Our Invisible Helpers

“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” —Psalms 34:7

WE DO not know very much about the angels, for the Bible was not specifically written to reveal truths concerning them. They are mentioned many times in the Scriptures, but only in connection with the manner in which God has used and continues to use them in the outworking of his plan of salvation for the fallen human race. However, these incidental references to the angels do furnish us with information concerning their nature, and in a general way the plane of life which they occupy.

For example, Psalm 8:3-5 reads, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” This passage of Scripture furnishes us with considerable information concerning man, and incidentally indicates that the angels were created on a higher plane of life than man—that man was made “a little lower than the angels.”

In Hebrews 1:4 we find a reference to the resurrected Jesus. We are informed that he was “made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” In these two passages we learn that the angels are of a higher creation than man and on a lower plane of life than the resurrected Jesus.

Hebrews 1:13,14 informs us concerning the ministry of angels on behalf of the followers of Jesus. We read, “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” No, God did not invite the angels to sit on his right hand as he had invited Jesus to do. The assignment for the angels in connection with his plan was that they be “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” This, of course, is in harmony with our text, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”

In Matthew 18:10 we are furnished with interesting and encouraging information concerning our ministering spirits. Speaking of his disciples Jesus said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” What an intimacy this indicates between the holy angels and God! They always have access to him. They behold his face—suggesting that they are in favor with him, and that they know his will concerning those of his people on earth to whom they minister.

Old Testament Record

There are many references in the Old Testament to God’s use of the angels in connection with the outworking of his plan and in his dealings with his ancient people. When God confirmed his covenant with Abraham, following the demonstration of his willingness to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering, he used an angel to convey the necessary information to Abraham. We read, “And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven.” It would seem reasonable to conclude that God used the angels to communicate important information to his people on many occasions. In fact, the Scriptures so indicate.

When the time came to seek a bride for Isaac, Abraham sent his trusted servant, Eliezer, on this mission, and he said to him, “The Lord shall send his angel before thee.” (Gen. 24:7) No doubt this angel of the Lord helped to shape the experiences of Eliezer on this journey so that he would come in contact with Rebekah and that she would return with him to Isaac and become his bride. The Lord cares for and guides his people, of course, through his Holy Spirit, which is his holy power; but it may well be that one of the means by which he exercises his power is through the holy angels.

Balaam—Numbers 22:1-35

We find another interesting reference to the ministry of angels in connection with God’s dealings with Balaam. The children of Israel were still in the wilderness. The Lord had given them victory over their enemies, especially the Amorites. The Moabites become fearful, and their king, Balak the son of Zippor, “sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.”

The messengers who were sent by Balak to Balaam were provided with rewards to offer Balaam. Balaam invited the messengers to stay overnight with him, and promised to give them his answer in the morning. Incidentally, we might say that it is unwise to invite temptation to stay overnight. However, the next morning “God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” Balaam informed the messengers that he would be unable to co-operate, and they returned this information to Balak, the king of Moab.

Then Balak “sent yet again princes, more, and more honorable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say unto me more.”

We are not to understand from this that Balaam was a true and sincere servant of the true God. Jude, in the New Testament, speaks of those who “ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” (Jude 11) Balaam evidently had respect for the power of God to interfere in the affairs of nations, and he did not want willfully to go against the God of the Israelites, but he wanted the reward, and was hoping that now God would give him the permission to curse them, which he so much wanted to do.

And God did give Balaam permission to go with these messengers, but with the explicit instruction not to do anything that he did not give him permission to do. Actually, God never did give Balaam permission to curse his people. However, Balaam may have thought that the Lord would finally give him this permission, so he saddled his ass for the journey. It was here that God, through his angel, interfered. We read that “God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him.” The ass refused to proceed as Balaam directed. The angel of the Lord stood in the way, and the ass “turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.” The ass tried to proceed, but was diverted by the angel and finally fell down and was smitten by Balaam. Seemingly the ass then began to talk to Balaam, reproving him for his action in smiting her. Actually, it was the angel who was doing the speaking. And then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way.

