This Is My Commandment That Ye Love One-Another As I Have Loved You.
Hebrews 13: 1 & 2.
Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
There are many instances in both the Old and New Testaments about angels appearing before men at certain times and probably the most spoken and thought about verses would be Genesis 18: 1 – 8 and 19: 1 – 3. The first mentioned verses 18: 1 – 8 is referring to the time when Abraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent in the heat of the day and three men appeared to him and he rose up and hastened to show them hospitality, as was the custom in those days. They first appeared as men to Abraham but in fact, two were angels and the other was the Lord Himself. And wanting to show further kindness, he offered refreshment and invited them to take rest under a tree and he brought them meat to partake. They said to Abraham, where is Sarah thy wife? And he must have wondered how they knew her name and it was possible at that moment, Abraham, who was an upright man, began to recognise them for who they were. Abraham was told that Sarah would have a son and she overheard it and laughed within herself knowing they were both well stricken in years. They knew that Sarah had laughed inwardly and said: Is anything too hard for the Lord? And she became afraid because she knew that they knew that she had laughed inwardly.
After that the three rose up to continue their journey towards Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham went with them a little way and the Lord tarried with him a while. Abraham drew near when he heard where they were going and said, Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? And we know he petitioned the Lord that He wouldn’t destroy it if fifty were found to be righteous, and then by further petitioning from Abraham, if the number eventually amounted to ten He still wouldn’t destroy it.
And the next mentioned verses in 19: 1 – 3; we read that Lot was living with his family in a very sinful place and that two angels came to Sodom where Lot saw them coming and rose up to meet them not knowing they were angels – they were the same angels in the above verses. Lot entreated them to abide in his home, which they resisted but eventually gave in to Lot’s insistence. We know the rest of this story isn’t a pleasant one so I’ll fast forward to verse 17 where the angels told Lot and his wife Ildith and their two daughters to flee from the plains to the mountains and not look back lest they be consumed and turn into a pillar of salt, which Lot’s wife succumbs to the temptation and is turned into a pillar of salt.
Hospitality was a highly prized virtue in those days, which in this era of Laodicea it is sadly lacking and it’s easy to understand why when so many are quick to take even the slightest advantage when they are shown any form of kindness. It is sad to see this trait slowly disappearing in this day and age, which is just a reflection of the worsening state of the world. Both Abraham and Lot were eager to show hospitality to guests even before they recognised them for who they were because they knew, being upright men, it was expected of them and they did it without a second thought. And it is still a worthy trait to display today.
That first verse in Hebrews 13 tells us: Let brotherly love continue. So what is brotherly love? It is a feeling of mutual love toward another brother or sister and without it there could not be any peace in families or in the greater society either. And after all, the first preservative of this characteristic grace of Christianity is the love of Jesus, which will expand in love for others. James 2: 14 says: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man may say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith save him? And in verse 18: Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works and I will show thee my faith by my works. There are so many who misconstrue these verses thinking in ignorance that their good deeds will attain and secure their salvation – and even though we are commanded to do good things toward others, James is meaning works as in love – if we practise love toward and for others, we are of course, doing the works. And it is not only toward other believers, even if they are questionable and some are, we are to show it to ALL in the hope that they who are presently unbelievers, will see who and what we are living for as an example in our lives and want the same.
The second verse in Hebrews 13 is reinforcing the first verse: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. This verse is usually referred to the parable of the Good Samaritan and it is still expected of us today and sadly, most do give it a second thought if confronted by such a situation because of the possible dangers associated with it but there is sometimes more to gain than by shying away from it. And you can usually sum up a person’s character after a few moments of conversation. Luke 10: 25 – 37 clearly explains there are benefits in this parable. Jesus answers a question from a lawyer who would have understood the Mosaic Law by trying to trip Him up and the question was, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life and Jesus answers the question with a question: What is written in the law? How readest thou? The lawyer then answered correctly, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Jesus said to him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. Jesus knew that this wouldn’t be the end of it and the lawyer thought in his heart that by Jesus saying this do, he couldn’t apply it to his own life even though he knew the law; his answer would be by mouth only. The lawyer considers Jesus’ answer and then tries to justify himself saying to Jesus: And who is my neighbour? But Jesus knew why he said it and proceeds to give him an example that couldn’t be refuted. He tells a story of a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, who was accosted by thieves and stripped of his clothing, beating him severely and left him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And after, a Levite when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side also.
Both these men had opportunity to render assistance but didn’t trouble themselves. They excused themselves because they didn’t want to get involved in someone else’s problem. Obviously love and compassion was neither a word that the Priest or the Levite saw as being a requirement to show to someone else.
But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him he had compassion on him. The Samaritan would have appeared or seemed to be an angel to the wounded man. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
The Samaritan was the least likely to render assistance because the Jews and Samaritans despised each other and we aren’t told if the injured man was either a Samaritan or a Jew. And Jesus then says to the lawyer, Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? The lawyer then reasoned within himself that he would be seen to be giving praise to a Samaritan, so he simply answered, He that showed mercy on him. Jesus was giving an example of the difference between those who know the law and those who actually follow the law in showing compassion. Because of the lawyer’s indifference to the Samaritan, he simply used the words he and him instead. Jesus then said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Jesus is saying to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own lives toward others whenever others are in need.
