ENCOUNTERING ANGELS

Opening Prayer

I praise you, Almighty God, the One who cannot be defeated, whose purposes will always be completed.

Read ACTS 5:17–26

The Apostles Persecuted

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

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Meditate

Take hope that in Christ, we are never left alone.

Think Further

The previous passage ended by describing the huge and ever-growing positive response to the message of the gospel. Luke now records the inevitable reaction of the priestly authorities and exposes their underlying motivation in the fact that they were ‘filled with jealousy’ (v. 17). In telling the story of Christian expansion in this book, Luke occasionally allows an element of humor into his narrative; the interjection of an anonymous witness in verse 25 seems to be an example of this.

The reference to ‘an angel of the Lord’ (v. 19) who releases the apostles from prison should not lead us automatically to imagine a heavenly being in the form often used to depict such creatures in art and literature. The word signifies ‘messenger’ or ‘servant’ of God. While the Bible does suggest that such beings have a heavenly existence, it also describes them as appearing in human form.1 Indeed, many identify the ‘angels’ addressed in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 as the pastors of these congregations. This understanding is reflected in the English language when someone needing help may request of a trusted friend: ‘Be an angel’!

Perhaps the important lesson to be drawn from this incident is expressed in the poetic line which affirms that ‘omnipotence has servants everywhere.’2 In a situation which might have appeared hopeless, a previously unknown personage appears and not only liberates the captives but reaffirms their calling to tell the people the full message of this new life. The history of Christianity, and indeed the experience of millions of believers, is replete with such experiences in which seemingly insurmountable problems have been suddenly overcome by a previously unknown ‘angelic’ appearance.

Apply

Remember all who are in prison for the sake of the gospel and pray that God’s angels may visit them.

Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you that your answers to the prayers of your saints often surpass by far their expectations. Help me to pray with hope and eager anticipation.

Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by kingstar

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