How can Jesus be God if 'God is not man' according to Numbers 23:19?
Christians claim that Jesus is both God and man. He is God in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and then rose again to life. Putting your faith in Jesus, the Bible says, connects you to God for eternity. It's what Jesus did, coupled with your faith, which saves you.
It is crucial to salvation that Jesus is both God and human. But some have claimed that the Old Testament proves Jesus could not be God because of Numbers 23:19. It says, "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" Hosea 11:9 and 1 Samuel 15:29 also say God is not human. Jesus says multiple times that He is the Son of Man, claiming His humanity. So could He be God as well?
We must be careful to look at verses in their proper context and not derive from them a meaning that is not intended. Let's take a look at the big picture.
Jesus claimed both to be God (John 8:58; 10:30; 14:10–11) and to be a man. Plenty of people have claimed to be God, but Jesus proved His claims to divinity through His power and actions, most notably through His resurrection. The Bible makes clear that Jesus is both God and man. How can this be if Numbers 23:19 is also true?
First, understand that we do not dismiss the Old Testament because Jesus came and established the new covenant (agreement). Jesus didn't do away with the Old Testament; rather, He unveiled it and fulfilled it, as He said in Matthew 5:17. Paul addresses this, in part, in Colossians 2:16–17: "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Jesus revealed truths that were hinted at but not well understood in the Old Testament—He was the substance to the shadow. We call this progressive revelation.
Now, let's see if we can better understand the Old Testament passages saying that God is not human. In Numbers and the other references, God is being compared to fallible humans. He is not like humans: He does not lie; He is not changeable; He keeps His promises. The writers of Numbers, 1 Samuel, and Hosea aren't making doctrinal statements about the form of God. Rather, they are making statements about His character. He is not like man. Of that we can be sure, and be thankful!
The Old Testament does not define how God's promises will be fulfilled in sending the Messiah, just that He will send Him. You can see the confusion of most religious leaders during Jesus' day because they expected something different than what they encountered. Jesus didn't come to free them from the oppression of the Romans, but the oppression of the enemy of their souls. He is both God and man, a strange concept even today. So much so that we have a special theological term for it—the hypostatic union—and still struggle to fully grasp the reality of Jesus' dual natures.
Numbers 23:19, Hosea 11:9, and 1 Samuel 15:29 do not conflict with Jesus' claim to divinity. Rather, they speak to the character of God, which is perfect and unstained by sin, as opposed to human character. The ultimate question to each person now is what to do about Jesus' claims to be God. Will you trust He is who He says He is and believe in Him for salvation?
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