“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NKJV).[i] This is probably one of the most popular verses in the New Testament, clearly pointing to Yeshua as the Divine Messiah; God in human form, manifest and revealed to the creation. However, what exactly did the Apostle John mean when he said, the word became flesh? In a general sense, the word is the bible. So, how does paper or parchment turn into living flesh? I think there more to understand here.
The One Who Dwells
The rabbis teach us that the word of God is referred to as the Shechinah (שכינה—in English—Shekhina). The word derives from the root Shechen (שכן), which means to dwell. Although not in scripture, the word is used to describe God’s manifest glory or His manifest presence in the world.[ii] Interestingly, the Hebrew phrase “words of the living God” (דברי אלקים חיים), appears in the plural form,[iii] which, in my opinion, confirms the plurality of God’s nature—One God revealed in multiple forms.
The rabbis also refer to the word of God as the breath of His mouth and His Malchut (Kingship), for they say: “the word of a king (Melech—מלך) rules and a king rules his kingdom through his speech, his word (Milah—מילה).”[iv] Therefore, the word of God is His breath and His speech, both of which are tangible and audible, correlating with God’s manifest presence (Shechinah) within creation, and His Lordship (Malchut) over all creation. These also reveal the plurality of God’s nature.
We now understand that the word of God (Shechinah) both dwells (Shochen—שוכן) and vests itself in created beings, giving them life. And, we know that Yeshua is the King who will one day dwell (Shochen) amongst us, communicating and communing as the king of Kings through His speech. He is the one who holds the keys to life in His hand,[v] and He gives life to all men.
In Christ, we now have both the physical presence of God (Shechinah) and His written word (which was spoken to Moses and the prophets) dwelling within our hearts and minds.[vi] In Jewish understanding, the heart and mind are the same. Therefore, the fullness of God now lives within us, as it is written, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We (plural) will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
God’s written word, and Yeshua, His living word made flesh, are inseparable. Therefore, Yeshua and the Shechinah must be one, wholly united within themselves. One does not annul the other, nor did God’s word vanish when Yeshua came to the earth. On the contrary, God’s written word came to life. Hence, the “word became flesh.”
The Shechinah and Prophesy
There is a mysterious correlation between the Shechinah, the Holy Spirit, and the Divine Light or glory of God (Kavod). However, they are not necessarily the same. All of them signify some form of Divine immanence, and both the Shechinah and Holy Spirit are commonly associated with prophecy.[vii]
Our Sages, of blessed memory, said that: “The Shechinah spoke from the throat of Moses.” They believed that Moses was so translucent because of his utmost humility towards God, that when he prophesied he did not just relay God’s message, but rather the Shechinah spoke directly through his mouth.
Likewise, all the prophets and those possessed of the Holy Spirit, we see that it was the supernal voice and speech of God that vested itself in their actual voice and speech, for it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). Paul affirmed this when he said, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25). We also see this happening on the Day of Pentecost, as it is written, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
The Law and the Prophets
When Lord spoke through Moses, what did the Shechinah say? We know that it was God’s law and instruction (called Torah) given to Israel, revealing God’s knowledge and wisdom. The Psalmist said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul…” (Psalm 19:7). However, if God’s law was so perfect, then how come Israel could not receive God’s salvation through obeying the Law?
Because we understand that, “The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9); and “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Therefore, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him [Christ Yeshua] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Yes, God has laid our iniquity on Christ. Therefore, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God did not just take away our sin. He became our sin. This was a debt we could never repay.
When the Lord spoke through His holy prophets, what did the Shechinah say? We know the Lord spoke of the one who was to come and deliver Israel from the curse of the Law—the law of sin and death, that we brought upon ourselves because of our iniquity and our inability to convert our souls through the works of the law and our fallen and corrupt flesh.[viii] This one would reveal God’s heart of love and mercy towards Israel, demonstrating His ultimate plan to restore Israel to the heart of the Law itself—the law of kindness.[ix] “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
There is no problem with God’s law. The problem resides with us; imperfect and fallen men and women who were birthed in iniquity.[x] It would take the shed blood of Christ and the breath of God to make us a new creation in Him, for it is written, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22-23).
