ANGELS and PROPHETS
Revelation and Incarnation
We have three things to consider
1. God’s intentions ordained
2. God’s intentions revealed
3. God’s intentions fulfilled
In these scriptures we see God speaking to us.
1. God speaks through prophets
2. God speaks through angels
3. God speaks through his son
In this week’s scripture readings we have the quotes of both prophets and angels as they speak of The Messiah.
1 Peter 1:10-12 says, “10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 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.
Both prophets and angels are messengers from God.
They both carry a word to us which comes NOT from philosophy, or science, or observation or intellectual deductions of reason. That Word of the Lord is exactly that, the Word of the Lord and not the reasoning of human minds.
Information that comes to us from outside the human scope of perception and intellect is called REVELATION.
It is knowledge, but not in some philosophical epistemological form. This is a kind of knowledge that transcends human sources.
It is just such knowledge that science decries and denies, for science, as good as it might be, and it is often very helpful, science has not developed any kind of machinery for detecting what is beyond the bounds of human agency. And, yet, the every person made in the image of God has the capacity to hear from and to know God.
More than any other feature of humankind,
- this one feature, REVELATION . . . that is, the ability to hear from God, and to know what cannot be known by any natural means, is what distinguishes humans from every other creature on this planet. We can know him.
In these scriptures, both in Isaiah and in Matthew, we see God enacting his will through the words of a prophet and the counsel of an angel.
The Bible is shamelessly unembarrassed about proclaiming the fact of REVELATION.
Infact, it is the bedrock of the entire Bible. The Bible begins with a proclamation that could only be known by revelation - "in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." The Bible begins where science can never go.
In fact, this is the central and most brazen feature of the Bible. its claim of coming from God; its claim of being the WORD of GOD, and not the words of mere men.
Without this feature, that is, REVELATION, the Bible would merely be a religious book, just like any other. It would have no significance at all.
There are many interesting and compelling religious books in the world, and there are many wonderful scientific discoveries, but the Bible fits in neither of those categories. The Bible, both the Jewish scriptures and the writings of the followers of Jesus fit into an entirely unique category; unlike any other.
The cynic and the skeptic doubts anything but human categories, but those of faith not only believe in more than human categories, but base their faith on experiences that transcend human categories.
How can anyone say they know God?
It seems an impossible statement for someone to say they know God.
How could anyone possibly know the God of the Bible - or any other god for that matter. Gods are gods, if for no other reason than that they transcend human limitations.
Think of your household pet. You are a god to them. You are inexplicable to them, and there is no way they could understand the complexity and subtleties of your thoughts. They have no concept of getting into a jet and flying to a distant land halfway around the world, for they do not even know there is such a thing as the big round world. Things you take for granted they cannot even begin to understand. Their’s is an entirely different world than ours – and their world is often incomprehensible to us. We are moral creatures and we would no more torture our food to death before we eat it than lift our legs and urinate against a fire hydrant to mark our territory – but a cat and a dog will do it as a matter of course. We are often shocked and surprised, even dismayed by the actions of animals, and they are stunned and confused by ours as well.
Animals would have to be human to understand human ideas and behavior. So too, we would have to be part of their creation. We would have to be dogs and cats to understand their odd logic, pleasures and motivations. In some ways – even though this is a very poor explanation, this is exactly what has happened in the incarnation. God had become human. AND in the Gospel, we learn that humanity will receive the Spirit of God, partake of the Holy Spirit and will be changed into the very likeness of the Divine – perfectly into the image of God’s Son. This is truly a TREMENDOUS revelation.
What does it mean to KNOW GOD?
What it DOES NOT MEAN is that we know God in every detail . . . that we have an exhaustive understanding of the Divine. The fact is, every person we know, we know authentically and truly, but there is no way any one can exhaustively know and comprehend another human being – how much less God?
But what knowing God must mean is that we can know him TRULY – as one person knows another person – not exhaustively, but intimately. We can know his person, his attributes and his ways. We sense his mood, his will and his manner of communication. We can know what KIND of God he is and we relate to him on a limited human level . . . not as a god with a god, but as a lesser being with a greater.
How does this knowledge come to us?
Some folks believe they can know God by looking at nature, and this is not without some logic. Many things about God can be seen and demonstrated in Nature itself. Even St. Paul says in Romans 1:18
Where would we be without Revelation?
If one were looking at the world alone, as a means of knowing and understanding God, we might come up with some true things and some misunderstandings as well.
One could tell many things about God from nature.
What sorts of things could we know?
Well – we could know that God is powerful. That he is orderly. That he designs things well. That he is predictable, like the seasons, and so forth.
What we could NOT know about God is that he is virtuous, faithful, good, kind, merciful, longsuffering or generous.
If nature was our only way of knowing God, we might think him unpredictable like tornados, capricious like tsunamis, unmerciful like a raging river, cruel like a spider in a web, and frightening like great predatory animals
What do we get from Revelation?
What we receive from the Revelation of the Bible is that God is good. He is all powerful. He is all merciful. He is a Redeemer. He is a Father as well as a Judge. We learn that God is wise and faithful, loving and consistent in all his ways. We learn that he does not change, that he is has no favorites, is no respecter of a person’s position-power-wealth-intelligence-good works, or high intensions.
We learn that he cannot be bribed, dissuaded from his will, or placated with human offerings of any kind or magnitude.
We learn that he will not ignore wrongs done, nor will he acquit anyone of the evil they have done by any human means available.
We learn that human being are foolish and ignorant compared to him, and that his thoughts are as far above our heads as is the universe above the surface of the earth.
