Our Invisible Helpers

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

BOTH THE OLD AND NEW Testaments say much about the ministry of angels, and give us considerable information concerning their nature and capabilities. We know, for example, that they are of a higher order of creation than man; for David informs us that man was made “a little lower than the angels.” (Ps. 8:5) In the New Testament we are told that when Jesus was raised from the dead he was made “better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Heb. 1:4) Thus we know that they are higher than man, but lower in nature than the highly exalted Jesus.

Contrasting further the nature and glory of Jesus with the angels, Paul writes, “Of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” (Heb. 1:7,8) Again speaking of the angels, Paul says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”—Heb. 1:14

Jesus also referred to the angels in their role as servants, or ministers, to assist God’s people here on the human plane of life. He 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.” (Matt. 18:10) This indicates a very close, even intimate relationship between the angels and our Heavenly Father, particularly as it is concerned with their care of his people. Since they always behold the Father’s face it is evident that they are fully informed regarding his will for his people, and, in shaping our experiences, know exactly what sort of events will best accomplish the Divine will in us.

When Peter drew his sword in an effort to prevent Jesus’ arrest, the Master said to him, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:52,53) A legion is six thousand, so Jesus was telling Peter that his Father would send more than seventy-two thousand angels for his protection should he ask for help. What a picture of protective strength this presents to us! A single angel in one night destroyed a mighty Assyrian army that was encamped around Jerusalem. (II Kings 19:35) If one angel was capable of delivering God’s people from the hand of a large army, think of the protection Jesus could have had by being surrounded by ‘more than twelve legions’ of them!

Jesus did not request the help the angels could have given him to prevent his arrest, for he knew that it was the Father’s will for him to die as the world’s Redeemer, and he delighted to do his Father’s will. However from Psalm 68:17,18 it is evident that the angels were available to assist Jesus. Verse seventeen of the psalm reads, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even [many—Marginal Translation] thousands of angels: the lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.” The Apostle Paul quotes the eighteenth verse of this psalm in Ephesians 4:8 and applies it to Jesus’ resurrection. The indication is that the ‘many thousands’ of angels participated in some manner in that greatest of miracles.

David declares that the Lord was among the angels ‘as in Sinai.’ Deacon Stephen, in his defense before the Jewish Sanhedrin, said that the nation received the Law at Sinai “by the disposition of angels.” (Acts 7:53) Paul reveals the nature of their service in the giving of the Law, saying, “The word spoken by angels was stedfast,” that is, they were God’s spokesmen.—Heb. 2:2

With many thousands of the angels in the service of administering the Law on Sinai, can we not visualize the meaning of Paul’s dramatic description of what took place—“Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.”—Heb. 12:18,19

How the angels accomplish the tasks assigned to them in caring for the Lord’s people during this age of faith we cannot know, because they are spirit beings and therefore invisible to human eyes. We know, however, that in ancient times, when it was the Lord’s will for them, they were able to materialize and appear in human form. The Bible’s first specific mention of an angel tells us that one of them spoke to Hagar, Sarai’s maid, and communicated important information to her. The account does not indicate whether or not this angel appeared to Hagar in human form, but he did converse with her. He told her that she was with child, and to return to her mistress.—Gen. 16:7-11

The angel named Hagar’s unborn child Ishmael—“because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.” Here we have an illustration of what Jesus said concerning the angels, that they behold the face of our Father in heaven. This angel, in speaking to Hagar, was representing the Lord who had given him all the information concerning the situation. This reveals his close association with the Lord. Hagar named the angel, “Thou God seest me.” (Gen. 16:13) Whether or not she saw the angel, Hagar knew that the angel saw her, and thus is emphasized one of the reassuring facts concerning their ministry to us. They see and know every situation of our lives, and being fully acquainted with God’s will for us, are able to shape our experiences to accomplish the desired end.


An angel spoke to Abraham just when he had his knife raised to slay Isaac as a sacrifice, in keeping with God’s instructions. The angel said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Gen. 22:12) God had severely tested Abraham’s faith and loyalty, and now an escape had been provided.

It was probably through an angel that the promise of a “seed” was first made to Abraham. (Gen. 12:7) He waited many long years for the birth of Isaac, and there were additional years of waiting while he grew to manhood, so we can quite understand his feelings when the Lord asked him to give up this precious miracle child.

