CHAPTER 6: How Angels Work
We are frequently reminded that we cannot know the ways of God's
working, and this is of course true. "As thou knowest not what is
the way of the spirit (this phrase is alluded to in John 3), nor
how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even
so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all" (Ecc.
11:5). Yet there are certain principles and patterns in how
Angels work which God seems to have revealed unto us to enable
us to draw closer to Him and to the more readily accept His Angels
at work in our lives. One such principle is that the Angels often
give evidence to men that they are at work; thus the Angel of Rev.
11 says "I will give power unto My two witnesses". The witnesses
here are witnesses to the work of the Angel, not to the Truth. This
overcomes the problem of the "witnesses" mentioned by traditional
expositors not holding the full truth. God- the Angels- do not leave
themselves without witness to the pagan world , but send them rain
and seasons (Acts 14:17). Job and other Scriptures stress how rain
and seasons especially are the work of the Angels.
The Angels never affect our freewill, but nevertheless provide
the necessary arrangement of circumstances to encourage us to do
God's will, and affecting the lives of unbelievers to this end too.
In order for unbelievers to present the necessary trials to us in
order to bring this about, the Angels harden the hearts of
these people. Thus in Psalm 78 we read of the plagues on Egypt being
brought by the "Angels of evil", including the slaying of the firstborn.
These plagues were due to Pharaoh's heart being hardened by God
(Ex. 4:21)- i. e. by the Angels of evil. In passing, Ex. 4:20,21
states that "Moses took the rod of God in his hand. And the Lord
said unto Moses . . see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh
which I have put in thine hand". The wonders were done by the Angels
we are told in Psalm 78 and other commentaries on the Exodus in
Scripture. But Moses through obeying the Word of God had control
over those Angels, they were in His hand, symbolized by the rod.
And so with us too.
The Angel was sent before Abraham’s servant in order to find a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:7); but there was still the very real possibility that the intended woman wouldn’t agree to follow the servant back to Isaac (Gen. 24:8). We conclude that Angels enable things to happen in potential, not least the calling of people into God’s family, but their plans and potentials can still be frustrated by human refusal to cooperate. Thus the Angels formulate their plans perhaps without knowing whether
we will respond suitably to enable the plans to go ahead, or maybe
they arrange circumstances whether they know we will obey or disobey,
so that we always have the encouragement that if we obey and do
our part we will have the pre-arranged workings of the Angels
behind us too. The entrance of Israel to Canaan shows this. God
had promised in Ex. 33 to send an Angel before them which would
drive out the tribes from Canaan; the 'Hornet'- a result of Angelic
activity- was sent before them to do the same ( more proof of this
provided later). Dt. 9:3 describes this:
"The LORD thy God is He which goeth over (the Jordan) before thee;
as a consuming fire (the language of Angels- Ex. 24:17) He shall
destroy them (the nations). . so shalt thou drive them out". Thus
when Joshua approached Jericho to attack it "there stood a man over
against him with his sword drawn in his hand. . and He said. . As
captain of the host of the Lord (Angels) am I come" (Josh. 5:13,14).
So in prospect the Angels drove out every tribe that was in the
land; the people of Israel had to just go in and posess the work
which the Angels had done. So when they failed to drive out certain
tribes, this was an example of human failing to be "workers together
with God". Thus in prospect, the Angels led them to the promised
"rest"- Dt. 25:19; Josh. 1:13; Is. 63:1 N.I.V. ; although in practice
they did not enter that rest because of their faithlessness (Heb.
3:11-4:11), despite the Angel promising He would lead them there-
"I will give thee rest" (Ex. 33:4). Was this due to the Angel over-estimating
the spiritual strength of His charges? Ps. 81:16 gives another example
by saying that if Israel were obedient, they would have been fed
with honey as well as Manna- whilst Dt. 32:13 says they did have
honey on their journey. Again, what they could have had and what
they were given in prospect is spoken of as if it was reality due
to the nature of how Angels work.
We digress to consider that the "rest" promised by the Angel entailed.
The word is often used about the tabernacling of God in the ark-
thus Dt. 12:1-8 warns the people not to use existing altars in Canaan
"for ye are not as yet come to the rest. . . there shall be a place
which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His Name to dwell
there" (v. 9,11). Clearer associations between the "rest" and the
- Num. 10:33 "The ark of the covenant
of the Lord went before them. . . to search out a resting place"
- 1 Chron. 28:2 "An house of rest for the ark"
- Ps. 132:8 "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest: Thou, and the ark
of Thy strength". The whole Psalm is about the ark, and concerning
its location in Zion God says "this is My rest for ever; here
will I dwell" (v. 14).
