5. God and the Angels
God Himself has a close interest in and control of the work of His Angels; thus in Rev. 9:13,14 we read of the sixth Angel sounding, wanting to bring about certain things on the earth. The response to this was "a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth Angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four Angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates". This voice was probably either from Christ (the altar), as the head of the Angels, or God Himself; or maybe a mighty Angel representing God or Christ (see Chapter 12). It instructed the Angel how to bring about His intention by bringing other Angels into operation which this sixth Angel presumably had in its control- hence they were to be "loosed" by Him.
Reverence For God
The reverence and humility for God's will which the Angels exhibit whilst not always fully understanding it is a great exhortation for us. "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him" (Ps. 89:7) in the Heavenly council. They are given specific directives by God which they go and execute to the best of their ability and then report back to God- His "Angels. . that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word" (Ps. 103:21). "Canst thou send lightnings (Angels) that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are (Septuagint: 'We do Thy pleasure?')" (Job 38:35). Compare this with "Ye ministers of His, that do His pleasure" (Ps. 104:4). Jude 9 states that the Angels speak in a soft, gentle way- they do not dare bring a "railing accusation" against the men they operate upon. Similarly the wilderness Angel that gave the Law and pronounced the blessings and curses upon Israel did not do so in a matter of fact 'obey or perish' tone of voice; He "pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt", as He will plead with them to repent in the last days too (Ez. 20:36). The Angel spoke to Moses "as a man speaketh to his friend" (Ex. 33:11)-i. e. in a relaxed, friendly way. It should be remembered that it was in this tone of voice that the "fiery Law" of Moses was given, rather than in a harsh, judgemental way as is often thought. Similarly Eliphaz had a vision in which he "heard a still voice" (Job 4:16, AV mg. ); most visions being associated with Angels, it seems fair to assume this was an Angel's voice- as was the "still small voice" Elijah heard? (1 Kings 19:12).
Because of their limitations, there is a sense in which God is still far above the Angels: "His Angels He charged with folly" (Job 4:18). The word for 'Folly' may imply over-action; that this is concerning literal Angels and not men is shown by the contrast in v. 19- "how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay", i. e. men. If God cannot treat His Angels as equal to Him, "in whom He put light" (AVmg. ), how much less can He treat men?. "The stars (Angels?) are not pure in His sight" (Job 25:5). Because of this we read in Ps. 113:5 "The Lord our God exalteth Himself to dwell on High (A. V. mg. ), who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in Heaven (the Angels) and in the earth", implying that God only looks closely at us sometimes. This is why David pleads so much for God to open His eyes to our problems. This verse seems to imply that sometimes God exalts Himself into His own majesty, and at others condescends to bow down to behold the Angels and us. Maybe this pattern will continue throughout eternity, God sometimes withdrawing into the supreme heights of His personal spirituality, and at others humbling Himself to deal with us. However, we should never doubt the obedience of the Angels to the will of God declared in His commandments to them. "The wrath of a king is as messengers (Angels) of death" (Prov. 16:14)- as if to say that as the Angels- of evil and death in this case- are zealous to obey the king of Heaven's command, so are the messengers who obey a human king's over-hasty command to kill someone.
God's way of using the Angels to punish Sodom gives insight into the relationship between them and God. God Himself knew exactly what He would do because of the wickedness He knew was in the city. The Angel who debated whether to reveal to Abraham His purpose with Sodom (Gen. 18:17) says "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great. . I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me". The Angels responsible for Sodom had brought the "cry" or news of Sodom's sins to the attention of this senior Angel, who then investigates it further to see whether or not their news was correct. "And if not, I will know"- the emphasis being on the "I"- i. e. 'whether their news was correct or incorrect, I will know because I am blessed with greater powers than they'. This senior Angel seems to manifest God to a very great degree, as Gen. 19:13 describes the other two "men" (Angels) saying to Lot "we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord (the third "man"- the senior Angel); and the Lord (senior Angel) hath sent us to destroy it". These two Angels sent to execute the judgements were under specific guidelines- v. 22 "I cannot do anything till thou be come thither". Thus these Angels were given power conditional on certain things happening. Perhaps this was part of the work of Palmoni, the "wonderful numberer" of Daniel, who is the Angel responsible for all timing; maybe He decreed that they could only have power once the condition of Lot leaving the city was fulfilled. Maybe this Angel co-ordinates all the huge number of timings which go to make up God's purpose? This would explain the passages which imply that a set time is allowed to some human beings to bring about repentance and response to God’s offers. Thus Pharaoh was condemned because he “let the appointed time pass by” (Jer. 46:17).