We think there is a good lesson in all of this for the Lord’s people, all of whom seek to understand the providences of the Lord and to do his will. But there are times, probably, with all of us when we want to do our own will so badly that we misinterpret some of the providences of the Lord to make it appear that he is agreeing with us. This is what Balaam had done, and until his eyes were opened to behold the angel of the Lord he blamed the hindrances of his course of action on the ass. Let us not do this. Let us realize, that if the Lord prevents our doing the things which perhaps we so much wish to do, having decided that these are the things the Lord wants us to do, let us not blame this on the “ass,” but let us realize, as Balaam found out, that the angel of the Lord is taking a hand in our affairs and preventing us from doing the things that would be detrimental to us as new creatures in Christ Jesus. This is one of the ways in which our guardian angels are caring for us; that is, they are hindering us, if we follow the leadings of the Lord, from taking a course in life that would not be advantageous to us as new creatures.

Joshua and Jericho

In the sixth chapter of Joshua we are presented with another interesting ministry of the holy angels in connection with the capture of Jericho under the leadership of Joshua. This narrative is introduced in verses 13-15 of chapter 5, which we quote:

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”

The word “angel” is not used in this scripture, but we think that they are referred to as the Lord’s host, of which the one to whom Joshua speaks explained that he was their captain. As we know, this captain of the Lord’s host gave instructions to Joshua as to how to capture the city. Apparently, through the captain of the Lord’s host the Lord instructed Joshua that he should cause his army to march around the city once each day for six days, the seven priests bearing before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns. Then on the seventh day they were to encompass the city seven times, and the priests were then to blow on the trumpets.

With the completion of the seventh encirclement, in addition to the blasting of the trumpets, the people were to shout; and when that occurred the walls of the city fell down. It has been suggested by some that it was the vibration from the tremendous noise of the trumpets, and the shouting of the people setting up strong vibrations that caused the walls to crumble; but we think that the better explanation is that the Lord’s host of angels, with their captain, brought about this great destruction.

We know that angels are quite capable of this sort of service, for in Acts 7:53 we are told—and we quote the Revised Standard Version—that the Israelites “received the law as delivered by angels.” The giving of the law was accompanied by thunder, and lightning, and earthquakes. And we think it reasonable to suppose that the angels of God brought about these phenomena of nature, and if this be true, certainly it would be no problem for them to destroy the wall of Jericho.

Extra Help

We think that here we have a good illustration of God’s dealings with us. He has made every provision for our victory through faith based upon our loyalty to the Word of God. Paul speaks of this provision as the armor of God—the armor of truth, that is. But if we had only the truth to protect us against the world and Satan, we would soon be overcome. So God has provided extra help as he did with Joshua. Joshua and the Israelites let the people of Jericho know of their presence, but only the angels could destroy the walls of the city to gain them entrance.

The blowing of the trumpets and the shouting of the people, no doubt, struck fear into the hearts of the citizens of Jericho and made them easy prey for the Israelites once the protecting walls were no longer hindering them from entering the city. So with us, if we are faithful in proclaiming the truth and used as servants of the Lord, but only under the panoply of the holy angels are we protected and assured of victory at the end of the racecourse.

In Judges 6:12,13 we have another account in which an angel is used to give assurance of help to a servant of God who was discouraged, this servant being Gideon. At the time Israel was a virtual captive in the hands of the Midianites and there was much distress among them. And the Lord sent his angel who “appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”

At this point Gideon seemed to have little faith that the Lord would do anything for Israel. But the angel of the Lord continued his instructions and, as we know, eventually Gideon was used to defeat the Midianites and to deliver Israel. From this account we infer that one of the situations in which the Lord uses his ministering spirits to minister unto the heirs of salvation in this age is in a time of discouragement. Gideon knew of the accounts that had come down to them from more ancient times concerning what God had done on behalf of his people, but seemingly nothing was then being done, and the fact that the angel called him a mighty man of valor seemed empty under the circumstances.

Probably all the Lord’s people have had periods of discouragement when it seems that the Lord has forsaken them, and yet out of these situations there develop circumstances which reveal that God is truly on their side, helping them in every time of need and causing all thing to work together for their good.

