It was over two years ago that I wrote a letter to you about the spirit world; the origins of the good angels and those of the bad angels, Michael keeping the good ones, and Satan leading the bad ones – the devils. Just lately I was asked to write another letter answering the question, “What do they do?”
Well, I don’t know what they do now-a-days. But we can think about the things they have done as we find it in the Bible. That was hundreds of years ago; no one has written a Bible since, so we cannot know about the present activity of angels. But if we study what they have done maybe we can imagine what they are doing now. I am sure I have never seen an angel, and I don’t know anyone else that has either. But the writer to the Hebrews warned us that people have entertained angels unawares, that is, without knowing it at the time. I think he may have been thinking about the time that Abraham entertained three men with food, drink and a resting place in the shade of his huge oak tree. Even though Abraham was not aware of their identity at first when he fed the men, he became aware of it when they talked with him about God’s plan with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I believe that idea holds for today, also. If you or I would entertain angels unawares we, too, would learn from their message who they were.
Let’s look at angel’s work in a study of God’s providence. We believe that the providence of God governs all the activity of men; Solomon mentions that fact in his Book of Proverbs. He said that the hearts of men are in God’s hands to turn that man to go wherever God wants him to go! In fact, God uses many means to affect His council: men, beasts and bushes. What did I say? Beasts? Sure, remember Balaam’s ass. Bushes? Sure, remember Moses’ burning bush? In the past He has used angels for that purpose, and probably uses them in the present that way, too. Let me try to point you to some such occasions.
Let us take a close look at the burning bush we just mentioned. God’s council was to bring the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to a freedom in the land of Canaan. And that plan included Moses to be the leader out of that cruel slavery. So He sent an angel to appear to Moses from inside a burning bush. The reason Moses was attracted to that bush was the fact that it did not burn up and become ashes. The fire did not consume the bush; it remained a well-formed bush all the while it was burning. So Moses went real close to that bush to examine the wonderful thing. Then God spoke to Moses from that bush to give him instructions about leading His people, Israel out of Egypt. Notice, how an angel began the series of events that God, in His providence, used to carry out His council? Later, in Exodus 23:20, God expressly tells Moses that He will send an angel to keep thee, to bring thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
Now let us examine the animal episode I mentioned. Balaam had been hired by the elders of Moab and Midian to go to the desert where Israel was camped in order to pronounce a curse upon them. Balaam was willing and ready to do so, and started on his way. But God’s counsel was to bring them on to Canaan, so He sent an angel to stand in front of the ass so it could not go forward. Balaam did not see the angel for God had not opened his eyes to see that spirit-being. You know the story, how Balaam whipped the animal; how the animal was given a man’s voice to talk to Balaam; how finally God gave the man ability to see the angel also; and how God instructed him to go to Israel’s encampment and pronounce a blessing upon them. Notice, how an angel was used wondrously to cause God’s counsel to be realized?
Then there was that story of Gideon which was full of wondrous works. It started with the appearance of an angel who sat under an oak tree. He spoke to Gideon to call him to deliver Israel from the domination of Midian. Remember how Gideon asked for a special sign that he might be made sure that it really was God’s angel who had called him? Gideon made a basket full of food, flesh and cakes, to bring out to the angel (who evidently looked like a man) for him to eat and be refreshed. The angel had a staff in his hand (like any traveler might have) and touched the food with the end of the staff, and all the food burst into flames and was consumed. Then Gideon knew that that man was really an angel of God, and was afraid that he would die because he had seen an angel face to face. But God assured him that he would live because God had work for him to do. Gideon then blew a trumpet to call men to battle behind him. After they came up, an army was formed. Gideon needed additional assurance that God would use him to fight the enemy and asked God for another sign; to keep a piece of fleece dry while the dew lay all around it. This God did. Then Gideon asked that the next morning he might test his calling once more by laying the fleece out again, and that it might be soaked by the dew, enough that he might wring it out and fill a bowl of that dew-water. God again did so. Notice how an angel was again used to bring about God’s counsel which included Israel’s deliverance?
Who will ever forget the famous prophet, Elijah, who was to be killed by Jezebel, and was so dejected that he lay under a juniper tree, asking God to let him die? But then an angel came to him and fed him two miraculous meals which gave him enough strength to walk for forty days without any food! You see, God had planned in His providence that Elijah was to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; to anoint Jehu to be king over Israel; and to anoint Elisha to be a prophet to succeed himself. What a chain of future events were started by the angel who furnished Elijah those miracle meals! Notice another classic example of angels’ work in the providence of God!
The case of an angel’s work which stands out in all your, my grandchildren, minds from early kindergarten days is that of holding shut the mouths of very hungry lions in whose den
Daniel had been thrown. That was so that Daniel might escape the death sentence of King Darius because Daniel had been found praying to his God, against the strict orders of the king. He had to live in order that his influence might affect the history of many nations. Oh yes, angels have done much in the furtherance of the counsel of God! Just think of the angel’s warning to Joseph, the husband of Mary, so that Jesus might be born in Bethlehem, according to the Scriptures; how an angel advised Joseph to move his family outside the reach of Herod who was about to kill all the children under two years old; think of how the angels ministered to our dying Savior so that He might finish His suffering with a loud cry, “Father into Thy hands I commit My Spirit.” The one great work which the angels still have to do, is recorded in Matthew 24. At the Last Day our God will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather all the elect for whom Christ died to take them (us) to glory. From graves wherein we were buried; from ash heaps where some saints were burned; from ocean depths where some were drowned; from all over the world! What a glorious last work for them to do on earth!
Now we have seen what they have done; what they must still do. But the question, what do they do cannot be answered for sure. But I, for one, can imagine that they are doing their work because God’s council is being carried out every day. Maybe none of them will appear to any of us, but their activity does not depend on taking on an appearance; that happens only to show men their presence which cannot be seen unless it is shown! And if you children have a strong enough imagination you can foresee that the elect will need angelic ministering in the latter days when they shall be persecuted nearly unto death.
Very likely you will not have to wait for the Day, but according to Jesus’ parable, each of us will be carried into Abraham’s bosom (heaven) by the angels. May you all eagerly await that journey!