After giving his law to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, they were about to proceed in their journey toward the land of Canaan. The Lord God had given them plain directions for the regulation of their lives. Now, at the end of Exodus 23, as he is about to thrust them into the wilderness, where he will try them and prove them for forty years, graciously encourages them. He promised his people the care of his infinite love and assured them that he would send the Angel before them to keep them in the way and to bring them into the land he had prepared for them.
1. Our Guardian Savior (23:20-22)
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
There is an Angel in Exodus. This Angel is more than simply an angel but this Angel has special attributes. Who is this Angel?
This Angel was sent ahead to guard and bring the Hebrews into God’s salvation… the place that I have prepared.
The Land of Canaan was specifically created and prepared by God for the children of Israel. It is used in Scripture to represent two things.
· The Land of Canaan represents Heaven. That is obvious, because it is the Land of Promise; and it is used in Scripture to represent our final place of rest with Christ.
· But Canaan also represents the believer’s present life in Christ. That is obvious because there were in the Land of Canaan many enemies and much trouble.
Canaan represents our whole experience of grace, culminating in Heaven’s everlasting glory. Here the lord God promises to send an Angel before us; and this Angel has two specific assignments, two tasks, two responsibilities:
· 1st. It is his responsibility to keep us in the way.
· 2nd It is his responsibility to bring us into the place the Lord God has prepared for us.
Jesus keeps all who are His. He keeps us on the way. What a Savior we have who keeps us on the way! Jesus brings us home…all the way home. He will deliver us to our Promised Land on day. What a Savior we have who brings us all the way home!
He has power and authority. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice;
But there are two things in our text that make it unmistakably clear that this Angel is our Savior.
· (1st.) in verse 21 we are told that this Angel has the authority and ability to forgive sin.
· And (2nd.) the Lord God declares, at the end of verse 21, “my name is in him.”
He has the power and authority to forgive sin or not to forgive sin. do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression
Mark 2:7 (ESV)
7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
He is closely identified with God…for my name is in him.
This Messenger was distinguished from God, yet possesses divine attributes. Therefore, many biblical scholars identify this Angel and the Angel of the Lord, the second Person of the Trinity, the preincarnate Christ. Christ is with His people to lead them and guide them to the Promised Land.
Appearances of the angel of the Lord were most likely manifestations of Jesus before His incarnation. Jesus declared Himself to be existent “before Abraham” (John 8:58), so it is logical that He would be active and manifest in the world.
Psalm 34:7 (ESV)
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Isaiah 63:9 (ESV)
9 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;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
The fact that God sent the Angel of the Lord to lead His people should greatly give us encouragement and confidence as we walk our pilgrimage here on earth.
Jesus told us in God’s Word that He would never leave us or forsake us. Even in our darkest times, as Christians, Jesus is with us. I pray we understand and live in that light.
Do not rebel against Him, we are told. To rebel against the Angel of the Lord is to rebel against God.
22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. Obedience to the voice of this angel is equal to obeying God.
God promises the Israelites that if they obey His voice, their enemies will be His enemies.
2. Driving Out God’s Enemies (23:23-33)
In the Conquest, the Angel teaches us at least three things that show us God’s plan not only for Israel’s conquest but for our salvation as well.
We must keep in mind that the Book of Exodus was written for our edification.
1 Corinthians 10:11 (ESV)
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Like Israel we too have been freed from slavery. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice has brought us out of bondage to be God’s chosen people. All who are in Christ, have been made free to serve God. Like Israel we too are being led by God to the Promised Land.
A. The Angel of the Lord Teaches Us that Victory Belongs to God (23:23-28)
23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you.
As we read these verses there seems to be a back and forth between what God will do and what the Angel will do. Both show their divine nature. More and more, we are seeing that this Angel is the second Person of the Trinity, namely Jesus Christ before His birth.
The Angel sent before us was sent before us to make salvation sure, and he has done it! Christ our Angel, our Protector, our Savior gave the law, kept the law for us as our Representative, and satisfied the law as our Substitute. He has thereby (by his obedience and death) cut off and destroyed all our sins and will bring us into the land.
Our Angel, Jesus Christ is the surety of our salvation. Just as Christ was sent ahead of the Israelites to secure the Promised Land so to Jesus secured our salvation as He died on the cross for our sins and freed us to follow Him.
In verses 23-26 the Lord God again demands that we keep ourselves from idols and from idolatry, promising his unfailing grace to all who worship him.
24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.
The great danger in the Conquest of the Promised Land was not the armies Israel would face but the false gods their enemies worshipped. If they could keep themselves from worshipping false gods, then God would fight for them. Their job was to destroy the places of their enemy’s worship without becoming polluted by the sensuality and worship of false deities.
God would fight for them if they would only worship Him. This was a holy war not a war of flesh and blood.
This is the exact same warfare we find ourselves in while we are living in this fallen world…
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
What priorities should we have while on our conquest on the way to the Promised Land?
Stay faithful to and worship God alone…everything else will fall into place. We will encounter struggles in this world but listen Church, don’t get caught up and confused. Stay true to the Lord worship Him and love Him and everything will work out.
Joshua 2:8–11 (ESV)
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.
God did exactly as He had promised. He went before them and brought their enemies to nothing.
B. The Angel of the Lord Teaches Us that Victory Often Comes Little by Little (23:29-31)
29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.
The Israelites were not ready to take complete control over the Promised Land. Their possessing it would be little by little.
I’m not sure what they thought? Maybe, they thought they would march into the land and their enemies would quickly surrender or run the other way. This is not how God had planned it. Their conquest would be progressive and not all at once.
They would, in fact possess the entire land one day but it would not happen for centuries under the reign of Solomon.
1 Kings 4:21 (ESV)
21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.
As we look at the dynamic of little by little we can learn things about our Christian life. It’s not always God’s design to give us immediate victory either. We are successful in growing in sanctification little by little and struggle by struggle.
Matthew 13:31–32 (ESV)
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
Does God work in our lives little by little?
It is better that we live with our old, fallen, depraved nature, until we inherit the land of our inheritance.
· That we might ever remember that salvation is God’s work of grace.
· That we might ever be reminded that the only difference between us and others is the distinguishing grace of our God.
· That we might prove day by day that his grace is sufficient!
The victory belongs always to God. He works in us a little by little and that’s how He has designed the Christian life.
C. The Angel of the Lord Teaches Us We Must Not Compromise With the World (23:32-33)
32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
The Israelites faced a strong temptation to make peace with the Canaanites who worshipped other gods, especially with God’s little by little plan.
Notice the text…No Covenant. Do not make peace with them or their gods. How can we apply these verses? Do not compromise, make a covenant, or make peace with sin or with those who are God’s enemies. We must not compromise with the world.
Full obedience to Christ and nothing else is acceptable. Pray that God would grant us victory over our sin. God will bring us home, little by little.
THE ANGEL SENT BEFORE US or CHRIST OUR PROTECTOR by Don Fortner
Exodus by Ryken
Exodus by Ligon Duncan