The Lord’s people now have similar tests. The terms of discipleship include willingness to give up father, or mother, or sister or brother, or husband or wife—indeed, all our own people, if need be. In our consecration we agree to these terms, and we should not be surprised if we are put to the test. Severe trials develop along other lines. Often we are confronted with situations which to the flesh are frightening; but we need not fear, for we have the promise that the Lord will, in his own due time, provide a way of escape. And God’s providence is in the hands of his ministering angels.

Our privilege is to go forward in the narrow way, never halting, and never circumventing the path of duty as the Lord reveals it to us. It may seem dark around us; some formidable obstacle may loom up in front. God may hide his smiling face, but still it is for us to go forward. And we can do this in the certain knowledge that when the trials become too difficult, the angel of the Lord which ‘encampeth round about’ us will take over and bring deliverance.


The Israelites, after crossing Jordan into the promised land, were, by the angels, given a signal victory over their enemies. The account is recorded in Joshua 5:13 through chapter six. In this instance, one of the angels, identifying himself as the “captain of the host of the Lord,” materialized. At the time the angel appeared, Joshua “was by Jericho,” evidently close enough to be inspecting its defenses with the view of determining how best to proceed in the capture of this powerfully walled city. Then he saw a “man” standing “over against him.” Under the circumstances, Joshua took no chances. He immediately challenged the ‘man,’ inquiring, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?”

The angel replied, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” Whether we think of the angelic hosts as being ‘more than twelve legions’ in number, the ‘many thousands,’ [Marginal Translation] of Psalm 68:17, or the “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” mentioned in Revelation 5:11, it is certain that a ‘host’ of them were on hand for the overthrow of Jericho; and their ‘captain’—prince, as the margin states—appeared personally to Joshua to outline the strategy for the assault.

We all remember that strategy. Israel’s army was to march around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day, seven priests, marching ahead of the ark, were to have “trumpets of rams’ horns,” and as the seventh encirclement of the city was completed the priests were to blow the trumpets. This was to be the signal for a great shout by all the people. With this shout, the angel told Joshua, the walls of the city would crumble and fall—and it happened as foretold.—Josh. 6:2-5

Efforts have been made to explain this miracle. It has been suggested that the tremendous vibration set up by the shouting of so many people caused the walls of the city to crumble. The simple fact seems to be that the host of angels were on hand to destroy Jericho’s walls. If the angels could produce all the convulsions of nature which occurred on Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Law, causing even the mountain itself to quake “greatly,” surely it would be an easy matter for them to destroy the man-made walls of Jericho.—Exod. 19:18

The blowing of trumpets by the priests, and the shouting of the people, played an important part in the overall strategy. For one thing, it would help to strike terror into the hearts of the people within the city, confusing them so completely that Israel’s army could easily march in and take possession. But the real victory can be credited to the presence of the angels, and to the leadership of the captain of the host of the Lord.

The situation is much the same with us. As spiritual Israelites we, too, have our enemies, formidable enemies which confront us as ‘walled cities’ standing in the way of our progress toward the kingdom. Ours is a fight of faith and our strongest enemies are invisible. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” Paul says, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”—Eph. 6:12

The Lord has graciously provided an armor to enable us to fight against our enemies. It is an armor of Truth, for our battleground is in the mind. Satan is ever trying to break down our defenses against Truth and righteousness, and always confronting us with hindrances to progress in the narrow way. The Lord, in addition to providing us with an armor, has also outlined the strategy for battle.

If we are as faithful in the use of all the Lord’s provisions as we can be, and obey his instructions to the letter, we still would not be victorious except for that help which is provided by the ministering angels. Israel’s shouts played a part in the victory at Jericho, but without angels the city would not have been conquered. Thus without the Lord’s help, administered by the angels, we could not be “conquerors.” (Rom. 8:37) It is only as we are “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” that we can be assured of victory.—Eph. 6:10


Gideon was interviewed by an angel, and the experience highlights another situation in which the ministering angels are assisting us in times of need. The account is found in Judges 6:12,13. At the time, Israel was besieged by their enemies, the Midianites. The nation had no army for defense, and there was no one, seemingly, capable of doing anything about the unhappy situation.

Then it was that an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon to explain that the Lord had selected him to deliver his people. The first announcement of the angel was, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” To this Gideon replied, “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.”

