Job 38:1-7, “Where do angels come from?”
One of the reasons you want to keep reading the Bible regularly is for all the little details. There are so many interesting little details in the Bible. Details that we so often miss because so many bigger things are going on all around them. But when you regularly read the Bible, every so often one of these interesting details will jump out at you. And it’s like your brain lights up and your soul expands. Today is one of those days.
Most of what we know about angels comes from little details tucked into something bigger going on. Like in our first reading. God was replying to Job, after Job had been complaining about the unfairness in his life. This is big. “Then the Lord…..” (Job 38:1-7) This is big. God’s reply to Job is worth a sermon all on its own. But in his big reply is a small detail tucked in, a small detail about the angels, “….On what were the earth’s footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars (likely another term for angels) sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
This is one of the few glimpses we get into the goings on in those first six days of creation. Here we find out that the angels were there, during creation. That there was music. Excitement. Joy. We have a hymn that makes a brief reference to his verse. Hymn #80 v.1.
So, here’s what we know about where the angels come from. The angels were created during the six days of creation. They were not created before then, because before then there was only God, as it says in John 1:1-3. They were not created after the six days of creation because it says that “God rested from all his work” and stopped creating after the sixth day (Gen. 2:2-3). This, in turn, also tells us that the number of angels has never increased nor decreased since then. Interestingly enough, Jesus we can also figure this out from something said about the resurrection from the dead. In the middle of this big doctrinal point, he tucks in a detail about the angels. He said that angels don’t die (hence, the number is never decreased) and they don’t get married (so the number does not increase). Jesus said, “But those (believers who will be raised on the Last Day) will neither marry nor be given in marriage and they can no longer die; for they will be like the angels.” (Luke 20:35-36) Which means that no, Uncle Jimmy did not become an angel when he died. People never become angels. Or demons.
So the angels were created between day 1 of creation, which was a Sunday and day 6 of creation, which was a Friday, with God resting on Saturday. But on which one of those six days were they created? We don’t know. Although some of the early church fathers thought it was day 1, when God created light.
Because angels are associated with light, because not only are the good angels good, they also have no bodies. They are pure spirit, kind of like your soul without your body. They have personality, they can think, they can talk, they can reason, they have names, like Gabriel and Michael. But no bodies. Hence, we don’t talk about girl and boy angels in the physical sense of that word.
Although, that being said, on occasion angels have taken bodily form. When they do so, they appear male. Sometimes they are in white robes. Sometimes they have wings. And at other times, when they take a bodily form, they dress and look like regular people, like when two angels visited Abraham and then Lot in Sodom. The looked and dressed like regular human beings. They even ate food: some cheese curds, fresh baked bread, beef. (Gen. 18:8, 19:3) And I’m wondering, how did they eat food if their stomachs were not real stomachs and their mouths were not real mouths? Not sure. It’s a mystery the Bible doesn’t bother to explain.
Now, all the angels during the first week of creation were good. But not long after that first week, some angels rebelled against God. Their leader was given the name “Satan”, which means “Adversary.” This happened some time between the end of creation and when Satan entered the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve. And Satan, along with the evil angels, also known as demons, mean to hurt you, badly—specifically, to hurt your body, hurt your finances and property, and most of all to hurt your faith. Very badly. Which is why we want to hear what the Job Description is for the good angels next.
Psalm 91:9-12—Angel’s Job Description
The general job description for the holy angels reads, “You are to do the bidding of your Lord and serve those who believe his Word.” (Psalm 104:4, Heb. 1:14) Specifically, they are to do the following: #1) Praise God. (Isaiah 6:3) #2) Carry a believer’s soul to heaven upon their death. (Luke 16:22) #3) Guard believers from harm, especially physical harm (as it says in our psalm), “For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” Notice, they are no longer to deliver messages. Angels have, of course, at times, and did so very famously at Christmas and Easter. But that is done, as Hebrews 1:1ff and Rev. 22:18ff make clear. In fact, if someone who looks like an angel appears to you and has a message for you, you know what to do? Run the other way—for that is demon, no matter how nice the angel might look; it is not one of God’s good angels, for they do not deliver messages anymore.
