The Missouri Baptist Convention, through its High Street Press imprint, has just released a new resource for personal or group study titled Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD.
Written by the MBC’s Rob Phillips, the 338-page book explores dozens of Old Testament appearances by a figure often identified as “the angel of the LORD.” This figure not only speaks for God; he speaks as God. He appears as a man, a voice from heaven, a flame within a thorn bush, and a divine presence in a pillar of cloud and fire – all of which come to us as Christophanies, or appearances of Jesus before Bethlehem.
The book addresses the question: What was Jesus doing prior to his conception in Mary’s womb? While we see the Father and the Holy Spirit actively engaged in human affairs across the pages of the Old Testament, the other member of the Trinity (Jesus) is foreshadowed in messianic prophecies but otherwise absent from the earth. Or is he?
Jesus Before Bethlehem is designed to show how the eternal Son of God has always taken a personal interest in those he created to be his imagers on earth.
When John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 KJV), every Jew knew John was referring to the Passover lamb. Jesus is called “a lamb” or “the lamb” 31 times in the New Testament, and Isaiah 53:7 refers to the Messiah as a lamb.
Every Christian can see Jesus in the Passover by observing the uniquely Messianic characteristics of the Passover lamb:
1. The selection of the lamb (Ex. 12:1-6; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; Rev. 13:8).
2. The slaughter of the lamb (Ex. 12:7-10; Isa. 53:6; Heb. 1:3; 9:12-14; 1 Peter 1:2; Rev. 1:5).
3. The salvation of the lamb (Ex. 12:11-13, 23; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 15:26; Eph. 1:7; 2:1; 1 Peter 2:24-5).
The feasts of Israel are religious celebrations remembering God’s great acts of salvation in the history of His people. The term “feasts” in Hebrew literally means “appointed times” and in Scripture the feasts often are called “holy convocations.” They are times God has appointed for holy purposes – times in which the Lord meets with men and women.
While there are many religious celebrations in Jewish history and custom, seven are most significant: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. God established the timing and sequence of these feasts to reveal to us a special story – most significantly, the work of the Messiah in the redemption of mankind and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth.
Crossing the sea to join his bereaved wife, Spafford was called to the captain’s deck as the ship sailed past the foamy deep where his daughters were lost. The captain informed him that the waters there were three miles deep. Returning to his cabin, Spafford penned these words to the now-famous hymn:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul
Why did such tragedy befall Spafford? He certainly wondered — and wrestled with the question the rest of his life — but in writing this poem, he rested in the sovereignty of God.