God’s Unseen Messengers

“Who maketh his angels spirits: his ministers a flaming fire.” —Psalm 104:4

AN INTRIGUING and enduring mystery to the terrestrial world is the existence of the celestial. Although, under present circumstances, it is a realm most imperceptible by natural discernment, it is one which is completely verifiable and a reality beyond dispute to students of the Word of God. The word angel (malalich in the Hebrew language), found in the Scriptures many times and in many places, most often refers to those beings of our Heavenly Father’s creation who inhabit the heavens, or the spirit world. The Hebrew word malalich means ‘messenger’, and although when translated ‘angel’ the allusion is generally to spirit messengers, it can and does apply in some instances to other agencies or powers, animate or inanimate, which God uses to serve his purposes. When this word is translated ‘messenger’, it often applies to human beings such as the “messengers” King David sent (I Chron. 19:2), or the “messengers of Saul.”—I Sam. 19:20

Our immediate consideration, however, concerns the holy angels of God—his invisible messengers, who, as the Bible reveals, are the primary agencies used by our Heavenly Father to overrule in the affairs of mankind. They also have been given a special charge over God’s spiritual children—the heirs of salvation, as it is written, “Are they not all [the holy angels] ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”—Heb. 1:14

Like mankind, the angels were created mortal beings, free moral agents, in the image of God. They have the ability to choose between serving their Creator or a course of rebellion against him. The Bible record states that some in the past chose the latter and became messengers of Satan instead of remaining true to God. The Scriptures also foretell their future time of judgment, and of the ultimate destruction of any who, after their trial, remain disloyal.—Rev. 21:10; Matt. 25:41; Jude 6

The Prophet Job speaks of a time in the distant past, before rebellion occurred, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 35:7) Here we learn that the holy angels are not only very powerful, influential messengers of God, but they are his sons as well, vitally interested and harmoniously active in the works of their Father’s creation.

The numerous Biblical accounts of their activities help us to learn something about these wonderful beings. As we recall the various narratives to mind, we note that in every instance where an angel was used to bring a message to earth, he came as a representative of Jehovah. When God gave his oath-bound promise to Abraham it was an angel who delivered this important message in these words: “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord … that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed … and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 22:15-18

On another occasion, God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. While the related conversation appears to be directly between God and Moses, the anecdote recorded in Exodus 3:2 tells us otherwise: “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of a bush,” and spoke to Moses. Again, when Moses received the Law in the holy mount, including all its involved instructions and the intricate details of the Tabernacle construction and services, the account says that “God spoke all these words.” (Exod. 20:1) However, the Apostle Paul, in referring to this same event, declared that the Law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator—Moses. (Gal. 3:19) And confirming this again in Hebrews 2:2 he wrote, “The word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.” What a solemn responsibility had these spokesmen for God in declaring his word and purposes before men!

The Bible reveals that angels have the power, we know not how, to materialize as a means of communicating with men. Jacob, a man of God, wrestled with a materialized angel all night, and would not let him go until he had received the blessing and promise that he desired of him. Jacob said of this experience, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Gen. 32:24-30) The angel stood in a position of representing God so completely that he could speak and act as God himself. This being true about God’s spiritual messengers, it is important that they be perfect and loyal, able as reliable ambassadors to reflect the exact image of God in their own characters.

We observe too, how God’s mighty power was demonstrated through the many and varied acts of the angels as chronicled in the Scriptures. A single angel had the power to smite and destroy all the firstborn of the nation of Egypt on the night of the Passover. (Isa. 63:9) This same angel, a short time later, in the role of a protector, led the children of Israel out of Egypt and to safety. We read in Exodus 14:19, “The angel of God … went before the camp of Israel.” On another occasion, seventy thousand rebellious Israelites were slain by just one angel. “There died of the people … seventy thousand men … when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it.”

The New Testament also is replete with references of messages and help brought by angels. One of the most important announcements ever made by Jehovah fell to the honor of an angel named Gabriel, who said to Zacharias the priest, “I … stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee and to show thee glad tidings.” (Luke 1:19) These same glad tidings he later spoke to Mary: “The angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. … Thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”—Luke 1:28-33

During the lifetime of this one, whose birth they were so privileged to announce, the heavenly hosts were always near to interpose on his behalf. Matthew 4:11 states: “Angels came and ministered unto him,” and this was true down to the very close of his ministry. On the momentous night when Peter attempted to protect his Master from those who had come to arrest him, Jesus said to Peter, “Put up again thy sword into his place. … Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:51-54) Surely, one angel would have been more than sufficient for the task; but Jesus knew it was not his Father’s will that he ask for such help. He explained that if the angels saved him from his earthly destiny, “how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? … But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”—vss. 54,56; Ps. 22:1-11; 41:9; Isa. 53:3

Angels have emotional endowments not unlike those we possess. They sang beautifully in chorus, praising God when celebrating the event of the birth of Jesus: “Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.” (Luke 2:14,15) And we are told that they experience great joy when they see a sinner repent. “Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:7) From these few examples we sense the love and concern the holy angels possess for the ultimate salvation of every wayward child of God.

