Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Christ the Redeemer and progressive revelation

After a summer break during which I grew a beard, was subsequently called rabbi, read some books, and got a tan which faded immediately during a trip to Scotland, it is high time that I returned to blogging.

Sometimes it is easy to miss things in the Bible because we don't read the text closely enough.  Sometimes it is easy to miss things in the Bible because we assume that they are not to be found in the part that we are looking at.  Take Genesis and Exodus for example.

In Genesis 21:17-18 the Angel of God calls from heaven and tells Hagar that God has heard the voice of the boy.  Then the angel of God says that he will make him a great nation.  This is the very thing that God had told him that he would do for Ishmael in 21:13.  The angel of God and God have made the same promise concerning the same boy (cf. Joshua 24:2-6 with Judges 2:1).

In Genesis 22:11-12 the Angel of the LORD calls from heaven  and says that he now knows that Abraham fears God "seeing you have not witheld your son, your only son, from me."  Abraham has not witheld his only son from the Angel of the LORD.

In Genesis 22:15-18 the Angel of the LORD calls to Abraham a second time from heaven and says:
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.
Is the Angel of the LORD a mere siphon, the conveyer of a tape recorded message, or is he what he appears to be, the covenant promise-maker as well as the sacrifice-receiver?  It would be very easy to approach these texts in a wooden way that, in effect, flattens out the contours of God's revelation of himself.

Lest you think that this is some quirky theory that I have dreamed up consider the words of the great Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on Exodus 3:
This redemption was by Jesus Christ, as is evident from this, that it was wrought by him that appeared to Moses in the bush; for that was the person that sent Moses to redeem the people.  But that was Christ, as is evident, because he is called 'the angel of the LORD' (Exodus 3:2).
Jonathan Edwards, A History of the Work of Redemption, (Banner of Truth, 2003), p. 72

The one who appears and speaks to Moses, whose presence makes the ground holy, is the Angel of the LORD.  When he speaks he says that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the covenant promise-maker and sacrifice-receiver. 

Exodus 3:2 reads, "And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush."  In Deuteronomy 33:13 ff. Moses invokes the blessing of the LORD upon Joseph and "the favour of him who dwells in the bush."

It is somewhat ironic that the championing of progressive revelation has gone hand in hand with a diminished confidence in the revelation of Christ in the Old Testament.  Historically it is as if the church has regressed and not progressed in her confidence that it was "Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt" (Jude 5, ESV).


The Welshman said...


Good post and good to have you back.

Matt H

Martin Downes said...

Thank you