5. The Angel of the Lord
- Spiritual Beings – introduction: we are not alone.
- Elohim – God is not alone.
- Divine Council – there is communication between God and Spiritual Beings, also between heaven and earth.
- Angels and Cherubim (and Seraphim) – they praise God and fulfil roles as messengers and missionaries for God.
Today we will look at a special angel, the Angel of the Lord.
Video on the Angel the Lord
“Spiritual Beings are copyright 2019 by The Bible Project and are available for viewing at www.thebibleproject.com“.
SERMON THREE: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
The Angel of the Lord
The first angel we read about in the Bible is the Angel of the Lord. That is quite appropriate, because He is uniquely identified with God, sometimes being portrayed as God Himself.
The first person the Angel of the Lord appeared to, is Hagar (Gen 16:7; again, in Gen 21:17). He also appeared to Abraham (Gen 22:11) and Jacob (Gen 31:11).
The Angel of the Lord would appear again and again right through the history of the people of Israel, very much involved with the building of the nation of Israel, also in delivering them from Egypt and guiding them into and in the land of Canaan.
In Midian the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush, where one clearly can perceive that He is actually God (Ex 3:2). In Egypt He led the people out of slavery (Ex 14:19). In the Wilderness He was their guide (Ex 23:20).
With the Conquest the Angel of the Lord was the One going into battle before Joshua (Judges 2:1). In the time of the judges (sometimes also called the “angel of God” – Judg. 13:6) the Angel of the Lord was at times their guide – with Gideon (Judg. 6:11) – and their deliverer – with Samson (Judg. 13:6).
The Angel of the Lord even struck the people of Israel with pest as a judgment on Israel in the time of David (2 Sam 24:16). He also appeared to the prophets, e.g. to Elijah (1 Kgs 19:7) and Zechariah (Zech. 3:1-10).
Gideon and the Angel of the Lord
Let’s focus on the story of Gideon and the Angel of the Lord.
The story of Gideon is told extensively in three chapters with that of his son Abimelek added in a fourth. Gideon is the son of Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh, who openly served Baal with an altar to Baal and a consecrated pole, an Asherah. Idolatry was always an Achilles’ heel that led to the decline of Israel.
No wonder the Lord delivered the Israelites as punishment into the hands of the Midianites, supported by the Amalekites. After all, the Israelites persevered in their idolatry and did what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord.
The impact of this dominance – remember the Midianites are descendants of Abraham and Ketura, i.e. their distant family! – was comprehensive. The Israelites – in this case especially the entire tribe of Manasseh west and east of the Jordan – were driven back into the mountains where they lived along mountain streams, caves and other inaccessible places.
They could not sow, because the produce was destroyed by the Midianites. Their animals were wiped out in the veld. The Midianites were like countless flocks of grasshoppers destroying everything in their path. The Israelites became poor and crippled by the misery. Their spiritual decline resulted in social and economic decline.
As we already know well, this punishment of the Lord persuades the Israelites to call for the Lord’s intervention and He responds in two ways. He initially sends an unnamed prophet to remind them of the Lord’s wonders in the past, but also to admonish them that the distressing situation they find themselves in has been brought about by their own apostasy.
Then the Lord calls a judge, Gideon, by revealing Himself to him as Lord. The Lord, Yahweh, appears as the Angel of the Lord who sits under the great tree in Ophrah where Gideon secretly threshes wheat in a concealed winepress. In the course of the conversation with Gideon, one finds that the Angel of the Lord is actually the Lord Himself.
Seven interactions between the Lord and Gideon
1. First interaction
11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
Note the first words of the Angel of the Lord to Gideon: “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” That means, brave man!
Gideon’s first reaction however threatens to become sarcastic:
13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
“Excuse me, sir … Where are all his wonderful deeds … Now the Lord has forsaken us”. Behind Gideon’s courtesy is a serious distrust.
2. Second Interaction
14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”
Notice how it is now the Lord Himself turning to Gideon. Thus, it is immediately clear that the Angel of the Lord is actually the Lord Himself.
He wipes Gideon’s distrust off the table with a direct command. Note how the Lord speaks of the power Gideon has. “Go in this might of yours!” But with that comes God’s empowerment: “Do not I send you!”
This is how Divine empowerment works. God begins with what we have and increases it through His intervention and involvement. As Jesus did with the two fishes and five loaves in the NT (John 6:9).
15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
Gideon’s second response shows that he does not take kindly to this command. He only hears: “the power you have”, not the “I send you”. What could he do to save the Israelites? They are poor and he has no standing or position of authority.
3. Third interaction
16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”
The Lord’s third response takes the cake: “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man,” meaning as if they were no more than one man.
No wonder the Lord later orders him to attack the Midianites with only 300 men for they would flee confused as if their power had been reduced to just one mortal before the power of the Creator!
But Gideon is not persuaded.
17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.”
Gideon’s third response shows that he still thinks that nothing is going to happen here, because he asks for a sign to be sure that it is really the Lord who speaks to him, even though the Angel of the Lord sits right there with him.
4. Fourth interaction
The inexhaustible patience of the Lord is shown in His fourth response:
And he said, “I will stay till you return.”
Can you imagine? Perhaps the brightest good news in this chapter. God waits for Gideon to finish before continuing to work with him. Awesome! He is willing to wait for Gideon: “I will wait until you are back”.