However, the real resting place of God's Name is not in the literal
ark, but in the hearts of people humble to God's Word: "Where is
the house that ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest?.
. . to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite
spirit, and trembleth at My word" (Is. 66:1,2). God's Angel literally
dwelt in the ark , and they are His eyes through which He "looks"
to the humble man. Thus God's Angels are searching the earth for
people with hearts humble to the word, so that God can "rest" with
us- and we with Him. The “ark” is spoken of as going ahead of Israel
to spy out a resting place for them (Num. 10:33); but the ark is
being put by metonymy for the Angel within it. Psalm 132 speaks
of God chosing and desiring the ark's resting place, as if He engages
in a process of searching. Such a process is only befitting of the
Angels, seeing that God has absolute knowledge of every
heart. The double emphasis on "the God of Jacob" (v. 2,5) being
associated with the ark strengthens the Angelic context, seeing
"the God of Jacob" is an Angelic term. Similarly "My covenant" of
v. 12 points to the Angels, seeing they ordained the covenant.
This idea of the Angels' work for us being proportional to and
dependent on our obedience is hard to fully accept, yet it is fundamental
to our understanding of God's way of working in every enterprise
we are involved in. The principle is outlined in Dt. 13:17, which
said that the spoil of a captured city that was devoted to
the Lord was not to be kept, as it was by Achan. This was so that
"the Lord may. . . shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee".
"The Lord" refers to the Angel, seeing that the attributes of mercy
and compassion recall those of the Angel who declared them as part
of His Name in Ex. 33 and 34. Dt. 13:17 continues: "... as He hath
shown unto thy fathers…to multiply thee". These promises were made
by Angels. Verse 18 lends further support ". . do that which
is right in the eyes (Angels) of the Lord thy God".
Num. 32 has more of the same; the Gaddites and Reubenites were
reprimanded for not going over Jordan into Canaan because they were
not literally following the Lord- the Angel that had physically
gone over in front of them. Moses stresses four times (v. 20,21,27,29)
that they should go over armed "before the Lord". They were to at
least show willing to fight in order to do their part in gaining
possession of what the Angel had already done for them- "until He
(the Angel) hath driven out His enemies from before Him "(v. 21).
Notice He does not say 'until you have driven them out with your
own sword', although they were to go over armed.
With us, the Angels have worked out every victory for us in prospect-
we have to have the faith to go ahead and act, believing that they
have acted, even when there is no visible evidence. Our works must
therefore repeat those which our Angels have done previously- hence
their great interest in us. The Angel brought Israel "forth out
of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them" (Ez.
20:6); the Angel in the ark "went before them in the three days
journey to search out a resting place for them" (Num. 10:33). Yet
Israel still had to send out human spies, and carefully "describe
the land in a book" (Josh. 18:4-8).
If Canaan is seen to represent the Kingdom, the things which are
stopping us entering the Kingdom are our sins. In prospect, Jesus,
the antitype of the great Angel which lead Israel into the land
and drove out the enemies in prospect, has vanquished all our sins.
When Israel sinned, the help the Angels were giving Israel to help
them posess what they had already prepared for them, was taken away.
Thus with the first attack on Ai, the Angels had in prospect driven
out the people of Ai, but the realisation of that was conditional
on Israel's obedience. "Therefore the children of Israel could not
stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their
enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I (God manifested
through the Angel) be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed
from among you"(Josh. 7:12). It is perhaps in this context of the
Angel going before the people that we read concerning Caleb that
"Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb. . because that
he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel" (Josh. 14:14)- i. e.
he zealously followed the Angel which went before him, and therefore
he obtained his inheritance which in prospect the Angel had prepared
for him. This understanding of how Angels work was shown later by
Deborah (Jud. 4:14), when she quotes the words of Dt. 9:3 concerning
the Angel going before Israel to drive out the nations to Barak,
to inspire him with courage in fighting them: "And Deborah said
unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered
Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? "(quoting
Dt. 9:3). She recognized that the work the Angels did when they
went out many years ago to do all the groundwork necessary for Israel
to destroy all the tribes of Canaan was done for all time. It was
not too late to make use of that work by making a human endeavour
in faith. So with us, the smaller objectives in our lives as well
as our main goal of reaching the Kingdom have all been made possible
through the work of Christ and the Angels in the past. Deborah's
recognition of this is shown in her song- Jud. 5:20: "They (the
Angels) fought from Heaven; the stars (Biblical imagery for Angels)
in their courses fought against Sisera". In passing, note that the
Hebrew for 'courses' is almost identical with that for 'ladder'
in the account of Jacob's vision of a ladder of Angels. Strong specifically
defines it as meaning 'staircase'.