And as an example of this story and to digress a little, I can relate an incident that happened in my own life a few years ago now. It was about 10 am and I was walking along the main street of the shopping centre where I live and all of a sudden a strange feeling came into my right leg from my hip down – it suddenly went like jelly and I had no strength or control in it. To my complete surprise and shock, I fell down heavily on my side in the middle of the footpath. People continued to walk past me; some were averting their eyes, some looking at me in wonder because of the strange look of bewilderment on my own face trying to make sense of it. For a moment I was even a little embarrassed in not fully understanding what was happening to me. But not one came to ask if I was alright because they obviously thought I was drunk. I was feeling very strange and a little dizzy and I tried to get up but my leg still didn’t work so I laid there for a perhaps a minute and gradually strength returned to my leg and I slowly got to my feet. My car was about 100 metres up the street outside what was then an ambulance station. I slowly made my way there but no-one was there in the station, so I sat in my car for a few minutes and I realised that something wasn’t right and I eventually drove myself to the doctors. It turned out to be a T.I.A., which is a mini stroke. I don’t have any ill-will towards those who passed by me – they didn’t know me and for all they knew, if I was drunk I could have even reacted violently. And because of the increasing violence in these days, I totally understand their reluctance to get involved. But still, by their refusal to offer assistance to me, even an enquiry as to my condition – are you OK mate, would have appeased my surprise at those who passed by and none stopping or asking if anything was wrong. I must admit that was the first thought going through my mind in that short time while I lay there in a mildly semi-conscious, and somewhat paralysed feeling in my leg. Of course if someone I knew had gone past, it would have been different but it’s becoming an all too common thing these days. In this day and age Matthew 10: 16 is still a consideration and we need to strike a balance between the serpent and the dove – we should take pains to be gentle but not allow ourselves to become ‘pushovers’.
Romans 12: 9 – 21 are things we should all aspire to and there are many more.
As an aside, even today, Jews are very devout in regard to the law relating to O.T. times, which is very much head knowledge but it’s far from heart knowledge. In days long gone by and before the Spirit was universally given to all believers, it was not yet given to all because Jesus had not yet been raised or glorified. Meaning what He had said to the disciples on the day of Pentecost in John 7: 37 – 39 saying in part: If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink and in 38, He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Then in 39, (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him shall receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) That is not to say that the Spirit wasn’t IN certain men – it is meaning that the Spirit was ON them. Scripture tells us about that in Numbers 11: 16, 17 where God said to Moses and says in part: Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. So nearly all who received the Spirit from Adam to Pentecost in those days, it was received upon them but not yet in them. Acts 2: 1 – 4 tells us how we received it within and it must have been a beautiful thing for the first recipients. Thankfully, we know it is still given today.
Angels are sometimes referred to as messengers and in Luke 1 and 2 scripture gives a beautiful account of the birth of John and Jesus, firstly an angel [Gabriel] appeared to Zacharias telling him that Elisabeth will bear him a son and that he is to call him John and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. It was hard for Zacharias to comprehend this, knowing their age and that Elisabeth was barren and Gabriel confirmed his identity saying he was sent by God to speak to him. And because of his unbelief Gabriel told him he would be dumb until it came to pass. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord and many he shall turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the Spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
And six months later after Elisabeth’s conception, God sent Gabriel to Nazareth and he spoke to Mary, telling her that she is highly favoured and she was troubled at the sight of him. Gabriel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS. And He shall reign over the house Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said, behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word and Gabriel departed from her. And Mary arose in those days and went with haste into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And Mary said to Elisabeth: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He hath shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath upholden His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever. What a wonderful fellowship Mary and Elisabeth had.
In Luke 2 we read that Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem and finding no place to lodge, they found refuge in a manger and Mary brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, which were long bands of cloth that were wrapped around and around Him, thus immobilising Him to keep Him safe from accidental self harm and is still done in a similar fashion by mothers all over the world. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. After the angels had gone the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.
One can only imagine the beauty of that scene.
It speaks in the four Gospel stories of angels appearing to Jesus’ followers at the sepulchre the next morning after His crucifixion and even though they were unaware at the time that they were angels, they must have realised it later.
Sometimes a complete stranger could be brought across your path to perhaps minister and direct or help you and how many times have you heard others say when a good deed has been done to them by a complete stranger – I’m sure he/she was an angel? I’m saying that in an analogous sense and it is what we should all take due care in assessing every situation and not shy away from it if we should see someone in need.
It is uplifting to read of these past events and what it meant to those who recognised them as angels from the infallible proofs revealed. And even though we have the Spirit to guide us in our day, which is a blessing, I believe it is possible for God to send an angel to anyone at any time should He choose to, particularly in the days soon to come.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers . . .