The Suffering of God Who Is This Old Testament God?
The Suffering of God – Session 5 God in Human Form* *Titles & Subtitles for all slides are from THE SUFFERING OF GOD
Opening Prayer – BCP (p. 214) Second Sunday after Christmas Day O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
God in Human Form Theophany
Theophany • Fretheim’s aims in this section • Demonstrate that theophanies involved the appearance of God in a human form • Show that this aspect of a theophany was important for God to be able to accomplish God’s purposes • General comments • Theophanies appear to serve a great need for an individual or a community • Usually divided into 2 types • God as divine warrior (Ps. 97) • God as messenger or “bearer of the word”
Theophany • “Theophanies of God as Bearer of the Word” are the focus here (p. 81) • Many variations (p. 81) • “Simple announcement” (Gen. 12:7) • “Complex narrative” (Exod. 19) • Liturgical setting and language (Ps. 50:1-7) • Accompaniments • Pillars of cloud or smoke (Num. 12:5) • Fire (Exod. 3:2) • God’s glory (Num. 14:10) • Weather or other phenomena (Exod. 19:16) Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” • The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. • Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. • There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. • But the whole congregation threatened to stone them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. • On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled.
Theophany • Recognition that God has appeared may occur at the time (Gen. 35:9) or after the theophany (Jud. 13:16) • Characteristics of theophanies • Temporary (Exod. 24:11) • Occur at God’s discretion • In worship (Exod. 29:42-43) • In judgment (Ps. 50:3-4) • Effective (Gen. 21:17) • “God uses an appearance to carry out a wide spectrum of activities among the people; words and deeds are forthcoming which make a difference in life.” (p. 83) God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. The angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me I will not eat your food; but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) • God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank. • It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. I will meet with the Israelites there, and it shall be sanctified by my glory. Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.
Theophany • Results of theophanies • Knowledge (Exod. 33:12-17) • New way to be in the world (Gen. 17:5-8) • New names • New children • Redemption & reconciliation (Exod. 3:7-10) Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.,’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.,” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.” Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.
Visible Words • The word in combination with the visual aspects of theophany contribute to the effectiveness of theophany • As enfleshed word, theophany is sacramental • Visual aspects of theophany make a difference even in biblical texts • Appearances of God to Solomon (1 Kings 11:9-11) • God has spoken to Solomon at other times (1 Kings 6:11) • Visual appearances are the ones recalled Then the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the LORD commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon.
Visible Words • “These phenomena affirm that the Word of God is not intended solely for minds or spirits, but for the whole person. Bodies are as much involved in relationships as are minds.” (p. 86)
Visible Words • Impact of visual can be seen in types of theophanies • Person becomes aware that it is God who has appeared only after the fact (Gen. 16:13-14) • Leads to naming of special place • Recognition that God has appeared is delayed, but occurs during the theophany (Josh. 5:13-15) • “Place [of appearance] is made holy ground” (p. 87) • People require signs to verify that God has appeared to them (Judges 6:14-18) • Signs are provided without rebuke • God’s appearance and signs are not viewed as extraordinary, but seeing God and living are seen as extraordinary • God appears in a dream or vision (Gen. 28:12-13) • Later recounted simply as appearance (Gen. 35:1) • Direct appearance may be distinguished (Num. 12:6-8) So she named the LORD who spoke to her, “You are El-roi”; for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.” He responded, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The LORD said to him, “ But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” Then he said to him, “If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay until you return.” And he said, “Hear my words: When there are prophets among you, I the LORD make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face—clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds the form of the LORD. God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
Meteorological Phenomena • Varieties • Cloud • Flame of fire (lightning) • Glory • Other forms • Displays reflect or are reflected by liturgical practice • Lev. 16:2 • Lev. 16:12-13 • God uses aspects of creation in which to appear The LORD said to Moses; Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of crushed sweet incense, and he shall bring it inside the curtain and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the covenant, or he will die.
