Friday, January 8, 2016

Who is Like Jehovah and Who is His Equal? Pt. 2a


By Sam Shamoun

In the previous discussion, we saw how Yahweh utterly detests it when someone desires to share in Yahweh's exalted status over creation, or applies the phrase "I am he" to himself. We are now going to see how the Messiah is portrayed as sharing in Yahweh’s unique transcendence over the entire creation and is identified as the “I Am He” that became flesh. 

The Messiah Most High

The prophet Isaiah foretold both the vicarious sufferings of the Messiah and his subsequent exaltation by God:

“Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.” Isaiah 52:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

What makes this prophecy so remarkable is that Isaiah employs the very words to describe the glorification of the Messiah that he used elsewhere in relation to Yahweh’s exalted status over the entire creation! See part one for the verses.

Not only did the Judaisms of Jesus’ day and afterwards interpret this text in reference to the Messiah,

LII. 13 Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high, and increase, and be exceeding strong: 14 as the house of Israel looked to him during many days, because their countenance was darkened among the peoples, and their complexion beyond the sons of men, 15 so will he scatter many peoples: at him kings shall be silent, and put their hands upon their mouth, because that which was not told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have observed. (Targum Jonathan, as translated by Samuel R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer, with an introduction by Edward B. Pusey [Hermon Press, New York: Reprinted in 1969], p. 5; bold emphasis ours)

Some of the Jewish sources were completely astounded by Isaiah’s depiction of the Messiah’s exaltation:

“I will now proceed to my exposition. 13 Behold my servant shall have understanding. From the prophet’s saying ‘understanding,’ it may be seen that all the lofty predicates which he assigns to him have their source in this attribute; in virtue of his comprehensive intelligence he will attain an elevation above that even of the most perfect men in the world. He shall be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly. According to the Midrash of our Rabbis; he will be higher than Abraham, who was first of all a ‘high father,’ and afterwards a father of a multitude. He will be more exalted than Moses, who was ‘exalted’ above the exalted ones of Levi (cf. Num. iii. 32), who was a prophet such that ‘none arose like him in Israel,’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10), who ‘saved’ Israel ‘with a great salvation’ (cf. I Chron. xi. 14) when they came out of Egypt, and the report of whom spread into all places until ‘the dukes of Edom were confounded’ before him, and ‘trembling seized the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away’ (Ex. xv. 15). But this one will be exalted far above Moses: for when he gathers together our scattered ones from the four corners of the earth, he will be exalted in the eyes of all the kings in the whole world, and all of them will serve him, and will exalt him above them, as Daniel prophesies concerning him, ‘All nations, peoples, and tongues shall serve him’ (Dan. vii. 14, 27). He will be loftier than Solomon, whose dignity was so lofty that he is said to have ‘sat on the throne of the Lord’ (I Chron. xxix. 23), and our Rabbis say that he was king over both the upper and the nether world. But the King Messiah, in his ALL-COMPREHENDING INTELLIGENCE, will be loftier than Solomon. Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence MORE NEARLY DIVINE than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that ‘his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,’ because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly, the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be ‘lofty exceedingly,’ and his strength to be ‘greater than the angels.’… And when this ‘servant of the Lord’ is born, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height wither none of the sons of men, EXCEPT HIM, have ever ascended: from that day he will be counted with his people Israel, and will share their subjugation and distress; ‘in all their affliction’ (Is. lxiii. 9) he will be exceedingly afflicted; and because of their being outcasts and scattered to the ends of the world, his grief will be such that the colour of his countenance will be changed from that of a man, and pangs and sicknesses will seize him (for great grief, as physicians know, by producing melancholy, subjects a man to many diseases); and all the chastisements which come upon him in consequence of his grief will be for our sakes, and not from any deficiency or sin on his part which might bring punishment in his train, BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT, IN THE COMPLETENESS OF PERFECTION, as Isaiah says (xi. 2f.). Truly all his pains and sicknesses will be for us…” (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century AD), as cited by Driver and Neubauer, The “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, pp. 101-103; bold and capital emphasis ours)

As the foregoing reference shows, even the rabbis could see that the Messiah will be much more than an ordinary human being, one that greatly surpasses every creature and who borders on the level of Deity itself!

What makes this of interest is that the above citation combines Isaiah 52:13 with Isaiah 11:2, 53:9 and Daniel 7:14 and applies them all to the Messiah.

This isn’t the only Jewish source to make such connections: 

9. I will declare of the decree of the Lord. He said unto me: ‘Thou art My son’ (Ps. 2:7): The children of Israel are declared to be sons in the decree of the Law, in the decree of the Prophets, and in the decree of the Writings: In the decree of the Law it is written Thus saith the Lord: Israel is My son, My first-born (Ex. 4:22). In the decree of the Prophets it is written Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Isa. 52:13), and it is also written Behold My servant, whom I uphold: Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth (Isa. 42:1). In the decree of the Writings it is written, “Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1), and it is also written I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (Dan. 7:13, 14).