This ministry of an angel occurred at a time of discouragement. Probably at one time or another all of the Lord’s people become somewhat discouraged by unhappy circumstances which they are unable to change. Often for one to be assured at such a time that the Lord is with him merely emphasizes the cause of discouragement, as it did with Gideon. In effect he said to the angel, How can you say that the Lord is with me, and with Israel, when you know that the Midianites are ready to make slaves of the whole nation, and that there is nothing we can do to prevent it? It is all very well, Gideon said, to talk about miracles of the past, but how does that help us, for the Lord is doing nothing to deliver us from our enemies?

The angel then assured Gideon that the Lord had selected him to deliver his people, “Have not I sent thee?” was the Lord’s message through the angel. But still Gideon was not convinced. He asked, “Wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” It was very important that Gideon thus recognize his own insufficiency, for only such can the Lord use.—vss. 14,15

Probably one of the reasons the Lord permits us to fail, and to have other trying experiences which bring discouragement, is that we might learn this lesson of our own insufficiency. But here again the angels are supervising. Beholding the face of our Father, they know exactly when and how to begin changing things. When the Father says that his child has learned the necessary lesson in humility and the need of Divine help and guidance, the dark clouds of discouragement are seen to part, and again the Father’s beaming countenance is smiling upon him. Gideon, we know, by following the instructions of the Lord, delivered Israel from the hands of the Midianites. The Lord was with him!


Another manner in which the angels minister to us is illustrated in the experience of Balaam, the man who was asked by a heathen king to place a curse upon the Israelites. The account is found in Numbers, chapters twenty-two to twenty-four. In this record, we are reminded that one of the ministries of the angels is to place hindrances in the way when those whom they are assigned to serve are taking a wrong course.

Balaam was not an Israelite. He was a Gentile, but apparently he had respect for Israel’s God. Jude’s reference to him indicates that he was a man who, up to a point, could be influenced by the offer of material reward for his religious service. This is quite apparent when we study the facts concerning him.

The circumstances were these: Israel had defeated and destroyed the Amorites. Balak, the king of the Moabites had taken note of this and was fearful of what might happen to his own people. So he conceived the idea of requesting Balaam to place a curse upon the Israelites, which, as he supposed, would prevent them from continuing their victories. With this in mind, he sent messengers to Balaam to request this service, offering a very high reward.

These messengers were the “elders of Moab and the elders of Midian.” (Num. 22:7) They carried with them the “rewards of divination.” Apparently Balaam was noted for being able to place curses upon people, but when he was approached by these messengers and asked to curse the Israelites, he hesitated. Instead of accepting the reward at once, which is doubtless what he would like to have done, he asked the messengers to remain overnight with him, promising that he would give them the answer in the morning. This was a grave mistake. We should never invite temptation to remain, but settle the issues involved at once.

Meanwhile the Lord spoke to Balaam, probably through an angel, and said, “Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” (vs. 12) Balaam relayed this message to the messengers whom Balak had sent, and they returned with the information to him. But Balak was not satisfied. He decided to negotiate on a higher level. He sent “yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they.” (vs. 15) He increased his offers of reward. His message to Balaam was, “Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say.”—vss. 16,17, New International Version

The prospect of honor and high position is often alluring even to the Lord’s people, and it was to Balaam, yet he still hesitated. Again he asked the messengers to remain overnight to give him an opportunity to find out from the Lord what he should do. He respected Israel’s God and feared to go contrary to his wishes.

That night the Lord, doubtless through an angel, spoke to Balaam again, and said that he should go with the messengers, with the restriction, “The word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.” (vs. 20) This ‘word,’ which the Lord wanted Balaam to pronounce, turned out to be one of blessing. (Num. 24:1-10) But Balaam at the time did not know this, selfishly believing that he had received permission to curse the Israelites. He was determined to get the reward offered by Balak, and was glad, the next morning, to saddle his donkey and start on the way “with the princes of Moab.”—Num. 22:21

He had God’s consent to go, but the Lord saw what was in his heart, that his chief concern was the reward which he was to receive for cursing Israel, so “God was very angry when he went.” (vs. 22, NIV) He had not gone far when the donkey upon which he was riding “turned off the road and into a field.” (vs. 23, NIV) Balaam then smote the donkey and attempted to steer her back into the road.

