The Glory of the Angel of the Lord

by:  Lonnie Lane

Judaism says it is impossible to see God. He has a voice, but He cannot be seen. The edict to not make any graven images or idols (Exodus 20:4) is extended to a fear of portraying or even thinking of God as being visible or having a form. Lest you think that’s only in the Old Testament, the New Covenant says the same thing: “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18), “Not that anyone has seen the Father” (John 6:46), or as we love to sing, “To the King eternal, immortal, invisible….” (1 Tim. 1:17), to name just a few such verses. Sid has interviewed several persons who have been to heaven and report that they have seen God. He may be cloaked in light beyond what is almost incomprehensible to us who live in this fallen world, but He is “seeable,” at least in heaven. He is not just a voice.

...God made it clear Moses was incapable of enduring the power of His presence...

Moses wanted to see God in His glory but God made it clear Moses was incapable of enduring the power of His presence that would come from seeing His face. Having had but a miniscule experience myself with God’s glory for no more than thirty seconds or so, I can attest that, not seeing Him but just experiencing the power of His presence is enough to cause us to feel as if we would die or explode into a million pieces from the radiating power, even the power of joy. We couldn’t contain or endure the power of His presence in these fallen bodies, even if our spirits are ‘saved.’

Well then, what about verses that seem to indicate that YHVH was physically present, that He made Himself known by manifesting His presence?  (Please note before we go on, that where our English Bibles have LORD in caps, if you were reading it in Hebrew it would read as YHVH which is pronounced as Yehovah. Please see my article “Pronouncing YHVH” for further explanation.) Consider these verses: “Then Yehovah appeared to Abraham…,” (Genesis 12:7) or “The word (of) Yehovah came to Abraham in a vision...(17:1). If it was a vision, Abraham must have seen something, not just heard Yehovah, right?  Or how about this one:  “Now Yehovah appeared to him (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by”(18:1-3).

One of the three men was Yehovah! The other two are identified as angels: “Then the two angels came to Sodom…” (19:1). Yet the three of them were referred to as “men.”  When Abraham saw Him, it reads as if he recognized Him, having seen Him before. He jumps up and quickly runs to him, bowing down and calling Him “Lord.”  The Hebrew word for “bow down” is the primary Hebrew word for “worship” and the word “Lord” is the one most often used when speaking to or about Yehovah. If you read through Genesis 18, it sounds like a conversation between two who already know each other, not like Abraham is speaking to a total stranger.

But then it goes on and we have further evidence of this “man” being Yehovah: “Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The Lord (Yehovah) said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him…(:16-19a, my emphases). Who else chose Abraham through whom He would bless all the nations of the earth but Yehovah Himself? No one else owns that statement. The conclusion is clear that one of these “men” was Yehovah and the one Israel worshipped as Lord. And Yehovah was revealing what He would do to Sodom.

There are many other instances in the Tenach (Old Testament) in which Yehovah reveals Himself as a Man, almost always as the Angel of the Lord. But whenever the Angel of the Lord comes on the scene in the Tenach He always looks like a man, and He speaks in the first person, saying “I” when announcing what only God in His sovereignty can do. In Genesis 16 when Hagar fled from Sarah, the Angel of the Lord found her. It mentions “Angel of the Lord” four times in that story and He speaks to her speaking as if He was God: “Moreover, the angel  of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count”(16:10), speaking of Ishmael descendants. God involved Himself in what was happening. Let’s not miss the magnitude of that. In every instance the Almighty cares what happens, enough to enter the story and be a part of it.

Do you remember the story of Balaam and the donkey that proved to be more spiritual than Balaam? It’s almost comical except for the gravity of Balaam’s sin. Yahweh was angry with Balaam and sought to stop him from going to curse Israel.

But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. The angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD  standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground…. The angel of the LORD said to him, “… Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. (Numbers 22:22-32, my emphases).

Imagine, even the donkey bowed to the angel of the Lord. But when Balaam was intended to curse Israel, he was acting against or contrary not to an angel, but against the Lord Himself. No angel would have been an adversary to anyone unless acting under God’s orders because the person had been “contrary” to God. The story actually mentions “the angel of the Lord” ten times. Cursing Israel was enough to bring Yehovah Himself on the scene to let Balaam know how “contrary” (opposite) this was to God’s will. He stopped the curse from taking place. There’s a lesson in this. Don’t curse Israel or speak or plan for Israel’s destruction or you are acting “contrary” to God’s will even today and there will be consequences. Oh, that the world would know that today. 

How about the story of Gideon? No one to my knowledge made a good movie out of Gideon’s story. It’s such a great story for special effects. Gideon, if you remember, is such a wimp with all the violence going on around him from their enemies that he’s hiding in a wine press to beat out his wheat. Or, maybe he was being clever and wise because he caught the Yehovah’s attention. The angel of the Lord comes to him and lets him know He has chosen him to lead Israel’s army against the Midianites. No small task. He is understandably afraid. Gideon needs some proof that Yehovah is really asking this of him and will be with him. He asks if he can bring an offering of a meal to the angel which he does. Then, “the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” (Judges 6:20-22).

