from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 58

Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: Comforting Angels

The Story

You have often heard that angels are sent by the Lord to care for us. The Psalm tells us that "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them." (Ps. 34:7) Trusting the Lord's care for us, we pray to Him when we go to sleep that He may send His angels to guard us during the night. In the Old and in the New Testaments there are stories about angels sent to those who are in distress. Remember that when the Lord had been tempted by the devil, angels came and ministered unto Him. (Matt. 4:11) When, later, He prayed in an agony, just before His crucifixion, there was seen an angel who comforted Him. (Luke 22:43) In the Old Testament we read that when Hagar had been driven into the wilderness with her son Ishmael and he was dying of thirst, an angel appeared comforting her and showing her a well. (Gen. 21:17-19) An angel came to Gideon when he was in great distress because the enemies of his country oppressed the people, and the angel comforted him telling him what to do. (Judges 6) I cannot here refer to all the stories, but I must not omit the angel who greatly comforted Moses, after he had fled from Egypt, because he was afraid for his life. It was on Mount Horeb, "the mountain of God," that the angel appeared to him out of the burning bush, bringing comfort by telling him that his brethren, the Israelites, should be delivered from slavery, and that he himself was to return to them and lead them out. (Exod. 3) We are reminded of this story by what is told of Elijah in today's chapter - about the angel meeting him, when he was in great distress and fled for his life to the mountain of God, because he had done what was right. And in both cases the Lord Himself manifested Himself through an angel.

Though people get into trouble when they stand up for what is right and oppose what is wrong, they are always helped by the Lord, either directly, or indirectly through, angels. Yet when they have won a victory, their troubles do not come to an end at once.

When people feel distressed and anxious because a good cause for which they are fighting seems in danger of being destroyed, that is called a temptation. A spiritual temptation takes place when the cause for which we fight is spiritual. That is, when we fight for the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ against those who laugh at it or bluntly argue against it, and deny and lead people away from the worship of the Lord; or when we fight for the Divinity of the Word; or for the Second Coming of the Lord; or for honesty in business as being the way to show our love to the neighbor; or when we feel within ourselves that we are inclining to do what the Lord has forbidden, and we are afraid that we may not be able to succeed in fighting the evil down, and yet try with all our might; in all such conflicts, especially if they last a long while, we get to feeling discouraged and in despair, like Elijah. But when the worst discouragement and despair come, as with Elijah when he wished he were dead, then we are strengthened by the Lord, we are fed with heavenly food, with love and truth by the Lord's ministering angels, as Elijah was fed with bread and water by the angel in the wilderness.

Such spiritual warfare or temptation is meant by the number "forty." Therefore it is said that, after Elijah had been fed by the angel, it took him forty days and forty nights to get to the mountain of God. So the Lord fasted forty days and forty nights, during which time He was really fighting with the hells, who are meant by the wild beasts with whom He was. (Mark 1:13) Moses was forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai at the time the Law was given. (Exod. 24:18) Remember what is said about the forty days in connection with the flood. (Gen. 7:7, 17) How many years were the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, before they came to the land of Canaan? From all these occurrences you can see very clearly that the number forty signifies trial and temptation.

The comfort which the angels give is not always a promise that trouble will cease, but it consists in the strength given us to go on with our warfare, with our temptations. So was Elijah helped to continue the journey. When at last he arrived at the mountain, he was not then at once out of trouble and doubt and darkness. This is shown by the fact that he went into a cave. A cave is a dark place to live in, and so represents the darkness in which we are during temptation. But he learned there that the Lord comes to people through trouble. For the destructive storm, the earthquake, and the fire represent the troubles through which we must pass. The Lord does not bring them on, but if we pass through them safely, then comes quiet and peace and we hear the Lord's gentle and loving voice, as Elijah heard the still small voice. And this voice comforted him by telling how the wicked rulers of Israel would be destroyed and the Lord's Word, represented by Elisha, Elijah's successor, would be established.

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