Meteorological Phenomena • Part of both “accompanying presence” & “tabernacling presence” • Phenomena should not be confused with the God who appears and acts from within (Exod. 13:21) • Give assurance to the people that God is present • Make clear that God’s presence not controlled by people • Main form of appearance of God to a community or group of people (Num. 16:19-20) The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Then Korah assembled the whole congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to the whole congregation. The LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron,
Meteorological Phenomena • “The God-world relationship is of such a nature that God can appear without disruption. The intensity associated with certain theophanies does not happen because God stands in some fundamental disjunction with the world, requiring much ‘sound and fury’ to occur in God’s wake. Some of the most ‘face to face’ comings of God are very quiet.” (p. 91)
Meteorological Phenomena • “No one can see God and live” • Issue not that God cannot be seen • Issue is whether one can live after having seen • People do live to tell about their “seeing” (Judg. 6:22-23) • Issue of sin is not a concern to protect God, but to protect human beings (Exod. 33:18-23) Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘the LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the LORD; and Gideon said, “Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” But the LORD said to him, ”Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.”
In Human Form • “No theophanies which are incompatible with an appearance in human form” (p. 93) • Appearances in human form • God appears as man or angel • Judg. 6:11-12 • Language may vary between a description of man, angel or God (Gen. 18-19) • God appears shrouded by cloud, fire or light • Exod. 3:2-6 • Phenomena is not the appearance of God, but a veiling of God (Exod. 14:19) • Human form may be discerned through the cloud (Exod. 24:9-11) There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Now the angel of the LORD came and sat uner the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior.” Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God and they ate and drank. The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.
In Human Form • Even “direct” appearances of God in human form are veiled appearances • Appearances to the prophets • God stands (Amos 7:7) • God sits (Isa. 6:1) • God puts out his hand (Jer. 1:9) This is what he showed me; the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne , high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
Divine Vulnerability • Form of theophany • Introduction • Statement of identification, e.g., “I am Yahweh, the god of your fathers” (Gen. 26:24) • Sometimes reassurance in face of fear (Gen. 21:17) • Promise of presence (Gen. 26:24) • Word specific to appearance (Gen. 35:11-12) • Conclusion • Specific word is surrounded by other elements that support the trustworthiness of the word And that very night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and Kings shall spring from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.,”
Divine Vulnerability • God becomes vulnerable • Through his word • Through his presence • Through the giving of his name • Vulnerability of the word • “While God continues to work on behalf of the word, it is now not only in God’s hands. The word is now in the world. It has been received by those who can misuse the word, can twist it toward ends not consonant with God’s purposes for it, and prevent it from having its intended effect.” (pp. 98-99)
Divine Vulnerability • Vulnerability of presence • People’s response may force God to withdraw or be present in a less intense form (1 Sam. 3:1) • Vulnerability of giving God’s name • Commandment specifically to protect God’s name (Exod. 20:7) • Why does naming create vulnerability? • Life – Living beings have names • Distinctiveness – Names point to a specific individual • Intimate relationship – Relationships between unnamed individuals are more superficial • Availability – One can gain the attention of a named individual • Historicality – God’s name links God with the history of a specific people Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Human Form of God • A God who speaks as he appears in a human form carries implications for human beings that merely speaking or believing is insufficient • We must embody God’s Word • In Scripture, “God appears” with no concern that this compromises God’s presence elsewhere • “To ‘identify’ God and messenger would be misleading, but not because there is less than God present, but because there is more than God present. In the form which God assumes there is that which is other than God; the infinite takes on the finite for the sake of the appearance.” (p. 103)
Human Form of God • In opposition to scholars who believe that Israel came to an increasingly spiritualized theology, Fretheim says the biblical text suggests otherwise • Anthropomorphic images of God are used throughout the text • Von Rad reads the creation story (Gen. 1:26) as giving humans a theomorphic form instead of people giving God an anthropomorphic form • Reflects late Israelite theology • Part of reason to forbid images of God is that God can only be represented as a living being Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
Human Form of God • God “empties himself, and lays by the form of divinity; he humbles himself and assumes the form of man” (W. Vischer as quoted by Fretheim, p. 105) • Compare with Phil. 2:6-8 • “However transient the appearances might be, herein is exemplified how God has made the human situation God’s own….God shows that God chooses to share in the human condition; God participates in human history. In fact, the promise of presence commonly associated with the theophany indicates that God’s intimate involvement in human history is not confined to the moment of theophany.” (p. 105) Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Human Form of God • “It is revealing of the ways of God that the word is enfleshed in bodies of weakness within the framework of commonplace, everyday affairs, and not in overwhelming power.” (p. 106)
Bibliography • The Book of Common Prayer (1979). The Seabury Press. • Fretheim, Terence E. (1984). The Suffering of God. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. • Slide design template. Microsoft Office Online. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT011377381033.aspx (18 Sep. 2005)