I’m not sure how they do it, but they do.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him.” 2 Chronicles 32:7
Angels on duty
I’m certain that Hezekiah’s confident boast must have raised some eyebrows among his advisors: “Who’s he talkin’ about? Who could be more numerous than that horde of Assyrians breathing threats and violence outside there?”
Hezekiah undoubtedly had in mind the same angelic host that had rescued Elisha in a previous generation (2 Kings 6). It’s not clear from that story just how that vast heavenly host intervened to deliver the prophet and his terrified servant, but Elisha acted confidently, and with grace, just knowing they were there.
We’re familiar with the presence of angels during the Christmas season. An angel foretold the birth of the Messiah, and angels greeted the shepherds and announced the coming of the King, and we duly sing of their part in this story every year.
But angels are not just at their post and on duty during Christmas.
God’s servants on our behalf
The Bible clearly teaches that angels exist to do the bidding of God on our behalf. The psalms in particular insist on this: “He makes His messengers winds, His ministers a flaming fire” (Ps. 104:4); “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11, 12); “Let [my enemies] be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them” (Ps. 35:5, 6).
In various cases – among them, Abraham, Lot, Gideon, Daniel, Zachariah and Mary, the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth, and Peter – angels appeared as divine messengers, bringing a word or news from God, or providing instruction concerning some particular action. Two other passages – Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7 – intimate a struggle in the angelic realm over the concerns of God’s people, while the Book of Revelation in general presents angels as heralds of the decrees of God affecting all of the creation and all people in it.
Angels are very real beings, and they appear, in Scripture, to be very active in God’s Name on behalf of His people and His creation. It would be difficult to construct a theology explaining how the angels serve and protect us, but that they do, somehow, is abundantly clear. It’s not so important that we understand how they do their job (how many of us, after all, understand how to fly a jet liner?) but simply that we comport ourselves in our calling with the understanding that they do exist to serve us.
Trusting in God and depending on His angels
That appears to be what Hezekiah was doing. Outnumbered and way outgunned, Hezekiah did not hesitate to resist the Assyrians and to lead the people to make preparations to thwart their intentions. The people of Jerusalem worked to deprive the Assyrians of a ready water supply (thus making an extended siege difficult), and they built up their own fortifications, which had been in disrepair, and organized the city for battle-readiness. These must have seemed to many in the city like pretty flimsy preparations against so vast a horde, but Hezekiah promised the people that, if they would be strong and courageous – thus demonstrating faith in God – the unseen hosts that stood guard over them, and that vastly outnumbered the Assyrians, would come to their aid. “And the people took confidence from the word of Hezekiah king of Judah” (v. 8). During the night, “the LORD sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria” (v. 21).
How? We don’t know. But that God did it is reported without explanation or apology. Byron, in his poem, “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” envisioned it like this:
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass’d
And the eyes of the sleepers wax’d deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!
There are vast unseen hosts which, sent for our protection from the very throne of King Jesus, daily and moment by moment protect, guard, direct, and sustain those who trust in Jesus and rest in His sovereign care. We do not need to know how the angels serve us in order to demonstrate the kind of faith, resoluteness, preparation, diligence, and prayerfulness that Hezekiah did in carrying out his duties as king.
Angels and our calling
We have not been called to be kings, but we are servants of the people of God. Sometimes our tasks can seem daunting, if not impossible. The people are more fearful than faithful. Spiritual forces of wickedness assail them and us. Resources are few and failing. There’s very little time, and our energy is running low. But God has called us, and we must be courageous and labor on, confident that He is faithful Who has called us, and He will bring it to pass, and that He has legions of angels at the ready to assist us in whatever our bold and faithful ventures in obedience may require.
So let us, like Hezekiah, understand and embrace our callings, and take up every challenge as it comes, leading God’s people with strength and courage to seek His Kingdom and build His Church, no matter the odds against us.
That rustling you will hear in the still of the night, and that wafting breeze across your weary brow – those may be the wings of God’s servants, ever at the ready to do His bidding on your behalf.
Think about your own calling as a follower of and witness for Christ. What might you be more strengthened to do each day if you really believed that angels stood at the ready to assist you? Share your thoughts with a Christian friend.
Be sure to order your copy of He Has Come, the advent study series which includes four ViewPoint studies together with four videos featuring John Stonestreet.