Monday, January 24, 2022

Anonymous Asks (181)

“ ‘Son of man’ is a title that belongs to Christ. Why is it also used for Ezekiel?”

Ezekiel not only had the title before the Lord Jesus, he had it used to describe him many more times than the Lord Jesus, 93 in total. More importantly, it was God himself who chose to address him that way, though Daniel is also called a “son of man”. But Ezekiel and Daniel are not the only places you find the phrase in the Old Testament; you also find it in Job, Numbers, the Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

What can we learn from the fact that both Ezekiel and Daniel had the title earlier, and Ezekiel more frequently? Not much, probably, except maybe not to measure spiritual importance by such metrics.

A Sort of Insult

So then, long before the Lord Jesus ever used the title “Son of Man” to describe himself, the concept had a history with which devout Jews looking for their Messiah would have been well acquainted.

What might that be? Well, one reference that might be familiar is found in the book of Numbers, where the term is actually a sort of insult. Out of the mouth of the prophet Balaam came these words:

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

In other words, God is not afflicted with the foibles and moral limitations of mankind. If he makes a promise, you can count on it. The obvious implication is that men are not generally so dependable. Sons of Adam are subject to variability. God is not. (Herein may lie the importance of Jesus Christ being “the same” yesterday, today and forever. It is evidence not only of his deity, but of his ability to take that deity and inhabit human form without compromising his essential nature in any way at all.)

A Contrast with Divine Perfections

This is not the first reference to the term that is less than complimentary, usually because the “son of man” is held up in contrast with the perfections of deity. For example, Bildad the Shuhite told Job that the son of man is a worm and a maggot. Bildad asks this perfectly reasonable question: “How can he who is born of woman be pure?” He would get his answer eventually in the person of Christ, but not for a few thousand years. Later in Job, Elihu uses the same contrast when he points out that the righteousness or wickedness of the average “son of man” cannot affect God in any meaningful way; a man’s actions only really impact the man himself. Again, Elihu would find out otherwise, when the real Son of Man was declared by God himself to be “beloved” and “well pleasing”. Apparently the impossible was quite possible for Jesus.

This contrast between the “son of man” and the greatness and perfection of God is also brought out in the psalms of David: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” What brings out this worshipful thought? Why, it is the creatorial splendor of the Almighty. The heavens are the work of his fingers. He set the moon and stars in place. What can man do to match that? Why would God even give the son of man a moment’s consideration? Again, Jesus will provide the answer to that question: Christ, without whom was not any thing made that was made.

Later in the Psalms man’s inadequacy is again stressed: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Can you sense a theme emerging here? Man is really not up to much. The son of man cannot save himself, let alone save you. We are going to find out that Christ is the exception to all these statements.

The Glories to Come

Still, there are hints of the glories of what God was about to do in another psalm. Asaph pleads with God this way:

“But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!”

Trust good old Asaph to nail it. If Israel is to be restored, God is going to have to do it. How will he do it? Through a “son of man”, the man of God’s right hand. No prizes for guessing at this point: we should know what’s coming — or rather, who.

There there is Daniel. What can we say about that? Daniel had a vision of “one like a son of man” being presented to the Ancient of Days:

“To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Imagine that from a mere son of man!

Jesus as Son of Man

Exactly how many times Jesus referred to himself as “the Son of Man” is a subject for debate. The gospels list eighty in total, but of course many of these would be the same reference reported by different sources. Needless to say he appropriated the title and made it his own, and neither Ezekiel nor Daniel will be asking for it back!

In using the title, the Lord Jesus is telling his disciples he is subject to all the same afflictions, difficulties and normal human experiences they are. The Son of Man had “nowhere to lay his head”, came “eating and drinking” (and was criticized for it), was to be subjected to suffering and betrayal, came to serve rather than be served, and must even experience death. He had to be made like his brothers in every respect.

But far more often the Son of Man transcends his perfectly legitimate humanity. He has authority to forgive sins (only God can do that), is Lord of the Sabbath (and who could be Lord of the Sabbath but God himself?), dispatches angels to do his bidding (because he is greater than angels), comes in the glory of his Father, and is scheduled to be raised from the dead.

What does the title “Son of Man” mean as applied to Christ? It means he is the transcendent man, the man who was everything we are (sin apart), but who raised mankind from its fallen state and brought it back into right relationship with God and with all that was ever intended for mankind when we were created. He is man as God always intended man to be; the federal head of a new, glorious humanity, just as Adam was the head of an old, fallen humanity.

A Realistic Point of Comparison

So then, why did Ezekiel and others get the title centuries before Christ? Well, perhaps you have to have some realistic point of comparison in order for the true glories of the Lord Jesus to shine forth and exhibit themselves. Only an existing standard could enable us to see by how much Christ excelled it.

This is what those Old Testament references to “son of man” provide: a record of mankind’s standard performance assessments, so that the Christ — the true Son of Man — could promptly exceed, eclipse and demolish them all.

No comments :

Post a Comment