Elisha, thinking he is as good as dead, asks: “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
Isaiah, thinking he is as good as dead, exclaims: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The women who went to the tomb on the first Easter, thinking they were as good as dead eternally, questioned: “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”
Elijah answered Elisha: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
A seraph flew to Isaiah with a live coal from the altar and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”
The women were greeted by an angel with the proclamation: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”
Angels have the best job. Jesus tells us that they rejoice over one sinner who repents. In the Revelation to St. John we see that the angels live with all the faithful departed in ceaseless worship. And as we have seen from just these three examples, the angels, God’s messengers, get to relieve God’s children who think they are as good as dead. Today the Church thanks God for these ministering spirits who help us, His children on earth. We rejoice in the service of the holy angels who are with us so the evil foe may have no power over us.
But as we heard in the Epistle, the angels’ job hasn’t always been easy. After they angels sang their hymn, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men,” they went to war. Once the fullness of time had come, Satan’s days were numbered. No longer could he do what he had done since the Fall. He could not remain in heaven, telling God all the sins His children had committed, accusing all mankind day and night. His evil angels could no longer hold court with their murderous master. So the holy angels fought. Satan tried to destroy Jesus, tried to destroy the One who was sent to end his dominion of darkness. The fight was fierce, and the warfare was long.
But then Michael, whose name means “Who is like God,” delivers the defeating blow. Satan, who thought he was surely like God, if not better than Him, is defeated once and for all. But it’s no angel that defeats him. A created being does not win this victory, but Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, wins the day. By His Blood Satan is defeated. His one activity is taken away from him. No longer can he stand before God and accuse humanity of sin, because all mankind’s sin was drowned in the deepest sea as Jesus shed His holy, innocent Blood on Calvary’s cross. Satan was shorn of all his power, his throat crushed by the nail-pierced foot of the Son of God. No longer does he have an audience before God to rehearse the list of all your sins. Your accuser is silenced.
But he is not silent to you. He has been cast to the earth, and knows his time is short. His ultimate destruction is drawing closer by the day, so he has do to what he can to drag as many people with him as possible. So he and his evil angels work hard. Remember the hymn you just sang. Stanzas 4, 5, and 6 open your eyes to the work the devil is doing. “It always is his aim and pride the Christian people to divide.” “So now he subtly lies in wait to undermine both Church and state.” “He seeks the Christians to devour and slay them in his dreadful power.” You can’t sing those words and smile. You can’t sing those words and feel warm and fuzzy. Look at the life we live in Church and State. Doesn’t every word of that sound true? We’re more divided than ever. Deception, sin, and death abound. Satan seeks to devour us by robbing us of pure doctrine. We don’t live in comfortable days. We don’t live in a safe, carefree time.
And Satan is no one to mess with. He makes himself appear as an angel of light. He makes death seem good—abortion is an easy way out; euthanasia is your way of dealing with a loved one who’s a burden to you. He makes doctrine seem bad. He makes confessing Christ and standing for the truths of Scripture something that weirdos and freaks and outcasts do. He perverts and debases sex, marriage, and the family. Satan is hard at work to destroy you. He wants you in eternal flames with him, and he will do whatever he can to take you there.
So, what hope is there? First: remember there is only one who is omnipotent, and that is God. Satan is powerful, but he is not all-powerful. Nor is he omnipresent. He wants you to think he is just as powerful as God, if not more. But he is not. He is bound. God has limited Satan’s power. And God has defeated this ancient dragon, the devil and Satan. One little word can fell him. And so can one drop of Blood. And that Blood, the holy, innocent Blood of Jesus Christ was shed to defeat Satan and to set you free from his wretched bonds of torment and death.
And today, as we give thanks for the angels, you are reminded that you have one more layer of protection. Not only do you have Word and Sacrament and the Holy Spirit, but you have the angels. The same angels who fought Satan fight for you today and guard you. Their whole delight is to keep you, God’s lambs and sheep. They are watchful constantly. God gives you the whole angelic host to lift you up lest you strike your foot against a stone. They form a hedge of divine protection around you, keeping Satan at bay so you can pass your days in rest and quietness.
Elisha was comforted as his eyes were opened and he saw horses and chariots of fire all around to fight the enemy. Isaiah was relieved as the angel proclaimed his forgiveness by the gift that came from the altar. The women were overjoyed as they heard the first Easter sermon that Christ is risen. These are the angelic gifts of Scripture. And they are the same angelic gifts you receive today. God’s holy angels are here with you today and you join in their praises. You join in their heavenly hymns. They point your gaze to Christ, the Lamb who was slain. And one day they will bear your soul to its heavenly home where your voice will join with theirs in a hymn of ceaseless praise.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.