Of all the characters in the Old Testament, perhaps none is more fascinating and mysterious than the angel of the LORD. He first appears in Genesis 16 talking to Hagar, the Egyptian servant of Sarai as she is running away into the wilderness, and he makes random appearances in the Pentateuch, the history books, and occasionally in the prophets. Although he is called the angel of the LORD, he is no ordinary angel. He exhibits powers and a presence that separate him from all the other characters who appear in the Old Testament. Why do I say that?
When the angel of the LORD speaks, he speaks as God, and not as a mere messenger of God. Whereas prophets would say, “Thus says the LORD,” the angel speaks in the first-person singular: “I say.” So, although he is not YHWH, he speaks as YHWH. Note that he does not speak for God, but he speaks as God.
The LORD Himself appears in some of the scenes where the angel of the LORD also appears, and in those situations, the angel is indistinguishable from the LORD. One seems almost to blend into the other. It is difficult to tell which is which. It is as if they are the same, even though they are distinct, almost as if the LORD and the angel of the LORD are one.
The angel of the LORD knows all the details of the situation as soon as he appears. He knows names of the people involved and he knows the issues involved; it is almost as if he is omniscient. He also knows the future and declares it as fact.
The people who see the angel of the LORD believe they have seen God face to face, and they are struck with terror when they realize who he is. Men and women encountering the angel of the LORD somehow know they should worship him. It is appropriate and fitting to do so. Their worship is almost spontaneous, as if it is incumbent on them to worship him. And, unlike all other angels in the Bible, the angel of the LORD accepts the worship of men as fitting and appropriate.
One final interesting point to make about the angel of the LORD: He never gives his name, nor is he ever identified by name. Several times the people that meet him directly ask him his name, but he avoids the question. He deflects the question and leaves it as a mystery. That is very interesting, that this amazing character remains nameless throughout the Old Testament. Other powerful angels like Michael and Gabriel are identified for who they are, but this powerful angel remains anonymous in the Old Testament.
WHO IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD?
The angel of the LORD made the LORD visible. The LORD said, “You cannot see My face and live (Exodus 33:20),” but in the person of the angel of the LORD, sinful man could see the Holy One of Israel and not be consumed. As YHWH, God was a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), but as the angel of the LORD, the eternal one who dwells in unapproachable light could be seen and heard. Although clearly divine, the angel of the LORD had the appearance of a man. He was the image of the invisible God, a mediator between God and man.
Who is the angel of the LORD? Surely, it is obvious who he is. The angel of the LORD is none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other candidate, no other suspect. Who else can speak as the LORD and yet not be the LORD? Who else is indistinguishable from God? Who else is divine, although He has the appearance of a man (Philippians 2:5-8)? Who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:4-6)? Who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15)? Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9).” Just so, he who has seen the angel of the LORD has seen the LORD. And now we know His name: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).”
A NEW SERIES OF BLOGS ON THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
For a long time, I have thought about writing about the angel of the LORD, and now I am committing to that. The series will probably be about 12-14 blogs. We will look at appearances of the angel of the LORD and see if he really is the pre-incarnate Jesus. It should be fun.
Our first post will be on Genesis 16 when Hagar, the Egyptian servant girl, encounters the angel of the LORD.
SDG rmb 2/10/2021