“The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God” (Judges 13:21-22).
Have you ever wondered about the appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament, manifested as the, “Angel of the Lord?” These pre-incarnation appearances of God are referred to in theology as “Theophanies.” And though many people don’t pay much attention to these manifestations, or ignore them because they seem mysterious or confusing, there is actually an important reason why theophanies should not be ignored. They are a precursor to the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ pre-incarnation appearances are indications that he would someday be incarnated, that is, that he would become a man, permanently. They should be seen as a “Look ahead,” if you will, to what he was going to do. But they also tell us that God wanted to interact with man as if he were part of his creation. Consider this brief passage in Genesis 3:8, “[Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” The implication is that Jesus was in the garden, enjoying his creation as if he was part of that creation. This is implied by the phrase, “Cool of the day.” Who doesn’t like a garden walk when the sun is out and there are cool breezes?
This tells us how much in common we have with our Creator. Just as we experience life, he wants to experience life with us, even alongside us.
You and I have the advantage of hindsight. The writers of the Old Testament tried to look ahead to discover the meaning of these things. Peter said as much in I Peter 1:10-12, “The prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
There’s no need to be confused about things like Old Testament theophanies. What was written in scripture is there for our benefit, that with a little searching, we can discover what God wants us to know about himself.
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they foretold the things now announced by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” (I Peter 1:12).
Thank God today for the ways he has revealed himself in scripture and to you.