To Become Our Friend
The Bible, even on an iPhone, is the apostolic and prophetic Word. God speaks to His people. He wants to touch our lives in meaningful ways. Why? We don’t know. However, having created speaking creatures, we read, the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. We know, only because He makes it known, that He wants our friendship. (Psalm 25:14)
Since the dawn of creation, the Triune God chose to make Himself known to His own. In John 17, Jesus says, I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me…. All mine are yours, and yours are mine….
People claim to know God through Creation. That’s true, but creation tells just so much, by analogy, of God’s power and glory. His self-revelation in Creation is known to all creatures (Psalm 19).
It also shows His righteousness, but not much else. What Creation teaches is hardly a foundation for friendship. It says nothing of His gentleness, mercy or love. It does not preach grace. …thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob:… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” God must speak to tell us of His plan to redeem us, to show that He is that kind of God (Psalm 50:6, Isaiah 43:1).
So how does God, a Spirit, communicate this message of Himself? He has no mouth! Yet, throughout history, God gradually increased people’s collective knowledge of Himself. We know that, in the New Testament, He ultimately sends the Son and the Holy Spirit on a great mission to communicate salvation.
What about the time between Genesis 1 and Matthew 1? God created means by which to express Himself. A number of Old Testament characters encountered a mysterious Being called the Angel of the Lord. Abraham was one such character. Through encounters with this Angel, Abraham became God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23).
We might have expected that the Angel of the Lord would make His first appearance to Abraham. Not so. He first appeared to an outcast slave woman. We might well ask, “God wants to make friends with her? Why her?” People questioned Jesus’ choice of friends, too. Hagar is about to give birth to Abraham’s first son Ishmael. Pregnant and pushed out, she is desperate. The Angel comes to her. Here is her story retold:
Part 1: In Genesis, the first time the Angel of the LORD turns up is when Hagar runs away from home. There is, of course, a back story. Abraham and his wife Sarah have no children. Sarah is now well past child-bearing age. She has the bright idea that if Abraham sleeps with her slave girl Hagar and they have a baby, they could adopt the baby and it would be theirs. It worked, but Sarah is not happy with the results. In a society where barren women are shamed, Hagar gets a bit uppity. Eventually, Sarah comes down on her like a ton of bricks. Hagar runs away into the desert.
She’s distraught. She’s alone and she feels absolutely abandoned, with not a friend in the world. She knows she is pregnant. She doesn't know what her future will be. Then the Angel of the LORD comes to her and He strengthens her for the ordeal of going back home. He promises her, I will multiply your offspring. You are going to be the mother of a great nation.
After listening to the Angel of the LORD, she responds by calling Him the Divine Name – ‘the LORD’ – and then gives Him another name – The God of Seeing, because He had found her and had seen her condition. God cares. He came to her in her darkest hour. He saw her. He acted.
Not only that, but this LORD had the power of a sonogram. He told her that the baby would be a boy. So there was yet another reason to call Him “the God of Seeing.” After He leaves, she asks herself, Have I really seen him who sees me? What a remarkable thing it would be to see the LORD!
Part 2: The Angel of the LORD leaves Hagar. He goes where we might have expected Him in the first place – to Abraham, His friend. He informs Abraham that it was the LORD who has spoken to Hagar. The LORD visited her and the LORD promised her things about Ishmael. While speaking to Abraham, God makes no distinction between Himself and the Angel Hagar saw.
So that’s the first appearance of this mysterious Being anywhere in Scripture. The Angel of the LORD arrives and leaves – and people are left puzzled. When He talks, He talks as if He is God. When He talks about God, He speaks as if God were different from Himself, distinct from Himself. Yet when people meet Him, they think it is the LORD whom they have met.
Which is it? Is it the invisible God? Is it the visible Angel? What is going on in this story?
God, eager to reach out to His people, to draw them into friendship with Himself, had created a means by which He could speak – the Angel of the Lord.
This story came from the audio series TRINITY: The Eternally Divine Son. Those messages are based on the first chapter of Hebrews, delivered in the Fall of 2016 by Liam Goligher, Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia.