Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Angels Among Us

Last Sunday one of the members of my church told me a story about her daughter seeing angels.  She asked me if sometime I could preach on angels and it really set the wheels rolling in my head.  I thought of nothing but angels all week and found myself researching angels in the Bible.  Today I am delivering a sermon on angels among us.

Today’s Main  Scripture is from Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:14, but I will be quoting other scripture references as I go.
Don, Tim and Jim were college students from the Midwestern United States and they all attended the same university in Connecticut.  It was Christmas break time, 1983, and they were all looking forward to going home for the holidays. One came from Fort Wayne, Indiana while the other two were from Chicago, Illinois. As they traveled by automobile on their way home they finally reached Indiana. They were now only two hours from Don’s home in Fort Wayne. The weather outside was bone-chilling cold and the ground was covered with heavy snow from a recent blizzard. The radio station they were listening to on the car radio was repeatedly giving weather updates and warnings advising travelers not to drive. The wind chill factor had reached a record-setting 80 degrees below zero! To get stuck outside in this weather would be life-threatening. Travel was slow but they finally arrived safely at Don’s home in Fort Wayne. Because of the severe weather, Don’s parents invited Tim and Jim to spend the night before proceeding on to their own homes in Chicago.  They wanted the boys to wait until the weather improved and it was safe to drive again, but these college students were anxious to get home for the holidays to their families in Chicago. After all, it was Christmas Eve and they had only four more hours of driving to reach their destination. They sincerely thanked Don’s parents for their generous offer but decided to brave the cold and snow and head home.  After leaving Don’s house, Tim and Jim continued on their way home. They had traveled approximately 30 minutes and had finally reached the access road that would lead them to the toll expressway. Tim’s automobile had done well in the bitter cold, but now it was beginning to sputter and lose power. The access road they were traveling was eleven miles long and it had been built along a hillside. It was a higher road then the rest. They were able to look out the car windows and see the many roads below, but they saw no other cars traveling that night. There were no houses within miles.  They assumed that other travelers had heeded the weather warnings and made the smart choice to not travel on such a dangerous night. Tim’s automobile continued to lose more and more power - and then with one final sputter and moan, the engine completely stopped. They were stuck in the middle of nowhere on the frozen road.   Soon the inside of the car became freezing cold. No other cars were anywhere to be seen. To leave the vehicle and attempt to walk to safety would likely mean death. No one could survive more than a couple of minutes outside in these record cold temperatures. Their feet were getting so cold and their bodies were becoming numb. They didn’t know what to do, so in desperation, Tim began to pray. “Dear God, You are the only one who can help us now. Please help us dear God, please help us!”  Within moments, from out of nowhere, lights appeared shining brightly through their windows. How was this possible? They hadn’t seen anyone coming and they had been watching closely for any sign of life at all. A big, strong-looking man approached their car and knocked on the window. “Need a tow fellas?” he asked. Excited and with a sense of great relief the two boys climbed into the warm cab of the tow truck. From the cab the boys used the driver’s truck phone and telephoned Don’s house. They would be spending the night after all! However, they would need some additional money to pay the driver who had rescued them. Don’s parents said they would be happy to help. The tow-truck driver drove through Fort Wayne and back into the neighborhood where Don lived. They thanked the driver for rescuing them and asked him to wait just a moment while they went inside to borrow the money to pay him. They jumped out of the cab and ran into Don’s house. Don handed them the money they had asked to borrow and they hurried back outside, grateful to pay the driver, but the tow truck was gone!   Don and his parents joined them outside, also wanting to thank the driver. The boy’s car was there, but there was no sign of the tow truck or its driver, nor was there any sign of a tow truck having ever been down that road. Neither Don nor his family had heard any sound when they had arrived, even though they had been listening for them. There were no tire tracks anywhere on the snow-covered road. There was no tow bill, no tow truck driver, no farewell, and no taillights that could be seen off in the distance. There was no evidence anywhere that any vehicle had even been down that road! The boys had no explanation other than that the tow truck driver was an angel sent by God to answer their prayer.
So I ask you church - do you believe in the existence of angels? Surely I do, because the Bible says that there ARE angels; and I believe the Bible to be the true Word of God, as written, from the first verse of Genesis to the last word of Revelation! At times in my own life, I have also sensed their presence around me.  Did you know that angels are mentioned either directly or indirectly nearly 300 times in the Old and New Testaments?  I believe with all my heart that millions of angels are at God’s command and at our service. The hosts of Heaven stand at attention ready to do God’s will at any moment of any hour of any day. His angels are on call at all times. They don’t take vacation days. They don’t take sick days. They don’t take off for holidays. They never age and they are always ready and available to carry out God’s plans! These angels of God are here to help us and they are prepared for any emergency, and Satan has no firepower that can match the heavy artillery of God! Amen!

