Michael is the name of the archangel of the Lord. He is referred to several times in Holy Writ. In the 10th chapter of Daniel it is stated, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me” (10:13). Then in v. 21, “There is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.” Again in chapter 12, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people” (v. 1). Turning to the New Testament we read in the Epistle of Jude, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee” (v. 9). And finally, in the last book of the Bible we are told, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven” (Rev. 12:7).
We observe this day in the Lutheran Church (see Lutheran Hymnal, page 92, also hymns 254-257) not in order that we might worship the angels or the archangel Michael. Obviously that would be idolatry. Nor do Michael and the holy angels want such worship. In chapter 22 of Revelation the Apostle John writes, “And I John saw these things, and heard them, And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of the prophecy of this book: worship God” (vv. 8,9). We observe this day not merely for the sake of Michael alone, but rather because of all the holy angels of God.
The angels were created by God sometime during the six days of Creation. Obviously they were not created before the universe because there was only God (John 1:1-3). Nor were they created after the universe since God “rested from all His work” (Gen. 2:2,3). The angels are not eternal, for only God is without beginning and without end. They are spirits and do not have flesh and bones as we humans possess (Luke 24:39). Neither are the holy angels all-knowing. They do not know the inner thoughts of men – this only God knows (I Kings 8:39). The hour of Christ’s return is hidden from them (Matt. 24:36).
The holy angels are of great number. How many, the Bible does not say. Jesus speaks of twelve legions of angels when He rebuked the Apostle Peter for attempting to defend Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:52). The Lord Jesus there speaks of twelve legions of angels which are the equivalent of 72,000. In the Book of Daniel we are told that “thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” (7:10). In Psalm 68 the Psalmist speaks of thousands of angels (v. 17). And the writer to the Hebrews refers to an innumerable company of angels (Heb. 12:22). The Scriptures also speak of different ranks among the angels. For example, they speak of the Cherubim (Ps. 80:1), and of the Seraphim (Is. 6:2).
The holy angels have great power — they excel in strength (Ps. 103:20). From our Sunday School Lessons we remember the various examples showing the great might and power of the holy angels. When the city of Jerusalem was encompassed by Sennacherib and his Assyrian army, things looked quite bad for Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But the Scriptures tell us that during the night an angel of the Lord slew 185,000 of the Assyrians (II Kings 19:35). When Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, an angel shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt him (Dan. 6:22). While the angels are powerful their power is not unlimited since that attribute can be ascribed only to God.
While the holy angels are spirits and therefore invisible, they can, whenever God so wills, assume visible form. This is clearly shown us in the Scriptures, for example, in the presence of Abraham (Gen. 18); Lot (Gen. 19); Zacharias (Luke 1:11); Mary (Luke 1:26-28); the shepherds (Luke 2:9); the women at the grave of Christ (Luke 24:4); to the disciples when Jesus ascended up into heaven (Acts 1:10). While in visible form the angels can also consume food as is shown when the angels appeared unto Abraham and his wife Sarah (Gen. 18 & 19). While this was indeed a real eating, it in no way was necessary to nourish their assumed bodies, it was simply to convince the men of the reality of their presence. The holy angels also can speak as is evident from their various appearances. The example of the angel coming to the Apostle Peter in prison without opening the doors reveals that they occupy no space (Acts 12).
The holy angels can no longer sin and fall away since they are confirmed in their bliss. The Lord Jesus says, “that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). And when the Savior bursts forth in the clouds of heaven on the Last Day, the Bible tells us that He will come “in His glory and all the holy angels with Him” (Matt. 25:31).
It is the perfect joy of the holy angels to praise God. When we turn to the Prophet Isaiah’s vision of the Lord’s glory, we hear one angel crying to another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (Is. 6:3). Again, we are told that after the angel announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13,14). Ah, what a mind-staggering scene that must be — the holy angels in the presence of the almighty God, extolling and magnifying His holy Name with such heavenly hymns of praise!
These heavenly spirits also serve God and carry out His commands. In Psalm 103 we read, “Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word” (v. 20). When the Savior was tempted in the wilderness, the angels came and ministered unto Him (Matt. 4:11). When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane an angel appeared unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43). The angels proclaimed the conception, the birth, the resurrection, and the Final Return of Christ (Acts 1:11). And on the Last Day the holy angels will accompany Him when He comes to judge the living and the dead (Matt. 13:41ff., 24:31).
The believers are often blessed with the presence of angels without knowing it. Therefore we Christians are exhorted, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2). The Lord is ever mindful of His own! He sends His messengers to serve those who are His dear children through faith in Christ Jesus. Listen to what the Psalmist writes, “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my Refuge, even the most High, thy habitation: There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling, For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:9-12). Yes, only those who have repented of their sins and cast themselves upon the mercy of our dear heavenly Father who revealed His love beyond all comprehension in sending forth His only begotten Son to be our Savior from sin, death and hell — they are the ones who have made the Lord their Refuge and receive and enjoy such gracious protection of the holy angels. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Think of merely a few of the many examples in Holy Writ where the believers enjoyed the help and protection of the holy angels. Lot was delivered from the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; the angels took Lot and his family by the hand and led them to safety (Gen. 19). The three men in the fiery furnace enjoyed the protection of the angel (Dan. 3). Daniel was protected by the angel when he was thrown into the lions’ den (Dan. 6). The angel provided Elijah with something to eat (1 Kings 19). When the Apostle Peter was thrown into prison by King Herod, the angel of the Lord came and delivered him (Acts 12).
What undeserving love the Lord has bestowed upon us sinners in granting us the gracious protection of His holy angels! Certainly this blessed teaching of Scripture should encourage us to lead a holy and God-pleasing life. What comfort for us Christians to know that the Lord has placed these holy messengers of His at our side to protect and preserve us in our appointed ways. And finally, when our last hour shall come, then the angels will come and take our soul to be with Jesus where we shall join the heavenly choir to praise Him who loved us unto death. We therefore pray with Luther, “Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”