This is the sermon for the minor festival of St. Michael and All Angels. The sermon text is: Daniel 10:4-18. The sermon theme is: What Do Angels Do For Us?. Here is the Written Sermon.
What Do Angels Do For Us?
Tonight I’m going to break the rules. Normally the sermon is the time to hear preaching. Sure, there’s a little teaching in a sermon. But a sermon is primarily a time for preaching. It is a time to apply Law and Gospel; sin and grace to the hearts and minds of Christians. The time for teaching is in bible class. Tonight I’m breaking the rules. Tonight I’d like to borrow your imagination for the first part of this sermon so that we can go back to catechism class. The bible mentions angels over 300 times.1 But, we don’t talk about angels too much—either in sermons or in bible studies. Why don’t we speak about angels? The primary focus of the bible is not angels. It’s you and me and what Jesus has done to save us.
So, at least for the beginning of our service tonight, let’s go back to catechism class where we learned these truths long ago. You are welcome to take notes in your bibles or on the back of your bulletin. In our “angel basics” class we’ll ask two questions.
First: When did God create the angels? God created the angels somewhere in the six days of creation. We don’t know exactly when. But, within those six days—on one of those days he created angels.
Second: Out of what did God create angels? In Psalm 104, we read: “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” (Psalms 104:4 NIV) So, the Lord makes angels out of wind and fire. You’ll notice that the Lord does not create them out of earth and dirt. he made us out of dirt. Since God has made angels out of fire and wind and not out of dirt there are important, practical conclusions we draw. Angels are genderless and bodiless. Angels are neither male nor female. They take on human form when they visit humans. But they are genderless. Because they do not have bodies they cannot enjoy God’s gift of sex. Because they do not have bodies they cannot procreate. And so there are a great number of angels. But they do not decrease or increase in number.
It is this second question that we need to dwell on for a moment. For modern people and indeed, many modern Christians either have not learned or completely throw aside what the bible says about this second question. Since the angels are spirit and do not have bodies then we do not become angels when we die. We remain humans. Since angels are spirit and do not have bodies angels and humans cannot marry and have children. I mention this because there are many, many movies out there and many Christians who believe the very thing that the bible condemns. Years ago there was that movie “City of Angels.” In that movie Nicholas Cage played the part of an angel who fell in love with a woman (played by Meg Ryan). And he’s so torn inside of himself because he wants to be with the woman he loves, but being an angel seems to be so much better than going back down to the earth. Stupid! Foolish! Dangerous! Jesus redeemed us from our sin so that we could have perfect bodies in heaven—not so that we could become angels.
Now, there is more we could say in our angels 101 class. But, if you’d like to know more, that’s why we have bible study classes on Sunday morning and ongoing Bible Information Classes throughout the year. Let this be enough for now. From here, we move into the book of Daniel. To be more specific, we move into chapter 10. Daniel tells us: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” (Daniel 10:5–6 NIV)
The first person we meet in these words is Daniel. Daniel is a prophet of God. And the Lord has just given him an amazing, fantastic vision. He has seen someone who looks like a man—and not just any man. He has seen a man who carries with him the glory of God. And what is the result of seeing this being who looks like a glorious man? “So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.” (Daniel 10:8 NIV)
Daniel was terrified. It is at that very time when he is terrified that this angel which looks like a man and yet has the glory of God comes to him and comforts him: “A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.” (Daniel 10:10–11 NIV)
Who is this angel who looks like a man? It seems pretty clear that this angel is Jesus before he took on human flesh. If you want the fancy term for this, we call this the Preincarnate Christ. You’ll remember Jesus, when he was on trial before the Jews of the Sanhedrin, he spoke these words: ““Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” (Matthew 26:64 NIV)
Jesus wasn’t just a son of man. Jesus was the Son of Man. And when Jesus speaks these words to the Jews of the Sanhedrin he is taking them back to the ‘Son of Man’ in the book of Daniel.