Read Colossians 1:16 - The Bible teaches us that God created angels. At one time no angels existed; there was nothing but the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Angels are indeed among the invisible things made by God, for “all things were created by Him, and for Him.”  The Bible tells us that angels have the ability to change their appearance and to travel instantly back and forth between the glory of Heaven above and the earth below.
Read Hebrews 1:14 - We see angels called “ministering spirits.” They do not possess physical bodies, although they may take on the form of physical bodies when God appoints them to special tasks. God has given them no ability to reproduce, and they neither marry nor are given in marriage. (Mark 12:25).

I found a story about a Missionary and his Heavenly Helpers I want to share with you this morning.  The Reverend John G. Paton felt drawn towards missionary work. He had completed his education and training, and finally he and his lovely wife, Jenny, boarded a series of airplanes and moved to their new mission assignment in the New Hebrides Islands, where they would reside for the next year in a thatched-roof single room hut. Both Reverend Paton and his wife were concerned about the many obstacles they knew that they would face on the islands. Disease, deadly animals and fierce natives all figured to play a factor in their lives for the next year. Nevertheless, they knew and believed that God was in charge and they were where He wanted them to be at this time of their lives.  During their time in this remote mission field that God had called them to, they found many opportunities to hold Bible studies and to teach the local tribes about their faith, and about the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, there was one tribe in particular, known for their fierce fighting, which grew more hostile towards the missionaries with each passing day. For weeks they had threatened to attack the Patons and kill them, because they had interfered with ancient tribal traditions and taught their people a new and strange way of faith.  Soon the hostile tribe made plans to carry out their threats. Late in the evening of June 23, 1973, the Patons sat in their tiny thatched home, and listened to the sound of war cries outside their hut growing louder and louder. “They’re coming for us, John,” a terrified Jenny whispered to her husband. John nodded and said “Pray Jenny, talk to God, keep praying!” Then John began to pray aloud. “Heavenly Father” he began, “You have commanded us to come to You in time of need, and to ask for your intervention. We come before You now and ask You to protect us as You have so many times in the past. Please deliver us from the danger we are in. In Your name we pray, amen.”  For nearly an hour the sounds continued outside their bungalow. By the end of an hour the Patons could see dancing lights surrounding their home. “Fire!” John whispered, holding Jenny tightly. “Keep praying Jenny! I think they are going to try and burn us out.”  Another fifteen minutes passed while John and Jenny continued to pray for protection. Then suddenly, the screaming began to lessen and grow more and more distant. The tribesmen were moving farther and farther away from the Paton’s hut. Finally the sounds completely disappeared. Three months passed by and the Patons had no explanation for why the tribesmen had chosen not to kill them that terrifying night. Then, in a very strange turn of events, the chief of that tribe contacted the Paton’s and began asking them questions about their mission work and about Jesus Christ.   Shortly thereafter, the Chief accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and received salvation. Then John decided to ask the Chief that burning question within his mind. “Why didn’t you kill us that night?” he asked, staring into the Chief’s eyes. “We tried” said the Chief, “but your guards wouldn’t let us past.” “What guards?” asked the missionary. The chief waved his arms dramatically. “Hundreds of guards, big men in shiny clothes with swords drawn and with torches. They circled your hut. We had no choice so we left.”
That was in our time….but in the same way that God had delivered the prophet Elisha and his helper from the armies of  the King of Syria, God had sent His angels to deliver John and Jenny Paton.

Do you remember that wonderful story in the Bible, found in 2 Kings, Chapter 6? The King of Syria had dispatched his army to Dothan, having learned that Elisha, the prophet, was there. When the prophet’s helper got up and got dressed in the morning and had looked all around, he had become terrified. He cried out to Elisha that the surrounding countryside was filled with many armies and the instruments of war. Elisha smiled and placed his arm around his young helper. and assured him, “Don’t be afraid, our army is bigger than theirs.”   You see, Elisha could see God’s great army of angels already in place, ready to protect both him and his helper. Elisha then prayed that God would open the eyes of his young helper, that he also might be able to see the hosts of protective angels there to protect them. God answered the prayer of Elisha! The young man’s eyes were opened and as he looked around he “could see horses and chariots of fire everywhere on the hills surrounding the city.”   In 845 B.C. God had sent His angels to protect Elisha and his helper, and again in 1973 God sent his angels to protect John and Jenny Paton. In the same manner that God sent His angels to protect Elisha’s helper and the Paton’s, God is ready now this day to send a host of angels to protect each and every one of you!

Angels in the Bible?  Yes, I believe in angels! The Bible tells us story after story of angels involved in the work and will of God. In Genesis 32 the “angels of God” met Jacob while he was on his way home, and Jacob declared, “This is God’s army.”
In Daniel 5 an angel appeared in the form of the fingers of a man’s hand as the fingers wrote on the wall God’s message to King Belshazzar, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. You have been weighed in the balances and been found wanting. Your kingdom is finished.” Not only were the days of King Belshazzar’s kingdom numbered, but also, God was finished with him and his life would be required of him that very night.

