Appearances of Christ in the O.T. (1): Adam and Hagar

Appearances of Christ in the O.T. (1): Adam and Hagar

Appearances of Christ in the O.T. (1): Adam and Hagar.

There were many times in the Hebrew Bible when God appeared in bodily form as a man. But can Yahweh be seen that way? Can one visibly witness a sighting of God face-to-face? There are a couple of reason why this contradicts Scripture:

  • God is a Spirit (John 4:24). One can’t see a Spirit. A Spirit is formless, shapeless, and basically invisible. The Spirit is more like a wind and can’t be encountered visibly;
  • We cannot actually see God and survive the experience (Exodus 33;20; John 1:18). God is a consuming fire of purity and light and unimaginable substance. God burns too hot for personal human experience.

So when people in the Old Testament state that they have seen God, what have they literally seen? Early Church theologians, and numerous Biblical scholars since, have believed that when God is in visible form, the truth is that Christ has made an appearance. Every physical appearance of God is a revelation of Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate form. There is a particular character who flits in and out of the Hebrew Bible, the Angel of Yahweh also known as the Angel of God, the Angel of the Lord, the Messenger of Yahweh, or the Angel of His Presence. It is widely accepted in Biblical scholarship that this mysterious Angel is none other than the bodily appearance of Jesus Christ. The Deity of Jesus is clearly portrayed in His role of Angelic Messenger, God’s special representative that speaks God’s mind and performs His will. “The Angel of the Lord is the visible Lord God of the O.T., as Jesus Christ was of the N.T.” (Amplified notes). It’s interesting to consider that once Jesus was born, there is no more mention of the Angel of Yahweh, after having a dominating presence in stories of the O.T.

When is it safe to say we might assume that Christ made an appearance in the Hebrew Bible? There are several signs that point to the presence of Jesus:

  • Did the Angel do or say anything that is normally associated with God?
  • Did the persons involved claim that they had seen God?
  • Was there a response of worship on the part of the witnesses?
  • Was there anything miraculous in the appearance?
  • Were there any traits of God demonstrated?

That the Angel of Yahweh is an uncreated angel, distinguished from other angels, and in many places identified with the Lord God is undeniable. On the other hand there are passages in which He seems to be distinguished from God the Father. The simplest way of reconciling these two classes is to adopt the old view that this Angel is Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, even at that early period appearing as the revealer of the Father.” (Lange’s Commentary).

As we study the exciting appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament, or Christophanies as they are called, note the qualities of Jesus that are displayed in the various contexts. Jesus has many roles in the O.T.: Deliverer, Judge, Sustainer, Redeemer, Revealer. This incomparable Messenger from heaven, this Angel of Yahweh, is God in the form of God’s Son before His incarnation. “There is a fascinating forecast of the coming Messiah, breaking through the dimness with amazing consistency, at intervals from Genesis to Malachi, Abraham and Moses, the slave girl of Hagar, the impoverished farmer Gideon, even the humble parents of Samson, had seen and talked with Him centuries before the herald angels proclaimed His birth in Bethlehem.” (Cambridge Bible).

In discussing the many Christophanies, the highly debatable sightings of Jesus will not be mentioned, for example the question if Melchizedek was actually Christ. Also, appearances in visions or dreams will not be covered, since there were no actual physical appearances. Examples of that would be Zechariah 1, or Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man in Daniel 7. There is no question that the Son of Man was Jesus in Daniel’s vision. But Jesus didn’t personally make an appearance. Since some of the following in this series might be debatable, I will try to make the case for Jesus when it seems appropriate.

Jesus In The Garden of Eden. We believe that Jesus was a Co-Creator of the world, and so He certainly was evident in the original creation. Jesus made an appearance even if it wasn’t evident to anyone else. “By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth… All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16). “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:3).  But after the initial creation, He demonstrated another act of love. He descended into His creation and sought to have fellowship with Adam and Eve. This would be like a master painter, after having finished his work of art, jumping into the painting and interacting with the characters in the painting. Out of love, God created mankind. Then out of love, God became involved with mankind. God extended Himself into a personal relationship with Adam and Eve in the Garden.

In Genesis 3, God is pictured strolling in the Garden in the cool of the day, the evening breeze making everything comfortable for His regular interactions with Adam and Eve. They heard the sound of His walking in the Garden, and they hid themselves among the trees. God seemed to miss their expected meeting and looked for them. Adam and Eve finally revealed to God that they heard His voice and fearfully hid from Him. They were naked and ashamed of themselves for the entrance of sin into the universe. So who was Adam and Eve talking with in the Garden? God, in the form of a man? They certainly weren’t walking and talking with a formless spirit, or a pillar of cloud. They weren’t interacting with the fiery flame of a consuming fire. They were instead having personal fellowship in the flesh, with a man, friend to friend. There was an audible sound of God walking, and His presence was found among the trees. They enjoyed human interaction with actual words, a primordial language of some sort. Adam and Eve had a friend in the Garden, and that friend was Jesus Christ. This is the first time Jesus made an appearance in the Hebrew Bible. God in the form of a man, having fellowship with Adam and Eve. This wasn’t the last time Jesus would make an appearance, not by a long shot.

Jesus With Hagar. In Genesis 16, we see pregnant Hagar fleeing from a jealous and angry Sarai and a befuddled Abram. He conceived a child with Hagar, at Sarai’s request, and it brought nothing but trouble. So Hagar tried to escape this troublesome home and found herself in the wilderness at a spring of water. The Angel of the Lord appeared to her, comforted her, and directed her back to Sarai. If there was any doubt about this Messenger being Jesus, the Angel told Hagar that she would have countless descendants, that she would bear a son named Ishmael. Ishmael means “God hears,” so her son’s name will serve to remind her that Yahweh has heard her affliction. Do other angels have the authority over life that this Angel did? No, only the Messenger Jesus has the authority or power to speak these divine words. Hagar had no doubt that she was talking directly with the Lord, for v. 13 states, “Then she called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her, El-Roi, You-are-God-who-sees.” And she followed that up by exclaiming, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” That spring of water in the well was named, “Well of the Living One who sees me.” God saw the humble Hagar and intervened. The Living One was indeed Jesus, who comforted the desperate and distraught Hagar, and cared for her, and sent her back to Abram and Sarai for God’s will to be accomplished. God made a special appearance for someone who could easily have been overlooked. Yahweh had His eyes on the lowly, and Jesus brought His message.