What picture do you get in your mind when you hear the word “angel”? I know for me, at first, I get a picture of a chubby little, rosy-cheeked cherub with a bow and arrow and naked bum swaying in the heavenly breeze. He is always smiling, riding on clouds, and holding banners that speak messages of love. Or, maybe even someone like Clarence from Its a Wonderful Life — sweet and caring but a bit bumbling and doddery.
But if you take your image of the angel directly from the pages of the Bible, nothing could be farther from those innocent images. For some reason, God impressed the idea of angels on me this week, and as I was researching them a little bit more, it was so impressive to me how many times angels were instrumental in events in the Bible and how heavily God relies on them — I knew they were important, but I had never really read the Bible realizing JUST how many important moments in the Bible were catalyzed by the angels.
In some cases, God sends His angels ahead of us to coordinate circumstances and to prepare a way for us — Genesis 24:7 tells of how God sent an angel ahead of Abraham’s servant as he went to find a wife for Isaac. The angel was to ensure that the servant was able to find Isaac’s new wife — and he did! Exodus 23:20-23 tells how God sent his angel before the Israelites to prepare the land for them to live in, and even strictly tells them to obey the angel, as he is an agent of God, given power by God. How cool would it be hear God say when we get to heaven, “Oh yeah, I had put one of my best angels on that for you, that’s why it worked out like it did!”
In Scripture, angels are also sent as messengers — how many times do you read “And an angel of the Lord appeared unto him/her...” but just skip over it as if it has no importance? These angels are bringing words from God — that is pretty dramatic! They bring messages that changed lives dramatically (think Mary and Joseph — Luke 1:26-28; Matthew 1:20-21), messages that redirected some disobedient person back to God’s path (read about Baalam and his talking donkey), messages that gave hope to ones who thought God had forgotten them (as in Hagar in Genesis 16:7-12) and messages that saved people from destruction (like Lot and his family in Genesis 19). I think its fair to say that when an angel appears from God, the message is pretty important!
Angels are sent to do the will of God on earth, with power given by God — that is pretty amazing. God sent them to slay whole armies who were enemies of His people (2 Kings 19:35) and He even commanded a “death angel” to destroy Jerusalem at one point for its disobedience of God — 1 Chronicles 21:15. I would NOT like to be in that situation! I think we fall into a trap of thinking that angels only did these things in Biblical times, but if we as Christians believe that God is never changing, and His power is constant, then I would have to believe that His angels are still at work in our world today, whether we recognize it or not.
Ephesians 6:12 says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The passage in Daniel where the angel says basically, “Sorry, Daniel, I would have been here sooner as an answer to your prayer, but I got delayed because a demon and I have been fighting it out for 21 days” is so powerful — the spiritual battle is SO intense that even the angels have to do battle for days at a time (Daniel 10:11-13). So when I pray over my baby girl at night, and ask God to send his angels to surround her crib while she sleeps to protect her from evil and from harm, I don’t take that lightly. That is not a quick, sweet, goodnight prayer. I know that the battle is real, and surrounds us, and I pray that the angels that surround her are warriors from God, doing battle in the spiritual realm to protect her — swords flaming and standing guard like they do at the Garden of Eden and in Heaven.
Hebrews 13:2 also says — “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” This always rang in the back of my mind as I was dealing with a difficult patient or coworker, or just having a tough day in general and not feeling like I had what it took to love like Jesus or turn the other cheek. That difficult person that I had a hard time with might have been sent to me to test my faith and my ability to love like Jesus, to show God that I love Him and will do ALL things to His glory, even on the tough days, or even with the difficult people. At the same time, I have also had people who came along and just spoke such encouraging words to me that I needed in that very moment — people that I never saw or spoke to again, but who changed my life and my outlook in just one moment. Those are the angels that I like to think that I have personally encountered — people that God sends to minister to me personally in just a split second, but who change my life. Those are the people who challenge me to be like them, in every moment — to the cashier at the grocery store, to the person on the street corner who looks like they are having a rough life, to the person I encounter so many times that I stop seeing their heart. And the difficult ones remind me that Jesus loves me when I’m difficult, so I had better do the same to everyone that He sends my way.
When someone appears “out of the blue” in your life, or something incredible happens, or you hear a voice that is pointing you clearly to God, PAY ATTENTION. God is at work, and great things will happen if you just focus on God and remember that there is a war going on that we cannot see. Don’t discount the supernatural just because you can’t see it and the world may think you are kooky for talking about angels like they are a real thing — they are real, and they use the power of God on high for His work here on earth…I’d like a few angels in my corner, please!