Angels: God’s Marvelous Heavenly Protection

In the past holiday season, we heard much about angels. We heard the stories of Gabriel who announced Jesus’ birth to Zacharias and to Mary, and we read of the heavenly hosts which sang in the presence of the shepherds (Luke 1:25-26, Luke 2:13-14). I myself would say I do not often think about angels and their place in my own life. We marvel at the many times God used His angels as messengers and protectors in the scriptures but often forget  the glorious place they have yet today. God’s angels have much work. They work as messengers and “to serve [God’s] elect” (Belgic Confession Art. 12). I think it is important we remember the angels’ protection, God’s graciousness in sending angels, and God’s marvellous upholding of the angels.

 

One of the first times we see angels in scripture, they come to save Lot from the destruction soon to pass upon his home in Sodom (Gen. 19:15). The angels’ purpose was to turn Lot’s head and make him flee. By making Lot run from these cities, they protected both his physical and spiritual life. Perhaps Elisha’s experience with angels was the most terrific. As the city was about to be sieged, God opened Elisha’s eyes, and he witnessed the hosts of angels round about him (II Ki. 6:8-16). This was a sure comfort that God was there to protect him and an enlightenment to the angels’ place in Israel’s life. The angels also ministered unto Jesus in his temptations (Matt. 4:11). In John Calvin’s commentary on this passage he says, “we must not suppose, that Christ was ever forsaken by the angels: but, in order to allow an opportunity for temptation, the grace of God, though it was present, was sometimes hidden from him, so far as respects the feeling of the flesh.” The angels ministering then must refer to comfort, “care, fortification, and powerful assistance, against Satan” that the Father provided. We know the angels will work for our comfort as they comforted Christ. Also, though the angels in no wise granted us our salvation, the Father used the angels to uphold Christ in his physical suffering of the flesh so He might persevere to achieve our final salvation.  

 

Although we might not see the angels round about us as Elisha did, we must always be mindful that God still sends them today for us His people. When you might feel like all is against you, remember God has sent his hosts to fight against our enemies. God not only personally watches over us and is within us warring against our flesh but also has His hosts around us fighting the enemies. Often the world imagines a devil on one shoulder and an angel on another, but this minimizes what God says about His “hosts” of angels (II Ki. 6:15-17, Luke 2:13, Jos. 5:13-15, Ps. 24:10, Hg 2:4). God graciously sent His Son to save us from our sins, His Spirit to war within our flesh and give us spiritual strength, and His angels to protect us from Satan and his attacks against us.

 

God’s graciousness as displayed in His angels extends beyond their role in our protection. It is amazing to consider the righteousness of God’s angels. As Adam was the created head of man, Satan was the head of all the angels. In his fall, all the angels held a corporate responsibility. Although none of Satan and his wicked followers were saved, we know that it is only by God’s sovereign upholding that no more angels have fallen since Satan took a third part with him in rebellion and pride against God (Rev. 12:4). How gracious is God to protect and keep His angels, when their leader attempted to become like God and hated God. It is beyond our understanding that God has created other rational creatures besides ourselves which He upholds in a state of righteousness. How awe-inspiring to imagine that there are those besides men whom we will be able to talk to in heaven! 

 

It is altogether amazing to ponder on the existence of the angels, spiritual beings, who surround us and protect us. Their existence among us on earth and our lack of seeing them may sound like a fantastical story or something you would find in a child’s cartoon, yet God assures us of His angels and their protection for us. God gives us many blessings, may our focus always be on the great sacrifice of His Son and the glory of His name, but with admiration and thankful hearts may we find joy and comfort in the angel’s protection and service of us.

 

Luke Christian Potjer

 

 

 

Dating Differently: A Review

When I saw that the RFPA had published a book on dating I was concerned that it might be a preachy how-to book on the dos and don’ts of dating. I might have had it in my head that it would be a book calling the youth of the PRC to being more pure in thought and action. And while I wasn’t necessarily wrong, the book exceeded my expectations. 

Rev. Joshua Engelsma managed to write this little book with a conversational tone that makes it akin to an interaction between someone who is seeking advice and a relative who is willing to give it graciously and without judgement. Rev. Engelsma makes very clear already in the preface of the book what he intends to do with it and what he hopes the reader will walk away with. “But I do hope,” he says on the first page of the book, “this main thought sticks with you: as Christians, we date differently than the world around us.” Rev. Engelsma also acknowledges the length of the book and admits that he made it short intentionally. Not, he says, because he doesn’t think the youth of the church can’t handle a long book, but because he “thinks there is value in a short book that gets right to the point, that hits some of the highlights of dating, and that gets you thinking.” 

And get to the point he does. The chapters are set up to get the reader thinking about dating in a prioritized manner. All of the titles of his chapters are phrased as questions. Rev. Engelsma starts out with the help that is available to those who aren’t sure how to begin dating, or those who have questions at all. “Who in your life can you turn to when you aren’t quite sure how to proceed with this whole dating thing?” Rev. Engelsma asks this in the first chapter: “Is There Help?” 

