13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”
14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”
15 Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Have you seen that bumper sticker that says “Never fly faster than your angels can fly”? It seems kind of funny, and it’s good advice for driving safely, but it also shows that our attitude toward God and His messengers can tend toward the frivolous. Honestly, there are an awful lot of people that take God’s angels for granted. We like to think that God has angels watching over us all the time, no matter what we are up to. After all, we have the promise from Psalms, don’t we?
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
“Angels watchin’ over me, my Lord” says the old gospel song. We cling to that, and we figure it applies in all circumstances. Let’s look at one more example, from the book of Daniel.
10 Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.
12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.”
Yes, angels are watching and listening, they are rushing to our aid, coming to protect and guide us. But there is a condition for that protection. Do you see it?
With Joshua, the angel said He did not come to stand for Joshua nor for his enemies, “but as Commander of the army of the LORD.” The Lord’s army would always fight on the side of whoever followed the Lord’s will, and so it wasn’t for the angel to choose sides. On the contrary, JOSHUA HIMSELF had to choose sides. Would he follow the will of the living God, the Lord God who had brought them out of Egypt? Or, would he follow his own plans, setting goals and picking battles as he alone saw fit? From the angel’s simple statement, it’s clear that if Joshua opposed the will of God, then he would find himself fighting against the army of the Lord. So, we can see that angels will only follow the will of God, and we can only count on their protection if we also follow God’s will and God’s way.
Psalms 91 is a favorite of many believers because it speaks of God’s protection in our lives. But even this lovely promise of protection comes with a condition, which we can see in three verses:
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place…
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him…”
In order to receive the protection of God’s angels, we must rely wholly upon God, making Him our dwelling place, seeking refuge only in Him, and, most importantly, setting our love upon Him first. So long as we are caught up in our own will and our own ideas of what we need to survive, God’s protection cannot take hold. So long as our love is caught up in worldly things, we cannot rely upon God’s angels to deliver us. As with the angel who faced Joshua, when we seek our own way we may actually find ourselves in OPPOSITION to the Lord, rather than having His protection. But if we seek God first, setting our love for Him above all else, then we will find He will deliver us.
Daniel faced an angel who was a warrior, a mighty soldier of the Lord. The angel first appeared to Daniel as he walked along the Tigris River with some companions, and although Daniel was the only one to see Him, Daniel’s companions were overwhelmed with fear and they fled. (Daniel 10:7) But even though Daniel himself fell to the ground trembling, he was able to stay and hear what the angel had come to tell him. How was Daniel able to do this? Daniel had prepared himself with fasting and prayer, setting his heart to understand, and humbling himself before his God. That was the condition. If we seek God’s wisdom or even read His holy Word for counsel, we must approach our task with humility and single-minded devotion. We must take our own hearts and minds under control and make God’s will our sole desire, and thus we will find we are open to only God’s will and His Holy Spirit.
In all three cases, it is clear that if we do not seek the Lord’s will and set our love for Him above all things, we cannot rely on His protection. It is true that God’s protection is His to give to whomever He chooses, that His mercy rains down upon the just and the unjust alike. Yes, even when we are going the wrong way, even when we seek our own ends, God may show mercy and protect us anyway. But if we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, then we can rest assured that His angels ARE always watching over us. If we set our hearts to seek only God’s will, then the army of the Lord is on our side, and in our hour of darkest need the Lord will send His messengers to teach and to guide us.
Almighty God, we rest in You now. We seek to dwell in Your peace–the peace that comes through Christ Jesus, who died for our sins so that we might know Your salvation. Help us now to seek only Your will and Your way. Drive all other loves from our lives, so that our hearts are wholly Yours. Be our Rock, our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Lord. Amen.