Tuesday, 7 May 2019
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:2
This verse closely matches Paul’s words of Romans 12:13 where he uses the same word signifying “hospitality” that is used here. There he exhorts that they were to be “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” As there, the author here exhorts the Hebrew people that they are not to “forget to entertain strangers.”
Some scholars take this as meaning that this is speaking of fellow believers, and not necessarily anyone in general. There is a giant problem with that thought which is revealed in the next words, “for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” A stranger is a person who is unknown. One could go through a process of asking questions about his faith, the church he attends, the name of the pastor, etc., but this isn’t the intent of the words. It is to “entertain strangers.”
It may be that finding out if a person is a believer is a good thing to do. If not, then one can evangelize the non-believer. But this verse leaves no qualifiers, and it doesn’t mention the strangers as “brethren.” It simply says to “entertain strangers.” In so doing, one might actually, and without knowing it, “entertain angels.”
The word “angel” signifies a messenger. It is true that the word is usually associated with heavenly beings, but Paul says this to the Galatians using the same word –
“And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” Galatians 4:14
James says this about the spies whom Rahab received, again using the same word –
“Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” James 2:25
Paul’s statement indicates an angel of God, but they knew him to be a messenger of the gospel. James’ words indicate that these spies were messengers. Rahab entertained, or welcomed, them and saved herself and her household. It does seem, however, that the intent of the author’s words is that he is referring to heavenly beings. Some equate this with the visitation of Abraham by the three men in Genesis 18. However, Abraham, from his first words to them, addressed the leader of them as Adonai. It is a term indicating the Lord (Jehovah). Abraham wasn’t unaware of who He was, only as to why He had come.
The reason for this verse is probably that of a test of the individual. God already knows how we, as individuals, will respond to certain situations, but we do not. By sending an angel, we are given the chance to learn about ourselves, and to then reflect on what occurred. In the end, though, the verse says that our meeting is actually unknown to us. We will not be able to definitively state, “I was visited by an angel.” Rather, we will have a suspicion that it is so. This is the purpose of such a test.
Life application: Whether or not people since the completion of the Bible really have had angelic visits where they have communicated with those angels, while knowing they were angels, is disputable. The evidence is usually against such. However, the author today makes it abundantly clear that we may be visited by angels without ever realizing it.
When we entertain a stranger – helping him in some way for example – we learn more about ourselves. After doing whatever it is he has come to challenge us with, we can look back and really wonder, “Was that an angel?” How often do we hear of someone who helps another person, or is helped by them, and then that person just disappears? When this happens, the person will evaluate his own actions during the situation and hopefully realize that one of God’s messengers really may have been involved in it.
This should (stress should) make him want to search out the things of God even more. It should also prompt him to act likewise towards others in the future. If you believe you have had an angelic encounter, take time to evaluate yourself. If there are angels, there is a God. If there’s a God, then we really are accountable to Him. Contemplate this and understand His good intent for you by allowing an angel to interact with you.
Lord, Your word says that we are to entertain strangers because we may actually be entertaining an angel without even realizing it. As this would then be a test for us to learn from, help us to reflect on all of our interactions with others, and to be willing to be hospitable to everyone that we are able to help. Isn’t this the purpose of such a test in the first place? Help us to be charitable according to the grace You have first shown us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.