“For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” While the idea that we each have a guardian angel is a popular one, it is more correct to speak about guardian angelS. There are hundreds of millions of angels. So at any given moment, you (if you are a believer; unbelievers do not have guardian angels) likely do not have just one guardian angel around you, you might have dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of good angels around you, being your bodyguard—that is their job.
And yes, they actually do real things to keep us safe. They can stop cars that are sliding on ice, can make bullies trip and fall, can remove cancer cells. One time I and a friend were way back on an unimproved road in the Anaconda-Pintler wilderness area….But the problem of knowing for sure if it was angels is—angels never leave behind their business card. So, we talk about these things carefully. Could it have been some local person out for a drive? Maybe, but that would have been very odd, but it could have been. So we don’t say, “Angels came and unlocked our car door.” No, it could have had a normal explanation why someone was back there. But, of course, it very well could have been angels. But either way, you can be sure that it resulted in the very thing our Lord wanted—my friend and I were yelling, “Thank you, God!” And “Praise the Lord!”
Which brings us to the last thing we want to reflect on about our guardian angels. Why does God bother using angels to guard us? My goodness, he doesn’t need their help. He can guard us just fine without their help; after all, he is almighty, all knowing, and omnipresent, why does he use angels?
Because—and this is very important; if you don’t know this about God you do not know really know him—ours is a God who loves to use means to give his blessings. And so it is, he loves to use jobs to provide our daily bread. He loves to use good communication a lively marriage bed to provide a happy marriage. He loves to use schools and books and youtube videos to provide us the blessing of learning. When we are depressed, he loves to use good sleep and good exercise and good sunlight and sometimes good counseling and medications to lift our depression. And when it comes to keeping us safe, he loves to use angels, along with locks on our doors, parents, careful driving, and the police. Ours is a God who loves to use means miracles to provide his blessings.
So it is, when it comes to his greatest gifts of all—his love, his forgiveness, his salvation, and the faith to believe it—he loves to use the Bible, and Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, otherwise known as the means of grace. Because ours is a God who loves to use means to provide his gifts. Which is why, even though he can keep us safe all by himself, he also uses the blessing of angels to “guard us in all our ways.”
Rev. 12:7-12—“Staying sharp”
Do you know what one of the great benefits of competition is? You stay sharp. Which is very good. Because bad things happen when we get too comfortable. We get sloppy. If security guards get too comfortable, bad things can happen; in marriage, if a husband or wife gets too comfortable, bad things happen. One of the great benefits of competition is that it keeps you from getting too comfortable, it keeps you sharp. And in this world, we need to stay sharp.
Because it’s not only the good angels who have a Job Description. So do the bad angels. Do you know what’s on a demon’s Job Description? From Scripture, we know that: #1) They mean to do harm to a believer’s body as often as possible. (Luke 13:11,16) #2) They mean to do harm to a believer’s finances and to their property as often as possible. (Job 1:12ff, Matt. 8:31-32) #3) They mean to do harm to a believer’s faith by tempting them to sin as often as possible. #4) They mean to do harm to a believer’s soul by keeping them away from worship and the Word as often as possible. (I Peter 5:8, Matt. 13:18ff) and #5) They mean to do harm to everyone’s soul by spreading false doctrine in as many ways as possible. (John 8:31ff and 44ff, Eph. 2:1-2)
This is what you and I are up against. So, don’t get sloppy. Stay sharp; competition keeps you sharp. And the ultimate competition, of course, is war. “And there was also war in heaven.” Or better, “in the sky.” John is telling us what he saw in the sky above the island of Patmos. “Michael and his angels fought with the dragon. The dragon fought back along with his angels.” This is referring to the great cosmic battle going on when Christ was crucified, died, and was buried. The ultimate battle of good verse evil, as Jesus hung on the cross. These good angels were fighting for us, too. To be sure, it was Christ who was doing the heavy lifting of paying for our sin. But the angels fought for us, too.
