Angels - Part 2
"But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’".
Notice the contrast here, Michael the archangel and the devil our arch-enemy. The word "but" informs us that we have a contrast from the previous verse. While false teachers flout, challenge, reject, despise, and scoff at authority, Michael, the archangel did not treat the devil flippantly. The story about the body of Moses, Michael and the devil is recorded in Deuteronomy 34:6 "And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day". The "He" in the passage is God. Jude seems to suggest that God buried the body of Moses through the service of angels or Michael the archangel. At this point the devil intervenes and Michael disputes and argues with him over the body of Moses. Note, Michael didn’t back down, "when he disputed (to oppose or contend) with the devil and argued (to say thoroughly)". Some say that the devil was arguing that since Moses had been a murderer (Exodus 2:12),the body belonged to him. Note, they aren’t arguing over the spirit of Moses, but rather his body. Lenski feels that since God buried the body, the body was preserved from decay, and the devil didn’t like this. Coffman speculates that maybe the devil wanted to use the body for purposes like the worship of relics in succeeding ages, that is, the devil didn’t like the idea that Moses’ burial place would remain secret to man. He wanted it to turn into some sort of shrine, and thus foster a false religion. Of course, all of this is speculation.
"Did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment": The term "railing judgment" is defined as: "slander, detraction, speech injurious to another’s good name, 2 Peter 2:12, a judgment pronounced in reproachful terms" (Thayer p. 102). First of all, Michael did not lose his cool. The remained dignified, and he did not use insulting or abusive speech, even against the accuser and father of all lies himself. He did contend, and he argued thoroughly, but he refrained from lowering himself to the devil’s level of speech. Secondly, he said, "The Lord rebuke you".
- If an archangel was so careful in what he said, how much more should mortal men watch their words. Even Michael knew that he didn’t have the authority to condemn the devil to hell, in like manner, we need to leave room for the wrath of God (Romans 12:19).There are times when we have disputed with someone, and they refuse to accept the Scriptures or be honest, that the only thing we can say is, "The Lord rebuke thee". Even when dealing with evil and dishonest people, we need to refrain from using sinful, abusive, and insulting language. Michael knew his place. Judgment belonged to God, God would condemn Satan, and Michael was expected to behave in a dignified manner, regardless of how the opposition was behaving.
This title occurs twice in Scripture (Jude 9; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and means "chief messenger, chief angel, or highest angel". The only named angelic being thus called is Michael. By the way, the Koran names four archangels (Gabriel, Michael, Agrael, Agrafil). While Gabriel is the only other angel named in the Bible, he is not spoken of as an archangel. Michael is clearly presented as being in charge of other angels, "And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon" (Revelation 12:7). The name "Michael" means, "who is like unto God". Some feel this name is one of self-abasement or self-obliteration, that is, Michael has no interest in glorifying himself. In contrast to the angels who did not keep their proper domain (Jude 6), Michael is very content to let God get the glory. Some have tried to claim that Michael is simply another name for Jesus, but Jesus is clearly contrasted with all angels (Hebrews 1:4-5,14 "all"). Michael is clearly called an angel, and why would Jesus say to the devil, "The Lord rebuke Thee", seeing that He is the Lord?
- In Daniel 10:13, Michael is called "one of the chief princes". In chapter 12:1, Michael is called, "the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people". This is an interesting section of Scripture. A heavenly messenger had been sent to Daniel, but was delayed for 21 days by the prince of Persia (reference to Satan?). Michael intervened and the original angel was able to deliver the message after all. The end of chapter 10 says, "Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince". In response to this statement, one writer noted, "I don’t know Michael but I’m glad he’s on our side" (Daniel, McGuiggan p. 169). Michael is viewed as the protector of God’s entire people, and this section of Scripture does give us some insight into the warfare that takes place in the spiritual realm. Satan is a powerful enemy and we are being foolish if we don’t take him seriously and think that God is going to automatically protect us without any cooperation on our part (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8-9).
