An Angel of the Lord Came
Elijah had been very strong and steadfast on the revelation that God had given him about the drought, the widow woman and the sacrifice in front of Ahab and his false prophets. After all of this is done he could see no benefit. What good did it do for God to send fire down to consume the sacrifice, the stones, the water, the other altar and even the dust? He saw no change, the people were content to worship idols. He was at the end of his rope. Then Jezebel the queen vowed to kill him and he had had enough.
I Kings 19
:3 And when he saw that,
he arose, and went for his life,
and came to Beersheba,
which belongeth to Judah,
and left his servant there.
:4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness,
and came and sat down under a juniper tree:
[an Orientalism indicating his desire to die]
and he requested for himself that he might die; and said,
It is enough; now, O LORD,
take away my life;
for I am not better than my fathers.
These verses that God gives us never really had the impact that it should with me until I studied the appearances of angels in the Word of God. I never really realized how distraught Elijah was. God sent an angel twice to thump him on the noggin' (well probably not) to get him up so he wouldn't give up and die.
:5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree,
behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him,
Arise and eat.
:6 And he looked, and, behold,
there was a cake baken on the coals,
and a cruse of water at his head.
And he did eat and drink,
and laid him down again. [stubborn isn't he]
:7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time,
and touched him, and said,
Arise and eat;
because the journey is too great for thee.
God sends an angel to minister unto Elijah; it is what Elijah needed. Let us take a look at some of the records of angel appearances in the Bible. We will not look at them all. There are three fundamental reasons why angels are sent: because of a crisis, to validate revelation giving comfort and encouragement or for protection.
The first time angels are said to have been present was when God laid the foundations of the world.
:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
[God talking to Job]
declare, if thou hast understanding.
:5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?
or who hath stretched the line upon it?
:6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?
or who laid the corner stone thereof;
:7 When the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
['sons of God' is children of God-angels--man was not created yet]
This is a time of great rejoicing when the world was formed and the foundations made.
The next time we see an angel appear is when Sarai found out Hagar her handmaid was pregnant she treated her so badly that Hagar left. Where is she going to go? She was quite desperate; traveling alone is dangerous. God sends an angel:
:6 But Abram said unto Sarai,
Behold, thy maid is in thy hand;
do to her as it pleaseth thee.
And when Sarai dealt hardly with her,
she fled from her face.
:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness,
by the fountain in the way to Shur.
:8 And he said,
Hagar, Sarai's maid,
whence camest thou?
and whither wilt thou go?
And she said,
I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her,
Return to thy mistress,
and submit thyself under her hands.
:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her,
I will multiply thy seed exceedingly,
that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
The angel that God sent comforted her and helped her through this crisis situation. This is culturally a very difficult time. Sarai had given Hagar to Abram in an attempt to fulfill God's promise of Abraham having a son but when she became pregnant Sarai was too jealous. Hagar was so harassed that she left and to be pregnant and alone is dangerous and shameful. The angel came to reassure her tell her that her children will multiply. This tells us a lot about Hagar, she loved and trusted God and God took care of her.
The next time we see angels appear is when Lot and his family are in Sodom and Abraham had prayed for any righteous people who live there. God honors Abraham's request by sending angels to convince Lot and his family to leave because the wickedness of Sodom was so extensive it was going to self-destruct. This is a crisis situation here, Lot and company needed to leave quickly. God honors Abraham's request sending the angels for Lot. (Genesis 19)
In Genesis 22 there is another crisis situation. God has given Abraham a son, Isaac, and tells him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. A burnt offering is to commit oneself to the total service of the Lord. (See Judges 11-40 where Jephthah offers his only daughter as a burnt offering; he commits her to the service of the temple). But, Abraham, influenced by his Canaanite neighbors who do human sacrifices, interjects his own ideas and thinks he must sacrifice his only son on an altar. God never said anything about an altar or collecting wood, this was Abraham's sense-knowledge reasoning. Just as Abraham was about to kill his son God sent an angel to stop him. This is definitely a crisis situation, Isaac is the promised son and in the Christline. (See "Of Human Sacrifice" on the Pictures of Silver Website).
