Sun, Dec 23, 2007

GOD'S PROTECTING AGENTS! GENESIS 32:1-2

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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GOD’S PROTECTING AGENTS!
GENESIS 32:1-2
 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 32 as we look at one of the ways that God protects His people. We might call this – Angels Watching Over Me because that will be the focus of our study, God’s Protecting Agents! Now I know that several years back there was this angelic craze that was very unscriptural, but that has seemed to cool off lately. But that does not negate the reality that God created angels to not only minister to Him, but they watch over us!

            Let me share with you this example of God’s ministers watching over God’s people and as we go through our study this morning, I will share with you some more of these stories to show you that God’s angels do watch over us and it is very scriptural. And thus, it should give you encouragement and comfort. We are told:

            The Reverend John G. Paton, pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. They thanked God for delivering them.

            A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard – hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation. Could it be that God had sent a legion of angels to protect His servants, whose lives were being endangered?

- Billy Graham, Angels God’s Secret Agents, pp. 16-17

            I truly believe that He did! Now some of you may be wondering what good this is to you, how is this going to help you today? In our study this morning God was going to use this to encourage Jacob to forge ahead and not be afraid because God’s angels are watching over him and those same angels are watching over us!

            You see, Jacob has spent 20 years at his uncle Laban’s house in Haran, who became his father-in-law.  Jacob was a man on the run; he was running from his brother Esau who wanted to kill him for stealing his blessing. It was during those 20 years that Jacob married two of Laban’s daughters, Leah and Rachel and had 11 sons and 1 daughter with them and their two maidservants.

            And in those 20 years Laban tried to rip Jacob off by changing his wages some 10 times. Thus, Jacob felt is was time to go home because of the change in circumstances and because the Lord told him it was now time to return home, to go back to the Promise Land, back to Bethel or the house of God!

            As he leaves Laban, not on good terms, he now faces his brother Esau who 20 years earlier wanted to kill him, again, because he stole the blessing from Esau. And yes, 20 years have passed by but Jacob is still not sure of how Esau feels, if he still wants to kill him.  And I believe Jacob feels that Esau wants him dead. Why do I say that? Because of what we are told in Genesis chapter 27, what his mother Rebekah told him as he prepared to flee from his home because of Esau’s death warrant on him!  His mother Rebekah told him, Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother's fury turns away, until your brother's anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?  Genesis 27:43-45. 

            In other words, Rebekah told Jacob to go away for a while and when Esau cools off, when he has forgotten about killing Jacob, she will send word and he can then return home. The problem is that he never got word that Esau forgave him, that he doesn’t want to kill him anymore and thus, in Jacob’s mind Esau still wants him dead. With fear, with anxiety, with uncertainty, Jacob continues on his journey and that is where we will pick up our study, beginning in Genesis chapter 32, starting in verse 1 and let’s see what the Lord has for us as we look at God’s protecting agents!

GENESIS 32:1-2

            Obviously Jacob is afraid, he is unsure of how Esau is going to respond when they meet and thus, God shows Jacob that he is not alone, that His angels are surrounding him; they are in the camp with him.  Because of that Jacob calls the place Mahanaim or two camps, double camp. In other words, Jacob and his family, his servants, his livestock are in one camp and there with him are the angels of God watching over his camp, protecting them, the second camp!

            Remember back in Genesis chapter 28, as Jacob was fleeing from Esau and heading to his uncle Laban’s house, we are told beginning in verse 10, Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.’  Genesis 28:10-15.

            There are two main points I want to bring out regarding this dream and what God said to Jacob.  First of all God said that He would bring Jacob back to this land of promise, that no matter what he faced, God would see him through and what God has promised He was more than able to bring to pass.

            Secondly, there is this ladder that reached from the earth up into heaven and we saw Jesus expound on this in John chapter 1 and He said that He is the ladder and it is only through Christ, the Mediator between God and man that we can have a relationship with the Father. But it is only possible as we go through Christ, as we receive Him as Lord and Savior of our life! Now the point I want to bring out regarding this ladder is that there are angels ascending and descending upon it, what is that all about?

            Think about it.  If the ladder represented Jesus, and it does, then who announced the birth of Jesus? Angels announced the birth of Jesus! Who ministered to Jesus after he spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness and Satan tempted Him?  Angels were there ministering to Jesus and over and over again we see angels ministering to Jesus. Then, Hebrews 1:14 tells us, Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

            In other words, these angels that were ascending and descending upon the ladder are ministering spirits that are watching over us and the Lord is reminding Jacob of that dream and He is showing him the reality of that dream!

