Exploring the Nature of God in the Old Testament

Text: Deuteronomy 6:1-6


I.          The nature of God is admittedly both a large subject and a difficult one

             A.         Large because the God who holds the universe in his hand would be greater than mortal man bound to a single world - Isaiah 40:12-17

             B.         Difficult because all we know of God is what God has chosen to tell us. There can be no independent analysis. Instead we must pick up clues that God has given us and examine them.

             C.         If polytheism were true, we would expect:

                          1.          Each god would have a distinctive name

                          2.          Each god would have the characteristics of deity and be addressed as divine

                          3.          We would see the various gods interact

                          4.          There would not be exclusive claims to deity

                          5.          There would be allowances to worship multiple gods

             D.         If Unitarianism were true, we would expect:

                          1.          Strong statements regarding the exclusive deity of God

                          2.          No other would manifest the characteristics of deity

                          3.          Manifestations of God, or literary devices, would not interact with God

                          4.          Worship of anything other than God would be prohibited

             E.         If Trinitarianism were true, we would expect:

                          1.          Strong statements regarding the exclusive deity of God, but with terms ambiguous enough to allow a composite unit

                          2.          There would be multiple agents that would be called God

                          3.          The divine agents would interact with other divine agents

                          4.          The composite unit called God would forbid worship of false gods

                          5.          Each divine agent would be worshiped as God

                          6.          Because of the unity, there would be times when you couldn’t tell which agent was doing the work

                          7.          Different passages might attribute the same work to different agents since they function as a unit

II.         God is One - Deuteronomy 6:4-5

             A.         Many read this passage and have decided that God is a single entity or being. Yet many passages in the New Testament give us the strong impression that God is composed of three beings.

             B.         The Hebrew word for ‘one’ is ‘echad.’ The word can refer to a cardinal number, an order (such as first place), unity, uniqueness, or individual parts of a whole (each, every).

                          1.          In particular we need to acknowledge that echad can apply to a composite unity

                                       a.          Genesis 2:24 - a man and wife become one [echad] flesh.

                                       b.          Genesis 11:6 - The people were one [echad], so God divided them

                                       c.          Genesis 34:16 - By intermarrying, the Jacob’s descendants and the people of Shechem would become one [echad] people

                                       d.          Exodus 26:6, 11 - fifty clasps are used so that it can become one [ehad] tabernacle

                                       e.          Joshua 9:1-2 - Five nations fought the Israelites as one [echad] army

                                       f.          Joshua 10:42 - Joshua conquered Canaan in one [echad] stroke, though many battles were fought as listed prior. (Not on charts)

                                       g.          Exodus 24:3 - The people answered in one [echad] voice

                                       h.          II Samuel 2:25 - soldiers gathered into one [echad] unit

                                       i.           II Chronicles 5:12-13 - The singers sang with one [echad] voice to praise God

                          2.          Hence, Deuteronomy 6:4-5 does not rule out a composite unity view of God.

             C.         What is interesting is that there is another Hebrew word, yachiyd, which means “only one”(see Genesis 22:2) and this word was not used in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

             D.         Statements to the uniqueness of God do not rule out that God could be a composite unity

                          1.          Deuteronomy 4:35 - There is no other God

                          2.          Isaiah 44:6 - God is the first and the last, there is no other

                          3.          Isaiah 45:5-6 - There is no other

III.        The word for God in Hebrew, elohim, is a plural noun

             A.         It is particularly interesting that using a plural noun for a god was not commonly done in other countries around Israel in their languages

             B.         There is a singular form of this word, eloah, that is found in the Bible – mostly in Job by Job’s friends in their reference to God – but the vast usage (over 2500 times) is by the word elohim.

             C.         Many explain this odd form as a “plural of majesty,” but oddly it is difficult to find other occurrences where this is done, other than with God.

             D.         What makes the plural noun stand out is that when used with the God of Israel the other words in the sentence (verbs and adjectives) are in the singular form. If it is applied to false gods, the other words are in matching plural forms.

             E.         The “us” passages

                          1.          Genesis 1:26-27 - Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

                          2.          Genesis 3:22 - Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us ...

                          3.          Genesis 11:7 - Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language ...

                          4.          Isaiah 6:8 - Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?"

             F.         One explanation given for these passages is God is speaking to the heavenly host.

                          1.          The problem is that others do not instruct or counsel God - Isaiah 40:13-14

                          2.          God does not give His glory to another - Isaiah 42:8

                          3.          Man is the glory of God - I Corinthians 11:7

                          4.          Man was made in the image of God - Genesis 5:1

IV.       Statements where God interacts with God

             A.         The Angel of the LORD

                          1.          Separate from God because God sent him - I Chronicles 21:15

                          2.          Genesis 16:7-13

                                       a.          The Angel of the LORD makes a promise in the first person, a promise normally only associated with God’s work - Genesis 16:10

                                       b.          The Angel of the LORD speaks of the LORD in third person - Genesis 16:11

                                       c.          The narrator stated the LORD spoke to her - Genesis 16:13

                                       d.          Hagar calls the one who spoke to her God - Genesis 16:13

                          3.          Genesis 21:12-18

                                       a.          God repeats the Angel of the LORD’s promise as His own promise - Genesis 21:12-13