The Law of Moses (Torah) came with the curse of the law for those who break it. Non-the-less, in Jewish tradition, the Torah is correlated with the right hand of God, which is His attribute of kindness (Chesed). It is written, “Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand...” (Psalm 17:7).[xi] Therefore, the Torah, with its priesthood and temporary covering for sin through the shedding of animal blood, was effectively a demonstration of God’s grace and mercy towards Israel. Still, we know the Mosaic covenant was temporary, as “Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).
The rabbis have compared the Torah to water, for just as water descends from a higher level to a lower level, so has the knowledge and wisdom of God been brought down to ours. Using this analogy of water, the rabbis say: “From there [the heavenly realm] the Torah has journeyed in a descent through hidden stages, stage after stage, in the chain-like order of interconnected spiritual [heavenly] “Worlds,” until it clothed itself in material matters and things of this corporeal world, which comprise nearly all the Torah’s commandments and their laws.” Wow! That sounds like the word of God became flesh.
Yeshua certainly understood these prophetic teachings of the rabbis when He said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). I believe it is an inescapable conclusion that Yeshua is the Torah made flesh. He is the living water,[xii] which is the wisdom, knowledge, and most importantly, the heart of God who has come down to our level and become manifest to us as both His Shechinah (Divine presence) and His Malchut (Divine Kingship). The words of the Torah became flesh.
The Bread of Life
Yeshua also referred to Himself as the bread of life, “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Water is a primary ingredient in making bread. Yeshua combined these two elements when He said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). The word of the Torah became flesh.
This scripture suggests that we need both bread and water to survive spiritually: bread which is analogous to the written word of God, and water which is analogous to the Holy Spirit. Combining these gives us the fullness of God’s written word, which now comes to life by the revelation and instruction of the Holy Spirit. It also comes to life in the person of Yeshua who is the fullness of God’s written word and Spirit revealed to humanity, and is both the dwelling and indwelling presence of the Shechinah.
Christ—The Embodiment of the Law
Everything concerning the Law and the prophets was and is to be fulfilled in Christ, for it is written, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). Yeshua said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
Therefore, all of scripture points to Christ,[xiii] who is not only the one who would exclusively fulfill the commandments and ordinances of the Law but is the one who exclusively is the embodiment of the Law itself. Once again, the words of the Torah became flesh.
The Infinite Light
The rabbis refer to God, the Holy One, blessed be He, as the Infinite Light (Ein Sof). The Hebrew word Baruch (ברוך—blessed), also means to descend and be revealed. God’s greatness can never be fathomed, and no thought can apprehend him at all. Also, His will and wisdom are infinite and unfathomable, as it is written, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5), “His understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28).
Therefore, human thought is incapable of grasping Divine thought.[xiv] How, then, can the rabbis say that in understanding the Torah, that man can grasp God’s wisdom? Their answer is that: “God compressed and lowered His wisdom, clothing it in the physical terms and objects of Torah and its commandments, so that it might be accessible to human intelligence, in order that man may thereby be united with God.”[xv]
Revelation Out of Concealment
Divine light in scripture signifies revelation out of concealment. In other words, the light (truth) that was previously concealed within the luminary source of the light, is now drawn forth from its source and is revealed as light (truth)— “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life…’“ (John 14:6). “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Additionally, when God’s concealed light is in a state of revelation, it is called an utterance. It is also called the word and the breath of His mouth. Therefore, Divine speech utters and reveals that which was previously concealed,[xvi] as it is written, “And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice [utterance] came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22). Paul said (uttered), “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
This descent in bodily form is the purpose of the Shechinah, to reveal to the world a light which is higher than the world. Therefore, the Shechinah was and is the level from which life and vitality are drawn down and revealed to all God’s creation.[xvii] In other words, God’s revelation is for giving life to His created beings.
