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THE INTERVENTION OF ANGELS -
A THANKSGIVING SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, November 21, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:19-20).


We must never worship angels. We must never pray to angels. God alone is to be the object of our worship and prayers. And yet I believe that Christians should be thankful to God for the providential work of His angels. Our text says that "The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors" and loosed the Apostles. I am sure they were thankful to be set free!

Thanksgiving is a time when Christians thank God for His blessings in their lives. I wonder if you have ever taken time to thank God for sending His angels to help you and protect you. This morning I want us to do just that. A moment ago we sang

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
    ("Count Your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).

As we count our blessings this Thanksgiving, let's take time to thank God for the ministry of His angels.

I. First, we should thank God for the many times He has sent angels
to protect the English-speaking peoples.

Although God has certainly sent angelic help to many countries and many peoples, these blessings have been unusually abundant in the English-speaking world. I say this without the slightest hesitation, because the stream of Reformation Christianity flowed so clearly into the consciousness of the English-speaking world. And it was in the English-speaking world that the Puritan fathers came to understand the great evangelical truths of Scripture. And it was in the English-speaking world that the Great Awakenings occurred, which poured forth into world-wide missions that changed the very course of history, and the fate of millions around the world, in every nation under Heaven.

Even in our day, when so much has gone wrong, America and England still send forth the greatest number of missionaries to the world. And so, I think it is fitting for us to thank God this morning for His providential care, for sending His angels in times of darkness to help the English-speaking peoples.

In the tenth chapter of Daniel the pre-incarnate Christ said that the angel Michael came to help Him overcome the power of Satan and save the Jewish people.

"Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia" (Daniel 10:13).

And can we doubt that this has also happened to our English-speaking nations? In 1588 Spain sent 130 ships with 30,000 men, to strike down Protestantism in England. The English had only a small navy of 30 ships with only 9,000 men. Think of it - only 30 ships with only 9,000 men - against 30,000 men in 130 ships from Spain! England was outnumbered nearly four to one. But several strange events followed. A band of pirates joined the English. Several of the Spanish ships caught on fire. The Spanish fled in different directions. As their ships rounded the west coast of Ireland, a tremendous wind scattered them over the wastes of the North Sea, and Protestant England was spared. Without God's intervention, and the help of angels, there would be no English-speaking America. We would not be here in a Baptist church reading the King James Bible!

John Knox, the great reformer of Scotland, moved his usual seat away from the window one night, pressed by a feeling he could not understand. An hour later a bullet crashed through the window which would have killed Knox if he had not moved. Without John Knox, the English-speaking world might have remained Catholic.  Dr. David Livingstone was a spiritual son of Knox.  Livingstone opened Africa for Christ and led the movement for the abolition of slavery.  Other "sons" of Knox evangelized Korea, Mongolia, China, and many nations.  I believe that God sent His angels to protect this man who led the Protestant movement of Scotland.

As a small child, John Wesley, whom God later used to ignite the Great Awakening in England, was saved from the top story of the house as it went up in flames. For the rest of his life, Wesley called himself, "a brand plucked from the burning."  The "sons" of Wesley turned England and America upside down for Christ, and went forth as missionaries around the world.  Can those of us who believe the Bible not see the providential hand of God in these events? Can we doubt that God sent His angels at these critical moments? Can we doubt that the angels kept watch over Washington and his soldiers at Valley Forge? Can any real Christian doubt that an angelic hand worked to spare President Reagan from death by an assassin's bullet, so that he could lead the free world to victory over the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union? Can we fail to see the hand of God protecting England, though pitifully prepared, during the Battle of Britain in World War II? Although I disagree with Billy Graham on certain aspects of "decisionism," I think he was right when he said,

In the early days of World War II, Britain's air force saved it from invasion and defeat [by Hitler and the Nazis]. In her book, Tell No Man, Adela Rogers St. John describes a strange aspect of that weeks-long air war. Her information comes from a celebration held some months after the war, honoring Chief Marshall Lord Hugh Dowding. The King, the Prime Minister and scores of dignitaries were there. In his remarks, the Air Chief Marshall recounted the story of his legendary conflict where his pitifully small complement of men rarely slept, and their planes never stopped flying. He told about airmen on a mission who, having been hit, were either incapacitated or dead. Yet their planes kept flying and fighting; in fact, on occasion pilots in other planes would see a figure still operating the controls. What was the explanation? The Air Chief Marshall said he believed angels had actually flown some of the planes whose pilots sat dead in their cockpits (Billy Graham, Angels: God's Secret Agents, Guideposts Associates, 1975, pages 163-164).

