The world’s obsessed with angels.
I don’t know if there has ever been a time where so many people of various spiritual backgrounds claim a belief in some ethereal supernatural helper that’s looking down on you. Those are the people that are, “spiritual, but not religious.” Some people take comfort believing these angels are passed on loved ones, who because of their death have been promoted to watch over the family they left behind. Others believe you can openly converse with your guardian angels as they direct you in matters of love, money and other things. Just google “talking with angels” and you’ll get 31 million hits, from web-sites to books, all on talking to angels or cataloguing other’s experiences in talking to them.
Now I have to admit, I’m not overly-sensitive to “supernatural” things, but I truly believe God still performs miracles, and answers prayers. I just think its not the norm but the exception. I do believe that God also does miracles and answers prayers by using the normal things of life, primarily people. Due to past experiences, I have a reluctance to believe in so many of the claims of supernatural wonders we hear about but it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in it. When it comes to talking to angels and elevating them the way general society does now, I have to draw the line. We now have one mediator between us and God, and that is His Son, Jesus. We don’t ask angels for help, we ask God, through Christ. Christ, who is ever interceding on our behalf. There is also a primary way God speaks to us and that is through His Word. Some think that Christians (including some other Christians) worship the Bible as if it’s the “forth member” of the Trinity. But, if the Bible is God’s Word given to the world. and it is good for all teaching, wisdom and correction, then we should take it, and what it says very seriously. When we don’t know what God is saying, we can be sure by going to His Word and reading it. Then we know what God has said for sure. This is my concern with the exultation of angels today, and this was the problem being addressed in Hebrews. Making much more out of the messengers, then the message and the focal point of that message, Jesus.
Just like so many people today, the jewish people of Jesus’ time had a reverence for angels and in some way we can say rightly so. Though today we have made angels mean so many different things, throughout the Old Testament, God used his angels to guard the entrance of Eden, deliver messages, dictate the law, visit his people and warn against destruction. Angels seem to be one of God’s primary ways of delivering his will to them. Even in the New Testament, it was an angel that visited Mary and Joseph to deliver the news of Christ’s birth as they were chosen for this honor. Angels were so important to the Jewish faith and culture that there was even a sect of Judaism that held to the belief that Michael the archangel had authority that rivaled the messiah to come. So like with the prophets, who were held in high regard, the idea of Jesus being greater than the angels might have been disturbing to believe, especially if some of them reading this letter still weren’t completely sure of Jesus as messiah, let alone seeing this man made of flesh being thought of as God himself.
The author of Hebrews, as he did with the prophets, is attempting to set the correct hierarchy of things. Jesus is better than the prophets as set forth in the previous passages and now Jesus is greater than the angels. In order to do this, the writer of the letter reaches back into the old testament scriptures to make the case, which is important considering the primary Jewish audience this letter seemed to be addressed to. Hebrews was all about proving that Jesus is the fulfillment of what had come before.
The text I am referring to today is Hebrew 1:4 thru 2:4:
Having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten You”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Right off the bat, before getting into the Old Testament scriptures, the author places the thought in their minds of who Jesus is, by his authority and also relationally. He tells the readers that Jesus is better than the angels because of what he has acquired in his resurrection, ascension and exaltation and what he has inherited as in the relationship of Son to the Father. He goes on to flesh that out in various Old Testament references. He is establishing that Jesus is the Son of God and as such has a greater relationship with God than the angels. As a result of that relationship, the angels themselves worship him. He is called the firstborn and as the firstborn he would be the successor to the throne of God.
The author continues to stress the point to the readers that the scriptures not only speak of the Messiah as the one who rules over all things, but that even the angels are subject to Him. He is really trying to hammer home to them that this Jesus he speaks of is what they need to trust in. Though different, angels are still created beings and any obsession or attraction to them or their ability is substituting trusting in God who sent them. The closest parallel I see today is in the picture of the catholic church and the saints. Though many would deny the exultation of the saints that have gone on, people pray to these long dead saints for intercession on someone’s behalf as if their “saintly speciality” will give them an extra edge in their prayer life. We also see it in new age circles with spirit guides and even in the evangelical fringes who claim angels give them messages as it pertains to various topics. One faith healer claimed a conversation with an angel who was appointed over finances. Today’s fascination with angels is not much different as so many look to them as guides for all kinds of things. We today, have to be reminded not to give in to the trends of this world but remember and firmly settle on the truth that there is one mediator between man and God, Jesus.
I could only imagine as they read through this letter what was going through their minds. “Jesus is God.” This is what is being said to them. This is no small thing. This is just a continuing picture of Christ’s stature over the angels. He is above them because he created them along with everything else. How hard must have the early Jewish people held onto their high view of angels over Christ. So much so that this had to be addressed in such a direct manner. Were people drifting back to their Jewish roots and customs? The importance of laying this argument out seems to me a desperate plea from the author for them not to turn back to what was now fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Maybe it was also for others on the fence and unbelievers to hear the evidence of scripture and put their faith in Christ as the fulfillment of all that came before. To even make the point that Christ Jesus sits at the right hand of God, which is again stressing Christ’s authority over all things including the angels, who then serve all who inherit salvation through Christ.
The angels were the distributor of God’s law, the hands of his work at times and the messengers of the salvation to come in the birth of Christ. They were never greater than those things. We, humanity often take something God uses, God creates and hold it in a higher regard than what truly matters. We worship angels and the environment, people and objects. We make much of so many things beside God and the perfect work of salvation because we make all those things “serve us” We even do it with God himself, changing his nature, calling him a her to make ourselves comfortable. We also change God’s nature from one of grace to one of reward, claiming God will only do for us if we do for Him or say He wont even answer unless we are doing everything “right”. We want everything subjegated to our will.
When we look at Christ and say he is higher than the angels, higher than all the other false teachings whether on TV or in our own mind, we are acknowleging that we have to take a knee and submit our lives to him and recognize we need him. The author of Hebrews is saying to the reader, there is no need to go back to your old way, Christ has come and fulfilled it all, bow the knee and trust him in all these things. The section ends with one last plea to hear this message carefully and heed it. At the heart of it is the proclamation of Christ as Messiah, as Savior. A message that was affirmed by God, by miracles and signs done and by the blessed gift of the Holy Spirit poured into us.
This is a warning for us as well, not to turn back in times of trouble. If not for you, definitely for me. Prone as I am to wander away from faith to what’s familiar and comfortable. Prone to wander towards what I thought a relationship with God was. Prone to be pulled by something that says its of God, but its not anything but old tricks of Satan refreshed for a new age, attacking us right in the heart of our prideful and at times, sin sick selves.
As I continue to make my way through Hebrews, I hear God speaking to me through his scriptures here, telling me, pleading with me not to go back to the old, not to follow after the new, but hold fast to what’s true, Christ and him cruicified.
We never grow out of the need to hear the Gospel, the good news of salvation through Christ, Every epistles hints at it loudly. Epistles written to Christians, old and new, firm in faith and struggling in despair. In the midst of an everyday mundane existence and through the prison bars of persecution. Every one of us, wherever we are on our journey, need the continual reminder that we could fail and Christ has never failed for us. That is where our hope lies.