A moment of honesty here: When Stephanie assigned me the topic “The theophanies of Christ” as my post for this series on Christ in the Old Testament, I felt really dumb. I had never heard the word theophanies before and I had no idea what it meant.
So, I did what all good researchers do, I Googled it! And with a lot of help from Bible.org, I discovered that I did know what theophanies are.
Theophanies are “the preincarnate appearances of God the Son in angelic or human form.”
There are many examples of these preincarnate appearances in the Old Testament. Here are a few of the people who experienced theophanies (now that I know this word, I’m sure I’ll be using it as often as possible!):
- Abraham – Genesis 22:11-8, 24:7, 40
- Jacob – Genesis 31:11, 48:15-16
- Moses – Exodus 3:2, 13:21, 14:19
- Balaam – Numbers 22:22-35
- Gideon – Judges 6:11-24
This is certainly not an exhaustive list but it gives you a sampling of these experiences.
Today, though, I want to focus on what we can learn from the first recorded theophany. Generally speaking, theophanies reference “The Angel of Jehovah.” We find the first use of this term in Genesis 16:7:
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.
Hagar … Abraham’s concubine … was the first one to encounter the preincarnate Christ.
And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Genesis 16:8
He found her. Alone and afraid, Hagar had fled from her abusive mistress. And the angel of the Lord sought her.
In the rest of this passage (Genesis 16:9-13) we find Hagar received comfort and assurance from the Angel. He told her of her pregnancy and prophesied about her son.
And her response? She was the first one to give God a name. El Roi, the God who sees me.
Isn’t that one of the most beautiful attributes of Christ in the New Testament – He saw people. The woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman at the well, Zaccheus hiding in the tree, shaggy fishermen and arrogant tax collectors … Jesus saw people.
This angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar again in Genesis 21:17 – 19.
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
Exiled by her son’s father at the command of Sarah, Hagar was, again, in the wilderness. This time, though, she was not alone. She had her son Ishmael with her and she was watching her own son die.
And once again, this God she had encountered, saw her. Speaking words of encouragement and prophecy, He encouraged Hagar not to give up. He met her needs – emotional and physical.
Just as He met Hagar’s needs, Christ met the needs of those He encountered during His earthly ministry. He reached out to the lonely, rejected, and outcast … lepers and lame, blind and broken, He healed them … body and spirit.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Before He came to dwell, He revealed Himself … hints of the fullness of what was to come.
How does reading Hagar’s story encourage you about God’s presence in your own life?