On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz round his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.
I chose this passage from Daniel in preference to one from the opening of Ezekiel (click on this link to see it) as it is a little less surreal than Ezekiel’s account of seeing angels. However, neither Ezekiel nor Daniel, as far as we know, had been drinking or taken any mind-bending substances prior to the vision they experienced.
What is the image that comes to mind when you think of angels? We’re creating some knitted ones at church, and they may be just a bit cutesy and cuddly. We might think about the Rafael picture (or at least the little bit at the bottom of it) that was popular a few years back. It depicts two angelic figures leaning as if musing. They look like little children, apart from their underspecified wings.
Daniel sees the form of a man, dressed in normal clothing, but he is simply unable to describe his appearance. A police artist would never get this angel’s likeness down on paper from the description above. What we can say is that the person is unearthly, and radiates brilliance, and his voice is terrifying. Although he was dressed in men’s clothes, he himself was anything but normal.
Daniel’s companions flee away – they didn’t even see the angel, but they were filled with terror. He is alone before the angel, physically overcome at his presence, and he falls to the ground.
This is no chubby cherub with stubby wings. He’s not come to be looked at or admired. He can’t help the fact that Ezekiel is terror struck, for the angel is who the angel is, an amazing creation. He also is on a mission from God, to reveal to Daniel things that will happen in the future. It is a very detailed revelation. It is recorded in this and subsequent chapters of the book. Even though Daniel fell into a sleep, he was able to record the message!
What’s the brightest and/or noisiest experience you have had?
What do you imagine the size of this angel to be?
Father God, I pray that during this season of Advent I may separate Biblical accounts about angels from popular views and new age vagueness, and so come to a fuller understanding of their nature.