Category: Angel of the Lord

Introducing the Angel of the LORD

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

Let’s look at a key passage of Scripture regarding the angel of the LORD – Exodus 23:20-23:

I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to him. Do not defy him, because he will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for my name is in him. But if you will carefully obey him and do everything I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. For my angel will go before you and bring you to the land …

Note several truths about God’s special angel in this passage:

Yahweh sends him. A holy angel never works alone. The LORD sends and the angel obeys.

The angel is a malak, a term meaning “messenger” and may apply to a human, a created spirit being, or in some cases to God himself.

He protects God’s people and brings them to the Promised Land. Deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage is something God does, as we note in other Scriptures. So, the LORD and the angel of the LORD are one in the purpose but may be distinguished as persons.

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A special angel

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

Of all the angels we encounter in Scripture, one stands apart from the rest. In his many Old Testament appearances, he alone speaks for God as God. He alone bears the divine name. He alone is all-knowing and all-powerful. He alone breaks into the natural realm in a variety of disguises: a flame in a thorn bush, a sword-wielding warrior, a voice from a pillar of cloud and fire; a king riding a heavenly chariot-throne. 

He is divine, yet he talks face-to-face with selected people, from a female Gentile runaway slave to a young prophet in his bed. He delivers. He destroys. He brings messages. He forgives sins. He is malak YHWH, the angel of the LORD.

This messenger is above all others. He is eternal and uncreated. He appears or is mentioned dozens of times in the Old Testament, but never in the same sense in the New Testament – except for references to the Book of Exodus in Acts 7 and Jude 5. Among other names, he is called “the angel of the LORD,” “commander of the LORD’s army,” “the God of Abraham,” “Judge,” and “I AM WHO I AM” – a name only the one true God ever claims for himself.

Who is this awe-inspiring messenger? Ancient Jews believed him to be a special angel, the highest revelation of the unseen God. Similarly, Roman Catholics generally regard the angel of the LORD as an angelic representative of God, as do some Protestants. Many evangelicals, however, consider him either a manifestation of Yahweh – a theophany, derived from the Greek words theos (God) and pheino (to appear) – or a Christophany, an appearance of the Son of God prior to the Incarnation.

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Cherubim and seraphim

3D illustration of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Holy Temple illuminated by a shaft of light from heaven.

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

In Scripture, we encounter two peculiar types of heavenly creatures who look nothing like angels. That’s because cherubim and seraphim are never called angels in the Bible. They do not deliver messages or appear in human likeness. Yet cherubim and seraphim share certain features and carry out the same function: to guard the presence of God. This sometimes brings them into contact with people, but they are never sent to people. 

In a sense, cherubim and seraphim are hybrid figures. That is, they possess human attributes as well as animal features. We find such beings in the Ancient Near East, especially as creatures who represent power or prevent evil. So, cherubim and seraphim are welcome protectors of those they’ve come to guard. At the same time, they are terrifying creatures to trespassers.

Note some distinguishing characteristics of these heavenly creatures:

First, cherubim and seraphim are said to have wings, though the number of wings varies (Exod. 25:20; 37:9; Isa. 6:2).

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A brief primer on angels

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

Exploring the angel of the LORD as the preincarnate Christ is like sailing into the wind. After all, if Jesus is the eternal Son of God and the creator of all things, how can he be an angel? How can we avoid putting Jesus into the same class of beings as Michael,  Gabriel, or – heaven forbid – Satan? To answer these questions, we need to understand how the Bible defines and applies the Hebrew and Greek words translated “angel.”

The words angel and angels appear a combined three hundred times in Scripture. The Hebrew word malak and the Greek term angelos normally are translated “angel” but essentially mean messenger. We must keep this vital point in mind as we advance through our study of the angel of the LORD. When you see the word angel, think messenger. More to the point, think of one who is sent.

An angel in Scripture may in fact be a created spirit being, either holy or fallen, or a human messenger. Or, in special cases, an angel may be God appearing in human form – specifically Jesus prior to his virgin birth. The context reveals which type of messenger the writer intends. As Christian author Vern Poythress notes in his book, Theophany, “The word [angel] itself does not determine what sort of personage is designated, whether divine or human or angelic, in our modern sense of the word angel.”

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The Angel of the LORD

Following is an excerpt from Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

The female donkey sees him first: an ominous, sword-wielding figure appearing right in front of her. Startled, she veers off the path and into a field, prompting her rider to strike her in anger. Next, the mysterious swordsman cuts off the donkey’s escape route. Panicked, she presses against a stone wall, jamming her rider’s foot. A second beating ensues. After a third confrontation with the swordsman, the donkey crouches in surrender.

That does it. The rider, a mercenary prophet named Balaam, beats the donkey mercilessly – until the donkey speaks: “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

The prophet replies, “You have made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!” 

At last, Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees what his donkey has seen all along: a divine person, called the angel of the LORD, standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. The prophet prostrates himself in worship before the angel, confesses his sin, and receives further instructions.

Numbers 22 records this strange scene involving a prophet for hire, a sword-brandishing angel, and yes, a talking donkey. In fact, we may be so charmed by the loquacious beast of burden that we overlook the angelic intruder. Who is the angel of the LORD?

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