Get ready to tackle our coolest topic yet: Angels.

Angels –

“Fear Not!”

Angels say, “Fear Not!”
Daniel 10:8-19; Luke 1:11-13
Genesis 21:1-21
Luke 2:1-12
Matthew 28:1-10
Acts 27:1-26

As an aside, God also says, “Fear Not!”
Genesis 15:1-21
Genesis 26:1-25
Lamentations 3:39-58
And so does Jesus.
Matthew 14:13-33
Random Walk in a Religious Art Gallery, Step 8: Mark 6:38-52, Walking on water
Revelation 1:1-19

On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason angels have to say, “Fear not!”
Genesis 19:1-13, 24-28
Isaiah 37:21-38
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
Revelation 19:11 – 20:3

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Daniel 10:8-19; Luke 1:11-13, Angels say, “Fear Not!” (10/7/13)

I’m not sure who’s responsible for the idea that angels are either mild-looking, effeminate, and emaciated or else chubby and about 15 months old. I am sure that neither of these pictures is consistent with scripture. Obviously the many-eyed cherubim and the burning seraphim are pretty scary, but even the angels who “look like a man” routinely start out by saying, “Fear not!” Daniel trembled in the presence of the angel Gabriel, and Zechariah was outright afraid.

Genesis 21:1-21, Angels say, “Fear Not!” (10/8/13)

One of the first things the angel says to Hagar is “Fear not!” Possibly in this case it was the situation, and not just the voice of the angel, that was fearsome. Hard to tell.

By the way, Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael sent away free, not just abandoned. My understanding is that Ishmael, as the eldest son of Abraham, would have inherited a double portion of Abraham’s estate if his mother had been kept in slavery – including the covenant with God. The law provided that a slave woman and her children could be freed, and then the children did not have inheritance rights. This is what Sarah was taking about when she said, “Send away this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”

Luke 2:1-12, Angels say, “Fear Not!” (10/9/13)

When an angel appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, they didn’t “tremble” like Daniel or become “troubled” like Hagar or Zechariah. They were terrified! No wonder the angel’s first words were “Fear not!”

Matthew 28:1-10, Angels say, “Fear Not!” (10/10/13)

Two different groups saw the angels who came to roll back the stone from Jesus’ tomb: the guards and the women who had come to prepare the body. There is no record that the angel said anything to the guards, who were so frightened that they fainted. The first thing the angels said to the women was, of course, “Fear not!” They were still afraid, but they were at least calm enough to hear the angel’s message and be filled with joy.

Acts 27:1-26, Angels say, “Fear Not!” (10/11/13)

When an angel appears to Paul to assure him that he and all his companions will survive the dangers of storm and shipwreck, the first thing the angel says is “Fear not!” In this situation, however, it’s difficult to know whether the angel or the situation is fearsome. Either way, Paul believes the angel and relays the message to the crew and passengers.

Genesis 15:1-21, Aside: God also says “Fear not!” (10/14/13)

Abram wasn’t afraid; he was glum. The opposite of “fear” in the Bible isn’t always “courage.” Often the opposite is “love,” especially in the New Testament (e.g., 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18), but Abram’s case the opposite of fear appears to be confidence that God will fulfill his promises.

By the way, the business with the animals and the fire pot and torch was apparently a standard procedure for ratifying a covenant between a superior (in this case, God) and an inferior (in this case, Abram). The covenant put obligations on both God and Abram, much like a treaty or contract would today. (Of course, in a covenant between human beings, someone had to carry the fire pot and torch.)

Genesis 26:1-25, Aside: God also says “Fear not!” (10/15/13)

Both Abraham and Isaac were nomads, traveling the length and breadth of Canaan with their families, herds, and flocks. God had promised that if Abraham would go with him to this land, he would give it to Abraham and his descendants. Once when times were bad Abraham had to go to Egypt (Genesis 12), but most of the time he stayed in Canaan. Later, when Isaac was on his own, God told him not to leave Canaan, even in times of famine. On at least one occasion when God appeared to Isaac, he had to say, “Fear not.”

Lamentations 3:39-58, Aside: God also says “Fear not!” (10/16/13)

The siege of Jerusalem was full of horror for the people of Judah; to take just one example, the city was cut off from its food supplies for three years. Even so, Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” never suggests that the people were being unjustly punished. On the contrary, he says that when he called on the LORD, God said to him, “Fear not!” Never be afraid to return to God, no matter what you have done.

Matthew 14:13-33, Aside: And so does Jesus (10/17/13)

We normally hear the “Feeding of the 5000” and “Walking on Water” as two separate stories. In fact, they are all one story, because the second event follows immediately after the first and is closely related to it.

As you know, Jesus feeds 5000 men, plus women and children, so let’s say a crowd of 15,000 people, with five loaves and two fish. That night, the disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee in a storm, rowing against the wind. They are in trouble. Jesus comes along, walking on the water, and naturally they are terrified because they think he is a ghost. Jesus says, “Fear not!”

But then we see a really important point, after he calms the water and wind, they say, “You are the son of God!” Apparently this was their first clue – how did they think he was able to feed 15,000 people with five loaves and two fish?

