Tuesday, 7 August 2018
And of the angels He says:
“Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.” Hebrews 1:7
Our author here once again paints a contrast between angels and the Son. In this, he begins with, “And of the angels He says.” The words are to be contrasted with what will be said in the next verse, “But to the Son He says.” This second set of contrasts is given to show that not just an isolated thought about the superiority of the Son was pulled out of Scripture, but that it is a consistent theme which can be found and relied upon. Further, the contrast is that of the many (angels) to that of One (the Son). And again, the term “angels” signifies messengers who go at another’s bidding. The term “Son” signifies one who is of the inheritance and who thus has authority to send. Understanding this, he now turns to Psalm 104:4 –
Who makes His angels spirits,
His ministers a flame of fire.
The NKJV, cited here, appears to not capture the intent of what is being relayed. The word for “angels,” in both Hebrew and Greek, signifies a messenger. And so the author is showing that angels are messengers. And again, the word for “spirits,” in both Hebrew and Greek, has the dual meaning of “winds.” Young’s Literal Translation more closely follows the intent of the psalm –
“Making His messengers — the winds, His ministers — the flaming fire.”
This verse in Hebrews is not speaking of the creation of angels as spirit-beings, but the employment of angels as directed beings, likened to the forces of wind and fire. This is what is on his mind here. And those messengers come in the form of wind and fire. This follows through with the thought of what occurs several times in Scripture, such as with Elijah in 1 Kings 19 –
“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:11, 12
The Lord created the winds as a resistless force. It cannot be grasped with the hand, and yet it can cause a variety of effects, from cooling the skin to tearing apart the mountains. Likewise, fire is a part of creation which God directs as a consuming weapon of destruction.
Further, the winds are an invisible force, whereas fire is a visible one. And so there is a contrast to show that God is in control of both that which can be seen, and that which cannot be seen. And as another reason for considering this, lightning is known from the Old Testament to be considered the “fire of God,” such as in Job 1:16. Therefore, like the storm which issues forth both wind and fire from God, the angels are likened to the wind and fire of the storm, being directed by God. Whichever way one looks at them, they are created, they are directed by another, and they accomplish the purposes of God for Him. In contrast to this will be the next verse.
Life application: At times, it is hard to determine if a word which has two meanings – such as the Hebrew ruakh which means both “spirit” and “wind” – is speaking of one or the other. And so, these differences normally come down to looking at the rest of Scripture to find out what is on the author’s mind. If a suitable analogy can be made, then the translation which carries that analogy should be used. If not, then it is up to translator’s preference as to which meaning he assigns. In the end, the only way to evaluate these things is to know the rest of Scripture. Be sure to read your Bible daily. The more you do, the more you will be able to call to mind the many thoughts which surround individual concepts. Read your Bible.
Gracious and merciful God, Your word says that You send forth Your angels for various purposes. At times, they are sent out for destruction, and at times they are sent out as ministering spirits for Your people. We would pray that You would watch over us in mercy, send Your angels to care for us and to form a wall of protection around us from the entities of evil which are also there, working to bring us harm. Thank You, O God, for hearing our prayer and responding according to Your wisdom and care of us. Amen.