Recently the Holy Spirit prompted me to read the Christmas story, and He highlighted the number of times He sent angels to key people at key times to instruct or encourage them. To accomplish the Messiah’s entrance into human history, He pulled out the “big guns”; He sent Gabriel and other Heavenly Hosts to communicate his plan. There was no confusion. God spoke in ways that human beings could hear and understand. Let’s look at these angelic visitations.
First an angel spoke to Zechariah about Jesus’ forerunner, John.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar… But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. (Luke 1:11,13)
The angel then spoke to Zechariah about three things: how he and his wife should raise him; John’s character and calling, and his purpose.
Then God sent angels SIX more times to give instructions regarding Jesus.
First, he sent an angel to Mary. The angel spoke of Jesus’ calling, character and purpose – and he told the young virgin how this would all happen:
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:5)
Second, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, reassuring him that Mary was not an adulterous woman, but rather had become pregnant supernaturally. It would be fine for Joseph to go ahead and marry her, for she was carrying the Promised One, the Savior of the world.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:20-21)
Third, an angel appeared to some shepherds in the field, telling them about Jesus’ birth. God wanted these humble men to be among the first to know of this glorious event. He also gave them a sign to confirm it.
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)
Fourth, God warned the wise men in a dream not to tell Herod where the boy Jesus was born. Therefore, they secretly left the country and returned to their homes another way.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. (Matt 2:12)
Fifth, an angel appeared to Joseph to flee to Bethlehem for Herod was trying to find the child and kill Jesus.
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matt 2:13)
And finally, an angel appeared again to Joseph telling him that it was safe to go back to Israel; Herod was dead and Jesus was supposed to grow and begin his ministry in Israel, not Egypt.
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” (Matt 2:19-20)
As I read these occurrences, I began to think about how God communicates with us today. I’m sure He still sends angels; why wouldn’t He? But I think far more often, the Holy Spirit just speaks to our hearts. And I also felt faith arise that God wanted to speak to me more often: that He wanted to dialogue with me. After all, Psalm 139 says that His thoughts towards us outnumber the sand of the sea (vs 18), surely that means that He has a lot to tell us!
So I began to talk to God more about day-to-day issues. I asked Him about “small,” non-earth shattering things that burdened me nevertheless. How can we help our oldest son to sleep better? How can I order my time so that I can exercise, have a daily quiet time, keep this house clean, be a good wife and mother and get the rest I need? What friendships should I invest in? How can I make this money stretch? And one by one answers to these questions popped into my mind, so spontaneously that I knew they were from God. He also He convicted me about some things, like ways that I’m inconsistent with our three year old, and how often I wake up grumpy with a “poor me” complex when the children didn’t sleep well.
I also felt faith arise, that just as the angel warned the wise men and Joseph, God would warn me of potential danger. He’ll show us where to send our boys to school as they get older, whom to allow into their lives as friends; He’ll warn us of any looming danger and instruct us how to avoid it. He’ll give practical wisdom of how to raise our family and how to navigate through this hazardous world. I worry about these things, and the Holy Spirit whispered, “I don’t want you to worry. I want you to ask.”
I think so much of hearing God’s voice is believing that He has something to say about matters small and large and that we CAN hear Him. I don’t think it’s supposed to be rocket science – or something reserved for the spiritually elite. After all, Jesus said,
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:2-4)
We are God’s sheep; we know His voice. God spoke to Zechariah and Mary and Joseph in ways that they would hear and understand. Why wouldn’t He do the same for us?