Have you ever wondered what the Son of God was doing for the thousands of years before his incarnation? Was he simply twiddling his thumbs waiting for his time to take on flesh and save the world? No, he was active in heaven as well as on earth well before his incarnation. He is the one through whom all things were made and through whom all things are held together. (Col 1:16-17 ) And throughout the Old Testament we see him making appearances, all of which prepared the world for his coming.
One christophany is found in Joshua 5. Joshua is getting ready to fight that famous battle against the city of Jericho when he meets a man who looks like a warrior with a sword drawn. He asks this man if he is for them or against them. The man replied, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” As soon as Joshua heard this he fell on this face and worship this man. We know this was not an angel because an angel would have stopped Joshua from worshipping a mere creature instead of the Creator.
He appeared to Hagar as the Angel of the Lord (Gen. 16:7 ) and to Abraham as he was about to sacrifice Isaac. He appears as the Angel of the Lord who dwelt in the pillar of fire and cloud (Ex 14:19; 1 Cor. 10:1-4). Moses asked to see the glory of God and Christ manifested himself in a cloud and stood before Moses. (Ex 33:18). There are many more christophanies found in the Old Testament.
But why would the second person of the Trinity make himself visible from time to time?
Jesus is not a distant deity who doesn’t take interest in the actions and lives of the people he made. The Son of God is involved in every minute detail of history and our lives, and at key moments in redemptive history he even manifested himself in bodily form. At times it was for grace and other times it is for declaring judgement. But know this, he is God who loves his creation and his people deeply.
“Lovers cannot bear to be apart. Phone calls and long letters do not satisfy the longing to be together; they only intensify. The old testament appearances of the eternal Son are like those phone calls and letters. They are temporary, incomplete and, distant designed to awaken in us a longing for God’s permanent, intimate, full, and gracious appearing in the Incarnation.” Michael Barrett (via David Murray, Jesus On Every Page)
The love Jesus has for creation and his people is so intense that he was willing to not only draw close in measure in times past, but to fully draw near, become one of us and die for our sins.
Jesus on Every Page by David Murray