Tagged: preincarnate Christ
God’s angel in the lions’ den
In addition to the angel of the Lord’s appearance in the fiery furnace of ancient Babylon, we should briefly review the well-known story of Daniel in the lions’ den, paying particular attention to Daniel’s report to Darius the Mede, the ruler of Babylon, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Dan. 6:22). Who is this angel? Could it be the angel of the LORD?
You may recall that Daniel has distinguished himself among Darius’ appointed leaders. In fact, he is one of three administrators who oversee the work of one hundred twenty satraps, or provincial governors, and Darius now plans to set Daniel up over the entire kingdom (6:3). This arouses jealousy among the satraps and the two other administrators. They try to find grounds for charges against Daniel but discover he is neither corrupt nor negligent (6:4).
So, they hatch a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to Yahweh against him. They convince Darius to sign an irrevocable edict that anyone who prays to any god or human over the next thirty days shall be thrown into a den of lions. In effect, this makes Darius the only priestly mediator during this period. Prayers to the gods are to be offered through him rather than through the kingdom’s pagan priests. Perhaps Darius believes this to be a unifying decree among his subjects in the Middle and Near East. Or, he may be convinced this is a good test of loyalty for the people, especially his appointed rulers.
In any case, punishment is severe for anyone who breaks the law. The Assyrians and Persians are known to capture lions and keep them in cages, so a large natural or manmade pit into which lions are placed is one particularly gruesome venue for those who displease the king. Further, the Persians are known to employ an array of ghastly forms of execution, including crucifixion. Tossing humans into a pit of ravenous lions is as certain to cause death as crucifying them, although the latter method could prolong the excruciating pain by a matter of days.Continue reading
The angel of the Lord in the time of the judges
The Book of Judges introduces us to Israel’s arduous struggle to maintain control of the Promised Land between the death of Joshua and the anointing of King Saul. While conquest of the land is relatively quick, settlement of the tribal territories proves challenging. There are pockets of strong resistance, and worldly allures, that lead many of the Israelites to adopt a policy of coexistence rather than total conquest.
A loose tribal confederacy emerges after Joshua’s death. The Spirit of God empowers various leaders, called judges, to deliver the people from their common enemies. For the Israelites, there are six cycles of sin, distress, and salvation, which form the core of the book structured around six major judges and six minor ones (3:7 – 16:31).
The Hebrew word for judge (shophet) is closely related to the verb shaphat (“to judge”), and also to mishpat(“justice”). Judges maintain justice and settle legal disputes. The term also may apply to governors, and in the Book of Judges we see God raise up special leaders who judge, administer, and deliver. The word shophet in Judges is used once in reference to the LORD (11:27), six times in reference to those who deliver Israel under God’s power or Spirit (2:18; 3:9-10; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14), and seven times in relation to judges who serve as administrators (4:4; 12:8-9, 11, 13-14; 15:20). Throughout the Book of Judges, these Spirit-empowered leaders save the Israelites from their enemies as Yahweh judges their hearts and demonstrates divine grace.Continue reading
Is Melchizedek the Preincarnate Christ?
Before the angel of the Lord appears to Hagar in Genesis 16, Abram encounters a curious king and priest named Melchizedek. He appears suddenly in the wake of Abram’s victory over King Chedorlaomer and his allies. We read about his brief visit to Abram in Genesis 14:17-24.
Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of God Most High, presents bread and wine to Abram and his battle-weary men. He further bestows a blessing on Abram in the name of El Elyon, God Most High, and praises God for granting Abram victory. In response, Abram offers Melchizedek a tithe of all the items he has won in battle, an act that acknowledges the priest as one who ranks higher spiritually than Abram.
All of which begs the question: Is the story of Melchizedek the first recorded appearance of the angel of the Lord? Put another way, is Melchizedek the preincarnate Christ?
While he could be, it seems more biblically faithful to see Melchizedek as a type, or prophetic preview, of Christ rather than as Jesus himself prior to the Incarnation. While we take the position that Jesus comes to Abram as the angel of the Lord in Genesis 17, 18, and 22, the preincarnate Christ does not materialize as an earthly priest or king in Genesis, or anywhere else in the Old Testament.Continue reading
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?Continue reading
Jesus Before Bethlehem
High Street Press offers a unique resource for personal or group study titled Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD.
Written by Rob Phillips of the Missouri Baptist Convention, 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.