It is comforting to realize that these spiritual sons of God, whose dedication, care, and great ability so graciously was demonstrated for us through past ages, are now the ones in whom we can put our trust as guardians over our affairs. It is written: “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways, they shall bear thee up in their hands lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Ps. 91:11,12) What blessed assurance this scripture gives, and what wonderful confirmation of its promise each child of God has experienced throughout his lifetime!

We are given to understand that each one of the Lord’s people has a ministering spirit, an angel, who has charge of his affairs and is God’s agency of providential care over us. Psalm 34:7 tells us, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that love him, and delivereth them [cares for them].” The word encampeth means ‘to abide’ or ‘a perpetual habitation’. Guardian angels have instant access to the Heavenly Father at all times in their ministry. This is confirmed by the words of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 18:10: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

Since the Christian life is a “walk by faith and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7), it is understandable that by God’s arrangement the ministry of the angels is accomplished in what appears to us as very natural circumstances, and in a way that will not interfere with our own free moral agency. When we are determined to follow our own will in matters, not seeking the Lord’s guidance and overruling, then it is probable that our guardian angel will not interfere, and we will learn some bitter lessons as a result. However, when the Lord’s will is our chief concern in every aspect of life, then our guardian angels are ready and able to help us so that we may prosper spiritually, and be blessed.

What are some of the ways the angels minister to us? May we suggest a few:

Strength to Endure—It may not be the Lord’s will for us to be immediately delivered from a trial, but he will always give us strength to endure it. “Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Josh. 1:9) “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deut. 33:25) “The Lord will give strength unto his people.” (Ps. 29:11) “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”—II Cor. 12:9

Deliverance—Yes, deliverance from all our trials will come to us in the proper time and in the Lord’s way. We remember how the Apostle Paul was saved from death by God’s help on several occasions in order that the Gospel might be preached in other places. In Acts 5:17-20 we read of an instance when the priests and other leaders of the people arrested the apostles and put them in a common prison. “An angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the Temple to the people all the words of this life.” The reason they were cast into prison was for publicly preaching, and now the Lord through his angel was telling them to go out and continue the same work despite its hazards! The angel of the Lord will deliver us from our trials, also, but not in order to take our ease, or to have more comfortable lives. No, our deliverance will be for the purpose of enabling us to continue the work of sacrificing the flesh and its interests, to lay down our lives for the brethren, and to preach the Gospel to others.

Protection from Evil—The angels of God many times lift us up lest we dash our foot against a stone. This protection from evil no doubt includes many little unseen things. If we only knew of the numerous times they have protected us and kept us from harm! Sometimes their assistance becomes evident when problems beyond our control find solutions that seem almost miraculous. When our motives are pure, and we seek the Lord’s help and blessing he will surely keep the promise of his Word to have his angels watch over our steps and protect us from falling.

Yes, the angels are carefully overseeing every aspect of our lives, and we are never alone. A particularly beautiful psalm describing this close, daily, and hourly watchcare of our Heavenly Father, is Psalm 139:1-18: “O Lord, thou host searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising; thou understandeth my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [the grave], behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. … Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand!”

While we thank the Lord daily for his temporal provisions, our spiritual needs are even more important. Daily he supplies us with manna from heaven. Jesus said he was the “living bread from heaven” and that the words he would speak were “spirit and life.” (John 6:31-35,48-63) The Scriptures tell us that the manna provided for Israel in the wilderness, which they gathered daily, was prepared by the angels. “[God] had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels’ food.” (Ps. 78:24,25) The guardian angels, intensely interested in our spiritual well-being, have been privileged by God to arrange our affairs so that we have opportunities to study, to fellowship, to meditate about God and his plans, to be active witnesses to his truth, and to fulfill our consecration vows of sacrifice. Thus we are sustained day by day as new creatures in Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote concerning our hope, “Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.” (Heb. 12:22) What joy awaits us when we come unto this city of the living God! There we will come into the presence of this innumerable company of angels that were so directly involved in the lives of all the Lord’s dear people! There we will have an opportunity to meet our guardian angels, to enjoy their fellowship face to face. They will rejoice with us in the greatness and the goodness of our loving God and their privilege of helping us to reach our goal as members of his divine family.

Even now we are making plans for that meeting in the heavenlies! “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:49,54,55,57) We can accomplish this goal by giving all diligence to make our “calling and election sure.”—II Pet. 1:4-8,10

The mighty power of God is working on our behalf! His great love and compassion is being ministered to us through his angels. How can we fail? How can we fail if we yield our lives to their great ability and constant, untiring assistance!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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