19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them.
Gideon cooked the meat and a large amount of bread like a Passover meal – without sourdough – and serves the Angel under the big tree.
5. Fifth interaction
20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight.
The sign Gideon asked for was given in the fire that sprang up from the rock to consume the present. With that, the Angel vanished from Gideon’s sight.
And Gideon suddenly knew he was in God’s presence:
22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now, I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”
6. Sixth interaction
What is however so immensely encouraging is that one immediately observes that the Lord is still with Gideon:
23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.
God reassures Gideon – persuading Gideon that He is present even if the angel of the Lord is not visible, something we can also learn from! – so much so that Gideon builds an altar there for the Lord and calls it, “The Lord is Peace!”
What is even more extraordinary, is that the conversation did not end there!
7. Seventh interaction
We read from verse 25 that the conversation between God and Gideon continued into the night. The Lord commanded Gideon to break down his father’s altar for Baal and the sacred pole for Asherah and build an altar for the Lord next to it. He had to sacrifice a specific seven-year-old bull from his father as a burnt offering – the sacrifice used for the remission of sin. The remains of the Ashera should be used in a contemptuous way as the firewood.
The rest is history.
The Spirit of God took possession of Gideon, all the while guiding him in various interactions, also with a few extra signs to strengthen his resolve to do God’s bidding. You will the signs with the pieces of fleece wool on the threshing floor.
The Lord controlled every part of the entire campaign. Because God wanted Israel to know that the victory was His, He reduced the army to just 300 men and into the bargain let the Midianites actually turn on each other, letting the enemy destroy themselves with their own weapons! The “sword of the Lord” was actually in the hands of the enemies who killed each other with it.
Who is the Angel of the Lord?
1. The Angel of the Lord is a messenger. He brought messages of blessing (Gen 16:7-16) and curses (Judg. 5:23). He gave message that gave sustenance (Gen 21:8-21) and victory, as He did here to Gideon (Judg. 6:11-16). He is a messenger and a missionary.
But the Angel of the Lord is more.
2. The Angel of the Lord is God-in-action. He is the One who delivered Isaac from certain death, providing a ram as a substitute (Gen 22:11). He is also the One performing specific commissions of judgment for God, as He did here with Gideon.
The Angle of the Lord even acted as a one-man army in the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah striking down 185 000 Assyrians in battle (2 Kgs 19:35; Isa 37:36). He is known as the “sword of the Lord,” a title that would be given to the Word of God in the NT (Eph 6:17).
No wonder, the Psalmists exulted in the power of the Angel of the Lord.
For those who fear God, He acted as the deliverer:
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.” (Ps 34:7)
For those who opposed the righteous, He acted as the destroyer:
“Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away! Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!” (Ps 35:5-6)
3. The Angel of the Lord is identified with God. He alone had the ministry of intercession with God on behalf of men (Zech. 1:12-13) even forgiving and cleansing them (Zech. 3:1-10). He spoke for God in the first person (Gen 16:10; Ex 3:2, 6; Judg. 2:1).
These references show that the Angel of the Lord is really God, as Gideon also acknowledged. Those who see Him – like later also the mother of Samson – marveled that they have seen God but did not die (Judg. 6:22; 13:21-22).
4. The Angel of the Lord is thus identified with the pre-incarnate Christ. This is done on the grounds of the similarity in functions, especially the intercessory prayer and bringing the word of God, as well as the forgiveness and cleansing functions that Zechariah spoke of.
In the NT this identification obviously changed because in the OT the Angel of the Lord only took on the likeness of a human being. As the Son of God, Jesus became a human being. Jesus is thus portrayed right through the NT as God Himself (John 1:1) with the angels being subservient to Him (John 1:51).
He is the one that we now worship and follow in the spiritual battle, of which we will learn some more next week in the subject of Satan and his Demons.
BIBLE STUDY: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
- In preparation for your meeting, read Judges 6-8 as background.
- If you have enough time, go through a selection of the verses (in context) that speak about the Angel of the Lord:
- Genesis: Hagar (Gen 16:7; again, in Gen 21:17), Abraham (Gen 22:11) and Jacob (Gen 31:11).
- Exodus: Moses (Ex 3:2), Egypt (Ex 14:19) and in the Wilderness (Ex 23:20).
- Judges: Joshua (Judges 2:1), Gideon (Judg. 6:11) and Samson (Judg. 13:6).
- 2 Samuel: David (2 Sam 24:16).
- 1 Kings: Elijah (1 Kgs 19:7)
- Zechariah: Zechariah (Zech. 3:1-10).
- Begin with sharing what’s going on in your life at the meeting.
- Pray and commit yourselves to the Lord.
- Watch the video The Angel of the Lord – 54,4 MB. What struck you? What questions came to mind?
- Read Judges 6:11-27 following the conversation between the Angel of the Lord (God) and Gideon, stopping after each interaction and sharing what it teaches you:
- Judges 6:11-13
- Judges 6:14-15
- Judges 6:16-18a
- Judges 6:18b-19
- Judges 6:20-22
- Judges 6:23-24
- Judges 6:25-27
- What does this Scripture teaches us? What do you take home with you?
- Read Judges 6:34. This is the same Spirit that will empower and guide us as well.
- Ask for his guidance in closing with prayer.
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