There are many tales in the Bible about human encounters with angels. Some are frightening, some are delightful, and some are funny. Angels are God’s messengers and workers.
Psalm 91:11-12 tells us that angels watch over and protect us. Daniel knew that angels shut the mouths of the lions that wanted to eat him (Daniel 6:22). In Acts 5:19 we read of angels rescuing some disciples from prison.
In Numbers 22:22 Balaam learned that an angel could appear to his donkey and yet be hidden from his eyes (this angel seems to have had a sense of humor). In Exodus 23:20-21 we read that God warned Israel not to provoke “the Angel” that He had assigned to lead them.
Angels serve God night and day and are often used by Him as He works with mankind. In the past, it seems, God used angels in a much more obvious way that He does today. Things are different since Jesus Christ rose and the New Covenant was ratified. Angels still exist and still work with and for God. But they do not always identify themselves as Gabriel did when he came to Daniel (Daniel 9:21-22).
God sometimes sends an angel to test a person’s character. Hebrews 13:2 admonishes Christians in an unusual way: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” It seems angels can come in the form of a stranger—perhaps someone in need. Angels do not really need care, food or entertaining. Abraham eventually knew he was entertaining angels on the plains of Mamre (Genesis 18). But you might not know!
We are to recognize that all humans are children of God and have the potential to receive eternal life. We are not to shun strangers. God wants to know that His children are capable of acts of kindness, mercy and love—just as He is. We need to emulate our heavenly Father.
In our society, however, wisdom is certainly essential when encountering strangers. Women and children should be especially careful and never get into a potentially dangerous situation by trusting strangers. I do not pick up hitchhikers—unless I see an obvious problem such as a person rolling a tire or carrying a gas can.
Running into Angel(a)
A few years ago, I was jogging alone through a little park on a rainy afternoon. Suddenly I heard a voice saying, “Sir, sir.” An attractive young lady came running down a grassy knoll toward me. I looked around me—young ladies don’t usually come running up to me—but I was alone, so I stopped. She came closer and asked me if I knew where the Alberta Hospital was in the city. I knew it was clear across Edmonton and hard to find. She said a patient who was a friend of hers was expecting her to visit at 6 p.m. and she was afraid of being late.
I tried to describe the way, but realized it would not work. I offered to draw a map of the complicated route. I knew she would be late for sure.
Just then she said, “By the way, my name is Angel.” Actually she said “Angela,” but that was close enough. I was already recognizing unusual things here.
At this point, the storm was moving in and I said, “Tell you what—I’ll quickly shower and change, and then I will drive to the hospital and you can follow me. That way you will be there on time.” She was delighted, and so off I went to the gym (which was very near this park). Angel drove her Jeep after me. When I came rushing out in street clothes, Angel was nowhere to be seen and I thought, “Oh, well.” I didn’t recognize her, but she came right up and said, “Here I am.” She had changed clothes from shorts and a jacket into a lovely dress and blouse, and had done her hair, and looked quite lovely. Something seemed terribly right—and yet curious—about the incident.
By now, I was thinking about the scripture that said we might be entertaining angels when we do something for a stranger. Things seemed unusual about this encounter. The storm grew fierce and rain poured down. Off we went as the storm clouds darkened. She stayed with me all the way into the hospital parking lot. It had taken 25 minutes and it was exactly 5:58 p.m. when we arrived. She would be on time. She was very grateful—she gave me a kiss on the cheek and was gone.
Was she or wasn’t she?
I drove home slowly, musing about the scripture in the book of Hebrews. Was she or wasn’t she? Did I or didn’t I? Was I kissed by an angel or by an Angela? Even if she was “just” a young lady, nothing had been lost. I could feel good about helping another human being made in God’s image. The point is that all humans are precious in God’s sight. He’d like them all to have eternal life (1 Timothy 2:4). God is doing all that He can do, short of forcing us and making decisions for us. For that, we can all be thankful, and in that we can be confident.
Jesus Christ said that one of the clear identifying marks of His followers would be the fervent love they have for one another (John 13:34-35). He went on to teach that “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
As a matter of fact, the last six of the great Ten Commandments are all about loving your neighbor as yourself. Thus, in children of God there will be an outgoing care towards other people. That care will emanate from the strength of obeying God’s laws, which clearly define the path we ought to walk upon.
Taking wise risks
We should not be foolish and we should not be naive. God expects us to use wisdom in dealing with others. Specifically, the command to love is towards another converted person. But in John 3:16 we see that God loves the entire world. We are to grow in that direction. However, we ought to also recognize evil at the same time, and much is written about that in the Scriptures.
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ instructed: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We will sometimes be hurt when we try to help someone. We will sometimes be used and mistreated. But that ought to be expected from time to time. Jesus was not insulted or terribly distressed when all of His followers denied Him and ran away to hide. He even told Peter ahead of time that Peter, too, would deny Him (Matthew 26:69-75). We are to emulate Jesus Christ as best we can, and we are to grow in the ability to be like Him. So, though we are careful, we may be hurt.
Back to the story. This one had a happy ending: Angel vanished to visit her best friend, and I was left with a little “tingle” on my cheek and a little question in my mind. Was I kissed by an angel? I cannot be certain, but it’s possible I was. How about you—have you seen any angels lately?