St. Michael and All Angels

Preached: September 30, 2012

Angels: Spiritual Warriors Guarding God's People
Psalm 91:11, 12

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit comforts our hearts is Psalm 91:11, 12

For he commands his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in your hands so that you won't strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91:11, 12).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV84). You heard those words three weeks ago as the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 urged us to put on the full armor of God to stand firm against Satan's assaults. In the sermon we saw how God's Word equipped us with this armor for our spiritual warfare. The text today reminds us of powerful allies we have in this battle: God's angels. “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11 NIV84), Psalm 91 promises.

Angels: Spiritual warriors guarding God's people. That's the theme today. Part one: They guard you, who know the Lord in faith. Part two: They guard you from Satan's snares. Keep those parts in mind as we focus on the theme. Angels: Spiritual warriors guarding God's people.

A. They guard you, who know the Lord in faith

Most Americans believe in angels, surveys say. You can find angels in movies and TV shows. “It's A Wonderful Life,” “Angels in the Outfield”, “Highway to Heaven,” “Touched by an Angel” are a few of them. But forget the impressions those sources give you. Beyond the general concept of angels being good, these shows have little in common with what the Bible says. Even their portrayal of “good” doesn't fit what God reveals about his angels.

For one, God does not promise to send an angel to help an unbeliever, even if that unbeliever is falsely accused of embezzling funds and is about to jump off a bridge. He doesn't promise to send angels to help unbelievers win baseball games either. Angels serve God's people. They serve you, who know the Lord in faith. Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 NIV84). And when we look at Psalm 91 and the wonderful promise in the text, “he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11 NIV84), the Psalm is very clear who the “you” is to whom this promise is made. It's not made to everyone. It's not made to those people who meet the world's standards of being decent and respectable or whom the world considers down on their luck and deserving of help. It's not made to those who pray: “God, if you really are up there, could you help?” That's not a prayer of faith but unbelief.

So whom does the Lord promise to guard with his angels? Verse one says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High” (Psalm 91:1 NIV84), and verse fourteen says, “‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name’ ” (Psalm 91:14 NIV84). This promise is for you, you who know the Lord in faith.

For your faith lives in the shelter of the Christ's cross. Guilt beats down on us like the desert sun. The harder we try to run away from our guilt, the more dehydrated we become. Our own efforts to pay for our sin just wear us down. Trying to quench our thirst for forgiveness with what this world offers is like drinking the desert sand.

But the cross's shadow soothes your sin-parched conscience, so that we dwell in the shelter of the Most High. Jesus took the scorching heat our guilt had earned. He took it in your place so that in the shade of his grace you drink in his forgiveness full and free. Yes, you, dear Christian, you love the Lord, because you know how he loved you first. He so loved the world that he gave his Son. You acknowledge and confess the name of Jesus as the only name that saves. You know Jesus as your Lord who redeemed you to be his very own, ransoming you with his blood, so that you are his dear people through faith in him.

So, dear Christian, this is God's special promise to you, you who know him in faith. He commands his angels to guard you, yes you, dear Christian.

He commands them to guard you in all your ways. Don't doubt that. Don't doubt that through his angels God keeps you safe no matter how great the danger. When he says “all,” he knows that nothing is beyond his power.

Now as Christians, we want our ways to match God's way. This promise is not a blank check to go your own way, to go wherever your earthly desires or sinful nature tries to lead you. Jesus made that clear when Satan quoted this passage to tempt him to throw himself down from the highest point of the temple. Jesus used God's word to correct Satan's misuse. Quoting from Deuteronomy, Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7 NIV84).

Yes, don't doubt the Lord's promise that his angels are guarding and protecting you. You don't need to test it out by seeing how far you can go. And just because you can't point to anything miraculous in your life, don't think the angels aren't at work. How often aren't they guarding and protecting us in ways we cannot perceive or comprehend, in ways that seem quite natural to us? Don't doubt the angels' work. Believe the Lord's promise.

We live by faith. As God's people who shelter under the Most High, as God's people who love the Lord, our God, who first loved us, as God's people who acknowledge and confess the name of Jesus, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Lord, we live by faith. We believe that God's angels are guarding us. Even when we can't point to some sort of miraculous intervention, we take God at his word. That's what faith does, right? Faith does not require a miracle to prove that God is at work. Faith takes him at his word. Faith hears his promise that he commands his angels to guard us, and so faith believes. You, dear Christian, you believe.

