How should we pray before meals?
Who was the Angel of the Lord?
There had been times in the early history of God's people when He simply needed to have a stiff word with them. At those times, sending them a dream or vision or a rank-and-file angel was not enough, He really needed to confront the ... personally. There's only one snag, as God once said to Moses:
"You cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20)
So what could He do? On these occasions He sent the Angel of the LORD. Let's read about the first such Biblical encounter:
"The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, 'Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?' 'I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,' she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, 'Go back to your mistress and submit to her.' The angel added, 'I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.' The angel of the LORD also said to her: 'You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery." (Genesis 16:7-11)
Isn't that interesting that the Angel of the LORD would make his first cameo appearance not to Abraham, the first patriarch of the Jews and hero of the faith but to a pagan slave girl whose descendants would give rise to the Arab people. God just doesn't follow the rules, does He? He finds her in a state of despair, having run away from Abram's camp and speaks with the greatest authority to assure her of the future of herself and her descendants. Later on, when she leaves camp for the final time with her son, Ishmael, the angel of the LORD again communicates with her and repeats the promises.
"What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." (Genesis 21:17-18)
So God was so keen to make assurances as to the future of the Arab peoples, He sends His special envoy. You would expect Him to do the same for the Jewish people and He does, at the one key moment, when the fate of the entire Jewish race hung by a thread, or rather a sharp blade. Abraham stood over his beloved son, Isaac, ready to slit his throat ...
"But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. 'Do not lay a hand on the boy,' he said. 'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.' Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.' The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, 'I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore ...'" (Genesis 22:11-17)
Again, the angel of the LORD had sufficient authority to make promises concerning Abraham and his descendants, the people of Israel.
We will find out more about The Angel of the LORD next week ...
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')
A Lib Dem candidate who was due to stand in the upcoming election...