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Who Is The “Angel Of The Lord?”

“And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.” (Genesis 16:7)

In Genesis Chapter 16, we are given the first instance in the Bible of the expression, “The angel of the Lord.” After Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, flees from her mistress, she encounters the “angel of the Lord” by a fountain of water in the desert between Canaan and Egypt. But the question is: Who exactly is this “angel of the Lord”, and what is his position? In order to answer this, let us consider a few things that we know about him from what the Bible tells us:

He Speaks With Authority

“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 16:9-10)

The first peculiarly striking aspect of the “angel of the Lord” is that he speaks with the authority of God Himself. Other “angels” appearing throughout Scripture do not speak with the authority that belongs to God alone but as those sent forth on His behalf. For example, In Genesis 19:13 the two angels who come to warn Lot to depart from Sodom before its destruction say:

“For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.”

They plainly state that they have been sent by the Lord. They also make it clear that they are acting under strict orders to refrain from destroying the city of Sodom until Lot is safely out (Genesis 19:22). These two angels are acting under orders from God while the “angel of the Lord” states in Genesis 16:10, “I will multiply thy seed…” Whenever we read of any instances of other angels, that is, those not designated as THE angel of the Lord, speaking to people, they state what God has done, is doing, or will do, they do not talk about what they themselves are doing, and they are certainly not claiming to be able to do those things that God alone can do (such as giving many descendants to a person, such as is told to Hagar here).

He Is Worshiped

“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed…And he said, Draw not nigh thither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:2, 5)

When we compare this to what the angel who showed John the events of the Book of Revelation, we read that the worship of angels is forbidden:

“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9)

He Bears The Name Of God

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.” (Exodus 23:20-21)

Others Identify Him As God

After the “angel of the Lord” speaks to Hagar, she responds:

“And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Genesis 16:13)

Later, when Jacob is referring to the “Angel of God” appearing to him in a dream, he says:

“And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said… I am the God of Bethel…” (Genesis 31:11,12a,13a)

He Identifies Himself As God

During Moses first encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” at the burning bush (Exodus 3), the “angel” tells Moses after commanding him to take off his shoes:

“…I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (v. 6)

In the Book of Judges, Manoah has an encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” and dares to ask the angel what his name is. The angel responds:

“And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:18 ESV)

“Wonderful” is one of the names that Isaiah ascribes to the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6).

He Is No Longer Mentioned In The New Testament

It is noteworthy that the expression “The Angel of the Lord” is unique to the Old Testament and is not found as such in the New. The King James Version does occasionally designate angels as “the angel of the Lord” (e.g., Acts 5:19), but the use of the definite article (the) is inaccurate and the indefinite article (an) should appear, as is the case in most other translations. After the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, “THE Angel of the Lord” does not appear again in Scripture.

Summary

In light of all of these details, I believe that it is most fitting to conclude that the “Angel of the Lord” is none other than the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Son. There are many other intriguing factors to consider as we read the encounters of the “Angel of the Lord” with His people throughout the Old Testament. Lord willing, we shall look at these as we come to them.

***English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
*All other Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version (KJV)

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 5, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Waiting For God’s Timing

“So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”  (Genesis 16:2)

When we think of the testing of Abraham’s faith, the first thing we tend to think of is his offering up of Isaac (Genesis 22). We are captivated by the account of how Abraham was moved by faith to obey God completely, even obeying the seemingly unreasonable command of God to sacrifice his own son; the son that he had waited for so long. While Abraham proved his faith to be mighty in that instance, we have here in Chapter 16 an instance where Abraham’s faith was tested and the results were not as admirable.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:3 KJV)

While Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to offer up Isaac is a truly astounding demonstration of a faith that is wholly and completely invested in God, we know from our own experiences that it is not the immediate and direct commandment of God to act that gives so much trouble as the commandment to be still and wait for His timing. Admittedly, there are surely few of us whose own faith has matured to such a level that we would have followed in Abraham’s footsteps and offered up the life of our own child as he did, but we certainly can relate to the zeal and passion that is felt when we are responding to the Lord’s clear direction. When God issues the command to Go, our devotion to Him and our trust in His Word can cause us to give reckless abandon to all else, even our own safety and well-being, and esteem even our very lives as not so precious as what we have in Him.

