The Theophanies of the Lord Jesus, Genesis 32:24-32

Theophanies are the pre-incarnate appearances of God the Son in angelic or human form.

On many occasions God revealed Himself to men.

With mortal eyes they saw Him, sometimes manifested in overwhelming brightness, at other times in angelic or human form.

He revealed Himself to patriarchs, judges, priests, kings, and prophets, and also to men humble but holy.

Such experiences were the apex of their spiritual life.

I am not concerned so much as to the supernatural “how” of these appearances, but rather the practical implications which resulted in changed lives, and how this relates to us today.

Woven richly into the texture of the early history of Israel is the record of One who is called the Angel of the Lord.

The Angel of the Lord means Jehovah, and always occurs in the singular, never in the plural.

There are many angels but only one “Angel of God.”

The first mention of the Angel of the Lord is found in Genesis 16.

The Angel found Hagar by a fountain of water in the wilderness.

She recognized Him and in v.13 she called Him Lord, and described Him as “Thou God seest me.”

This meeting with the Lord changed the course of her life. Her eyes were opened.

Before we proceed with other appearances more dramatic, let us look at a verse which at first glance is difficult to understand in the light of the preincarnate appearances of Christ.

John 1:18—“No man hath seen God at any time.”

This verse clearly teaches that no man has been privileged to gaze on unshrouded Deity. God is a spirit.

But our verse also declares that He—Jesus Christ—hath declared Him.

Jesus Christ, then, is the chosen medium through which the Godhead revealed itself in both the OT and the New.

Paul implies this truth in the Colossian letter. “He is the image of the invisible God”—the visible expression of the invisible God.

The Lord also said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

Each of these Theophanies seems to have occurred at a crises experience in the life of the individual concerned.

Take for example Jacob.

He cheated his father—he stole from his brother—he almost ruined his Uncle Laban for whom he worked.

This man was proud, arrogant, wily, and successful.

The Angel of the Lord manifested Himself to Jacob in these outstanding incidents of Jacob’s life.

First at Bethel, as Jacob the fugitive slept on a stone, he saw in his dream One who said, “I am the God of Abraham”—Genesis 28.

Second in Genesis 31, One whom Jacob called the “Angel of the Lord” appeared to him and said “I am the God of Bethel.”

Even more remarkable was the experience at Peniel—Genesis 32.

Jacob is returning home and he has reached an impasse, He cannot go back, and he is afraid to go forward.

Esau frightens him—Esau’s 400 men frighten him.

At this point Jacob’s old nature comes up. He first sent him messengers. Then his present to appease Esau. He divided his flocks, etc. into two bands. Then he sent his wives and possessions over the brook Jabbok.

He sent everything he possessed over the brook—but he himself remained on the other side.

v.24—“And Jacob was left alone.”

There wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

Jacob spent a whole night wrestling with God alone in the darkness.

Hosea tells us that the One with whom he wrestled all night was the Angel of the Lord—Hosea 12:2-4.

After a long struggle the Angel asked Jacob to release Him. Jacob refused until the stranger blessed him. Jacob first wrestled, then he clung.

In the titanic struggle Jacob realized his own weakness and the superiority of God. Stripped of all fleshly energy and overwhelmed by the presence of God.

At the moment of surrender he became a new man.

His personal encounter with the Lord:

1. Changed his name from Jacob, the supplanter, to Israel, the prince.

2. His walk was changed—he limped upon his thigh.

Jacob was continually reminded of his experience with God. He limped. He had power with God and power with men. He became the father of the nation.

Jacob recognized this experience as meeting God face to face.

“Peniel, for I have seen God face to face.”

The story of the young man attending Keswick.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”, etc.

Intimate experiences with God are essential to a fruitful life.

    Moses on the mount.

    Paul in the desert.

    The Lord Himself spent long seasons with God.

    Elijah and Elisha’s greatest miracles were accomplished when alone with God.

“I will not let you go except you bless me.”