Who is the Angel of the LORD?
In my last post I laid out my intention to show from the Old Testament that Christ has always been the one Mediator between God and man.
I find the easiest place to start in these discussions is with the Angel of the LORD. If a person cannot see from Scripture that this is a title belonging to Christ then the conversation will not get very far. So I wonder whether you have a view?
Perhaps the first thing to say is – don’t be thrown by the title. Angel (malak) just means ‘Sent One’ or ‘Messenger’ (as most translations render it in Malachi 3:1). So literally the Angel of the LORD is the One Sent from the LORD. And already we should be hearing resonances with Jesus’ self-descriptions. In John’s Gospel for instance Jesus is described as the One Sent from God 40 times! That might be significant!
The second thing to say is that not every angel is The Angel. There are many created angelic beings in the bible. But when Scripture speaks of the Angel we know who we’re talking about. In the same way there are many ones sent from God in a general sense. But when you talk about ‘the One sent from the Father’ you are talking about Jesus.
But really the proof is in the eating. So get a load of these verses.
Genesis 16:9-14; Genesis 21:17-20; Genesis 22:11-18; Genesis 24:7,40; Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 48:15-16; Exodus 3:1-6; Exodus 13:21 <=> Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20-23; Exodus 32:34; 33:2 <=> 34:9; Num 20:16; Num 22:22-35; Judges 2:1-5; Judges 5:23; Judges 6:11-24; Judges 13:3-23; 2 Sam 24:16-17; 1 Kings 19:5,7; 2 Kings 1:3,15; 1 Chron 21:11-20; Psalm 34:7,9; Psalm 35:5-6; Isaiah 37:36; Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 3:28; Daniel 6:22; Hosea 12:4-5 <=> Genesis 32:24-30; Zechariah 1:9-19; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-6; Zechariah 12:8; Malachi 3:1
See also these verse where people are said to be like the Angel and so are said to be like Christ:
As you see the Angel is not an insignificant figure in the Old Testament. I’m not expecting you to check out all the references but thought it might be useful to have them all together. Over the next few posts I’ll pick out some key passages to highlight some fundamental truths. At bottom this is where these verses take us:
- The Angel is divine – He is very often called the LORD and God, He speaks as the LORD, acts as the LORD and accepts divine worship.
- The Angel is distinct from another Person called ‘LORD’ or ‘God’ or ‘God Most High.’
- The Angel acts on behalf of God Most High in revelation and salvation.
- The Angel is correctly identified by the OT saints as a distinct, divine Person
- He is feared, trusted and hoped for by the faithful.
The Angel is God from God. Light from Light. True God from True God. That’s clear from the biblical portrait. To fail to see His identity is, I think, a real problem.
What always strikes me in discussions about the Angel’s identity is that the Scriptures are so unambiguous in naming Him LORD. I would go so far as to say that the Old Testament is even clearer on the divine identity of the Angel than the New Testament is on the identity of Jesus. But of course once we grasp who the Angel is in the OT the NT pictures of Christ’s divinity become much more apparent.
When Jesus claims to be the One sent from the Father He is not merely defering to divinity – He is claiming it. His divine identity in the New Testament is so much easier to see for those who have already grasped it in the Old.
In the next post I’ll have a look at some of the key Angel passages. Let me leave you with a Calvin quote who sums up the history of Christian interpretation on this issue:
The orthodox doctors of the Church have correctly and wisely expounded, that the Word of God was the supreme angel, who then began, as it were by anticipation, to perform the office of Mediator. For though he were not clothed with flesh, yet he descended as in an intermediate form, that he might have more familiar access to the faithful. This closer intercourse procured for him the name of the Angel; still, however, he retained the character which justly belonged to him – that of the God of ineffable glory. (Instit. I.xiii.10)