“But he was not strong enough. There was no longer a place for them in heaven (or better, “in the sky”). The great dragon was thrown down—that ancient serpent, the one called the Devil and Satan, who leads the whole inhabited earth astray—he was thrown down to the earth and his angels were thrown down with him.”
What threw the devil down was Christ shouting from the cross, “It is finished!” That’s why the voice in our reading says, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ. (which, btw, might sound familiar, because this passage is in our communion liturgy) For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.” Now when Satan runs to God to point out what you have done wrong, God just gives him that “how-dare-you!” look and says, “Shut your mouth!” And he must. “For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before God day and night has been hurled down.”
Where was Satan hurled down to? The earth. This is a serious situation for us. This is why we need to stay sharp. Get sloppy with how you listen to the Word and you are helping Satan and his demons harm you, your friends, your family. Get sloppy with how you live what you learn from the Word, and you are helping Satan and his demons harm you, your friends, your family. And if you go beyond sloppy and willfully sin, you destroy your own faith and Satan wins.
“And there was war in heaven.” Or better, “in the sky.” Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.” There was war when Jesus was on the cross, war for our salvation. There still is war, for our souls. Stick close to the Winner and his Word/Sacraments in this war zone in which we live.
Luke 2:8-14, 24:1-8—“The Last Thing You’d Expect An Angel to Say
The angels love our Lord with a crystal clear pure love. And when you really love someone, I mean really, really love them, the last thing you want to see happen is for that person to get hurt or humiliated or killed.
And that’s what makes what the angels sing at Christmas just about the last thing you’d expect. What they say is, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” as if they are all excited about Jesus coming to earth. Given what Jesus’ coming to earth means for him, doesn’t that strike you as odd? Wouldn’t it be more logical if the Christmas angels had said, “This is the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to our Lord! His being born in Bethlehem has put him on a collision course with humiliation and rejection and suffering and a horrible death! This is terrible!” That’s what we should expect the Christmas angels to say. But they don’t. Instead, they are excited. How do you explain that?
Jump ahead to the end of Christ’s life. He has died and rose again. In addition to the vast quantities of humiliation he has just experienced and the vast quantities of sheer, physical pain on the cross, he has also had the most horrific experience a human being could ever have—he has been forsaken by God. And then he was laid in a cold, hard grave. Didn’t even get a proper burial.
After all that, what would you expect the angels, who love Jesus with a perfect love, to say to us sinful human beings? Wouldn’t you expect them to say, “Well, I hope you’re happy! I hope you’re happy, now! You miserable sinners! He was doing just fine without any of you. It was because of you that he had to go through all of that! Sure, he’s risen now, no thanks to you. And most of you aren’t even going to believe it anyway.” That’s what you would expect.
But that’s not what they say. The angels at the tomb are excited, just like they were at Christmas. They invite the women who come to the tomb to remember what Jesus said. How he told them he had to die and rise again—and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
Because saving us from hell and paying for all our sin is what makes Jesus happy. And if that makes Jesus happy, then that is what makes the angels happy. Which explains this little detail about the angels that Jesus gives us in Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
May you, may I, be that sinner who repents every single day of our life and brings joy to the angels every single day. Until that day they carry us who repent and trust in Christ and his Word of forgiveness to heaven. Where, I think, they will have plenty of time to tell us all kinds of stories of how they kept us out of trouble and accidents and bad guys who wanted to mug us and bad germs that wanted to make us sick…and we didn’t even know, because it didn’t happen. And plenty of time to explain why sometimes they had to let the accidents and bad guys and bad germs get us—for that, too, served God’s good and gracious plan. For not all pleasant things are good, and not all painful things are bad. In fact, painful things often work in us the best thing of all—the utter realization that this world is not home and so if we want heaven to be our home it is necessary to stay close to Christ and his Word/Sacraments. For he means his home to be our home, as a free gift, given to those who do not deserve it.
These things the holy angels will be able to tell us. And they will enjoy telling us. And we will enjoy hearing it. And the one who will be enjoying it most of all will be the God who has gone through so much so we can be there with him, in his home, forever. Amen.