To think about...
'If the Lord fails me at this time, it will be the first time.' (George Mueller)
Family News
8 September 2019

What is an angel? Easy, people think: a shining figure with glorious wings, who appears from time to time to do some mighty work for God or bring a very special message from him.

Well, that's right in one sense (apart from the wings, which owe more to stained glass windows than the Bible). But the fact that not all ‘angels' in the Bible are ‘glorious' or ‘shining' should make us hesitate to categorise them in this spectacular way. After all, the three apparently ordinary men who visited Abraham and Sarah to tell them that she would have a son even though she was long past child-bearing age had none of those outward embellishments. Nevertheless, Abraham recognised them as divine messengers.

The Bible is full of angels, from the early chapters of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation, and often they had a key role in crucial events. It seems, from just two instances, that Michael was their leader, an 'archangel'. In many stained glass windows he's seen with a sword, because in a vision in Revelation he led the angelic host who fought and defeated Satan and his army.

In the Gospels, an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah in the Temple, to tell him that his elderly wife was to have a son, the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist. An angel - Gabriel - appeared to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God. An angel appeared ‘in a dream' to Joseph, the village carpenter in Nazareth, to tell him to go ahead and marry his fiancee, Mary, and later - also in a dream - warned him not to go back to Bethlehem. A ‘young man', whom we take to have been an angel, was sitting in the empty tomb on Easter morning, waiting to tell the startled women that Jesus wasn't there - He had risen (Mark 16:5).

Without going into every biblical reference to angels, those should be sufficient to show that the word covers an enormous diversity of experience. So the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of those who practice hospitality as sometimes ‘entertaining angels unawares'. Sometimes people recognised angels for who they were, and sometimes they didn't. Angels, quite simply, are God's agents or emissaries, messengers and ministers of His will. Sometimes they are human; sometimes they seem to be spiritual beings.

Perhaps we could even say that anyone, in any situation, who is at that moment God's ‘messenger' to us, or serves us graciously, is an ‘angel'. So, when we say, ‘Oh, be an angel and pop up to the chemist for my prescription', we may be nearer the heart of the matter than we think!