We also learn that he is merciful to all people, not just to those we like.
We learn that he is on no one’s team. He is on his own side. Period.
We learn that without an intercessor, a mediator and a very skilled lawyer, we cannot approach his throne.
We learn that he is an infinitely powerful and utterly noble king, under whose command the universe itself resides in complete obedience.
We learn that he is the necessary being of all creation and that without him and his energetic facility, all things would dissolve into absolute non-existence.
All this and more we could never know without revelation.
Revelation is not only important, it is essential for the knowledge of God and for a relationship with him.
So, how does this all apply to Jesus Christ, why is Jesus so important and what difference does he make?
When we tell the story of Jesus, we are not merely discussing the life and teachings of a good man. What we are doing is telling about the ultimate revelation of God. He is not merely one prophet in a long line of prophets – each bringing a new piece to the cumulative understanding of God – no, we are speaking about the God of the universe entering his own creation and introducing himself on a level human beings could grasp, understand and respond to.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter one, the writer begins this way.
Hebrews 1 (ESV)
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God's angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.[a]
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
SO, what did God intend?
He intended to know us and to be known by us.
How did he make himself known
He made himself known through revelation
In what way did that revelation come to us?
It came to us through the agency of prophets and angels
What is the greatest revelation from God to us about himself?
God’s greatest revelation about himself to us was mediated through his Son, Jesus Christ, the
God-Man. This is what we say each time we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene or the Apostles Creeds. JESUS IS GOD’S TRUEST, PUREST, MOST ACCURATE REVELATION OF GOD. Nothing and no one can say it clearer, or represent God more accurately than Jesus.
This is why Advent and the celebration of Christmas is so incredibly important.
The world is cynical about the existence of God and about how God speaks to us – if indeed he speaks to human beings at all.
How do we know which voices to listen to?
How do we know who is representing God to us properly?
It all comes down to knowing God personally, not just performing religious practices to placate our minds, to sooth our consciences, or to ease the pain of our sickened souls, or to comfort our tormented hearts during this brief and fleeting life.
What God is trying to do is to bring us to himself. To live with us. To have us know him – to truly know him – but he cannot do that fully through angels and prophets . . . as good as they are . . . and they are good.
The best way for us to know God is through the God-Man, Jesus, who knows us because he was one of us.
We can know God through the revelation that was so up-close and personal that God wrapped himself in human flesh, blood and bone . . . a revelation of himself so intimate and so accessible that it is nothing less than a complete and total INCARNATION.
WE KNOW GOD BEST THROUGH THE MAN JESUS CHRIST.
Whatever others say about God, we see the truth about him best in Jesus.
In Jesus, we touch that God with our hands, we hear his words with our ears, we behold him with our eyes, we eat meals with him, we walk on dusty roads with him, he comes into our homes and eats and drinks at our tables, he speaks to us around the campfire and he gives us front row seats to the most horrific and stupendous miracle anyone could ever witness – his brutal murder, death, burial, his unexpected resurrection and triumph over every monster we ever feared – and he tells us – DO NOT FEAR!, I have overcome every obstacle, every sorrow, every pain, every demon, every monster, every failure. Put your trust in me. I will see you through. You will not die . . . you will live!
The Incarnation is the amazing meaning of Christmas!
If knowing God is important to you, then you must know and understand that ALL revelation was moving us toward the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. All revelation culminates here. Any “so called revelation” that does not reveal Jesus is no revelation at all. Every aspect of the revelation of God in the Bible was for the purpose of revealing himself in Jesus – and nothing else. He is EMMANUEL. He has come to us. He will redeem us and will bring us into the most amazing relationship to God anyone could possibly imagine.
Is there room in your heart for Jesus Christ today?
Ask him come into your life. Just say this – “Jesus Christ, Son of God, come into my life and heart today. Remake me. Renew me, and draw me into REAL RELATIONSHIP with God, through yourself. I will place my trust in you.”
If you do this, and if you mean it, Jesus Christ will make himself real to you, today. It may come all at once, or it may be like the dawning of the sun – gradual but glorious. Either way, HE WILL ENTER YOUR LIFE and you will begin a journey of knowing God that will astound you and transform you.
Let Jesus bring you close to THAT GOD who came close to you, in him, the Son of Man.
Let Jesus Christ lift you up from your doubt and fears. Let him give you an indestructible life. Let him bring you into that relationship where you will know and love God. Not that you would know him exhaustively, but that you would truly know him . . . like one friend knows another.
What good will knowing God do?
It will raise you, heal you, stand you on your feet, deliver you from every fear, strengthen and prosper you in all of life, make you an agent for good in this world, cause joy to reside with you and will bring you soundness of mind. Knowing God is not merely life; it is has all the components of an endless, vibrant, ever growing, solidly engaged gracious and beautiful life – not just now, but more and more as you learn to walk with him, love him and obey him.
Christmas is about the gift of eternal life.
Christmas is the only holiday that brings us close to God in the form of a tiny helpless child rather than the thundering power of an almighty God.
The first things we learn about God is that he is tender, humble and accessible.
I urge you today, come to that cradle in the stable and behold your God. He is lowly. He is gracious. He is vulnerable. He is accessible. Come and worship the unexpected REVELATION OF GOD – The miracle proclaimed and longed for by Prophets, Angels and Common People like you. Jesus is not for the elite. He is for everyone – he is for you.
I submit these thoughts to you for consideration and for acceptance, that you might truly know GOD, and be known by GOD.
There is no greater blessing in the entire world than this.
If you have this, you have ALL THINGS.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.