Verse 11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee. Not one guardian angel, as some fondly dream, but all the angels are here alluded to. They are the bodyguard of the princes of the blood imperial of heaven, and they have received commission from their Lord and ours to watch carefully over all the interests of the faithful. When men have a charge they become doubly careful, and therefore the angels are represented as bidden by God himself to see to it that the elect are secured. It is down in the marching orders of the hosts of heaven that they take special note of the people who dwell in God. It is not to be wondered at that the servants are bidden to be careful of the comfort of their Master's guests; and we may be quite sure that when they are specially charged by the Lord himself they will carefully discharge the duty imposed upon them.
To keep thee in all thy ways. To be a bodyguard, a garrison to the body, soul, and spirit of the saint. The limit of this protection "in all thy ways" is yet no limit to the heart which is right with God. It is not the way of the believer to go out of his way. He keeps in the way, and then the angels keep him. The protection here promised is exceeding broad as to place, for it refers to all our ways, and what do we wish for more? How angels thus keep us we cannot tell. Whether they repel demons, counteract spiritual plots, or even ward off the more subtle physical forces of disease, we do not know. Perhaps we shall one day stand amazed at the multiplied services which the unseen bands have rendered to us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 11. He shall give his angels charge, etc. Charge; charge is a strict command, more than a bare command; as when you would have a servant do a business certainly and fully, you lay a charge upon him, I charge you that you do not neglect that business; you do not barely tell what he should do, prescribe him his work, but you charge him to do it. So says the Lord unto the angels: My servants or children, now they are in the plague and pestilence, O my angels, I change you stir not from their houses, I charge you, stir not from such an one's bedside; it is a charge, "He shall give his angels charge."
Further, he doth not only, and will not only charge his angel, but his angels; not one angel charged with the safety of his people, but many angels; for their better guard and security, "He shall give his angels charge." And again, "He will give his angels charge over thee to keep thee;" to keep thee; charge over thee and to keep thee; not only over the whole church of God, but over every particular member of the church of God; "He will give his angels charge over thee to keep thee;" this is his marvellous care. Well, but besides this, "He will give his angels charge to keep thee in all thy ways," not in some of thy ways, but in all thy ways. As God's providence is particular in regard of our persons, so it is universal in regard of our ways. "He will give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee," not in some but "in all thy ways."
But is this all? No: "They shall bear thee up in their hands," as every servant desires and loves to take up the young heir, or the young master into his arms, so the angels. It is a great matter that the Lord promises to pitch his tents. "And the angels of the Lord shall pitch their tents round about them that fear him;" but here is more; the angels shall not only pitch their tents, be their guard, but their nurses, to bear them up in their hands; but why? "That thou dash not thy foot against a stone." When children begin to go, they are very apt to fall and get many a knock; to stumble at every little stone. Now there are many stones of stumbling that are in our way, and we are very apt to fall and miscarry; but such is the goodness of God, the providence of God, the goodness of his providence, that as he hath provided his angels to be our guard, in opposition to all our foreign enemies, so he hath provided his angels to be our nurses, in opposition to all our weaknesses and infirmities, that we get no hurt, that we miscarry not in the least.
But what need God make use of angels to protect his people, he is able to do it alone; and is it not for God's dishonour to make use of them for the protection of his people? No, it is for the honour of God, for the more honourable the servants are, the instruments are, that a king or prince doth use for the protecting of his people, the more honourable is that king or prince. Now, the angels, they are honourable creatures; frequently they are called gods; "Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels."... They are the fittest people in the world for this employment, fittest in regard of themselves, fittest in regard of the saints. They are fittest in regard of themselves, for First, they are an exceeding strong and potent people; who more fit to look to and care for the concerns of the saints and people of God, than those that are strong and potent? It is said of the angels in Ps 103:20 that they excel in strength. One angel you know destroyed a hundred and fourscore thousand of the host of Assyria in a night; as one constable will scare away twenty thieves, so one good angel invested with God's authority is able to drive away a thousand evil angels, devils: they are an exceeding strong and potent people. Second. As they are an exceeding strong and potent people, so they are a very knowing and a wise people; and who so fit to manage the affairs and concerns of the saints and people of God, and to protect and defend them, as a knowing and understanding people? You know what Joab said to David; "Thou art for wisdom as an angel of God." Says our Saviour, "No man knoweth that day and time, no, not the angels in heaven;" as if the angels in heaven knew every secret and were acquainted with every hidden thing: they are an exceeding knowing people, very prudent and very wise. Third. As they are an exceeding knowing and wise people, so they are also exceeding active and expeditious, quick in despatches. Who more fit to protect and defend the saints and people of God, than those that are active, expedite, and quick in their despatches? such are the angels. In the first of Ezekiel ye read that every one had four wings; why?, because of their great activity and expedition, and the quick despatch they make in all their affairs. Fourth. As they are an active and expeditious people, so they are a people very faithful both to God and man; in Psalms 103:20-21 they are ready to do God's will, and not only ready to fulfil God's will, but they do it: "Bless the Lord all ye his angels that excel in strength ( Psalms 103:20 ), that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts, ye ministers of his that do his pleasure." They are very faithful; and who so fit to do the work, to attend and look to the concerns of the saints and people of God, as those that are faithful? Fifth. As they are an exceeding faithful people, so they are a people that are very loving to the saints and children of God, very loving; otherwise they were not fit to be their nurses: what is a nurse without love? They are loving to the saints. "Do it not," (said the angel unto John), "I am thy fellow servant;" do not give divine worship to me, I am thy fellow servant; fellow servants are loving to one another; they are fellow servants with the saints... It is recorded of Alexander that being in great danger and to fight next day with his enemies, he slept very soundly the night before; and he being asked the reason thereof, said, Parmenio wakes; meaning a great and faithful captain of his; Parmenio wakes, says he. The angels are called watchmen, they watch and are faithful, therefore you may be secure, quiet, and at rest: trust in the Lord for ever, upon this account, in this day trust in the Lord.