His name means "the strength of God or man of God". It was Gabriel who came to Daniel to inform him and to give him skill and understanding in the things to come (Daniel 8:16-18; 9:21-23). The King James of 9:21 says "came to me in swift flight". (It has been suggested that if Gabriel were to catch some people in prayer, he would have to come exceedingly swiftly). It was Gabriel that revealed to Zacharias that he was to be the father of John, the forerunner of Jesus (Luke 1:19). And it was this same Gabriel that revealed to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:26-35). Gabriel specifically says concerning himself that he "stands in the presence of God" (Luke 1:19). Gabriel has, by tradition, been awarded the task of sounding "the trumpet call of God" (1 Thessalonians 4:16) at the time of the Lord’s return. This was made memorable by the song lyric, "Gabriel, blow your horn". Paul, however, did not write to the Thessalonians that Gabriel will blow the trumpet, nor it is revealed anywhere in Scripture.
The Cherubim means "to till or plough", and seems to suggest diligent service. The first Biblical reference to the Cherubim is associated with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). This guarding proclaimed God’s just wrath against sin, but also suggested future mercy, that is, they guard it, not against, but for men and women who will serve God (Revelation 2:7; 22:14). We are not told how long the cherubim guarded the entrance into the garden, it may have lasted all the way up until the garden was destroyed by the flood. We are given a little bit more information about the cherubim in Exodus 25:18-20. These representations of cherubim would have never been seen by the people. They were not allowed to enter the Most Holy place of the tabernacle or temple where the ark was kept. When they traveled from one place to another the ark was carried to the new location, and it was completely covered (Numbers 4:5).It is not until we reach the book of Ezekiel that we are given a detailed description of these spiritual beings.
"so I knew that they were cherubim. Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands. As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. Each one went straight ahead" (Ezekiel 10:20-22). "And each one had four faces. The first face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man, the third face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle" (10:14). A further description is given in Ezekiel 1:5-14. Here the modern world, which thinks of a cherub as child-like cupid, is shattered.
- Each face seems to symbolize a distinct characteristic of cherubim. Like a lion, these beings are courageous and fierce. As an ox is patiently industrious, and has brute strength, so are cherubim. As an eagle possessed far-sighted view (1:18), and speed, so do these creatures. Man is a rational being, is intelligent, and the face of man may also suggest the idea that man was made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), and the cherubim are not mindless creatures. Note of movement of these beings, it is pointed out several times by Ezekiel that when they took flight, they needed not to turn around, but went straight forward (1:9,12,17,20; 10:11,22). They also moved with the speed associated with lightning (1:14).
- The cherubim are also associated with God’s throne, "Thou art enthroned above the cherubim" (Psalm 80:1). They are connected with the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, which represents God’s throne or His presence (Exodus 25:22; 2 Samuel 6:2 "the very name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim"). In Ezekiel, they are inherently connected with the movements of wheels (Ezekiel 1:15-21), wheels seem to support a throne (1:26). From all of these passages it seems to me that God is telling us that the Cherubim serve as His personal attendants or escort.
The name itself means "burners" or "burning ones". This may indicate their ardent love and flaming zeal for the honor and service of God their Creator. "Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew" (Isaiah 6:2). The veiled face may indicate unworthiness and also inability to steadfastly behold or fully comprehend the glory of the Lord. Profound reverence and adoring awe are also suggested, as well as the care not to pry into God’s secrets and counsels. In the presence of an Eastern monarch the whole of the lower part of attendants was covered. Covered feet denote deep humility. Hence, four wings were for worship and reverence, two were for work and service. Isaiah is the only writer who mentions "Seraphim" by name, but the beings described in Revelation 4:6-8, do resemble them. The comparative rank of cherubim and seraphim is unknown. They are the only spiritual beings that are said to possess "wings". The seraphim appear to be leaders of praise. Complete subjection to God is characteristic of all angelic beings. We cannot be otherwise impressed with the unfaltering, unhesitating response of the cherubim to God’s orders. We are no less impressed with the endless, tireless praise of the seraphim. If we are prone to wonder at, and be amazed by these creatures, we should know that God is wonderful, and these creatures know it!
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503)644-9017