In Daniel 6 we read the story of how God sent His angel to shut the mouths of the lions, and also the story of how God used His angels to scatter the people of Israel for their sins.
In Genesis 18 we read about how God used His angels to bring judgment upon the wicked people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and how His angels were used to first deliver Lot and his family.   Two angels of God visited Sodom to warn Lot and his family to flee from the wrath about to come. So evil were the inhabitants of Sodom that they wanted to physically molest God’s angels. God’s angels blinded the men of Sodom and prevented them from carrying out their desires.  And I believe that it is very important to note here that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, had drifted far away from the holy standards of God and had sought the companionship and the material benefits of an unholy and sinful alliance. Lot had turned away from God, yet God still sent His angels to spare his life and to assist him in avoiding the consequences of his own poor judgment. God always protects His own, even when we have chosen to travel down a wrong path.

It has been the nature of man to sin since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say some – it says all! The Bible also tells us that “there is none perfect, no not one.” However, rest-assured that if God lives within our heart, regardless of the detours we may choose to take along our earthly journey, God still loves us and we are still His child.

In Luke 1 we read the story of the angel Gabriel who appeared to Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, advising him that his wife, Elizabeth, would bare him a son and that he would be the forerunner of the coming Messiah.  Gabriel would appear again in Luke 1 with his most important appearance. He appears to the Virgin Mary with an important message for not only her, but for all mankind. He speaks to her with some of the most wonderful words written in the Bible, a special message from God to Mary. “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus….And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
In Matthew 1 an angel appeared to Joseph telling and assuring him that Mary was with child through God, and not through another man.

In Luke 2 God sent His heavenly messengers to deliver the news to the shepherds in the fields of nearby Bethlehem that the Messiah, who had been prophesied in the Old Testament, had been born. “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
And after the human death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, as His body lay in the tomb, it was an angel of God that rolled away the huge stone guarding the entrance to the tomb, setting in place the events surrounding the resurrection of our risen Savior.

In Acts 12 we find the Apostle Peter, laying bound in shackles, in prison, awaiting execution. James, the brother of John, had already been killed, and there was little reason to believe that Peter would escape the axe of the executioner.   As Peter lay sleeping, an angel appeared, not barred by such things as doors and iron bars. The angel appeared unto Peter in the prison cell, shook him awake, and told him to prepare to escape. As a light shone through the darkness of the prison, Peter’s chains fell off, and he followed the angel out of the prison and into safety. Doors had supernaturally been opened! What a mighty deliverance God achieved through His angel.
So many times when we read God’s Word we find that He sent His angels to minister to the needs of His servants, and He will send His angels to meet your needs as well. Have you ever gone through a dark period where you have prayed and prayed and yet it seemed that no help had come? You felt as though God had disappeared and you were all alone to face your trials and burdens? God has a very special message for you today – He will never leave you nor forsake you - you are never alone! Yes, there are times when God withdraws to test our faith. He wants us to trust Him in the darkness, as well as in the light. Whether or not we sense and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit or one of the holy angels, by faith we are certain that God will never leave us nor forsake us.

Angels  are also seen as Avengers-Angels enjoy far greater power then men and they are used by God to do more things than minister to our needs. They are there to execute God’s will, and sometimes they must also be “avengers” who use their great power to carry out God’s judgments. God has empowered His angels to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, and one of them will one day blow the trumpet that announces impending judgment when God summons all nations to stand before Him in the last great judgment.
The Bible tells us that it took only one angel to slay the first born of Egypt in Moses’ day, and one to shut the lion’s mouths for David. In 2 Kings 19 God again used His angels to execute His judgment. King Hezekiah had received a letter from the commander of the Assyrian forces, and he immediately had sought God’s counsel. God gave Isaiah the answer to give King Hezekiah.  God told Isaiah to tell the King that not one Assyrian arrow would be fired into the city. He promised to defend Jerusalem on that occasion for the sake of David. Dramatically that night, just one of God’s mighty army of angels, struck the forces of the Assyrians that were camped on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The next morning 185,000 soldiers lay dead on the field of battle.

And greater still, the Bible also both prophecies and promises to us that one angel will come from Heaven one day. He will have a great chain in his hand. He will lay hold of Satan and bind him with that chain, and then cast him into that pit called hell. So I ask you, how great is the power of just one of God’s mighty angels?  God has created millions of angels and I personally believe that every child and every Christian has their own personal guardian angel. In Psalms 91:11 the Bible says “He will give His angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.”
According to Deuteronomy 33:2, ten thousand angels came down on Mt. Sinai when God gave the law to Moses. Revelation 5:11 tells us that armies of angels will appear with Jesus at the Battle of Armageddon when the forces of Satan gather for their final defeat. How can a person not believe in angels?

Another beautiful duty that God has assigned to angels will affect each and every one of us that is a Christian. We will all face death one day. We know that for the Bible teaches us that. But how wonderful it is to know that at our hour of death God has commissioned His angels to escort each believer to Heaven and to give us a royal welcome as we enter the eternal presence of God. Even as the angels escorted Lazarus when he died, the beggar that had sat at the rich man’s gate, so too, we have the assurance that when we are summoned by death unto life in the presence of Christ, that God will send His angels to escort us also.  What a beautiful thought for today.  Don't you think?

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