Texts: 2 Kings 6:8-23; Acts 12:6-23; (Preaching Text: Matthew 18:10)
Hymns 716; 384, 880
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10
When we confess in the creed that God created all things visible and invisible, we confess our belief in angels. Angels are invisible. All appearances of angels in the Bible are visions for our sake, but angels do not actually have physical bodies. They are spirits. The word angel simply means messenger. Both in the Old and the New Testament angels are called messengers. This is a descriptive name, because angels indeed declare messages from the Lord. Yet, they do much more than speak messages. They do whatever the Lord God tells them to do. In Psalm 103, David says, “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!” So, simply, angels are powerful spirits who do whatever God tells them to do. They are his heavenly servants.
In Job chapter one angels are called “sons of God.” This title is given to them, because of their close relationship with God as his attendants in heaven. You might remember that the angel Gabriel declares to doubting Zechariahs, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” Yet, despite this title, “sons of God,” angels are not actually God’s children, nor are they the crown of his creation. Rather, God created man in his image. Mankind, both male and female, is the crown of God’s creation. God did not form angels in his image, but mankind, who has a body and soul.
Likewise, as Scripture points out, God never said to an angel, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5) Yet, he spoke these words to Christ Jesus, who is God in human flesh. Rather, of angels God says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7; Psalm 104:4) We are the crown of God’s creation. Angels are God’s servants. We will inherit the kingdom of heaven and live with our heavenly Father. Angels will continue to serve God and us in heaven. In heaven, we will rank higher than angels, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” So, God does not love angels more than us, but rather, angels serve God and us, whom God has joined to himself by taking on our human nature in the man Jesus Christ.
Throughout the Scriptures we see how God used angels to protect his people. In our first lesson, the servant of the prophet Elisha is terrified when he sees their city surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots. Yet, Elisha gives a queer reply, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” How can this be? The servant knows how few men they have in the city. And he can see with his own eyes how the Syrian army has completely surrounded the city, leaving no room for escape. Yet, when God opens the eyes of this young man at the behest of Elisha, he sees the mountain full of fiery horses and chariots. Angels! Mighty angels in greater number than the Syrian army were ready to attack. And as we heard, they captured the Syrian army without shedding any blood!
Yet, even before God opened the eyes of Elisha’s young servant, those angels were still there. Remember, angels are invisible. And they do God’s work whether we are aware of them or not. The Old Testament is filled with examples such as these. A few generations later Jerusalem was surrounded by Assyrian forces. Yet, after King Hezekiah prayed to God, God sent a single angel to kill 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. (2 Kings 19). In 2 Samuel 5, it is recorded how God told David not to attack the Philistines until he heard the sound of marching at the top of the trees. In fact, every battle that Israel won against their enemies, they fought side by side angels sent by God.
Even the plagues God sent upon Egypt were carried out by angels, as Psalm 78 states, “He let loose on [Egypt] his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels.” Throughout the Old Testament God sent his angels to protect the lives of his people, whether from lions or armies or fires. And he continued to do this in the New Testament, as we heard in our lesson about St. Peter. Prison guards and chains were no obstacle for the angel to rescue Peter from prison. And at the command of God an angel struck King Herod dead, because he did not give glory to God, but instead persecuted his church.
So, we see it clearly, that these angels are ministering spirits, who, although they have no physical bodies of their own, work hard to take care of our bodies. And yes, they still work today, even though we do not see them. God uses angels in more ways that we could possibly know. Jesus himself promises this when he says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)
You are one of Jesus’ little ones through faith in him. Jesus says that you have angels. Powerful angels, who behold the face of God. Angels, whom God has sent to protect you. You do not see them, but they are there, protecting you from danger.
Yet, physical danger is not the only or even the greatest danger you have in this life. A much greater threat is the spiritual danger you must face. “I walk in danger all the way,” does not refer to getting hit by a bus or dying in a house fire. It speaks of the spiritual attacks we Christians must face. As there are good angels that gladly do God’s will and serve us with pleasure, so there are evil angels, who have fallen away from God and rebel against him. Their prince is the devil, Satan himself.
While, you might have heard a few stories of the origins of Satan, Scripture actually doesn’t tell us much. We know that he is a spirit and an angel; Scripture tells us as much (Matthew 25:41; Rev. 12:9). Jesus tells us that he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18). It is this Satan, who presents the greatest danger to you. Scripture calls him a prowling lion seeking someone to devour. Satan is a liar and a murderer of souls. His aim is to draw you into sin, for you to reject God and forsake Christ. Satan has angels following after him, who assist him in his evil plot. And Scripture tells us that our angels fight against Satan and these evil angels (Daniel 10; Rev. 12:7ff).
Yet, how can we be sure that these angels will defend us? It is how we are sure that God gives us every good gift: through faith. Psalm 91 states, “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge-- no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
To make the LORD your dwelling place is to have faith in Jesus Christ, who shed his blood for you. Jesus Christ is God almighty. It is to him God says, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” It is to Jesus Christ that God the Father says, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” Christ Jesus, the Son of God conquered the evil angel Satan by taking on our human flesh, fulfilling God’s will in every way, dying for our sins, and rising from the dead. It is Jesus’ blood that conquers Satan, by taking away the sins Satan tries to accuse us of. Angels serve us for the sake of Jesus Christ, their God, and the for the sake of the blood he shed for us. When angels behold the face of God, they see that God looks down on us with great pleasure, because God looks at us through Jesus and the blood he shed for us.
Although angels are of great help to us here on earth, they are not our saviors. Jesus is our Savior. This is why Jesus refused the service of twelve legions of angels on the night when he was betrayed. He knew only his blood shed for us could save us from our sins.
So, having been forgiven of all our sins, we have no need to blush in shame before our heavenly protectors. They serve us for Christ’s sake, who has already won for us the victory over Satan. When we pray that God would send his angels to protect us, we pray that God would deal with us through Jesus and according to his promise.
When we confess our belief in angels, we are not being superstitious or simple minded; we aren’t denying science or believing in myths. Rather, when we confess our belief in angels, we confess that Jesus is our Savior. And that these heavenly beings, whom God created to serve him, serve us for the sake of Christ, who has joined himself to us physically and spiritually in order to be called our Savior. Let us pray.
I walk with angels all the way, / They shield me and befriend me;
All Satan’s power is held at bay/ When heavenly hosts attend me;
They are my sure defense;/ All fear and sorrow, hence!
Unharmed by foes, do what they may, / I walk with angels all the way. Amen.