Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Angels and Nations

I had my colonoscopy and am able to enjoy solid food again without angering Al Gore, if you take my meaning. I have been doing some reading and some thinking on things theological, and have what I believe is a worthwhile consideration about Paul’s vision of the ‘third heaven’. But for now I have another thought which mixes politics with religion, always a recipe for lively debate I think.

Over the years I have sometimes been surprised by the way that things take a sudden unexpected turn. In recent days, we have seen President Obama’s seemingly unstoppable charisma implode, but that has happened to many Presidents before him as well. After his re-election in 2004, President Bush seemed to have all the control he needed to start fixing the mess in places like Immigration and Social Security, but then he also hit a wall. Bill Clinton also had a lot of personal charisma but he took some nasty shocks, and in the process so did the Republicans, who had full public support for impeaching Clinton, but that support evaporated by the time the Senate actually tried him. Hard to believe, but there was even a time when President Nixon had his mojo working.

I wondered about that. Looking through History, we see the same odd sudden changes in momentum and initiative. Look at World War Two, for example. In 1942, the United States was a clawless eagle, losing battles, bases and men in both the Atlantic and Pacific fronts, but by 1945 the US was unstoppable everywhere it went. What a strange coincidence, that the one thing which could change America from an isolationist nation determined to stay out of the war into an angry populace demanding war, an apparent sneak attack by Japan, was what happened. How odd, that this attack destroyed several ships which appeared to be vital to America, but left untouched the fuel tanks and aircraft carriers and dry docks which were actually key strategic assets? How odd that Hitler changed his strategy on the Eastern Front just short of capturing Moscow, choosing instead to divert to the South and so divide his forces when it was most risky to do so? How odd that despite over a half century of threats and crises, there was never even one nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. This same behavior goes back in history as well. The British, for example, won the battle of Chesapeake Bay in 1781 in terms of tactics, but their inability to win decisively allowed the French to block Cornwallis’ support at Yorktown and so the stunning end to the American Revolution was made possible by a simple shift in the wind. How interesting, that Captain Drake was able to have men in his pay infiltrate Spanish shipyards to sabotage the Armada so that the invasion of 1588 would fail. What a coincidence, that just when Japan reached the peak of its geopolitical power, it withdrew from the world for a century. Any one of these pieces, taken by itself, may be explained or considered just an anomoly, but altogether it is not hard to sense a purpose. Arguments can be made either way, but for those who believe in God I now turn to the Bible. Specifically certain verses in the book of Daniel, Chapter 10, verses 5-8 and 10-13:

“I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, 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; the men 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.”

“A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

“Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”

That folks, is the prophet Daniel chatting with an angel, specifically the Archangel Gabriel. Gabriel mentions that Michael is a “chief prince” among the angels, and that he helped Gabriel get past the opposition of a “prince” of Persia, which tells us that nations have angels. It is unclear from this passage what those angels do, specifically, but there is clearly angelic activity in relation to human affairs.

It might be interesting to discuss what heaven is up to, right about now.

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