An Angel of the Lord Came
Last week we read that Jacob was sent to his uncle's household to find a wife. While on his journey there appeared in a dream many angels ascending and descending on a ladder (Genesis 28). God also told him that his seed will be as the dust of the earth. Jacob's response was one of awe, gratitude and a demonstration of faithfulness. As it turns out he will need to cling to this revelation for Laban, his uncle deceives him and makes him serve 14 years for Rachel the woman he wanted to have as his wife. (See "God Promises, Jacob Believes")
When Jacob finally gets to marry Rachel, he has had 11 sons in Haran and God has given him a great deal of wealth, even rivaling his uncle's. Jacob sees that Laban and his sons are getting jealous of his wealth and he decides to head on back to Beersheba. There is this one matter of contention at home that Jacob must contend with. Jacob is a twin, his brother Esau was born first making him the eldest son. Well Esau sold Jacob his birthright (Gen 25:23-34) which is a huge deal in the eastern customs. Jacob is quite concerned about the safety of his family as he returns home, he is afraid that Esau will come out and slay him so that Esau could get back his birthright. Now God didn't lead him all this way to be murdered by his brother. Look what God does for Jacob:
:1 And Jacob went on his way,
and the angels of God met him.
:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said,
This is God's host:
and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
[Mahanaim two camps or hosts -- his and the angels]
Oh to know a host of angels are with you! Talk about encouragement and protection. Jacob definitely needs the reassurance here for he sends messengers ahead of him and the report they bring back says that Esau was headed his way with 400 people. Jacob prays and reminds God of his promise. Everything does turn out ok, Esau accepts him back, God changes Jacob's name to Israel, him and his sons prosper and God makes sure they do not die in the seven-year drought and are brought to Egypt by Joseph, Jacob's son.
The next appearance of an Angel is for a man who's heart was to help his people. Even though he grew up privileged (very privileged) he saw Israel enslaved. He could have turned his back on them but his mother had taught him about the one true God and knew that this was wrong. He tried to help Israel when he was about 40 but it backfires and he is run off into the desert to die. He ends up in Midian and another 40 years transpire while he learns how to walk and talk with God ( "The Life of Moses - Listen") and then God sends a angel to fire up a bush to get Moses' attention so God could tell him that now is the time to deliver Israel (Exodus 3 - "Let My People Go"). This is a crisis situation for Israel and a validation of revelation for Moses. After a long conference with God he returns to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh and ends up leading the Children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity.
We also see that God will send an angel for protection. After Israel had left Egypt and Pharaoh was in pursuit Israel had an angel going before them as they traveled.
:19 And the angel of God,
which went before the camp of Israel,
removed and went behind them;
and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face,
and stood behind them: [visible evidence for an unbelieving generation]
:20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and the camp of Israel;
and it was a cloud and darkness to them,
but it gave light by night to these:
so that the one came not near the other all the night.
Grandiose!! It had to be. Pharaoh had 600 chariots with him and there were about 2 ? million Israelites. This is a crisis situation, the people are afraid so the appearance of the 'cloud' is necessary for them to believe that God will take care of them and that the angel protects the camp.
God tells Israel repeatedly that He will have an angel go before them as they enter the Promised Land. This generation, after seeing this angel protect them against the Egyptians, who were so strong that they had enslaved them several hundred years, couldn't believe that an angel would help them occupy the promised land. Instead they believed the report of the 10 spies who said the land was full of great nations they couldn't conquer. That generation wandered in the wilderness until they all died off except for the Joshua and Caleb. (See "A Look Into the Promised Land")
God had one more Angel appear on the behalf of Israel (that is recorded in the Word) before they crossed over into the Promised Land.
:1 And the children of Israel set forward,
and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
:2 And Balak the son of Zippor [king of Moab]
saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
:3 And Moab [father of the Moabites] was sore afraid of the people,
because they were many:
and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
:4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian,
Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us,
as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.
And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
:5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam
the son of Beor
which is by the river of the land of the children of his people,
to call him, saying,
Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt:
behold, they cover the face of the earth,
and they abide over against me:
:6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people;
for they are too mighty for me:
peradventure I shall prevail,
that we may smite them,
and that I may drive them out of the land:
for I wot [know] that he whom thou blessest is blessed,
and he whom thou cursest is cursed.
King Balak sends messengers with gifts to Balaam a prophet asking him to curse Israel. What I find wonderfully fascinating is that these people are not of the children of Israel but Balaam has a talking relationship with God.
:9 And God came unto Balaam, and said,
What men are these with thee?
