(Lengthy post warning!)
I have many favorite Bible stories. But, one of the stories that is right up there at the top of my “Favorites List” is found in Luke 24:13-35.
It’s a wonderful story about two disciples who were leaving Jerusalem on the Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead. All they knew was that the tomb was empty. They hadn’t heard from the ladies who had seen Jesus. They hadn’t heard from the apostles who had seen him. They were confused and saddened.
But, then Jesus caught up to them as they walked on the road. They were kept from recognizing Him as He engaged them in conversation. To encourage their hearts and inform their minds, He began to talk about the Old Testament and how it all pointed to the Messiah.
Luke 24:27 “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
“Moses and the Prophets” or “the Law and the Prophets” was the way first century Jews referred to what we now call the Old Testament. And Luke 24:27 tells us that Jesus went to ALL of the Scriptures and explained how they point to Him.
In other words, Jesus was on every page of the Old Testament.
As Jesus took them to the Scriptures and revealed truths to them that they had never seen before, they were captivated! They loved it! He was teaching them things that they hadn’t seen before. But, He was making perfect sense. He was opening the Bible up to them in a way that was so enjoyable! (I would have loved to have listened in on that conversation!)
In fact, after their conversation with Jesus and His departure, they described how they felt as He taught them…
Luke 24:32 “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?'”
It! Was! Amazing!!!
Some contemporary Christians may not realize that Jesus is talked about often on the pages of the Old Testament. They may erroneously believe that the Old Testament is completely disconnected from Him; that He didn’t arrive on the scene until Bethlehem.
Well, friend, if this is what you think, I would encourage you to keep reading. I want to show you that He’s EVERYWHERE in the Old Testament!
While He’s not mentioned in the recounting of Creation in Genesis 1-2, we are told in the New Testament that He is the One who created it all (see John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17).
In fact, we could look at Genesis 3:15 and realize that it is the first prophecy about Jesus.
Then we could skip to Genesis 14 and realize that Melchizedek was an Old Testament illustration of Jesus (see Hebrews 7).
But, I want to spend the remained of this post revealing the times that Jesus actually spoke in the Old Testament. I am currently reading (studying!) through my Bible again with the intention of finishing it in a year. One of the four biblical books I’m currently reading through is Genesis and I’ve made it to chapter 32.
From Genesis 1-32, I have already observed six(!) separate occasions when Jesus met with or spoke with Old Testament men and women.
Does that surprise you? Have you never observed that Jesus spoke with Hagar twice and then met with Abraham and Jacob on four separate occasions?
Well then you are in for a treat, my friend!
With Hagar the First Time She Was Sent Away
Genesis 16 tells us of how Abraham and Sarah tried to help God. They had received a promise from God that they would have a son … but Sarah was far past child-bearing age and every attempt to have a child before had failed.
So, Sarah encouraged Abraham to have sex with her servant, Hagar. (The Scripture certainly doesn’t condone this sin. It simply tells it the way it happened.) After this encounter, we are told that “when she (Hagar) saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress (Sarah)” (Genesis 16:4). Sarah despised being treated in this way so she demanded that Abraham get rid of Hagar.
Now, I’m about to show you some verses in this story. It talks about “the angel of the Lord” but you need to remember an important principle.
Principle: In the Old Testament, when it says “THE angel of the Lord” (instead of “AN angel of the Lord”), it’s talking about a particular messenger (the Hebrew word for “angel” literally means “messenger.”) It has been my observation that when this phrase is used, it is talking about Jesus. Jesus is NOT an angel but He is certainly “the messenger of the Lord.” The definitive proof of who this messenger is will be discovered by looking at the context.
So, let’s look at the following verses and see if the context gives us a clue that the “angel” (literally, “messenger”) is Jesus. I will underline the portions of the text I want you to pay careful attention to. I believe you will see that it was Jesus who was talking to Hagar.
Genesis 16:7-13 “The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel of the LORD also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’ And the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.’ So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’“
Did you notice that “the angel of the Lord” said “I will surely multiply your offspring”? He claimed the right and ability to make a great nation out of Hagar’s descendants. This is the kind of promise that angels have no authority to make. Only God makes this kind of promise (see Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6).
Did you also notice the very last verse where it says “she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her”? The writer of Genesis said the LORD spoke to her, not a mere angel.
So, God spoke to her but it was “the angel(messenger) of the Lord” and not the Lord. Who is God’s messenger to us? Jesus!
With Abraham on the Plains of Mamre
In Genesis 18, we don’t have to do nearly as much work. It’s right in the text. God showed up to Abraham in bodily form (Jesus). I will underline the portions of the text I want you to pay careful attention to.
Genesis 18:1-3 “And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, ‘O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.'”
We are told that three “men” came to visit Abraham. However, the first verse tells us who one of the men was – it was the LORD. So, if the Lord is in bodily form, which person of the Trinity is He? Jesus, of course (see John 1:1,14).
It also becomes clear that Scripture is clear that one of these men is the Lord because it keeps referring to Him that way. Just look at vs. 10.
Genesis 18:10 “The LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.'”
Then, the two men take off and leave the Lord (Jesus) with Abraham.
Genesis 18:22 “So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.”
Clearly, the third man is the Lord in bodily form. This is Jesus.
But what about those other two men? Who were they? The very first verse of the very next chapter answers this question.
Genesis 19:1 “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening…”
The three men who initially showed up to visit with Abraham were two angels who accompanied the Son of God.
With Hagar the Second Time She Was Sent Away
When we get to Genesis 21, we realize that Hagar had made her way back to Abraham’s care. However, even though it was Sarah’s initial idea for Abraham to have a child by her servant, it was a horrible sin and a great source of bitterness for Sarah.
