The angel’s powerful response
“You must not do that!” While John may have been overwhelmed by the moment, the angel had no such shortcoming. The angel may have had that type of moment when he watched Lucifer fall from heaven, but his choice had long ago been made. When John started to worship improperly, the angel immediately aborted it. He connected John to truth and then pointed John in the right direction.
Remember when Peter, James, and John were at the transfiguration? Peter ended up blubbering a bit about building shelters. Sometimes we may do things that we cannot explain. Under ordinary circumstances, we would never do this or that. Maybe we would feel like acting one way, but would not do so. John found himself in a fix and started worshiping the wrong being. The angel immediately corrected him.
After breaking that spell, so to speak, the angel went on to remind John of his created status pointing out the similarity between he and the angel. It was concluded by the command to worship God. In another place in the New Testament, we are told to test the spirits. How does a given spirit react? Do they point to Jesus the son and God the Father as the worship focus? Or, do they redirect worship to another?
Note God did not just fry John
God’s reflexes are not as uncontrolled as ours are. A superstitious view of religion and spirituality might suggest a different event toward John. Here he was in the presence of God, and he attempted to worship an angel. How can a man violate a core element like this and get away with it? He can because of grace. He did not know what he was doing. God understood that as did the angel and together the situation was remedied. A grace-less God or a fickle one might well have done otherwise.
Had John attempted to walk into that backmost chamber in the Tabernacle of Moses a far different outcome would have happened. Here, in a far more holy place John blunders, but God does not capriciously strike him. John’s sins were long paid for, and as a man, he remained bound with frailty. In light of this, John was merely redirected. One could say the angel broke the spell that had fallen on John and maybe it was more like a “No, no, no, John. Can’t worship me,” and taking his arm said, “Up you go. Worship God.” That’s how a mom or a dad might take the arm of the child who figures the mud is the best place to play.
Not all angels would be so gracious
Remember that Lucifer, that greatest of the fallen angels, wants the thing that John offered. Satan attempted to get Jesus himself to fall at Satan’s feet. Jesus did not fall into the same funk that John did, but brought scripture to that moment and short-circuited Satan’s wickedness.
We must be careful how we surround ourselves. Sometimes things will happen around us that trigger sinful reactions. We must surround ourselves with an understanding of God from the reading of his scripture to engaging him in prayer. Those we associate with also will have an impact on us. Our books and our music will also have an effect. Will these be for good or for ill?