The word “angel” means “messenger” or “sent one”. And “Sent by God” is one of the main ways Jesus refers to himself throughout the New Testament.
It is possible to see the identity of the angel of the Lord by the things he says and does, and by the reaction of those who meet him and speak to him.
He claims that the promises of God are his own promises. (He speaks as if he is God). People who see him call him God. Scripture calls him God. People worship him and he does not stop them.
Here is a brief selection of the things the angel of the Lord says and does in the Old Testament:
The angel of the Lord says to Hagar “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count”. The angel of the Lord does not say “The Lord will so increase…” The angel of the Lord makes this promise himself. It is his promise. Only God can make such a promise. It is God who repeats this covenant promise again and again in the Old Testament — not regular angels.
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
We know that it is the angel of the Lord who is speaking to Hagar in this passage. Scripture tells us clearly that the one who spoke to Hagar (the angel of the Lord) is the LORD:
“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her”.
So the angel of the Lord is described as “the God who sees Hagar”. The angel of the Lord is identified as God, and as “the One who sees me”. He is the Son of God appearing in his eternal role as “the one sent from the Father”.
The angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham as he is about to kill Isaac. He says “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Here the angel of the Lord does not say “you have not withheld from God your son, your only son.” He says “you have not withheld from *me*.” We know that sacrifices cannot be made to angels — this would be blasphemy. Abraham was sacrificing his son to God so this cannot be an ordinary angel Rather he is “The One sent from God”. He is Jesus.
“There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Here the angel of the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush. The angel of the Lord is sometimes referred to as God in this passage (verse 4), and sometimes he is referred to as the LORD.
We know that the angel of the Lord is on the bush and verse 4 says that “God called to him from within the bush”. So here the angel of the Lord is referred to as God.
In verse 17 the angel of the Lord says “I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt”. This is the same promise the angel of the Lord refers to in Judges 2 (see below).
The angel of the Lord says “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give your forefathers. I said I will never break my covenant with you”.
The angel of the Lord speaks as himself, and claims to have brought Israel out of Egypt himself. He also claims that the covenant promise is his own promise. He says “I swore” and “I will never break”. There is no indication here that the speaker is only a representative of the Lord. It must be God himself speaking — God the Son of God the Father.
Here the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon. The angel of the Lord is speaking with Gideon in verse 12, and in verse 14 it is made very clear that the one talking to Gideon is the Lord himself:
“The LORD turned to him and said…”
Then the Lord who is speaking is then referred to again as “the angel of God” in verse 20. It is the same Lord speaking in all these verses. In some of the verses he is called “the angel of the Lord”, and in other verses he is simply called LORD.
Surely this is the One sent from the Father — this is God the Son, who is the image of the invisible God. He is the one who makes known God the Father, who has never been seen (John 1).
Here Manoah and his wife do not recognize who the angel of the Lord is at first. His wife says he is “a man of God” in verse 6. Later however, they do realize his true identity.
In verse 17 Manoah asks the angel of the Lord what his name is. The angel of the Lord replies:
“Why do you ask for my name? It is beyond understanding”
Normal angels never speak this way! Angels have names as we do. Their names are not “beyond understanding”. This has to be the Lord himself, whose name is above all other names.
In verse 20 the angel of the Lord ascends in the flame. Verses 21-22 say:
“When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”
Here we are told that Manoah realized for the first time that he had been speaking to the angel of the Lord (not just a man of God, not just an angel). He says:
“We have seen God!”
Scripture does not tell us that Manoah was mistaken, or that he was confused. It says that he realized that he had seen the angel of the Lord, and therefore he knows that he has seen God. But this of course is not God the Father. The angel of the Lord can only be God the Son — the One who is the image of the invisible God. The angel of the Lord is the Word of God, the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, and who makes the Father known.
Jesus is THE sent one from the Father. Therefore it is not at all surprising that Jesus has this same name/title in the Old Testament. He is “the sent one of the Lord.”