The Message Delivered by AngelsFr. Barnabas Powell
For centuries and across all cultures and languages, the idea of “Don’t shoot the messenger” prevailed. In the days before our modern communications technology, the rulers would use the “town crier” to make announcements and even convey bad news to the village. It was considered treason to harm the local town crier.
But what about Messengers who bring eternally important messages from God? We’ve known these messengers as angels and their ministry to us is filled with stories of how these messengers brought God’s truth to us. The Bible is filled with the stories of angels bringing messages to people. An Angel wrestled with Jacob and spoke to him about God’s plan. An Angel spoke to the father of John the Baptist telling him about John’s miraculous birth, and an Angel brought the message to Mary that she was to become the Theotokos and birth the Savior of the World!
But angels also brought news of judgment like when 3 angels told Abraham that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Angels warn us, comfort us, and challenge us to take God’s wisdom seriously. St. Paul tells us today on this Feast of the Archangel Michael and the Bodiless Hosts that ignoring the Message of Angels leads to dealing with the terrible consequences of disobedience.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 2:2-10
Brethren, if the message declared by angels was valid 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 him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will. For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him? Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.
St. Paul is trying to get these Hebrew Christians to not give up their faith just because times have gotten hard and those who follow Jesus were being persecuted, rejected, and even killed. It’s understandable why someone facing that kind of pressure might wonder if they had made a mistake in believing and following Christ. These Hebrew Christians were being rejected by their tribe because many of the Jews rejected the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Of course, many Jews did believe, but now there was a concerted effort to pressure these believing Jews into abandoning Christ.
But Paul warns them that “the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution…”
And that Message was clear – God loves His creation and has set up the entire universe to be home to us. But God also designed His creation to operate on wisdom, love, and communion. Violating that pattern of creation creates consequences that we will mistake for God being angry with us. But that’s not the case. God warns His creatures that living selfishly will always produce a miserable life. God doesn’t curse us with a miserable life, He warns us that living in opposition to His plan is its own punishment!
Paul goes on to remind these Hebrew Christians that giving up on Christ means ignoring the countless times these people had heard of and even witnessed miracles that prove Christ is alive and He is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. And that Christ, not the angels (they are messengers), is the One Who is the King and rules the universe. Abandoning Him is abandoning their King and Lord. That doesn’t end well for people who make that foolish mistake!
Finally, Paul reminds these wavering believers that Jesus accepted to enter this =world “made a little lower” than the angels temporarily so that He could rescue us from sin, death, and Satan. Jesus submitted to physical suffering and death so that He could overcome all that for us and now He is “crowned with glory and honor” because of His voluntary suffering and death. Because of His rescue mission to save us, He has now brought “many sons to glory” and set us free from the power of death!
As we remember the Archangel Michael and all the Bodiless powers today, we marvel at God’s graciousness in creating these angelic hosts to be, as St. Paul declared in the first part of Hebrews, “ministering spirits” to serve us and encourage us to remain faithful to God in Christ. God sets an angel to watch over nations, but He also sets an angel as your Guardian to care for you as well. These ministering spirits pray for you, strengthen you, and even comfort you in times of trouble. Today we especially thank God for the Archangels Michael (which means “Who is like God”) and Gabriel (which means “God is mighty”) and Raphael, Uriel, Salaphiel, Jegudiel, & Barachiel, all archangels who minister to us and constantly behold the face of God in His glory. We have no idea how many angels there are, but St. Daniel the Prophet says “thousands of thousands” minister before God. So, these messengers bring us the words of wisdom from God to order our lives as faithful lovers of God. We thank God for their service to us and we pray for our Guardian Angel that God would strengthen this dear companion in his ministry to each of us.
Today, are you paying attention to the Message the messengers are bringing you? Are you willing to be humble enough to listen closely and willingly embrace these words meant to save you from a life of mistakes and wrong turns? If you want to live a Normal Orthodox Christian life, open your ears. open your heart and open your mind to the Message angels have brought to the world.
P.S. O Commanders of the Heavenly Host, we the unworthy beseech you, that through your entreaties you will fortify us, guarding us in the shelter of the wings of your ethereal glory, even as we fervently bow before you crying: “Deliver us from all danger, as Commanders of the Powers on high! “