Is calling man a G-d idolatry?
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
By R’Ken "Maccabees"
Is calling man a G-d idolatry? We do understand the Jewish principle and truth that a man cannot be G-d. Even Islam understands this much. B'midbar (Numbers) 23:19 is often quoted to prove that Yeshua is not G-d.
“God is not a human who lies or a mortal who changes his mind. When he says something, he will do it; when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it." B'midbar (Numbers) 23:19
How can this be reconciled?
It’s not my job to convince you. It’s your journey, between you and HaShem, but many Christians and Messianics don’t understand the Jewish concept of a shaliach--literally, a sent one. Today in Israel, a shaliach outside of the Hebraic construct can even be a pizza delivery man 🍕 —a sent one indeed!
A Shaliach (sent one of G-d) plays a much different role. They carried all the authority of the sender, much like a power of attorney. When a King sent his Shaliach with a message, he was to be treated with the same reverence as the King who sent him. To disgrace the shaliach was likened to disgracing the King. The Shaliach carried diplomatic immunity like that of an ambassador visiting a foreign country.
Examples of this are seen in Scripture when Avraham sent his shaliach Eliezer to find a wife for Yitz'chak (Isaac) in Bereshit (Genesis) 24:1-7. As a shaliach, when Eliezer proposed to Rivkah (Rebekah), it was as if Yitz'chak himself proposed. Also, remember the Malachim (angels) appeared to Avraham in human form before the destruction of Sodom. Although the angels were not G-d and had appeared as men, Avraham called them G-d!
"Adonai appeared to Avraham by the oaks of Mamre... 2 He raised his eyes and looked, and there in front of him stood three men. On seeing them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, prostrated himself on the ground, 3 and said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, please don’t leave your servant." Bereshit 18:1-3
Some Jewish commentators interpret this event by saying HaShem first visited Avraham, and then the angels appeared to him afterwards. But that scenario of two separate visitations does not appear in the text, nor do all commentators believe this.
We can also consider the time Ya’akov wrestled with the angel of G-d and declared that he had wrestled with G-d and prevailed. Is it possible that the Creator of the universe, the G-d that moves mountains and parts the sea, could be beaten by a man in a wrestling 🤼♀️match? Of course not. It is ridiculous to even think such a thing. But the text explicitly states, Ya’akov wrestled with G-d and prevailed!
"Then some man wrestled with him until daybreak... The man said, “Let me go..."31 (30) Ya‘akov called the place P’ni-El [face of God], “Because I have seen God face to face." Bereshit (Genesis) 32:30-31 CJB
So, what do we make of this? We would do well not to ignore the scriptural truth that a shaliach of G-d carried the authority of G-d and was respectfully referred to as G-d by both Avraham and Ya’akov.
In addition, G-d instructed Moshe that he was the representative of G-d before Pharaoh. "Adonai said to Moshe, 'I have put you in the place of God to Pharaoh...'" Shemot (Exodus) 7:1
Avraham and Ya'akov both described angels as a man and as G-d, and Moshe was put in the place of G-d. In like manner, Yeshua instructed his talmudin (disciples) that if you had seen him, you had also seen the Father. “Have I been with you so long without your knowing me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?" Yochanan (John) 14:9
And we know that, "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power." Hebrews 1:3 NASB
Consider Antiochus Epiphanes (which means one like G-d) in the upcoming Chanukkah story. He raised himself and sat in the Temple and declared himself to be G-d. This is a fatal error and is idolatry, or the worship of a false god. However, the angels who appeared to Avraham and Ya'akov, and in the case of Yeshua, they all came as true representatives of the Father and are therefore not idolatrous.
One day all believers in HaShem and His Mashiach will understand this concept of Ahavat Chinam (baseless love 💗), and that of the authority of G-d given to a shaliach, while being separate from and not being G-d. Then Israel will be the head and not the tail (Devarim 28:13). This verse speaks of when Israel will keep G-d’s mitzvot. But when will this happen? When His mitzvot are correctly taught by His Mashiach, His Shaliach.
Thank you for considering the significance of our common ground. Just as Avraham and Ya'akov addressed angels/men as G-d, and Moshe was to be considered in the place of G-d, so too, we should consider Yeshua in the place of G-d in the Hebraic context.
Are believers of Yeshua to be labeled as idolatrous because they see the man Yeshua as an expression of G-d? By the same standard must we say that Avraham and Ya’akov should be labeled as isolators? They too described men/angels as expressions of G-d. Neither is the case.