In another comment, the verse is read I will tell of the decree: The Lord said unto me: Thou art My son… Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession (Ps. 2:7, 8). R. Yudan said: All these goodly promises are in the decree of the King, the King of kings, who will fulfill them for the lord Messiah. (The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude (translator) [Yale University Press, New Haven 1959], Yale Judaica Series, Volume XIII, Leon Nemoy (editor), Book One, Psalm 2:9; bold emphasis ours)

The OT quotations that are cited here are quite astonishing since these are some of the very passages, which the NT writers ascribe to the Lord Jesus!

That certain Jewish groups would attribute these references to the Messiah is also remarkable for the fact that these prophecies confirm that the Christ is more than a mere human descendant of David.

For instance, according to these OT passages the Messiah is David’s transcendent Lord who sits enthroned at Yahweh’s right hand:

A declaration from the Lord to my Lord:Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Psalm 110:1 International Standard Version (ISV) 

Since the Psalms plainly state that Yahweh ruling from heaven itself,

The Lord is in His holy temple, His throne is in heaven; His eyes see, His eyes examine mankind.” Psalm 11:4

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19

This means that David foresaw the Messiah reigning from God’s own heavenly throne over every creature in existence!

This is further confirmed by the following texts that are also applied to the Messiah:

Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed (mashicho), saying,Let us tear off their bonds and cast away their ropes from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then He will speak to them in His wrath and terrify them in His burning anger: I have installed My king on Zion, My holy hill.’ I will declare the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are My son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You will break them with a scepter of iron; you will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now then, you kings, be wise; be admonished, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear; tremble with trepidation! Kiss the son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath kindles in a flash. Blessed are all who seek refuge in Him.” Psalm 2:1-12

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

Here, the Messiah is described as God’s unique Son who rides on the clouds of heaven in order to receive an eternal kingdom in which all the nations and their kings are commanded to worship and serve him forever and ever!

A little later in the same chapter of Daniel, the inspired prophet speaks of the time when all the rulers of the earth will worship and obey the Most High God:

Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.” Daniel 7:27 NIV

Hence, not only does the Messiah share in the very exalted status of Yahweh, he even receives the very same worship that Yahweh God receives (or is supposed to receive) from the entire earth!

The Messiah Reigns On High!

According to the NT, the Messiah has not only come but he has also begun his reign from heaven as the Most High over all the earth.  The NT proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth is that Messiah spoken of by the prophets of God.

As the Messiah of God, Jesus is the One from heaven who transcends all creation,  

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.” John 3:31

But He, because He lives forever, has an everlasting priesthood. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, because He at all times lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, for He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and is higher than the heavens.” Hebrews 7:24-26

Having been exalted far above every power and authority that exists, and which shall exist, 

and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He performed in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and EVERY NAME that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet and made Him the head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all things in all ways.” Ephesians 1:19-23

With the entire creation subjected to his power and control:

 Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ALL authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18

But our citizenship is in heaven, from where also we await for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our body of humiliation, so that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working of His power even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20-21

For in Him lives all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all authority and power.” Colossians 2:9-10

Figuratively this is like baptism, which also saves us now. It is not washing off the dirt from the body, but a response to God from a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

As such, Christ reigns in heaven as the only sovereign and immortal Ruler, being the King of kings and Lord of lords: 

“I command you, in the sight of God, who gives life to all things, and in the sight of Christ Jesus, who testified a good confession before Pontius Pilate, to keep this commandment without blemish, blameless until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which HE, WHO is the blessed and ONLY Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will reveal at the proper time. HE ALONE has immortality, living in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen, nor can see. To Him be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:13-16

These will wage war with the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful.” Revelation 17:14

I saw heaven opened. And there was a white horse. He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written, that no one knows but He Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. His name is called The Word of God. The armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Out of His mouth proceeds a sharp sword, with which He may strike the nations. ‘He shall rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury and wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16

Here is how Thayer’s Lexicon defines the title “Lord of lords” in Revelation 19:16:

“… κύριος κυρίων, i. e. Supreme Lord (cf. Winer s Grammar, § 36,2; (Buttmann, § 123,12)): Revelation 19:16 (cf. in α. above; of God, Deuteronomy 10:17)…”

And here is how the standard dictionaries define the word “supreme”:

adjective

1. HIGHEST IN RANK OR AUTHORITY; paramount; sovereign; chief.

2. of the highest quality, degree, character, importance, etc.: supreme courage.

3.GREATEST, UTMOST, or extreme: supreme disgust.

4. last or final; ULTIMATE. (Dictionary.com; capital emphasis ours)

Hence, Jesus rules as the supremely ultimate and utmost Lord of heaven and earth, possessing the highest rank and authority imaginable. Since this is a status which belongs to Yahweh alone, Jesus must therefore be Yahweh God Almighty in the flesh (even though he is personally distinct from both the Father and the Holy Spirit)! 

With the foregoing in perspective, we are now ready to proceed to the final part of our discussion.

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