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Tag Archives: Angels

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord?

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 18:14)

As we come to chapter 18 in our study of the Book of Genesis, we see the most dramatic of all of God’s appearances to Abraham. Here, the Lord and two angels visit him in the form of human beings. This visitation immediately brings to our minds the reminder given by the writer to the Hebrews who said that we do well in showing hospitality to strangers: for some have “entertained angels unaware” (Heb. 13:2). Surely had the Lord not revealed His identity to Abraham here, this would have been such an occasion. Nevertheless, we can be certain that Abraham was in need of no such reminder and was in the practice of displaying this kind of hospitality to all who passed his way.

There are a great deal of things that may be observed during this encounter and many lessons that we can learn from it. However, highlighted in my Bible are two simple, rhetorical questions that I feel are among the highest points of spiritual truth that we glean from this chapter. These two questions are the hinges upon which the great revelations of God’s character in Genesis 18 swing. The first of these is:

Is anything too difficult for the Lord? (v.14)

As God re-confirms His promise to Abraham of a son born by Sarah, Sarah herself overhears His words and laughs at the notion of conceiving a child in her old age. Shall Abraham and I really bear a child at our age?, she thinks within herself. The Lord responds by asking why she has laughed and then asks the question: Is anything too hard for the Lord? It is to this end that it seems that God has waited so long to bless them with a child. He could have caused Sarah to conceive many, many years before, but He has chosen this time to do so. Why?

I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Wherein can man behold so vividly the strength and glory of God than when He performs “the impossible?” At what time do we trust so greatly in God’s power than when we have come to realize the insufficiency of our own? God withheld Sarah’s conception of Isaac until the point when there was absolutely no other way that he could be born apart from God’s miraculous intervention. What pure faith is revealed within us when we reach the conclusion that if something is to be done, then God alone must do it. This was the point of faith that God had been bringing Abraham and Sarah to all along. Hebrews 11:11 tells us that Sarah did, in fact, believe that God was able to perform that which He promised, but it seems that just the thought of it gave her a brief pause when first she heard Him utter it.

Sarah’s reaction of laughter, her brief moment of incredulity, is born not of her distrust in God, but in her distrust of herself. She is not really intending to express skepticism in what God can do, but in what she is capable of. After I am old, she thinks, shall I have the pleasure of motherhood? Is this not so often the point of our own contention of faith? We take our eyes off of what God can do and look only at what we cannot do. We tell the Lord that our faith is firmly rooted in Him, yet we have no faith in ourselves. But we fail to see that this is precisely the realization that God intends for us to have! It is in our weaknesses and inabilities that the glorious strength and abilities of God are shown in such remarkable contrast (2 Corinthians 12:10). It is only when things become impossible for us that we learn to say: Is anything too hard for the Lord?

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 15, 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?“]

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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?“]

Jacob The Wrestler

"And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." (Genesis 32:24)

The life of Jacob was filled with turning points, but what happened to him at Penuel was undoubtedly the most remarkable. At the crossroads of where Jacob had started before he knew God and the place where God was bringing him stands a single dark and lonely night. It is no exaggeration to say that Jacob’s entire life could be divided by what happened before and after this solitary event.

Having just negotiated a wary treaty with Laban at Galeed (Gen. 31:47-52), he now makes his way forward toward his homeland. As he goes, he encounters a host of angels at Mahanaim. Seeing these angels must have served as a powerful reminder of the promises God had made to him during his dream of the Ladder which ascended to Heaven. Reassured that the presence of God is not far from him, Jacob sends messengers to meet Esau in order that any remaining anger from his brother could be placated before he re-enters the land. The news of the returning messengers is not the most comforting, however, as Jacob is told that Esau is on his way to meet Jacob…accompanied by 400 men!

