Throughout time, mankind has worshiped someone or something. There has never been a generation throughout human history wherein an atheistic perspective was the prevalent belief system. We’ve always believed that there is a supernatural being or group of beings behind the scenes of this existence. In virtually all of these historical systems, the belief was that not only were they supernatural and omnipotent, but they were also separate from us… different… apart from us in any real relational way. We were the ants and they were the kid holding the magnifying glass. We were the animals and they were the masters. They didn’t engage with us the way we do with one another. They didn’t understand what it is like to be human… really didn’t even care. Now as Judaism entered the scene, and the identity of Yahweh was revealed to the extent that we could understand His existence… the question pops up… is He any different than those in which we’ve believed in the past…?
First, let me start by saying that there are multiple schools of thought as to the existence and/or identities of these other “gods.” Some say they were simply man’s way of explaining the natural systems of the world that were not really understood. Others might say that they were demons masquerading as gods in order to usurp God’s position and be worshiped themselves. And then there are those that believe that they were possibly some type of extra-terrestrial beings or something. I don’t know about any of that. What I want to address is how Yahweh compared to them upon His engagement of humanity.
There are so many things I could address in relation to comparisons and contrasts between God and the “gods” that I could never deal with them all. What I do want to talk about is how the gods were always apart from us… separate… in a way in which they couldn’t really empathize in any way at all and they didn’t care to do so anyway.
God enters the scene and speaks to specific individuals like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses and so on. When He first engages humanity and begins His journey with a group of people (the Jews after the Exodus from Egypt), He led the entire nation through the Red Sea and around in the wilderness as pillars of what appeared to be fire and smoke.
This next part is critical to the story:
He gave instructions as to how they should worship Him and how they should set up their camp while resting from their travels. The central fixture in the camp (the camp was a nation of millions, mind you) was the Tabernacle. This is another world for “tent” or “dwelling.” There were specific pieces of furniture and a specific way to enter that dwelling. Inside, in the deepest compartment, the Holy of Holies, was the inexplicable, literal, visual presence of God. It seemed to look like some kind of glowing light or fire hovering in that place. I personally believe they would have directly connected it with the fire that was leading them around. Only the high priest could enter in to that place and even then he’d better be careful. God was not to be taken lightly. The rest of the commoners (like you and me) were on the outside, with their own tents pitched in one of the four groupings on the four sides of His large tent. From their perspective, things weren’t totally different. He was with them, but not “among” them. He had not pitched His tent in their camps, but separately from them all… by Himself… and I wonder if they felt truly loved by Him at this point… I’m not challenging His love at all. I just wonder if they yearned for more intimacy… a connection face to face and elbow to elbow…
For the sake of brevity, let’s move forward a LONG time (skipping LOTS of stuff) and come to the beginning of the story about a man born into meager circumstances… among the most common and base elements of the world. John 1:1 tell us that Jesus (called the Word of God) existed as and with God before all other things existed and the following verses tell us that He created and upholds all things. Then, verse 14 says something incredible: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The word “dwelt” could be translated as “tabernacled.” We could word it like this: “He pitched His tent in our camp… He rubbed elbows with us… He became what we are – mortal flesh.” Then He began a 3+ year journey of explaining to us all what His design for us was intended to be… but not while standing far off and criticizing… no… He stands with His arms interlocked with ours… His tears running down our shoulders as we hug Him in pain and He comforts us and hurts with us. He says from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” He was saying, “Daddy, I now know what it’s like to be one of them… to feel their temptations and pain… I know how broken this place is… I know how much they’re struggling… and I…WE love them! They just don’t get it… we’ve got to be patient… and we’ve got to stay with them…”
For the first time in human history, God had become a man and could relate to our existence…
He knows your pain… He knows your heart. He knows your intentions… and much of this is because He knows what it’s like to walk in your shoes.
… part 2 on the way…