We have seen several appearances of angels in crisis situations let us look at some other situations. In Genesis 24 Abraham is getting old and Isaac needs a wife. However, they are not to marry unbelievers. Well, they don't live around any Believers. So Abraham sends his most trusted servant to his brother Nahor's house in Haran about 25 days journey from Beersheba where Abraham lived. Abraham, by revelation, tells his servant that an angel will be with him to help him find Isaac a wife. Sure enough the servant is in the right place at the right time to meet Rebekah. Here is part of the servant's testimony to Laban (Rebekah's father) the son of Nahor Abraham's brother:
:40 And he [Abraham] said unto me [the servant],
before whom I walk,
will send his angel with thee,
and prosper thy way;
and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my kindred,
and of my father's house:
He goes on to tell how Rebekah met him at the well gave him water and water for the camels which was the sign to him that she was the one. The reaction of Rebekah's parents; Laban and his wife Bethuel, reflects their acknowledgement of the validation of the angel.
:49 [the servant is still speaking]
And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master,
and if not,
that I may turn to the right hand,
or to the left.
:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said,
The thing proceedeth from the LORD:
we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.
:51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee,
take her, and go,
and let her be thy master's son's wife,
as the LORD hath spoken.
:52 And it came to pass,
that, when Abraham's servant heard their words,
he worshipped the LORD,
bowing himself to the earth.
Here God doesn't tell us that the servant didn't ever see the angel, we just see the outcome of his actions. Nevertheless, the reaction to the angel's presence is the acknowledgement of the revelation and then worshipping God.
A similar situation happens to Jacob, Isaac's son. There are still no Believers around them of a different family and he needs a wife so he sends Jacob (not the servant) back to Laban, Jacob's mother's father to obtain a wife. There is an important point to realize here: just because the situation is similar doesn't mean that the outcome will be the same. God doesn't guarantee that when you find yourself in the same situation as someone else that the deliverance will be the same. For instance: just because the shadow of Peter falling on the sick healed them (Acts 5:15) doesn't guarantee that a spiritual leader's shadow has healing properties. So, God did not guarantee an angel to go with Jacob. We do learn that Jacob doesn't have an easy time of getting the girl of his dreams. Before this even happens look what God does for him:
:10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba,
and went toward Haran.
:11 And he lighted upon a certain place,
and tarried there all night,
because the sun was set;
and he took of the stones of that place,
and put them for his pillows,
and lay down in that place to sleep.
:12 And he dreamed,
and behold a ladder set up on the earth,
and the top of it reached to heaven:
and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
:13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said,
I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father,
and the God of Isaac:
the land whereon thou liest,
to thee will I give it,
and to thy seed;
:14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth,
and thou shalt spread abroad to the west,
and to the east,
and to the north,
and to the south:
and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
:15 and, behold, I am with thee,
and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest,
and will bring thee again into this land;
for I will not leave thee,
until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
God is being very emphatic here with a figure of speech called polysyndeton or 'Many Ands'. It is the repetition of the word "and" at the beginning of successive clauses, each independent, important, and emphatic, with no climax at the end. Each clause above is individually important. This is huge!
Jacob's reaction was one of awe and reverence. If this happened to you how would you react? He builds a pillar as a remembrance and pledges to God his faithfulness.
:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying,
If God will be with me,
and will keep me in this way that I go,
and will give me bread to eat,
and raiment to put on,
:21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace;
then shall the LORD be my God:
:22 And this stone,
which I have set for a pillar,
shall be God's house:
and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
The appearance of angels validates God's revelation, we will see that later. Jacob takes this to heart which gave him the strength to overcome the obstacles that he experienced afterward.