And Prime Minister Churchill said of those brave pilots who fought back the Nazis, "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few." I think a good deal of the credit goes to God and His holy angels! As we sang a moment ago,

God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
    And rides upon the storm.
("God Moves in a Mysterious Way" by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

Here is one more story to illustrate this point. The mother of Elian Gonzalez wanted her little boy to grow up in a free country. She boarded a small boat with the child and eleven other people to escape from Cuba. Elian's mother and the eleven other adults were drowned at sea. Alone in the dark ocean, this six-year-old child clung to an inner tube for two days, tossed and turned by the sea under a hot tropical sun. On Thanksgiving Day, 1999, some fishermen found Elian off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Several noted Cuban-Americans compared Elian to Moses, saved from a little boat let loose on the Nile River. Maria Elena Quesada told the Washington Post, "Elian is a sign from God saying to the exile community: 'I haven't forgotten you.'" Maria Quesada said that whatever happened next to Elian was "in the hands of God."

In one of the worst acts of his presidency, Bill Clinton had his Attorney General Janet Reno send soldiers to break down the door of Elian's uncle's house, and take the little boy by force and hand him over to Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba.

But Maria Quesada was right when she said, "Whatever happens next is in the hands of God." Yes, Elian was forcibly turned over to the Communists in Cuba by Bill Clinton. But the Cuban population of Florida, who had largely voted for Clinton, did not forget his foul deed. The next year most of them registered their anger at Clinton's outrageous act by voting against Clinton's Vice President Al Gore. The presidential election that year was decided by about 500 votes in Florida. If Elian Gonzalez had not come to America on an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day, George W. Bush would not have been elected President, and would not be leading America in the War on Terrorism today. Angered by Clinton sending Elian Gonzalez back to Castro, the Cubans in Florida elected the Republican George W. Bush. Bush was literally elected by Elian Gonzalez!

"Whatever happens…is in the hands of God." How right Maria Elena Quesada was! On Thanksgiving Day, 1999, I believe that God sent His angels to protect that six-year-old child, far out in the ocean on an inner tube - because God is not through blessing America yet! Thank God for the ministry of His angels on that Thanksgiving Day! (For a full treatment of the Elian Gonzalez event, see Ann Coulter, How to Talk to a Liberal, Crown Forum, 2004, pp. 257-272).

"The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:19-20).

II. Second, we should thank God for His providence in sending His angels
to protect us personally.

A great revival had broken out in Jerusalem. Many people were being converted. The Sadducees were filled with indignation and put the Apostles in jail. God sent an angel to open the prison doors and set them free. This happened a second time, when the Apostle Peter was set free from prison by an angel, recorded in Acts 12:5-10.

Most Christians can remember some time in their lives when they have been miraculously saved from tragedy. At such times we may remember Psalm 34:7.

"The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7).

I remember two times on the freeway, here in Los Angeles, when I believe I was saved from a horrible automobile accident by the intervention of angels. I also remember being in a small airplane with lightning bolts crashing on both sides of the plane. The aircraft shuddered, fell, and swerved repeatedly. I looked at the stewardess. Her face had gone white with terror. Instead of comforting the passengers, she strapped herself in a seat and gasped, "I've never seen it like this!" But we made it! As my family and I got off of that little plane, I thanked God for sending angels to protect us.

I remember hearing Gladys Aylward speak in a friend's living room back in the 1960s. Gladys Aylward was a well-known English missionary to China. She stayed on helping Chinese children long after the Communists had taken over mainland China. I well remember Miss Aylward telling story after story of God sending angels to protect her and those Chinese children. I also remember Pastor Richard Wurmbrand telling me of angels that ministered to him while he was in solitary confinement in a Communist prison in Rumania.

I am sure there are many people here this morning who could tell us that there were times when they sensed that God had sent angels to help them and protect them.

Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

III. Third, we should pay close attention to what the angel told the Apostles.

Please look at our text again.

"But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:19-20).

Why didn't the angel himself go and preach the gospel to the people? Spurgeon gave the answer when he said,

The agents employed for spreading the gospel are men, and not angels. The angel of the Lord opened the prison door and set free the preachers, but might not be a preacher himself. He might give the ministers their charge [duty], but he had no charge [duty] to preach himself…As our Lord took not on him the nature of angels for man's redemption, so neither doth he employ the agency of angels for man's conversion (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Charge of the Angel," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1974, volume XXXIV, p. 374).

The angel did not go to the temple to speak. Instead, he said to those men that he had freed, "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20). And so it is with the Great Commission. Christ does not speak to angels, but to us, when He says,

"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).

It is not to angels, but to us, that our Lord says,

"Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).

That is our glorious privilege and our great responsibility. Let us go and spread the message far and wide. Let us go and bring lost sinners in, to hear the gospel of Christ!  And may God's holy angels go with you and protect you as you do the great work of evangelism!  Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Acts 12:5-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" (by Henry Alford, 1810-1871).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE INTERVENTION OF ANGELS -
A THANKSGIVING SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:19-20).

I.   We should thank God for the many times He has sent angels
to protect the English-speaking peoples, Daniel 10:13.

II.  We should thank God for His providence in sending His angels
to protect us personally, Psalm 34:7.

III. We should pay close attention to what the angel told the Apostles,
Mark 16:15; Luke 14:23.