His second chapter seems to get a bit ahead of himself by asking “Where is This Headed?” This chapter deals with the fact that when you start dating, you should be thinking about the person you’re with as the one you will potentially marry. Rev. Engelsma begins the book with marriage, and he does acknowledge that this concept might seem backwards. “In fact,” he says, “I’m convinced that marriage is so essential that it’s the only way to begin the dating discussion.” He proceeds to give two main reasons for this conviction: first because dating must be purposeful, and second because marriage is not only the goal of dating, but also the governing factor of dating. Both points are further explained. 

From there, the rest of the book is straightforward and takes a step by step approach to how to think about dating differently within the Reformed tradition. When to start, how to know if this person is “the one” or not, what to do on a date, how to incorporate the other people in your life while you date, and more. Each chapter thoughtfully deals with an aspect of dating that one might feel lost on. There is even a chapter that deals with how to be single in the church. “What If I’m Single All My Life?” is a chapter that explores what it means to be called to a life of singleness and shows that singleness is not unbiblical. This was a chapter that I was surprised to see in a book about dating, but I’m glad that Rev. Englesma took the time to incorporate it. 

The chapters are brief enough that they are able to hold the attention of the reader for their duration. Rev. Engelsma includes relatable examples, both fictional as well as using stories from his own experience and others’ experiences, which help the reader understand that these are real questions that come up in dating. I could always place myself into these examples and think about how I might manage the situation, a helpful exercise to be prepared for what can come up in a relationship. 

This book affirmed a lot of what I already thought about dating, as well as offered some insight on how to think of things I hadn’t yet taken into consideration. This short book helped me to organize my thoughts and prioritize what’s important when going into a new relationship, something I am actually going into at this time in my life. While it wasn’t what I expected when I first picked it up, I’m glad I took the time to read it. It’s a book that clearly lays out how and why we date differently.

 

Michelle Hofman

A Divine Child Born Unto Us

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6 is among the most well-known prophecies of the birth of Jesus in the Old Testament. Young children often memorize it in school at this time of year. There is a popular part of Handel’s Messiah which uses the words of this verse. It is a beautiful description of who Christ is. However, because the verse is so familiar, there is a danger for us simply to read over it without ever thinking about the significance of it and its connection to the following verse. To do so is to overlook a passage that is both instructive and comforting for us. Isaiah 9:6-7 underscores who our Lord Christ is, the nature of his reign, and the confidence we have in him and in God.

Verse 6 reveals who Jesus Christ is in three ways. One is the list of names given to him. He is called “Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.” What beautiful names for him! Focusing on only two of the names, Scripture tells us that Jesus is on the one hand the mighty warrior God, the God who is never defeated, the God whose purpose always stands. Yet the same verse calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. He is of royal blood, and his rule over his kingdom is a rule of peace. No spiritual harm can or will befall the citizens of that kingdom. What a comfort for us to know this! Our Lord Christ is the all-powerful God, and he is also our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Verse 6 also reveals that Christ is the one on whose shoulder the government rests. This emphasizes his rule and his dominion. He is the one to whom Psalm 72:8 refers, which reads, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” He is the rightful ruler. Therefore, he is divine—no being of any less power and authority than God himself could rightly assume such a throne and such great authority.

Lastly, Christ is born and given unto us. This means that he is born for our sake. The second person of the Trinity did not become incarnate for his own benefit. Christ came into this world with a single ultimate purpose: to die for the sake of unworthy sinners such as we are. That’s amazing! Further, the fact that Jesus was born and given unto us shows we play no role in this work. The salvation Christ came to purchase on our behalf was exactly that: on our behalf. In no way do we contribute. Jesus Christ was born and given unto as our salvation. The very name Jesus shows this: the angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was “of the Holy Ghost” and to “call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

However, Jesus Christ is not only Savior; he is also Lord. As such, he reigns over creation. Isaiah speaks to this truth as well in verse 7, which says, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” We read that the increase of his government and peace will be without end. This reminds us that the kingdom of Christ can never be defeated, and it never will. In the end, every knee will bow before him, and every tongue will confess him to be Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Isaiah also says that Christ’s rule is one of judgement and justice. He executes judgement on sin both temporally (shown throughout the book of Revelation, for example) and eternally. At the end of time, when every knee bows to him and every tongue confesses him, Christ will judge all people according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13). This does not mean that salvation is based on works, but it does mean that there will be varying degrees of reward and punishment into eternity. Christ judges wickedness in this way, but he is also just, and he rewards his people according to what they have done too (see also Revelation 22:12).

Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy emphasizes the confidence we have in God. The Old Testament Israelites did not have the luxury that we do of looking back on the coming of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy. Yet they were assured of its future fulfillment. This is because of the one who promised it: the Lord of hosts. He is God; there is none beside him. His decree is always fulfilled. Isaiah also told the people that it would be God’s zeal which would bring this about. God’s zeal refers to his ardent love for his people. Because God loved his people Israel (us included), he did fulfill this prophecy in the birth of Christ. Because of the zeal of the Lord of hosts, Israel had confidence that the Savior would one day come. Because of this same zeal, we too may be assured of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God born unto us.

 

MK