The LORD said in Exodus 23:20, “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.” (NKJV) The LORD was giving the children of Israel a promise, the only promise here not contingent upon their ability to keep His covenant, the Old Covenant, the promise that He will send an Angel before them to keep them in the way, and to bring them into the place which He has prepared. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” having previously said in John 14:3-4, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know,” (NKJV)
Philip said to Jesus in John 14:8, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus replied in John 14:9-11, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” (NKJV) The LORD said, when speaking of His Angel He sent before the children of Israel to keep them in the way and to bring them into the place which He prepared, in Exodus 23:21, “Beware of Him and obey His voice, do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.” (NKJV)
Beware of Him and obey His voice is pay attention to Him and do as He says. Do not provoke Him by disobeying Him, showing Him unbelief, complaining, going against His will and things of that nature. He will not pardon your transgressions is He will not let the Israelites go unpunished for going against Him. Only God can forgive sin. No angel, other than an Angel who is God, can forgive sin. The LORD saying, “He will not pardon your transgressions,” means the Angel has the ability to forgive sin or it would be that the angel cannot pardon your transgressions instead of He will not pardon your transgressions. My name is in Him means the Angel is equal to the LORD, one in the same, the Angel who led the way along the path of the Old Covenant is the same Messiah who is leading the way along the path of the New Covenant, the same Spirit, the Son of God, who inhabited both the old container in angelic form and the new person in human form, Jesus Christ.
In Acts 7, Stephen was preaching to his fellow Jews about some of the history of the Jews, saying things like, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land I will show you.’ But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’ Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision.” Stephen goes on to recall the history of Joseph in Egypt and how Moses came to be a fugitive for forty years. Stephen said in Acts 7:30-32, “And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘I am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look.” (NKJV)
Stephen said in Acts 7:37, “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’” (NKJV) This was a Messianic prophecy fulfilled by the time Stephen preached it, a Messianic prophecy from Deuteronomy 18:15-19, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.‘“ (NKJV)
This Messianic prophecy said the LORD would raise up a Prophet like Moses, a Prophet who would have to give divine laws like Moses gave laws from God also, to be like Moses. The Prophet would also have to lead God’s chosen people like Moses led God’s chosen people to be like Moses. The Prophet would also have to show great signs and wonders, in the name of the LORD, which is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, aka the Father, who sent His Angel as the Way to lead the Israelites in the wilderness, just as He sent Moses to lead the Israelites in the wilderness. This Messianic prophecy also said the Prophet would be a Jew, a descendant of the children of Israel by blood, also like Moses. The Prophet is to be listened to, “Him you shall hear,” just like Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear.” (Mark 4:9, Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35)
The Israelites had asked for a prophet the day they gathered at Horeb, a mountain in Sinai, aka Mount Sinai. This gathering, called the day of assembly, was when all the tribes gathered together to receive the Law, or the Old Covenant, given to Moses by the LORD. The voice of the LORD and the fire from which He spoke frightened the Israelites so bad that they said to Moses in Exodus 20:19, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (NKJV) This fear of God’s voice was nothing new. Adam was afraid of God’s voice after he sinned, saying in Genesis 3:10, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” In 2 Timothy 1:7, For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV) This fear is exactly why the Law was given, because fear comes from transgressions, and, when we go against God, the first thing we usually want to do is hide from God, even though God sees everything and we have nowhere to hide. The best practice is to always go to God with the truth, before our sin turns us into someone we do not really want to be.
Galatians 3:19, What purpose does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. (NKJV) Galatians was written by Paul, a former Pharisee who was named Saul before Jesus changed his name to Paul, and an expert in the Law, who died a born again Christian. Paul clearly stated in Galatians 3:19 that the Law was added. The Law was not an original part of the paradise Adam lost when he sinned, but was a result of God dealing directly with mankind, without a prophet or a priest, first at the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve in Genesis and ending at His dealing directly with the Israelites in the wilderness in Exodus. The Law, or the Old Covenant, was replaced with the New Covenant by Jesus, the Seed, both the Prophet and the High Priest, the Mediator, the Angel and God, who deals directly with mankind once again through the Holy Spirit. The Law came as an end result of the Way, the LORD’s Angel, seeing the Israelites not hearing Him, transgressing against His commands, not listening to Him. The Law defined sin and gave God’s chosen people a clear path where each person could choose one Way or the other way. The Law was a conditional contract where the promise of the Seed is unconditional love. The LORD said in Deuteronomy 18:19 that He would hold accountable anyone who does not hear and obey His words the Prophet speaks in His name. As long as a person is alive, there is still time to repent and change the person’s ways from what God says is evil to the Way God says is good. Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “Why do you call Me good, No one is good but One, that is, God.” (NKJV) Jesus was not saying He was not good nor that He was not God, but Jesus was testing a young man’s faith.
The condition of a person’s heart is the key to receiving God’s blessing. God’s blessing cannot be looked upon or judged by the size of a person’s bank account. Just because someone is lucky in this world financially does not mean the person’s personal life is blessed by God. God gives us a sound mind when we are blessed. No matter what happens, joy always prevails within someone who has a righteous heart before God. Stephen preached in Acts 7:38-42, “This is he [Moses] who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, who our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it was written in the book of the Prophets: ‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? (NKJV)
Even though the Israelites knew the LORD, they still rejoiced in the works of their own hands. The LORD gave them the talents to work with their own hands and the Israelites knew their talents came from the LORD, yet, they still became full of pride and began to take credit for their talents instead of worshipping the LORD and giving sacrifices and offerings to the LORD with the first fruits of their talents that were a blessing from the LORD in the first place. The Israelites gave the first fruits of their talents to false idols of their own making, essentially boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:19) Jesus said in Matthew 25:33-34, “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” Revelation 13:8, All who dwell on the earth will worship him, [antichrist] whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (NKJV) Jesus went on to say in Matthew 25:41, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (NKJV) The everlasting fire, aka the lake of fire, aka the second death, can be avoided by any person alive as long as the person turns from the person’s ways to His Way, by having true remorse in the person’s heart and repenting. A person can be a good person in the eyes of the world, yet the person can be giving their praise to false idols instead of Jesus, God. These false idols can be anything from musicians to athletes to the person’s own self, the person’s possessions, religious figures and beyond. God gave up the Israelites who worshipped false idols, turned away from them and let them worship the host of heaven, which is the sun, moon and stars, aka false idols. Stephen goes on to preach in Acts 7:42-60 and is eventually stoned to death by the Pharisees, led by Saul, the one who later became Paul and wrote much of the New Testament. There is no one God cannot save! Repent, turn from your ways to His Way!
42 Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:
‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness,
O house of Israel?
43 You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch,
And the star of your god Remphan,
Images which you made to worship;
And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.’
God’s True Tabernacle
44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house.
48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
Israel Resists the Holy Spirit
51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
Stephen the Martyr
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (NKJV)