By: Undre Griggs, Jr.
As God was preparing to send an angel to guard and guide the Israelites on their journey, He gave them a few warnings about the angel. There were suggestions that we would expect to hear; such as “pay attention to him” and “listen to him”. There was one warning in particular that I found most interesting and that was “do not rebel against him”.
Exodus 23:21 (NIV): Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.
God warned the Israelites if they rebelled against the angel, the angel would not forgive them. I find this fascinating because God is so loving and longsuffering, that we often attribute this characteristic to all in heaven. We even find this understanding confirmed by Jesus when He told the parable of the Lost Sheep.
Luke 15:7 (ESV): Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
It is not that this angel was arrogant or disgruntled; God says the angel will not forgive them because God’s name is in his heart. We have to remember that angel means messenger, in particular, an angel is a messenger of God. In this case, God is trying to deliver a message of obedience to the Israelites. God wants His people to understand if they listen to Him, they will gain everything. But in the same way, if they rebel against Him, they will lose everything.
Exodus 23:22-23 (NKJV): But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.
Notice in verse 22 how God interchanges between the people listening to His angel and listening to Him. The oneness is continued in verse 23 as well. God says He will send the angel ahead of them, but ends the same verse by saying He, not the angel will wipe them out. Since an angel is a messenger of God, it only speaks when God tells it to speak and it only does what God has authorized it to do. That is why this angel will not be forgiving the Israelites if they rebel against God. Not because the angel has a personal agenda, but because it is only able to deliver the message that God wants delivered.