The Captain of the Lord's Host
"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so."
Paul and Barnabas, who were men, were worshipped and objected
"And when the people saw what Paul had done, they
lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods
are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called
Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief
speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their
city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done
sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas
and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the
people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things?
We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that
ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made
heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:
Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways."
Worship is forbidden the creature: "Who changed the truth of God
into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the
Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." (Romans 1:25). There is
only One who may lawfully be worshipped: "Then saith Jesus unto him,
Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the
Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Matthew 4:10).
There are many angels of God who are created beings like us. But
they will not allow a man to worship them: "And I fell at his feet to
worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus:
worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
(Revelation 19:10). Something is different here, because the captain
of the Lord's host accepts Joshua's act of worship.
So why did the man with a sword accept Joshua's worship? It is
not permitted in Biblical religion that either men or angels may
receive worship. Who is He?
Jesus the Sent One
Recall that 'angel' means, not 'winged creature', but 'messenger,
envoy, ambassador'. The 'angel of the LORD' who visited the patriarchs was God Himself, not any
creature masquerading as God: "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty,
but by My name LORD I was not known to them." (Exodus 6:3).
Who might have been 'sent' to Moses? God the Father? But He has
never been seen: "And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His
voice at any time, nor seen His form." (John 5:37); "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who
is from God; He has seen the Father." (John 6:46).
Jesus, we know, has been 'sent': "So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace
to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'" (John 20:21); "For God sent not his Son into
the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17); "That all
men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not
the Father which hath sent him." (John 5:23); "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will,
but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which
he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." (John 6:38-39);
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into
the world, that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9).
Consequently it is reasonable to conclude that the theophanic angel of
the LORD is the pre-incarnate Logos. He is the angel of God's presence:
"In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed
them; and He bore them and carried them All the days of old." (Isaiah 63:9). He guided
Israel in the wilderness:
"Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if
you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For
My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the
Jebusites; and I will cut them off." (Exodus 23:20-23).
he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not
up hence." (Exodus 33:14-15).
There are two things to be reconciled here which threaten to fly off in divergent directions: on the one hand, God Himself, His face
and His presence, travelled with the children of Israel, as promised, and on the
other, it was, after all, an 'angel' who led them: "And the angel of
God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them;
and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood
behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp
of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by
night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night."
(Exodus 14:19-20). It is simultaneously true that God Himself
accompanied the people, and that "When we cried out to the Lord, He
heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now
here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border." (Numbers
20:16). There is only one party in whom these two characters
combine: the angel of the LORD, who is both God Himself and also a sent
messenger. And the angel of the LORD took credit: "And an angel of
the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up
out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your
fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you." (Judges
The Angel of His Presence is Christ, who was with the children of
Israel in their wilderness sojourn: "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all
our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in
the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual
drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But
with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness...nor
let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents..." (1 Corinthians 10:1-9).
The Old Testament theophanic 'angel of the LORD' is a sent
'messenger', yet also Jehovah God Himself. In Whom do these attributes combine most fittingly,
but in the person of Jesus Christ? This office of the pre-incarnate Christ testifies to a relation of
sender-sent in God: God sends and is sent. It's this recurring theme of the Old
Testament for which anti-Trinitarians have no answer: "'Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For
behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,' says the
LORD. 'Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day,
and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that
the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.'" (Zechariah 2:10-11).