Friday, December 23, 2011

Angel Stories

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Waiting Angel by Margot Cioccio

Hebrews 13:2 
Do not forget to entertain strangers, 
for by so doing some people 
have entertained angels without knowing it.

This morning I got a call from my sister in law checking to make sure we had gotten the card they had sent. I guess they had had some things come back un delivered by their post office. In the course of the conversation she felt compelled to tell me a story. I will do my best to relate it to you.
She and her family had left on a trip from Kansas City to St. Louis. Her husband, my younger brother decided not to eat before leaving and was hungry and wanted to stop before they had even crossed the state line. So they pulled off the highway to a fast food place. On the ramp they saw two men  holding up signs. The one that my brother saw was a man who had run out of gas. He never saw the other guy. My sister in law said he was holding a sign that said "Help Him". There were no trees or bushes along this exit and they pulled over to help the man that my brother saw.  As my brother went to talk to him and see what he could do to help the family sat in the car and waited. As they waited they looked to see where the other man was so they could help him as well. He was no where to be seen. When my brother got back to the car the family asked if he saw where the other man had gone. He had never seen that man. They pulled in to the fast food place and went in to get a meal and as they were sitting there they over heard some others talking about how they had stopped to help this man. One the husband had gone to pump gas in the car, the other had given him some money. My sister in law who is a very out going person. Asked if they had seen the other man. Things suddenly got very quiet and both of the others who were led to help the man said yes they had seen him but then he was gone. As if he had vanished into thin air. One of the ladies was pretty convinced that he was an angel.  The man they all did help had received word from his family that his mother was dying and was trying to get to Colorado to see her one last time. He had family who would help him once he got there. He was very poor and drove a beat up truck and was hoping that it would make the trip. My sister in law comment on the other man. She said his clothes were very plain but he had a pleasant face.

Cool story - they were not out looking for angels - I'm not sure why she felt compelled to tell me that story today. She has some very prophetically bent giftings. So when she tells me a odd story out of the blue that had nothing to do with anything we had talked about. I pay attention because some times God speaks to us thorough other people.  Before her call I had just sat down at my computer and opened the blogger page to write today's devotional. I had no idea what I would write about and before I had a chance to come up with something the phone rang. So I am taking it as God's direction to me for this particular post. 

Ministering Angel by Margot Cioccio
I have done a couple of angel projects that I will include photos of in this post. The Waiting Angel. I was wanting to create something that was more in line with the references to angels that I saw with in the pages of my Bible. So much of the angel art that is out there is very beautiful female looking, wispy, fairy like angels.  So the waiting angel I wanted to portray a warrior, who stands at attention waiting to be sent by God to aid the heirs of salvation. 

Another angel project that I did shows again a strong more masculine angel reaching to take a bottle away from a man who struggles with addiction. I have some friends that run some recovery homes and take in men and women who want to overcome their drug and alcohol addictions. They had been raising funds for the work they do and I did not have the finances to give but I was inspired to do this project. I gave it to them telling them they could sell it if it would help their ministry. Instead they decided to hang it in one of the houses.

So I want to point out to you some of the passages and stories that have helped to build my view of what an angelic being might look like. Other than the brief inspiration like visions for these two pieces I can't say that I have seen any angels at least none that I was aware of.

We see an angel in Genesis 17 who finds Hagar who is the mother of Ishmael in the desert. The angel tells her to go back and submit to her mistress Sarah and that she would have a child and call that child Ishmael. The Lord has heard of your misery. No description is given of the angel in that passage. It comes to deliver a message to a very desperate woman alone in the desert.

 Then there are the two angels that are sent to get Lot and his family out of Sodom because God intends to destroy that place. This story is in Genesis 19. They are addressed by Lot in the town square as "My lords" It would seem in this case the come looking as men. Lot persuades them to come to his home and not stay in the town square. While at his house the men of the city come and bang on the door asking "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out so that we can have sex with them." The story from that point kind of stretches me because Lot is willing to send out his two virgin daughters. The men have come under the protection of his house but not his own daughters. I don't always know what to do with the story of Lot. He strikes me as a very carnal person although he believe and trusts God. Yet he is one of the few righteous people found in the city of Sodom at that time.  Anyway my point being that the angels in this passage are decidedly masculine in appearance.

