The Blessing of Abraham Part II:
Before we deal with Abraham further I would like to discuss God and how He communicates with man. In Part I (The Call of Abram) we made mention of Melchizedek and that the name of God as revealed to Moses was JHVH, which, in English, pronounced as Yahweh or Jehovah. We need to explain something about the meeting with Melchizedek and other encounters Abram (or Abraham) had with God.
Consider that before creation there was only JHVH: JHVH Father, JHVH Son, and JHVH Holy Spirit. God is Spirit (John 4:24). 'For (H3588, Strong's numbers in Hebrew Dictionary) JHVH (H3068) thy Elohim (plural form of God) (H430) is a consuming (H398) fire (H784), even a jealous (H7067) God (El) (H410)' (Deuteronomy 4:24). In other words, every member of the Trinity is a consuming fire. The fellowship of the Three has been called a dynamic, infolding fire of love and offering, always revealing the other.
All three are as unapproachable by man as a foolish astronaut would soon discover trying to land in a rocket ship on the surface of the Sun. And this did not change until JHVH Son became veiled in human flesh as the Son of Father JHVH in the womb of Mary. This aspect is another privilege of the New Testament.
Interestingly, after the resurrection there is no record of Jesus in His resurrection body ever revealing Himself to persons other than disciples except for the yet unconverted Saul who was blinded at the brightness of the resurrected Son of God. At His second coming Jesus will be as bright as the Sun, but the righteous shall not be harmed because for us that will be normal (Matthew 17:2; Revelation 21:23). How that will be I don't know. But, on the other hand, at His coming the wicked will be burnt up by His brightness -
'And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming' (2Thesselonians 2:8).
Recall how Moses wanted to see the form of Yahweh. He never did. At His first encounter all Moses saw was a burning bush that was not consumed. Although he heard the voice of God it actually was an angel of the Lord he was facing as Stephen explained in Acts 7:30 -
'And forty years being fulfilled to him, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai in a flame of fire in a bush'. Note the importance of 40 years having been fulfilled in Him. Forty symbolizes a time allotted to man (While Israel was united under the three kings, Saul, David and Solomon each was allotted 40 years to reign). Three periods of 40 were allotted to Moses: 40 years in Pharaoh's house, 40 years in Median in the wilderness and 40 years as deliverer of Israel. Then he was taken to heaven as the book of Jude explains. Moses next appeared with Elijah talking to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, where they discussed Jesus' death.
Then, later on in the account of Moses, Moses wanted at long last to see the face of God. But how could he because God is a consuming fire which no man can survive? God told Moses that the best He could do was to show a glimpse of Himself. In Exodus 33:20-23 we read that God first arranged protection for Moses before passing by him and then only revealed a little of the glory of His back, lest Moses die,
'You cannot see My face. For no man can see Me and live. And Jehovah said, Behold! There is a place by Me and you shall stand upon a rock. And it will be, while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. And I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back parts. But My face shall not be seen'.
Note: the symbolic pointer to the Son in "There is a place by me", "stand upon a rock", "hide you in the cleft of a rock". The apostle Paul explained that the rock which followed them in the wilderness was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Nevertheless, none of the patriarchs could ever see the substance of JHVH Son (The Word, John 1:1) directly for He was still a consuming fire - not until He emptied Himself of all His glory and became the Son of the Father. He emptied himself 'by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people. And being found in appearance like a man' (Philippians 2:7). Can we appreciate the difference between JHVH SON, and Jesus, Son of the Father?
What is this leading up to? What I am proposing to you is that when the patriarchs of old met 'face to face' with God the closest they ever got to God was to meet an angel of His presence. Humans can see angels without experiencing bodily harm. I was interested recently in the testimony of Stephen before the Sanhedrin. When he recounted the encounters of Moses with the Lord. He said it actually was an angel in the burning bush and then Moses heard the voice of the Lord. He referred to angels of the Lord several times (Acts Chapter 7). Moses got the closest to see part of the Lord Himself, while under protection, and ended up with a glowing face that people found disturbing.
However, as far as the patriarchs were concerned, talking with an angel of His presence was as good as talking to a member of the Godhead directly. It appears that the angel was the instant mouthpiece and representative of God in every way. Thus a two way conversation could proceed. In this form God communicated with Abraham frequently though God also came in visions. Abraham did most of the talking with JHVH Son. The angel of His presence wrestled with Jacob by proxy. Pray about it. It's consistent with the scriptures. In those days angels were the mediators between God and man. Today it's the Holy Spirit because Jesus went back to the Father.
