Angels We Have Heard On High!
"I have no other explanation."
I was driving home from church on icy roads in a Nebraska snowstorm late one night in the early seventies. The conditions were near whiteout making me unable to see the traffic. Suddenly a car appeared in the intersection right in front of me. I hadn’t seen it coming. I hit the brakes and the car began to slide. “Oh God,” I said, as I closed my eyes anticipating impact. Everything was silent for few seconds. When I opened my eyes, the car was still in the intersection only this time I saw it in my rear view mirror.
Was it angelic intervention? I don’t know for sure, but I have no other explanation. When I think about it, it is entirely possible. I had three small boys at home and my ministry had only just begun. It wasn’t my time.
Angels have long been the fascination of American pop culture and are often featured in movies and TV. A recent study released by Baylor University claims that over half of us believe in guardian angels and many claim to have been literally “touched by an angel.” An August 2007 Pew Research Poll found that 68 percent of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world” and 20 percent say they have had an encounter with an angel or a devil.
Much of the world’s fascination with angels may be misguided, but it certainly indicates spiritual hunger. A desire to encounter the supernatural can lead even sincere believers to an over emphasis or even heresy. So how much attention should we give angelic activity and what is God’s purpose for angels?
AN ANGEL'S JOB DESCRIPTION
The closest thing to a biblical job description of angels is found in the book written to the Hebrews. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 NIV).
So how do they minister and what are we to expect them to do in our behalf? The parts of scripture we call the Christmas story are full of accounts of common people seeing and hearing from angels. These angelic agents communicated heaven’s intention, expressed divine adoration, and carried out supernatural intervention.
"it may be a good policy to listen!"
The first person in the New Testament to receive an angelic visitation was Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who received a word from God through the angel, Gabriel. Gabriel appeared to him while he was ministering in the holy place of the temple. The scripture records that the angel appeared to him standing near the altar of incense.
Although Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, had prayed for a son all their married lives, he doubted the word of God the angel brought. The angel rendered him unable to speak until the word he had brought came to pass and John the Baptist was born (Luke 1:11-19 NIV). So when angels are sent from God with something to share with you, it may be a good policy to listen!
Next, the angel Gabriel, God’s personal attaché, startled a teenage girl with news that she would give birth to God’s Son. Mary reminded the angel that she was a virgin and would not naturally be a candidate for this role. The messenger kindly explained that God’s Holy Spirit was coming upon her and that the Most High would overshadow her. The word “overshadow” literally means that she was blanketed by a brilliant cover of God’s glory.
Gabriel also reassured her that her older, infertile cousin, Elizabeth, was now six months into a miraculous pregnancy. This angel’s message was emphatic! “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:26-37 NIV). He announced to Mary what was going to happen and indicated that the Holy Spirit would accomplish this miracle. It would be a result of God’s power alone.
When Jesus was born, the angels became Heaven’s broadcasters to an audience of shepherds. The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they broadcast “Good news of great joy... for all the people.” They publicized where and when this event was taking place. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” They reported the incident with vivid detail. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
"this is not just a choir of winged carollers"
Then as if one angelic appearance wasn’t enough, an envoy of celestial worshippers appeared and confirmed the news. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”
Angelic adoration also has a biblical precedent. “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.” (Psalms 103:19-21 NIV).
Notice this is not just a choir of winged carollers but a mass force of worshipping warriors who wait attentively around the throne of God to carry out his orders at a moment’s notice.
When Jesus was born, this throng of mighty ones shouted their praises to God and declared His peace on earth, and His favor to men. Could it be that at the very moment God was entering our world as an infant in a poor young woman’s arms, heaven’s armies were defeating a horde of demons bent on resisting His plan to redeem all mankind?
WHY ANGELS APPEAR
When an angel appears, he appears for God’s purpose. My friend, Pastor Dave Metcalfe, and I were talking about what seems to be an increase in angelic activity at least in our lifetime. I like what he said: “When the UPS delivery comes, you’re not focused on the driver but the package.” The presence of angels indicates that the Lord is about to deliver another package!
"can this message be confirmed with scripture?"
Matthew’s gospel focuses on the ancestral linage of Jesus through a small town carpenter named Joseph who had a very strange and wonderful dream in which an angel informed him that his bride-to-be was already expecting a very extraordinary child. The angel instructed Joseph to go ahead and marry her even though the law said she should be stoned to death. The angel explained why: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:19-25 NIV)
What do you do when your dream includes angel talk?
First, make sure the angel is one of God’s messengers. The scripture says that Satan is a fallen angel. He and his minions possess the ability to disguise themselves as angels of light. Believe what the angel says only when you can determine that the angel has been sent from God.
Ask yourself; can this message be confirmed with scripture? Is it in line with the whole of the word of God? Does it glorify God or does it teach something different from the word of scripture? Does it draw attention to the angels or to Jesus? The message of the angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream in Matthew’s record passes the test of prophetic confirmation:
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’- which means, ‘God with us.’ When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’” (Matt 1:22- 25 NIV)
Angels are sometimes heaven’s special delivery couriers, but they also provide divine protection. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways...” (Psalm 91:11 NIV) God employs angelic hosts to secure his purposes in heaven and on earth!
Joseph had two subsequent angelic dreams. Each time the angel of the Lord gave Joseph very detailed directives for Jesus’ safety. First, He told Joseph to re-locate to Egypt to protect Jesus from Herod. When the danger passed, the angel of the Lord gave Joseph repatriation instructions. Joseph obeyed the Lord and relocated his family to Nazareth.
"God is interested in much more than cherubs riding on our hood ornaments."
Matthew writes, “And so it was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” After the next angelic dream Matthew adds; “So it was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’" (Matthew 2:13-23 NIV). Here God employs angelic dreams in order to protect Jesus. The word of God delivered through the angel resulted in ancient prophecies being fulfilled. Just as angels were assigned to assist in Jesus’ security, they are also involved in ours. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them (Psalm 34:7 NIV). God actually provides angelic security for true believers.
Although angels provide protection while we are travelling, God is interested in much more than cherubs riding on our hood ornaments. He is safeguarding His intentions. He gives us supernatural support in the fulfilment or our divine destiny. God sent an angel to stop the lions from having Daniel for a midnight snack. Angels rescued both Peter and Paul at different times from prison.
We are not automatically protected from everything and are not allowed to provoke angelic intervention as Satan tried to tempt Jesus to do. He led Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and taunted Him with a passage from Psalm 91. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7 NIV). After Jesus passed the test, God the Father dispatched angels to minister to Him.
"Mary and Joseph did everything they were told at great sacrifice to themselves"
Angels are not our servants; they are God’s servants! He sends them to minister to us, but we are never told that we can command them to do anything. We don’t pray to angels; Christians have direct access to the Father and pray to Him in the name of Jesus, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit. We can ask Him to send angelic protection to fulfil His will in accordance with God’s promises. Mary and Joseph did everything they were told at great sacrifice to themselves, and God sent angels to protect them.
Angelic adoration also has a biblical precedent. “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.” (Psalm 103:19-21 NIV).
In the book of Revelation, John got an awesome glimpse of these reverent troops. “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousand upon thousand, and then thousand time ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:11-12 NIV)
John was so overwhelmed by the visitation of an angel that he fell down in worship. But the angel of the Lord responded to Jesus’ beloved disciple, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Rev 22:9 NIV)
When we are or see angels, is it simply because God is sending help from heaven to carry out his eternal purposes and plans. They make God’s proclamations, they sing God’s praises, and they enforce God’s protection. They are fellow servants with you. So if you see an angel, do what they do: worship God.