Friday, February 12, 2016

They Saw God

Seeing is believing or so the saying goes in America. But how true is that saying? Do we believe it? Generally speaking it is safe to say that it is true and that we believe it in its colloquial use. It is in this same sense that we understand without confusion or question what a blind man means when he says, like sighted people, “I see.” We recognize the expression, not as referring to visual sight, but to understanding. Otherwise, we might see with our eyes what we had suspected or something about which we had been told and a visual sighting is sometimes added corroboration.

Yet, there seems to be something of an aversion by which people who think and do their jobs with certain mental faculties become utterly lost outside of that environment. Suddenly, the thought processes which are part of their daily lives are abandoned. What they see; they are not sure that it is real or that it can be trusted. Among believers this seemingly extraordinary abandonment of the thought process and the input of virtual and literal sight by which something is seen results in a nonsensical riddle concerning God and seeing God.

Often scholars pursue the knowledge of God while they simultaneously reject what they see,
that is, what they understand. In other words, even though they may understand what they see they hold back from declaring what it is that they have seen. This is not unlike Nicodemus whom, as a teacher of Israel, understood the words Jesus spoke to him, but he feigned ignorance. It is not unlike the scribe who knew better than to speak openly and instead played it safe in the presence of the Sadducees and Pharisees and parroted back to Jesus what he had just spoken.

they saw God
These are various instances concerning when someone believed they saw God, when God was seen, when God revealed himself. Lastly, there is how Jesus revealed God. All of these instances refer to seeing God literally (a truth staunchly rejected by many saints); others refer to seeing God in the figurative sense, others of seeing God in a virtual sense.

Jacob saw God Genesis 32:30
Moses and the elders of Israel saw the God of Israel Exodus 24:9;10
Moses talked with God face to face Numbers 12; Deuteronomy 34:10 (cf I Corinthians 13:12)
Isaiah saw the LORD Isaiah 6
The Only Begotten Son has seen God John 1:18
The disciples saw the Father John 14:9

The main reason scholars and other saints staunchly reject the very idea of seeing God, according to the scriptures, is that no man can see God and live. Is it possible that we can see and understand God, but the realization is beyond our comfortable and safe zone? Perhaps our reaction is not unlike Isaiah who saw his life flash before his eyes when he realized that he had seen God. Anyone who questions, doubts or refutes that Isaiah did not see God and that Isaiah was mistaken would do well to review the passage for the affirmation of the words of the Seraphim as to whom it was that Isaiah saw.

Jacob at Penuel
Jacob, unlike Isaiah and perhaps as a reflection of his innate character, mistakenly thought that he saw God face to face. It was in Jacob’s nature to make claims and lay claim to what he wanted whether his brother Esau’s birthright or the blessing of their father Isaac which ought to have been for his older, firstborn brother. The text does not attest to corroborate Jacob’s claim that he saw God. It does attest that he saw an angel.

Moses and company
Moses and the elders of Israel, the text relates unequivocally, that they saw the God of Israel. Quite significantly what is also noted is that God did not stretch out his hand against them, that is, he did not strike them dead. This, then, is the response to the common misunderstanding that no man can see God and live. God, in this specific instance, demonstrated that IF one does not deservedly die after seeing the Holy God it is not because of luck or because they got away with a sneak peek at God. It is solely by the grace of God as he extended to Moses, Nadab and Abihu and the leaders of Israel.

God made a sharp distinction to Miriam and Aaron as to what constitutes a prophet in Numbers 12. According to that definition by God Moses was no more a prophet than Jesus. What is significant is that God declares that unlike a prophet with whom God communicates through visions and dreams; God spoke face to face*, that is, he spoke with Moses clearly. The Father did not communicate his will to the Son through visions and dreams. The Son had firsthand, intimate knowledge of the Father and his will. (* This expression remains completely overlooked in the discussion over I Corinthians 13. The debate which whirls around the perfect as either love or the complete written knowledge of the will of God ignores the expression and its use which Paul knew as it pertained to Moses. Moses received complete knowledge to fulfill the task as the leader of Israel during his lifetime because God spoke with Moses face to face.)

The prophet Isaiah, like Moses, Nadab and Abihu and the elders of Israel, saw God. He was keenly aware of the Holy God and his own sinfulness for which reason Isaiah knew he deserved to die. Yet, as with Moses and company, Isaiah was spared his life. There is a further and greater significance as to what/whom Isaiah saw and whom he spoke which the apostle John relates to Jesus in John 12.

It is now, after Moses and the prophets that in Jesus, the Son of God, the scriptures speak summarily of all the above with respect to seeing God. The apostle John relates at the opening of his gospel account something which is much more than a reference to God and to the Son. What is significant about what John relates is that he associates seeing God with explaining, that is, knowing and understanding God. It is the latter, the explanation, which John cites to substantiate exactly what it means that the Only Begotten Son has seen God.

So, neither Jacob, whom it seems was genuinely mistaken about whom he thought he saw, nor Nadab and Abihu and the elders of Israel and Isaiah who did see God have or gain any more understanding about God or his will other than that they saw him. Moses, unlike them, did receive and gained an understanding about God and his will because God spoke with Moses, face to face; clearly.

What was the extent of the knowledge the Son had of the Father? It was such that there was no need for the Father to communicate with him through visions and dreams in order for the Son to make known or to explain the Father.

The Son’s knowledge of the Father was such that he could boldly and confidently assert to Philip and the disciples that if they have seen Jesus; they have seen the Father. If they have known Jesus; they have known the Father. He had at that point not yet been raised from the dead nor ascended to the right hand of God sit as the King of kings whom no one, as Paul declared to Timothy, no one has seen.

The discussion on the question as to whether anyone can or anyone has seen God is seriously mis-framed. Quite simply those who make their claims on either side of that sighting of God have demonstrated either an unwillingness or inability to reconcile the scriptures such as those cited above.

Moses above and more than any of the prophets received and gained an understanding of God which was unequivocally exceeded by the Only Begotten Son. Jesus not only saw God, which mere mortals had done, but that amounts to a small feat when compared with what John emphasizes about Jesus; that Jesus explained God. Specifically, he explained the Father such that he could openly declare to the disciples that if they can bear it and accepted; they too, like Jesus, have seen the Father.

It is for this reason that the saints in Christ are never talked down to by Paul and the other apostles because they never saw God or that they never saw Jesus. Instead, Paul asserts that we the saints have the mind of Christ. Rejoice in the knowledge and realization that, as Jesus said, blessed are they who have not seen and believed.

No comments:

Post a Comment