A Message from Michael
"Message to Michael" was a Top Ten hit by Dionne Warwick in 1966. It was first recorded, however, in 1962 as "Message to Martha." To me the song changes whether it's to a him or a her. Our text changes whether you read it as signifying or reporting. Revelation 1:1 says God "sent and semaino" the Book of Revelation by His angel to His servant John. Semaino is Greek for signify. When you read our text as a report of Satan's initial rebellion and fall from heaven you're missing the message from Michael that this text signifies.
Heaven was open to Satan even after the Fall. Not as the bright morning star, but as the Great Dragon, the Ancient Serpent, the Devil, Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. Job 1 and 2 tell us this. We read in 1:6, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." And 2:1 tells us, "Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves , and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord." And just what is Satan, the Devil, the Ancient Serpent, the Great Dragon doing in heaven? He's doing in heaven what our text says. He's accusing our brothers "before our God day and night."
Zechariah 3, another book of symbols records this vision. "Then he [an angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him" (3:1). Job 1 and 2 records the accusing without symbols. God brings up Job's uprightness and Satan accuses: "'Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face'" (1:9-11). When Job stands firm despite losing property and children, God points that out to Satan and again Satan accuses: "'Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse Thee to Thy face'" (2:4-5).
If you've been through military basic training, boot camp, or I suppose even fraternity pledging, every which way you turn, you're wrong. And if not, you know this sort of thing in your own conscience, and it drives you crazy because the accusations of others or Satan himself echoes in your conscience magnifying them. God's Word, specifically His Word of promise, gave Satan standing in heaven. God had promised that the soul that sins dies. God had given His Word that He would punish every, not just sinful deed and word, but thought too. But here is Job walking around hale and hearty. Here are you guilty of breaking every commandment every day. Where's the hellfire? Where's the brimstone? And these accusations of Satan reverberate in the halls of heaven, into the ears of others, and toll in our own conscience.
Michael's message to you is that Satan was in heaven accusing you day and night but that he has been thrown out and not by him but by Jesus. Did you hear that little phrase that says it all? "Satanhas been hurled down. They [our brothers] overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" to Jesus' blood cleansing them of all sins. Revelation 12, like a graphic novel of Superman or Batman, shows you physical pictures of a war in heaven. The bulletin cover depicts a theme from a painting that has been around from the early 1500's. You can symbolize the war in heaven; you can picture angels going up against devils stabbing and slashing, wrestling and throwing till finally "Satan was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." This is a memorable picture, an accurate picture but it signifies something that can't be painted.
Jesus defeated Satan and cast him out of heaven by satisfying God's Law which gave Satan standing before God and entrance into heaven. God said the only way you can't be accused for your uncountable sins, or just the 3 or 4 that haunt you in the dark, is if His law convicting you and condemning you is kept. God the Son took on your flesh and blood, being born under a woman, so as to be born under all of God's Laws. Then as a Man, without using any superpowers, any of His divine powers, He kept all of God's Laws perfectly. Hear the cacophony of accusations rattling in your conscience and hear them being silenced one by one as Jesus fulfilled the Law that gave voice to them. Ahh the blissful silence of an accusation free conscience. But as the infomercial says: wait there's more. And yes Jesus doubles the offer but you don't pay the separate fee; He does.
The Law's requirements had to be kept but so did it's penalties. The eternal, holy God was sinned against. It's His wrath that you can only imagine and fear which had to be satisfied. You know how red hot mad you can get when you think you are justified in being mad at someone? Imagine the wrath of the Holy God. It took a lot to satisfy, to quench, that. It wasn't satisfied till Jesus has been whipped, slapped, nailed, bled, suffered, sighed, and cried for every law of God humanity ever broke. Hear the sizzle as the white-hot wrath of God is put out in the blood, sweat, and tears of Jesus. The sting of death is sin says Paul, and the strength of sin is the Law. Ergo, satisfy the Law and you remove the power of sin and the sting of death. With the weapons of the Law, sin, and death knocked out of Satan's hands, he has nothing to fight with and out of heaven he's thrown.
Revelation 20:1-2 shows you this again in pictures. Hear how Satan is described in the same way as here: "And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time."
Did you catch the other similarity? In our text, reference was also made to a short time. "He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." If this short time' is not right now than when? For almost 50 years this nation where the Gospel was set free to work miracles has been killing babies at a much higher rate than pagan Carthage or Canaan ever did. Furthermore, we've turned what God joins together in holy wedlock into something we can break when we feel like it and have the benefits of without the obligations, and now we pretend we can join what God can't: men to men and women to women. When pastors and denominations, in God's name, publicly defend the right to kill the unborn and to defile holy matrimony, what is this but Satan on the loose knowing his time is short? If Satan is not laughing with delight today, then he never will.
But the message from Michael is not gloom and doom, far from it. The Church has for centuries celebrated St. Michael and All Angels to be reminded that these holy, good, helpful beings are still on the job. Yes, even though our text signifies very bleak things for the earth and it's not climate change, plastics in the ocean, or the next pandemic right around the corner Michael and all the angels are still here. Even though we read that Satan and his devils were hurled to earth and "woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has come down to you", the message from Michael is fear not, despair not.
Hebrews 1:14 asks a rhetorical question: "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" Or listen to the Introit: His angels "do His biddingobey His worddo His will." And did you hear the Gradual? It's better, more personal in the KJV: "For God shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways." Are you an heir of salvation? You are if you have been Baptized into the Kingdom of the Triune God. What does the Word, the Will of the Lord bid His angels do for those who have been absolved in His name? Jeremiah 29:11 tells you, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And if this is what the Lord will do for the baptized and the absolved, how much grander things will He do for the communicated? Those not joined at the hip to Him but bodied and blooded to Him for time and eternity. He looks at them and says, "This is My beloved with whom I'm well pleased."
The message from Michael doesn't just take to you to the sacraments here and now, though these are your connecting points to all that Jesus is and does for sinners. In the OT reading the message from Michael takes you back to the time of Daniel, about 525 BC. Look, here's Michael guiding the affairs of nations! Remember angels have done much for God's people in the past. Angels led Lot safely out of Sodom. A whole company of them met Jacob returning to the Promised Land to face the brother Esau he had cheated coming at him with 400 armed men. Fiery angels in chariots surrounded Elisha to protect him from the army of the Arameans. One angel struck down 185,000 Assyrian warriors about to sack Jerusalem. Angels shut the mouths of lions wanting to devour Daniel. In the NT: angels told shepherds their Savior was born, strengthened that Savior in Gethsemane so as a Man He wouldn't die till He had satisfied God's wrath against us, and made sure the women knew He had risen. An angel broke Peter out of prison and in a howling hurricane on a storm tossed ship an angel stood beside Paul to assure him.
I have a message from Michael: Angelic powers, defenders, helpers, rescuers, and warriors aren't in the past, but for Jesus' sake, in His Name, angels have been in your past, are in your present, and will be in your future. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Michael and All Angels (20190929); Revelation 12: 7-12