We continue now with our discussion that began last time; welcome back. We left discussing an interesting passage from Numbers 12:5-8 in which God is rebuking Miriam and Aaron for speaking against Moses, and as you will recall, God told them that Moses is the one to whom He speaks in person, rather than in visions and dreams; directly and not indirectly. During our break, I once again checked to see what Hebrew word was used in these verses to indicate that Moses saw God’s form, and I have some interesting results to share. First, here’s the verse again:
With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num. 12:8)
The Hebrew word used is temuna (H8544) which means “form, image, likeness, representation, semblance” and is found ten times in the Old Testament (Ex. 20:4; Num. 12:8; Deut, 4:12, 15, 16, 23, 25, 5:8; Job4:16; Ps. 17:15) with consistent meaning and application.
It is beginning to be clear to me that God does in fact have a form, and He may from time to time, at His sole discretion, choose to be seen by humans, and it is also becoming clear to me that we cannot discount this as though it were some sort of a fluke. Yes indeed, God is Spirit, that fact is not in despite in this journey of ours, but as I’ve long suspected, it is beginning to appear as though our understanding of what that means has been a bit short-sighted. Ask yourself a question: How many times have we read passages of Scripture in which someone saw an angel of the Lord? Angels are also spirit beings, and yet when the occasion arises, they too can be seen to have a form in Scripture.
I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued. Let’s continue to follow this trail; there are more passages to examine…
Take a look at Exodus 33:18-21:
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
At this point in his experience, Moses wanted to see God, but that was not permissible, for no one could tine see God’s face and live. In order for this to be true, wouldn’t God need to have a face? So God decided to let Moses see His back… Wouldn’t He need to have a back? Of course, it would also appear that He had a hand, since He was going to us it to cover Moses’ eyes…
What shall we say is this just anthropomorphism (human terms used to describe divine attributes)? Many say so, I’ve even said so! Yet they don’t ring true when describing an actual event, because as we know, God did just as He said, and Moses saw His back. If there is a question presented by these two verses, it would be: What happened between Exodus 33 and Numbers 12 that made it possible for Moses and God to talk face to face?
Nothing in our discussion thus far negates the fact that God is Spirit, nor does anything negate the fact that humans also have a spirit: These things are not in dispute in our adventure together. Remember, we are exploring the meaning and significance of being created in God’s image. Humans as we know already have both form and spirit, and if God also has both form and spirit, then there is more significance for us in the here and now of being created in His image, than there would be otherwise, and that is what we are investigating.
Next time, let’s see if we can find any place where Jesus might have shed some light on this…