Tagged: Jesus before Bethlehem

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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Who is the angel of the LORD?

This is the 19th in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

Identified as Yahweh and yet distinct from Him, “the angel of the LORD” appears numerous times throughout the Old Testament. This messenger is above all others. He is called “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.

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 as a manifestation of Yahweh – a theophany, derived from the Greek words theos (God) and pheino (to appear) – or as the preincarnate Son of God, a Christophany, the Lord Jesus.

We should note that the Hebrew word malak and the Greek term angelos, translated “angel,” mean “messenger.” While angels in Scripture normally are spirit beings of higher intelligence and power than humans, there are times when the term refers to human messengers, or to the Son of God. The context helps us determine the correct application.

Norman Geisler writes, “Jesus Christ appears in the Old Testament in His preincarnate state as ‘the Angel [Messenger] of the Lord’ … Once the Son (Christ) came in permanent incarnate form (John 1:14), never again does the Angel of the Lord appear. Angels appear, but no angel that is worshiped or claims to be God ever appears again. The Father and Holy Spirit never appear as a man. Hence, Jesus Christ, as a person, eternally existed and appeared as a man before His virginal conception on earth.”

Just as the Holy Spirit is active on the earth prior to the Day of Pentecost, so Jesus works collaboratively with the Father and the Spirit to bring a divine word, direction, and deliverance prior to His conception in a virgin’s womb.
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