Christ in the Jewish Age

Michael, Your Prince

But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.—Daniel 10:21

Little is said directly of the role that the son of God played during the Jewish age. Various biblical titles and pictures identified with the Messiah, however, suggest that the Logos was as active during that period as he has been in every stage of the plan of God.

Michael

Not only was Michael Daniel’s “prince,” he was the “the great prince” (Hebrew, tsar, from which the words Czar and Kaiser are derived) which stood for “the children of [Daniel’s] people” (Daniel 12:1). In Jude 9 he is called “the archangel,” or chief angel. Some contend that this is not an office unique to Michael for in Daniel 10:13 he is entitled “one of the chief princes.” However the Hebrew echad, translated “one” in this passage, can with equal ease be translated “first of the chief princes,” (Margin, ‘the first.’) "That is, the first in rank of the ‘princes,’ or the angels. In other words, ‘Michael, the archangel.’” (Barnes Commentary.) Echad is translated “first” in such passages as Genesis 1:5 and Genesis 2:11. This being is identified as the “chief ruler” who was to come from the tribe of Judah in 1 Chronicles 5:2 and with Jesus at his second advent in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 designating the pre-eminent one amongst the angelic host.

It is in this role that we see the son of God directing the numerous miraculous victories of the Israelites over their foes and as the mastermind behind their deliverance from frequent captivities. Thus, we read of him in Exodus 33:2, “And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.”

Was he not the angel who parted the waters of the sea that Israel might pass over dry shod? Was he not the “captain of the host of the LORD” who met Joshua by Jericho to give directions for the overthrow of that stronghold? (Joshua 5:13 to 6:2) Was he not the one that caused the phenomenon of the “sun standing still”An alternative explanation is not that the day was prolonged, but that the sun was supernaturally darkened (Hebrew, damam, here translated “stand still”) which was taken by the sun-worshipping Amorites as an omen, disheartening them for the battle (Reprints, page 3344, supported by the Wycliffe Bible Commentary). so vital in Joshua’s destruction of the Amorites? (Joshua 10:12,13) Was he not the leader of “the forces from heaven” which caused the Kishon river to overthrow the forces of Sisera? (Judges 5:20,21) Was he not the “angel of the LORD” who smote the 185,000-man army of Sennacherib? (2 Kings 19:35)

Time and time again, using various means and methods, divine forces were brought to bear in Israelitish history. Although natural explanations have been offered for many of these miracles, and they may indeed have validity, the timing shows great precision and indicates meticulous planning and direction by just such an unseen leader as Michael, the guardian ­angel of Israel.

The application of this supernatural power on behalf of Israel (and on none of the surrounding Gentile nations) well demonstrates the accuracy of the scriptural statement, “you only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). How well this should have produced an unflinching trust of Israel in divine leadership and been an incentive to obey the dictates of God! Unfortunately, it did not, and the latter part of Amos’ prophecy became only too true: “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

This is the same lesson God taught them through his manifest wonders as he brought them through their 40-year journey to the promised land. Rather than serving to make them more dependent upon Jehovah, it only demonstrated their rebellious and complaining human nature (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).

The Angel of the LORD

The role of “archangel,” or “director of the angelic hosts,” was not limited to the work of Michael in commanding the hosts of heaven. This work also included the enlistment of spiritual and human agencies (e.g., angels, messengers). The term “angel of the LORD” is used numerous times in the Old Testament. While it would be presumptuous to say that this term always applied to the pre-human ­Logos, there are various ­occasions where such an interpretation is so indicated. Perhaps the most commonly applied of these is the appearance of the three angels to Abraham with the message of God’s intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:3). The patriarch’s use of the term Adonai (Lord) instead of the usual term of Middle Eastern respect, doniy, or sir, often translated “lord” in the lower case, has been taken by many to mean that this was the materialized son of God.

A more direct identification is to be found in the appearance of “the angel of the LORD” to the parents of Samson. When Samson’s father, Manoah, inquires of the name of the angel, he is told that it is “wonderful” (Judges 13:18, NAS). This is the same name as one of those ascribed to Jesus in the famous prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. Further, upon the angel’s departure, Manoah’s awe-struck words to his wife in verse 22 are, “We shall surely die because we have seen God” (Hebrew: elohim).