When she turned out of the main road, the donkey was in a vineyard, between two walls serving as climbing places for the vines. When Balaam smote the donkey again in an attempt to make it return to the road, the animal lunged against one of these walls, injuring Balaam’s foot. Then Balaam smote the donkey the third time. The donkey, unable to go forward, fell down under Balaam. By this time Balaam was really angry, and he smote the donkey again.

Then the donkey started to talk to Balaam, and asked if she had not always been faithful in his service. Balaam had to admit that this was so, and then the Lord opened his eyes and he saw what the donkey had been seeing—he saw the “angel of the Lord standing in the road.” (vs. 31, NIV) The angel allowed Balaam to continue on with the messengers, but warned him only to say what the Lord gave him permission to say. Evidently Balaam in his selfish desire for reward, had read into the Lord’s former instructions, more than had been intended, hence the angel’s interference.

The lesson for us is clear and important. In our Christian lives we are prone at times to decide that we want to do certain things, or have certain matters go our way, and are quite insistent about it. We may, like Balaam, presume that the Lord’s instructions mean our own interpretation of them, which frequently is in keeping with our own preferences according to the flesh.

But in our endeavor to proceed with what we have selfishly decided is the Lord’s will, we find hindrances in the way. If it is something which has to do with the home, we blame someone in the family for interfering with our plans. If in business, we blame our partners. If it is in the ecclesia, and our suggestions are voted down, we assume that one or more of the brethren are plotting against us.

Just like Balaam, we blame the ‘donkey’ for hindering us in our way instead of seeing the ‘angel’ whom the Lord has sent to prevent us from taking a course which would be displeasing to him, and an injury to ourselves. It is also true that, at times, when we are willfully determined to pursue a certain course, the Lord might permit us to do so, only to find later that we were wrong and that he lovingly prevents us from going too far with our selfish notions.

How thankful we should be that the angel of the Lord which encampeth round about us, hinders us from spiritual catastrophe by not allowing us to have our own way! May we always look for the angel which stands in the way.


Thus we see that the ministration of the angels covers our every time of need. When the trials are severe and hard to bear, they give us help, and deliver us from that which would be too great to bear. As we war a “good warfare,” (I Tim. 1:18) the ministering angels assist us, thus assuring us of victory.

When we are discouraged, the angels appear with evidences of the Lord’s blessing which give us a new hold on the promises of God, and we again go forward with rejoicing.

When, in ambitious moments we may foolishly embark on a course of self-will which is pleasing to the flesh, the angels put roadblocks in the way. And while our first reaction is to blame people and things which are apparently causing our frustration, the Lord ultimately opens our eyes and we see the ‘angel’ and recognize that in his love he was preventing us from continuing in a wrong course.

These, and other lessons may be gleaned from the manner in which God used the angels during Old Testament times. The narratives of the New Testament were introduced, by the announcement of the birth of Christ by an angel, with a whole host of them singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”—Luke 2:1-14

The New Testament introduces the age of faith, when the angels no longer appear in human form, but nevertheless their ministration is just as effective. They are mentioned in connection with Jesus, after his temptation in the wilderness at the outset of his ministry. The angels delivered the apostles from prison, a notable case being when Peter was brought forth from bondage the night before he was scheduled for execution. (Acts 12:1-11) The climax of this wonderful experience came when the “iron gate” which stood between Peter and freedom “opened to them of his own accord.” Actually, of course, it did not open of its own accord. It was the angel of the Lord who opened it, but thus it seemed to Peter.

And so it is with us! Almost daily the Lord’s people are confronted with ‘iron gate[s]’—situations which prevent progress. We approach them, often in fear and discouragement, only to find that they open of their ‘own accord.’ Let us have faith to believe that these experiences are not mere coincidences, or accidental, but that they are in the hands of the angels, and being controlled according to the Father’s wishes, in order that we might be properly strengthened, comforted, warned, and at times, prevented from going astray.

When Peter walked out of the prison that night he “came to himself” and realized then an angel had delivered him. In the Lord’s own due time we will pass through the final “iron gate,” into the full and glorious liberty of the sons of God. Perhaps when we “come to ourselves” on the other side, we will look up and see the angel, or angels, who have ministered to us throughout the years of our earthly pilgrimage. What a glorious meeting that will be! Then we will know as it is not possible to know now, what it has meant for the “angels of the Lord”—these spiritual, unseen helpers—to be “encamped round about us,” and we will thank God for the daily deliverances, and for the final deliverance in which they will have had a part.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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