Have you ever considered that the eternal Son of God was present and active among His people long before the incarnation?
In the Old Testament, there’s a figure called ‘the angel of the Lord’ who doesn’t quite behave as an angel should. In particular:
- He claims divine authority, speaking as only God can
- He exhibits divine attributes
- He performs divine actions
- He receives divine homage
- He is identified as God
The best conclusion is that he must be the pre-incarnate Christ.
The series mentioned in the above video is no longer freely available, but here are the highlights:
The angel of the Lord in the OT
Hagar in the desert (Genesis 16)
The angel of the Lord speaks with divine authority (Gen 16:10) and Hagar recognises that she has had an encounter with an all-seeing God (Gen 16:13).
Abraham receives three guests (Genesis 18)
At first all three men speak with one voice (18:5-9), but one is singled out and referred to as ‘the Lord’ (18:10ff).
In addition to renewing the promise of a son for Abraham, the angel of the Lord tells Abraham of the impending judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham then makes the first intercessory prayer recorded in scripture.
Abraham almost sacrifices Isaac (Genesis 22)
The angel of the Lord identifies himself with God by equating withholding Isaac from God to withholding Isaac from the angel (Gen 22:12).
Jacob wrestles with a man (Genesis 32:22-32)
After the fact, Jacob realises that he had met with God (Gen 32:30). Additonally, in Hosea 12, the mysterious figure is referred to as both ‘the angel’ and ‘God’.
Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3)
Exodus 3:2 says: “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” In verse 4, however, God calls to Moses out of the bush. Verse 6 then tells us, “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Emphasis mine in each case).
Manoah and his wife get a special promise (Judges 13)
The angel of the Lord appears to an unnamed woman, promising her an end to her barrenness and an end to the Philistine domination. She tells her husband, Manoah, and he prays that the man of God would return. He does, and the couple prepare a burnt offering. The angel of the Lord ascends to heaven in the flame of the altar. Manoah and his wife are terrified at the realisation that they’d seen God.
Zechariah the prophet sees a vision (Zechariah 3)
The angel of the Lord rebukes Satannand defends Joshua, the high priest. The angel of the Lord commands that Joshua’s dirty clothes be removed before making him a wonderful promise.
In these passages we see the Son of God preparing His covenant people for what would be His earthly ministry. He is the ultimate sacrifice willingly given for us (prefigured in Isaac); He is the ultimate destroyer of our enemies (prefigured in Samson); He is the one who takes away our filthy clothes of sin (prefigured in Joshua), and so on.
What’s more, He’s not done yet! He who has been continually at work throughout redemptive history has one more appointment on His calendar. We eagerly await a Saviour from heaven!