Summary: Trust God to send His angels to minister to you in your time of need.
One Sunday evening, Marilyn Clark of Cincinnati, Ohio, overheard her 5-year-old daughter, Julie, practicing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It was a song she'd been rehearsing that morning in church for the next week's Christmas program. But something wasn’t quite right. In place of the phrase, “With angelic host proclaim,” Julie sang, “With the Jelly toast proclaim.” (Marilyn Clark, Cincinnati, OH, Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart;" BI# 6/1998.1092)
We laugh, but little Julie may not be that far off. Hebrews 1:14 says, Angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are to inherit salvation.” The word for “serve” is the same word used in Acts 6 to describe those who “serve tables” – I.e., a table-waiter. In other words, angels are sent by God to “wait on” God’s people just like a waiter or waitress does in a restaurant. And who knows, maybe they even bring jelly toast sometimes.
You don’t hear much about angels, except at Christmas time. That’s because they are a prominent part of the Christmas story. The angel, Gabriel, announced the coming of Christ to Mary and then to Joseph. Another angel announced the birth of Christ to the Shepherds. Then the whole sky was filled with angels praising God for the incarnation.
Well, this Christmas, I’d like to explore a little more in depth the ministry of these angels, because they’re not only a prominent part of the Christmas story; they are a prominent part of our every-day lives. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll see the angels as guardians, warriors, and messengers.
But today, we’ll see them as “ministering spirits,” waiting on God’s people. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Kings 19, 1 Kings 19, where we see how an angel ministered to an Old Testament Believer.
1 Kings 19:1-4 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (ESV)
Let me set the story in its context. Just before this, Elijah had prayed down fire from heaven in a spectacular contest with 450 prophets of Baal. For six hours, they called on their god, asking him to send fire from heaven, but nothing happened. This was disconcerting, especially since Baal was the god of thunder.
About halfway into it, Elijah began to make fun of them. “Cry louder,” he said. “Perhaps your god is asleep. Maybe he’s away on a journey. Or maybe he’s going to the bathroom.”
This made them mad. They danced themselves into a frenzy, crying louder, and even cutting themselves to get Baal’s attention, but nothing happened.
Then, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Elijah built a simple altar with 12 stones. He arranged the wood on top, and cut up an ox, which he put on the wood. Then he drenched the altar with water, soaking the wood and filling the trench all around it.
He prayed a simple prayer, and the true God answered with fire. It came down from heaven, and consumed the ox, the wood, AND the stones. The people worshipped the true and living God, and Elijah killed all 450 prophets of Baal.
Now, at this point, Elijah is physically and emotionally drained. That’s why he is running scared from one woman, Queen Jezebel, even after he’s overpowered 450 men. He runs into the desert, sits down under a desert shrub, and asks God to take his life. That’s where the ministry of an angel comes into Elijah’s life.
1 Kings 19:5-8 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (ESV)