Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Angels' Joy in Our Joy in God's Joy

          I love it when God surprises me with something I have never noticed in his word. For twenty-one years this has felt very personal, like God teaching me things I could never know without him. Today was a fresh experience with something in God’s word that made my joy in Jesus feel as personal and real as ever.

          This week I have been considering the innumerable angels of Revelation 5, all “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!’”[1] The question that suddenly came to mind was this: since the angels are beyond the scope of redemption, what is their background that would tell us why they are so wrapped up in the worship of Jesus Christ because of what he has accomplished through his sacrificial, atoning, propitiating death?

          The passage that got me doing the most thinking was Luke’s description of the angels bringing Jesus’ birth announcement to the shepherds.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[2]

          I have read this so many times from the viewpoint of salvation, shepherds, the earth waiting for its Savior, but never from the viewpoint of the angels. The angel that appeared to the shepherds was surrounded by the glory of the Lord. The angel lived in God’s glory, and was coming as an ambassador of that glory.

          The glory of the Lord that was a terror to the shepherds, was the heavenly home of the angel. There was nothing new, surprising, strange or fearful about the glory of the Lord that shone around the angel’s visitation. The angel was bringing its home into our home, its world into our world, its glorious light into our demoralizing darkness.

          When the angel said, “Fear not,” it was not merely giving information to the shepherds. It was speaking as a never-ending inhabitant of the glory of God. It knew the glory of God. It knew the safety of the glory of God. It had seen the glory of God deal justly with the rebellious angels who followed Lucifer to their demise, and it had seen the same glory deal justly with all the righteous angels that continued in their love and devotion to the Living God.

          This angel knew what the Scriptures had to repeatedly publicize to God’s children, that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”[3] The angels knew that God was love, and that there was no fear in his love. The habitation of the perfect love of God was a habitation without fear. Fear has to do with punishment. The angels of heaven knew that they would not be punished. They knew that God was carrying out a redemptive work to deliver his people from the punishment of death demanded by the law.

          On the other hand, this angel knew that “whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” He knew that the recipients of salvation were sinners, doubters, little children who still believed they were the center of all things, including God, and truth. The angel had witnessed the failings of man for millennia. It was well aware of God’s judgments against sin in the flood, the tower of Babel, the plagues of Egypt, and the destruction of the enemies of God in the Promised Land.

          So now, as the shepherds immediately responded to God’s glory with fear, the angel knew that there was no need to fear, and yet knew the propensity of sheep to feel afraid at the slightest disruption to their quiet little worlds.

          The angel assured the shepherds that there was no need to fear because they were dealing with the glory of God. Not only so, but the angel knew that it had a message that was characterized by “good news”. This angel knew, more than any human being could comprehend, what it meant to all the angels that on that very night a baby had been born who was “Christ the Lord.” This baby was the “Christ”, the Messiah, the anointed one sent into the world to bring about eternal redemption. But, he was also “the Lord,” the King of heaven, the Son of God, the Lord of glory, the Lord of eternity, the Lord of all.

          What would the angel have felt speaking of this good news being “of great joy”? What did it know of its own great joy in watching the behind-the-scenes view of God-inspired  prophecies unfolding from behind the scenes? While shepherds saw the stage of darkness suddenly shattered with the spotlight of God’s glory surrounding this one solitary angel, the angel had just come out of the glorious presence of God where the throne room of God was filled with God’s glory, and filled with the praises of the heavenly hosts all joyfully delighting in this glory.

          So, today marks the day that I clue in to this wondrous truth, that the angel of God was speaking of a “great joy” that was shared by the angels as well as the recipients of salvation. This was more than an announcement of great joy to come, but it was already a great joy to the angels of heaven.

          I never cease to marvel at the grace and mercy of God in sending only one angel to center stage with this birth announcement of great joy. This speaks of the wonder of these angelic beings, and the joy of their place in the home of God’s glory, that one angel alone would bring such fear to the awestruck shepherds.

          And then God graciously gives the shepherds the joyful news of salvation, lets this wonder settle into their hearts, and stir them up with hope and expectation, before he suddenly shines the spotlight of his glory on a “multitude of the heavenly host” joining their comrade in declaring the praises of God’s glory.

          When we consider the angels praising the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of God’s people all over the world, and how they had brought the announcement of a great joy that the very Son of God had been born in the flesh for the salvation of God’s children, we can get a sense that they had their own experience of the “great joy” of God’s plan of salvation. As the audience to God’s redemptive drama, and the participants in ministering this salvation to the servants of God, the angels were sharing in the great joy in whatever way angels can share in this great joy. They are not the recipients of this salvation, but they are the wondering servants of God who rejoice to see the glory of God in the salvation he brought to such sinful people as us.

          As we further consider the angels bringing their praises to God in heaven, we must keep in mind this description of their role in the work of God. The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”[4] The inherent nature of angels is to be ministering spirits. Their service is focused on “those who are to inherit salvation,” meaning, all those who repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is what they were doing the night they announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, and it is what they are doing through the pages of Scripture as they leave us with their testimony that our Savior is worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

          So, with this in mind, that angels are ministering spirits serving the ones the Lamb of God had redeemed to reign on the earth as a kingdom and priesthood of all believers, we can now look at the specific qualities the angels use in their sevenfold expression of praise, and ask God to bring us to know Jesus in the very same way. Except, of course, as those who are the recipients of the salvation the angels long to look into.[5]

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Revelation 5:12
[2] Luke 2
[3] I John 4:18
[4] Hebrews 1:14
[5] “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (I Peter 1:12)

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