Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Witness of Angels

Today is the third day in our 50th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Job 15-17; Revelation 14.

Chances are, either today or tomorrow you will read or hear the Christmas story from the gospels of Matthew or Luke.  Today, I want to focus on the witness of angels in the Christmas story.  In Matthew 1.20-25 (NIV), we read about the witness of an angel, who helped Joseph to deal with the news about Mary's unexpected, virginal, pregnancy.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Later, after the magi visit and are warned in a dream not to return to Herod as unwitting spies, an angel gives Joseph a message to flee to Egypt.

 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,  where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son (Matthew 2.13-15 NIV).”

In Luke 2 (NIV) we hear the witness of the angels as they tell the shepherds about Jesus' birth.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Throughout the Bible, angels are messengers of God's truth.  In the Christmas story, the bring good tidings of great joy.  However, in today's reading in the book of Revelation, angels give a message that is less than pleasant.

 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
 A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand,  they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name (Revelation 14.6-11 NIV).” 

 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.  Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.  Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.”  The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.  They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
(Revelation 14.14-20)

While angels are heavenly creatures not to be confused with human souls at all, people can still serve the function of angels in this world.  The word angel (Greek: Angelos) simply means "messenger." Any Christian can be a messenger of God to our friends, neighbors, and culture.  Sometimes this is a message that will bring joy to all people.  It will sound like "Peace on earth, good will to men."  But at other times, the message will be one of warning.

Our culture loves angels.  Because of the Christmas story, you probably hear more about angels in December than you do during the rest of the year.  We depict angels as lovely creatures full of love and goodness and cheer.  And they certainly can be.  But our culture wouldn't love the angels in Revelation, would it?  Yet, those angels have to be willing to accept whatever assignment God gives them--to share the message of love and peace, or to bring warning and judgment.  

My question for you is--As a messenger of God, are you willing to accept whatever assignment you're given--whether or not people love you for it?   

I pray that you will have a blessed Christmas this year--one filled with peace and good will.  I pray that God's angels will minister His blessing to you.  And I pray that you'll accept God's assignment to be an angel in the flesh to the world around you, delivering His message--whatever it may be.


1 comment:

Jennifer Lewis said...

I am prepared not only to be His messenger but to listen to His message.