But what of the times when our Lord tells us not to Go, but to Wait? It is during these periods that the true fortitude of our faith is most clearly revealed. When we have the promise of God, it is usually our desire to see it come to fruition as soon as possible. As the days turn into weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years, our tendency is to reconsider what God has told us and wonder whether or not we have missed something in what He told us. Was there something else we were supposed to do?  Is there some way that we can help things along? Time has passed now since Abraham was shown the stars of the sky and the dust of the Earth — being promised by God that his own seed should one day be equal to these in multitude. The fire that burned from the lamp and the smoke that billowed from the pot as the Lord ratified His covenant with Abraham back in Chapter 15 are gone, and all that Abraham sees as he ponders the promise given to him is the age of his own body and the barrenness of Sarah’s, now well beyond the normal age of child-bearing.

As is so often the case, Abraham’s temptation to circumvent the agony of waiting patiently for God to fulfill His promise in His own way comes from a most unlikely source. Sarah herself proposes that Abraham should take her handmaiden, Hagar, to wife — that she might bear for her mistress the child that Sarah could not. While such a practice was customary in the culture of the time, this was in no way the manner in which God intended His promise to be made good. God never meant for Abraham to “take matters into his own hands”, God’s purpose all along was to bring about the son of promise (Isaac) through Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

When we fail to wait patiently for the Lord’s timing in our lives, calamity almost certainly follows. Abraham’s union with Hagar is no exception. Hagar learns that she has conceived a child by Abraham and becomes haughty toward her mistress, Sarah. She feels disdain toward Sarah because she has done what Sarah could not. She did not maintain a submissive attitude toward Sarah but became untoward in her relationship with her. It is likely that she now believed that her own child would stand to inherit the wealth of Abraham and that this would no doubt endear herself more intimately to Abraham than even his own wife. Sarah regrets the decision that she has made in bringing Hagar to her husband and now wishes nothing more than to be rid of this embarrassment altogether. What a warning to be heeded by all who use others in order to accomplish their own ends! Regardless of what authority a person may hold over another, that person is never without feelings, desires, and plans of their own. People can never be treated as mindless automatons at the disposal of another, being used however they please. Sarah’s wish was to simply employ her handmaid as a sort of passionless surrogate to bear for her a child that she could call her own son. Yet when we disregard the feelings and emotions of others and seek to use them only to fulfill our own purposes, repercussions are bound to come back on us.

The lesson for Sarah, Abraham, and indeed for all of us from this unfortunate episode is that we are compelled to do all things in God’s timing and in God’s way. As we considered before, the actual deed that Abraham did was not in and of itself appalling within the context of the culture of the day. Sarah’s suggestion was not invalid by man’s estimation; even Abraham apparently found it quite reasonable. But in carrying it out he exhibited his own impatience rather than his trust for the living God.

How often are we guilty of committing similar offenses?  Rather than waiting for the Spirit of God to bring His promises to pass in our own lives, we try to “help things along.” In doing so, we make compromises that most assuredly bring us nothing but disaster later on. This is by no means an excuse to sit by idly when God has commanded us to move forward, but if we are doing all that God has instructed us to do, if we have followed the path that He has laid out for us, we are wise to not stray from it. When God tells us to Go, we must do so unhesitatingly. When He tells us to Wait, we must do so patiently.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 4, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

 

How Much Time Is Enough?

“And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16)

The objection has been raised in regards to the Book of Joshua and the occupation of the land of Canaan by the children of Israel, that it doesn’t quite seem fair to the people who already inhabited the land. How can God be considered good and just, it has been asked, when it seems that He ordered the arbitrary genocide of an entire race of people?

In the Book of Leviticus, we catch a glimpse of just how horrific and appalling the sins of this people had become by the time the Israelites began to take possession of the land. Their depravity had reached such a point that the land itself is said to have become defiled, and that this land vomited them out, as it were (Lev. 18:24-28). But the question remains, Did they have ample opportunity to turn from their sin before judgment came upon them?

Almost a footnote in God’s prophecy to Abraham concerning the coming captivity of the Jewish people to the Egyptians, the Lord mentions in Genesis 15:16, “…For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” How profound are the implications of this simple statement! We see that God is concerned with the fate of the people who already occupy the land of Canaan. These are real people whom God loves and wants to turn to Him. There is no question that it was not God’s desire that these people be utterly wiped out by the nation of Israel. No, He wanted them to repent of their sins. Their iniquity was “not yet complete”, in other words, they were being given time to come around. What if they had repented and come to God, would they have been destroyed anyway? Since God had already decreed it, was there no hope for them?

