This is the fifth of eight posts based on the Bible Study Guide "Angels" by Douglas Connelly, A LifeGuide Bible Study. Today's study discusses three Biblical examples of angels giving specific directions to godly men who obeyed and played an important role in God's plan. I must say I've never had the privilege of receiving specific instructions from an angel. This study makes it clear that any message we might receive from an angel should line up with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and scripture. As these men encountered angels they were all at key tipping points of history and God was growing their own faith as much as He was achieving His own purposes.
I will discuss the stories in the order they appear in the New Testament:
1) Joseph, betrothed and then husband to Mary, Jesus' Mother - Angels appeared to him three times. The first time they told him he should take Mary as His wife rather than divorcing her and putting her away. The second time they told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod was seeking to kill Jesus. The third time they told him it was safe to return to Israel. All of these messages provided for safety and security for Jesus as He was growing up. In each message the angel knows information that Joseph could not have known on his own. See Matthew 1:20-21, 2:13,19-20.
2) Philip was visited by an angel and told to go to a certain road. Philip obeyed and when he arrive the Holy Spirit prompted him to approach an Ethiopian eunuch who was studying the scroll of Isaiah, a passage that was a particularly powerful prophecy of Jesus. Philip lead the man to become a follower of Jesus, and even baptizes him. This is the beginning of the early disciples realizing that Jesus came for everyone; Jew, Gentile, slave, free, etc. (Acts 8:26-40)
3) Cornelius sees and angel who tells him to go find a guy named Simon, nicknamed Peter, who lives in Joppa with Simon the tanner. Cornelius sends three men to find Peter. Meanwhile Peter has a vision in which God instructs him to eat "unclean foods" and Peter refuses, good Jewish man that he was. Three times God gives him this same message in a vision (maybe because there were three men?) After his vision, Peter goes with them to meet Cornelius, he preaches the gospel and all of Cornelius' family members become Jesus followers. (Acts 10)
Philip and Peter were probably fairly content staying in their own culture and sharing that Jesus is the Messiah, but God had other plans. He wanted everyone to hear the gospel. Joseph was desperately trying to choose between two difficult paths. In each story it is clear that the angels simply provide specific directions for those who need it, and that their message must work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, who is always with us to help us understand what God wants us to do. God had set up appointments, escape routes, and open hearts. These men simply obeyed. Not only do we benefit from their obedience by following their example, but also our own path to become followers of Jesus was made possible.