Today is the Feast of St Michael & All Angels. And earlier today, I reflected on two passages of Scripture that speak of angels descending and ascending. Except that they don't. Looking again, I am reminded that both passages, Genesis 28:10-17 and John 1:47-51, speak of angels ascending and descending:
‘And [Jacob] dreamed that there was a ladder [a ziggurat] set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.’ Genesis 28:12
‘And [Jesus] said to [Nathanael], “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”’ John 1:51
Another passage set for today is Revelation 12:7-12, which opens:
‘And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven [or, they lost strength, and no region was found for them in heaven]. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.’
So, the angels of God ascend and descend, and the rebellious angels rise up and are thrown down. In both cases, the movement is up > down. Emissaries who approach the throne of God and are sent out from God’s presence. Whose purpose is to bring representation to God—this is why Accusation, false rumour, is so serious an offence, a betrayal of God and of angels and mortals—and to carry messages from God in return. To Jacob, and to his offspring Jesus and to all his offspring: “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
This offspring, the Son of Man or faithful remnant community, with Jesus as their representative, are the new humanity, the new ground, earth animated by the life-breath of God’s very word.
May you hear that word, carried by angel messengers, spoken over you today. And may it restore your weary body and soul to life.