Word Study:Angels Unawares



Hebrews 13:2: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

For many years I have hesitated to share some of my, shall we say, supernatural experiences. This fall I am releasing a book entitled: We Prayed for Revival and All I Got Was a Hug. In this book I share some rather unearthly experiences that I have kept to myself all these years or on the rare occasion I did share these experiences, I played them down. But in a couple months I will be letting the beans out of the bag (or is the cat out the bag, I think you spill the beans) and so I will just share with you just one experience from this book. In January Whitaker House will release my next book Journey Into Silence which is already on pre-order on Amazon and that book will share supernatural experiences that may lead you to think I am certifiable. Whitaker House is a charismatic publisher so I believe they will not edit out some of my experiences.

Anyways, back to my book on revival. Many years ago after graduating from seminary, I was an assistant pastor in a rather liberal church that had a strong charismatic contingent. This was during the late seventies when the Jesus movement brought speaking in tongues and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit into mainstream Christianity. In Chapter 7 which I entitled: The Bum, I share an unusual experience. It was a very low time for me and many of the charismatics in my church. The church was on the verge of splitting and all I was about to get fired for allowing the charismatics to pray for the healing of someone with MS. The fact he was certified by his physicians as being total free of MS only made things worse. I was allowing the teenagers to hold nightly prayer meetings in the church sanctuary where they were yakking away in tongues.

I was in my office with a couple of the charismatic men from the church, one was a deacon and the other was a trustee. We were talking about how the who situation was impossible. I felt I should resign and they felt that they should leave the church and all that other discouraging talk. Suddenly there was a knock at the door and when I opened it I saw a bum. You know your typical bum with second hand clothes, no socks just shoes, old newspaper hanging out of his worn second hand sports coat pocket, matted hair, five day old beard and smelling like he hadn’t bathed in a month. I thought I knew all the bums in this community, it was a small town, but this old boy was a new one. I tried to direct him to the Salvation Army but he just pointed to a grand piano near my office and asked if he could just play it for a little while. I shrugged and let him in and went back to my office to continue our pity party. As we picked up on our conversation of woe we suddenly heard this beautiful music coming out of that piano. The deacon asked who was playing the piano. I said: “Oh some bum.” The trustee jumped up and said: “A bum, playing the piano like that? This I have to see.” I realized I had to see it also.

We went out to the piano and the bum was playing some of the old hymns that we began to sing. We gave request and he knew every song we requested. The deacon and trustee began worshipping God with uplifted hands as they sang these old songs of praise and worship. I too, in my own way began worshipping God. Finally the bum suggested we all join hands and pray. We did with each person praying prayers of praise and glory to God.. I silently prayed and told God how much I loved Him and found myself saying; “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing.” Suddenly I was singing a praise to God in words that I could not understand, but I knew I was worshipping and praising God.

After we finished the bum quietly said goodbye and walked out the door of church. The deacon said: “We have to stop him and take him to dinner.” I ran out the door moments after he had walked out, but I could not find him, I walked around the block but he was nowhere to be found.
I returned to my friends who simply quoted Hebrews 13:2 and said we must have entertained an angel unaware. I know one thing, where were discouraged and ready to quit we were now filled with strength and determination which lead to a revival breaking out in that church.

The word angels in Hebrews 13:2 in the Greek and the Aramaic do not necessarily refer to just supernatural beings. Paul may very well be speaking of supernatural beings that appear and assist us in times of need. But he may also be referring to humans angels as well. The word angel is Greek here is angelous where we get the word angel from, however, it is only tradition that limits this word to supernatural beings. For instance John the Baptist in Matthew 11:10 quotes Malachi 3:1 when he says behold I will send my messenger before thy face. The word in Greek is angelous and John the Baptist is referring to a human messenger. The word angelous is used by the Septuagint for the Hebrew word malachi which means a messenger and is often used for a human messenger as well as a supernatural messenger. The Aramaic Bible, the Peshitta uses the Aramaic word malaka which is identical to the Hebrew word and means both a human and supernatural messenger.

Paul is exhorting us to not be forgetful. In the Greek that word forgetful is epilanthanesthe where we get our English word epilepsy from and means to be neglectful or forgetful. We are encouraged not to neglect strangers. That word for strangers is not in the Greek, it just uses the word philoxenias which is a word for hospitality. However, the word philo is the Greek word for friend and the word xenias is the word for strangers. So we are not amiss if we render this as do not be neglectful to show warmth and friendliness to strangers. The Aramaic is even stronger as it is saying to not be neglectful to show rachmetha to aksnaya. Aksnaya is an Aramaic word used for strangers, foreigners, pilgrims or wanderers. The word rachmetha however shows more than just warmth and friendliness. It comes from the root word racham which is expressing the idea of showing tender mercies, deep compassion to these wanderers that you may be entertaining. They may be messengers of God either supernatural or human. The word entertaining in the Greek is xenisantes which means to startled or be surprised. The word unaware in Greek is elathan which means to be concealed or hidden. The Aramaic uses the word la regash which means to be without rage as well as to be unaware.

So was this bum just someone sent by God to encourage us and to bring me into a newer level of my relationship with God? Was it a supernatural angel? Let me share just one footnote. I was attending a conference in a nearby town some years later and the piano player looked very familiar, had he been dressed as a bum I would say… Then again how would he have known of our need at that moment and my need to make a decision in my own relationship with God?

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet to Horatio Hamlet Act I Scene 5