Turning, finally, to the book of Zechariah we find the angel of the Lord mentioned in several instances. In Zechariah 1, the prophet had a vision in which an angel explained the meaning of what he had seen. An interesting detail is added, however, for the text says, “and they [riders on the horses] reported to the angel of the Lord” (v. 1). Following their report, the angel of the Lord converses with the Lord Almighty and pleads for mercy to be shown to Jerusalem and the “towns of Judah” (v. 12). Apparently God hearkened to this angel’s plea, for we read, “So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me” (v. 13). From this we can deduce that the angel of the Lord is superior to the angel who reported to him and that the prayer of the angel of the Lord is effective with God. The angel of the Lord then commands Zechariah to proclaim the word of the Lord. He gives his command as though God is speaking: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am jealous for Jerusalem and Zion’” (v. 14). We see, then, that the angel of the Lord is separate from and distinct from God and yet speaks as God. It appears, therefore, that the will of the angel of the Lord and the will of the Lord Almighty are one and the same. Thus, the angel of the Lord is more than an ordinary angel and may be considered God’s equal.
In Zechariah 3, we find “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan” (v. 1). We read that the Lord rebuked Satan (v. 2). It is likely that this rebuke was administered through the mouth of the angel of the Lord, for when Joshua’s clothes are changed and he and his fellow priests are recommissioned, it is the angel of the Lord who gives the charge to Joshua (vv. 6–7). Again we observe here that the angel of the Lord speaks as God would in giving this charge. We once again see the angel as God’s equal. Can He be considered other than the second person of the Godhead, the pre-incarnate Christ? Evidently not. That is why the church has always regarded Him as such.
In Zechariah 12, the Lord is portrayed as coming to “save the dwellings of Judah” (v. 7). It is God who will deliver Judah and Jerusalem from all their enemies. He will deliver them by means of the house of David with “the angel of God going before them” (v. 8). Once again we note that the same angel of the Lord who led Israel through the desert and into the Promised Land is now going to lead them to victory in the day of God’s intervention. “On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem” (v. 9). God’s angel is one with the Lord Almighty in caring for, delivering, and saving His people. Thus, we can believe that the angel of the Lord is truly God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Lord Almighty Himself.
Some of the things we can learn from this study of the angel of the Lord assure us of the following:
1. He did things that only God can do. Thus, for example, He promised to greatly increase Hagar’s descendants (Gen. 16:9).
2. He acted as God and made promises which only God can make. So, for example, He halted Abraham’s upraised arm in readiness to slay Isaac and then swore by Himself to “make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky” (Gen. 22:17). He also promised an earthly possession and that Abraham’s offspring would bless all nations (Gen. 22:17–18). If this angel of the Lord were not God’s equal, then these promises would be blasphemous.
3. The angel of the Lord clearly identified Himself as God when He told Jacob that He is “the God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13).
4. The angel of the Lord showed Himself to be one with God when He appeared to Moses “in flames of fire from within a bush” (Exod. 3:2). Yet when Moses approached the burning bush, He spoke as God and identified Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6).
5. The angel of the Lord is said to have fought for Israel when “in front of Israel’s army” (Exod. 14:19) and then positioned Himself between Israel and the pursuing Egyptians so that Israel could go forward in light while darkness pervaded Israel’s rear and the pursuing Egyptian army. Thus, the Lord fought for Israel against Egypt (Exod. 14:25).
6. The angel of the Lord and God Himself often alternate speaking as though they are one and the same. Thus, in Judges 6:11–24 we find in verse 12 that the angel of the Lord is speaking, while in verse 14 it is the Lord speaking. Similarly, in verse 16 the Lord is speaking to Gideon while in verse 20 it is the angel of the Lord who tells Gideon how to offer his sacrifice to the Lord. Surely the Lord and the angel of the Lord are one and the same here.
7. To see the angel of the Lord is the same as seeing God Himself. When Manoah realized that he and his wife had been visited by the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “We are doomed to die! We have seen God” (Judg. 13:22). No words could make this identity any plainer.
Unfortunately, those religious sects which deny God as a triune God also deny the revelation of the angel of the Lord as the second person of the holy Trinity. Our study does not deal with these conflicting beliefs. Our intent is only to show what we see Scripture revealing about this particular angel. We believe this study supports the accepted view of the church in general.
In none of the places where the angel of the Lord is mentioned do we find anything that would contradict the above findings. In fact, our examination of the various texts only adds cumulative evidence to the truth that the angel of the Lord is one with God, yet distinct from Him. We are reminded of the truth found in John’s Gospel about the Word. The Word is distinct from God, yet shares the divine attributes of God, and in time becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ (John 1:1–2, 14). We, therefore, conclude that Scripture portrays the angel of the Lord in such a way as to reveal Him as the eternal Word who later took on our human nature and became one with humanity. In the Old Testament the eternal Word often made His pre-incarnate appearances to God’s people under the guise of the angel of the Lord. In short, we may say that the appearances of the angel of the Lord reveal the loving care of the Son of God for the church He would someday come to redeem with His precious blood.
All praise be to God for His wonderful care for His people through the angel of the Lord!Dr. Harry Arnold is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church and lives in Portage, MI. He is a member of Grace Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, MI.