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-8)

The people already in the land of Canaan were afforded more than 400 years to repent of their wickedness and turn to God. If four centuries was insufficient time for them to change, then how much time was necessary? Secular humanists say that mankind, left to his own devices, will become  better and more responsible with greater moral character over time. Human morality, they say, is “evolving” just as our physical bodies are “evolving.” The suggestion is that man becomes nobler as time goes by, and his actions more benevolent. But this certainly was not the case for the Amorites. God gave them more than 400 years to turn from their sins and all they did during that time was become worse and worse.

“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5)

God gave a space of time to the Canaanites that they might turn from their sin and turn to Him. He graciously gave them 400 years to come to Him. But all that they did during this time was become bolder in their sinfulness and more blatant in their wickedness. The problem was not that they did not have enough time to come to God, but that they chose not to. The problem also was not that they were ignorant of Who God was nor of His glory (Joshua 2:9-11). The problem was that they loved their sin and despised God, rejecting His gracious offer of repentance and exhausting His long-suffering patience. With each passing day they became more emboldened in their rebellion, thinking that God’s judgment would never come. Yet they succeeded not in preventing the inevitable, only in storing up the wrath of God against themselves.

If you have not yet come to Christ, turning from your own sins, then may I ask you: How much time is enough? Are you waiting for another day, preferring to enjoy the temporary and fleeting pleasures of your own sinfulness a little longer? Are you supposing that there will be time enough later to come to God and make things right with Him? God is patient and He allows all of us a period of time to repent and turn to Him, but the time comes when we have exhausted His patience, repudiated His Grace, and waited too long. The Amorites had 400 years, but we can be assured that we have nowhere near so long. Like them, we know not how long we do have before all that remains for us is certain judgment. Won’t you come to Him today?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 17, 2009]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

***All Scripture quotations in this post are from: English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

 

Abraham Believed God

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

It is without any hyperbole that I say that the Fifteenth Chapter of Genesis is arguably the most pertinent chapter for the Christian in the Book of Genesis, possibly in the entire Old Testament. And the key verse to this key chapter is Verse 6, “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” There is no other single verse in all of the Old Testament that so aptly illustrates God’s unchanging method for Salvation. Paul will directly quote this verse in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 4:3), and in his epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 3:6). James will also quote it in his epistle (James 2:23). To say that this chapter of Genesis inaugurates a turning point in the relationship of Abraham to our Lord is a gross understatement, for it is what God does for him at this point that lays the foundation for everything else.

What we have in this chapter is nothing short of the attainment of Salvation by Abraham as his “belief” is counted as righteousness. God imputes righteousness to him on the basis of his faith. The very heart of Christian Theology, this is the summary statement of how God’s Grace works in the life of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. God attributes vicariously the righteousness that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ alone, to those who put their faith in Him. Neither in the Old Testament nor the New is Salvation secured by any other means. This has always been God’s method.

“And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof,” (Jeremiah 34:18)

The slaughter of the animals and the dividing of their carcasses recorded in Genesis 15:9-10 might seem peculiar to us, but what Abraham was actually doing was following the custom of the day for entering into a covenant or contract. As we see in Jeremiah 34:18, the way that a contract was ratified in those days was for the two parties to come together, slaughter a calf or a goat, divide the carcass in half, and then the two would walk between the parts. The vow was made that, “If I should break the terms of this covenant, then may I be cut asunder as this animal is.”  When God gives instructions to Abraham in verse 9 to prepare these animals, He is announcing His intent to enter into a covenant with him.

But something very strange happens to Abraham as he is waiting for the Lord to show up for the ceremony. A deep sleep falls upon him and a horror of great darkness (v.12). This is not a sleep that comes from being weary or a slumber that overtakes him as his wait becomes too long. This is the same type of unconscious state that the Lord put upon Adam when He took his rib to make Eve (Genesis 2:21). While he is asleep, God tells Abraham of the captivity that will come upon his descendants and their slavery in the land of Egypt. As soon as the sun sets, a smoking Furnace and a burning Lamp pass between the carcasses of the animals (15:17).