In respect of God's relationship with the Angels, it is interesting to note that there seems to be a theme in Scripture of all of the Angels being involved in each action one of them does, due to the perfect unity that exists between them and God. Thus when one of the Angels acts in our lives, all the others are conscious of it too. Consider:
- Luke 15 describes the joy in Heaven when one sinner repents; the man who found the lost sheep "calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me. . when she (the woman) hath found it (the lost coin) she calleth her friends and neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me. . likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth". The man and the woman must therefore represent God manifested through our guardian Angel. The Angel physically leaves the presence of God in Heaven and then goes off to arrange circumstances to encourage the sinner to return. He then calls all the others together to rejoice "when He cometh home" (into Heaven, into the multitude around the throne of God from which Angels go and return in obeying God's Word). The whole Heavenly household (or just those other Angels which our guardian has used in arranging circumstances for us to repent?) then rejoice together. Thus we read in Hebrews 1:14 that all the Angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation". ALL the Angels are involved together in this work. ALL things in Heaven (the Angels) and on earth (the things they arrange on earth) are for our sakes!
- Luke 11:7,8 gives further insight into how prayer is heard- the householder, God, is in His house (Heaven) with the door shut and his children with him in bed, and in order to get up- corresponding to God answering our prayer in the parable- the whole household, the children of God (a description of the Angels- Luke 20:35,36 etc. ), have to be roused. Thus all the Angels are conscious of one specific action on our behalf.
- 1 Kings 22:19-23 gives another picture of the Heavenly council and way of working described earlier- Micaiah saw "the Lord (God Himself) sitting on His throne and ALL the host of Heaven(the Angels) standing by Him on His right hand and on His left". God told them His desire- for Ahab to die at Ramoth-Gilead. He then asked which Angel wanted to effect this- "Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? And one (Angel) said on this manner, and another said on that manner". We thus learn that like us, on hearing God's desire the elohim all have different ways of trying to fulfil it. One "Spirit" (Angel) suggested that He would put a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets, and this was the suggestion chosen and enabled by God. This shows that the Angels do not all automatically know the best way of bringing about God's purpose, and therefore they need to seek His advice and perhaps discuss things amongst themselves first before acting. The thing we want to especially note in the present context is that "ALL the host of Heaven" were there around the throne of God participating in this decision. And so all the Angels are involved in the decisions God and the Angels make about us.
- Ex. 12:41 "All the hosts (Angels) of the Lord went out (with Israel) from the land of Egypt".
Angelic Influence On God?
Dan. 4:17 speaks of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation as being “by the demand of the word of the holy ones”. Was it that the Angels had noticed this man’s awful pride, reported it to God Himself in the court of Heaven, and then been empowered to carry out his demise? The same context reminds us that God does according to His will in the army of Heaven (Dan. 4:35). And yet His purpose is to some extent moulded by them. And we are led to ask, how much influence do we His beloved children have upon His actual purpose? In the context of Daniel, one observes that a “herald” cried aloud to peoples of all nations and languages, and bid them worship the Babylonian image, on pain of being cast into a fiery furnace (Dan. 3:4 ff.). And yet in Rev. 14, an Angel cries to all nations and languages, warning them that if they do worship the image, they will be cast into the lake of fire. The Angels had observed Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance and defiance, and many centuries later they will work out their way of parodying it in their future proclamation. The point is, they have the power to work out their way of operation in accordance with their perceptions and understandings; in this we see the “freedom of the spirit” which is now and shall be ever accorded to Yahweh’s elohim.