They appeared as human beings to Abraham, but as angels, to Lot.
They appeared directly before Lot, but as voices from heaven to Hagar in the desert and to Abraham at the Binding of Isaac.
They are the guardians of Eden, and they are the fallen sinners.
They bring healing and they bring destruction.
They bring good news for some, and bad news to others.
They are magical and powerful, and they are vulnerable and limited.
They are mysterious heavenly beings, and they are jobbers and accessible.
Who are these beings? Why do they play such important roles in the stories of Genesis? Why are the stories of the beginnings of humanity so rich with characters so unfamiliar?
The key lies in the difference between their appearance to Abraham and to Lot. Abraham saw three men. Lot saw angels. When Abraham saw a higher spiritual being, he saw something he could be. Lot looked and saw angels: they are so much higher than I that I cannot aspire to live at their level.
They do not appear differently to Abraham and Lot; they appear the same. The difference is one of perception.
Whose approach do we emulate when we describe the great people of the past as supermen,almost as angels? Are we aspiring or are we finding a reason to not demand that we rise to their level?
Why are there so many meetings with angels? The Torah is asking us whether we look and see angels, beyond what we could ever hope to be, or human beings we can emulate and match?
Our history is filled with human beings who aspired to live higher than angels. They are the people who have taught us to fly, grow and accomplish great things.
We have nothing from angels other than some interesting stories.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg