12-2 Angelic Strengthening Of Jesus
PSALM 80: ANGELIC STRENGTHENING OF JESUS
How exactly “God was in Christ” is beyond our ability to define.
Yet Jesus being of our nature and having our same battle against
sin received strengthening from God against this which must have
some similarities with how God helps us. His Divine Sonship without
doubt played a large part in this strengthening; and yet I suggest
the Angels also worked in His life to strengthen Him in the battle
against sin. It is attractive to see the Angelic ministering to
Him after the wilderness temptations as being both natural and spiritual
refuelling. The Angelic strengthening of Jesus is brought out most
clearly in Psalm 80, which has a definite Angelic bearing:
v. 1 "O shepherd of Israel"- the Angel acted as a shepherd to
Israel in the wilderness, as Is. 63:9-11 states specifically.
"Thou that leadest Joseph. . before Ephraim"- the Angel in the
pillar of cloud led Israel, going before the first tribe in the
order of march.
"That dwellest between the cherubims"- the great Angel that dwellt
literally over or in the ark.
v. 2 "Stir up thy strength"- language of Angelic limitation?
God is essentially strength in constant activity.
v. 3 "God"- not Yahweh.
v. 4 "God of Hosts" (Angels).
v. 3,7 "Cause Thy face to shine", referring to the Angel in the
tabernacle shining forth.
v. 8 "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out
the heathen and planted it"- this was the work of the Angels.
v. 14 "God of Hosts (Angels) look down from Heaven (the Angels
are God's eyes), and behold, and visit this vine"- begging the
Angel to literally return from Heaven to dwell in the land?
v. 19 "God of Hosts" (Angels).
This Angel is asked to give special attention to "the branch that
Thou madest strong for Thyself. . let Thy hand (an Angelic phrase)
be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man whom thou
madest strong for Thyself" (v. 15,17). Christ is the branch (Is.
11:1; Jer. 23:5), and in any case both the branch and the "Son of
man" are made strong for the Angel's own purpose ("for thyself").
This Angelic making strong is surely alluded to when the Angel "strengthened
Him" in the garden (Luke 22:43). This chimes in with the popular
idea that Angelic presence was withdrawn from Jesus on the cross-
hence His cry primarily to the Angel "My God (strength), my God,
why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mt. 27:46); perhaps fulfilling the
crucifixion prophecy of Ps. 31:22 "I said in my haste, I am cut
off from before Thine eyes (Angels): nevertheless Thou heardest
the voice of My supplications when I cried unto Thee". Ps. 22:19
also seems relevant: "But be not far from me, O Lord (remember the
physical coming and going of the Angels): O my strength (cp. "My
God, My God"- the Angel), haste Thee to help Me". Verse 21 has the
language of the Cherubim: "Thou hast heard me from the horns of
the unicorns" (Cherubim)- as if the Angel to whom He prayed dwelt
in the midst of the Cherubim. We have earlier suggested that such
a mighty Angel was probably the personal Angel of Christ. Gen. 49:23,24
confirms all this: "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot
at him, and hated him (a prophecy of the Lord's sufferings): but
his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong
by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd,
the stone of Israel:) even by the God of thy father, who shall help
thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee. . ". There are
similarities here with Moses' hands being held up by Aaron and Hur
until Amalek was destroyed- an exhausted man with both hands
upheld above his head until the great enemy of God's people (cp.
sin) was destroyed must recall the suffering of Christ on the cross.
The many Angelic titles in these verses ("God of Jacob. . of thy
fathers") are made all the more relevant by being mentioned in the
context of Gen. 48:15,16, which is the clearest association of them
with the Angel. Thus it was through the Angels that Christ was strengthened
on the cross.