Immediately, Jacob, true to form, springs into action and begins to formulate a plan that will keep him safe from harm. His first course of action is to divide his company into two smaller bands (Gen. 32:7). If Esau had revenge in mind, at least half of Jacob’s possessions and group would survive. Second, he separates a huge herd of his livestock to be given as gifts to Esau. He then proceeds to divide these herds into smaller caravans to be conveyed to his brother at intervals. Perhaps this would give Esau time for his wrath to cool as he is repeatedly presented with peace-offerings from the hand of Jacob during his approach. But what does all of this tell us about Jacob’s mindset as he was about to encounter his brother for the first time since he had fled from his home?

“And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.” (Genesis 32:9-11)

This is a very heart-felt, honest, and beautiful prayer. It is clear that Jacob has learned a great deal of humility at this point and he seems to be trusting God in a way that he has not heretofore done. Yet at the same time he is putting into action a plan of his own. He is like the man who lays his burden at the altar and cries out to God for deliverance — only to pick his burden up again as he walks away. “Deliver me, O God; but if you don’t, I am going to take care of things myself.”

As the evening approaches, Jacob sends his wives, his concubines, and his children on ahead of him; over the River Jabbok (Gen. 32:22). And there he stays: on this side of the river. Alone. God can often reach a person when the din of their day-to-day lives has quieted, when the demands and responsibilities of all of those who continually surround them have gone away, when they are left completely alone with no other distraction. And so it is with Jacob. His plan is set into motion, he has sent his family ahead of him, he is prepared to face his brother on the morrow and whatsoever will become of it. But he has not counted on one thing: Someone is standing between him and his objective.

How often are so many of our own most well-devised plans upset when the Lord intervenes? Jacob has carefully negotiated and calculated his strategies so that he might avoid any conflict with Laban or Esau. But now he stands face-to-face with One with Whom his diplomacy is entirely ineffective. Here is Someone Whom he cannot negotiate with, he cannot appease with presents, nor can he threaten or manipulate. So he resolves himself to wrestle with Him and pits himself against Him in a raw battle of wills. But as the night wears on, Jacob sees that he is making no headway in wrestling this Man. But neither is Jacob’s tenacity being lessened by the stalemate. So the Man reaches out and breaks a joint in Jacob’s leg, weakening the foundation on which Jacob stands. Still Jacob does not yield, but holds fast to the Man, refusing to relinquish his grasp on Him. “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”, Jacob declares (Gen. 32:26).

“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Genesis 32:30)

Who was this mysterious “Man” with Who Jacob wrestled? Well, Jacob himself identifies Him as God. Hosea also identifies Him as God (Hosea 12:2-5). As we have looked at before, the “Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament is very often none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, and I believe that this is the One with Whom Jacob wrestled. He has wrestled with God Himself. What a picture of our own spiritual struggles with the Lord! We set our own plans in motion and set out to fulfill them, and then the Lord stands between us and our objective. But instead of yielding to Him and placing our destiny in His loving hands, we struggle against our own Lord and Master! God could have ended this “struggle” with Jacob any time that He wanted to, but He was trying to teach Jacob that it is not by struggling with God that that His will is accomplished; it is by trusting Him. Finally, Jacob’s leg joint is broken. That upon which he was depending, the foundation on which he was really standing, was broken beneath him.

Until we come to a place where we have learned that we cannot struggle against God and win, until our own flesh is “broken”, we can never really be used by the Lord. God can use any of us mightily, but we must be broken first. Hosea tells us that Jacob had “Power over the angel, and prevailed” (Hos. 12:4), but it wasn’t until his flesh was broken and he no longer had any confidence in his own abilities. All he was doing at the end was clinging to the Lord and holding fast to Him. He didn’t prevail by struggling against the Lord, he only won by not letting go of Him! In the end, it wasn’t Jacob’s plans that saved him; we see in Genesis 33 that Esau never intended him any harm nor was he particularly interested in the gifts that Jacob sent. Jacob also did not overcome by wrestling against God or pitting his own will against the Lord’s. No, his own will was eventually broken. He clung to the Lord and held on to Him. That’s what brought Jacob the blessing of God. It’s what brings us His blessing, too.

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