Angels Unaware

Publication:Pastoral Letter,August 2017
Dear Friend in Christ:

Several months ago, my friend, author Keith Hueftle, sent me his new book entitled The Hesed Factor. Keith is a very intelligent Bible scholar and retired minister. The book was on the subject of covenant, a subject which interests both of us. In it, he used the illustration of Marcus Lutrell, a Navy SEAL who was captured by a tribe in Afghanistan. Luttrell was wounded and hunted by the vicious Taliban fighters. But the tribe took Luttrell in, cared for him and even protected him at the cost of lives. (His amazing story is told in the book Lone Survivor and also the film by the same name starring Mark Wahlberg.)

Keith Hueftle described why these tribal people were willing to risk their lives to protect a stranger. It was part of their covenant obligation to care for strangers. Apparently, this practice was normal, dating back centuries among Middle Eastern tribal people.

The Scriptures allude to this in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” To casual Western minds, this reminder is simple, but to the tribal mind it was much more, a covenant obligation that had to be honored at all cost.

Is Hebrews 13:2 possibly a reference to Abraham’s showing hospitality to three angels as recorded in Genesis 18? I think so. That chapter says that the “Lord” appeared to Abraham in the form of three men. They appeared as men, but it was the Lord. Abraham ran to meet them and offered to wash their feet and feed them some bread.

Abraham prepared a feast, and then stood ready to serve them as they ate. Apparently Abraham practiced the “hospitality code.” In return, he received great blessings. He was actually hosting the Lord, Who promised him and Sarah a son in the following year. This was physically impossible, given Abraham and Sarah’s age. They both laughed at the Lord’s promise, but the Lord corrected them. The son was born according to the Lord’s Word and they named him “Isaac” which means “laughter.”

Another thing happened. The Lord confided in Abraham what He was about to do to the wicked city of Sodom, who wanted to abuse guests. God considered Abraham a friend (see James 2:23) and the benefit of Abraham’s hospitality was that he became aware of what the Lord was going to do; he got the news first.

Jesus says, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me” (see Matthew 25:40). God often comes to us in disguise. When we host a stranger in need, we are showing hospitality to the Lord Himself. Amazing!

There was in our city a large old motel called the “Hiway Host” which had become the habitat for many transient people. Sadly, all kinds of vice flourished there. Shortly after getting married, my son, Stephen, and his wife, Susanne, began ministering to some of those living at the Hiway Host. Among them was a couple in middle age who were destitute. Stephen and Susanne “hosted” them.

One of the favors done for this couple was to assist the wife to get a driver’s license. Stephen and Susanne’s home address was placed on the license. Because of that address, their daughter, who had been searching for them for many years, was able to find them. The daughter had married a doctor and was then able to find and care for them.

There is more: Stephen and Susanne had been told by a prominent doctor that they could never have a child. It was in the midst of “hosting” this couple that they discovered that they would have a daughter; her name would be “Grace.” The Hiway Host is significant in our family.

In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus tells a parable of a man who had a friend stop by in the late night hours. Apparently, the guest was traveling and his host had nothing to offer. Embarrassing! So the host goes next door to awaken his neighbor and borrow food. The neighbor is asleep, as is his family; it is now midnight.

“Go away; don’t bother me; the door is shut and we are all asleep,” the neighbor complains. But this desperate man keeps on knocking. Finally, the neighbor gets up and gives what is needed. He doesn’t do it because of friendship, it is because that is the covenant code. To do otherwise would be a scandal and even dangerous.

It is important to note here that through the parable, Jesus is teaching about prayer. He has just given His disciples the “Lord’s Prayer.” After the parable, He says, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Ask, seek and knock are in the continuing sense: keep seeking, knocking and asking, as the man did.

Jesus stressed in the parable that the man did not act out of friendship, even if he was a friend, but due to the perseverance of the man in need. So, the Lord is teaching us about perseverance in prayer. Now, who is the real host here?

