Monday, 17 October 2011

of God's Providence in Ezekiel's Wheel; Part 3

Photo Credit: Smithsonian American
Continuing our series that we began here, we now consider how The Providence of God is connected with angels. Let’s begin by looking again at Spurgeon’s text:

Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. (Ezekiel 1: 15-19; ESV)

I remember being at a Christian retreat center years ago and being told by its administrator the story of a beautiful log cabin on their property. It seems that when the cabin was almost completed, there was a sudden lightening storm in which a bolt of lightening struck a huge tree nearby. The tree began to fall heading right for the cabin and would most certainly have reduced the cabin to a pile of kindling. Suddenly, the falling tree seemed to stop and hang up in mid air, with no other trees around it to break its fall, snap in two, and one half fell on one side of the cabin and the other half fell on the other side of the cabin. All ended well. The person who told me the story insisted that there must have been angels in the valley that day that came to the rescue.

I love that story. Is it true? I’d like to think so because to me it beautifully illustrates the hand of God in the everyday affairs of mankind. Is God concerned about a little log cabin of some remote Christian retreat center? Why shouldn’t He be? Hebrews 13:2 even tells us that "some have entertained angels unawares" (ESV). Allow me a moment of sanctified imagination. I can imagine God smiling as half of that huge tree trunk landed on one side of the cabin and the other half on the other side of the cabin. Who knows, but perhaps He even gave the angel responsible a “high-five.”

Spurgeon’s second point is that God’s Providence is connected to “angels.” What are angels? There seems to be a great fascination in our world with angels. In some ways it’s almost cultish the way some have become obsessed with angels. But what are they? Literally, the word angel means “messenger.” The writer of Hebrews asks, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14; NIV). For Spurgeon, the “living creatures” in his Ezekiel text are angels, or messengers. They are messengers sent from the throne of God. Somehow there is a connection between God’s Providence and angels. Wherever the wheels of Providence go, the “creatures” (or angels) go with them. Spurgeon says,
I do not know how to explain it; I can not tell how it is; but I believe angels have a great deal to do with the business of this world. In times of miracles and wondrous things, there was an angel that came down and slew the first born of Egypt; and an angel cut off the hosts of Sennacherib. Angels did mighty things in those ancient days. My firm belief is, that angels are sent forth somehow or other to bring about the great purposes of God. The great wheel of Providence is turned by an angel.
While the secular world does seem to be fascinated by angels, and regardless whether or not they have a correct understanding of them, the church ironically seems not to discuss them that much. Ever wonder why that is? I do wonder about such things.  Certainly there are plenty of Scriptures that speak about angels, so it’s not a case of them not being biblical. In fact, according to the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the singular “angel” appears 207 times, roughly equally split between the Old and the New Testaments. The plural “angels” appears 96 times, 83 of which are in the New Testament alone.

Jesus himself spoke about angels assigned to individuals, such as in Matthew 18:10 where He said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (ESV). Is there a connection between the Providence of God and angels? That certainly seems to be the case.  I don’t know, but perhaps this is where the idea of “guardian angels” came from.

Herein lies a bit of a conundrum for me. We often speak of the Holy Spirit as the one who testifies to the believer’s heart concerning all truth. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26; NIV). I get that; it’s Christianity 101. Angels are not the Holy Spirit, however their “ministering” (Hebrews 1:14) according to Spurgeon seems somehow very closely tied to the work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t pretend to understand this, and I’m OK with that. The Bible remains true despite my failure to understand it all. If someone has revelation on this, I would welcome the comments.

Perhaps I have digressed. Maybe it doesn’t even matter how God blesses; maybe it is enough to simply know that He does in fact bless us. Let us rejoice in the knowledge that God has not left us alone to fend for ourselves. Let us rejoice in the knowledge that He does care even about the little “log cabins” of our lives. Let us rejoice that God sends his messengers, His angels, to do His bidding and the dispensing of His Providence. Let us rejoice in His great love for us, for where would we be without it?

Spurgeon closes this section by recapping Ezekiel 1:19, “And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose.”  If the “living creatures” are in fact to be understood as angels, and if the “wheels” are to be seen as the dispensation or vehicle of God’s Providence, then it makes sense to see angels as the messengers through whom God provides for His people in this world.
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