1 Kings 19:1-8
I remember reading stories about Elijah when I was a kid. As I mentioned before, I was more into the tales of miraculous deeds than the more boring aspects of the Bible, like Paul’s epistles. Then as I got a little more mature I realized that the teaching portions were really important because they help us interpret the narratives. Please keep this in mind whenever reading narratives: Narratives tell us what actually happened, not necessarily what should've happened. None of the characters mentioned in the Bible are sinless, except for the Savior. A lot of the time they’re providing an example for us to follow, or they might be providing an example for us to avoid. I guess a hero is one in which the former outweighs the latter by a good margin.
Just to show how high a status Elijah had in God’s plan, here are two reminders: 1) He’s one of only two people in the history of humanity who exited this world without dying, and 2) When Jesus was on the mountain during his Transfiguration, he was visited by two people, Moses and Elijah. The Bible teachers I’ve read interpret that to mean that the two men were official representatives of the Law and the Prophets.
But we need to keep in mind that an icon is still a human being. After the incredible victory on Mount Carmel over the prophets of Baal, Elijah was unprepared for the threat from Queen Jezebel. It’s common for the emotional high of a huge victory to be succeeded by an emotional low.
So Elijah fled for his life. The man who could seemingly call up miracles at will ran away like a coward. He finally stopped and rested for a little bit, and it’s easy for us to see the self-disgust in his prayer to God—“Please take my life.” He thought he was the spiritual pinnacle of Israel, but he found out the hard way that he was a sinner like the rest of us.
That’s where God’s servant steps in. Elijah woke from an exhausted sleep to find an angel and a prepared meal. The angel’s words come straight from the merciful God Elijah served: “Eat and rest. I know your frailty, and for a while I’m going to carry you.” The Lord knew exactly what the man needed, and used his angel to provide it. Over the next forty days, that was the source of his nourishment as he made his journey to the next phase of his ministry.
Why do I bring up this story? Well, because it’s very touching and poignant to me. My Shepherd always knows exactly what I need. Sometimes it’s a swift kick in the rear, but sometimes I need something like this. Whatever I need—moment by moment—my Father provides.
Do I think angels do this today? Well, I don’t know. As we discussed before, most of the time today they work behind the scenes. If they did things like that, we probably wouldn’t know about it. But if I found out someday that an angel was used by the Lord to provide for a need, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. The author of Hebrews says that the angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”
Is there a way for us to apply this? Well, there’s one immediate thing that strikes me, and it seems to be a theme I notice again and again as we study angels. We have friends around us, friends whom we don’t know about and won’t know about until we step into Glory. That should be comforting.
Second, I want to point out that the word in both Greek and Hebrew for “angel” merely means “messenger.” If you send a human being as your representative to deliver a message, then that’s the same word. Yes, there are powerful spiritual beings around us who influence things in this world, but each of us can be an “angel” in the broader sense. When you reach out to that hurting sibling in Christ, you’re acting as God’s messenger. When you help someone in need in the name of your Savior, you’re acting as his messenger. And especially as you share the Good News of Jesus with a lost soul, that’s the ultimate fulfillment of that term. In fact, when you do that, you’re actually doing something that the most powerful angel in the universe can’t do. Cool, huh?
Lord Jesus, is there someone I’m going to encounter today who needs an angel? If so, I’m volunteering right now. Whatever you want, the answer’s “Yes.”