It is in this capacity that “the angel of the LORD” enlisted Gideon (Judges 6:11); comforted and fed Elijah (1 Kings 19:7); and commanded David to set up an altar in the threshingfloor of Ornan (1 Chronicles 21:18). In Zech­ariah 3:1,2 we find it is the “angel of the LORD” that says to Satan concerning the body of Joshua, “The LORD rebuke thee.”

The Wisdom of God

“Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute” (Luke 11:49). Many students of the Bible believe that the “wisdom of God” is one of the titles of Jesus himself. Albert Barnes is one such commentator who makes this observation:

“By the ‘wisdom of God,’ here, is undoubtedly meant the Saviour himself. . . . He is called ‘the wisdom of God,’ because by him God makes his wisdom known in creation (Col 1:13-18 and in redemption (1 Cor 1:30). Many have also thought that the Messiah was referred to in the 8th chapter of Proverbs, ­under the name of Wisdom.” For a more thorough examination of the application of “wisdom” as a personal name for Christ in Proverbs 8, please see the first article in this issue of The Herald.

Here Jesus bridges the ages, saying that he was the sender of the prophets of the Old Testament era as well as the apostles (meaning “sent ones”) in the gospel dispensation. As “the wisdom of God” he is acting in the same time frame as Proverbs 8 which is the planning phase of the creative processes. Therefore he uses the future tense “I will send” of both the ancient bards and the still future apostles.

It is in this function that we see the Jewish age activities of the son of God in providing direction and guidance, and not merely as the protector and deliverer of the Hebrew people.

Prophets

As the Mosaic Law “spoken by angels” ­(Hebrews 2:2) at Sinai provided the rules by which God’s chosen people were to live, so the prophets were the conscience of the nation, drawing attention to their wandering from these laws and calling them back to their covenant responsibilities. “Stand ye in the ways, and see” cried Jeremiah, “and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk there­in, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The office of prophet appears to have been a progressive one, with the career of Samuel being the turning point. We read of that time in 1 Samuel 9:9, “Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.”

The distinction between a seer and a prophet can be compared to the functions of a newscaster and a commentator. A newscaster gives an objective account of daily events while a commentator interprets the news to make it useful to his audience. In the same way a seer saw events and reported on them as a witness; a prophet brought forth the lessons the people were to gain from these.

It was in the days of Samuel that the office of prophecy was institutionalized and is thenceforth referred to as “the sons of the prophets.” Commenting on this term, Barnes notes: “The schools or colleges of prophets . . . existed in several of the Israelite . . . towns, where young men were regularly educated for the prophetical office.” We find Elijah, on the last day of his life, making a final visit to these schools in Bethel and Jericho (2 Kings 2:2-7).

Evidently not all the prophets from that time were from these organized schools, for the prophet Amos writes of himself, “Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: and the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (Amos 7:14,15).

C. Von Orelli has written of the true prophet, “His words are not the production of his own spirit, but come from a higher source.” In contrast, false prophets “prophesy out of their own hearts” (Ezekiel 13:2; Jeremiah 23:16). Isaiah speaks of seeing the words of his prophecy (Isaiah 2:1). Ezekiel attributes his inspiration to the spirit of the Lord falling on him (Ezekiel 11:5). Jeremiah writes, “Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORDsaid unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak” (Jeremiah 1:6,7).

Whether individually appointed or drawn from the pool trained in these prophetic schools, it was Jesus, as the Wisdom of God, who sent them on their appointed missions. He was the spiritual channel from whence they derived their messages. Whether these communications were delivered by word of mouth, acted dramatically in the style of Ezekiel, portrayed by a dictated life pattern as in the case of Hosea, or even followed the outline of an entire drama as was the case with Jonah, the Wisdom of God was working behind the scenes directing the issue.

Much of the burden of the prophetic word was giving those clues which would enable the sincere and reverent watcher to identify the Messiah. But when the time came for him to come personally to earth in the form of flesh, few recognized him. They missed the point of the entire picture that he must come first in the form of the suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53 before he could come as the reigning “lion of the tribe of Judah.” Looking for a lion, they beheld a lamb—the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.

It was not until the Gospel age that the son of God revealed the full import of this prophetic word of old. Truly the “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).