What's the Big Deal with Angels?
February 8, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The writer to the Hebrews opens his letter with an unusual statement: Jesus is “much superior to angels” (1:4). I say this is unusual because we do not think of angels much (at least I don’t) and don’t feel the weight of this comparison. Why was it so important for the writer to emphasize the superiority of Christ over angels? How does this impact us?
There are several places in the New Testament that we receive a glimpse into the esteem 1st century Jews had for angels. Stephen speaks about angels in his sermon before the Jewish leaders in Acts 7. He says, “This is the one (Moses) who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai…” (v. 38). An angel was speaking with Moses at Sinai.
The apostle Paul also affirms that angels interacted with Moses at Sinai when he says, “[The law] was put in place through angels by an intermediary” (Gal 3:19). God used angels to communicate (or, “put in place”) the law with Moses on Sinai. Angels, as the Greek word behind their name indicates, were messengers for God.
The messenger role of angels was on the mind of the writer to the Hebrews when he makes the comparison with Christ. He says in 2:2, “Since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable…”
For the 1st century Jews and the early converts to Christianity, angels were highly esteemed because God employed them in delivering the “sacred” Mosaic Law. In fact, esteem for the Law of Moses grew as the people believed that it was delivered to Israel not only by a mere human, Moses, but by angelic beings. The validity and importance of the message (the Law) was proportionate to the esteem of the office and importance of the messengers.
What do we learn from this? Idolization of the messenger leads to the idolization of the message, which can lead to missing the point of the message. This is the case for the recipients of Hebrews.
Angels = awesome.
Angels delivered the Law of Moses.
Therefore, Moses = awesome.
All the while they missed the point that the Law of Moses was a mere shadow of Christ and his priestly work for his people.
They missed that only Christ = awesome.
Typically, we’re not so enamored with angels as many in the 1st century. But we are still tempted to be enamored with messengers. In our “celebrity culture” certain preachers and authors gain large followings. Some of these messengers certainly proclaim the most excellent message of Christ. The large followings are not necessarily bad.
The warning of Hebrews, however, is that we must never lose sight that the Son is much superior to the messengers. The exhortation is to run the race, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” The best messengers fade to the background as they exalt Christ.
Perhaps that’s why the “messenger” of this letter to the Hebrews is unidentified.