If these things be so, then, friends, why should we not stoop to any work commanded, though it lie much beneath us? Do not you think that the attending upon a sick man, a man that hath a plague sore running upon him, is a work that lies much beneath angels? yet the angels do it because it is commanded, though much beneath them yet they stoop to it because it is commanded; and what though a work lie much beneath you, yet if it be commanded, why should you not stoop to it? You will say, Such an one is much beneath me, I will not lay my hand under his shoes, he is much beneath me; ah, but the angels lay their hands under your shoes, and the work they do for you is much beneath them: why should we not be like our attendants? This is angelical obedience; the angels do you many a kindness, and never look for thanks from you, they do many a kindness that you are not aware of: why are you delivered sometimes you know not how? here is a hand under a wing, the ministration of angels is the cause of it. But I say the work they stoop to for you is much beneath them, and therefore why should we not stoop to any work commanded, though it lie much beneath us? William Bridge.
Verse 11. He shall give his angels charge over thee, etc. When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, he alleged but one sentence of Scripture for himself, Matthew 4:6 , and that Psalm out of which he borrowed it made so plain against him, that he was fain to pick here a word and there a word, and leave out that which went before, and skip in the midst, and omit that which came after, or else he had marred his cause. The Scripture is so holy, and pure, and true, that no word nor syllable thereof can make for the Devil, or for sinners, or for heretics: yet, as the devil alleged Scripture, though it made not for him, but against him, so do the libertines, and epicures, and heretics, as though they had learned at his school. Henry Smith.
Verse 11. One angel armed with the power and glory of God is stronger than a whole country. Earthly princes are subject to many changes and great unsurety of life and estate. The reason is, their enemies may kill their watch, and corrupt their guard. But what men or kingdoms can touch the Church's watch? what angels of gold are able to corrupt the angels of God? and then how can that perish that is committed to keepers so mighty and faithful? Secondly, the charge of us is given to those ministering spirits by parcels, not in gross and piecemeal, not in a lump: our members in a book, our hairs by tale and number. For it is upon record, and, as it were, delivered to them in writing in one Psalm, They keep all our bones, Psalms 34:20 ; in this, they keep our very foot, putting it in security ( Psalms 91:12 ); and elsewhere our whole man and every member. And can a charge so precisely and so particularly given and taken, be neglected? Thirdly, their manner of keeping us, as it is set down in the text, cannot but promise great assurance; for, is not the little child safe while the nurse carrieth it in her arms, or beareth it in her hands? So while these nurses so bear us, can we be ill danger? but our nurses on earth may fall; these nurses, the angels, cannot. Robert Horn.
Verse 11. His angels. Taking the word angel in its literal meaning, messenger, we may look upon any agency which God employs to strengthen, protect, and help us, as his angel to us. Mary B.M. Duncan.
Verse 11. To keep thee in all thy ways. How should those heavenly spirits bear that man in their arms, like nurses, upon earth living; or bear up his soul to heaven, like winged porters, when he dies, that refuseth the right way? They shall keep us in all our ways. Out of the way it is their charge to oppose us, as to preserve us in the way. Nor is this more a terror to the ungodly, than to the righteous a comfort. For if an angel would keep even a Balaam from sinning, how much more careful are all those glorious powers to prevent the miscarriages of God's children! From how many falls and bruises have they saved us! In how many inclinations to evil have they turned us, either by removing occasions, or by casting in secretly good motions! We sin too often, and should catch many more falls, if those holy guardians did not uphold us. Satan is ready to divert us, when we endeavour to do well; when to do ill, angels are as ready to prevent us. We are in Joshua the high priest's ease, with Satan on the one hand, on the other an angel, Zechariah 3:1 : without this, our danger were greater than our defence, and we could neither stand nor rise. Thomas Adams.