However, it is likely that Jesus did not over-use this Angelic
strengthening against sin, in the same way as He refused the (legitimate?)
pain killer at the cross. Some words in Psalm 91 may just possibly
imply this, although it is conceded that the following interpretation
is tenuous: "He shall give His Angels charge over thee, to keep
thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest
thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion
and adder: the young lion and the adder shalt thou trample under
feet" (v. 11-13). It is suggested that this be read as a description
of the Angels spiritually protecting Christ against sin, especially
during His wilderness temptations. "Keep" in v. 11 is the
same word used in Gen. 3:24, and thus alludes to the Angels keeping
men in the way to the tree of life- not physically but spiritually
preserving them. The figure of dashing the foot against a stone
suggests the idea of spiritual stumbling against a "rock of offence"
or stumblingstone. The Angels bore Jesus up to help Him avoid these.
The treading underfoot of the adder must be another connection with
Genesis 3; the seed of the woman trampling sin underfoot. This conquest
of sin by Jesus was therefore partly due to Angelic strengthening
of Him. Through them "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
Himself", making Christ a sin-offering for us.
It was noted earlier (Ch. 7) that one example of the Angels changing
their mind was in the fact that the Angel promised never to
break the covenant with Israel (Judges 2:1 etc. ) and yet did so
(Ez. 16:59-62; Zech. 11:10). The Angelic context of Zech. 11 is
interesting. If the "I" in this chapter is God manifest in an Angel-
which it must be, seeing that "I. . break My covenant which I had
made", and God Himself cannot be associated with such a change of
purpose- we see that the Angel was in control of Christ's sacrifice:
"I took my staff, even beauty (Christ) and cut it asunder (on the
cross); that I might break My covenant". Thus the Angel used Christ's
sacrifice to break the covenant. He then seems to merge Himself
with Christ: "And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my
price (Jesus never personally said this as far as we know, but the
Angel could have effectively said so to the Jews). . . so they weighed
for My (Christ's- and the Angel) price thirty pieces of silver.
. . and I (the Angel working through Judas) took the thirty pieces
of silver, and cast them to the potter".
Care And Encouragement
It would appear from Is. 49:2 that Jesus was protected and specially
guided by the Angel in the first thirty years of his life: "In the
shadow of His hand (an Angelic phrase) hath He hid me, and made
me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid me". The word 'quiver'
comes from the word for an astrologer, in the sense of being something
that conceals knowledge. Thus the Angel hid the true identity of
Jesus, so that "flesh and blood" alone could not recognize that
He was God's Son (Matt. 16:13-17). We have seen that "the Lord"
that passed by Moses and hid him with his hand in the cleft of the
rock was an Angel. This strengthens the interpretation of God's
hand here as being an Angel passing by rather than God Himself in
person covering Moses. By all means compare this incident with 1
Kings 19:5-12, where Elijah had the same experience as Moses- "a
cave" in v. 9 ="the cleft"; the same one as in Ex. 33:22. It was
also this Angel which gave Jesus the words of God which He spake:
"The Lord of Hosts (of Angels) is His Name. . . I have put My words
in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand
(an Angelic phrase), that I may. . . say unto Zion, Thou art My
people" (Is. 51:15,16). "The Lord God (the Angels) hath given Me
(Jesus) the tongue of the learned. . He wakeneth (Me) morning by
morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God
hath opened mine ear (to understand about His crucifixion?), and
I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave
my back to the smiters. . . (in obedience
to what the Angels told Me)", Is. 50:4-6.
Much insight is given into the intense humanity of our Lord by
reflecting upon His relationship with His Angel in times of depression,
as outlined in the Psalms and suffering servant prophecies. Isaiah
49 shows Christ's depression at Israel's lack of response to the
Gospel: "I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength
for nought, and in vain" (v. 4). He encourages Himself that
"though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes
of the Lord (the Angels), and my God shall be My strength" (Gabriel?
'Strengthener of God'). The Angel then encourages Jesus: "Thus saith
the Lord, the redeemer of Israel, His Holy One (an Angelic title),
to him whom man despiseth, whom the nation (of Israel) abhorreth,
to a servant of rulers, (Gentile) kings shall see and arise. . because.
