As we approach Passover/Easter, many pastors are now focusing on the crucifixion in their sermons. As they get to the part about Yeshua’s cry “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” we very often hear that for the one and only time in history, The Father turned His face away from the Son. The eternal communion of God had been broken because Yeshua, who knew no sin had become sin for us (2Cor 5:21) and apparently God cannot look upon sin so had to turn away. The utter desolation Yeshua felt was because for the first time in all of eternity, He was entirely alone. Dramatic? Yes. Theologically sound? Let’s take a closer look.
First of all, the idea that God can separate Himself from Himself doesn’t make sense. The mystery of the triunity of God is accepted on faith and It is well understood from the Scriptures that God is eternally 3 in 1. We believe that the nature of God is indivisible. Yeshua said that He is in the Father and the Father in Him (John 14:10). The idea that God could be separated from Himself comes from this one statement while Yeshua was being crucified (although we can possibly add Hab 1:13 which says “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favour.”) It is quite dangerous to create a whole theology on one passage of Scripture especially when improper hermeneutics are applied. Entire cults have been developed and have deceived millions on account of practices like these, such as the Jehovah Witnesses who believe Yeshua is a created being and a lesser God than the Father and that salvation is by works and not by grace alone.
Secondly, Scripture itself refutes the idea. In Psalm 22, the one Yeshua quotes David from while on the cross, it says in v. 11 “Be not far from me, for trouble is near.” Again, in v. 19 David says “But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance.” Finally, in v. 24 he says “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” The very psalm used to say that God hid his face from Him specifically says He did not. Now David was writing about himself but this psalm is widely accepted as a Messianic prophecy, pointing toward Yeshua and Yeshua affirms this by quoting from it.
Even more compelling is 2Cor 5:18-19 which says “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Messiah and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” It is quite impossible for the Father to have turned away from Yeshua and be in Him at the same time. Besides, saying that God can’t look upon sin is absurd. He looks upon it all the time. The Holy Spirit who is God and indwells all believers has to put up with our falling short of God’s perfection each and every day. We’re told not to grieve the Spirit which means when we sin, He gets upset. Yeshua became a substitute for all the sacrifices that were being offered for the atonement of sin in the Temple in Israel. God was indeed looking on sin and all of its ugliness. This is why He poured out His wrath on Yeshua.
So where did this idea come from that God should turn His face away? It comes from a lack of understanding on how the Hebrew Scriptures were written. The Zohar, the book which is the basis for Kabballah coined a term that described the 4 ways were used for centuries to interpret Torah. The word PaRDeS (garden or paradise) is actually an acronym.
P – is for Peshat or the literal interpretation
R – Remez means hint or clue which will point towards another passage
D – Drash from Midrash or homiletic meaning (story – to search out)
S – is for Sot – the esoteric or mystical meaning
When teaching the Torah, rabbis would use various methods to go progressively deeper into the infinite layers of meaning within the passage. Of interest to our passage, Yeshua was clearly using remez or a hint which every Jewish person present would have understood at the time since learning the Scriptures was an inherent part of the culture and the Psalms in particular were the song book of the local synagogue. In other words, nobody would have thought Yeshua was being abandoned by God. They understood He was teaching, telling everyone that He was the one David spoke of, who God did not turn His face from. Think about it. Even in His time of greatest agony, the Suffering Servant was still serving, teaching, still bringing the message of hope to the world.
In Rom 3:2 Paul states that the advantage of being Jewish is that we were entrusted with the oracles of God. The Bible was written by Jews, for firstly Jews, about the Jewish Messiah. Unless we look at the Scriptures through the eyes of a 1st century Jewish believer, much of the meaning will be missed. Not doing this has caused much division within the Body of Messiah today as everyone is interpreting the Scriptures through his own lens as opposed to what the original intent was.
Jeremiah exhorts us to “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16). By seeing the Scriptures how they were intended to be, we will find greater truth and indeed, rest for our souls.