Reading: Psalms 34
We read in verse 7 of this chapter that the Angel encamps around those that fear him. This is another way of saying that the Angel of the Lord dwells very close to those that fear him.
What does this mean? Was the Angel of the Lord driving in the car with us this morning on the way to meeting? Was the angel of the Lord there watching TV with us last night? Is the Angel of the Lord now sitting in the chair next to us?
How involved is the Angel in our life? Will they keep us from hitting our thumb by accident with a hammer? Will they prevent us from running into another car on the highway? Will the keep us from tripping on the stairs?
Do we each have our own angel or does one angel watch over us all collectively? Do we know if they have ever taken any action to help us?
There are so many questions that it is hard to understand what exactly is meant by this verse. Perhaps if we look at the context it is written in that might give us a better understanding.
In some bibles there is a notation at the top of this Psalm saying that this was written by David about the time he changed his behavior. So perhaps by looking at that account we can get some more answers as to what David met when he wrote the Angel of the Lord encamps around those that fear him.
So let’s turn to 1 Samuel Chapter 21. Beginning in verse 10 we read:
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish (aw-keesh) king of Gath. But the servants of Achish (aw-keesh) said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish (aw-keesh) king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Achish (aw-keesh) said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
Okay, Saul was hunting down David so David decides to hide out in the last place that Saul would go to look for him. Gath. Gath is in the land of the Philistines. This was the place where Goliath was from. So because it was the last place on earth that David would likely go, it might have seemed like the perfect place to hide. But some people there recognized David and took him and brought him before the King. This was a bad situation. David’s life was in great danger here and he could have easily been killed. So what does David do? He pretends to be insane and he scratches his fingers nails on the doors of the gate and he dribbles down his beard. This freaks the King out and he sends David away.
Well, that is an interesting story but nowhere in that story do I read about the Angel of the Lord. Yet, this is the account that inspired David to write Psalms 34, but I don’t see the connection. Where is this Angel and how does the Angel fit into the story?
If we look at our lives, we have the same dilemma. Sure it sounds great that the Angel of the Lord dwells near us. But none of us have ever seen this Angel. There is no physical evidence that there is even an Angel nearby. And every time we trip, every time we fall, every time we accidently hurt ourselves we might begin to wonder if there is even an Angel close by.
Perhaps this is why the Sadducees ended up concluding that there was no such thing as angels. They were trying to be reasonable in their thinking. If there was actually an angel of the Lord dwelling nearby them then you would think that there would be some kind of evidence. On the contrary, it seemed that if that angel was guarding them then the angel wasn’t doing a very good job.
You can’t see God so there is no such thing as God, cry the atheists. They cannot see the invisible so they mock at us. But we don’t believe in God because of what we can’t see. We believe in God because of what we do see.
The bible teaches that there are angels at work in the world around us, and those angels are given charged over the people of God. And even if we can’t see them, they are around us and very likely they are around us at this moment. Their presence is made known in the things we see.
We often think the Angels as only appearing with some sort of physical body. But that is not always the case. In most cases in scriptures when they are at work they are in spirit form. This is why the scriptures teach that the angels are ministering spirits. And again they are called flames of fire. Remember when Moses saw the burning bush. It says there was an angel there that appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of the bush. In other words, the angel appeared as a flame of fire.
Other times angels have appeared to men in a dream, as part of the thoughts of the mind. This was the case with Joseph who was warned in his dream by an angel to take the baby Jesus and flee to Egypt. Joseph may not have seen the angel who gave the warning, but he saw the warning.
For some reason David felt confident that it was the Angel of the Lord that saved him in Gath.
That means that David credits the idea to pretend to be insane to the Angel of the Lord. It was the Angel who inspired him to act like a madman.
Most people would write it off as their own creativity, their own quick thinking. But David felt certain that the Angel of the Lord was near and acted quickly and gave him the idea that ended up saving his life from those men.
And so when we think about how all this fits together, Psalm 34 verse 7 not only teaches that the Angel of the Lord dwells near us, but that these ministering spirits are active in our lives. Angels are not just standing by and watching each of us, angels are involved in the things we do.
This is why David did not just write the angel of the Lord encamps around those that fear him and then put a period. End of sentence. He didn’t just end there because the Angel is doing much more than just dwelling near us. David adds that the Angel not only dwells with us, but also delivers us.”
We are not left alone in this world and yes there are crazy things that sometimes happen to us. But go back and think about those things again and look for the work of the Angel that we did not know was there. Perhaps if we start looking for the Angel we will see things differently and like David we will give credit to the Angel for delivering us out of our troubles.
What this means is that some of the thoughts and ideas that come into our mind may not be our own, but may be given us from God through the angel.
Jesus told his disciples that a comforter would come. Many people stumble at this because they think that this only applies to the disciples of that generation. But Jesus told his disciples that this comforter was an Advocate that would come and that would teach them and remind them of everything he had told them. He also called this comforter the spirit of truth.
This spirit of truth teaches and reminds the disciples what is true. And this spirit of truth is very much active today. In fact, we all have been touched by this spirit of truth. We feel it when we read the words in the bible. It is that feeling we have in our heart knowing that what we have been taught is true. We feel it when we sing hymns. We feel it when verses of the bible come into our minds. The spirit of truth comforts us. It helps us to make it through the day.
Likewise the angel of the Lord gives us thoughts and ideas that help us make it through the day. This is how they minister to us. They help keep the word of God active in our life.
