, to avoid mockery, arrogance, grumbling, and a careless lack of regard for God’s punishment, we need to perceive WHO Jesus the Lord really is: the GOD of old, who changes not, who is the “same today, yesterday and for ever.” (Heb 13)