Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, September 29, 2013

St. Michael and All Angels

St. Michael and All Angels
Sept. 29, 2013
Text: Dan. 10:10-14, 12:1-3; Rev. 12:7-12; Matt. 18:1-11

            The Prophet Elisha and his servant are holed up in Dothan.  The King of Syria is in hot pursuit.  Elisha must be captured and put to death, for by the word of the Prophet, God has been protecting the nation of Israel from Syrian assault.  The Syrian army surrounds Dothan.            When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17; ESV).
            So it is for the people of God.  The enemies arrayed against us are colossal.  There is the devil and his evil angels (more on them in a moment).  There is the world, which is hostile to Christ and His people, the Church.  There is your own sinful nature, which believes the lies of the devil and the world and is all too willing to capitulate to their temptations.  These surround the holy city, the Church of God, and to all appearances, guarantee our defeat and ultimately our destruction.  But if the Lord would open our eyes to see the spiritual reality that surrounds us, we would not only see the demonic hoards that seek to do us harm, but the holy angels gathered around us for our defense.  And we would realize that those who are with us are more than those who are against us.  Christ Himself fights for us and has already conquered our enemies by His death and resurrection.  And now He has given us the protection of the angel host, so that we need not fear.  We are safe and can rest secure.  Though the battle rages between the forces of good and evil, holiness and wickedness, the war is won in the blood of the Crucified.  And His angels have been dispatched to guard us in all our ways, to bear us up lest we strike our foot against a stone (Ps. 91:12). 
            Who are these majestic beings, the holy angels?  Well, they are not the souls of the dead.  They are not smiling naked babies with wings as we so often represent the Cherubim.  Nor are they the serene feminine beings we place on top of our Christmas trees.  They are fearsome creatures, mighty warriors who do the bidding of God, fight against the devil and the evil angels, and aid us in our Christian life.  Angels are spirits.  They are personal beings that do not have a physical body.  They are described in various ways in Holy Scripture, so that an exact description of them is beyond our ability.  Isaiah describes the Seraphim, one particular order of angels, as having six wings: with two they cover their faces, with two they cover their feet, and with two they fly (Is. 6:2).  The Cherubim, another order of angels, were charged with guarding the door to Paradise with a flaming sword (Gen. 3:24).  Likenesses of Cherubim were set over the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelt with the people of Israel (Ex. 25:18-22).  Ezekiel describes these strange and wonderful creatures in his 10th Chapter: “as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went…  And their whole body, their rims, and their spokes, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around… And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of the cherub, and the second face was a human face, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle” (vv. 10-12, 14; ESV).  So much for our Christmas angels! 
            The angels are neither male nor female, though they are most often described in masculine terms.  They were created sometime during the six days of creation, and sometime before the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, there was a rebellion among the angels.  Since this rebellion, the holy angels have been confirmed in their holiness, they cannot fall; the evil angels have been confirmed in their wickedness and condemnation, they cannot repent.  Originally created as holy angels, Lucifer (Light Bearer) and the angels that followed him in his rebellion were cast out of heaven to spend eternity separated from God.  Our Lord Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).  In his vision, St. John sees the evil dragon sweep a third of the stars of heaven out of the sky with his tail, the dragon being the devil and the stars being the angels that fell (Rev. 12:4).  The name “Satan” is Hebrew for “adversary.”  The name “devil” is Greek for “accuser.”  His name indicates his nature.  He is our adversary, “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  He seeks to lead us with him into eternal damnation.  He accuses us before God and before our own conscience, seeking to lead us into despair.  He tempts us to sin and unbelief and causes untold damage spiritually and physically.  St. Paul calls him the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and Jesus calls him the “ruler of this world” who is “cast out” by the redeeming work of Christ (John 12:31; cf. John 14:30, 16:11).  Though the devil is a powerful angel, we need not fear him, for by His death and resurrection our Lord Jesus has “disarmed the rulers and authorities [demonic beings] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). 
            The word “angel” comes from the Greek “angelos,” meaning “messenger.”  The holy angels are God’s messengers.  They are His special agents dispatched for our physical and spiritual protection.  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14).  And yet, at the same time they are guarding and protecting us, they are ever in the presence of God.  Jesus says in our Gospel, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” meaning certainly the children, but also all of God’s children, all Christians… “For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).  That means that even as they are present with you, they are present with God, have direct access to Him, and do His bidding for your good.  What a comfort!  Their job is to help you, to protect you physically and spiritually for the sake of your salvation.  Some of them may even appear visibly among us in human form, as the writer to the Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2).  And these angels, they are a countless host.  As they serve and help you, they simultaneously sing praise to God in heaven.  St. John saw a vision of this in the Revelation: “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Rev. 5:11-12).  And what is amazing is that we join them in this reality when we gather around the altar to laud and magnify the glorious Name of God “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” 
            The angels help us in our worship, and as God’s messengers, they are always directing us to Christ and His saving Gospel.  So the angels announced the coming of the Lord Jesus to Mary and Joseph (Luke 1:26-38; Matt. 1:18-25).  They hailed His birth to the shepherds tending their flocks by night (Luke 2:8-15).  An angel rolled back the stone of Jesus’ tomb and was the first preacher of the Resurrection (Matt. 28:1-7; John 20:12).  It is the angels who will announce with trumpet sound our Lord’s coming again to judge the living and the dead (Matt. 24:31; 1 Thess. 4:16).  And if we only had eyes to see, we would marvel at the many and various ways they direct our ears to the hearing of God’s Word in Scripture and preaching.  Angels, messengers of God, indeed. 
            And what good news they bring.  Here you are surrounded on all sides by your three main enemies: the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh.  The yawning jaws of death and hell are eager to swallow you whole.  But you are of good courage.  You do not lose heart.  Because by faith you know that what was true for Elisha is true for you.  Those who are with you are more than those who are against you.  He who gave His Son into death, washing away your sins by the holy and precious blood of Christ, will not betray you into the hands of the enemy.  He has surrounded you with His holy angels, horses and chariots of fire, to protect you, body and soul.  And when your last hour comes and you take your last breath, the holy angels will carry you to heaven to be with the Savior (Luke 16:22).  You see, you are never alone.  Not even in death.  Christ is with you.  And His holy angels are an impregnable wall of defense around you, mighty warriors who fight for you.  And they and you have conquered Satan and his hoard by the blood of the Lamb and by His holy Word (Rev. 12:11).  Thanks be to God for the holy angels.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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