So, if you’re with me so far, and if you can see that this Son of Man here in Daniel is Jesus, then we can go on to speak about what Jesus is doing here in these verses. Jesus gives strength to Daniel. Remember that Daniel is terrified. He is frightened by the amazing sights he saw. He saw the glories of heaven. And what was the result of that? He was reminded of his sin. In fact, you will find this the pattern throughout the bible. When people come face to face with angels or with the glory of heaven, what is the response? Do they feel overcome with joy? No, they are overcome with terror. Ponder this fact the next time you speak to someone who says they speak to angels or that angels speak to them. Throughout the bible, we see that when people come in contact with angels they are terrified.
So, what does this Son of Man do? Jesus touches Daniel and comforts him with his word. And the Lord does the same thing with us, doesn’t he? We are terrified when we see the depth and breadth of our sin—all that much more when we see how holy and sinless our Lord is. Jesus comes to us and says to us the very same thing he says to Daniel: “you who are highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:11 NIV)
Jesus chose you. He died for you. He rose for you. He put his name on you in Baptism. He gives you forgiveness week after week in the Lord’s Supper. He has promised to you again and again that you are ‘highly esteemed.’
So here we are, about fifteen minutes into the sermon. And you might be saying to yourself: ‘when it he going to get to the good stuff?’ When are we going to learn about the angel, Michael. Let’s hear what Daniel has to tell us: “Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” (Daniel 10:12–13 NIV)
So Jesus tells Daniel that he wanted to come to Daniel. But there was a problem. The prince of the Persian kingdom was the problem. Who is the ‘Prince of the Persian Kingdom?’ In order to answer that question, we need to look at the word that is translated as “prince.” The word, שַׂר simply means ‘leader.’ It is a generic, yet respectful word for a person of high rank. This word, שַׂר, is one of Daniel’s favorite words for an angel. So, when it says that a ‘prince’ is in charge of the Persian kingdom, what Daniel means is that there was an evil angel who was fighting with all his power to possess the hearts and minds of the Persian leaders.
Who then was the one who went to war with this demon? Jesus was the one. He fought with this demon and won. But, he wasn’t alone. Even-though Jesus is indeed all-powerful, he allowed someone else to help him fight against this demon. Who was this helper? His name is Michael. As soon as we hear this name, we immediately ask who is this Michael? He is “one of the chief princes” (Daniel 10:13 NIV)
You’ll remember that, in Daniel’s writings, the word ‘prince’ often means ‘angel.’ So this Michael is a good angel. But he’s much more. He is one of the first of the angels. In the New Testament, Jude calls Michael an “ἀρχάγγελος“ —an ‘archangel.’ So, in the chain of command of angels, he’s either close to the top, or at the top.
And what is it that Michael this leading angel did? He helped Jesus. Or to word it a different way, He helped Jesus by waging war with demons. And this verse give us the answer to our sermon this evening: What Do Angels Do For Us? They do for you the same thing they did for your Savior and Brother, Jesus. They fight. They wage war. They use their power and might to serve the Son of Man and guard and protect you.
And so, my brothers and sisters, let us end tonight with one final question: What is our response to all of this? In answering this last question, let’s ask a different question first: What is not
} our response?
It is very tempting when we see Michael as the scriptures portray him to think to ourselves: “This Michael is pretty powerful. Maybe I should pray to him.” Let me say this as clearly as I can. This is not the conclusion we draw from these words. Daniel never prayed to angels. He prayed to the Lord.
Luther’s advice about praying to the saints also applies to praying to angels. There is neither a command to pray to angels, nor is there a command to approach them in our prayers. There is neither a command nor a promise! But there is a command and a promise to come to Jesus, the Son of Man with our prayers. Paul writes to Timothy: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 NIV)
We do not pray to or talk to angels. What then is our response? We thank God for
them. And we continue to ask our Father to send them. If you would like an example, you will find none better than Luther’s evening prayer:
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me through this night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.
And so, my brothers and sister, What Do Angels Do For Us? They fight for us. Pray then, open your hearts and mouths continually praying to the Son of Man that he would send his angels for you. Amen.
1 specifically, 305 (as a result of a word search in Accordance)