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His angel goes before you. It is a comforting idea that each of you might have a guardian angel who watches over you and goes before you. It means that humanity is not alone in the universe but more important still that God is actively caring for you and His heavenly servant protects you. A 2008 poll found that 55% of those asked believed they themselves had experienced a guardian angel protecting them personally from harm. Many of you have your own such stories. Our passage today tells us that Israel had a guardian angel. God promised to send an angel before Israel to guard him on the way and bring him to the place that God had prepared. Now our God is a promise-keeping God, but He warned Israel not to rebel against his guardian angel or Israel would face severe consequences. But so long as Israel obeyed this guardian angel and did everything God said, God promised to fight Israel’s enemies, bless his bread and water, take away his sicknesses, bless him with children and give him long life in the land. As long as Israel followed his guardian angel, God promised that little by little He would drive out the peoples of the land of Canaan until Israel grew large enough to possess it. Israel has already shown us his rebellious nature, which means we would be wise not to put any confidence in Israel to keep his promises to obey God and thus live long in the land. Instead, I encourage you to listen to this passage putting all of your confidence in God and this guardian angel who is inseparable from Him in these verses, and then I will try to describe how God fulfills these promises for you.

Exodus 23:20-33

 

  1. All these promises of God find their yes for you in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor 1:20).

    1. The only reason they find their yes for you in Christ is that He took that death penalty for rebelling against Him upon Himself. You heard the warning: “Do not rebel against Him, for He will not pardon your transgression.” That was a real warning – there had to be a penalty for rebellion against the guardian angel of Israel. This was no average angel—this was the second person of the Trinity appearing as an angel to Israel. Israel had to pay careful attention to Him and obey His voice. Rebellion against Him was, you might say, unforgivable – it required death. But thanks be to God, the guardian angel of Israel Himself took on human flesh so that He could die in the place of rebellious people on the cross. This is the story of the gospel – the Lord tells His people not to rebel against Him or they would die and then He takes that punishment upon Himself in their place.

    2. And so because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross all of the promises in this passage find their yes in Him. Ancient Israel’s guardian angel is the “guardian angel” of the church. As the guardian angel of ancient Israel, He was going to watch over them and go before them. Jesus Christ watches over you and goes before you. As the guardian angel of ancient Israel, He was going to bring them to the place God had prepared. Jesus Christ will bring you to the place that He has prepared for you. In fact the conquest of Canaan was supposed to be a picture of the final judgment – the Canaanites would be wiped off the face of the earth and the people of Israel would inherit the land and live in blessing. That Promised Land was a sign pointing them to the coming new heavens and earth. Thus as their guardian angel He would protect them in the coming apocalyptic battles and bring them to the place that God had prepared. Jesus Christ will protect us in the final apocalyptic battle and bring us into that new heavens and earth. In that land God promised to bless their bread and water, take away their sicknesses, that none would miscarry or be barren in the land and that they would live long in the land. The fulfillment in Jesus Christ far exceeds the expectations set here – you will live forevermore in a fruitful land with no more sickness or death. Thus all of these promises find their yes in Christ including the big promise of the land. (And so does the other big promise of the Old Testament – the promise of the Spirit.)

  2. Christ went before you and even lives within you so that you might serve God as a witness to the nations.

    1. Christ is your “guardian angel” who has given you His Spirit. He went before you to the final judgment with His death and resurrection, He went before you into heaven at His ascension, He now goes before you while you go and make disciples. But far better than being able to say that your “guardian angel” goes before you, we can say that Christ lives within you for on the Day of Pentecost He poured out His Spirit on the church. Thus Christ went before you and even lives within you.

    2. The main reason Christ goes before you and lives within you is that you worship as a witness to the nations. He does not change the hearts of everyone all at once but little by little He will convert them just as little by little He would drive out the Canaanites from before Israel. The best witness to the world is Spirit-filled people who refuse to serve the gods of the peoples and instead serve the Lord. You might serve the Lord through the hard work that you do that sets your work apart from the rest of the company, you might serve the Lord by loving the sick or the barren, you might serve the Lord by taking care of an elderly parent, you might serve the Lord by studying hard in school, you might serve the Lord by praying with fellow believers at lunchtime or by encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ to put their confidence not in themselves but in God and His Son Jesus. These kinds of everyday things are part of our lives of worship as a witness to the nations. You then are like guardian angels for the people around you for Spirit-filled believers are the only Christ that the world around you will see until the day these promises come to pass when Jesus comes again.

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