The Angel of the Lord
A Chance to Dig
by Lisa Kidd
December 4, 2012
Did you think we were going to do all the research for you? Surprise! Today, I've got some research for you to do, and some questions for you to ponder. True, I'm going to answer some of those questions on the next page, but let me encourage you to take the time to study.
In the Christmas story, we read of many people experiencing a visit from an angel of the Lord. Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and the shepherds all find themselves in the amazing presence of this awesome character. But who is he? In the Old Testament, there are also many mentions made of the angel of the Lord. Is this angel the same figure? In the Bible there are many "clues" to whom the angel of the Lord is. Do you know?
Check out these references and answer these questions. Who did the angel appear to? How does this person react to the angel? How does the angel refer to himself?
- Genesis 16:7-14
- Genesis 22:11-15
- Exodus 3:2-6
- Numbers 22:22-38
- Judges 6:11-24
- Luke 1:11-20
- Luke 1:26-38
- Matthew 28:2-7
- Acts 12:6-11
*The word “incarnation” means “The embodiment of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ” (dictionary.com). After reading these passages, do you think that Jesus made an appearance before His incarnation?
*True or false: The angel of the Lord who is often referred to in the Old Testament was really Jesus making pre-incarnate appearances?
*Is the angel of the Lord in the New Testament a different figure?
All righty then. I suppose we've made you work hard enough. Turn the page for some answers, but I bet you've already found some on your own!
Old Testament References:
- Hagar, she responds to the angel as the “God who sees her”, the angel claims personal responsibility for her descendents
- Abraham, he calls the place “the Lord will provide”, the angel says “I swear by myself, declares the Lord . . . I will surely bless you.”
- Moses, he was afraid to look at God, the angel in the burning bush says, “I am the God of your father.”
- Balaam, he bowed and fell face down, the angel says, “speak only what I tell you” and later Balaam tells King Balaak “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”
- Gideon, he calls the angel Sovereign Lord and builds an altar to it, the angel speaks in the first person as the Lord
In the Old Testament, the" angel of the Lord" speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the responsibilities of God. Jesus declared Himself to be existent "before Abraham" (John 8:58), so it's logical that He would be active and manifest in the Old Testament world.
New Testament References.
- Zechariah, gripped with fear and questions, angel claims to be Gabriel who stands in the presence of God. Gabriel does not claim to be God, or speak in first person as God.
- Mary, she is troubled and has questions, the angel claims to be Gabriel and the passage says that he was sent by God.
- The women at the tomb, fearful yet joyful, the angel claimed to know they were looking for Jesus. Then the angel said that “He is not here, for he is risen.” He couldn't be “here” as the angel and “not here” as Jesus.
- Peter, he thinks he's having a vision, he does not speak with the angel nor does the angel identify himself specifically, but Peter says after the incident, “I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me . . . .”
In these passages, we learn that the appearances of the angel of the Lord change after the incarnation of Christ. So are the appearances always precise ways to the identify God in the Scripture? In the Old and New Testaments, there are differences in reference to identity. Many students of the Word believe that God's appearances as the Angel of the Lord stop after Christ came to earth as a man; hence, the New Testament appearances of the angel are simply messengers sent from heaven.
Whatever the case, whether the angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ ( Christophany) or an appearance of God the Father (Theophany), it is highly likely that the phrase "the angel of the Lord" identifies either a physical appearance of God or the appearance of one sent by God. What a blessing to know that He would take such extraordinary measures to communicate with mankind!
Father, help all of us to understand who the angel of the Lord is, and for us to give less to the world and more to the One who made it. May we all give thought and give You all the praise and glory. Amen.