ST. MICHAEL AND ALL THE ANGELS
And he said, "Don't be afraid! For greater are those who are with us, than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed, "Oh LORD please open his eyes that he may see." And so the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:16-17
Scripture heartens us many times with the words, “don’t be afraid.” It tells us that the only thing we should fear is God Himself, but for Christians who have conquered the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb it is a holy fear; one that attracts rather than repels, one that leads us to love and to trust in God above all things; to call upon Him in the day of trouble, and then to rest peacefully knowing that He will deliver us. This is the faith that Elisha possessed.
But if Scripture admonishes us so often not to be afraid there must be a reason, there must be many things that frighten us and fill us with anxiety. For Elisha it was a battalion of Syrian soldiers armed to the teeth. They wanted Elisha dead or alive because he had such a powerful gift of prophecy that he perceived every Syrian battle plan in advance, and told it to the king of Israel, so that the Syrians were always routed. When they discovered that Elisha was Israel’s secret weapon they sent their best troops to silence him. They surrounded the city of Dothan where he was staying, and when Elisha’s servant saw the hoard of enemy troops he trembled with fear, but Elisha was worried not at all.
We too are surrounded by the ever present threats of sin, death and the devil. We know them well but we aren’t always aware of the different forms they take. Satan, for example, rarely shows up in a devil costume. In fact St. Paul warns us that when it suits his purposes, he can appear to us as an angel of light, a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. Luther teaches us in his famous hymn “on earth is not his equal.” He reminds us here that Satan is smarter and stronger than we are, and that he has numerous cohorts to assist him in his wicked ways. Many of them are found inside the church itself. This is very perverse, but is the case none-the-less. Rather than preach Christ crucified; rather than exalt the Word and the Sacraments which transmit the remission of sins to us, these “synagogues of satan” justify sin, and discount Christ until He is nothing more than a nice person who teaches others how to be nice. But Jesus did not bless little children, or warn away any who would harm them, or provide Celestial Warriors to watch over them because He is nice, but because He is God, because He is love, and because He is, as we sing in hymn (The Lutheran Hymnal) 351, “all compassion.” The devil has his people outside the church too. On the street they deal drugs, on the internet they dispense pornography, in finance they advocate greed and in entertainment they promote godlessness.
Sin is also our constant enemy. Though our slate is clean before God by faith in Christ, we still have Flesh which produces a never-ending stream of malicious thoughts, words and deeds. These are as offensive to God as they are harmful to our neighbor, so we must never cease our struggle against them, but because we have this millstone hanging around our necks we should be all the more scrupulous, even fanatical, about our attendance at God’s House where our vices are absolved by the Word and dissolved by the Sacrament.
And there is death; it too makes us afraid. Not only the final nail in the coffin, but all the tacks along the way: illness, aging, depression, addiction, poverty, crime, continual wars, endless disputes and disagreements and the like.
What could Elisha possibly have known when he says to his young aid: don’t be afraid? Through the eyes of faith he saw what his servant could not: a vast army of horses with chariots of fire that had come to his aid, greater in number and superior in power than the army that surrounded him. It was no mortal army that God sent to protect his prophet, dear Christians, quite the contrary. The Lord of Armies sends warrior angels who are all-business, and who never fail to protect us from the otherwise unbeatable foe. It is by their tireless aid that God fulfills His promise to, “defend us against all danger and guard and protect us from all evil.”
Now chances are slim that we will ever see them with our own eyes, but what our eyes don’t see, our ears have been opened to hear, and our hearts taught to believe, so that under all circumstances we too can confess: greater are those who are with us, than those who are with them; or in the words of St. Paul: if God be for us, who can be against us? Consider too the many potent weapons we have at our disposal for the conduct of spiritual warfare. First we have Jesus who died and rose again in order to destroy the works of the devil to win the victory over sin for us, and to defeat the “final enemy,” death. We have the Sword of the Spirit which can fell the devil with one little word. We have 122 years of continual grace at Christ Lutheran Church, which since 1889 has provided new birth to the Lord’s little ones by the washing of regeneration; pardoned the sins of the penitent; filled the hungry with Good Things and conveyed to us every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have pastors and fellow Christians, singers and musicians, feasts and holy days, a rich fare of lessons repeated every year, dozens of prayers and hundreds of hymns to bless us and keep us at all times, and as if all this were not enough, every Christian, adult and child alike, has his own personal guardian angel, who is fully-armed and fully-prepared to visit wrath of God on any who would harm us, mislead us or tempt us, the Lord’s little ones, into sin.
Without doubt temptation must come, and there are many enemies who surround us, but whatever the opponent be we can always rest confident in these words: don’t be afraid for greater are they that are with us than they that are against us. Amen
~ Rev.Dean Kavouras