Parables are metaphors that carry a truth. The physical story obscures that truth from those who lack desire to know the Truth. So who is the real host here? Is it the man who has an unexpected guest and has nothing to offer? Is the host the neighbor who doesn’t want to arise out of sleep but finally does so because the man in need keeps on knocking?

Or, is the real host here the Lord Himself who is waiting to see if we are serious and really concerned about a guest in need? Is the hospitality covenant code involved here, as in the case of Marcus Lutrell who was in need, wounded, hunted, and desperate as the tribal leaders considered hisplight? The tribe finally decided to take him in at great cost.

Also, consider the cost the Father paid to take us in—His perfect, divine Son. How serious was He and how serious should we be, given our condition? Should we keep asking, seeking and knocking?

In Luke 10, the previous chapter, Jesus sends out 72 of His followers into all the towns where He intended to go. He instructed them to carry no money bag, knapsack, or extra sandals, and to not stop and talk along the way. When they came to a house, they were to greet it with, “Peace be to this house.” He told them, “If someone who promotes peace is there, then your peace will rest upon them; if not, it will return to you” (see Luke 10:1-12).

Why did Jesus say that they should not bring with them extra supplies? Is it because the host supplies? Again, who is the host? Is the code involved here also? Those whom Jesus sent were to eat what was set before them, bring healing to that town and tell them that the kingdom of God has come near.

If His messengers were rejected, it would be a scandal, and the result would be worse than what happened to Sodom. The hospitality code was tough! It could bless or curse. Remember that Sodom mistreated its guests also.

Covenant contains a serious code that includes gracious hosting of strangers and the needy, as well as penalties for rejecting.

When we lack the ability to provide for others, we should go to our “Host” for provision.

When we lack the provisions and go to our Father, we should be persistent in asking, knocking, and seeking.

  • Father has all that we need.
  • Our request is not selfish, it is in order to give to someone else.
  • When we host “the least of these”, we host Jesus; He takes it personally.
  • We never know who we may be serving. God often comes in disguise.
  • It is more blessed to give and serve than to receive and be served.
  • Those who receive but fail to give are in trouble with God.
  • God is Himself the Host and favors those who take the risk to be generous.

The ultimate gift that Jesus describes in Luke 11:13 is the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we are serious and continue in perseverance, the Father will pour out His Spirit upon His children. How we need that gift! But, we must become serious enough to persevere.

Our Father is the ultimate host who gives us “our daily bread”. To understand the Father as gracious Host helps us to better understand numerous other passages such as Psalm 23, when the Shepherd leads us to Father’s house where there is anointing with oil, overflowing joy, goodness and mercy, family, and security.

Philippians 4:19 is very significant in my life, “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” It was that guarantee that enabled me to give my life to ministry. He has hosted me on my journey!

This understanding also moves us to be generous hosts ourselves. If we understand the heart of the Father, we will make room for the “stranger in our gates” as Israel was told to do. It will be more than a duty; it is a privilege. It is more blessed to give.

I have almost always been hosted generously by others as I travel; in fact, many of you reading this have graciously hosted me through the years. I have lodged in comfortable and often beautiful places. When entertaining others, I have tried to reciprocate, knowing how gracious God is.

My prayer is that this letter will be both an insight into God and also to help us reveal Him to others with the heart of a host. That would be real evangelism. Who knows who we might be entertaining? Who knows what blessing they may bring with them or what favor might come from Father’s house? Risky? Sacrificial? Yes, but the greater risk is in failing to bless.

Thank you so much for being such a key part of this ministry. Your prayers and your giving to CSM equip us to bless people all over the world. For more information, visit our website or our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Page. May the Lord bless you this month, and always!

In Him,

Charles Simpson
Scripture references: Hebrews 13:2; Genesis 18; James 2:23; Matthew 25:40; Luke 11:5-13; Luke 10:1-12; Philippians 4:19; Psalm 23

About the Author:

Charles Simpson

Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.