10-4 "The Angel of His presence"
Now we come to a vital point. Having shown that the 'LORD' in these chapters must refer to a mighty Angel, it follows that the promise to send another Angel with them through the wilderness was made by a superior Angel who was in control of another Angel. Ex. 33:11,12 show Moses talking to the LORD "face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend"- i. e. in a relaxed, friendly way. Thus the identity of the 'LORD' is clearly an Angel. This Angel says in v. 20 a few verses later that His face cannot be seen by any man, but His back parts may be seen by Moses. As we have said, the fact He could be seen at all shows He was not God Himself. It must follow that we are either hearing another Angel speak more mighty than the one with whom Moses spoke face to face- and there is no indication of this in the text, which speaks as if it is the same 'LORD' throughout- or that the Angel with whom Moses spoke started to manifest God to a different degree. The 'LORD'- the Angel- then says, 33:14, "My presence shall go with thee". This "presence" was another Angel, as 32:34 makes clear: "behold, Mine Angel shall go before thee". This idea of one Angel sending another ties up with the way things are expressed in Is. 63. The language used there regarding God redeeming His people has echoes, as we have earlier touched upon, in the record of the Angelic deliverance of Israel- "In all their affliction He was afflicted. . in His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and carried them all the days of old. . He was turned to be their enemy and fought against them (the punishment of Israel in the wilderness was by Angelic means- 1 Cor. 10:10). . the Angel of His presence saved them" (v. 9,10). The Angel "of" or 'sent from' His presence is then seen as a direct allusion to Ex. 33:14, where from the presence of the mighty Angel whose face Moses could not see, there came a promise of another Angel to be with them in the day to day affairs of the journey .
The alternative to this view is to insist that there was only one Angel present, but manifest in a bewildering variety of ways. A strong point in favour of this is that Ex. 3:11 describes the Angel that spoke face to face with Moses as descending in a pillar of cloud, whilst Ex. 34:5 describes the Angel whose back parts alone Moses could see as descending in "the cloud"- presumably meant to link with "the cloud" of Ex. 33, in which the Angel of His presence descended to speak face to face. Thus when the Angel warned Moses as He spoke face to face with him "thou canst not see My face" (33:20) He meant that if He were to fully show Moses his glory as requested, they could not continue their relationship "as a man speaketh unto his friend" (33:11). Human fellowship with God must always be through God to some extent masking and not fully declaring His own intense holiness in order to let us approach to Him. If the Holy Spirit in the New Testament refers to an Angel (the same Comforter Angel that was with Moses in the wilderness- see Ch. 13), we have the same idea in 1 Cor. 12:4: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit" (Angel)- the Angel of His presence.
Motive For Confidence
At Moses' death, the positive thrust of his closing exhortation was his conviction that the Angel of His presence which had been with them so far would continue to be so, to enable them to enter the land. This alone shows the great part that the Angel played in Moses' life. "The Lord thy God, He will go over before thee. . . and Joshua shall go over before thee. . . and Joshua shall go over before thee (showing Moses' belief that Joshua would work with the Angel- cp. Ps. 91, where Moses commends Joshua for keeping close to the Angel in the tabernacle). . . Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God (the Angel God of Israel), He it is that doth go with thee, He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Dt. 31:3-6). The Angel of His presence confirmed to doubting Joshua (1) that "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Josh. 1:5). Solomon too pleaded for the Angel to remain in the temple in similar language (1 Kings 8:57). The Angel's emphasis on "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" leads us to consider Heb. 13:5: "Be content with such things as ye have (the context is of coveting material possessions and other women): for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee". Thus our Angel will provide us with our physical and emotional needs in order that we should enter our promised land, and we should rest assured in trusting our Angel for such things rather than seeking to provide them ourselves. "We may boldly say, The Lord (the Angel) is my helper, and I will not fear (cp. the Angel's exhortation to Joshua not to fear) what man shall do unto me" (Heb. 13:6)- we need not fear even the spiritual temptations created by men. So is it coincidence that Paul starts this section by reminding us that "some have entertained Angels unawares"? (13:2).
(1) Notice all the times Joshua is exhorted to be stronger in faith by the Angel of His presence.