For hundreds of years, the Lord had planned moved "behind the scenes." Now, finally, he was prepared to openly act on behalf of his oppressed people. His first act of doing so was to appear to Moses. The man was now over eighty years old: his first forty as a Prince of Egypt, and then another forty as a humble sheepherder.
This is as good a time as any to introduce us to one of the most mysterious figures in the Old Testament: the “Angel of the Lord.” Angels appear numerous times throughout Scripture, the first being in Genesis 3 when one bars Eden from our first parents, bearing a flaming sword. The word “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, which simply means “messenger.” The same is true in Hebrew: the word malak is used for both human messengers (here for example) and the spiritual beings which we usually associate with the word “angel.” Therefore, any messenger sent from God is literally his “angel.” We’ll discuss the spiritual angels a bit more in detail at a later time, but for now, let’s briefly examine the “Angel” described here.
Several times in Scripture you might notice “the Angel of the Lord” who seems interchangeable with God himself. He talks as though he is God: He makes promises, issues threats, and gives direct commands as God in the first person. Someone is introduced as “the Angel of the Lord,” and then it’s as if he disappears and suddenly God takes his place, such as in today's passage. He is found in several other narratives: Genesis 16:7-14, 18:1-15, 22:11-18, Numbers 22:21-35, Judges 2:1-4, 6:11-24, 13:1-23, among many others.
Two possibilities emerge here. The first is that the angel is empowered and authorized by God to speak on his behalf and as his representative, even to the point of being identified with him. The other is that these are appearances by the Lord--probably the Lord Jesus himself--known as Christophanies. We know that the Son existed before the beginning of time, so it wouldn’t be completely outlandish to suppose that he made appearances during the time of the Old Testament. Traditionally most biblical scholars have sided with the second explanation (as do I), with the understanding that A) The first explanation can certainly be held by a Bible-believing Christian, and B) Neither explanation really affects our theology or daily walk with the Lord. If another Christian disagrees with me on this issue, that'd be perfectly fine with me.
To get a bit more practical, please keep in mind that since you're an official representative of Jesus Christ to the world, an "ambassador" for him, you should be careful about how you represent him. You might not have halo over your head, but you’re an “angel” just as much as any of those guys with wings.
What else can we learn from today's passage? After God introduces himself, what's the first thing he tells Moses? I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out. All these years that he'd been silent, the first thing he wanted his people to know was that he wasn't aloof or unconcerned or ignorant about what they'd gone through. He'd been watching. He'd heard their cries. And now--finally--he was going to do something about it.
Again, most of us have gone through times in which God seems silent. The Enemy whispers in our ears that our Father doesn't know or worse, doesn't care about what's happening to us. But he does. He sees everything. He's heard your cry. And at just the right time and in just the right way, he's going to act.
Lord Jesus, in all I say and do in front of a watching world, help me to be a clear mirror of your grace, love, and holiness.
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