“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
This psalm describes God’s care of His children. The shadow of the Almighty covers them (1). He is their Refuge and Fortress (2). Surely He shall deliver (3). His truth is their shield and buckler (4).
The psalm shows us that God’s care is extended toward us even when we are unaware of it. It is that great and that detailed. Our text teaches us that God’s care of us includes His use of the holy angels.
Satan used (misused) this text when tempting Jesus (). The devil (the liar) set Jesus on a pinnacle of the temple and challenged Him, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
Satan’s serious and deliberate error was that he applied God’s care to the physical realm instead of the spiritual. If God intended angels to keep His children from dashing their foot against physical stones, then no child of God would ever stub his toe. Rather, the meaning is that God preserves His children spiritually.
The Wonderful Fact
Angels are God-created spirits (). Many did not fall into sin with Satan. These are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation” ( ). They are at God’s command. God gives angels a “charge,” that is, a command or a divine appointment. This command is very specific and personal: “thee,” that is, each one of God’s children. The angels are instruments that God uses to execute His beneficence for the sake of His children.
Remembering that in the old dispensation the physical and earthly were typical pictures of the spiritual and heavenly, consider the care God gave through His angel to the nation of Israel (). Jacob received the promise of angelic care in His dream ( ). Elisha had God open his servant’s eyes to see the angels that surrounded them ( ). An angel of God was given to Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace ( ff.). And God used angels for the sake of the imprisoned apostles ( ).
Whether each child of God has his own guardian angel is unclear. Some would taketo teach this as a fact. We would speak of this subject as does John Calvin, namely, that Scripture is unclear about how God cares for us through the angels; but we must be emphatically clear that God uses every means to care for His beloved children.
The care God gives to His children is spiritual, contrary to the devil’s lie to Jesus. The word “keep” emphasizes careful attention given to the preservation of salvation in each elect child of God (cf.). The idea is that we are kept from falling from salvation. Within us is the life of Jesus, something so precious that it is guarded/protected from being destroyed by an evil power. Just as we are given new birth, so the life of the new man in Christ is kept spiritually alive, kept from the sin unto death, and from falling into the snares of the devil ( ). It is the angels’ loving purpose to preserve us holy. This is the point of the angels in heaven rejoicing; their joy was because of a repenting sinner—a highly spiritual matter.
Of this divine spiritual preservation we find support in the following passages:; ; ; . Further, the Canons of Dordt describe this spiritual keeping in the Fifth Head, Articles 6 and 7. We are kept so that our election is not altered, our justification is not changed, and nothing can separate us from the love of God!
That angels bear us up in their hands (12) indicates their strength, but especially their tender care as a nursemaid of a very little child. The picture is of God’s people being helpless, spiritual infants, who have to be dealt with as such—especially over-against their adversary, the devil. The Most High Majesty condescends to spread His cherishing and protecting wings over His helpless children (4).
The Great Honor
Consider the high privilege that is yours: the Almighty God Himself is concerned for you. The “charge” (a command or divine appointment) that God gives angels is very specific and personal: take care of My children. What an honor that the holy God, the sovereign Creator, is concerned for you!
Consider the honor that this keeping is done by “his angels.” They are “his angels” because they stand before Him and wait upon Him. Such honored servants of God Himself are your guard. This implies that you have more friends than you know, for when unknown forces assault you, these defenders thrust them back. When you fight in spiritual warfare, even and especially when you seem alone, then angels are at your side. Consider Elisha’s personal protection at Dothan against the Syrians (). It has been said that God would sooner leave heaven empty of angels than allow any one of His children suffer defeat from the right way.
Each one of God’s children is personally protected. That is the significance of the word “thee.” God takes a personal interest in each one of His children. As a child of God, feel sure that this promise applies to you. As much as “thou shalt not steal” applies to you, so you are one to whom God has given His angels the charge to keep.
God’s use of angels to protect His children is perpetual: “in ALL thy ways.” In every situation in which His children find themselves, asleep and awake, when alone or in company, at work or play, they are protected. We always need keeping and we always have it, for the angels are charged to keep us in “all” our ways.
This great privilege is ours by Jesus Christ, for He is the ladder on whose rungs the angels go up and down (). If Christ is yours, then the holy angels are yours and all the principalities and powers in heavenly places will delight to care for you. You are never alone, for the Lord of all the holy angels is with you. God’s angels, which you cannot see nor hear, but which are most real and true, preserve you in God’s saving love.
The High Calling
Angels who continually behold God’s face condescend to do such humble a deed as to watch over us sinners. And the Son of God Himself made Himself of no reputation to save His people. So we learn that never are we more like the angels and Jesus than when we serve the least of God’s children—even if all we do is give a cup of cold water.
How safe and happy ought we to be when we know that God’s angels take care of us! We need never to be afraid, especially regarding our salvation. Because you have made the Lord, who is your Refuge and Fortress, even the Most High, your dwelling place, you shall never be overwhelmed (9). Therefore, resort to Him and to Him alone in every trouble. Confide in no other refuge. Do not trust in anyone or anything else, especially yourself. “In him will I trust” (2).
In light of all the protection He promises, we have every reason to be thankful. How ungrateful we are if we are not satisfied with such full promises! If we are terrified at the power of our enemies and the multitude of dangers, He shows us His invincible power. If we tremble to think of His majesty, He assures us that His care is like that of a hen that tenderly covers her chicks under her wings (4). And He even informs us of the angels that are guardians of our safety to demonstrate His compassion for our weaknesses. Thank Him without ceasing! No devil can separate you from His love and no ruling of the United States Supreme Court can destroy God’s work of salvation in you. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
How holy ought we to be with such holy beings watching over us. How would we talk and act if we knew that an angel of God was listening and watching at our side? How many things are done, which would not be done if we remembered that we had the eye of someone we love watching us?
May we know that Jehovah graciously keeps us in His holy way. And if we know that we are so kept, then may we be assured that we shall be preserved from all evil as we continue on our pilgrim’s path. We may be assured that we shall see His face with joy and abide with Him forever. Be confident of and courageous in His care, for you are more than a conqueror! Be thankful! Be holy!