It's a windy day here in South Central PA, and I'm on the couch with a heating pad behind my back, my sweet Milo on my legs, the laptop on my, well, lap, and antibiotics battling the fever racing through my system. When I say windy, I mean that the sound of the wind was loud enough to wake me before the alarm went off this morning. We had a lovely warm day yesterday, but that will soon be remedied by whatever is blowing in now. Jim is downstairs installing the floor in the guest room, which must be interesting when the power flicks off, as it has five times already this morning. (I've been hearing that power is out in a number of areas around here as well.)
So I'm curled up with the cat, sneezing, and reading John Calvin's view on what Scripture teaches about angels. Being so very careful to remain within the limits prescribed by God's Word, Calvin carefully exhorts his readers to do the same. The topic of angels then, as now, must have been based more on imagination than sound teaching, which he addresses without hesitation.
"… we will take care to keep to the measure which the rule of godliness prescribes, that our readers may not, by speculating more deeply than is expedient, wander away from simplicity of faith. And in fact, while the Spirit ever teaches us to our profit, he either remains absolutely silent upon those things of little value for edification, or only lightly and cursorily touches them. It is also our duty willingly to renounce those things which are unprofitable."
"…let us remember here, as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to hold to one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even to seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has been imparted to us by God's Word. Furthermore, in the reading of Scripture we ought ceaselessly to endeavor to seek out and meditate upon those things which make for edification. Let us not indulge in curiosity or in the investigation of unprofitable things."
By this Calvin is not encouraging us to hide our heads in the sand and run from those errors and heresies which should be confronted. He of all people was a strong defender of the faith and by understanding what the errors were, was able to confront them with the truth. What I believe he is saying here is that there is so very much in Scripture to engage our minds and hearts, so much that in a lifetime of study we couldn't reach the bottom of, why should we waste time exploring ideas that would undermine our faith? If we were given the opportunity to dine upon a feast prepared by world-class chefs, would we rather order a Happy Meal? Why insult the chef with such a base request? I would much rather honor the chef by enjoying the dishes that he would choose to set before me. (I must be hungry…)
My point is simply this. Today, as always, there are so many popular books and pastors and teachers that are enthralling the Evangelical world with ideas found nowhere in Scripture. Check the bestseller lists for Christian books. Perhaps I am acutely aware of my weakness, but my tiny little mind has a hard enough time retaining what I want and need to know. I cannot afford to be filling up with burgers and fries when lobster awaits! (There goes my stomach again. Perhaps a Shakespeare/ Captain Underpants analogy would be more fitting…)
So, about angels. After discoursing on angels being protectors and helpers of believers, (they are) whether there are particular angels assigned to be guardians over individuals, (maybe, but probably not) the hierarchy, number and form of angels, (too little information in Scripture to fully know) and that angels are actually real, not mere ideas, (yup) Calvin comes to the point that God makes use of angels not for his own sake, but for ours. God could certainly do all that he wants for us without using other means, such as angels. He is, after all, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. In making this point he writes the following, which I found to be so comforting to consider:
"One thing, indeed, ought to be quite enough for us: that the Lord declares himself to be our protector. But when we see ourselves beset by so many perils, so many harmful things, so many kinds of enemies – such is our softness and frailty – we would sometimes be filled with trepidation or yield to despair if the Lord did not make us realize the presence of his grace according to our capacity. For this reason, he not only promises to take care of us, but tells us he has innumerable guardians whom he has bidden to look after our safety; that so long as we are hedged about, by their defense and keeping, whatever perils may threaten, we have been placed beyond all chance of evil."
God knows how weak we are and fearful. He condescends to give us the assurance of created beings surrounding us for our protection, though he himself will never leave us nor forsake us. What a gracious and loving Father we have.