When Jesus appeared to the branch of Israelites who had settled in ancient North America, he explained to them that he was in fact a character with whom they were familiar from their scriptures:
“Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end” (3 Ne. 15:4 – 5).
Most readers of the scriptures would take for granted that this association positively identifies Jesus as Jehovah, but this presents problems with the Old and New Testament accounts that paint Jehovah as a resurrected being during Abraham’s time who also promised to bless “the root and the offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16) with the honor of the Messiah (see my previous two blog posts).
Why do people assume it was Jehovah who gave the law to Moses? Namely because when Moses was commanded to go to Egypt and free the Israelites, the being who then spoke with him called himself Jehovah:
“Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exo. 6:1 – 3).
Though Moses interacted and spoke with Jehovah, was Jehovah always present in person or did other representatives administer in his behalf? It might be taken for granted then that all interactions Moses had with heavenly manifestations were with Jehovah personally, but the scriptural record does not bear this out under closer examination. Stephen, the first martyr, taught that when God first spoke to Moses, it was in the presence of “the Angel of THE LORD” who appeared to him:
“The Angel of THE LORD JEHOVAH appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai in the fire which burned in a bush. And when Moses saw it, he marveled at the vision, and when he approached to see, THE LORD JEHOVAH said to him in a voice: ‘I AM THE LIVING GOD, The God of your fathers, The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob’, and as Moses was trembling, he did not dare to gaze at the vision. And THE LORD JEHOVAH said to him, ‘Loose your shoes from your feet, for the ground on which you stand is holy'” (Acts 7:29 – 33, HPBT).
The word for angel in Hebrew literally means “messenger.” It was a common belief in the days of Josephus the Jewish historian that the Law had been delivered to the Israelites by the ministration of God’s representative messengers: “We have learned the noblest of our doctrines and the holiest of our laws from the angels sent by God” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XV:136, or XV,5:3, translated by William Whinston). Paul the apostle also declares that Moses’ ministry was one of divine messengers (in the plural), including the reception of the Law of Moses:
“Once someone agrees to something, no one else can change or cancel the agreement. That is how it is with the promises God made to Abraham and his descendant. The promises were not made to many descendants, but only to one, and that one is Christ. What I am saying is that the Law cannot change or cancel God’s promise made 430 years before the Law was given. If we have to obey the Law in order to receive God’s blessings, those blessings don’t really come to us because of God’s promise. But God was kind to Abraham and made him a promise.
“What is the use of the Law? It was given later to show that we sin. But it was only supposed to last until the coming of that descendant who was given the promise. In fact, angels gave the Law to Moses, and he gave it to the people. There is only one God, and the Law did not come directly from him.
“Does the Law disagree with God’s promises? No, it doesn’t! If any law could give life to us, we could become acceptable to God by obeying that law. But the Scriptures say that sin controls everyone, so that God’s promises will be for anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:15 – 22, CEV, emphasis added).
Paul here demonstrates that if God the Father had authored the law, he would have needed to be the one to fulfill it; instead, God the Son, “the angel of the LORD,” was tasked with authoring the law so that he might personally fulfill it at his coming in the flesh, just as he declared to the Israelites in America. Paul further identifies Christ as an active divine participant of the Israelite camp in Moses’ day:
“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud, and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness” (1 Cor 10:1 – 5, BSB).
Who does the Old Testament say accompanied the Israelites in their journey? The answer: not Jehovah in body, but someone else:
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you keep calling out to me for help? Tell the Israelites to move forward. Then hold your walking stick over the sea. The water will open up and make a road where they can walk through on dry ground. I will make the Egyptians so stubborn that they will go after you. Then I will be praised because of what happens to the king and his chariots and cavalry. The Egyptians will know for sure that I am the LORD.’
“All this time God’s angel had gone ahead of Israel’s army, but now he moved behind them. A large cloud had also gone ahead of them, but now it moved between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The cloud gave light to the Israelites, but made it dark for the Egyptians, and during the night they could not come any closer” (Exo. 14:15 – 20, CEV, emphasis added).
Again, as was the custom of the original King James translators, the word LORD in caps is used where the original Hebrew read יְהוָ֑ה (Yah·weh, “Jehovah”). In another place, Jehovah commands Moses to tell the Israelites to obey this “angel”:
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel…. I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you. For my angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, so you may live there. And I will destroy them completely” (Exo. 20:22; 23:20 – 23, NLT).
These verses show that ‘the Angel of THE LORD’ was no ordinary messenger, but a being given express by Jehovah to instruct Israel, to represent him, and even to forgive sins. As the deliverer of the Law to Moses and the healer of the sick of Israel, this messenger bears the most striking resemblance to one who ministered to Israel later in the flesh to the fulfillment the Law:
“Some people soon brought to him a man lying on a mat because he could not walk. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, ‘My friend, don’t worry! Your sins are forgiven.’
“Some teachers of the Law of Moses said to themselves, ‘Jesus must think he is God!’ But Jesus knew what was in their minds, and he said,
“‘Why are you thinking such evil things? Is it easier for me to tell this man his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But I will show you that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.’ So Jesus said to the man, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and go on home.’ The man got up and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were afraid and praised God for giving such authority to people” (Matt. 9:1 – 8, CEV).