The Old Testament and the Trinity (Part 3)
We have seen in previous posts that chapter 1 of Genesis points quite clearly toward the idea of there being multiple separate persons that make up God, but at the same time we know that there is only one true God.
There are also numerous references in the Old Testament to 'The Angel of the Lord' who speaks with God's people, and at various times brings instruction, messages, encouragement and warnings. It must be noted that sometimes a reference to 'an angel of the Lord' or 'the angel of the Lord' seems to be referring to just an angel- a heavenly messenger of some kind. But there are other times this title is used of something else entirely. This individual, whoever it is, creates some interesting questions- in one way we know that this 'Angel' must be separate from God, otherwise why use a title such as "The Angel of the Lord"? There is clearly a distinction of sorts between this angel and God. But despite this, it is also very clear that this Angel is in fact God in some sense.
The evidence for this is overwhelming- we will just look at a few examples.
In Genesis 22, Abraham took Isaac up onto a mountain and prepared to offer him as a sacrifice after God had instructed him to do so. Just before the knife fell, God intervened- Genesis 22:11-12: "But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said 'Here I am'. He said 'Do not lay your hand on the boy, or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me'" (ESV)
Notice what happens in these verses- the Angel refers to God as a separate person ("now I know that you fear God"), but in the very same sentence identifies Himself as the one to whom Abraham was about to make the sacrifice ("....you have not withheld your son, your only son from me").
In Exodus 3 Moses encountered the burning bush, and we see a similar blurring of the distinction between God and the Angel of the Lord quite clearly- Exodus 3:2-4, v6: "And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning yet it was not consumed. And Moses said 'I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.' When the Lord turned aside to see, God called to him out the bush- 'Moses, Moses!' And he said 'Here I am'......(v6) And he said 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob'" (ESV)
In just the same way as earlier, we see someone being referred to as 'The Angel of the Lord', then immediately the Angel begins speaking as God Himself. Although we have only looked at two examples here, you can also see this in Genesis 31:11 and Judges 2:1, among others.
As with many of the references we can look at, it must be said again that the doctrine of the Trinity is not clearly seen either here or anywhere else in the Old Testament. However, we can see there is plenty of evidence to point toward a Multi-personal God- that is, the teaching that there is only one God, but in some way that God is made up of multiple distinct personalities/ persons. In the next post we will look at how a verse that is used to try to refute this teaching could actually be seen as evidence that supports it.