Friday, July 26, 2019

With Angels and Archangels

Detail of 'Michael Contending,' by Edward Riojas (Copyright © Edward Riojas. Image may not be reproduced.)

Copyright © Edward Riojas

The back-story begs to be told.

In the opening verses of his letter to fellow believers, Jude writes about the judgment of false teachers. He makes a case for the sovereignty of God and the presumptions of men, and in so doing casually mentions an odd event in the history of God’s chosen people.
“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! ...” (Jude 1:8-11a)
In a single sentence, surely the reader must have nearly lost Jude’s point. The back-story of Michael contending with the devil is one thing, but fighting over the body of Moses magnifies the strangeness of the event. The reader thinks, "Wait. What?!"

What is not revealed in this New Testament book is that God Himself buried the body of Moses, and no one knew where that was. (Deut. 34:1-6) It is clear, however, that the old Serpent wanted the body for some nefarious purpose, and the Archangel Michael was called to action. This is the setting of my painting, “The Archangel Michael Contending With The Devil Over The Body Of Moses.” (Yes, it’s a long-winded title, but there is no better way to say it.)

This is such an odd subject for a sacred painting that I doubted another artist had done anything with it. I was wrong. While it does take a little hunting, there are a few examples out there. Each of them is a slightly different interpretation of what might have taken place. Some of those examples look like a bad day at the debate club, with little action other than some finger-pointing.
"The Archangel Michael Contending
With The Devil Over The Body Of Moses"
2019. Edward Riojas. Oil on panel.
(Copyright © Edward Riojas.
Image may not be reproduced.) 

Because Holy Scripture does not describe angels with the schmaltzy, Hallmark pattern of flaxen-haired damsels, I went with the model of a warring angel. Michael isn’t just arguing with the devil – the archangel is giving his nemesis a good thrashing. The devil cowers in darkness like a cockroach and, like a cockroach, he simply won’t give up. His hand defiantly points to himself.

Michael, however, points to the glow of heaven. Knowing neither a personal rebuke nor a judgment are his to give, Michael appeals to heaven, “The Lord rebuke you!”

I found out after the fact that, while the archangel Gabriel is associated with the color blue, Michael’s color is typically red. I gave him a red cloak simply because the painting needed some color. What I also realized after the fact is that Michael’s cloak seems to be floating down, as a funeral pall, over the wrapped body of Moses. How appropriate that a symbol of Christ’s blood covers a saint in death, becoming a vivid reminder that not even Satan, with all his biting and clawing and accusing, may claim what is the Lord’s by virtue of His own death and resurrection!


Giclée prints of 'Michael Contending' are available from the artist. For more information or to order prints, please e-mail the artist at

 Sizes/prices for prints for 'Michael Contending:'
12” x 18” / $80  ·  16” x 24” / $110  ·  24” x 36” / $180

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