As we saw earlier (Genesis 16), Sarah wanted Hagar to be sent away. Now that we are in Genesis 21 which occurred 13 years (or a little longer) later. Sarah now wants Hagar gone (again) because of the way Ishmael is looking down on Isaac.
Genesis 21:9 (NLT) “But Sarah saw Ishmael – the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar – making fun of her son, Isaac.”
Abraham gave Hagar some bread and water and sent her away. It wasn’t long before the sun was beating down and the water ran out. Hagar had her son, who was dying of thirst, lay under a bush as she walked to another spot. She didn’t want to see him die.
Genesis 21:15-16 “When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, ‘Let me not look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.”
Where would the answer come from? Who would reach out to help them?
Read the next three verses. It’s pretty incredible.
Genesis 21:17-19 “And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.”
God heard the teenager’s cries and Jesus stepped in to help.
Once again, the one who goes by the title, “the angel (messenger) of the God” claims the right and ability to make Ishmael into a great nation. No angel has that right and ability. It’s clearly God the Son (Jesus) talking.
With Abraham on Mt. Moriah
This chapter plays out on a mountaintop in Canaan. Something unspeakably profound happened there.
Genesis 22:1-2 “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'”
What?! Why in the world would God call a man to kill his own son? It flies in the face of everything we know about God. It even violates one of the 10 Commandments: “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).
But, there were at least two things that God was doing in this chapter:
- God was doing divine surgery in Abraham’s heart. It seems that Abraham had started to cherish the gift more than the Giver. So, God had to reclaim His rightful place in the heart of the one who is the father of all who are followers of the Lord (Romans 4:16). The divine scalpel was always intended for Abraham’s heart, never Isaac’s.
- God was providing a powerful picture of what He would eventually do by sacrificing His own Son on the cross. The place where Abraham was called to offer up Isaac was on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:1-2). This is the precise place where Solomon built the Temple of God (2 Chronicles 3:1)! This Temple was eventually destroyed and rebuilt – and it would be the place where our Heavenly Father offered up His own Son on our behalf. Wouldn’t it be incredible if Jesus was a part of this Old Testament story?!
Let’s get back to Genesis 22. Abraham had bound his son, Isaac, and placed him on the altar. Moments before Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son’s chest, Abraham is stopped by a voice. Listen!
Genesis 22:11-18 “But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide‘; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’ And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
I really don’t have to explain it, do I? You see it. It’s clear. “The angel (messenger) of the Lord” is clearly Jesus.
And isn’t it powerful that Jesus, who is the Son of God, would eventually be crucified on this mountain by His Father (see Romans 8:32; Isaiah 53:10; etc.) is the One who stopped another father from taking the life of his own son?
With Jacob in Haran
Because of family discord that Jacob had been a part of, he had left his dad, mom, and brother behind 20 years earlier. During those 20 years, he had obtained two wives (the Bible doesn’t condone it, it just states it the way things were) and a lot of wealth.
But, Jacob began to hear that people were talking behind his back and undermining him, even those who he should have been able to trust. God made it clear that it was time to leave.
Genesis 31:1-3 “Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, ‘Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.’ And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.'”
So Jacob called his wives for a meeting. He told Leah and Rachel why he about about to leave with everyone and everything he had obtained during those 20 years. He talked of the injustice and mistreatment he had endured from Laban.
But, he didn’t simply tell them what he thought. He told them of a dream he had in which the Lord had spoken to him. By now, you are realizing that “the angel of the Lord” is virtually always talking about Jesus, the messenger of the Lord. It couldn’t be more clear in the dream that Jacob had.
Genesis 31:11-13 “Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.'”
Clearly, “the angel of God” claims that he is “the God of Bethel.” Yep. We’re talking about Jesus.
With Jacob by the Jabbok River
As Jacob traveled back to his relatives in the land of Canaan, he heard that his brother, Esau, was coming and had 400 men with him. Immediately, terror came into Jacob’s heart. He suspected that Esau was still livid about Jacob’s deception and theft of their father’s blessing with all of its rights and privileges.
So, Jacob split his people and possessions into groups. One group after the other. The idea behind this action was that if Esau attacked the first group, it will give those behind it time to scatter. (I suspect that those who Jacob placed in the first group never got over the fact that he valued them so little. HA)
That night, Jacob couldn’t sleep. He was afraid and extremely anxious. So, what did he do? He wrestled with Jesus … literally!
This time, Jesus isn’t referred to as the angel (messenger) of God. He is simply referred to as a man.
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’
But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’
And he said, ‘Jacob.’
Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’
Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’
But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’
And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”
Pretty clear, isn’t it? Jacob clearly knew that he was wrestling with God. But, it was God in the form of a man (a.k.a. Jesus).
Friend, when you are reading the Bible, look for Jesus! Whether you are reading in the New Testament or in the Old Testament that speaks of events hundreds and even thousands of years before Jesus arrived in Bethlehem, look for Jesus. He’s there!
Maybe He will show up in bodily form like He did with Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15) or in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25). Or maybe an Old Testament writer will prophetically say the same things that Jesus would say (Psalm 22). Or maybe an Old Testament prophet will speak in such a way that it was clearly Jesus being talked about (Isaiah 53).
The possibilities are endless. I just hope that you will notice that Jesus didn’t come onto the scene in Bethlehem. He has always existed as part of the Trinity and was incredibly active in the lives of Old Testament saints.
He’s on virtually every page of the Old Testament. So as you read, look for Him.