            Again, is this possible?  Listen to this story and you tell me. We are told:

            A celebrated Philadelphia neurologist had gone to bed after an exceptionally tiring day. Suddenly he was awakened by someone knocking on his door.  Opening it he found a little girl, poorly dressed and deeply upset. She told him her mother was very sick and asked him if he would please come with her. It was a bitterly cold, snowy night, but though he was bone tired, the doctor dressed and followed the girl.

            As the Reader’s Digest reports the story, he found the mother desperately ill with pneumonia. After arranging for medical care, he complimented the sick woman on the intelligence and persistence of her little daughter. The woman looked at him strangely and then said, “My daughter died a month ago.” She added, “Her shoes and coat are in the clothes closet there.”  Amazed and perplexed, the doctor went to the closet and opened the door. There hung the very coat worn by the little girl who had brought him to tend to her mother. It was warm and dry and could not possibly have been out in the wintry night.

            Could the doctor have been called in the hour of desperate need by an angel who had appeared as this woman’s young daughter?  Was this the work of God’s angels on behalf of the sick woman?

- Billy Graham, Angels God’s Secret Agents, p. 16

            Can this be true? Can angels appear in human form? I believe this is a true story and I also believe that angels do appear many times in human form. And folks, don’t take my word for it, but believe it because that is what the Scriptures teach us. We saw it in Genesis chapter 18 as two angels appeared with the Lord and they were in human form. In Hebrews 13:2 Paul gives to us this insight regarding angels, Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.  The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood — being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. [Gen 18:1-8; 19:1-3.]  And The Living Bible says, Don't forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

            Now, I can only give you one example of seeing an angel and I wake up to one every morning, that is my wife. Otherwise, I can’t honestly tell you that I have seen one before, but I do know they are out there! You see, I do know this; angels can appear in human form, they can look just like you and me as they are ministering to us.  It is as Psalm 91:9-13 tells us,Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

            Now in these verses we looked at this morning here in Genesis chapter 32, there are two main points that we are going to be looking at. First of all we will look at: JACOB’S VISIBLE WORLD.  Secondly, we will look at: JACOB’S INVISIBLE WORLD.  You see, I believe we can look at things either way, one way will lead to anxiety, fear and-so-on. The other way will bring us peace, rest, assurance and-so-on. So let’s look at these two aspects and see what we can glean from them and what we can apply to our own lives.

1.  JACOB’S VISIBLE WORLD

            Folks, this is the real world for Jacob. He didn’t dream this one up. This was not an illusion. This was very real.  He just escaped the persecution of his uncle and father-in-law, Laban and now he is going to meet someone who wants him dead, his brother Esau.  Thus, Jacob is fearful, he is anxious, he is trying to come up with a plan in his own mind to get himself out of this mess, to appease Esau so he doesn’t kill him!

            I don’t know why this is so hard for us to learn but we can’t do it on our own or if we could, it would never produce peace, assurance in our life. If you doubt that then listen carefully to how Jacob felt about his plan with appeasing Esau. In Genesis 32:13-20 we are told, So he lodged there that same night, and took what came to his hand as a present for Esau his brother: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals. Then he delivered them to the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass over before me, and put some distance between successive droves.’ And he commanded the first one, saying, ‘When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, “To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?” then you shall say, “They are your servant Jacob's. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.”’ So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, ‘In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and also say, “Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.”’  For he said, ‘I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’

            Jacob had this great plan in his mind, or so he thought. And as he is putting it into practice, this is the best he can feel, perhaps he will accept me.”  Or, ‘Perhaps,’ Jacob hoped, ‘he will be friendly to us.’  The Living Bible. In other words, Jacob had no assurance that Esau would buy into his plan and accept him. There was no peace in Jacob regarding this situation, with his plan. It might work and it might not work out but with odds like that, you can be a weatherman!

            Remember the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21, where we are told, Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’

            You see, he had his own plans, his own ideas, because he was not at ease with what he was doing, where he was at and thus, he had to do something.  What he needed to do was look to the Lord and be directed by Him.  And in that, whether he had bigger barns or not, he would have been satisfied, he would have been at peace!

            There is a story of a mountain climber in the Alps that had come to a perilous gap in the ice where the only way to get across a chasm was to place his foot in the outstretched hands of the guide who was a little way ahead of him. He was told to do this by the one who was directing the party, the man hesitated a moment as he looked into the gloomy depths below where he would certainly fall to his death if anything went wrong. Seeing his hesitation, the guide said, “Have no fear, sir; in all my years of service my hands have never yet lost a man!”

            You see, he could have done it on his own and faced the consequences of his actions or he could reach out and trust that guide. And folks, for Jacob and for us, the only real peace, the only real security, the only real hope is letting go and letting God see us through. We don’t need to scheme or plan but trust in the Lord!

