For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. – 2 Peter 2:4-11
On to the second letter of Peter. Peter again brings up Noah’s flood as a way to convince the readers of this letter that they should pay attention to being righteous. There is apparently a battle going on in these followers about whether to follow the “corrupt desires of the flesh” or their conscience toward God. The author is trying to convince the readers that God “knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” In the end God wins.
I assume this explanation of spiritual sifting is meant to reassure the followers that their efforts to faithfully follow God are worth it, even when outward appearances may suggest some are escaping the consequences of their choices. Peter describes these people as “despising authority”. I assume this means that they believe they are the most important authority in their own lives rather than God.
It sounds like there are people who not only think they are the ultimate authority in their own lives, but they are apparently not afraid to “heap abuse on celestial beings”. I am not sure what this even means. Talking smack to angels and saints? Berating and blaspheming the heavenly host? This would take a level of hubris that is difficult to imagine.
The only example that comes immediately to my mind is one planted there by Hollywood and the mind of director Frank Capra. The movie “It’s a wonderful life” features a troublesome angel, a “celestial being”, named Clarence. Clarence is depicted chatting with other celestial beings in a Hollywood version of heaven about a troubled George Bailey, who becomes Clarence’s “assignment” to earn his wings.
Clarence decides the only way to “save” George is to jump into an icy river so that George is forced outside himself, and into the river, to save Clarence. Clarence, with further consultation with his celestial cohort, decides to show George how his life has touched the lives of many others. He lets him see what the world would have looked like without his life and all the ways his life affected others. This results in considerable confusion and conflict between George and Clarence. George definitely heaps abuse on Clarence as he grabs a clue and eventually helps Clarence “earn his wings”.
George did not realize that his self doubt and willingness to take his own life was in fact a form of boldness and arrogance. George prayed and thought the answer would come in the form of a magical miracle. He thought his immediate troubles, which did look pretty grim, were bigger than God. In the end his problem was solved not by God providing a bag of money to trip over. The actual resolution was much more organic and relational, just like the way Jesus healed and fed people. A multitude of caring people showed up to help George and Clarence gained his wings “thata boy Clarence”.
So what is the take home here? Perhaps it is that when we ask for God’s help we should do it with humility and an expectation that the help may come through others who are listening intently to God’s voice and responding.
Prayer: God help us to pray with humility and grace, expecting an unexpected answer.