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Painting by Chris Easley

Painting by Chris Easley

Although I know this story well of Jacob wrestling with an unknown man (an angel? who knows?), I had not paid attention to the meaning of the name, Israel (“struggles with God”). And for me, a new scenario emerges of Jacob actually struggling with himself, that part of himself who was named usurper or supplanter. His history was full of deception and trickery and this night, I believe he struggled with that self in order to emerge new.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. . . . Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” [Genesis 32:24, 26-28, NIV]

I am a bit of a Doctor Who fan (not a serious fan, but I do enjoy watching the show on occasion). It just so happens I watched an episode reminiscent of this Jacob story in which the Doctor and his companions are challenged by a foe called the Dream Doctor who tells them they must choose between two dreams, which is real and which is a true dream? If they choose the correct plot, they will all live, but if they choose incorrectly, they will all die. It’s a mystery of course. But in the end, the Doctor figures it out and realizes that both scenarios are dreams and he destroys them both in order to live in reality (a paradox, of course). But the key to the story is the identity of the Dream Doctor who the companions don’t recognize, but who the Doctor says he knows very well, his very own dark side.

We all have this dark side and it is through our journey in faith, in Christ, that we are gradually able to bring that side forward in order to wrestle with it. Most of us tend to hide the dark side as long as possible, but truthfully, only when the dark side is brought to the light, can we be healed. As long as the dark side stays in the dark, it is safe to live on. (Oh, how Star Wars that all sounds. Sorry.)

These are my late night ramblings as I consider the meaning of Israel as a word. And if I was a true historian, there is probably more depth in it when it’s applied to the nation Israel. But I won’t go there in print. 🙂

I give thanks, instead, to the Christ who does battle for me and with me in the name of God, the Light of the World.

 

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Schutzengel (English: "Guardian Angel") by Bernhard Plockhorst depicts a guardian angel watching over two children

Schutzengel (English: “Guardian Angel”) by Bernhard Plockhorst

Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life

Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life

Angels are a challenging topic since they have now developed a following of their own. It is no longer just Christians who speak of angels but all kinds of folks are communing with them, protected by them, and traveling with them in some other dimension. Angels are the subjects of books, both nonfiction and fantasy, and they are even seen in stories doing battle with demons and vampires. Angels are no longer like Clarence in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” or mere messengers who play harps all day or hover over sleeping children at night. Angels are hip.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. . . . Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” [Luke 2:9-10, 13-14]

Fantasy Angel wallpaper

Fantasy Angel wallpaper

Aggelos in Greek means messenger or envoy, someone who is sent. This role seems to have lost its significance in all the angel lore of recent years. In truth, if this meaning is true to their nature, they are merely brokers of information. They do not really operate with a lot of free will. At least, I don’t remember any examples in scripture of angels having a negotiation with a human outside the intended task assigned by, well, that is the question, who sends them: God? Jesus?

Angel of the Lord by Bill Osborne

Angel of the Lord by Bill Osborne

In the Old Testament, the term for angel(s) is malakh (or malach) and malakim for plural. The word also means messenger or ambassador, although a hierarchy appears in Judaisms angels that is not as prevalent in the New Testament. In fact, there is a reference to “angel of the Lord” that seems to be more deity than angel and in many circles, some have claimed it was an early representation of the Christ. Of course, no way to validate that, not really. In the Old Testament, these angels are referred to as masculine in gender. A summary discussion of the many angel roles in Jewish history is on Wikipedia.

In the New Testament, the hierarchies seem to be delineated by arenas of responsibility and strongholds or spheres of influence. I turned to Wikipedia for this review as well. It’s all more than I can relate here or want to.

Angels of Peace by Marlina Vera

Angels of Peace by Marlina Vera

So, let’s return to our original story: an angel appears to the shepherds, gives the “down-low” on the birth of the Messiah and where to find him. Then, it goes from one angel to a multitude. What would that look like? I can’t really imagine it or perhaps, whatever I do see in my mind is proscribed by the various artist renderings of the “Angels we have hard on high” variety.

I’ve been watching consecutive seasons of Dr. Who starting back about five years ago. In so many of the episodes, alien vessels appear in the sky, sometimes huge, sometimes fast and small, sometimes pointy crystals, and sometimes dark and forbidding. But in all cases, people run out of their houses and gape, looking up. Who else saw the multitude that night? If they really filled the sky, then there were other witnesses. Would they have explained it all away the next day?

I’m also reading a new book by Mitch Albom, The First Phone Call from Heaven. The reactions of people are fascinating, from disbelief to total belief to manipulation of the situation for profit. People are funny in the face of things they don’t understand. Even messengers from heaven.

crying angelI wonder. Have I seen angels, really and just not noticed or remembered because my logical mind could not process it? That would be a shame, to miss an event of pure wonder.

So, do I believe in angels? Sure. But I think they have a unique and limited role in the workings of reality. We are living in the age of the Christ within. Angels do not operate in that place. My faith is not extended by the presence of angels; but they would be key to unlocking my ability to see/process multi-dimensionality. They aren’t people/human and don’t look like them. imho.

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