In “The Coming Prince”, the author Sir Robert Anderson states that this age is characterized by “the silence of Heaven,” meaning that we don’t have visits from or direct conversations with angels or the Lord (at least not in person). It wasn’t always that way. There was a time when God spoke to certain people, prophets and leaders of Israel mostly, and when angels appeared to and spoke to human beings.
In many Biblical accounts of such meetings, the being is identified as both an angel and / or “the Lord”. I don’t know why.
I wonder how angels have felt about having to deliver messages to humans. Think of Lot, hanging on to Sodom as long as he could, even at the risk of his own life and those of his family. Or Moses, trying to talk his way out of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. But there are instances in which I suspect the angels were immensely gratified to find their messages accepted immediately and given their due obedience. And occasionally, those who obey without question find themselves experiencing something unquestionably supernatural.
Mary the mother of Jesus, for example, immediately accepted what the angel told her, in spite of “what the neighbors will think”. Her full belief and acceptance is seen in what Mary did next: she went to her cousin Elizabeth to share their mutual good news. Mutual, because she had been told, “… your cousin 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.”
When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, her own baby “leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.’ “
” Blessed are you among women … blessed is she who believed!” Yes, and any who believe and obey.
Joseph – ditto three times: Matthew 1:18-25 On the authority of an angel appearing in a dream, Joseph accepted that Mary was miraculously pregnant, and he went ahead with the marriage. In spite of what anyone might think, or say. I wonder if Joseph got into a few fights over coarse men saying coarse things about Mary. Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and became the human guardian / surrogate father of the Messiah.
Joseph the 2nd time: Matthew 2: “Now when [the wise men] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him.’ So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” Not only did Joseph believe and therefore obey, he did so immediately. Must have been inconvenient and a little frightening, but he did as he was told.
Joseph the third time: Matthew 2: “But when Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.” One wonders why Joseph didn’t say, “Could you stop waking me out of a sound sleep? Don’t you make day visits?” Maybe he had heard what happened to Zechariah, who only asked for evidence that what he was told was true! 😀
Abraham: Genesis 22: is there a greater example of following orders on faith than Abraham being willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, “the son of the promise”, when God demanded it of him? There is zero indication in Scripture that Abraham questioned the order in the least.
Samson’s father Manoah, who apparently did not at first know that he was talking to an angel: Judges 13. But Manoah accepted without question the instructions this angel gave him, even offering to cook a meal for him. When Manoah’s offer of a meal was rejected, in accordance with the angel’s suggestion, Manoah offered a young goat as an offering to the Lord. In the vertical departure of the angel, Manoah finally realized that he had been speaking with an angel. And he and his wife obeyed the angel’s instructions.
Acts 5:19-21: The apostles, after an angel broke them out of prison and told them to go back to the temple court and continue preaching what had just gotten them thrown into prison. “We must obey God rather than men.” Even after being flogged the next day, they continued to “fill Jerusalem” with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the full extent of the salvations resulting will be known only in eternity.
Phillip and the Ethiopian: Acts 8:25-40. Phillip obeyed instructions to “go the wrong way”, it must have seemed, into a desert. He was told by the Holy Spirit to join a man in a chariot who was “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.” The official was puzzling over a scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and immediately responded to Phillip’s explanation of that prophecy about Jesus and the gospel. This court official, whose name we don’t even know, was baptized then and there at his own request! And Phillip was instantaneously, miraculously, transported to another place.
Peter and the centurion: the official certification of what became the Gentile Church: Acts 10:27-29: Peter was given a vision three times that prepared him for what he was about to see in Gentile believers. “Therefore when I was sent for, I came without raising an objection. So I ask for what reason have you sent for me?” Speaking to Gentiles and accepting them as brothers in Christ without the Mosaic law was so difficult for Peter that not long afterward he “walked back” his acceptance of them. But when it counted, he was obedient, and the Gentile Church was established as a result. That’s us, brothers and sisters! Thank you, Peter!
We may not see angels or King Jesus, but in my experience, believers in Jesus sometimes know when we are being told to do something. May God give us courage to obey, and the wisdom to do it right. Amen.