Peter’s first letter provides a little insight into the process:”…the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12)
If I understand this passage, Peter may be telling us the prophets didn’t really fully understand what they were writing about Jesus. In his second letter, he adds, “…no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” None of this came from their own imagination. What the Spirit did give them to understand was that it wasn’t about them.
So what was it all about? To get them ready for the good news, Micah arrests his readers’ attention by talking about God as He really is. Had they forgotten? In the wilderness wanderings, they’d been terrified of His display on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 19:16-20) In Micah’s vision, God again leaves His Temple and comes down to the mountains. They melt like wax before Him. (Micah 1:2-7) People only think they want God to prove He exists by coming down and showing Himself: exposure to His essential form would mean death to sinners! (Exodus 33:20)
And so the Messiah, the promised Seed…
- …of Woman, (Genesis 3:15),
- …of Abraham, (Gen. 12:3, 17:7, 22:18),
- …of Isaac, (Gen. 21:12, 26:4),
- …of Jacob (Gen. 28:14),
- Who crushes the serpent’s head,
- Who is “fellow” to God, (Zechariah 13:7),
- Who is Kinsman and Redeemer to man (Isaiah 54:5),
…was born in a feeding-trough in a small town who had no room for Him.
When Peter mentions that the angels long to look into these things, it’s likewise something a little mysterious to us, just as the future (to them) coming of Jesus was to the prophets who wrote about it. When Jesus said children shouldn’t be forbidden from coming to Him He added, “in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father.” (Matthew 18:10) Hebrews notes, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)
Peter’s own arrest and release by an angel reinforces this idea: when he knocked on the door of John Mark’s home, the disciples inside at first assumed it was “his angel.” (Acts 12:15) As much as angels are a mystery to us, people must be mysterious to angels. We’re made in God’s image, we’re objects of redemption. Yet in our fallen state, the image of God is continually profaned, and to restore us, God Himself suffered in our place.
John Piper said, “The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails. The incarnation is the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back, so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet, so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side, so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed cheeks, fleshy cheeks, so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column, with no vinegar and no gall, so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt-for you.” (See Hebrews 2:14)
They watch us, no doubt troubled by our depravity, and deeply disturbed by the suffering Jesus endured for us. Yet Jesus said there is joy in the presence of the angels over just one sinner who repents, (Luke 15:10), and their announcement to the shepherds was accompanied by tremendous joy demonstrated in the skies.
I wonder, though, if it’s when the dramatic search is made for someone worthy to open the scroll, (Revelation 5), and the 24 redeemed elders fall down to praise Him for their salvation that it really all comes together for them:
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12)
Something the prophets did know is that it wasn’t about us, either, even if they, “apart from us, should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)
In the meantime, as Isaiah 52:7 predicted, even the feet of those who publish the good news are regarded as beautiful: thank you for your help to make Jesus more clear in the eyes of all the nations; to let the ends of the earth see the salvation (“Yeshua Elohim”) of our God! (Isaiah 52:10) Without you, we could never have invested our lives in making Him known globally. Thank you all, and Merry Christmas!
Love, in Christ,
One Day Closer!