The ancient Israelite understanding of God was different from what it is today. Religious Jews since the time of Jesus have actually rejected what their ancestors believed and knew about Yahweh. Since Jesus came, the Jews have clung to the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” and insisted (like the Muslims) that God has no Son; He is One, and that’s it.
Scripture tells us otherwise right from the beginning. The ancient Israelites knew this and even spoke and wrote of how Yahweh manifested in at least two ways. Consider Genesis 15:4-5 in which God interacts with Abram:
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
In these verses we see two interesting aspects of this interaction:
- The Word of the Lord came to Abram
- He brought Abram outside and spoke to him
Do you see it? The Word of the Lord is a personal being. “He” brought Abram out to look at the stars. From this and subsequent instances in Scripture we know that the Word of the Lord is not just something spoken. The Word is a physical manifestation of God.
Let’s look at what happens when Hagar flees from Sarai after having Abram’s child, Ismael, in Genesis 16:7, and what He subsequently spoke to her in verse 10:
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur… The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
Who is the Angel of the Lord? Notice that He said “I” will bring you many offspring. Who but God can make that promise? Only the Lord has that creative ability and the means to make a specific promise of this nature. Thus, it is clear that the Angel of the Lord is Yahweh Himself, and that He appeared to her in person.
From these passages we gain an understanding of God that the Israelites knew: Yahweh had the ability to manifest in person. Later in such verses as Psalm 110:1, it is clear that there are actually two Yahweh’s:
The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
How can God speak to God unless there are two persons present?
It is from the Jewish Scriptures, the Tanakh, that the Hebrews developed an understanding of God that they called “The Two Powers in Heaven” or “The Two Yahwehs.”
When Jesus came, claimed to be Yahweh, i.e. the Second Power, and actually demonstrated through the miracles He did that He was the Angel of the Lord made flesh, the religious rulers rejected Him and changed their understanding of the Scriptures and what their ancestors had all believed.
A day is coming, however, when “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) and the unbelieving Jews will believe. Just as it says in Psalm 118:26 and Matthew 23:39, on that day the survivors in Israel from the Great Tribulation will say: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”