1 Chron. 4:10 gives another example of this using of previous Angelic
promises and preparatory work in order to achieve an act of faith.
Some of the children of Judah later requested that their border
be enlarged, at the expense of driving out neighbouring Canaanite
tribes. "Jabez called on the God of Israel (an Angelic term),
saying, Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed (a reference back
to the Angelic blessing of Abraham's seed with the promise of possession
of the land?), and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand (an Angelic
phrase) might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil,
that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
" In passing, is this the basis of "deliver us from evil... (i e.)
lead us not into (spiritual) temptation" in the Lord's prayer? In
that case our sins are being likened to the tribes which
Jabez drove out in faith, and we should believe that our Angel
has driven our sins out for us in prospect, so that we might inherit
All Things Possible
In the same way, an Angel may be given a mission to preach somewhere,
and success may be arranged by Him in prospect, but it is for us
to put the work into practical effect, without
which the converts will not be produced, despite the Angels preparatory
work, although of course ultimately this is all foreknown by God
Himself. Thus we read in Rev. 14:6 of an Angel being sent "having
the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the
earth (same word as 'land'- i. e. the land of Israel), and to every
nation, kindred and tongue and people "(i. e. the whole world as
well). However, this actual work of preaching to the Jews and to
the world will be done by the saints; thus they will work out in
practice what was achieved by the Angel in God's plan. In this context
it is worth considering how the great commission as recorded in
Mt. 28:18,19 is set in the context of other references in Matthew
to world-wide preaching. We are to go into all the world and make
disciples of all nations; and yet it is the Angels who will gather
the harvest from “the world” (Mt. 13:38), Angels who will “repay”
us for our work at the last day (Mt. 16:27), Angels who gather the
elect from “the four winds” (Mt. 24:31) and gather [converts from]
“all nations” to judgment (Mt. 25:32). The implication surely is
that in our preaching work, the Angels are with us and will gather
in the converts which we have made.
Ps. 81 has clear Angelic allusions; the Angel laments "Oh that
My people had hearkened unto Me, and. . walked in My ways! I would
soon have subdued their enemies. . He should have fed them with
the finest of the wheat, and with honey of the rock should I have
satisfied thee" (v. 13-16). Thus our Angel will act more quickly
for us according to our obedience, and may have physical and spiritual
blessings prepared for us which we are yet to realize due to our
lack of wholly following the Angel into our inheritance. The Angel
planned to give Israel honey as well as water out of the rock on
their journey- the water representing Christ and the Spiritual blessings
from Him (1 Cor. 10:4; John 7:38,39); yet even richer blessings
(honey from the rock) were possible; and are possible for us in
our wilderness lives. Similarly the "bread from Heaven" which represents
the Word (so Jesus interpreted it throughout John 6) would not have
been stodgy manna ,but "the finest of the wheat".
So the conclusion is that because our Angel has been so zealous
in acting for us, we too should be zealous in return- thus Abraham's
servant, knowing that God had sent an Angel before him to prepare
the way for his mission of finding a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:40),
was eager to be as zealous as possible to do his part in the work-
"Hinder me not, seeing the Lord (the Angel) hath prospered my way"
(v. 56). There are many other examples of this. Because the Angel
is with us, we must joyfully and enthusiastically do our part. Thus
God encourages those rebuilding Jerusalem to have faith because
the Angel is still among them: "Yet now be strong. . . and work:
for I (the Angel) am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts (Angels):
according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out
of Egypt (the Angel made that covenant) so My Spirit (Angel) remaineth
among you; fear ye not". Similarly Nehemiah recounts
the past activities of God's
Angel (Neh. 9:19-24) as a stimulus to faith in God bringing them
through immediate problems" (v. 32) and to making a rededication
of their commitment to Him (v. 38 "because of this we make a sure