by William J. Stewart
There are several occasions recorded in the Bible of interaction between the spiritual and physical realms. This should not surprise us: our Creator is a Spirit and He has made us in His image (despite being in the flesh, we are spirits). As we have previously noted, spirit beings were given duty over the nations before the coming of the Messiah. Oh, and let’s not forget, we have a spiritual enemy, the devil. Having said all this, one might think we would see occurrence after occurrence of interaction – that it would be commonplace. It is not. The connection between the two realms is continual, but the incidents of interaction which are visible, audible and experienced by humanity are relatively few. Let’s notice some of them now.
Years ago, I penned a series on the appearances and activity of the Christ in the Old Testament. The LORD appeared to Abraham (Genesis 12, 17, 18, 22), Hagar (Genesis 16), Isaac (Genesis 26), Jacob (Genesis 31, 32, 35), Moses (Exodus 3, 19, 20, 33), all of Israel (Exodus 13, 14), and others.
Numbers 22 tells us of the prophet Balaam being commissioned by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel. Balaam inquired of the LORD, whether he should go with Balak’s men. The answer was NO (Numbers 22:12). However, Balak sweetened the pot, and Balam ended up going. On his way, his donkey kept acting up: turning off the path, crushing his foot against a wall, and laying down under him. The text reveals that the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way (v 23-27). The LORD opened the donkey’s mouth to speak with Balaam (v 28-30), and then eventually opened Balaam’s eyes, and he too saw the Angel of the LORD (v 31).
Following the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of Israel. In Joshua 5, shortly before he would lead the people on their mission to take the land of Canaan, “a Man” appeared to him, who identified Himself as “Commander of the army of of the LORD.” Joshua was then told to take off his sandals, for he stood on holy ground (v 15). This “Man” was more than a man, it was the LORD!
There are a number of times when angels appeared to men. In Genesis 19, two angels came to Lot in the city of Sodom. In Luke 1, an angel appeared to Zacharias, to announce the birth of his son, John the Baptist. In the same chapter, Mary also saw an angel who announced the birth of our Lord. Joseph was sleeping, but in a dream, an angel affirmed that he should marry Mary, for she had not been unfaithful to him, as he had feared (Matthew 1). After Jesus rose from the dead, an angel appeared tot he women who came to the tomb (Matthew 28). After Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels appeared to His disciples, speaking to them of His return (Acts 1). That’s just a sampling of the angel appearances.
In 2 Kings 6, the king of Syria was making war against Israel, but his movements and plans were being revealed to the king of Israel by Elisha. The Syrian king sought to kill the prophet, and thus sent a great army to surround the city of Dothan, where Elisa was. The servant of the prophet arose early in the morning and saw the city surrounded. He helplessly exclaimed, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elisha’s response must have confused the young man, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (6:15-16). Who? Where? The text continues,
…Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (v 17)
The curtains were pulled back, and the servant saw what Elisha already knew. Notice a couple of Psalms:
The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place. (Psalm 68:17)
So, what does this have to do with you and I? We’re far removed from the days of Abraham and Lot, or the time of Balaam or Elisha, etc.. I want you to notice a text in Hebrews 1. Of the angels of God, we are told:
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
All those who are serving God in this life with the hope of eternal life, raise your hands. Ok. You, with your hand in the air – the angels of God are sent forth to minister to you. How do they do so? I don’t know, but I do know the text says they are and they do. The spiritual and physical realms are intersecting in your life, and you may not even know about it. Have you ever met an angel? How would you know? Later, the same writer penned this:
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2).
It is entirely possible that our lives have crossed paths with angelic beings and we were oblivious. Abraham had no clue who these “men” were when he invited them to dine with him. He was simply doing a good deed to some travelers. The spiritual and physical realms are not so far apart as we sometimes believe.