As followers of the Jewish messiah and students of the Bible, we have come to an understanding of the messiah’s identity that is more exalted than modern Jewish views of the messiah.
Modern Judaism says messiah will be a great man and king, but not God.
Yet it is our conviction that Messiah was an appearance of Hashem, not unlike how God appeared to Avraham:
Then Hashem appeared to him [Avraham] at Mamre’s large trees while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. When Avraham lifted up his eyes to see, suddenly, three men were standing right by him.
In this passage from the Torah, the Hebrew text literally reads that Hashem appeared to Avraham:
How did God – who is infinite and incomprehensible to the human mind, without form or flesh – show himself? Given that no man has ever seen the face of God and lived, given that mountains melt like wax before the presence of God, given that if God raises his voice the earth disappears, given the whole vast expanse of the universe can’t contain him, how could God possibly appear to Avraham?
He did it by sending a comprehensible appearance and representation of himself.
Were they merely angels?
They were angelic beings, yes. And yet, again the Hebrew text tells us there is more here: one of the 3 figures is identified as Hashem himself, and it is Hashem speaking to Avraham:
And Hashem said unto Abraham: 'Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying: Shall I of a surety bear a child, who am old?
(Again, the Hebrew text literally uses the sacred name, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey; it’s Yahweh speaking to Avraham.)
And when Avraham responds, he does so knowing it is Hashem he is speaking to.
Let’s stop in the story for a moment and ask – if Avraham bowed down and worshiped this human-comprehensible representation of God, would it be idolatry? After all, we are to worship God alone.
But in the text we read that Avraham pleads – as one would in prayer – with the human-comprehensible representation of Hashem, and even begs him to forgive sin:
And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. And Abraham drew near, and said: 'Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? If there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
He pleads with this human-comprehensible representation of Hashem. The Hebrew text doesn’t even phrase it so awkwardly; it simply says, Avraham pleaded with Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey standing before him.
The Orthodox Jewish world today tries to avoid saying this figure is an appearance of God. This isn’t actually Hashem, they’ll say, it’s an angelic representative, or even perhaps the Angel of of the Lord, a mysterious figure who acts on behalf of the one God.
But it doesn’t actually matter for our purposes here. Look at what the text says of the one who appeared to Avraham:
- He was a servant of Hashem.
- He spoke on behalf of God with God’s authority.
- He accomplishes God’s purpose.
- He pardons sin.
- He was addressed as God himself.
- He was a human-comprehensible appearance of Hashem.
- Yet, there is distinction between this appearance and Hashem himself.
This is not unlike how we Messianics and Christians see Messiah.
In the gospels and the New Testament,
- Messiah is a servant of Hashem.
“This is My servant, in whom I am well pleased.”
- Messiah spoke on behalf of God with God’s authority.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that everyone who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart... Now when Yeshua had finished these words, the crowds were astounded at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one having authority and not merely as a Torah scholar.
- Messiah accomplishes God’s purpose.
“I have placed you as a light to the nations, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
- Messiah pardons sin.
”The Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the removal of sins is to be proclaimed in His authority to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
- Messiah is addressed as God himself.
“Thomas said to Messiah: ‘My Lord and my God!’”
- Messiah is a human-comprehensible appearance of Hashem.
“For in Messiah dwells the fullness of God.”
- Yet distinction exists between Messiah and Hashem.
“For this reason God highly exalted Messiah and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue profess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord to the glory of God.”
While there are differences between “Hashem appearing to Avraham” and “Hashem appearing as Messiah”, there are shared implications: God can appear in whichever form he chooses – he is not limited by Orthodox theology - and secondly, that form has the authorization and power of God.
One additional item we can extract here is the distinction between Hashem and his human-comprehensible representation.
Notice in that last bit, God and Messiah are distinct: God is making Messiah highly exalted; it’s not God making God highly exalted.
If we simply say that there is no distinction between God and Messiah, this Scripture would be nonsensical; “For this reason, God highly exalted God and gave God the name above every name.” Non sequitur.
Acknowledging there is a distinction between God and Messiah, we see that Messiah is a servant of Hashem: God exalts Messiah. And for what purpose? So that Hashem receives glory from all nations: “to the glory of God our Father.”
All nations submitting to Messiah, Messiah submits to God, and in this way, all nations will be in submission to the God of Israel.
There is distinction here between God and Messiah, and yet Messiah is one with God.
This nuance and mystery causes Christian people to be uncomfortable. Can we really say Messiah is God if there is a Scriptural distinction?
In the same way that Avraham addressed his heavenly visitor as Yahweh himself, so also we can say that Messiah is God.
While there was distinction between Avraham’s divine guest and Hashem – after all, the figure was flesh and bones and Hashem is not a man – Avraham still addressed the figure as Hashem himself. So we too address Messiah as Lord to the glory of the God of Israel.