Jesus in the Old Testament
Face to Face
In Exodus 33, we read about how the cloud of God’s presence, the Shekinah glory, descended to the Tent of Meeting when Moses entered it. It is there that Moses talked to the Lord. Specifically, in verse 9 we read that
“When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses.”
In verse 9 we read that the Lord talked to Moses face-to-face:
“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”
Now, jump down to verse 20. Moses has just asked God to show him His glory. God responds by saying that “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” When God appears next, has back is faced towards Moses so that he could not see God’s face directly.
But wait, didn’t Moses just see God’s face like five minutes ago? What changed? This apparent contradiction has two possible answers: that the term “face to face” in verse 9 is not literal, or that Moses talked to an OT appearance of Jesus, called a Christophany, and then talked to the Father.
A Christophany is a preincarnate appearance of Christ. The example mentioned above is only one of many. Another instance of this can be found in Genesis 18:1-8, when three visitors came to Moses’s tent and ate with him. Also, when Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32, he says afterward that he “saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The Angel of the Lord, who had the power to forgive sins and is essentially God, is also thought to be a Christophany.
These physical appearances of God in the form of the Son do not contradict God’s statement to Moses that “no one can see His face and live.” That statement is referring to the Father, who is spirit. Jesus, on the other hand, is man and therefore could be seen face to face without causing instant death.
Affirming the Trinity
These Christophanies in the Bible can prove the fact that God is indeed a Trinity. We can see how the many different manifestations of God demonstrate His triune nature. There is even an instance in which two members of the Trinity are present at once.
This central tenet of Christianity is important in differentiating God from Islam’s God, Allah, who is not a Trinity. So the next time you run into a Christian who doesn’t believe in a Trinity, you can kindly tell them about Christophanies in the OT.
While we cannot prove undeniably that every Christophany was in fact Jesus, we know that He has always existed.
John 1:1 says, ”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
These Christophanies serve to foreshadow His human birth in Bethlehem and show that God is indeed a personal God who is very invested in helping us directly. After all, Jesus quoted many Old Testament verses, and it makes sense- because He was there.
Have you heard of Christophanies before?
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Lou Tenant