Sunday, December 11, 2016

Excitement

We Reformed Presbyterians have a reputation. It’s frequently summarized by the phrase ‘the frozen chosen’. Our kind of being excited is very reserved. Let me give you an example. (Pause)Yeah, what you just did, it’s just like that. Now, I’m not sure that we need to become like some who, to my stoic sensibilities, are over the top. But I’m guessing that there might be room for some improvement.

Advent is a good time to work on this. This is a season when it’s good and right for us to get a little excited - dare I say it, a little emotional. After all, Jesus has come, and we are saved.

To help us in this, we’re going to take a look at Revelation 5. Here, John paints a portrait of Jesus. He paints with some brilliant colors to reveal who Jesus is and what He has done. As we look at John’s artwork we’re going to see what all the excitement is about and what to do about it.

Let’s work through the chapter a little bit at a time. Listen to verses 1 through 7.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

Neat picture.

So, what do we see? First, Jesus is described as the Lion of Judah. We don’t have to guess what this imagery is about, though I think we would all be able to figure it out. John is told that Jesus, the Lion of Judah, has conquered. There was a battle, and Jesus won. So, whatever the obstacle was, it has been overcome. Victory is at hand.

Victory over what? What has been overcome? Well, there’s this scroll. Reading through the rest of Revelation tells us what this scroll is about. It’s God’s plan for the conquest of the world. It’s the plan to turn the kingdom of the world into the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ over which He will reign forever. The scroll is a big deal.

However, there’s a problem about the scroll.

A mighty angel raises a question. ‘Who will put the plan into action? Who is worthy to do such a thing?’ Silence. It appears that no one is worthy. And that means that the evil of the kingdom of this world will continue.  John hears the silence and falls apart weeping. That’s when an elder comforts him and points to Jesus. ‘Weep no more. The Lion of Judah has conquered.’ Jesus is worthy. Jesus will execute God’s plan. Full conquest is assured. Evil will be destroyed.

It’s here that something odd happens. John is told about Jesus as the Lion. But when John turns to see Him he doesn’t see a Lion. Instead, he sees a Lamb. You know what’s going on here. This is about Jesus’ death on the cross. That’s where the big battle was fought. That’s where the big battle was won. Jesus is the Lion who conquered by being a Lamb.

But Jesus is a Lamb with seven horns. What’s that about? In Jewish poetry a horn was a symbol of strength, of power. Seven of them is a picture of perfect or complete power. Because of His victory, Jesus has all the power that He needs to make sure God’s good plan succeeds.

And then, there are those seven eyes. The imagery of eyes is easy enough to understand. It’s about seeing and knowing. And again, seven of them means perfect seeing and therefore perfect knowing. Jesus knows exactly what’s going on in all the earth.

So, what do we have here? How shall we summarize this part of the picture that John has painted for us? Jesus, the conquering, all-powerful and all-seeing Lamb, is ready to execute the plan of God. And John explains exactly how Jesus does that in the following chapters.

Let’s consider the next section of Revelation five.  Listen to verses 8-10.

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

So, what’s this? It’s a response to Jesus. And what kind of response is it? It’s worship. They fall down before Jesus, and they sing His praise. They are worshiping Jesus.

Who’s doing this worship? John tells us about the twenty-four elders. Who’s this? The elders are the stand-in for the church of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, twelve for each. They represent the saints of the ages. But they are not alone. There are also the four living creatures. And who are they? They are the stand-in for the rest of creation. The redeemed saints and redeemed creation worship the conquering Lamb.

Why are they worshiping? They are worshiping Jesus because they are now sure to be saved. God’s plan will be put into effect. All will be restored. Evil will be destroyed. And all because of Jesus. Here, we have some very excited singing, some very emotional worship. Stoics don’t throw themselves down before someone and then sing at the top of their voices. This is passionate worship.

Verses 11-12 add an aspect that we really should not miss.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

A new voice is added here. It’s the angels. And what are they doing? They are also praising Jesus. Imagine, a bazillion angels shouting at the top of their lungs, ‘Worthy is the Lamb!’

But wait a minute. Why are they so excited? They aren’t being rescued. They don’t need to be. They haven’t sinned. But they are at least as excited as the twenty-four elders and the rest of creation for whom life is going to get amazingly better. Why? They do not shout their praise because of some benefit to them. They shout their praise simply because God is being made to look good, very good. Remember how at least some of these angels shouted,

Glory to God in the highest…

They’re excited for God’s sake. He is receiving glory. The kingdom of this world is going to become the kingdom of their God and of His Christ. And so they worship.

And now the finale, verses 13-14.

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Here, John brings the scene to a close. And what a closing. All creation - human, angelic and all the rest - exuberantly worships the Father and the Son.

Do you see what we’ve done? We’ve meditated our way through a chapter of Scripture. To be sure, there is more here than what we’ve discovered, but we’ve discovered enough.

Here’s the first thing that I want you to get. You can do this. You can meditate on the Scriptures with much benefit. You wouldn’t have to do a whole chapter in one shot. You could start with one section and meditate on it alone. Maybe take more than one sitting to do that. Slowly meditate through whatever you’re reading. This isn’t a race. Take your time. You can do this.

But we’re not done. Our meditating isn’t over. What good is meditation without some application? What lessons can we gain from all of this - we, ‘the frozen chosen’?

First, we have a model to imitate. John has shown us excitement, passionate worship, something to model ourselves after. Now, I really don’t think that you are emotionless robots. And believe it or not, neither am I. It’s just that some of us have a difficult time letting out the emotions that we feel. But this is something that we can learn to do. And maybe the place to begin to learn how to do that is in the privacy of our own time of meditation. The fact of the matter is that there are times when it’s good and right to lose a bit of that buttoned-down control that we value so much. Sometimes we need to let those emotions out.

Here’s another lesson. It’s not just that we’re supposed to get excited. It’s also that there are reasons to get excited. John has described some of them for us. Getting emotional without good reasons for it is sentimentalism. That’s getting emotional just for the sake of the emotions. No one in John’s vision was falling for that foolishness. But there are many who are doing exactly that these days. So, be careful. Meditate on the reasons for emotional worship. And that’s just another way of saying meditate on the Gospel, which is exactly what we have done this morning. There are so many reasons to respond to Jesus with heartfelt emotion. And as your heart is confronted by those reasons, an honest emotional response will show itself soon enough. Jesus has come and we are saved.

Now, the obvious way to end the sermon is for us to sing. We’re going to sing something that will allow us to get a little emotional. How about ‘Joy to the World’?

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