When Gideon uttered that last statement, having realized who He actually was, he was terrified because he thought he would die, having seen Yehovah face to face. The Lord’s response to him calmed his fear when “the LORD said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD (Yehovah) and named it the Lord is peace (Yehovah Shalom)” (:23, 24).

So what is the meaning to us that we see that Yehovah appeared as the angel of the Lord in the form of a Man many times to Israel in what has been termed a pre-incarnate Yeshua appearing to them. What are we to learn about our wonderful God from this? Well, He’s involved. He’s very present. He’s right there. He’s not aloof and waaaay up there, watching from afar. He’s not only physically on the scene but He appears to be emotionally present. He cares. And He has plans for what will come about. For instance, He’s very aware of Abraham’s longing for a child but He also knows that when He’s about to do something very significant in the affairs of mankind, He often sets apart a son even before he is conceived to announce that he will fulfill God’s greatest purposes in his life. That was true for Isaac and Jacob, both of whom were born of mothers whose wombs God had kept closed so that when each child was conceived it was with prayer and awareness that God would have had to do it. The same with Joseph whom Rachel finally bore after her sister and their handmaidens bore ten sons to Jacob. Samson was another one to whose parents the angel of the Lord appeared to announce his birth (Judges 13).

The two significant births in the New Covenant were miraculous as well, but in both cases, since Yeshua was about to be born as a person, the announcement of Yeshua’s birth, preceded by John the Immerser’s, both supernatural conceptions, were made by “the angel Gabriel sent by God” (Luke 1:19 and :26-38), who, significantly, is never called the angel of the Lord, nor does he speak in the first person. He does speak for God though, introducing himself and saying things like,  “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news”(1:19). And we are well aware of Gabriel’s visit to Miriam (Mary) to tell her “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (:30-32). Could any more miraculous words be spoken or amazing thing be done? 

Yeshua had to have been a baby in order to become 100% human, the only way He could have been the sinless atonement (because God Himself can’t die.) It was necessary that He live out a sinless life as well in order to show us what the life of someone lived entirely in and for God looks like and that it’s possible under the power of the Holy Spirit. He further revealed as a Man what it is to live in complete accordance with Torah, especially the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5), to which we could add, “and with your whole body and blood,” couldn’t we? 

...Yehovah was never the impersonal God who distances Himself from mankind.

But back to the appearance of Yeshua as the angel of the Lord to Israel at various times, these instances reveal to us that Yehovah was never the impersonal God who distances Himself from mankind. He knows exactly when to come; His timing is impeccable, arriving at the precise moment in history when intervention from God is needed. He was in the bush when Moses noticed it burning (Exodus 3) and even though some time later on the mountain Moses was not permitted to see His face, he did see His back which indicates that He had the form of a man (33:18-23). It is likely that Moses was in such proximity to God’s immediate presence on the mountain that to see His face would have meant his destruction. Yeshua evidently has the ability to mask His glory and to reveal Himself apart from His power and glory which would be more than we could take. Moses got as close to His glory as humanly possible and it reflected on his own face: “It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him” (Ex. 24:29-30). 

Some have thought that when Moses saw His back he saw the stripes Yeshua suffered, even though in time it hadn’t happened yet. But Yeshua was crucified before the foundation of the earth was laid and He as God dwells outside of time and space and after His resurrection He still bore the scars of the cross still on His hands, feet and sides: “Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side” (John 20:19,20), it is possible that Moses had more understanding than He spoke of. Perhaps some of the glory on his face that shown so brightly is because of having seen the glory of Yeshua’s atonement on His back. Maybe he understood the deeper meaning behind the animal sacrifices, that they were but types and shadows of what would one day come to pass when the angel of the Lord He saw in the burning bush or met on the mountain became a Man and gave Himself for the salvation of the world. We can only speculate.

One thing we can know, that the angel of the Lord was the Son of God manifesting Himself to Israel. He is the God of love who watches over His people and who is fully involved in what He is bringing to pass in the affairs of mankind. As He is the same always, He is the God who is Israel’s defender and protector and opposes those who act contrary to Him with regard to Israel and otherwise, though He is patient “not wishing for any to perish” (2 Peter 3:9). As He came as the angel of the Lord to turn history in a direction of His purposes, He is still very much involved even if behind the scenes in the affairs of mankind, though it may appear as if we are driving history and men are running the show. There have been numerous people who have had Yeshua come to them as He is now as Lord of all, though again with minimal glory so they can bear His presence. He changes things when He appears. And one day, when He finally appears in all His glory, He will change the earth, the world and everything in it. And all will know that despite the plans and intentions of men and nations, the world was, is and always will be His.

Note: For more on Yeshua in the Tenach, refer to “Who Ate Lunch With Abraham” by Asher Intrater.

Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision,, 2012. 


Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.



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