Images, Form and Spirits

As promised, I have given the “little grey cells” a chance to do their thing; ah yes, M. Poirot was a smart little fellow. One of the things I was thinking about is how much explorers and detectives have in common, for they both look carefully at what they find, and follow each trail to see what they can uncover to understand things more completely. OK, a scholar does that too, but they always seem so dusty and dull; detectives and explorers are much more fun! Another thought that came to mind was the need for focus in this adventure…

So, let’s focus.

A commenter pointed out the God is Spirit and so are we; an excellent point. Right here in the Garden that was demonstrated when God first created Adam out of the dust of the ground, and then breathed His breath of life into the man (Gen. 2:7-8). We also know that we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christ, so clearly we are both physical and spirit; the Scripture references of this are familiar to us all. That we are embodied is also obvious to all; what is not obvious is whether or not God has a form, a body, and appearance. So I thought some more…

After a time, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Duh! There are two theological terms I have used right here in this blog, each more than once, that describe visual appearances of God! What’s more, there is a third theological term that is used to refer to comparisons of human references to describe or explain God’s attributes. They are:

Theophany: A temporary and visible manifestation of God in a human or other form.

Christophany: A pre-incarnation appearance of Christ.

Anthropomorphism: The attribution of human characteristic to God in order to explain or express His attributes. (Theological definition, there are other application is science).

It stands to reason, does it not, that if we have theological terms about the “appearance” or visual manifestation of God, that God has an appearance, and if human attributes can be used to describe the attributes of God, that humans do indeed carry His image or likeness in some way. The only thing is, is the “form” on which God appears temporary or does He have a permanent form?

Let’s look at some texts:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:8-9)

These verses come in the story of the fall and its aftermath (Gen. 3:1-24); both Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, and now they sought to hide from Him, and they “heard the sound” of God walking in the Garden. They “heard the sound” of God “walking”. God is Spirit, of that we can be certain, but on that fateful day, He was walking through the Garden, a physical act, making noise that could be heard by the physical ear, and spoke in language with a voice that could also be physically heard by humans. The text also implies that the sound of God walking through the Garden was recognized as Him walking, as though this was not unusual, and if it wasn’t unusual, then why were the two hiding? Why wouldn’t God relate to Adam this way when Adam was in his sinless state? I assure you that I can give you a more lengthy discussion here, and I will if you ask me to, but it seems pretty clear that God had a form and appearance in the physical sense in the Garden.

Shall we try another text?

Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
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?”

Numbers 12:5-8 (full context Num. 12:1-16)

Who can forget the time when Miriam and Aaron were called out for daring to oppose Moses?

For our purposes, did you notice that God seems to think that He has a visible form?  With other prophets, God deals in visions, dreams and riddles, but He gets with Moses face to face, in person. There is much more to say on this, but in looking at my word count, let’s break for now; I want to be respectful of your time, and pick up right here next time, as we continue our exploration. In the meantime, I think we have quite a bit to think about…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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9 Responses to Images, Form and Spirits

  1. pipermac5 says:

    Exodus 33:7-23 presents two more very interesting scenes relating to the Numbers 12 passage.



  2. OK, just had to read those verses mentioned by Steve. As Arte Johnson would say, “Verrrrry interesting!”

  3. This is fantastic Don. I’m learning so much, thank you.

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