Tagged: Theophany

The Word of the Lord appears

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.

Yahweh breaks into the physical realm in many ways through what are known as theophanies. He appears in human form, or cloaked in dark clouds, or as a rider on a chariot-throne. But sometimes he simply speaks – that is, one or more persons on earth hear God’s voice. 

For example, God tells Noah he is about to destroy the earth (Gen. 6:13). The LORD proclaims divine judgment on King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:31). And at Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased” (Mark 1:11). 

Further, the word of the LORD or the word of God comes to divinely appointed prophets dozens of times throughout the Old Testament. They receive God’s message and proclaim it as:

… an expansion of a living personality, who in this case is Yahweh Himself; and it has the power which only that uniquely powerful personality can give it…. The word of Yahweh, like the word of man, is a release of the power of the personality which utters it. He who receives the word is invaded by the personality of the speaker; when the speaker is Yahweh, the transforming influence of the word exceeds the influence of any human speech. 

John L. McKenzie, The Word of God in the Old Testament

But occasionally in the Old Testament, God shows up, not with a word, but as the word. These are known as Christophanies, or appearances of the preincarnate Christ. Often, he appears as the angel of the LORD, who is the focus of our study. Sometimes, however, Old Testament writers call him the word of the LORD. We should take note of this.

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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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