This entering into covenant between God and Abraham is still part of the illustration of Abraham’s Salvation that began in Verse 6. It is also an illustration of our own Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. As Abraham becomes paralyzed in the grips of a deep sleep, seeing the captivity of his sons and daughters in the land of Egypt; so, too, were we held paralyzed in the captivity of sin, until God delivered us from its clutches. Just as Abraham does not pass between the carcasses himself: announcing his end of the agreement, neither do we have anything to offer in our own Salvation Covenant with God. He did not pass through because he was not making any promise to God, this was an entirely one-sided transaction. God alone was making the promise to save Abraham, Abraham had nothing to offer on his part. Only God confirmed the Covenant, passing between the carcasses; His presence symbolized by the Furnace and the Lamp.

Abraham’s part in his own Salvation amounted to nothing more, nor anything less, than believing God. Abraham lay helpless as God secured for him the Salvation that he himself could not. God’s call to us is to put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation. Our part in the process of our own Salvation is the same as Abraham’s was, to believe God (John 6:29). He has not called us to walk between the carcasses, nor can we. He has not instructed us to promise anything to Him. We are to believe God, place our faith in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His righteousness will be imputed to us also.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 15, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Our Exceeding Great Reward

“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1)

After Abraham’s meetings with Melchizedek and the King of Sodom, the Lord speaks to him in a vision and says, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your Shield and your exceeding great Reward.” What comforting words these must have been! I am your Shield, the Lord tells him, I will protect you. As we saw before, Abraham had defeated a much larger army under the leadership of Chedorlaomer and chased them all the way to Hobah, near Damascus. The possibility must have entered his mind that this army could very well regroup and return for retribution against him and his small militia. But the Lord confirms to Abraham that He Himself is a Shield for him and will protect him.

God also reinforces to Abraham that He is his “exceeding great Reward.” Abraham has been offered vast wealth and riches from the hand of the King of Sodom and he has declined to accept even a shoestring from him (Genesis 14:23). I wonder how many who witnessed Abraham’s refusal of this offer that day thought to themselves, “How foolish!” Those who went with him into battle accepted payment for their part (v. 24), what did they think about Abraham telling the king, “No.” Along with the murmuring within the camp that must have been going on, Abraham’s own flesh must certainly have put some doubt in his mind as to whether or not he had made the right decision. We know that he had to be having some anxiety about the possibility of being attacked and about whether he had made the right choice in turning down the King of Sodom. When God tells someone Fear not, you can be sure that this is not merely a formality! That person is feeling fear.

If I may paraphrase what God is saying to Abraham here, He tells him: “I know that you’re worried and afraid, Abram, but you do not need to be. When you were fighting in battle, I was right there with you, protecting you. I will do it again if necessary. You did the right thing by turning down the King of Sodom’s offer, it was not what I wanted for you. But you haven’t lost anything: I am your Reward, a Reward that is far greater than all the riches of this world!” What Abraham is literally being told is that God Himself is his payment, his compensation. Not that God will provide the reward, He is the Reward! And His worth is “greatly multiplied” beyond that which the King of Sodom had offered.

God’s words to Abraham at this time are the most intimate that we have seen thus far. The Word of the Lord came unto Abram, as surely as it does to all who love Him. The Lord calls him by name here saying, “Fear not, Abram…” What a comforting reassurance that we belong to Him when He calls each of us by name (John 10:3). And what God declares that Abraham now has is of greater worth than anything else He will ever give him: Himself. Beyond all of the manifold blessings that God will give unto him throughout his life, this is the greatest. God Himself is His Reward.

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so often being presented today as something that will enhance a person’s life. Serving God is portrayed as a means to an end with the Christian’s focus being on the gifts he hopes to receive from the Lord rather than on the Lord Himself. Seeking to know what is in the heart of God has been replaced with a desire to receive what He holds in His hand. Our only purpose for fellowship with the Lord is that we might make known to Him our needs and requests; our prayer and communion with Him being no more than the vehicles and instruments whereby we seek to procure the material. But the day will come when we step from this life into the next and all of the material blessings are gone, no more of the worldly wealth remains, and all of our possessions are left behind. Our most precious possession that we will have in that day will be being in the presence of our dear Savior… just as it should be now.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 14, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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