Many people are intrigued by angels.
In ancient times, it was common practice to worship them. In Revelation, John foolishly fell at the feet of his angel guide (Rev. 22:8-9, KJV). And in recent times, people love shoving them into paranormal fiction or reading about them.
Mankind’s interest in angels makes sense, of course. Angels are powerful and statuesque, kind of like the heroes in comic strips and movies.
And that’s why I find it so interesting that for all the angels’ splendor, the Bible doesn’t spend its time focusing on God’s relationship with the angels, but on God’s relationship with man.
In fact, God doesn’t even mention the angels in His account of creation week, even though He affirms that they were there when He laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:7).
But why does God de-emphasize angels? Let’s search the Scriptures.
1. Mankind bears God’s image.
Genesis 2 records for us how God breathed us into existence. Yes, breathed. He didn’t speak us into existence. He didn’t say “let there be man” like He did for the rest of creation. Instead, He “formed” us and “breathed” life into us (Gen. 2:7).
And God made the distinction in our purpose when He made us “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). He didn’t say that of the seraphim, or of Michael the archangel, or of His messenger Gabriel.
But He said it of us. And as Christians, we’re doubly responsible to be ambassadors of Christ.
We represent the reasonableness of God and the care of God to the the rest of creation.
And we represent God’s love and holiness to a mankind lost in their sins, still rebelling against their Creator.
Of course, the day will come when mankind will be so corrupt and the times so dangerous that angels will join us in witnessing to mankind, but the angels’ loveliest witness can only ever be impersonal, for God doesn’t deal with angels like He deals with men.
This truth is even more clear when you consider the meaning of Eve’s title as “help meet” (Gen. 2:18), which means aid. After all, why does Adam need help?
God gave him something huge to accomplish, and nothing else in the world would do.
The oxen were powerful and strong, but they weren’t good help meets. God’s mission for man required more than strength.
The horses were elegant and quick, but they weren’t good help meets. God’s mission for man required more than fierce majesty.
And the dogs were loyal hunters, but they weren’t good help meets. God’s mission for man required more than ardent devotion.
And after all the animals, with their power and strong wills and grace walked before Adam, he realized that he had no one like him. No one in God’s image. So God put him to sleep and made another marvel like Adam: Eve.
A “help meet.” Some women feel insulted by that, but I’m not. “Help meet” is not the title of a slave, but of an equal who can provide valuable help.
Do you know where else this same Hebrew word “ezer” shows up in the Bible? I’ll put the word translated “help meet” in bold for you.
- Ex. 18:4b: “For the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”
- Deut. 33:29a: “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!”
- Ps. 115:10: “O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD; he is their help and their shield.”
- Ezek. 12:14: “And I [God] will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them.”
Adam’s “help meet” Eve wasn’t weaker than him. She was a strong aid to him. They were both meant to accomplish God’s will on earth and were both put above the rest of creation, to help and nourish it for their Creator’s glory.
Both Adam and Eve were made in the image of God, and as a result, they are both held responsible for bearing that image well.
2. Mankind showcases God’s mercy.
He sent Jesus to die for man, and He continually gives us changes to repent. In our weakness, His grace and mercy is glorified.
But to the angels who had already seen His glory, who continually stood at His presence and worshipped, who with great knowledge of many things and powers beyond our comprehension had the privilege to see God as He is—God didn’t give a second chance.
He gave the angels a one-time choice—loyalty or betrayal—and then they were to remain where they chose to be.
But we’re a picture of God’s willingness to give more chances to those who have not yet fully been in His presence, to those who “know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).
3. Mankind tends toward idolatry.
Ever since the Fall, mankind has tried to worship the creation instead of the Creator (Rom. 1:22-25). And though we still bear the image of God (Gen. 9:6), it’s cracked and broken in places.
We’re flawed representations of our God.
And that’s why the Bible introduces angels as servants. Perhaps they showed up at the garden before the Fall, but God first mentions them when He sends them to keep mankind from eating the tree of life.
In other words, the first time God mentions an angel it’s to show them as His way of communicating with us. Because whether angels come for mankind’s blessing or cursing, they are God’s messengers and not gods themselves.
But mankind’s sinful tendency towards idolatry is only of many reasons that God doesn’t emphasize angels.
4. Mankind lusts after power
When I say angel, you–like me–probably picture a human with wings and maybe a halo. Even knowing that the Bible describes angels as having many eyes or many heads or heads of beasts, our initial reaction is to angels as stronger, better versions of ourselves.
Why is that? Could it not be that we simply like angels because they seem like powerful human beings we can aspire to be like?
Think about it. We do to angels what the Ancient Greeks and Romans did to their gods: we make them human. We make them like us.
We all have this desire in us to be strong, invulnerable, powerful, and we like to see the angels because we imagine them as versions of ourselves.
In fact, we tend to worship power so much that, in the end times, many people will bow down and worship the Antichrist, glossing over his immoral ways in favor of admiring his great power (Rev. 13:12-14).
Of course, people can still wonder about angels—I’m not arguing that this is a bad thing—but we should be careful to remember that angels, despite all their power and beauty and mysterious wonder, are nothing in comparison to God. Their minor glory should never detract from our admiration for God’s great glory.
As an angel said when John tried to worship him, “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God” (Rev. 22:9).
And with our stories, no matter how “normal” or “bland” they may appear to us, we can glorify our Maker. We can be distinct.
Thanks for reading another post of my Genesis series! I hope you’ll come back and study Genesis 3 with me next week. And if you haven’t read my previous posts on Genesis 1: Attributes of God and Genesis 2: God’s Rest, come check them out!