Sunday, January 1, 2017
New Year’s Day
Matthew 2: 13 – 23
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” – Matthew 2:13
The more common scripture passage we hear the First Sunday following Christmas is the story of the three wise men bearing gifts. But further down in this same chapter is the story of Jesus being taken into Egypt. Focusing on this theme of how God guides into our as yet unknown future.
Very shortly following the birth of Jesus, the visit and departure of the three wise men, an angel appears of Joseph in a dream with a warning as well as direction to take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and to stay there until the angel returns to bring them word that it is safe to return to Bethel, because Herod had begun a campaign of infanticide to destroy all male babies under the age of 2 with the intent on killing the promised Messiah.
First of all let me say the bible is not in the same genre of fantasy as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Narnia. Many of its accounts though seemingly surreal are not fantasy or fairy tale. The Bible speaks truth related to both the seen and the unseen world. It is God’s record of Salvation History. Amen. There is a spirit world which we cannot see, but it’s real.
There are good angels those that did not give themselves to the rebellion in Heaven against God’s throne, and there are bad angels, which Jesus referred to as demons, or wicked spirits, who along with Lucifer were cast out of heaven (Isaiah 11). In Luke 10 the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name,” and Jesus responded, “I beheld Satan as lightening fall from heaven.” And now the devil and his armies of wicked spirits war against the kingdom of God and the saints of God.
Some of you might remember a popular series which aired in the early 90’s up through 2003, starring Della Reese entitled Touched by An Angel. The series sought to give stories of how angels intervened in the lives of persons as God’s messengers. In the series they took on human form. The word of God tells us, “That many have entertained angels unawares”. A scriptural reference to Abraham (Gen.18:1ff), and Gideon (Judges 6:11ff) who entertained angels without knowing it.”
Angels do exist. They are God’s divine messengers, heavenly beings created by God, who guide and guard God’s children. Hebrews 1: 14 describes angels as ministering spirits, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” The old belief that everyone has a guardian angel may have some truth to it, based upon this text found in Hebrews.
Angels are always watching over us. We who are the children of Salvation. They have several functions: some have the ministry of praising God, telling God how good and magnificent He is, they comprise part of that great Hallelujah Chorus, spoken of in Revelations 5. “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering in the thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, they encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor, and glory and praise!”
And to think that we get tired after one hour of worship, when there are angels created by God whose sole purpose is to praise God throughout eternity. Our Westminster Shorter Catechism, that is part of our Book of Confessions, declares ‘our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.’ We were created to praise God not just with our voices but also in how we live, giving glory to God who created us.
Some angels have the ministry of serving believers and protecting the helpless. Amen. In Genesis 16 when Hagar, seeks to run from her problem of harsh treatment by Sarah, Abraham’s wife, it is an angel of the Lord who comes to her with encouragement, “What troubles you Hagar, Go back to your mistress, because the Lord is with you and is going to increase your descendants.”
And to those persons who have this angelic like quality of being a messenger of God, we like to call them angels. Amen. We give this designation to some of our friends, because like the angels of the Lord, these persons have the angelic like quality of bringing the message of God into our lives. Like the angels of the Lord they bring hope, they bring comfort, they bring good news. So it is possible for one to be an angel for the Lord in this life, by simply being a person who brings the message of good news, comfort, guidance and hope to those who are going through difficult times.
How blessed we are this morning as the people of God, beginning a new journey and adventure in faith as we step into 2017, not only are we loved by God the Father, Saved by God the Son, and indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, but we’ve got angels watching over us. Even after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, angels yet play an important role in God’s plan of Salvation history. Amen. We don’t pray to or worship angels, but thank God for them and their ministry among us.
It was an angel of the Lord whom God dispatched from heaven, who rolled away the stone on the first Easter Morning. His appearance was like lightening and his clothes as pure as snow. He said to some frightened disciples, “He is not here for He is risen.” Angels watching over us, bringing us good news that “He Lives”, when life circumstances, hopes and dreams seem to have died with no possibility of resurrection.
God sometimes uses angels for our deliverance out of harms way. Amen.
It was an angel of the Lord in response to the prayers of the church who came to Peter’s rescue in Acts 12, Angels watching over us.
So there are Angels who carry the ministry of worship and praise, angels like Gabriel who come with announcements of Good news, angels who carry the ministry of protecting the helpless and bringing proclamations of encouragement to the down hearted; angels who carry the ministry of deliverance, angels who help fight our battles in the spirit realm, and angels whom God uses as instruments to carry out his judgment,(Acts 12 ; and angels who patrol the earth, and who fight the forces of evil and wickedness in this earth as in Daniel 10.
In our text, God sends an angel who warned Joseph in a dream that he must take Mary and Baby Jesus and flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s plan to murder baby Jesus. Herod is a persistent and yet unsuccessful persecutor of God’s people as he orders all male children under 2 years of age to be slaughtered in Bethlehem where Jesus was born, but also in all the surrounding regions.
Even when the devil, wicked people and corrupt institutions are out to destroy us, or the male population of a race, which is not to say that some will not perish, God will yet, make a way of escape. As we follow the leading by these angels of the first family of salvation, we discover it is God preserving them, God steering them along the way. Yes, through many, dangers toils and snares we have already come, but God, has led us thus far along the way. Angels watching over us. God will prove Himself to be a hiding place for any people who find themselves under persecution, but we’ve got to turn to Him. As we follow where God leads, the devil cannot ultimately destroy God’s plan for our lives.
Notice the sequence of the angel’s ministry to this first family of Salvation. First, an angel of the Lord warns Joseph in a dream to leave Bethlehem and flee with Mary and Joseph to Egypt. Then, upon the death of Herod, an angel comes who directs the first family of Salvation from Egypt, to ”the land of Israel.” And when the brutality of Archelaus, Herod’s son poses a further threat, the family is again directed by an angel to settle in Nazareth of Galilee. Galilee, will become the locus following His resurrection, from where Jesus gives the Great Commission.
Matthew in recording every setting in Jesus’ journey as an infant and young child is trying to tell us that God is always directing our path. Amen. Even when our journey in life seems to make no sense, appears to be random, or by happenstance, God is yet in charge to see that we end up at our appointed destinations. But we have to listen to the voice of the Lord and follow where He leads.
In our text guidance comes through angels watching over Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus. When that voice speaks to your spirit. When that intuitive thought enters your mind and you don’t know where it came from. When you have that dream that seems so real you feel as though it is of divine origin, could it be Angels watching over us? My bible and my faith tell me yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
Thank God this morning, for the ministry of angels watching over us. Angels, helping us fight our battles, to strengthen, to affirm, to help direct our paths, to give warning, to do God’s holy will in our behalf. Yes, angels watching over us!
In my first pastorate there was a member by the name of Herschel Hornes. Brother Hornes had undergone surgery for colon cancer several years before I met him. The cancer came back and his diagnosis was terminal. During those final months of his life on one visit, I accompanied his wife to the hospital to pick up his prescription and the doctor informed her, the dosage of the morphine Herschel was receiving was strong enough to knock out a horse.
During the final weeks of his life, one evening while visiting him at home He shared with me that he was beginning to experience an unknown presence in his room. He said he was not frightened by the presence, but whenever the presence entered his room, he found total peace and comfort. I asked him what he believed the presence to be and he responded, “an angel of the Lord.” Herschel died shortly thereafter.
Yes, ”All night, all day, the angels keep a-watch-n’ over me, my Lord!”
All night, all day, the angels keep a-watch-in over me angels, bringing words of greeting and salutations from on High, to encourage us.