Heart of a Relationship
Christians contend that Jesus was a manifestation of God. They compare Jesus to the fire of the burning bush that Moses saw at Horeb (Exodus 3:4), to the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21), and to the Angel of the Lord that appears throughout the Jewish Scriptures (Exodus 23:20; Judges 6:12; Isaiah 63:9).
This argument is rooted in a misunderstanding of the relationship that the Jewish people share with God. The relationship between God and Israel includes many activities that are ancillary to the essence of the relationship. The essence of the relationship is God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love and reverence for God. As expressions of His love, God guides His people, He speaks to their prophets, and he protects them from their enemies. As expressions of Israel’s heart for God we offer sacrifices, we build a Temple and we follow His Law. All of these activities are only part of the relationship inasmuch as they express the heart of one party to the other. If you remove the heart from these activities, they remain empty husks.
All of the manifestations of God that are found in Scripture relate to the ancillary aspects of the relationship. God showed His people that He chose Solomon’s Temple with a cloud of glory (1Kings 8:10), God accepted Elijah’s sacrifice with a fire from Heaven (1Kings 18:38), and God spoke to Abraham through the agency of an angel (Genesis 22:15). These have no impact on the essence of our relationship with God; namely, the love of our heart.
When God came to teach His people about the essence of our relationship with Him, they saw no image. God emphasized this point when He reminded His people of this covenantal encounter (Deuteronomy 4:15). The Sinai encounter was the definitive teaching about the heart of our relationship with God. And in this critical context the Scriptures emphasize that there was no manifestation at all.
Christianity’s claim for Jesus is a claim about the essence of the relationship. Christianity demands a love and a reverence for the person portrayed in the pages of the Christian Scriptures. This is not telling us at which location to bring our sacrifices, it is not guiding our travel and it is not merely bringing us a message. This is telling us where to direct our hearts. It is a teaching that attempts to place a finite existence in the essence of our relationship with God. This is idolatry.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal