What is popular culture’s impression of angels? What are they like? What do they do? A quick Google image search gives us a pretty good indication. Culture’s angels might just be beautiful women, perhaps auditioning for a Victoria’s Secret contract. Culture’s impression of angels could be dainty little children — almost like precious moments dolls — with halos and cute little wings.
If we take our cues from motion pictures, angels could be creatures that exercise supernatural powers to make a floundering baseball team fabulous. If we take our cue from television, angels just might be a few elderly women who heal fractured families and touch people’s emotions in Hallmark-like ways.
But then, how does God’s Word concur with or contradict this cultural impression of angels?
A few biblical examples:
After Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the serenity of Eden, God sent angels with fiery swords to keep them away from the tree of life. (Genesis 3)
When an angel appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem to announce the birth of Jesus Christ, his presence struck fear in the Shepherds. (Luke 2)
When Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) questioned the angel’s word concerning the birth of a son to his wife Elizabeth, here’s what St. Luke records:
And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time” (Luke 1: 19-20).
So God’s Word offers some clarity to culture’s clouded picture.
Angels are not beautiful women. In fact, the only time angels are mentioned by name in the Bible, they are given male names. Angels are not cute little cupids. They are heavenly beings, spirits of imposing presence and wielding great power. They serve at the behest of God and for the benefit of God’s people. Often in Scripture their role is as simple as their namesake – they are messengers of God to His people.
And finally, this from Jesus himself in the Gospel according to St. Matthew:
Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:10-11).
Angels are guardians of “little ones.” By “little ones,” Jesus certainly includes these “ones” little in age. But the guardians and keepers Jesus promotes here are not only for the young in age. Rather, these “guarding and keeping” angels are for the entire Kingdom of Heaven. Because
this Kingdom of which Jesus speaks – The kingdom of Grace and Forgiveness for sinners – is only for “little children” – those who know God in the “childishness” of humble faith – faith that receives God’s love in Christ.
For (The Lord) shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11).
I walk with angels all the way,
They shield me and befriend me;
All Satan’s power is held at bay
When heavenly hosts attend me;
They are my sure defense,
All fear and sorrow, hence!
Unharmed by foes, do what they may,
I walk with angels all the way.
(ELH; 252 v.4)
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend myself, my body AND soul, and all things. Let your Holy angel then be with me that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Rev. Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Norseland Lutheran Church
St. Peter, MN
Norwegian Grove Lutheran Church