Chanukah—The Festival of Light
In December, Jewish people all around the world will celebrate Chanukah, the festival of light. In Jewish tradition, the festival is as much a celebration and savoring of the darkness, as it is of celebrating the light. Rabbi David Seidenberg said: “No one sits in front of the menorah thinking, ‘I can’t wait for these candles to grow so bright that there’s no more darkness.’ Darkness is the condition that makes the candles beautiful and sweet.”[xviii]
Darkness was necessary so that God’s light would be revealed, for it is written, “Clouds and darkness surround Him” (Psalm 97:2). However, God’s ultimate purpose is not just to reveal His light (His Shechinah), but ultimately to fully dispel the darkness that is in this world word, replacing it with His light (the Resurrected Christ—the word made flesh). For it is written, “The city [the New Jerusalem] had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23).
Hebrew—The Holy Tongue
The Holy Tongue, the Hebrew of the Torah, was the language used in creation. And so, all created things are directly affected by their Hebrew names.[xix] It is the Shechinah that emanates the power of God’s speech to utter the words of Torah into creation— “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). This scripture is a direct reference to Christ. The rabbis teach us that the heavens were made by the word of God and all their hosts by the breath of His mouth.[xx]
It is written, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). For this reason, the Shechinah is called our Nefesh (Soul) and heart.[xxi] We can, therefore, conclude that it was the Shechinah that Divinely spoke creation into existence and breathed life into Adam.
If Yeshua, the last Adam,[xxii] is the Shechinah of God revealed in human form, then we can also conclude that it is the Shechinah dwelling within us that brings life. How? Through His word which now comes to life through the Holy Spirit that was sent from our Heavenly Father— “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).
Written on our Minds and Hearts
What things will the Holy Spirit teach us? His law, for it, is written, “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts…” (Jeremiah 31:33). What does God’s law look like when it is written on our hearts and minds? It becomes the full manifest expression of love, for God is love.[xxiii] Yeshua said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments… He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:15-21).
We can now begin to understand the oneness and unity of God, that His written word is not just a narration of His knowledge and wisdom or a casual description of His perfect nature, but the written word itself has and brings life because of what it communicates to our hearts and minds. God’s word is life, and it becomes life to all who drink of it. If God dwells with us but does not speak, then His presence cannot bring revelation (truth) to illuminate our minds, and His Kingship has no authority of creation. Without God’s voice, how are we to be renewed in the spirit of our minds so that His law and nature would be written on our hearts and minds?[xxiv]
From the moment of accepting Christ Yeshua (which means salvation) until the time we go to be with the Lord Yeshua (salvation), our walk with Yeshua will be a journey of learning and transformation (i.e. innumerable salvation moments)— “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
Yeshua said, “Do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12). The fact that we can presently be with Christ, and hear from the one who dwells with and within us, should bring an even greater fullness to our friendship the Lord.
One day soon, Christ Yeshua, the Shechinah, our Lord and Savior, and our King will dwell with us for all eternity. At that time, the Shechinah, which is identified by the rabbis with the Tabernacle of David, will be restored, for it is written, “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11). For, “Behold, the tabernacle [Shechinah] of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[ii] Encyclopedia Britannica.
[iii] The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun. Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society.
[v] John 10:28. Revelation 1:18.
[vi] Jeremiah 31:31.
[vii] Ibid. Encyclopedia Britannica.
[viii] 1 Corinthians 15:21.
[ix] Proverbs 31:26.
[x] Psalm 51:5.
[xi] Psalm 18:35, 20:6. Song of Solomon 2:6, 8:3.
[xii] John 1:4, 6:33, 35, 48.
[xiii] Luke 24:27.
[xiv] Job 11:7, Isaiah 55:8.
[xv] Ibid. The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.
[xvi] Revelation 10:4.
[xvii] Ibid. The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.
[xviii] Laufer, Sari. Darkness and Light: Kislev after Pittsburg. Sepharia.
[xix] Ibid. The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.
[xxii] 1 Corinthians 15:45.
[xxiii] 1 John 4:8.
[xxiv] Ephesians 4:23.