The Imperfect Angel
Job 4:18-21
Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:…

I want to put the truth of God's purity in its right relation to His patience and long-suffering and gentleness. Side by side with the text's setting forth God's unapproachable purity, may be placed such texts as Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 10:49, which set forth the patience and beneficence of His character, and the scrupulous and delicate equities of His administration. In the addresses of Eliphaz, God's strict and unapproachable purity is depicted in exalted and impressive phraseology. This seer, Eliphaz, sinned through overweening confidence in his own prophetic gift. His error consisted in the misapplication of truths that were obviously inspired, rather than in the premises he laid down as the basis of his appeal to Job. He was right in his abstract principles. We may accept his truth about the inconceivable purity of God.

1. God's ideals of purity are so transcendent and so terrible, that the purity of the angel nearest to His throne is little better than stain, shadow, darkness in comparison. "His angels He chargeth with folly." But is not the whole subject, with the angel in the background, vague, misty, fanciful? It is surely not unscientific to assume the existence of the pure and mighty beings spoken of by seers and prophets of the olden time, nor speculative to ponder well the words which declare that in comparison with God Himself, the angels have about them traces of finite dimness, blemish, imperfection. Are the angels, then, frail and foolish and defective? Are the angels disfigured with limitation, even as we? Put them in comparison with man, fallen man, and they will well justify the title "holy." Bring them into comparison with God, and the title will seem incongruous, arrogant, and misplaced. The fall of some of their number shows that, as a class, the angels have not yet passed beyond the stage of defectibility. They have not risen into a wisdom so complete that no illusion can betray it, nor into a strength so unassailable that no temptation can score its record of disfigurement upon their lives. They are free, it is true, from actual transgression, but they are passing through the first crude stages of a development in which, because of inward weakness and limitation, there is perilous room for the wiles of the tempter. They have not reached the transcendent holiness of God, who cannot be tempted with evil. An incarnation, with its perils and possibilities, would be fatal to an angel. God can never forget the frailty, weakness, limitation, that may be latent in the unfallen types of angelic life.

2. The holiness of an angel will appear as little better than a frailty if we think of it in comparison with the uncreated holiness of God. The Divine holiness has in it a transcendent originality, with which that of the creature can never hope to vie. The holiness of the angel is a mere echo. The angels are but copyists, and their workmanship is unutterably inferior to the original conception.

3. In the judgment of the Most High, the holiness of the angel verges upon a frailty, because of its inferior vitality and its less consuming fervour. No angel knows what it is to love with a mighty intenseness that makes the love necessarily vicarious, and the heart break with pure grief over the sin, and grief, and shame of others. No Bethlehems, or Gethsemanes, or Golgothas have ever immortalised angelic devotion and love. Their love, however crystal pure, is a love to which sacrifice is strange. It does not draw them into incarnations and propitiatory offerings, and down into the shadows of vast redeeming shames and agonies. If Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Father must have been touched in some sense from everlasting with the same sorrow. Before all worlds there was some dim mystery of self-sacrificing pain in the heart of God.

4. The defect of the angel is a defect of narrowness. In comparison with the Catholic and all-comprehending love of God, his love is insular and restrained. All perfect moral qualities are boundless. The graces of these celestial envoys are dwarfed into frailty and insignificance when brought into contrast with the perfect moral life of God.

5. The holiness of the angel has about it the defect and limitation inseparable from the briefness of its own history. It is a frail thing of yesterday in comparison with the holiness of God. Think of the amazing epochs through which God's holiness has been unfolding itself. The worth of a moral quality is proportioned to the period through which it has verified and established itself. Angel life is but of recent birth.

6. The holiness of the angel has about it the defect of immaturity. The insight and holiness of the angel are but starting points for some higher and more magnificent evolution of character, the first cell out of which shall issue the wonder and transfiguration of their after destiny...Consider the unparalleled patience and gentleness of God. "His angels He chargeth with folly." Yes; but He keeps them at His feet, and with exhaustless grate carries on their education, epoch after epoch. Is there no contradiction in these views? No. Only He who is infinitely holy can afford to be absolutely gracious and gentle. His very greatness enables Him to stoop. The incomparable holy dare stoop to blemish, and frailty, and weakness, and help it out of its dark and humiliating conditions. There is no contradiction here.. Then again, the infinitely holy can discern the hidden promise and possibility of holiness in the weak and erring. It would be an awful thing if we were left to suppose that God was microscopic in His scrutiny for judgment and condemnation only, and not also for blessing and approval. He discerns hope and fine possibility all the more keenly through the very affluence of His own purity. The perfection of righteousness is realised in the perfection of love.

(Thomas G. Selby.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:

WEB: Behold, he puts no trust in his servants. He charges his angels with error.

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