An Angel Delivers Daniel

In Daniel 6:22 we have another reference to God’s use of angels to deliver one of his servants. It was the circumstance in which King Darius was induced through subtle maneuvering to cast his trusted friend and servant, Daniel, into the lion’s den. The king thought he had no way to avoid doing this, but he was deeply grieved over the fact that he could find no way out.

All night long he was worried about it, and in the morning went immediately to the lion’s den to see if perhaps Daniel’s God had done something about it. “And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?”

How happy the king must have been when he heard the voice of Daniel coming to him out of the lion’s den, saying to him, “O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” What wonderful deliverance this was of one of God’s people by the power of an angel!

The Lord’s people today are not in danger of being cast into a literal den of lions, but it is still true that our Adversary the Devil like a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour. He will continue to do this until in the Lord’s due time he is bound and his devouring strength and deceptive wiles are brought to an end. And that time has not come, so let us rejoice in the fact that today, as in the past, the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

Twelve Legions

Moving into the New Testament we find many references to the holy angels and how the Lord used them. We recall the time at Gethsemane when Peter drew his sword to defend his Master against the howling mob which had come out from Jerusalem to arrest him. Jesus commanded Peter to put up his sword, and reminded him that he had twelve legions of angels to deliver him if it was his Father’s will that he be delivered. He did not need the help of Peter and his flimsy sword.

In the 10th chapter of Acts we have the account of the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, and this development in the plan of God was brought about, in part at least, by the service of angels. First, Cornelius had a vision in which an angel of God came to him and said, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” The angel then directed Cornelius to “send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”

Cornelius did as instructed and sent messengers to Joppa, who contacted Peter. Meanwhile, Peter had been given a vision, which he interpreted later to mean that he should no longer speak of Gentiles as being unclean—not, that is, if they accepted Christ and repented of their sins. The lesson to Peter was, as he said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”—Acts 10:34,35

Peter Delivered

Acts 12:1-16 presents the account of Peter being delivered from prison by an angel. It was the purpose of Herod to take Peter’s life, but since it was the Passover season he decided to wait until after this because he did not wish to offend the Jews. The Jews were pleased that he had arrested Peter. Perhaps they were not so callous as to enjoy the idea of Peter’s execution during the Passover season. Peter, therefore, was kept in prison, but prayer was made without ceasing unto God for him.

But finally the time came when Herod decided to bring him forth, and we read that “the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.

When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” (Acts 12:7-10) This great deliverance was wrought by an angel. The account states that the iron door of the prison opened of its own accord as Peter and the angel approached it. This did not really happen of its own accord, because it was the power of God exercised through the angel that opened the door.

What a wonderful lesson this is for us! How many iron doors confront us as we endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Jesus? And how wonderful it is, as we continue to put our trust in the Lord, to see these doors open one after another. It is not by our strength or wisdom, but it is because the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

Peter, after fully realizing what the Lord had done for him through the angel, made his way to the house of Mary, the mother of John. The brethren were holding a meeting there that night, and together were praying for Peter. Peter knocked at the door of the gate and “a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness.” We can truly imagine her excitement! She ran in and told how Peter stood before the gate, and the brethren who were praying for Peter said to Rhoda, “Thou art mad.”

At first it might appear that these brethren did not have much faith in their prayers, but possibly they were not praying for Peter’s deliverance, knowing that Herod had killed James, the brother of John, and may have taken for granted that Peter would also be killed. The burden of their prayers may have been that he be given strength to go through this final ordeal of his life of sacrifice. Naturally, when he was not killed, but delivered by an angel, and appeared at their home, and his appearance was announced by Rhoda, they thought she was mad. But finally he was given admittance and joined the brethren. And what a happy deliverance this must have been!

We have in this not only a good illustration of our Heavenly Father’s ability to deliver his people from all circumstances which are out of harmony with his will for them, but also of the fact that his will is not always the same for his individual servants. He permitted James to be killed, but he delivered Peter. So, as we watch the providences of the Lord, let us never be discouraged because the Lord may not deal with us as he does with some others; his wisdom knows best what is good for each of his children. May our faith rest in this, and continue to rejoice in the fact that one of the means by which God exercises his power for our protection and guidance is through the angels—those angels of the Lord which encampeth round about those who fear him, and delivereth them.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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