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"Seen of Angels" (1)

P McCauley, Belfast

In 1 Timothy 3.16 the apostle Paul makes six great statements, each of which is worthy of contemplation, but we will confine ourselves to the third one - "seen of angels".

The implication is that before God was manifest in flesh He had never been seen of angels. They had never directly looked on Him. Isaiah 6 would support this. In that passage the prophet is given a vision of Jehovah upon His throne. The Lord’s glory fills the temple; the awe and atmosphere of divine majesty causes the prophet to fear. Seraphim surround the throne proclaiming the holiness of the Lord. These beings had the immeasurable privilege of ministering in His presence, yet they did so with veiled faces, not daring to look upon Him who sat upon the throne. The awesome intensity of His glory is too much to look upon, and in such circumstances He was never seen of angels.

His birth

But then the moment came, the moment that prophets foretold but never understood. An angel announced it but could never explain it – God was manifest in flesh; the Eternal stepped into time, deity entered into humanity; He who ever was and will be in the form of God took upon Him the form of a servant. Truly, "without controversy great is the mystery…".

We marvel that the Lord came into this world, but we know so little of the heaven that He left. The angels knew it well, for it was their home also. An angel left those shores of paradise to proclaim the Christ’s arrival to a band of shepherds on the Judean hills. As the angel left heaven he was surrounded by the glory of the Lord and accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly host. While this was taking place, not far away the One whose birth he announced was being laid in a manger. He had left heaven, but had done so without a blaze of glory and without angelic attendance. He entered silently, unknown and unnoticed by earth but observed by the wondering hosts above. We can only imagine what thoughts filled their hearts as they saw their Creator "made a little lower than the angels" (Heb 2.9). That night, for the first time ever, He was seen of angels, and what did the angels see? They saw a baby, wrapped up in swaddling bands to protect Him from the chill of the night air, a few pounds in weight, a few inches in length, yet in the frailty of infant flesh possessed of every divine attribute without subtraction or minimisation. Luke tells us that the angels went away into heaven again, but their Creator would not return to heaven for another thirty-three years. He stayed and passed through experiences that no angel ever has been asked to endure. He grew up in humble surroundings. He knew hunger and thirst. He felt the sting of the wind and rain, and the discomfort of the burning sun. He bore the hatred of those He loved, the rejection of those He sought, and the sorrows of those who were hurting. He was oppressed and afflicted. He was wounded and bruised. He wept and suffered. He bled and died. When He returned He did so with marks of crucifixion in His body. All the while angels watched with wonder from the warmth of heaven.

What a moment that was that night at Bethlehem when angels were permitted for the first time to lower their protecting wings and gaze with unveiled faces, yet with reverent adoration, upon their Creator, God manifest in flesh.

His baptism and temptation

After thirty hidden years the Lord Jesus commenced His public ministry by being baptised in the Jordan, after which He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the divinely appointed encounter with Satan. At the outset of our Lord’s ministry God would prove His fitness for the work by demonstrating that He could not fail. For forty days the tempter’s heinous onslaught continued but could never make an inroad into Him, or find a fault in Him, or gain a response from Him in whom is no sin. The outcome could not be otherwise: the defeated devil flees the scene and angels come to minister to the impeccable Christ. They would remember the rebellion of that privileged and powerful angel and would rejoice that, though he brought other angels down with him, he could never bring the Lord down. On that sad day when the first Adam fell, angelic beings were commissioned to stand as a guard to keep the way to the tree of life, but on this day they saw the triumph of the last Adam, who would restore all that the first Adam lost, and much more. They do not come to act in judgment, but rather they gladly come in submission to serve Him.

We have been given the privilege and opportunity of ministering unto Him. Angels were delighted to leave heaven and go to a wilderness to do it; how is it then that we do it with so little zeal or devotion? How far would we go for Him? What would we leave for Him? Where would we go for Him? It is amazing that God allows us to serve Him, especially when we do it so often with cold hearts and complaining spirits. He has the hosts of heaven at His disposal, but He desires the willing service of redeemed souls.

To be continued.


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