Random Readings in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 8: Mark 6:38-52, Walking on water (3/11/15)

This is my favorite of our three illustrations of Jesus walking on the water. The waves break; the sky glowers; the wind blows; the ship founders. Meantime, Jesus walks majestically on the water, without a care except to reach the ship before it goes down with all hands. I think Gustave Doré has given us the best reflection of the scripture of the three, as well as the best work of art.

Mark is not given to introspection or analysis, but of the three gospel writers who record this event, only Mark makes the immediate direct connection between the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on the water. Jesus is the master of creation. Walking on water is, in principle, no different from multiplying loaves and fishes, but the disciples didn’t get it. Probably there are two reasons that we hear this from Mark and not from Matthew and Luke. First, Mark’s Gospel is Peter’s gospel, and Peter had reason to remember this incident much more clearly than anyone else! Second, Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels, and he is routinely more blunt and less awed by the disciples than later writers.

Previous Step. Next Step.
Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. Click to enlarge.
"Jesus Walking on the Sea" by Gustave Doré, from the Thomas Family Bible,
now in a private collection of a family member.

Revelation 1:1-19, Aside: And so does Jesus (10/18/13)

Apocalyptic visions are so symbolic that there is nearly always an interpreter. The interpreter speaks to the person having the vision and explains the meaning of what he’s seeing. In the Apocalypse of John, also known as Revelation, the interpreter is Jesus. In the vision, Jesus is scary looking, and John faints right away when he sees him. Jesus puts his hand on John and says, “Fear not!”

Genesis 19:1-13, 24-28, On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason angels have to say, “Fear not!” (10/21/13)

We saw in the past couple of weeks that angels, God, and Jesus are frequently heard to say, “Fear not!” There is a reason for this. Angels – let alone God or Jesus – are beings of immense and awesome power, and God sometimes directs them to use that power for the punishment of sinful people. When an angel shows up at your door, he may be there to save you from destruction, or he may be there to mete out destruction. Take care to stay in line with God’s will, which will keep you on the side of the angels.

Isaiah 37:21-38, On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason angels have to say, “Fear not!” (10/22/13)

Ten years prior to the event in today’s reading, Assyria had laid siege to Samaria, the capital of Israel, the northern Jewish kingdom. After three years, they defeated the city and deported all the people (the “10 lost tribes of Israel”) (2 Kings 18:9-12).

Assyria was a force to be reckoned with, and King Hezekiah of Judah paid tribute money for a while to keep them out of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13-16). The king of Assyria, ever greedy, came back to lay siege to Jerusalem, where his field commander spent quite some time mocking King Hezekiah, the people of Jerusalem, and – worst of all – God! The Assyrian king even sent threatening and mocking letters, which Hezekiah took to the Temple and spread out before God. Now, King Hezekiah is one of the very few kings who “did what the LORD considered right, as his ancestor David had done,” and God listened closely when he threw himself and his nation on God’s mercy (2 Kings 19:15-19. God sent the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah with a promise of rescue.

That very night, God sent an angel, who slew 185,000 Assyrian warriors and broke the siege. I doubt that the angel greeted the Assyrians with “Fear not!”

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason angels have to say, “Fear not!” (10/23/13)

Some denominations spend a lot of time thinking about the tribulations of the end times, and some denominations don’t spend much time at all thinking about the end times. One thing we all have in common is that we are convinced that the tribulations are going to happen to somebody else!

Does anyone out there identify with the weeds in this parable from Jesus? I doubt it. I suspect that even the worst of sinners consider themselves to be, if not “good,” then at least “good enough.” And I’m confident that you and I are wheat! We don’t have to worry about the angels who are going “gather out of God’s kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.” Do we?

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason angels have to say, “Fear not!” (10/24/13)

Paul was frequently stern, but he wasn’t normally mean-spirited. Verses 8 and 9 are either jarring or amusing, depending on your mood. He starts his letter to the Thessalonians – as usual – with a blessing on his readers and some complimentary remarks. Suddenly, angels appear in flaming fire to inflict eternal vengeance on all the enemies of the readers! Then the angels disappear and Paul gently assures the Thessalonians that he prays for them always.

Just as in Jesus’ explanation of the parable we read yesterday, the angels Paul is talking about will be present at the end times, when they will be instrumental in bring about God’s judgment and punishment of the unrighteous.

Revelation 19:11 – 20:3, On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason angels have to say, “Fear not!” (10/25/13)

We all know by this time that apocalyptic writing is full of symbolism and deals primarily with the end times. We have to be careful to treat the symbols as symbols. For example, the person in vss. 19:11-13, 15-16, and 21 is Jesus Christ; it would be a mistake to think that he literally has eyes of flame or a sharp sword coming out of his mouth, even on Judgment Day.

The angel or angels in vss. 19:17-18 and 20:1-3, however, look more ordinary, so are they symbols or not? An angel who delivers a message (17-18) is doing what angels ordinarily do, since “angel” means “messenger.” An angel who fights a battle for God (1-3) is also doing what angels ordinarily do, since God’s armies are often made up of angels.

It’s hard to say whether these few verses are symbolic or not, but for once it doesn’t matter much one way or the other. If these are literal descriptions of the jobs of angels on Judgment Day, they are alarming. If they are symbolic of what the angels will do on Judgment Day, they are equally alarming.

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Angels not in the Bible
Final Tidbits about Angels

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