                                       b.          The Angel of the LORD again repeats the promise as his own - Genesis 21:17-18

                                       c.          The Angel of the LORD refers to God in the third person - Genesis 21:17

                                       d.          The Angel of the LORD speaks from heaven. Why the need for a representative? - Genesis 21:17

                          4.          Genesis 22:11-18

                                       a.          God told Abraham to offer his son - Genesis 22:1-2

                                       b.          Yet the Angel of the LORD used the first person to say that Abraham did not withhold his son from him - Genesis 22:11-12

                                       c.          Yet later in the message delivered by the Angel of the LORD, Abraham is told that his son was not withheld from the LORD - Genesis 22:16

                                       d.          The Angel of the LORD speaks from heaven - Genesis 22:11, 15

                                       e.          The Angel of the LORD speaks of God in the third person - Genesis 22:12

                                       f.          The Angel of the LORD speaks of the LORD in the third person - Genesis 22:16

                          5.          Genesis 31:11-13

                                       a.          The Angel of God calls himself the God of Bethel - Genesis 31:13

                                       b.          The Angel of God said he received Jacob’s vow - Genesis 31:13

                                                    (1)        That vow was made to the LORD - Genesis 28:20-22

                          6.          Before continuing, there are two ways to consider what is going on

                                       a.          The Angel of the LORD is able to speak on behalf of God without always directly stating this is what he is doing. In other words, as a representative of God he is allowed to speak as if he is God

                                       b.          Or, Angel of the LORD means exactly what he states. At times he delivers messages from the LORD, but he also speaks of himself as the LORD because such is the case

                                       c.          As we continue, think about which is the view that best matches the statements.

                          7.          Genesis 48:15-16

                                       a.          Jacob speaks of “the God ..., the God ..., the Angel”

                          8.          Exodus 3:2-7

                                       a.          The Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses - Exodus 3:2

                                       b.          The LORD saw Moses turn toward the bush - Exodus 3:4

                                       c.          God called to Moses from the midst of the bush - Exodus 3:4

                                       d.          The speaker from the midst of the bush identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - Exodus 3:6

                                       e.          Moses was afraid to look upon God - Exodus 3:6

                          9.          Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20

                                       a.          Both the LORD and the Angel of the LORD are said to be in the pillar of cloud and fire

                          10.        Numbers 22:34-35, 38; 23:12

                                       a.          Balaam was told to only speak what the Angel of the LORD says to him Numbers 22:35

                                       b.          Balaam stated he could only speak what God put in his mouth - Numbers 22:38

                                       c.          Balaam stated he could only speak what the LORD put in his mouth - Numbers 23:12

                          11.        Judges 2:1-4

                                       a.          The Angel of the LORD speaks as if he were God

                          12.        Judges 6:12, 14

                                       a.          The Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon

                                       b.          The LORD turns toward Gideon

                          13.        Hosea 12:3-5

                                       a.          Jacob wrestled with God

                                       b.          The Angel of the LORD won

                                       c.          Jacob says he saw the face of God - Genesis 32:30

                                       d.          Jacob wanted to know the name of who wrestled with him. Hosea 12:5 reveals the name

             B.         The Spirit of God

                          1.          First mentioned, involved in the Creation - Genesis 1:1-2

                          2.          Independent of God

                                       a.          God puts His Spirit on the prophets - Numbers 11:29

                                       b.          God gives His Spirit to teach - Nehemiah 9:20

                                       c.          The Spirit can be taken away - Psalm 51:11

                                       d.          Distinctive - called the Spirit of God - Exodus 31:3; 35:31

                          3.          Not a thing, but has personality

                                       a.          Psalm 106:33 - Rebelled against

                                       b.          Psalm 143:10 - is good, leads

                                       c.          Isaiah 34:16 - Gathers

                                       d.          Isaiah 63:10 - Grieves

                                       e.          Isaiah 63:14 - Gives rest

                                       f.          Micah 2:7 - Becomes angry, or impatient

             C.         The Messiah

                          1.          Superior to any man or angel. Called mighty God and Eternal Father - Isaiah 9:6-7

                          2.          He preexisted eternally - Micah 5:2

                          3.          His reign will outlast the sun and moon - Psalm 72:5-7

                          4.          Zechariah 12:10

                                       a.          The LORD is speaking, see verse 1

                                       b.          The LORD will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication

                                       c.          The inhabitants of Jerusalem will look upon the LORD

                                       d.          The LORD was pierced by the inhabitants of Jerusalem

                                       e.          The people will mourn for HIM (switches to third person in mid-sentence)

                          5.          Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3-5

                                       a.          The LORD will send a messenger to prepare the way before the LORD - Malachi 3:1

                                       b.          The Lord will come to his temple

                                       c.          The Lord is the messenger of the covenant

                                       d.          Prepare the way for the LORD - Isaiah 40:3

                                       e.          Make a highway for God

V.         None of this is absolutely clear, especially if this was all that we had to work with

             A.         God speaks of sending “agents” who then are sometimes called God

                          1.          The Angel of the LORD appears to be mainly the external agent that people see.

                          2.          The Spirit of the LORD appears to be mainly the internal agent that instructs

             B.         These “agents” are separate from the LORD, yet address themselves as the LORD

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