Only Jesus Reveals the True Nature of God

 

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About the nature of God revealed through Jesus

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Only Jesus Reveals the True Nature of God Meeting Notes, Chiang Mai, December 1, 2012 Albert Oberdorfer

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❶ The Old Testament is only a Shadow—Jesus is the Real Thing The Old Testament (OT) paints certain pictures of God. But all these pictures are shadows. Now, a shadow can only tell us very little. It can never give us an accurate and full picture of the real thing. For example, when we look at a person’s shadow, we can only learn very little from that. We don’t know if that person looks happy or sad. We don’t know if that person has a light or a dark skin color. We can’t find out anything in detail. Now, Jesus is the only true representation of God. He is not a shadow—He is the real thing. John says,“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). So if we want to learn something about the true nature of God, we need to look at Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ reveals the true nature of God. But what if we come across some representations of God in the OT that don’t seem to portray God in the same way as Jesus Christ portrayed Him? Then we need to understand that these representations are shadows and need to be interpreted correctly in the light of Jesus Christ. We will look at a few examples from the OT in a minute, and you will see what we mean. 2

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❷ God is the Healer, the Deliverer, the Savior In John 3, Jesus talks to a Jewish leader called Nicodemus about an event in the OT. In this event, the Israelites where bitten by snakes in the desert. Then God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole. All that looked on the image of the serpent on the pole survived the snake bites. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus that this event was symbolic. It pointed to what He came to do on the cross. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:14-17) So when the Israelites were bitten by snakes, God provided the remedy through a symbolic act that pointed to Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus’ real act of being crucified provided salvation for the whole world. So God is the one who provided salvation through Jesus Christ. He is the Healer, the Deliverer, the Savior. 4

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❸ Who Sent the Fiery Serpents? Now let us read the whole account of the story as it is rendered in the OT. 4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread." 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:4-9) So in this account it says that it was God who sent the snakes because the Israelites grumbled against God and Moses. If we read this and do not understand that this passage is a shadow, we could come to the wrong conclusion. We could think that it was God who destroyed His people because of their lack of faith and disobedience to Him. ! 6

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But then we also read that at the same time God later rescued them from the snakes. So from this passage we could come to the conclusion that at one time God kills and at another time He rescues. One time He destroys, and at another times He saves. One time He wounds, and at another time He heals. But is this understanding about God correct? Let us see what Paul, the Apostle wrote about this passage: 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Corinthians 10:9-10) In the account of the same event in the OT, we read that “the Lord sent the fiery serpents.” But in this passage, Paul says that “they were destroyed by the destroyer.” Who is the destroyer? Satan. So it was Satan that sent the serpents, not God. God is not in the killing business. He is in the healing business. Satan destroys. God heals. And God doesn’t destroy first, and then heal later. Satan is always the one who destroys. God is always the one who heals. So the writer who rendered this passage in the OT understood that it was God who sent the serpents. But that was according to His own understanding. This picture of God as someone who destroys is a shadow that does not give us an accurate picture of God as revealed through Jesus Christ. ! 8

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❹ Stay Away from the Shadow So when we read the OT, we need to interpret it correctly in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Only when we look at the person of Jesus, we can understand about the true nature of God. So when we come across representations of God in the OT, we need to understand that they are shadows that need to be interpreted in the light of Jesus Christ—the only true representation of God. Paul, the Apostle referred to this in a passage in the letter to the church at Colosse. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- 21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23) 9

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So here Paul is saying, “Stay away from the shadow, and embrace the real thing—Jesus Christ. All this other stuff is show business—all this ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that.’” In other words, Paul was saying that Jesus is the substance, the real thing. If we want to grow, we need to keep looking to Jesus and stay away from commandments and doctrines of man that all focus on what we should or should not do. All this is stuff that doesn’t profit. We need to keep our focus on the real thing—Jesus. This means that people who get carried away with OT teachings and shadows are missing out. Only if we keep looking at Jesus and base our doctrines on the revelation of Jesus, then we can profit and grow. ❺ Was Job Right ? Let’s just look at one more shadow of the OT. Often when people hear about the goodness of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, they will say, “But what about Job?” So let’s look at a passage from the book of Job. Let’s see if Job was right in His understanding about the nature of God. Here is an account from the book of Job, chapter one. 13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside 11

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them, 15 when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:13-22) After all this calamity had fallen on Job, he charged God with it. Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What do you think, “Is God like that? Or is it rather that Job was wrong in his understanding of the nature of God.” Jesus said that it’s the devil who “steals, kills, and destroys” (John 10:10). God is not like that! ! 12

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Notice that one of Job’s servant said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them.” But this was the servant’s understanding of what happened. It did not mean that God was behind the event! God is not in the destroying business! He is in the healing business. So what is written in Job is a shadow. It doesn’t give us an accurate account what God is really like. Only when we look at Jesus we can come to a true understanding of the nature of God. We need to correctly interpret the shadows in the OT that seem to portray a picture of God that is contrary to the picture portrayed through Jesus Christ. ❻ Summary In the OT we find shadows that portray the nature of God. Yet, shadows are unreliable things. They might give us a completely distorted view. Jesus is the substance. Only Jesus portrayed the true nature of God. So when we find passages in the OT that seem to contradict the portrayal of God through Jesus Christ, we need to understand that they are shadows that need to be interpreted in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. When the Israelites in the OT at one time were bitten by snakes, the scripture says that the Lord sent the snakes. Yet, Paul wrote that the destroyer (Satan) was behind sending the snakes. God was behind heal- 14

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ing the people, just as Jesus came not to destroy but to heal and to save. People sometimes point to Job who said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” But Job was wrong. The one who killed, robbed, and destroyed away was Satan. God doesn’t do that. God is good all the time. He is the savior, the deliverer, the healer—yesterday, today, and forever. ✜ Some ideas from this article are from Cornel Marais’s The Truth About Evil: Part 5 – A Game Of Shadows from Charisma Ministries (http://www.charismaministries.org/). The image on the front page is courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. 15

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