Angels: Spiritual warriors guarding God's people. That means you, dear Christian. They are guarding you who know the Lord in faith.

B. They guard you from Satan's snares

But don't bad things still happen to us? Do you remember how in the sermon text last week the Apostle Peter told us not to be surprised at fiery trials or think it strange when we suffer as a Christian? We share in Christ's sufferings as we follow him. So how can this Psalm promise: “they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:12 NIV84)?

What happens when our foot trips over a stone? We fall, don't we? Now I realize that falling can be much more serious than a skinned knee. It can break bones. It can send people to the hospital. It can be the first event in a deadly chain-reaction. But what is the worst kind of fall? It's the fall from faith, isn't it? That's the kind of fall Satan is trying to engineer for you. Give thanks that God's angel's protect you from Satan's snares.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his forces. The Psalm pictures Satan is a couple of ways. When we sang “On Eagles' Wings,” verse two said: “Snares of the fowler will never capture you.” That's a paraphrase of verse 3 of this Psalm: “Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare” (Psalm 91:3). Satan lays his snares for you and me. We go about our daily business, just as birds hop around looking for their food and gathering materials for their nests. The bird doesn't know the snare it's hopping into. But the Lord's angels are guarding you and me. Despite Satan's deep guile and great might, despite his cunning and wiles, the mighty army of angels guards you, so that, as you follow Jesus and listen to his word, you need not worry about Satan tripping up your faith and catching you in his snares. What confidence that gives us as we follow Jesus!

Verses thirteen of the Psalm mentions the lion and the serpent as enemies. Who is the roaring lion prowling around looking to devour your faith? Who is the ancient serpent who led the whole world astray? But the mighty army of angels guards you as you follow the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who was slain but now reigns forever and ever. He is the Good Shepherd. Listen to his voice and follow him, for Satan cannot snatch you out of his hands. As your Shepherd, he guards you from that roaring lion and poisonous snake. With his angels he guards you from Satan.

But if God's angels can guard me from Satan, couldn't they also guard me from the earthly troubles that strike my life? They do have that power. But how often don't you and I need the sufferings, troubles, sicknesses, and losses of this life to keep us close to Jesus? Would the angels really be doing God's bidding if they made your earthly life safe and successful as your soul slipped into Satan's snares?

Rather, it's through these earthly hardships that our heavenly Father disciplines us to bring us up as his dear children. Through our spiritual struggles and crosses we learn to cling to Jesus and his word alone. Through the evils of life we learn to trust God's promise that he works all out for our good, as Romans 8 says. When are bodies suffer harm so that God can work a greater good, it wouldn't be right for the angels to prevent that lesser harm and so also prevent that greater good.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against Satan and his powers, and that, dear Christians, is God's promise here. His angels are guarding you, lifting you up, keeping you from falling into Satan's snares. So even when you suffer in this life, don't think the promise that the angels are keeping you from harm is just nice sounding words. They are doing just that. They are looking out for your eternal good which often comes through earthly suffering. Instead open your eyes of faith and know that the angels are there, not just one guardian angel, but the Lord's mighty army. Angels are spiritual warriors guarding you, God's people.

Open your eyes of faith. Consider what Elisha's servant saw at the city of Dothan. Elisha was the prophet to northern Israel after Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind with fiery chariots. The country of Aram was at war with Israel. Through Elisha God warned the king of Israel about where the Aramean army was camped. The king of Aram became so angry that he sent out men to find where Elisha was. They reported he was at Dothan. Listen as the account continues in 2 Kings 6.

“Then {the king of Aram} sent horses and chariots and a strong force {to Dothan}. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh, my lord, what shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don't be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 King 6:14-17). The angels are spiritual warriors guarding God's people.

No matter how powerful are the forces of Satan arrayed against you and pinning you in, those who are with us are more. Don't be afraid. See the mighty army of angels fighting for you. They are spiritual warriors guarding God's people, guarding you who know the Lord in faith, protecting you from Satan's snares. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313