. the Holy One of Israel. . shall choose thee" (v. 7). The Angel
encouraged Jesus with the thought that he was pleased with His progress,
and could foresee Jesus being a light to the Gentiles as well as
to Israel. Thus pleasing the Angels was a great goal for Jesus,
and the sense of their presence and interest in His life was a great
source of encouragement. Hence on the cross His panic fear of losing
their presence: "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Thine
eyes" (Angels, Ps. 31:22). Notice too Christ's great respect of
the Angels. This, along with his honouring of John the baptist,
shows the great humility of the one who was greater and more righteous
than both John and the Angels.
The same idea is found by a close analysis of Psalm 8. It is quoted
in Hebrews 2 to prove Christ's superiority over the Angels. Verses
3-5 therefore show Christ's marvel at how a human like Himself should
be considered worthy to have such great Angelic attention. Such
was his respect of them: "When I consider Thy Heavens, the work
of Thy fingers (the Heavens were created by the Angels; the Law
was given by the Angel finger of God writing on the stones), the
moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that
Thou art mindful of Him? ('why should You think so much about mere
Me?') and the son of man (Jesus) that Thou visitest (Angelic language)
Him? For Thou hast made Him a little lower than the Angels. . Thou
madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands (the Hand
of the Lord is Angelic language; they were used to create all things);
Thou hast put all things (including the Angels) under His
feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field. . "-
i. e. the things of the natural creation made and controlled by
Psalm 42 has many echoes of the cross, although primarily it refers
to David's longing for the tabernacle whilst exiled by Absalom.
"My soul thirsteth for God, for the God of the living ones (the
Angel in the tabernacle); when shall I come and appear before God
(the Angel)?"(v. 2). He reflects how in the past "I went with them
to the house of God" (v. 4)- i. e. Bethel, with all its Angelic
associations. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" (v. 5)- the same
in the Septuagint as Matt. 26:38 "Now is my soul troubled". Jesus
rallies Himself: "Hope thou in God (His Angel); for I shall yet
praise Him for the help of His countenance"- fulfilled by the Angel
appearing to Jesus in Gethsemane (transferring some of the glory
of His countenance to Jesus as He did to Moses, so that Christ's
arresters initially fell down when they saw Him?). "O my God. .
. I will say unto God my rock ("the rock" is an angelic phrase-
Gen. 49:24; Dt. 32:4,18), Why hast Thou forgotten Me?" (v. 6,9).
Strong defines 'forgotten' as "to be oblivious of from want of memory
or attention"- surely Jesus would not accuse His Father of this?
It must be the the language of limitation which Jesus could use
to Angels. Psalm 89 is a commentary on the promises to David
concerning Jesus in 2 Sam. 7. The punishments that were to come
on Israel were to come on Jesus, especially in His sufferings on
the cross: "Then will I visit their transgression with the rod,
and their iniquity with stripes" (Ps. 89:32). This was fulfilled
in the process of Christ's crucifixion. "Visit" has Angelic connections-
it was the Angels who brought about Christ's passion.
Strength And Glorification
It is impossible to exactly determine the amount of Angelic help
Jesus received, but the spirit of Christ in the Psalms seems to
attribute His final victory over sin and death in large measure
to the Angels. This is not, of course, to under-rate the supreme
and ultimate personal sacrifice of our Lord. "Now know I that the
Lord saveth His anointed (Christ); He will hear Him from His Holy
Heaven (the Angel in the temple? (1)) by the strength of the salvation
of His right hand" (Ps. 20:6). We have seen that the hand of God
represents an Angel. Or again: "The Lord is my strength and shield
(as the Angel who gave the promises to Abraham was a shield and
reward to him, Gen. 15:1), my heart trusted
in Him, and I am helped. . the Lord is his strength, and He is the
strength of salvation of His anointed (Christ)" (Ps. 28:7,8). This
may also refer to the fact that an Angel raised Jesus from the dead,
as well as to the spiritual strengthening they gave Him.
