Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Angel of the Lord


My personal reading finds me in the book of Judges. Honestly, the book depresses me as a whole. It reminds me of my own struggle in "cycles of sin".

My sons love me to read various accounts from Judges to them. While I don't doubt the Holy Spirit's work in their lives through exposure to Scripture, their favorite story is about the left-handed Judge Ehud plunging his sword in to the gut of the fat king Eglon. You have to read the account to fully appreciate my sons fascination with it (Judges 3). The dialogue between Ehud and Eglon reminds me of Godfather 2 when Vito Corleone confronts and kills his father's murderer in Sicily. The part my kids like most, however, is found in verses 24-25. I'll let you look it up.

I have digressed...

The subject of this post has to do with the mention of the "Angel of the Lord":

Judges 2:1 Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.

I've studied this way back when, so I recall now. Regarding the identity of the “Angel of the Lord” we can be reasonably sure of a couple of things:

1. He is not simply a prophet. Never in the OT is a prophet referred to as an angel of the Lord. Further, a prophet uses the prophetic formula “thus saith the Lord”. The angel of the Lord in this passage takes on the voice of the first person. A voice that only God has as it relates to the covenant. Look again at verse 1, the messenger says- “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land I swore to your fathers…” It was God who swore the inheritance of Canaan to Israel not a prophet.

2. Further, I don't think He is an angelic being for the same reason He is not a prophet- He is speaking as God, not as subordinate messenger of God. A messenger yes, but not a subordinate messenger, an equal messenger.

So, I think we can say with reasonable certainty, the Angel of the Lord is not merely a human prophet. Nor is the Angel of the Lord a created, angelic being. This leaves only one rational explanation. Albeit it is a mysterious explanation, but it seems that the Angel of the Lord is in fact the pre-incarnate Christ. The “Angel of the Lord” appears several other places in Scripture that I can find:

1. To Hagar in Genesis 16, Hagar sees the Angel as the Lord Himself.
2. To Abraham in Genesis 22, Abraham is stopped from sacrificing his Son by the Angel of the Lord from Heaven. It is interesting imagery, God tells Abraham to sacrifice, the Angel of the Lord (Christ) is the only one able to stop the sacrifice!
3. To Jacob in Genesis 31, The Angel takes on the first person in speaking for God.
4. To Moses in Exodus 3, the Angel of the Lord is the one who speaks to Moses from the midst of the burning bush.
5. To Joshua in Joshua 5, Joshua worships the Commander of the Lord’s Army. The OT is clear, God alone is to be worshipped.

Again, it seems very sensible to identify the Angel of the Lord as the Lord Jesus Christ. So it is that the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ Himself stands before Israel in chapter 2 of Judges in order to rebuke and correct the erring nation. They were not heeding the teaching of Moses, so another human prophet would not suffice. Apparently sending an angel like He had done to warn of the destruction of Sodom wouldn't be strong enough. So, for optimum effect, He sent none other than the pre-incarnate Son of God Himself to correct the people.

Think about this- Jesus Christ was going to eventually take on flesh in order to fulfil the covenant with His own blood. Now, here during the time of the Judges, the covenant people are in sin and rebellion and the very one who would free them from the consequences of their sin appears to them confronting them with their sin and delivering to them their discipline. This is a powerful appearance, that of the "Angel of the Lord".

Obviously the sin of the covenant people was great, God saw fit to send His Son to confront them personally. The great Puritan commentator, Matthew Henry comments on the sending of the Angel of the Lord this way-

“Joshua had lately admonished them to take heed of entangling themselves with the Canaanites, but they regarded not the words of a dying man: the same warning therefore is here brought them by the living God himself, the Son of God, appearing as an angel. If they slight his human servants, surely they will reverence His Son.”

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

Never before considered such a profound exegesis? No milk or pabulum coming from this pulpit! This is why I praise the Lord for allowing me to sit under such teaching! So now I will do as the Berean's did in Acts 17:11. "For they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so."