How many times have I put a child to bed only to have the child come right back out again? It’s like that old rhyme, except different: “I am rubber, you are glue; wherever you put me, I’ll bounce back out and stick to you!” Often the excuse for coming out has to do with a hanging fingernail, a hurting leg, an itchy back, or something else that wouldn’t have bothered the child in the hour before bedtime.
Sometimes, though, the child’s imagination has gotten the better of him, and he truly is scared. Little E, for example, is periodically petrified that our house will catch fire or that a tornado will blow the roof off our house (even when there’s no wind outside). In those cases, I go back to Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I have the kids apply the verse by telling them not to be afraid and to pray to God about their fears. I tell them to think of something to be thankful for by remembering good things from the day or good things they look forward to about the coming day. I often recite Isaiah 41:10 to them: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I pray over them, and I remind them that God loves them and is with them no matter what. Then I throw another one in there for good measure, but it always seems rather anticlimactic: you also have angels watching over you.
Yes, kids, you have an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God watching over you, and oh yeah, you have limited, finite, invisible angels about whom we know very little watching over you, too.
I know I have some biblical basis for it. Psalm 91:11, for example: “He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.” This verse is used by Satan as a prophetic text for Christ (Matt. 4:6), but in the context, it is also referring to those who have made the Lord their dwelling place (which I think my kids have done by accepting Him, although I can’t be absolutely sure about their salvation). Hebrews 1:14 backs this up by saying, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
It’s easy for me to see why God created angels in the first place–out of the overflow of His creativity and love. However, why does God use angels as His servants when He obviously doesn’t need them? I read someone’s answer to this question, which went along the lines of “He needs them to do all the little jobs He can’t be bothered with.” I know this is definitely not the answer, as there is nothing too small for which God wouldn’t stoop. His infinite love compels Him to care about even the tiniest details of our lives that matter to us. It’s not as if sending a message to Mary that she would be delivering the Christ was too much of a bother for Him (Lk. 1:26-38).
Now, I have not done a ton of research on this topic, and I am no angel expert, but one thought I had is that power should have entourage. Think of the most powerful king you can imagine. When you picture him and all his power and wealth, isn’t he surrounded by servants? The kids and I recently learned about Mansa Musa, a great emperor in ancient Mali in West Africa. He wanted renown, so he traveled a great distance across the Sahara Desert all the way to Mecca. It is said that he was accompanied by 60,000 people, including 12,000 personal slaves. He was also decked out in extremely fine clothing and gold, and all his servants were adorned with and carried gold. He definitely made a name for himself. If he had simply traveled with a lot of wealth by himself, he might have impressed some people, but I can imagine that 60,000 gold-laden people following him was the clincher. His fame spread throughout Africa, the Middle East, and even Europe during a time when news did not spread easily or quickly. They could all tell how great a king he was by the number of his loyal servants. Now think about the King of kings, the one who deserves all the glory and fame. It’s right for Him to be surrounded by myriads of servants, even if He really doesn’t need them.
One more thought I had about this was that the same question can be and has been asked of us: why does God use us? He could (and has many times) just use dreams to tell people about Himself. However, many times He doesn’t. He sends His messengers, missionaries, instead–both to foreign lands and to the house next door. I’ve written about this in another way here. God for some reason wants to partner with us. Maybe it’s because He wants us to grow as we serve Him. Maybe it’s just because He enjoys working with those He loves, but for some reason, He purposefully holds off His power so we can take part.
My favorite answer, though, to the question of why God might use angels came from my oldest son, Mr. C. I asked my kids to see if they could think of a reason why God lets angels fight demons instead of limiting them Himself all the time, and he said, “The angels would be mad.” He meant, the angels would be mad if they couldn’t fight the demons. They want to serve God and fight evil, so He lets them. Maybe the same could be said of us.
Praise God that He deigns to use both them and us for His glory.