Today’s reading: Judges 13-15.
Two hundred years into the downward spiral of Judges, and over two hundred years since the death of Joshua, God continues to raise up men and women to deliver Israel. These rescuers are now more like modern anti-heroes full of fatal flaws. I’m talking about Samson. It’s time for Samson to deliver Israel, and God prepares the way by sending the angel of the LORD, malak Jehovah. But who is the angel of the LORD?
He is first mentioned by name when he appears to Hagar as she flees from Sarah’s anger. He stops Abraham as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac. He speaks to Moses from the burning bush. He stands in the way of Balaam and the donkey as they travel to curse Israel for Balak. He may be the captain of the LORD’s army that confronts Joshua. He recruits Gideon to fight the Midianites. Now he gives Samson’s mother the news that, though barren, she will soon bear a son.
Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?” He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding. ” Judges 13:17-18
His name, and he, are beyond understanding. He is marvelous. He is extraordinary. Like all of the LORD’s doings in creation, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:6) But there are certain things that this malak Jehovah does over and over again.
He commissions the leaders God chooses. He is the one who calls Moses from the backwaters of the desert to lead his people out of Egypt. He recruits Gideon, fearful and hiding in a wine-press, to conquer the Midianites. Now he guides Samson’s parents to raise him as a Nazirite so that the spirit of God will empower him.
He rescues the perishing. When Hagar gives up, he gives her hope. When Abraham obediently prepares to sacrifice Isaac, the angel of The Lord stops the knife. When Elijah flees for fear of Jezebel, he feeds and comforts the prophet. Psalm 34 says that the angel of the LORD delivers those who fear God.
He pronounces judgement. He condemns Balaam for his desire to profit from Balak’s wish to curse Israel. He pronounces judgement on the Israelites for their failure to keep their covenant with God (Judges 2). He brings the punishment of plague upon the Israelites when David sins by numbering the people. He annihilates the Assyrian army besieging Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah.
Is the angel of the LORD merely one of God’s many angelic messengers? Probably not. His work and influence are too important. As he said himself, he is too wonderful. Many Christians believe he is Jesus, who said himself that he existed before Abraham. All who see the angel of the LORD worship him because they realize they have been in God’s presence. Man cannot see God’s face and live, but we can see Jesus face to face, and Jesus is the perfect representation of God.
What encourages me most is that the angel of the LORD shows God’s continuing care and involvement in the affairs of men. When wickedness is triumphing, he condemns it. When we are perishing because of oppression or our own sin, he delivers us. When we are lost he finds the man or woman who can lead us to freedom. We fail the LORD, but he does not fail us.
Image by Lawrence OP on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0