Joseph and the Angel

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:24–25).

- Matthew 1:18-25

We have been studying the angel of the Lord over the past few days, noting how, in many cases, this angel seems to have been a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Son of God. Since the title “angel of the Lord” can simply refer to an angel who does the bidding of the Creator, it does not follow that every appearance of a being with this name in the Old Testament was a christophany — a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. Nevertheless, Christian interpreters for centuries have seen that in several instances, the person called the “angel of the Lord” was more than a mere angel. Hagar recognized that she saw God when she met an “angel of the Lord,” and Joshua was not rebuked for worshiping this “angel,” telling us that, in certain circumstances, God appeared in the guise of an embodied person (Gen. 16:7–13; Josh. 5:13–15).

As important as these appearances were under the old covenant, they were not the fullest revelation of God. Revealing His righteousness in securing salvation from sin and death, the second person of the Trinity was sent to do the incredible — to assume humanity itself. This is one of the truths that we deduce from today’s passage. In a small town in a remote province of the Roman Empire two thousand years ago, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, a descendant of King David. This angel was not the same pre-incarnate revelation of God the Son who appeared to the people of Israel on several occasions under the old covenant, but he was nonetheless committed to serving the Creator. He brought a world-changing message to Joseph — the very Son of God would take on a human nature, becoming like us in order to save us from our sins and the judgment they deserve (Matt. 1:18–25).

The fundamental problem that humanity faces is that we have rejected the witness of creation to our Creator’s existence and righteousness, choosing to serve created things (Rom. 1:18–32). Our sin makes peace with the Lord impossible without His intervention; and there could never be the hope of relating to God face to face if He did not assume humanity — flesh and spirit — in order to sanctify it that we might see Him with our own eyes one day without being destroyed. In these last days, the Son of God has come as one of us, receiving sin’s condemnation in His flesh that we might enjoy fellowship with Him forever (Rom. 8:3–4; Heb. 1:1–4).

Coram Deo

Without the incarnation of Christ, we could by no means have any hope in this world. Our merciful God has seen fit not to let His creation languish in the fall but has sent His own Son not only to speak to us but also to become like us in order that we might be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of heaven. We owe everything to Him on account of this grace, and so we must seek to live accordingly.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 34:7
Micah 5:2
Luke 1:26–38
1 John 4:2–3

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