What Does the Angel of the Lord Mean?

by | Jan 11, 2022 | Biblical Theology, Old Testament, Reformed Theology, Systematic Theology, Theology Matters



This series on the Angel of the Lord comes from material I initially taught at our church, GRBC (Owensboro). Throughout our studies in biblical theology, we saw time and time again how the Lord Jesus Christ is in the Old Testament. He is the main character of the OT Scriptures. Most of our studies focused on how Christ is in the OT prophetically and typologically. Both in the types and shadows and in specific prophecies the OT points forward to the time when Christ would come in the flesh. But He is not just promised and patterned in the OT; He is also present. He is not just anticipated but He is also active.


Because He is the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus is there as Yahweh, the God of Israel. He is there in theophanies to Israel (such as the glory cloud). But in this study, I want us to see that He is also there as the mysterious character of the Angel of the LORD to protect and deliver Israel in all of their troubles.


And He reveals Himself as the Angel of the LORD, not just every now and then but throughout the Scriptures, especially at very important times in the history of Israel. In fact, I do not think it is an overstatement to say that virtually all Old Testament history is directed and controlled by this mysterious yet glorious Messenger of God.


Doug Van Dorn and Matt Foreman in their book entitled The Angel of the LORD state His importance in this way: “In fact, we think the ‘Angel of the LORD’ is the most important and central figure in the Old Testament, the most frequent way God is revealed, and appears way more often than most people realize. The storyline of the Bible from the Old Testament to the New is about him.”


I believe this study will be beneficial to us for several reasons:

  • First, it will further solidify for us that the OT is a Trinitarian document through and through.
  • Second, it will help us better understand how God spoke to His people in the OT.
  • Third, it will expand our understanding of how Jesus is on every page of the OT.
  • Fourth, it will open our eyes wider to the glorious fact that Jesus has always been the Mediator and Savior of His people, even in the OT.
  • Fifth, it will show us that God becoming a man at the incarnation was a brand-new thing but should not have been completely unexpected for those who knew the OT Scriptures well.


Overall, I hope this study enlightens our minds and opens our eyes to the glory of our Savior. As Alfred Edersheim says, “We cannot conceive any subject more profitable, or likely to be fraught with greater blessing than reverently to follow the footsteps of the Angel of Jehovah through the Old Testament.” 


I want to structure this study by asking and answering four questions about the Angel of the LORD:


I.) What Does the Angel of the LORD Mean?

II.) Where is the Angel of the LORD Found?

III.) Who is the Angel of the LORD?

IV.) Why is the Angel of the LORD Important?


What Does the Angel of the LORD Mean?


The Hebrew word for “angel” (Malak) simply means a messenger. For our purposes, this is a messenger of Yahweh/the LORD. It is one who has been commissioned by God and sent out by God to carry out various tasks on His behalf. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states the tasks of a messenger are: “1) to carry a message, 2) to perform some other specific commission, and 3) to represent more or less officially the one sending him.”


The OT tells us about three different kinds of “angels” or messengers of the LORD.


There are human messengers of the LORD.


The prophets are called the messengers of God. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 says, “15The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. 16But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against His people until there was no remedy.” The prophet Haggai is specifically called “the angel/messenger of the LORD” in Haggai 1:13: “Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, ‘I am with you, declares the LORD.’”


The priests are also called the messengers of the LORD. Malachi 2:7 says, “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”


There are heavenly messengers of the LORD.


This is what we normally think of when we hear the word “angel”. This kind of messenger is a supernatural being sent out by God from heaven to accomplish His will.


Psalm 91:11: For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.


Psalm 103:20: Bless the LORD, O you His angels, you mighty ones who do His word, obeying the voice of His word!


There is the special, divine Messenger of the LORD.


Although there are myriads of angels of the LORD, there is only one called “The Angel of the LORD”. The OT usually refers to Him when it speaks of a single “Malak” or messenger, especially under the designation “angel of the LORD” or “angel of God”. This is the messenger we want to focus our attention on in this study. As we will see, He is not a human nor an angelic messenger. Instead, He is a messenger in a category all His own!


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God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

Job mocks the repetitive irrelevance of the presentations of his comforters. He particularly derides the speech of Bildad for his restatement of the obvious that God is more powerful than his creatures. With seething sarcasm, Job quips, “How you have helped him who has no power!” Just telling me that God is stronger than I is neither enlightening nor particularly insightful in expanding our understanding of the ways of God with his creatures.

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