Acts especially stresses that Jesus was "by the right hand of God
exalted" from the grave (Acts 2:33; 5:31), and is now at the right
hand of God. If the right hand of God refers to the great Angel
that represented Jesus in the Old Testament, and also the same Angel
of Israel that dwelt between the cherubims (hence the Angel calls
Jesus "Israel" in Isaiah), it would be fitting if after being the
means of God's upholding of Jesus by His right hand during His ministry
(Ps. 63:8), He raised Jesus and then was replaced immediately in
His position at God's right hand by Jesus. Isaiah refers to God's
taking of Christ's hand to strengthen Him (e. g. 41:13; 42:6). We
take someone's hand with one of our hands- so God strengthened Jesus
through His hand, and the hand of God is an Angelic phrase. Psalm
80 has a definite Angelic context; God's hand is linked with the
"God of Hosts", v. 14, and the planting of the Jewish vineyard (v.
15)- which was done by the Angels at Sinai and in the planting of
Israel in their land.
This hand of God made a specific branch "strong for Thyself". This
branch was Jesus (Is. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8;6:12). The word
for 'strong' is not the normal Hebrew word translated this way.
It implies more to be alert, strong minded, and is the same word
translated "good courage" used so often by the Angel in assuring
Joshua of His support of him. We will see how the Angelic encouragement
of Joshua was also repeated to Joshua-Jesus (their names being identical
in itself makes Joshua a detailed type of Christ). Thus the strengthening
of Joshua foreshadows that of Christ, both of His mind and courage,
and also ultimately in His resurrection. It was this kind of mental
strength that the Angel gave to Jesus in Gethsemane. The same word
is used in Ps. 89:21 concerning the seed of David (the whole Psalm
is a commentary on the Davidic promise): "with whom My hand (Angel)
shall be established: Mine arm (Angel) also shall strengthen Him".
The ultimate strengthening of Christ was in his resurrection, and
the Angels being present at the tomb suggests they were responsible
for this too. The point has been made
that Peter's experience in prison was similar to our Lord's; a Herod
willing to please the Jews by persecuting Christians, Passover time,
sleeping between two soldiers (cp. two thieves), being smitten on
the side, the death of James cp. John the baptist etc. In this parallel
Peter being led out of the prison by the Angel would correspond
to Christ being resurrected by the Angel.
Is. 41:9 is quoted in Heb. 2:10,14 about God taking hold of Jesus,
His servant. Is. 41:10 continues concerning Jesus, therefore, "Fear
thou not; for I am with thee (the Angels' words to Joshua again);
be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;
yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand
of My righteousness" (an Angel). The right hand Angel of God
strengthened, upheld and helped Jesus spiritually. His dismay which
the verse implies He had was therefore at His feeling of being spiritually
inadequate to fulfil His great calling- exactly like Joshua. But
as with Joshua, the Angel strengthened Him.
Rev. 4 and 5 describe the important part that the Angels had to
play in welcoming Christ into Heaven on His ascension, and in giving
Him then His full reward and glory(2). Having been so
intensely involved in His every literal movement, this is understandable.
Zech. 3:4,5 describes the same scene: "Joshua (Jesus) was clothed
with filthy garments, and stood before the Angel. And He (the Angel)
answered and spake unto those (Angels) that stood before Him saying,
Take away the filthy garments (human nature?) from Him. . they (the
Angels) set a fair mitre upon His head, and clothed Him with garments.
And the Angel of the Lord stood by". Perhaps the one Angel supervising
this glorification of Jesus in Heaven was Gabriel, who appears to
have been Christ's personal guardian Angel. God raised Jesus by
His own right hand (Acts 2:33)- an Angelic phrase. Angels were visibly
associated with Christ's resurrection and ascension.