:10 And Balaam said unto God,
Balak the son of Zippor,
king of Moab,
hath sent unto me, saying,
:11 Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt,
which covereth the face of the earth:
come now, curse me them;
peradventure I shall be able to overcome them,
and drive them out.
:12 And God said unto Balaam,
Thou shalt not go with them;
thou shalt not curse the people:
for they are blessed.
First of all I would like to say that 'covereth the face of the earth' is an apt description for about 2 ? million people.
Since God has blessed Israel Balaam cannot curse them and then God gives Balaam specific instructions to stay put; don't go with these guys. King Balak even tried to offer Balaam great honor if he would come but Balaam stays put on God's revelation. But since the men persisted Balaam asks God again what he should, just to make sure.
:20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him,
If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them;
but yet the word which I shall say unto thee,
that shalt thou do.
:21 And Balaam rose up in the morning,
and saddled his ass,
and went with the princes of Moab.
:22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: . . .
Whoa, what went on here? A fast reading of this gives the impression Balaam was doing what God wanted. But, God said, "If the men come for you." Well, I guess Balaam wanted to go so bad he let his personal desires get in the way of God's revelation. The men didn't come for him, he just got ready and met them at the stable. So God sends an angel to intercept them because Balaam isn't listening to God. As we read on we see that he doesn't heed the angel right away either.
:22 And God's anger was kindled because he went:
and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him.
Now he was riding upon his ass,
and his two servants were with him.
:23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way,
and his sword drawn in his hand:
and the ass turned aside out of the way,
and went into the field:
and Balaam smote the ass,
to turn her into the way.
:24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards,
a wall being on this side,
and a wall on that side.
:25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD,
she thrust herself unto the wall,
and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall:
and he smote her again.
:26 And the angel of the LORD went further,
and stood in a narrow place,
where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
:27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD,
she fell down under Balaam:
and Balaam's anger was kindled,
and he smote the ass with a staff.
:28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass,
and she said unto Balaam,
What have I done unto thee,
that thou hast smitten me these three times?
Now would that get your attention? Hello - your donkey is talking to you!!
Then -- Balaam answers her!!
:29 And Balaam said unto the ass,
Because thou hast mocked me:
I would there were a sword in mine hand,
for now would I kill thee.
:30 And the ass said unto Balaam, [look they are having a conversation!]
Am not I thine ass,
upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day?
was I ever wont to do so unto thee?
And he said, Nay.
:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam,
and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way,
and his sword drawn in his hand:
and he bowed down his head,
and fell flat on his face.
God really needed to get Balaam's attention. Balaam was so focused on the honor and possible riches he could get from King Balak that wasn't listening to God.
:32 And the angel of the LORD
said unto him,
Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times?
behold, I went out to withstand thee,
because thy way is perverse before me:
:33 And the ass saw me,
and turned from me these three times:
unless she had turned from me,
surely now also I had slain thee,
and saved her alive.
:34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD,
I have sinned;
for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me:
if it displease thee,
I will get me back again.
:35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam,
Go with the men:
but only the word that I shall speak unto thee,
that thou shalt speak.
So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
As we read on through Number 23 and 24 we see that Balaam is obedient even though King Balak tried to get Balaam to curse Israel three times but Balaam does exactly what God says.
:12 And Balaam said unto Balak,
Spake I not also to thy messengers
which thou sentest unto me, saying,
:13 If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold,
I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD,
to do either good or bad of mine own mind;
but what the LORD saith, that will I speak?
God sent an angel unto Balaam to get his attention and encourage to do God's will (and not his own). Here the measures were a bit drastic, causing Balaam's ass to talk. It appears that the ass was more spiritually aware than Balaam was at the time. I know I can learn from this. Sometimes doing what God tells me to do is not what I want but really is the best thing in the long run. I just have to trust in him.
We see that angels are sent to validate revelation, give encouragement in crisis situations and for protection. God doesn't guarantee angels but he will do for you what you need and can believe. God knows our hearts and what we are willing to do for Him. We can trust Him to guide us via His Word and inspiration and revelation.
Back to Elijah.
Elijah was in a real desperate situation. He had set himself down under a Juniper tree to die (I Kings 19). This was a crisis situation and he needed encouragement to continue to stand for God because there were still 7,000 people in Israel that believed God. Also, his mission was not finished he had to transfer the spiritual leadership to Elisha. This is why God sent an angel to revive Elijah. After learning about angels through the word I can understand that there was anguish and turmoil in Elijah's heart even though he had just experienced a wonderful act of God in front of Israel and the rains returned the appearance of an angel tells us that Elijah was in his own crises situation.
The result of Elijah's obedience to the angel:
I Kings 19
:8 And he arose,
and did eat
and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights
unto Horeb the mount of God.