Guardian angels

Have you ever wished you had a guardian angel? Perhaps you’ve even experienced what seemed to you like a miraculous rescue. I remember a time when my wife and I were on our way to a birthday party, with our babies in the back seat, and our car broke down on the freeway. I pulled off at the nearest exit. This was in the day before cellphones; I would have to go back up to the freeway to find a call box, leaving my wife and kids alone in a desolate area.

As I agonized over what to do, a car pulled up behind us and stopped. I was both hopeful and wary at the same time. But it turned out to be friends of ours, who were the only other couple on the way to the same party. Somehow, they had managed to be on the freeway behind us, at just the right moment to see that we were in trouble. That’s despite the fact that they started their drive from 30 miles west of us, and we were all running late. Realistically, there was only a window of a few seconds for them to be in the right place at the right time, to see and recognize our car.

What were the chances?

That day, they were our “guardian angels.”

Whatever you might believe about the existence of guardian angels, the Bible clearly portrays God sending emissaries to instruct, guide, and protect his people. His emissaries were both heavenly and human, such as angels and prophets.

And I believe that the psalmists envision other emissaries as well, that go by different names.

. . .

Psalm 57, as we’ve seen, has the psalmist finding refuge in the shadow of God’s wings, apparently a reference to the security the psalmist remembered in being in God’s presence before the ark of the covenant. The psalmist is under some kind of threat from enemies; the heading of the psalm suggests that this is a reference to King Saul and his men, who are pursuing David to kill him. Thus, the psalmist writes:

My life is in the middle of a pack of lions.
    I lie down among those who devour humans.
        Their teeth are spears and arrows;
        their tongues are sharpened swords
. (vs. 4, CEB)

We’ve seen several examples of the psalmist’s enemies being likened to vicious beasts: lions, dogs, bulls. The threat is represented in fluid terms: lions devour with their teeth; teeth are like spears and arrows; the psalmist is threatened by weapons of war; even words can be weapons. But the psalmist’s confidence is in God:

I call out to God Most High—
    to God, who comes through for me.
He sends orders from heaven and saves me,
    rebukes the one who tramples me.
        God sends his loyal love and faithfulness.
(vss. 2-3)

“God Most High” — the exalted God is portrayed as sending forth emissaries to rescue the psalmist. But the emissaries are neither angels nor prophets; they are God’s “loyal love and faithfulness.” In Hebrew, the words are hesed and emeth, words which represent the covenant faithfulness of God. Together, the words paint a portrait of a God who is dependably, reliably loving, a God whose steady commitment to his covenant promises and people can be trusted.

The psalmist, in other words may envision something like this:

From on high, God sends forth his hesed and emeth, his covenant love and faithfulness, to envelop the psalmist. It’s one thing to say that God is loving and faithful, but it’s another to imagine our lives as blanketed by God’s love and faithfulness. This God, though exalted above all, is not distant, but present and active.

The names of our guardian angels are Hesed and Emeth.

And what should be our response? As we will see, the psalmist responds back to God with joyous, exuberant praise.