I have known people who take great comfort in the idea that they or their children have angels who watch over them. Some have crossed the line from worshipping God to worshipping angels.
Yesterday I shared a quote from Greg Lucas’ book, Wrestling with an Angel, that Dianne particularly liked because Greg asserts that God, and not angels, stand watch over boys like Jake and Paul. Here’s a shorter excerpt:
I believe it is God who watches, not any created being. And it is God who supplies whatever help is needed.
Jake’s care is not delegated. (Lucas, p. 73)
Greg used this passage to frame that section of the book:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10
I think Greg is absolutely right to conclude that it is God who leads and calls into action, rather than angels having some sort of independent oversight.
- Zechariah receives Gabriel’s good news that Zechariah will be the father of John the Baptist, but asks how it can be possible. Here is the response: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:19) God will overcome the physical limitations to Zechariah and Elizabeth conceiving this child; Gabriel is the messenger.
- Mary receives the happy news that she will be the mother of Jesus, and Gabriel again gives credit to God: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth (Luke 1:26). . . And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:35-37)
- Daniel is given incredible visions of the future, and help to understand them by a messenger from God: And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” (Daniel 10:11)
- Then Daniel is given this extraordinary view into the unseen spiritual realm, showing that there is real spiritual evil to contend with: Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.” (Daniel 10:12-14)
- The book of Job is an example of Satan’s destructive, and completely limited, power on this earth. The fallen angel, Satan, is afflicting Job only as much as God allows.
- Job recognizes God as the effective actor in Job’s suffering. God does not correct him when Job gives God the credit for the suffering he is experiencing.
- Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10)
- Jesus himself talks of the angels standing ready to do the Father’s bidding: Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53)
This isn’t to suggest that angels only serve as messengers. Clearly, God gives them things to do, and not always things what we would call ‘comforting’ or ‘peaceful’:
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. (2 Kings 19:32-35)
And at a key moment in all eternity, an angel ministers to Jesus:
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)
Angels are real and from the typical first words they utter – ‘fear not!’ – I gather their appearance and their abilities are incredible.
But they are created, just like we are. It is far better to trust, cling to, ask forgiveness from, cry out to, and hope in the creator and sustainer of all things. And if God uses angels to help us, as I expect he does, to thank the sender of help rather than the obedient angelic servants.
After all, they rejoice when sinners come to God! “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
And it has the advantage of being consistent with the Bible’s message that God is sovereign over all things – like disability, disease and suffering – rather than Satan. Satan may hate us and seek to destroy us, but God alone has the final say, even in our times of deepest sorrow and pain.