And having the angel of the Lord near applies to all those that fear God. If you don’t fear God then you will have to look elsewhere for help. But for those who fear God, whether you are young or old, whether you are not yet baptized or baptized, whether you are male or female then the angel of the Lord dwells near you and helps to inspire you for Gods purpose.
Sure we fall down and get hurt. Sure we get bitten by insects. Sure we have accidents. These things are all common to being human. But what we don’t know is all the times that the angel may have helped us avoid a fall or an accident.
As part of the way they minister to us, they may help us recall a memory verse or a hymn. They may be there helping us find the words for our prayers. They may be there guiding us to the answer of a problem. Or perhaps there are times when they may help give us the strength to be silent when we are angry. Or with their help we might feel some extra energy when we feel completely worn down.
Now the critic will say that there is no angel and David saved himself by his own quick thinking. And when he was watching the flock and killed the bear it was by his own strength. And when he flung the stone at goliath it was by his own skill. But the man of God knows the truth. The man of God knows that God gives us everything, even our very breath. It is only by His spirit that we are able to breathe in and out. So we should give credit to God for everything we do and everything we accomplish in this life.
We know that the angels were given special charge over Christ. The bible says the angels would keep him in all his ways. Their hands would bear him up, lest he dashed his foot against a stone.
We have come here today to remember the dark time when Christ was in the garden and overcome with emotion about what was about to happen to him. We see him there at the weakest point in his life. He is afraid; no he is terrified about what would happen. He has seen the horrors of death by Crucifixion. He has seen the nails driven into the hands and feet. He has heard those on the cross struggle to breathe. He has seen the agony on their faces. He has watched the slow and very painful death they suffered.
And now in the garden on that night it all became very real. He knew that within a few short hours, he would be the one on the cross.
We just can’t even imagine what that must have been like for him. All we know is that this is the one time in his life that he completely broke down. He could not hold it in anymore. He could not be silent and when the tears came out, they came out loud and strong. He spoke of the cup that we are about to drink and he pleaded for a way that it could be removed. And though those are the words that are recorded, there is no doubt that his emotions and crying was at a point that he could hardly speak and breathe. And if any of us were there that night to actually see and hear him as he cried we might begin to appreciate this bread and this cup a little bit more.
But there he was, as it seemed all alone in the garden. Completely drained, dreading what was coming, having trouble preparing for the pain that he would feel.
It was at that moment that the angel appeared. It doesn’t tell us what the angel did, but it does say the angel gave him strength. My guess is that the angel helped him remember some verses in the bible. Perhaps the angel spoke the verse “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me”.
Whatever it was that the angel did, Jesus was stronger. It says that he was then able to pray even more earnestly. We might sweat when we exercise, and sometimes we sweat to a point where it just drains off our head. Jesus was strengthened so much by the angel that he sweat when he prayed. And he prayed so hard that the sweat was just pouring off his head.
Whatever the words of that prayer to the Father were, it was probably the most passionate and most amazing prayer ever spoken by a man.
So here we are in the year 2018.
We know the prophecies and as the clock clicks on we find ourselves very close to the time when this world as we know it will be forever changed. Something big is about to happen. Every sign is there. We can see the tension in the nations around us. The weather extremes continue. Fires continue to burn throughout the United States. The west Nile virus is right at our door step. The killing continues in Syria with ISIL still active killing over 200 this week in a car bomb attack. The drug war continues in Mexico, and there are conflicts in Asia and Africa. The war is still going on in Afghanistan.
Tensions are on the increase with Iraq. Just the other day, Iraq warned the US that it is ready to attack inside the US. They claim that they are near us; they are where we can’t even imagine. They claim that they will destroy all that we possess. I know we scoff at this. After all what can the tiny nation of Iran really do against the all-powerful United States of America? It seems like a lot of huffing and puffing.
There are a thousand ways you can interpret prophecy in the bible and therefore it is difficult to say if Iran’s threat will come to pass or not. But one thing we do know for sure is that there will be a great shaking of the nations of the world in the very near future and those that are now mighty will fall.
This is a scary time, but perhaps we can find comfort knowing that the same God we worship has provided angels to minister to us.
So what does it mean to have an angel of the Lord dwelling near us? Well let’s be very honest with ourselves for a moment.
One day comes and another day goes by and sometimes it all seems to end the same way. We struggle and many times we only feel like we fail at every turn. We wait, hoping that with every new chance we are given we will end up in a better place. But even with all the second chances we have been given, when the end of the day comes we usually end up not feeling good enough about ourselves.
So we get lost in distractions. And the world has plenty of distractions for us. We get lost in our work. We get lost in television. We get lost in games and exercise. We get lost drinking and eating. We get lost in music. We look for something to release us from what we feel is a hard life. We look for something that will help us escape and be free. But sometimes we just give ourselves over to mindless things hoping that that gives us some kind of peace.
Well it is at those moments that we need to close our eyes and sit back and think about the angel that is near us. The angel that God provides to us, to help us.
And perhaps we are able to do that for a little while and find some comfort, but then life happens again. And everywhere we turn it seems like everything is working against us. The storms around us are strong and we feel like they keep blowing us down every time we try to stand.
We might end up feeling like it doesn’t even make a difference. It is easier sometime to just give in to the madness of the world around us. David wrote that the afflictions of the righteous are many.
And at some point in it all, we will crash. We will be brought down to our knees. Our heart will be broken. We will feel the shame and guilt that David expressed in Psalms 34.
It will be during that dark quiet moment, that low point in our life, a point when we feel like we have nothing left. Nothing left but to trust in God. It is that moment when we can close our eyes and sit back and think about the angel that is near us and let that angel give us the strength to make it through another day.