August 31, 2013

Entertaining Angels Unaware and Sometimes Quite Aware

We are exhorted to show hospitality to strangers in Hebrews 13 if for no other reason than the fact that we might be giving that hospitality to messengers of God. The word ξενίσαντες "have entertained" or showed hospitality below also carries with it a sense of astonishment and startled surprise. This of course should not be unanticipated, as anyone who ends up encountering supernatural beings tend to become unsettled or stunned. I know I did. When in is the presence of God this bewilderment is infinitely more powerful.

Hebrews 13:2 ~ “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

We know encountering angels is not only possible- it actually happened to people in the Bible in their ordinary lives. When it did happen, it most often made those ordinary lives extraordinary just as it would today. When God sends His own personal messengers to you, you had better believe that something huge or momentous is afoot and moving about in your life. When the people encountered the angels in the Bible, sometimes people were aware they were in the presence of the supernatural and sometimes not. Sometimes they initially didn’t know but came to an awareness of the fact in the course of the events that unfolded.

The Angel of the Lord (a theophany of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ) appears to Hagar after she had been sent away by Sarai. The angel tells Hagar to return to, and to submit to, Sarai. He also told Hagar that her seed would be multiplied exceedingly and that she should call her child Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-12). As a note I do not believe this is the beginning of the Islamic religion as that fake religion didn’t come into existence until 2600 years later. This is nothing more than Mohammad stealing from the Judean/Christian storyline and lying to incorporate it into the Qur’an and Islam.

Two angels rescued Lot, his wife, and two daughters from Sodom. The angels told them to escape to the mountains and not to look back because the angels were going to destroy Sodom. Clearly a city of sexual depravity. I will not even get into the details of the depravity since it will lead us down a trail that will require a post of its own. Archaeological finds corroborate the narrative of the Bible also concerning the condition of this city of the plains. God then cannot find even 10 righteous people within Sodom yet Lot and his family continue to live in the godless and iniquitous environment. God sends two angels to warn Lot of the impending destruction of the city of his residence. (Genesis 19:1-22).

Abraham went up on the mountain to offer his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice. As Abraham took the knife to Isaac, the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham and assured him that he had proven his obedience to God. The angel tells him to not lay a hand on the boy. It is clear Abraham fears God and it is at this point Abraham looks up and in a thicket he sees a ram caught by its horns. Of course this is God providing the sacrifice which is a type foreshadowing Jesus. The angel spoke again a little later and blessed Abraham by saying that the Lord would multiply Abraham's seed as the stars of heaven, and in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:1-18).

An angel (most likely the Angel of the Lord) appeared to Jacob and wrestled with him all night. Unable to prevail against Jacob, he disjointed the hollow of Jacob's thigh. The angel changed Jacob's name to Israel and blessed him (Genesis 32:24-30).

The Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush. The Lord then told Moses to free the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt because He has heard their suffering (Exodus 3-4:17).

The Angel of the Lord stood in the way of Balaam and his donkey. Balaam saddles his donkey and goes with the leaders of Moab. God is angered Balaam goes and the Angel of the LORD stands in his way. The donkey, seeing the Angel of the Lord detours and makes a B-line into an adjoining field. Balaam not being able to discern the Angel of the Lord whacks the donkey to turn her back on course. Again the Angel blocks the donkey’s way so it presses against the wall smashing Balaam’s foot which again solicits another whack from Balaam. A third time the Angel blocks the donkey, and a third time the donkey takes evasive maneuvers by lying down. Balaam is incensed with anger at this point and proceeds to strike the donkey with a stick. The Lord then opens the mouth of the donkey and asks Balaam through the donkey, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" I don’t know about Balaam but my first reaction wouldn’t be to answer the donkey but I’d wonder why it’s talking. What is even more amusing is that Balaam answers the animal without thinking twice or hesitating. The Lord then reveals the angel to Balaam and he is grateful that his life has been spared. (Numbers 22:22-35).

Joshua was confronted by an angel who was the captain of the-- host of the Lord. Joshua utters the now famous question, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?” Then comes the angels curious response, ““Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” It is at this point Joshua realizes his error and is struck with terror. Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The angel then gives Joshua instructions on conquering Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15).

An angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and commissioned him to save Israel from the Midianites (Judges 13:1-20). Gideon made a meal for the angel. The angel had Gideon put the food on a rock and pour out the broth he made. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

We see something unique here and we should take heed of it. Gideon realized he was in the presence of a sovereign holy God and he knew what the outcome might be. Things could turn out really bad for him and he knew it. Death could easily result if he treated God too lightly.

Elijah, depressed because Jezebel vowed to kill him, went into the wilderness, sat under a juniper tree, and begged God to let him die. An angel came and prepared food for Elijah. Elijah was so strengthened by those meals that he journeyed forty days without eating again (1 Kings 19:1-8). It should probably be understood that Elijah is supernaturally buoyed here. It should also be seen that Elijah is quite human and flawed here also. For all the miracles and supernatural works that God did through him, he is still quite human and prone to human flaws and foibles.

Of course we should clearly mention the angels before during and after Christ’s ministry on earth. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zachariah and announced that Elizabeth, who was old and barren, would have a son and that he should be named John. This son will indeed be John, John the Baptist the forerunner of the King. He also told Zachariah about John's future ministry. It is also Gabriel that appears to the Virgin Mary and told her that she would give birth to Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). There are the angels that met the women at Jesus' tomb and announced His resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7; Luke 24:4-7; John 20:11-18). There is the Angel of the Lord announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and was subsequently joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God (Luke 2:8-15). As Jesus ascends into Heaven at the end of His earthly stay, two angels appeared to the Apostles and said, ““Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) So we wait as faithful disciples of the Lord on this exact thing…His return.

We then see quite a few episodes of angels helping the followers of Jesus in the new covenant after Christ’s departure to be at the right hand of the Father. The angel of the Lord brought the Apostles out of prison.
Acts 5:17-20 ~ Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

The Angel of the Lord told Philip to go to Gaza. There Philip met and converted the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39).

An angel appeared to Cornelius, telling him that God had heard his prayers and that he should send to Joppa for Peter. The angel said Peter would tell Cornelius what he should do (Acts 10:1-8).

Peter was asleep in prison while other Christians were praying for his release. The angel of the Lord woke Peter and released his chains. Peter followed the angel out of the prison and through the iron gate, which opened of its own accord (Acts 12:1-19).

Paul, sailing to Rome to be tried before Caesar, was in a storm for two weeks. The Angel of God appears to Paul and tells Paul that he must be brought before Caesar (Acts 27:21-25). The Angel tells Paul not be afraid for he must stand trial before Caesar; and God had graciously given him all the lives of those who sail with him. Paul then exhorts the men to maintain his  courage because Paul believed in faith that things would happen just as God had told him.

There of course are other instances of angels entering into the physical realm but these are the ones that snap to mind as I wrote. I chose not to mention the fallen ones because they do not deserve nor warrant any more attention than absolutely necessary. I am sure you understand. 

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