Verse 11. To keep thee in all thy ways. Their commission, large as it is, reaches no further: when you leave that, you lose your guard; but while you keep your way, angels, yea; the God of angels, will keep you. Do not so much fear losing your estate or your liberty or your lives, as losing your way, and leaving your way: fear that more than any tiring; nothing but sin exposes you to misery. So long as you keep your way, you shall keep other things; or if you lose any of them, you shall get what is better: though you may be sufferers for Christ, you shall not be losers by him. Samuel Sletter, (1704) in "Morning Exercises."
Verse 11. In all thy ways Your ways are God's ways, your way is the way commanded by God. If you be out of God's ways, you are out of your own way: if you be in your way, the angels shall keep you, even in the time of a plague, and bear you up in their hands that you dash not your foot against a stone; but if you be out of your way, I will not insure your safety. When Balaam went upon the devil's errand an angel met him and scared his ass, and the ass ran his foot against the wall, dashed his foot against the wall. The promise is, "Thou shalt not dash thy foot against a stone;" but he was out of his way, and the angel met him and scared his ass, and his ass made him rush his leg against the wall. Jonah went out of his way when he ran away from God; God bade him go one way, and he went another. Well, what then were the angels with him for his protection; the very sea would not be quiet till he was thrown overboard: instead of angels to protect him, he had a whale to devour him. I confess indeed, through the free grace and mercy of God, the belly of destruction was made a chamber of preservation to him, but he was out of his way; and instead of an angel to keep him that he dash not his foot, his whole body was thrown overboard. Says Solomon, "As a bird from her nest, so is a man out of his place:" so long as the bird is in her nest it is free from the hawk, it is free from the birding piece, it is free from the nets and gins and snares as long as it is in its nest; but when the bird is off her nest then she is exposed to many dangers. So, so long as a man is in his way, in his place and in his way, he is well and under protection; but when a man is off his nest, out of his place and out of his way, then is he exposed to all dangers: but be but in your way and then you may assure yourselves of divine protection, and of the management thereof by the hands of angels. Oh who would not labour always to be in that way which God hath appointed him to be in? Why should we not always consider with ourselves and say, But am I in my way? Old Mr. Dod being upon the water and going out of one boat into another, slipped between them, and the first word he spake was this, "Am I in my way?" so we should always be saying, But am I in my way? am I in my way? I am now idling away my time, but am I in my way? Oh my soul, am I in my way? I am in my calling this day without prayer in the morning and reading the Scriptures; but am I in my way? Oh, my soul, am I in my way? I am now in such frothy company where I get no good, but hurt; but am I in my way? Ever consider this, Am I in my way? You may expect the Lord's protection and the angels' attendance, if you be in your way, but not else. William Bridge.
Verse 11. We have the safeguard of the empire; not only the protection of the King, from which the wicked as outlaws are secluded; but also the keeping of angels, to whom he hath given a charge over us, to keep us in all h's ways. So nearly we participate of his Divine things, that we have his own guard royal to attend us. Thomas Adams.
Verse 11. He shall give his angels charge over thee, etc.
And is there care in heaven, and is there love
In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,
That may compassion of their evils move?
There is, else much more wretched were the race
Of men than beasts. But oh, the exceeding grace
Of highest God, that loves his creatures so,
And all his works with mercy doth embrace,
That blessed angels he sends to and fro,
To serve us wicked men, to serve his wicked foe!
How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to succour us that succour want!
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!
They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
And all for love and nothing for reward.
Oh, wily should heavenly God to man have such regard! Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599.
Verse 11-12. It is observable that Scripture is the weapon that Satan doth desire to wield against Christ. In his other ways of dealing he was shy, and did but lay them in Christ's way, offering only the occasion, and leaving him to take them up; but in this he is more confident, and industriously pleads it, as a thing which he could better stand to and more confidently avouch. The care of his subtlety herein, lay in the misrepresentation and abuse of it, as may be seen in these particulars:
Verse 11-12. There is, to my mind, a very remarkable coincidence of expression between the verses of this Psalm, about the office of God's angels, and that passage in Isaiah where Christ's sympathy and presence receive the same charge attributed to them without interposition. In Isaiah 63:9 , we read, "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them." And again, "They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone," compared with "And he bare them, and he carried them all the days of old." Christ in us, by sympathy with our nature -- Christ in us, by the indwelling of his Spirit in each individual heart -- thus he knows all our needs. Christ with us, in every step, all powerful to make all work for good, and with love and pity watching over our interests -- thus his presence saves us, and all things are made his messengers to us. Mary B.M. Duncan.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 11-12. A "wrested" Scripture righted.
Verse 12. Preservation from minor evils most precious because they are often most grievous, lead to greater evils, and involve much damage.