A few days ago, I shared with you a few thoughts about the four-hundred-year silence between the book Malachi and Matthew’s gospel. What is even more fascinating is the way the silence ended. Not one, or two, or even three, but four angelic visits within the space of about a year. Let’s quickly review.
First, the angels appeared to Zacharias when he is ministering in the holy place. He starts to burn the incense, and the angels comes to him and tells him that his barren wife, Elizabeth, will have a son. The angel tells him that the boys’ name will be John and he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will be a Nazarite, and will prepare the way of the Lord and turn many people back to the Lord. When Zacharias asks how he will know this is really going to happen, the angel shuts Zacharias’s mouth until the baby is actually named John.
The second Angel appeared to Mary. This teenage girl was engaged to be married to Joseph, and they had not had relations with each other yet. The angel tells Mary that she will have a son who will be called the Son of the Highest, and that he will rule on the throne of David forever. Mary asks how this will happen and the Angel tells her that the Holy Ghost will come upon her and she will conceive the child.
The third Angel appears to Joseph. He has heard that Mary is pregnant and wants to out her away. In those days, a woman who is pregnant before marriage was considered filthy, and is an outcast. But the Angel tells Joseph that he should not put Mary away. Her Son should be named Jesus and He will save the people from their sins as a fulfillment of prophecy.
The fourth Angel appears to the shepherds. He announces the Saviors birth to these men who are out in the field watching their flocks by night. He says this baby that is born would be lying in a manger in Bethlehem, and they should go and see the child. Then a multitude of angels app7ear before the shepherds singing “Glory to Go in the highest. Peace on earth, goodwill to man.”
Four Angels. It is thought that all of them were actual just one angel, Gabriel, although the name is only given in the encounter with Mary. Gabriel is thought of as the announcing angel, Michael the avenging angel. In any case, this is a remarkable series of events that we often overlook when we read the Christmas story. We read it in pieces and don’t always put the whole puzzle together. When we do connect the pieces, it is pretty remarkable.
Each time the angel appears, there is the same reaction. It is called fear. I get the feeling angels are not what we picture them to be. Pictures of angels usually show cute little beings with soft-looking skin and tiny little wings. They almost look cuddly on most of the pictures man paints of them. But the reaction of fear would only come if the image they were looking at was fearsome-looking, When Joshua had his encounter with an angelic being, the angel had a sword drawn, and I’m sure had armor on and was quite large in stature. More like a warrior than an angel to us.
Every time the angel appeared his first words are the same. He tells them not to be afraid. We should not fear when we have an encounter with God or one of His messengers. We should not fear when we hear the voice of an angel, or even the voice of the Holy Spirit within our soul. You see, God speaks to us in many different ways. The most common way is through His word. If we are reading the word every day, God will reveal the path He has for us through the words we read. We must look at them as if it is a letter to us from a loving Father who wants to teach us the way of life. We must read the words each time as if it is the first time we have read them, and accept them as a little child would accept instruction.
There have been many times during my walk with the Lord that I have felt He has become quiet, and I don’t hear His voice. But those times are usually accompanied by times that I do not open up the book and read it. Those times are usually the time my prayer life drops off. How can I expect to hear from God if I am not spending time with Him? Do I think He will send an angelic messenger to me to tell me to wake up? Hat is very unlikely. Instead, He will lovingly allow situations to come into my life that cause me to turn back to Him. He wants fellowship with me even more than I want to be with Him. He spoke His word through many writers so that I would know how to have that fellowship with Him.
I, for one, want to know what God would have me to do, and I am enough of a realist to know God will not be sending Gabriel to me anytime soon. He speaks to me every day, in a quiet voice, through the Holy Spirit. Ever since that vel was rent, there is not as much need for an Angel to come and speak to man, because the Holy Spirit has been made available to us all. He comes to me when I still myself enough to hear Him. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” I don’t need to hear the Angels voice, because I hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. I just need to listen better.
Zacharias, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds all did what the angel told them to do. I pray we are all just as faithful to do what the Holy Spirit asks us to do!