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The Inter-Testamental Jewish Literature and the Deity of the Lord Jesus Pt. 2

Jesus Christ – The God who gathers his people

Sam Shamoun

The Hebrew Bible uses the image of Yahweh spreading out his wings over his people to protect them:

“The LORD recompense you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Ruth 2:12

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7; cf. 17:8; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7

It further likens him to a bird that gathers his young under his pinions and wings:

“For the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him.” Deuteronomy 32:9-12

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:1-4

Such OT imagery may underlie the following description of God in the non-Biblical literature:

Thus says the Lord Almighty: Have I not entreated you as a father entreats his sons or a mother her daughters or a nurse her children, that you should be my people and I should be your God, and that you should be my sons and I should be your father?  I gathered you as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. But now, what shall I do to you? I will cast you out from my presence. 2 Esdras 1:28-30

The above source is clear. The Lord God Almighty is the One who gathers his rebellious people Israel as a hen gathers her brood or young chicks under her wings.

This is why what we are about to read next becomes all the more amazing:

“At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ And he said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”’” Luke 13:31-35

Here, the Lord Jesus ascribes to himself language which his Jewish contemporaries knew could only be used by the God of Israel! What the passage from 2 Esdras shows us is that the people understood it was Yahweh who had desired to gather them under his wings despite their persistent rebellion and refusal. And yet Jesus applies exactly the same metaphor to assert that he has been and continues to be the One who has yearned to bring rebellious Israel under his loving protection!

In fact, in another context Christ not only laments that he has often desired to gather the children of Israel despite their unwillingness, he also claims to be the One who sends them prophets!    

“Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi'ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:34-39

Again, this is language which is only appropriate for Yahweh since he is the One who sends prophets to his people according to the OT:   

“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, till the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, till there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:15-16

“From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day;” Jeremiah 7:25; cf. 25:4; 26:5; 29:19; 35:15; 44:4

The preceding data substantiates the fact that the Lord Jesus claimed to be the unique Divine Son of God. Christ’s words prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he truly believed that he is the Lord God of Israel (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit) who protects his people and sent his prophets and messengers to communicate his words to them! At the very least this demonstrates that the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels, i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, is every bit as high as that taught in John’s Gospel and the Pauline epistles! 

Amen! Come Lord Jesus, come! We beg you to gather us under your wings and preserve us for your glory forever and ever! We love, Risen Son of God and Immortal King! Amen.

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