Worshiping God Alone: Responding to a Muslim Objection

Muslim apologists are fond of citing biblical texts out of context in order to give the misleading impression that the Holy Bible denies the divinity of the Lord Jesus.

For instance, Muslims will quote Jesus’ own words to the devil that only God is worthy of worship:

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”’” Matthew 4:8-10 – Cf. Luke 4:5-8

They argue from this fact that since God alone is to be worshiped, Jesus cannot be God and it is, therefore, wrong to worship him.

What makes this objection rather ironic is that this actually ends up providing further proof that the inspired NT writings identify Jesus Christ as God in the flesh!

After all, if Jesus is depicted as receiving and accepting worship then this means that he must God; otherwise, Christ would be guilty of idolatry and blasphemy. And yet this is precisely what the Synoptic Gospels declare, namely, Jesus receiving the worship which God alone is supposed to receive:

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”’ Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.’… After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” Matthew 2:1-8, 11

There are several lines of evidence showing that Jesus was being worshiped as the God-child, e.g., God who had become a human being. For the sake of brevity, I will simply mention one, namely, the prophecy which the Jewish scribes cited when Herod asked the place of Messiah’s birth:

“‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago (miqqedem), From the days of eternity (mime olam).’ Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.” Micah 5:2-4

Micah identifies Israel’s human ruler as a Being who is eternal in nature, employing the very language used elsewhere in reference to Jehovah God’s existing eternally:

Are You not from everlasting (miqqedem), O LORD, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge; And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.” Habakkuk 1:12

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting (me’olam).” Psalm 93:1-2

That the Jews viewed this a prophecy of the Messiah, as Matthew records, is confirmed by the comments by one of rabbinic Judaism’s foremost medieval scholars:

from you shall emerge for Me: THE MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”

and his origin is from of old: “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17). (The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true#v1; capital and underline emphasis mine)

Therefore, He shall deliver them until the time a woman in confinement gives birth: He shall deliver them into the hands of their enemies until the coming of the time that Zion has felt the pangs of labor and borne her children; Zion, which is now seized by the pangs of labor, is now called a woman in confinement. [I.e., now the labor pains will cease and the redemption will come about.] But our Sages state that from here we deduce that THE SON OF DAVID will not come until the wicked kingdom spreads over the entire world for nine months (Yoma 10b, Sanh. 98b). But, according to its simple meaning, this is the structure as I explained.

and the rest of his brothers: The brothers OF THE KING MESSIAH; i. e., the rest of the tribe [of Judah]. (Ibid. https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true#v2; capital and underline emphasis mine)

for then he shall become great: I.e., their king.

until the ends of the earth: And they shall bring tribute to him [the Messiah] with horses and chariots. (Ibid. https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true#v3)

Hence, the Messiah is the eternal God who condescends to be born from a woman in order to become Israel’s King!

This isn’t the only time where Jesus was worshiped in a context where his Divine identity is revealed:

“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I (ego eimi – I AM); do not be afraid.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Matthew 14:22-33

Christ does what the Hebrew Bible ascribes to God, namely, command and control the winds and the seas:

“Who alone stretches out the heavens And tramples down the waves of the sea;” Job 9:8

“By awesome deeds You answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation, You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea; Who establishes the mountains by His strength, Being girded with might; Who stills the roaring of the seas, The roaring of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.” Psalm 65:5-8

Your way was in the sea And Your paths in the mighty waters, And Your footprints may not be known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.” Psalm 77:19-20

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; They have seen the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:22-30

Interestingly, Peter cries out to Jesus to save him in the same way that the foregoing Psalm depicts the seafarers crying out to Jehovah to deliver them from the storms and waves of the sea!

Even more interesting is that Christ’s followers do what Muhammad in the Quran says he himself would do if God had a Son:

Say: “If (God) Most Gracious had a son, I would be the first to worship.” S. 43:81 Y. Ali

Unfortunately for Muhammad, he failed to acknowledge and accept Jesus’ true Divine identity and therefore refused to worship him to his own shame and everlasting destruction.

In this next example, children praise Jesus to the chagrin of the religious authorities:

“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they became indignant and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?’” Matthew 21:15-16

What makes Christ’s response so remarkable is that he cites the following Psalm to justify his being worshiped and glorified by the children:

“[For the end, concerning the wine-presses, a Psalm of David.] O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is your name in all the earth! for your magnificence is exalted above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise, because of your enemies; that you might put down the enemy and avenger.” Psalm 8:1-3 LXX

According to the Psalm, God moved babes and sucklings to praise him in order to shame his enemies who defy him to their destruction. God is showing that even children instinctively know and have enough common sense to realize to worship God, unlike those who oppose him to their shame and humiliation.

And yet Jesus quoted this Psalm to silence the indignation of his enemies over young children glorifying him!

Christ was basically indicating that he is the very God whom the Psalmist states that even children instinctively know is their very Creator and Savior, and therefore worthy of their adoration and praise!

This brings me to my next point. The book of Acts records Jesus’ very own Jewish followers worshiping the risen Christ in the same way that Old Testament (OT) believers worshiped Jehovah:

“They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60

“But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’ So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’” Acts 9:13-21

Compare this with the following OT texts:

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” Psalm 31:5

“then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7

“Moses and Aaron were among His priests, And Samuel was among those who called on His name; They called upon the LORD and He answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; They kept His testimonies And the statute that He gave them.” Psalm 99:5-7

“I love the LORD, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live… Then I called upon the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!’… I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the LORD… To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:1-2, 4, 13, 17

Note that trust believers entrust their spirits to Jehovah, especially at the time of death, and it is his name alone that they call upon in their praise and supplications. And yet the first Christians, mostly who were ethnic Jews, entrusted their spirits to and called upon the name of the Lord Jesus!

I will have more to say about the worship given to Christ in the next part of my discussion (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/08/worshiping-god-alone-responding-to-a-muslim-objection-pt-2/).

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