Next up in Genesis 21 Hagar again now with her child Ishmael is again running away and is in the desert in despair with a crying child. No description is give of the angel but it comes with an message of hope, encouragement and direction.
 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Next you find the story in Genesis 22 where Abraham is tested and is to sacrifice his son Issac to the Lord. He makes the journey and along the way the son asks where is the sacrifice for the offering. Abraham assures him that the Lord will provide.  He has his son on the altar that they have built and he is ready to sacrifice him to God when he is stopped by an angel. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
   “Here I am,” he replied.
 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
In some of these the angel of the Lord is seems more to be the Lord himself rather than a messenger sent from God. There are many such references to the Angel of the Lord in the old testament and this post will become way too long if I outline them all for you. I suggest you drop the words "Angel of the Lord" into the Bible Gateway search and scroll through them all. There are tons of examples.   This form of Angelic being is called at theosophany. " Is a visual manifestation of God before the incarnation. Some theologians limit the definition to a bodily form, and others include any visible manifestation such as the burning bush".  In some things I have read it is thought that it can not be God the Father because one cannot see his face and live. The Holy Spirit is described to be like the wind that blows through the trees. You can see the effects of the Holy Spirit but not the Holy Spirit.  That would leave the third person of the trinity, Jesus to appear as the Angel of the Lord.

My mother handed me a book the other day about a young boy in Ohio who was in an terrible car accident who's spine was severed internally. It is called The boy who came back from heaven  by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. I have only read not quite half of it this evening. There was one passage so far that seems to go with this post.  This is the child Alex giving his account of the accident. " For just one second before all of the action began, there was a moment of calmness. I remember thinking someone was going to die. When the calm ended, I heard the sound of glass breaking, and I saw Daddy's feet going out of the car. Now I thought I knew who was going to die. But then I saw something unbelievably cool. Five angels were carrying Daddy outside the car. Four were carrying his body, and one was supporting his neck and head. The angels were big and muscular, like wrestlers, and they had wings on their backs from their waists to their shoulders. I thought Daddy was dead, but that it was okay because the angels were going to make him okay."

 I don't think I can even begin to scratch the tip of the iceburg on this subject. I am how ever reminded of Hebrews 1:14  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
I am reminded that like the guy by the side of the road and like the father of the child in the book and like so many people in stories through out the Bible that angels are sent by God. Even Jesus talks about them. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels ? (Mat 26:53)

In general where there are descriptions of angels in the bible they are generally described as men. There is one verse in Zechariah 5:9  Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth. I suppose as spirit beings they may appear as either male or female. Daniel sees an angel that seems to be made of polished metal, precious stones and a face like lightening. I'm not sure where the idea of fat baby angels came from but in 30 years I have not found them anywhere in my bible. It seems they have come to us from Roman or Victorian art. You get some descriptions of Cherubim in Revelation 4 :7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
They don't sound like chubby babys to me. In my recall, most of the time the first thing angels have to say is some something to the effect of fear not. I think they might be a bit intimidating.

Our verse today is about showing hospitality to strangers. In doing so it says some have entertained angels with out knowing that they had even encountered an angel. I think a lot of angel ideas come to us from artistic ideas and have little or no likeness to the powerful angelic beings found in scripture.
Its kind of like the many Christmas ideas that we have come to accept as fact because someone in a song said there were 3 kings that followed a star and brought gifts to Jesus. They were more accurately scholars, and there were likely many more than three, probably a whole caravan. The idea of three comes from there being 3 gifts given. We also have pristine images of a shiny clean child birth in a barn. Sorry child birth is messy even with todays technology. Well... and do you really think baby Jesus never cried? We get many of our Christmas idea not from the bible but from songs, stories and art that have become part of popular culture and that have been perpetuated over time.

Well - there is more that could be said but I am writing a devotional post not a doctrinal paper on angels. I guess my challenge to you is that you read the Christmas stories and other account of angels in the Bible for yourself.  Let me know if you find any fat baby angels. Who knows in extending hospitality to strangers you might get to meet an angel or maybe you already have and have a cool story to add to the comments. I guess all in all while I find angels amazing and I am glad for there work behind the scenes, my focus is on knowing Jesus. I would join with the angels to worship Him. Glory to God in the Highest are the songs of the angels to the shepherds at the birth of Christ.  Holy Holy Holy cry the angels around the throne of God. I would join them in worshiping the one who deserves all honor and glory and praise.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the angels that you send to minister to us. We are often unaware of your care and protection and work of angels sent to minister to us as the heirs of salvation. Lord help us to have hearts that would reach out with care and hospitality to the stranger, the lonely, the broken perhaps there is an angel under the poor mans rags holding up that sign on the corner. Angel or not whatever
we do for the least we have done it unto you. I pray you would be blessed by our hospitality and our care for those in need. Help us see past our own little traumas and to even in our own needs and brokenness to reach out to others with your love. I pray as we minister to others you would minister to us and bring the healing and solutions for our own concerns.


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