2.  JACOB’S INVISIBLE WORLD

            The opposite of faith is fear and so to combat Jacob’s fear, God shows him that the angels of God are encamped around him, protecting him and his family. How can we trust what we can’t see? By believing in the promises of God found in the Word of God. In II Kings chapter 6 the servant of Elisha struggled with this issue of looking at the visible and being fearful and not seeing the invisible and being at peace. He was walking by sight instead of walking by faith.  Let me set the stage for what was taking place here in II Kings chapter 6.

            Ben-Hadad II, king of Syria, is making his battle plans against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. As he plans out his strategy, God tells Elisha what the king of Syria's plan’s are. You see, he was positioning himself in such a way as to catch the king of Israel off guard and thus would be able to capture him and the battle would be over before it had begun. But each plan that is carefully laid out, and then put into action, is told to the king of Israel by one of Elisha's servants, and thus, foiling the Syrian battle plan. And understand that this was not just a once or twice chance happening, Israel did not just get lucky and guess what Syria was going to do.

Now this happened on several different occasions foiling several different battle plans of Syria. And you can imagine that by now the king of Syria is not very happy about what is happening. Now the logical conclusion that most would come up with, Ben-Hadad II included, is that there was an informant in the camp. Someone was telling Israel of Syria's battle plans, and it had to be an insider. That is the conclusion that Ben-Hadad II came to. What else could it be?

And so he calls his servants together and demands that this traitor be brought forth so they could execute him and get on with their battle with Israel. The only problem was that there was no informant within the camp of Syria that was leaking this top-secret information to the enemy. And that must have taken the king by surprise when his servant told him that. But he goes on to explain what he means and who is giving out this information. His servant tells him that this person who is telling our battle plans is none other than Elisha, the prophet of God. And I love the way he puts it, he tells the king that Elisha Tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.

Basically, there are no secrets with this guy around. He knows everything you are going to do and even those words you speak in your bedroom, behind closed doors. Now that is a problem for any military man, and so the king is going to go after Elisha to kill him. I'm not sure why he thought he could sneak up on this prophet of God, but he puts his plan into operation, and is going to send his men out to capture this troublemaker. With that as our background, let’s begin reading in the book of II Kings, chapter 6, starting in verse 13, as the Syrians gather together to capture Elisha.

            So he said, ‘Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.’ And it was told him, saying, ‘Surely he is in Dothan.’ Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And 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.  II Kings 6:13-17.

            The Syrians surround Elisha and his servant in the city of Dothan, which was about 12 miles north of Samaria. And this was a sneak attack. All these Syrian troops came against Elisha and his servant under the cover of night, while all where asleep. Not a soul was aware that their city had been surrounded until the dawn broke. It was then that Elisha's servant woke up, stretching his legs and maybe getting some water for Elisha, he saw this Syrian army encircling the city of Dothan. And he knew they were dead. There would be no way to escape now, for all the exits to the city have been sealed off. Through his eyes, there was no hope.

As he reports this devastating news to Elisha, he tells his servant not to worry For those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Now I don't think that this was too encouraging for this servant, for no matter how many times you did a head count, or no matter how many ways you tried to count, you still came up with two men against a whole Syrian army. And thus, these words were not comforting to this servant for he could not see what Elisha saw. In a sense, like Jacob, he saw THE VISIBLE WORLD!

And so Elisha prays that this young man could see what he sees, and now I'm sure his hopeless countenance changed to one of hope and encouragement. He now saw that The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. You see, he no longer looked at the situation through the eyes of man, but through the eyes of God. He saw through spiritual eyes. He saw THE INVISIBLE WORLD! And when you look at situations through spiritual eyes, the eyes of faith, there is always hope in any situation, no matter how big or how strong or how hopeless the situation may be!

And folks, what God did back then during the time of Elisha, during the time of Jacob, He is still doing today. Case in point:

Corrie Ten Boom writes of a remarkable experience at the terrible Nazi Ravensbruck prison camp:

“Together we entered the terrifying building. At a table were women who took away all our possessions. Everyone had to undress completely and then go to a room where her hair was checked.

“I asked a woman who was busy checking the possessions of the new arrivals if I might use the toilet. She pointed to a door, and I discovered that the convenience was nothing more than a hole in the shower-room floor. Betsie, [her sister], stayed close beside me all the time. Suddenly I had an inspiration, ‘Quick, take off your woolen underwear,’ I whispered to her. I rolled it up with mine and laid the bundle in a corner with my little Bible. The spot was alive with cockroaches, but I didn’t worry about that. I felt wonderfully relieved and happy. ‘The Lord is busy answering our prayers, Betsie,’ I whispered. ‘We shall not have to make the sacrifice of all our clothes.’

