Tagged: Preincarnate Chrisit

Slaughter of the Assyrians

Isaiah 37:36-37 (2 Kings 19:35-36)

Nearly forty years have passed since Isaiah saw the LORD of Armies on his throne in heaven. Kings Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz are gone, and Hezekiah rules a shrinking Judah from within the fortified walls of Jerusalem. King Sennacherib of Assyria has captured the other forty-six walled cities of Judah. He and his massive army now fix their eyes on Jerusalem. Sennacherib sends his royal spokesman to urge surrender. As the spokesman stands near the conduit of the upper pool – the same spot on which Isaiah earlier implored Ahaz to trust God rather than human alliances – he delivers the king’s offer of peace and, with it, a dire warning to Hezekiah’s representatives:

Beware that Hezekiah does not mislead you by saying, “The LORD will rescue us.” Has any one of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sephardim: Have they rescued Samaria from my power? Who among all the gods of these lands ever rescued his land from my power? So will the LORD rescue Jerusalem from my power?

Isa. 36:18-20

Sennacherib then sends Hezekiah a letter, repeating the threats and mocking God (Isa. 37:8-13). Hezekiah takes the letter to the temple and spreads it out before the LORD. He prays for deliverance so that “all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, LORD, are God – you alone” (37:20). The LORD answers Hezekiah’s prayer through Isaiah, who sends a message to Hezekiah with this divine promise:

Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria:

He will not enter the city, shoot an arrow here, come before it with a shield, or build up a siege ramp against it.

He will go back the way he came, and he will not enter this city. This is the LORD’s declaration.

I will defend this city and rescue it for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.

Isa. 37:33-35

Without delay, Isaiah records the angel of the LORD striking down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. Surveying the carnage the next morning, Sennacherib breaks camp and returns to Nineveh. Nearly twenty years later, as the king worships in the temple of his god, two of his sons assassinate him (37:36-38).

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The Lord of Armies on his throne (Part 2)

This post picks up where Part 1 ends.

Evidence of the angel

No doubt, Isaiah has encountered Yahweh on his throne. But before moving on, let’s summarize the evidence for Isaiah seeing the angel of the LORD in this vision. 

First, note how Isaiah describes the one seated on the throne. Isaiah calls him Lord (Adonai), the LORD of Armies (Yahweh Sabaoth), and the King. In our study so far, we have seen the angel of the LORD identified both as the Lord and the LORD of Armies, divine titles he shares with the unseen Yahweh. As for his role as King, the Israelites are promised a future king who comes from their stock (Deut. 17:14-15). David is promised a physical descendant who rules over an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12-16). The prophet Zechariah foretells the Messiah’s revelation to his people: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; he is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). 

Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises. An angel tells Mary her future son will reign over the house of Jacob forever (Luke 1:30-33). Jesus presents himself to the Jews as king and they reject him (John 1:11). Jesus acknowledges his right to rule as king (John 18:36-37). He fulfills Zechariah 9:9 when he rides triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (John 12:14-15). Even Pilate acknowledges Jesus’ claim to be King of the Jews (John 19:19). Paul urges Timothy to fight the good fight of faith in light of the imminent return of “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Victors on the sea of glass in heaven sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb: “Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations” (Rev. 15:3). And Jesus returns to earth triumphantly one day as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). 

We could cite other passages, but these are sufficient to show how the Scriptures identify Jesus as the eternal King who humbles himself in the Incarnation and returns one day in glory – a glory that fills the whole earth (cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Rev. 21:22-25).

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The Lord of Armies on his throne (Part 1)

With the Book of Isaiah, we enter a new phase in the angel of the LORD’s appearances. Having mostly visited covenant partners like Abraham and Jacob, national leaders like Moses and Joshua, and deliverers like Gideon, the divine messenger now reveals himself to prophets at key points in the history of Israel and Judah. 

We begin in Isaiah, with a spectacular view into the throne room of heaven, where the LORD sits enthroned and the angel is implied but not identified. Later in Isaiah, the angel of the LORD is named as the warrior who sweeps through the Assyrian camp and slaughters 185,000 soldiers. As our study progresses, we watch the angel blaze across the sky in a chariot of fire (Ezekiel), approach the Ancient of Days to receive his kingdom (Daniel), and stand among the myrtle trees to counsel his spokesman (Zechariah). 

These appearances are some of the many ways God expresses his presence in the books of the prophets (Isaiah to Malachi). According to Vern Poythress, theophanies recorded in the writings of the prophets most often occur in four contexts. First, the LORD comes to commission a prophet. Second, he announces divine judgment, either on Israel or its enemies. Third, he declares salvation and deliverance for his people. And fourth, he reminds the people of God’s redemptive work in the past.

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A Promised Deliverer

Perhaps more than any other Old Testament passage, Exodus 23:20-23 serves as a backdrop against which we may view the record of the angel of the Lord’s visits to human beings. As Moses meets Yahweh at Mount Sinai, receives the law, and prepares for the journey to the Promised Land, there’s a brief message from God about what lies ahead: 

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 of the Amorites, Hethites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.

Exod. 23:20-23

Something extraordinary happens here. The description God gives Moses is of no ordinary angel. This angel has the authority to forgive sins, an authority that belongs exclusively to God. Even more curious is God’s statement that “my name is in him.” God’s name oftentimes is used in Scripture to depict God’s presence. In this case, the very essence of Yahweh is in the messenger being sent.

Michael Heiser writes:

When God told Moses that his name was in this angel, he was saying that he was in this angel – his very presence or essence. The I AM of the burning bush would accompany Moses and the Israelites to the promised land and fight for them. Only he could defeat the gods of the nations and the descendants of the Nephilim whom Moses and Joshua would find there.

The Unseen Realm, 143

Other Scriptures confirm this angel is Yahweh.

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