Angels from the Realms of Glory
The Example of the Angels
In the service that God requires of us, we are to take our example from the angels in heaven. They, too, have an office which is to be fulfilled according to the will of God. The angels in heaven are held out to us as an example of obedience to the will of the Lord. Explaining the petition “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” the Heidelberg Catechism says, “Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.”
Christ teaches us this prayer knowing how the angels serve God before his throne. In heaven the will of God is obeyed absolutely and perfectly. The angels are working for the Lord of hosts, for the advancement of his kingdom and the glory of his name.
As long as the earth remains polluted with sin, heaven remains an example to earth – more specifically, the angels are an example to us. When God commands, we are to be ready for action, following the example of the angels. We have even greater cause to do the will of God than the angels do. They are his servants but we are his sons and daughters.
The Example of the Seraphim
Isaiah 6:1, 2 gives us a clear witness of how the heavenly servants are an example to the children of God on earth:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
In the first chapters of this prophecy, Isaiah is commissioned by the Lord to point out to King Ahaz the error of his ways. Ahaz is not sovereign but is subject to the will of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The king of Judah must fear and honour the Lord who has chosen him to be king; otherwise he will forfeit every right to rule.
Regardless of our status, the Lord must receive on earth the same reverence which He receives in heaven. Isaiah knows that the Lord is revered and feared in heaven because of the vision that accompanied his call to office. At that time the curtains of heaven were opened and Isaiah was given a view of God’s dwelling place. The prophet saw the Almighty Lord of heaven and earth sitting upon his throne, high and lifted up. He saw the Lord in the splendour of his majesty and surrounding Him were the seraphim. These angels call out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” The seraphim have a holy reverence for the glory and greatness of the Lord.
Their Reverence for the Greatness of God
Why do these angels cover their faces with two of their wings? Are they not allowed to see God? Heaven is their home, is it not? The seraphim, whose own name means “splendid radiance, burning bright,” cover their faces in full recognition of the greatness of God. The Lord, the King of all the earth is so great and glorious and full of majesty that even those who stand before Him day and night and who are constantly at his service cover their faces.
As church of Christ on earth we must follow the example of the seraphim in how we worship the Lord. Worship is bowing down before the living God, adoring our covenant Father, praising the Lord who is the only Sovereign, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Both angels in heaven and the saints of God on earth are to bow down before the greatness of the Lord. Recognizing God’s greatness we cannot come to worship God casually, but in a manner that reflects respect and awe for the Lord.
Their Respect for the Holiness of God
The angels cover their faces; they also cover their feet. Thereby they acknowledge their own unworthiness to serve in the Lord’s totally awesome presence; they respect the holiness of God. The seraphim do not want to draw any attention to themselves. All admiration must be concentrated, without distraction, on the Lord alone.
Isaiah understood the message. If the seraphim cover their faces, how much hope is there for the prophet? No wonder that he says, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (6:5). Who can stand in God’s holy place but he that has clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:4)?
That same sense of awe and respect for the holiness of God must be present with us when we approach the face of God in prayer, praise and worship. This is why the apostle Paul gives Timothy the following instruction, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Timothy 2:8-10). The men are admonished to have no sin on their conscience when they approach the Lord in worship and the women are encouraged to dress in such a manner that they do not draw attention to themselves.
Like the seraphim, men and women of the church must “cover their feet” when they enter into God’s presence and appear before his throne of grace and mercy. Following the example of the angels we are to respect the holiness of God in the faith that Jesus Christ cleanses us from sin and enables us to stand in the presence of a holy God and in the hope that one day we, with all the saints, will stand before the throne of God, serving Him day and night in his temple.
Their Readiness to Perform the Will of God
With the last two wings the seraphim fly – indicating their readiness to do the will of God. The seraphim are ever at hand, prepared for obedience. Once again, Isaiah has understood the message. Isaiah wants to be such a willing servant. When the Lord calls him to office by asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah replies, “Here am I! Send me” (6:8). He will fulfil his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the seraphim in heaven.
We are to live in the hope and expectation of a new heaven and a new earth where the servants and the children will serve the only Sovereign, the King of kings, in perfection. Today we do not see angels but they see us. They rejoice when a sinner repents, when they see the children of God having a reverence for the greatness of God, respect for the holiness of God and a readiness to perform the will of God. Let the example of the angels encourage and stir us up to be zealous in fulfilling the function and calling the Lord has given to us on this earth as his people. May our obedience give reason for rejoicing in heaven.