The Angel of Yahweh and our Worship
“The Angel of Yahweh went up from Gilgal to Bokiym. And he said, ‘I caused you to come up from Egypt and brought you to the land which I swore to your Fathers and I said, ‘I will not break my covenant with you — eternally.’’”
If you have been following along with me for any length of time, you are familiar with the figure of “The Angel of Yahweh.” In short, this figure is the pre-incarnate Christ, the second member of the Trinity before he took flesh to himself. If this is a new notion for you, take some time to look up the references…he shows up all over the place and he says and does some remarkable things. Hagar, for example, associates the Angel of Yahweh with God himself (Genesis 16:13). When God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the Angel of Yahweh appears and commends Abraham that he has not withheld his son from “me” (Genesis 22:12). In guiding Jacob as to which sheep to choose of Laban’s flock, the Angel of Yahweh addresses him and says, “I am the God of Bethel.” When Samson’s birth is foretold by the Angel of Yahweh, Manoah asks him his name. The Angel’s response is that the name is “Wonderful” (Judges 13:18), a name that Isaiah attributes to Christ (Isaiah 9:6). And of course, in Zechariah’s vision, the Angel of Yahweh is seen as re-clothing Joshua the High Priest (a visual reputation of the imputation of God’s righteousness). When he does so, the Angel of Yahweh states, “I have taken away your iniquity and will clothe you in righteousness” (Zechariah 3:4).
Here, we again have a statement from the Angel of Yahweh, that he is responsible for bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, a reference to Exodus 14:19. Later, in the New Testament, Jude states that it is Jesus who led the Israelites out of Egypt (Jude 5). Sometimes this language throws people off a bit because we are used to thinking of angels as created beings. In fact, a number of cults over the generations have tried to use this language to imply that Jesus was a created being — Mormonism being a modern example of those who make this error, though the ancient gnostics were quick to go in this direction as well. Yet, we must remember that the Hebrew word that we translate as angel is ךְAaVlAm (malak), which means, “messenger.” Whether this is a heavenly messenger or a human messenger is determined by context…and similarly, whether this messenger is divine is again determined by the context…in this case, given all the language about this person, it can be none other than the Eternal Son of God…prior to his incarnation.
What is significant about this observation is not only the understanding of who this figure is, but it is the recognition that the Eternal Son was not dormant during the eras of time between the creation and the incarnation. What a study of this figure will be quick to illustrate is just how active our savior has been in the deliverance of his people throughout the Old Testament accounts and then again into the New Testament account. What a gift it is that the scriptures point out the labors of our Savior throughout the ages…it is a gift that should drive us to appreciate his labors more greatly, stand in awe of his willingness to take on flesh and suffer for us, and drive us to worship him all the more. Such is the way it is and should always be when we approach the Word of our wonderful God.
Two more observations should be made of this verse. The first is the use of the hiphil stem for the majority of the verbs in this verse. In the Hebrew, the hiphil typically communicates causative force…in this case, it was God who caused the people “to go up” from Egypt and who caused the people to be “brought into” the land and further who will cause the covenant to be unbroken (at least God’s side of the covenant). It is a reminder to us that it was not by Israel’s cunning or strength that they came out of Egypt nor would it be Israel’s righteousness that causes God to remain faithful. It is God who has done these things and God who should be given the credit for doing these things. Such is the same with us…anything good in our lives or anything that we have done that is worthy of honor — all of the honor and praise should be given to God himself, for he has done these things in and through us.
Finally, we see the affirmation of the covenant — a covenant that God will preserve with his people eternally. It is a covenant that this Angel of Yahweh, God’s Son, will make good with his own blood. What a sign of grace that the one who will fulfill the covenant for a wicked and rebellious people is the one who communicates that promise to the same people. And again, that realization should drive us to worship…and to obedience.