“And Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” —Luke 1:18–19 LSB

The angel, who gives his name as Gabriel, appears before Zechariah the priest while he is doing his priestly duties in the temple and tells him some very interesting information, both about what will happen to Zechariah and his wife and about what Gabriel does.

The name Gabriel means “Man of God” or “God my strength.” We learn a couple of things about Gabriel here which may help us get an insight into what angels do in the service of God. One of the things that Gabriel at least does is stand before God. We can get a sense of what this means by comparing a cross reference in Acts:

““For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’” —Acts 27:23–24 LSB.

Pretty clearly then to stand before God means to stand in his presence and it least in Gabriel’s case await instructions. Gabriel then was an angel who was a sort of messenger or envoy for God, standing in his presence waiting to be sent out to do the work that God commanded.

Gabriel says that he “was sent to speak to you.” “Was sent” is in the passive so Gabriel did not initiate his own action, but was acted upon, clearly at God’s instructions. So Gabriel went out at the instruction of God to go find a young girl named Mary in the village of Nazareth and give her a specific message from God.

What was the message? Gabriel says that it was “to bring you this good news.” Out of every Jewish woman since the beginning of time, Mary was chosen to bear the Messiah. Good news indeed, although it would come with complications. Not the least. of which would be her fellow townsfolk asking the question, “How indeed, did you get pregnant Mary?”

I don’t know if all angels stand in the presence of God awaiting instructions, but I do know that they all carry out his will and do the assignments that are given to them.

Digging Deeper: Here’s a link to a longer treatment of the doctrine of “Angelology” (yes, it’s the right word) that we ran here in 2017. Click here to read.