In the case of Melchizedek, the pre-incarnate Yahweh, the Son, came to Abraham bringing communion in the role of a king of peace and priest of the most high God, having no father or mother. Abraham saw a man. Abraham could not have seen God the Son in person otherwise His brightness would have burnt Abraham to cinders. Jesus was not yet veiled in flesh. The apostles John and Paul wrote that no man has seen God (1 John 4:12, 1 Timothy 6:16). All that men have seen is the Son veiled in flesh.
THE FOUR FACES OF JESUS
Recall that God uses four gospels, with considerable overlaps, to give us the full picture of the ministry of Jesus. Matthew presents Jesus primarily as king, Mark as the suffering servant and Luke as the Son of Man. The fourth gospel, John, highlights the divinity of Jesus. In theological terms, this emphasis on the various attributes of Jesus, are referred to as the four faces or aspects of Jesus. In Melchizedek, the Son primarily revealed the face of a king and the face of a priest.
In books of the Old Testament, the four faces were revealed on several occasions and especially by the four different flags under which Israel marched in the wilderness; the face of a lion, of an ox, of a man and of an eagle. The four faces, three tribes marching under each banner, camped in the shape of a cross around the tabernacle of Moses highlighting to us, who live at the end of time, that the tabernacle was all about Jesus.
The face of the lion we would immediately understand as the face of kingship - Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah; Ox the priestly, sacrificial and prophetic (the Urim and Thummim over the breast plate of the priest, for the yes and no of God (Leviticus 8:8); Man, the Son of Man and His humanity and Eagle the heavenly, all-seeing, fatherly aspect.
There is nothing alien or mystical about this that is impossible to understand. These are the faces that also appear in Ezekiel and Revelations. Just as in the gospels there is considerable overlap of function between the faces but the primary emphasis of each is more or less clear. Why God chose an ox and not a lamb is probably because the ox is specifically a burden bearer. The victorious Lamb in Revelation 5:6, who is worthy to open the seven seals, is evidently the sum total of all four faces. Using animal symbolism is just another way God keeps unbelievers at bay! Jesus did that too by talking mainly in parables that most people couldn't fathom.
THE FIRST ENCOUNTERS OF ABRAHAM WITH GOD
Now let's consider the first of the encounters of Abram with God. In these we see kingly promises - the face of the Lion coming to Abraham - the promise of a great name and dominion to Abram.
A. In Mesopotamia
Stephen said in Acts 7:2-3, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. And He said to him, 'Go out from your land and from your kindred and come into a land which I shall show you'. The God of glory or the glory of God is the lamb (Revelations 21:23). It is a description of Yahweh Son.
B. In Haran
Yahweh said to Abram, 1. 'Go out of your country and from your kindred, and from your father's house into a land that I will show you'. 2. And I will make you a great nation. 3. And I will bless you and 4. make your name great. 5. And you shall be a blessing. 6. And I will bless those that bless you and curse the one who curses you. 7. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed' (Genesis 12:1-5). These seven major promises were passed on through to Isaac, then to Jacob, then to the twelve tribes, all the way down to us who believe.
The initial seven-fold promise to Abram doesn't give much in the way of detail does it? However, with each subsequent encounter, the Lord encouraged Abraham further, telling him not to fear, detailing His promises and telling him that his reward would be God Himself. As we consider each encounter a keen eye would notice that, under all of the four faces, Yahweh the Son delivered to Abraham the full counsel of God - through an angel of His presence.
We find that it is mostly the Son talking with Abraham and let's face it, as Jesus pointed out to Philip, talking with the Son is the same as talking with the Father (John 14:9). Note the principle - angel talking and behaving as Son, Son talking and behaving as Father. Crudely put, in the Old Testament, the angel was a proxy of the Son, and in the New Testament the Son was a proxy of the Father. Even in the legal system proxies are totally acceptable once authorised to do so. Jesus said He had the authority of the Father.
THE FULL PROMISE IN A NUTSHELL
In a nutshell, the promise to the seriously aged and barren couple, Abraham and Sarah, was that they would have a great number of descendants - a multitude of seed, sons of God with the divine nature and the promise of the one Seed, Jesus Christ without whom there would be no sons of God at all. Everything would require a miracle. All was based on promises.
'Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. It does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your Seed, which is Christ' (Galatians 3:16).
During the various encounters with God Abraham learnt that his pilgrimage on earth and that of his descendants would cost a great deal of pain, suffering, sacrifice and offerings over many generations. Abraham believed and looked for a city whose maker was God. God reckoned it to him as righteousness.