“We hurried back to the row of women waiting to be undressed. A little later, after we had had our showers and put on our shirts and shabby dresses, I hid the roll of underwear and my Bible under my dress. It did bulge out obviously through my dress; but I prayed, ‘Lord, cause now Thine angels to surround me; and let them not be transparent today, for the guards must not see me.’ I felt perfectly at ease. Calmly I passed the guards. Everyone was checked, from the front, the sides, the back. Not a bulge escaped the eyes of the guard. The women just in front of me had hidden a woolen vest under her dress; it was taken from her. They let me pass, for they did not see me. Betsie, right behind me, was searched.

“But outside awaited another danger. On each side of the door were women who looked everyone over for a second time. They felt over the body of each one who passed. I knew they would not see me, for the angels were still surrounding me. I was not even surprised when they passed me by; but within me rose the jubilant cry, ‘O Lord, if Thou dost so answer prayer, I can face even Ravensbruck unafraid.’”

- Billy Graham, Angels God’s Secret Agents, pp. 75-76

            Not only that, but listen to what Elisabeth Elliot wrote:

            In A Slow and Certain Light, Elisabeth Elliot told about her father’s experiences with angelic helpers:

            “My father, when he was a small boy, was climbing on an upper story of a house that was being built. He walked to the end of a board that was not nailed at the other end, and it slowly began to tip. He knew that he was doomed, but inexplicably the board began to tip the other way, as though a hand had pushed it down again. He always wondered if it was an angel’s hand.”

- Billy Graham, Angels God’s Secret Agents, pp. 15-16

            Folks, have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you don't know how you escaped? Maybe God's holy angels brought you through it. I can remember several years ago, driving on the expressway, home from work at 11:30 at night, and going 65 mph I noticed as I was passing her by, a deer standing in the left lane right next to my window. If my window was open I could have touched her. I believe that God, who kept that deer standing right there until I passed by, protected me. And the instrument He could have used could have been one of His angels.

We also read in Matthew 18:10, a verse that applies to all of us, Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angles see the face of My Father who is in heaven. As a child of God, each of us has what you may call guardian angels that are directed by God to watch over us. What a joy to know that God loves me that much that He has appointed someone to watch over me. And for my guardian angels, when I pick up power tools, I’m sure alarms are going off in heaven, they know it is going to get hairy!

Besides God's holy angels, Satan has his following of unholy angels. And their function is to steal, kill and destroy people’s lives and to rob them of that abundant life that is found only in Christ. (John 10:10). And don't ever think that Satan loves you, he is only using you for his purposes, and when he is done with you he will toss you like a piece of garbage. He knows his fate and yet it has not stopped him from destroying the lives of others, and he is doing a good job.

We also see that angels are not to be worshiped for in Revelation 22:8 we read; Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

After all John has seen, he just can't help himself and he worships this angelic being. Now what is the response of this angel? Does he allow John to worship him? We read in verse 9 Then he said to me, ‘See that you do no do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’ Now we have that all mixed up today. We are seeing a proliferation of angelic paraphernalia, not as much as several years ago, but it is still out there. And what we are doing is worshiping the creature rather than the creator. And when you think of it along those lines, that makes no sense at all. WORSHIP GOD!

            And folks, the way to stay clear of false doctrine, these demonic angels is to know the truths of God found in the Word of God! Paul said in Galatians 1:6-9, I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 

            Thus, listen to the authority of God’s Word and nothing else.  All teaching should be held up to the light of God’s Word and if it s not seen in the Word of God, then it is not of God – PERIOD!

            This morning I hope I have encouraged you to look at things through the eyes of God, to not see the visible but the invisible as Paul tells us in Hebrews 11:1-3, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.  The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. For by [faith — trust and holy fervor born of faith] the men of old had divine testimony borne to them and obtained a good report. By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible.

            You see, God tried to encourage Jacob to trust in Him, to trust in His protection, to walk by faith but Jacob was still Jacob, he was still the schemer and not Israel or governed by God all the time. He had a plan but was totally unsure how it was going to turn out, totally unsure how it was going to work out!  We need to trust in the Lord and let that fear go.  We are told in Psalm 34:7 that, The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. The Amplified Bible says, The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him [who revere and worship Him with awe] and each of them He delivers. [Ps 18:1; 145:20.] And The Living Bible tells us, For the Angel of the Lord guards and rescues all who reverence him.  May we believe it and may the evidence of that belief be that we are walking in faith because God is watching over us and He has His angels protecting us!

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