And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.…
I cannot tell, for Scripture says not, in what form they appeared, or by what sign Jacob recognized them. It is perhaps in the most general view of the passage that its truest comfort lies. It matters not to us what the Patriarchs thought or knew of the ministry of angels, so long as we ourselves recognize the true place of that ministry in the economy of God. In its simplicity, the angelic office is a doctrine of revelation. There are beings beside and (for the present) above man; beings, like him, intelligent, rational, spiritual; beings capable, like him, of knowing, loving, and communing with God; beings, unlike him, pure from the stain of sin — tried once, as all moral natures must be tried, by the alternative of loyalty or self-pleasing — yet faithful among the faithless through that great ordeal, and now for ever secured by the seal of that holiness which they have chosen. Man is not yet, save in one single aspect, the head and the chief of all God's creation. In the person of the God-Man he has the pledge indeed that one day he shall be so. But as yet, when the eye of faith looks upward through the infinite space, it discerns essences in all things equal to the human, and in their sinlessness superior; it sees those who in heaven's primeval warfare sided with God and conquered — left not their original estate, nor despised their first habitation. The existence of a nature purer than man's, more refined in its enjoyments and more elevated in its converse, presents no practical difficulty to the thoughtful. We find nothing but refreshment and nothing but encouragement in the belief that above as well as beneath us are beings performing perfectly the law of their creation; spirits that see God's face, as well as animals instinctively true to God's order. Man only mars the sweet accord: higher existences have not fallen, lower existences could not fall. If for man God has provided a redemption, then may there be in the end a restoration of that original perfection in which God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. That contrast which shames shall also comfort. But how much more when we read in the sure word of revelation that there exists even now a society and a fellowship between the sinless and the fallen! As man goes on his way, the angels of God meet him. In all his ways they have charge of him, that he dash not his foot against a stone. That which God has done for man, angels desire to look into. Angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. Angels spend not their immortal age in abject prostration, or in delicious dreamy contemplation: rather do they excel in strength, doing God's commandments, hearkening (for obedience sake) to the voice of God's Word. When God spake to man from a material mountain, His holy ones were around Him: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; and the Lord is among them, as in the holy place of Sinai." Theirs were those wondrous utterances, which Israel took for the voice of the trumpet, sounding long, and waxing louder and louder; theirs those fearful manifestations of blinding smoke and consuming fire, amidst which the Lord descended, while all the people that was in the camp trembled; theirs, it may be, the hewing and the graving of those tables of stone, on which were written, as by God's finger, the words of His first testimony. The law was ordained by angels; the law was given by the disposition of angels; the word spoken by angels was steadfast. And if even that temporary, that parenthetical dispensation was thus introduced by the ministry of angels; if man's recovery was dear to them, even in its earlier and more imperfect stages, while he was but learning his lesson of weakness, and heaving his first sighs after forgiveness and sanctification — well can we understand how they might herald a Saviour's birth, and soothe a Saviour's sorrows; strengthen Him in His agony, and minister in His tomb; proclaim His resurrection, predict His advent, and greet at the everlasting doors the return of the King of glory. Not even there, nor then, did their ministry terminate. He Himself has told us how in heaven, in the presence of the angels of God, there is joy still over each sinner that repenteth; how His little ones below, His weak and tempted disciples, have their angels ever in heaven, beholding the face of His Father; how angels carry dying saints into Abraham's bosom; and how, in the last great crisis of the world's harvest, it is they who shall execute the reapers' office, gather together His elect from the four winds, and gather also out of His kingdom all things that offend. Wheresoever there is a work to be done as between God and man, there is the great ladder still reared, and the angels of God are ascending and descending by it. Ministering spirits are they still; and man's best wish for himself is that he may at last be enabled to do as well as to suffer God's will, even as they, the inmates of heaven, have from the beginning borne and done it. Thy will be done, he prays, as in heaven, so on earth. Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. We know not how extensive, and we know not how minute, may be that ministration even in the things that are seen. We know not what angelic workings may be concealed behind the phenomena of nature, or latent in the accidents and the escapes of human life. We know not how, in seasons of mortal weakness or of fiendish temptation, we may be indebted to their instrumentality for the reviving courage or the resisting strength. We dare not say but that even the indwelling Spirit may avail Himself of their ministry to assist or to protect, to invigorate or to reanimate. This we know — for the Word of God has told us — that one portion of that holy communion and fellowship to which the citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem has come, not only in hope, but in present union and incorporation, is an innumerable company of angels. I read not these words as glimpses only of a glorious future, but as expressive of a present trust and a practical help and aid. The sympathy of angels is one of the Christian's privileges. Are there any special ways in which we may recognize and use this sympathy? As we go on our way, can we in any special manner hope to meet the angels?
1. An apostle speaks of entertaining angels unawares. He says that the duty of hospitality may be exercised in this remembrance — thereby some have entertained angels. It is so still. The angelic office is discharged sometimes in human form. Let us count common life a ministry: let us, in common life, be on the look-out for angels!
2. And more especially, in the exercise of a vigilant self-control, lest we harm or tempt. Our Saviour Himself has warned us of the presence of the angels as a reason for not offending — that is, for not thwarting and not tempting — His little ones. Beware, careless parent! beware, sinful brother! beware, false friend! That child, that boy, that youth, has his angel, and the home of that angel is the heaven of God l
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.