SEEN FROM GOD'S POINT OF VIEW
What I found particularly exciting is when I began to look at this from God's point of view.
You may recall how God insisted that Moses construct the tabernacle, its materials and vessels, and order of service of the priests, exactly as God had shown him. In Exodus 25:40 God warned Moses 'see that you make them after their pattern, which was shown you in the mountain'. This was serious business. The Lord reduced two of the High Priest's sons to ashes when they decided to bring their own fire, instead of holy fire, into the tabernacle (Numbers 3:4). Yet, the tabernacle was only a shadow of the heavenly things to come.
Now consider how serious God would be about building the real heavenly temple, the temple of His body. Reading from Hebrews 10:5-7 it says, Therefore when He comes into the world, He says, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but You have prepared a body for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have had no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God".
That is the Son acknowledging the Father for preparing a body for Him. This refers both to the human body, in which He became incarnate, and to the body of Christ that He is still building.
When Jesus died on the cross, Satan wanted to claim Him but could not. No matter from which angle Satan examined Jesus he could find no fault either spiritually or carnally. The background and lineage of Jesus was perfect beginning with the promised son Isaac all the way to Mary who was of the lineage of priests and to Joseph who was of the lineage of kings. Moreover He was born by promise of the angel Gabriel and born of a virgin. Mary had received the promise of a son by faith. All these were outcomes of the everlasting covenant made with father Abraham. Spiritually Jesus was perfect. He had exchanged His life, His innocent blood, for the sins of the world on the altar, 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood' (Leviticus 17:11). Satan, the accuser, had nothing to grab onto, hence the body of Jesus saw no corruption.
In Acts 2:25-27 we hear David prophesying about Jesus, 'For David speaks concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before me because He is at my right hand that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue was glad; and also My flesh shall rest in hope because You will not leave My soul in Hades nor will You allow Your holy One to see corruption'.
God had worked for millennia to prepare a suitable body for the pre-incarnate Yahweh Son to inhabit. Can you imagine the Father, Son and Holy Spirit hovering about Abraham and Sarah like a mother hen prodding here and there, adjusting here and there, encouraging here and there, to make sure the promise of Isaac would come forth unblemished, and that Isaac would marry the right woman, Rebekah to bring forth Jacob, etc?
Can you put yourself in the shoes of God and feel the excitement as things were going to plan despite Satan's constant and destructive meddling? Everything about Jesus, including the timing of His birth and lineage, had to be exactly right.
BY THE FAITH OF THE SON
Mary had to come from a priestly line and Joseph from a kingly line, in keeping with the physical aspect of the Son of Man having the double portion of king and priest. Mary had to be a woman of faith for without faith it is impossible to please God. We are sons of God by the faith of the Son. It is also true to say that we are sons of the covenant through the faith of Abraham.
Supplementary scriptures on the faith of Abraham:
'By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out into a place which he was afterward going to receive for an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he went. By faith he lived in the land of promise as a stranger, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs of the same promise with him. For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child when she was past age because she judged Him who had promised to be faithful. Because of this came into being from one, and that of one having died, even as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. These all died by way of faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. And they were persuaded of them and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they who say such things declare plainly that they seek a fatherland. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from which they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they stretch forth to a better fatherland, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. And he who had received the promises offered up his only-begotten so, of whom it was said that in Isaac your Seed shall be called, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from where he even received him, in a figure'.
'What then shall we say that our father Abraham has found, according to flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works he has a boast; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness". But, to him working, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. But, to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also says of the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works, saying, "Blessed are those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will in no way impute sin". Is this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it reckoned? Being in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received a sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith while still uncircumcised; so that he might be the father of all those believing through uncircumcision, for righteousness to be imputed to them also; and a father of circumcision to those not of the circumcision only, but also to those walking by the steps of the faith of our father Abraham during uncircumcision. For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For, if they of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is made of no effect; because the Law works out wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore, it is of faith so that it might be according to grace; for the promise to be made sure to all the seed, not only to that which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all (as it has been written, "I have made you a father of many nations") --before God, whom he believed, who makes the dead live and calls the things which do not exist as though they do exist. For he, who beyond hope, believed on hope for him to become the father of many nations (according to that which was spoken, "So your seed shall be"). And, not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body already dead (being about a hundred years old) or the deadening of Sarah's womb. He did not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God and being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for him alone that it was imputed to him, but for us also to whom it is to be imputed, to the ones believing on Him who has raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered because of our offenses and was raised for our justification'.