How will Christ return?
Where do we see Jesus in the Old Testament?
The Angel of The LORD was busy. He appeared at the time of Judges when he reminds the people of their disobedience and their breaking of the Covenant (Judges 2:1-5), a cosy chat with Gideon under the oak tree to empower him for service (Judges 6:11-24) and to the parents of Samson, telling them about the great son they were going to bring to the World. This is an interesting story because, through it, we find out a bit more about the Angel of the LORD. We find out that he has the appearance of both man and angel (Judges 13:6) but we get a clear declaration of his identity after Manoah, Samson's father, asks for his name. He doesn't give it but after a burnt offering was made, the following happens:
"As the flame blazed up from the altar towards heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realised that it was the angel of the LORD. 'We are doomed to die!' he said to his wife. 'We have seen God!'" (Judges 13:20-22)
So Manoah knew exactly who he was dealing with, God himself. And because he didn't exactly die as a result, it was God in the form of Jesus, the memra of God.
It was the Angel of the LORD who ministered to Elijah when he was on the run from Jezebel after the showdown on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19) and who prompted King David to build an altar at the site where the great Temple would be built (1 Chronicles 21:18). The fiercer side of his nature was shown when he did to death 195,000 Assyrian soldiers who were surrounding Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35).
In fact it's amazing how many familiar Old Testament stories include dealings with the memra of God, through the Angel of the LORD.
It is time to venture a little deeper, to further cement this idea of Jesus' appearances to his people, in the guise of the Angel of the LORD. One passage of Scripture that really sets the seal on this comes from the book of Isaiah.
"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us - yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, 'Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me'; and so he became their Saviour. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old." (Isaiah 63:7-9)
Here God states that He is to be the Saviour of His people, but that it was actually the Angel of his presence (of the LORD) that did the saving. The only Saviour we know, of course, is Jesus Christ, so what we present here is a pretty strong case that the Angel of the LORD is Jesus himself. Perhaps the clincher is the fact that the Angel of the LORD appears nowhere in the Gospels, because even Jesus couldn't appear in two places at the same time!
Finally, there is that curious incident in Jacob's life.
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' The man asked him, 'What is your name?' 'Jacob,' he answered. Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.' Jacob said, 'Please tell me your name.' But he replied, 'Why do you ask my name?' Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'" (Genesis 32:24-30)
It starts off as a scuffle, though a rather prolonged one, with the deadlock only broken by an illegal move. By the end of the story we realize that Jacob has had an encounter with God, an encounter so profoundly significant that Jacob is renamed. His protagonist is both man and God, so could this be Jesus himself who fought that extended bout?
The final word takes us back to the burning bush. Compare God's words to Moses when he asked Him to identify Himself, with Jesus' words to the Pharisees when they asked him to identify himself.
"God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' " (Exodus 3:14)
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58)
The words should speak aloud to you and will be further analysed in a later article.
So we rest our case. Jesus was far from idle between Creation and Incarnation. God did not just light the blue touch paper and let his angels get on with the process of guiding His Covenant people through the trials and struggles of establishing themselves and fulfilling the role assigned to them. Not only was He in total charge at all times, but at certain turning points, such as the Binding of Isaac and the Burning Bush, He had to make a personal appearance. These were the appearances of the Angel of the LORD, none other than Jesus himself and we can only just marvel at the realization that we have a God unafraid to get His hands dirty for no other reason than the fact that He loves us so much.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')