"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Plain Old Beautiful Deity

The drop of a very small hat is enough to induce us to discuss the deity of Christ.  This is one of those songs that is always in the jukebox and is always getting played.  I do not feel bad, then, in playing it now - not with the venerable John 1 or the glorifying Colossians 1, but with the tantalizing Exodus 23.

God declares to Moses in verse 20, "Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared."  This is a mighty promise of mighty help to the homeless Israelites.  God will send them an angel to protect and escort them into their new home, but thus far all we can say is that this help will come in the form of a ma'lak (an angel or messenger).1 

He continues in verse 21:  "Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him."  Our Lord levels the charge at Moses and His people to be attentive and obedient to this ma'lak, which stands to reason.  God is not about to send help which should be scorned, abused, or ignored.  He is always purposeful, so any help that He sends must also be purposeful.  But again, where is the deity?

To scoff this help that is sent to them is, according to God, unwise, because this guide, this protector, will not pardon their transgressions.  Who is this ma'lak that he should even be mentioned in conjunction with the forgiveness of sins?  Indeed, is not the problem of sin so very problematic because only God is able to forgive sins?  To whom might we turn, if not to God, in a bid for forgiveness?  The answer, of course, is nobody, because nobody else is the Creator, sovereign Ruler, and righteous Judge of the world.  No one else is of the slightest consequence in the arena of forgiveness.

This begins to make sense, because God effectively links the idea of sin forgiveness to the incredible statement, "My name is in him."  We know, of course, that God is not saying that the ma'lak ate a spoonful of some sort of ancient alphabet soup which, coincidentally, spelled out hayah (I AM).  In such cases as this, we understand that a person's name signifies his or her reputation - who that person is.2  It is God alone who can unequivocally declare, "To whom would you liken Me that I would be his equal?" (Is. 40:25a) It is no small matter, then, for Him to assert that His name, and thus His glory, reside within someone else. 

Who possesses the character of God except God Himself?  How could this be Moses or an angelic being, when we are discussing the glory of the very one who must humble Himself, who must stoop, to survey what transpires even in the heavenly realms (Ps. 113:6)?  This must be, therefore, but another example of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ making a glorious appearance in the pages of the antiquity.  He is God, but distinct in His person from God the Father, who is speaking here to Moses.  In other words, "the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1b) 

If more proof (or more glory) is in order, read on through verse 23:  "But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries."  Here is an exegetical gem.  How can it be this ma'lak's voice, and yet God is talking?  God is speaking, and yet the Israelites are admonished not merely to hear, but to obey the voice of the ma'lak.  Can we conclude anything other than the evident truth that when the ma'lak speaks, it is God who is speaking?  To clothe it in New Testament parlance, this ma'lak speaks as the Word of God.

If one has the glorious character of God, the unique abilities of God, and the divine authority of God, then such a one can be none other than God Himself.  How pleasing it is, my friends, to see our Lord Jesus Christ before His incarnation - actively at work in guidance and protection of His people.  It is good indeed to remember this work when we think about the cross of Christ - He has long been in the business of defending and aiding the weak and humble in accordance with the Father's will, and we are delivered a tangible example of this before ever He set a human foot upon this world!

1 Vine, W.E., Merrill F. Unger, & William White, Jr.  Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  "Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament."  Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996. p. 4.
2 ibid., p. 158.


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