Sunday, December 30

Worthy is the Lamb.

Candle Lighter:I looked again,...”
Response: “…and I heard the voices of thousands.”

Scripture: Revelation 5:1-14

5 Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.

4 Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. 5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. 7 He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. 8 And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song with these words:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

   and break its seals and open it.

For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God

   from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10 And you have caused them to become

   a Kingdom of priests for our God.

   And they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—

   to receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

   and honor and glory and blessing.”

13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power

   belong to the one sitting on the throne

   and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

14 And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.

Reader:  The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
If you were hoping for a definitive perspective on the interpretation of this book, you need look elsewhere! That material would be beyond the scope and time we have here. What I do want us to look at, though, is the general thrust of what is being described by John. There is the scroll in the right hand, the position of authority, which contains the details of God’s plans. It is sealed and needs a worthy person to break the seals so the plans can be completed. The Lamb, Jesus, was the only one in the entire universe with the divine authority to step forward and take the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. He was the central figure who completed God’s purposes in his death on the cross. Notice how often the Lamb’s suffering is cited in this section. Earthly history and heavenly reality are united in Christ. The twenty-four elders gathered around the throne sang the gospel story, the story which had brought redemption to people from every tribe, language, and nation. (What strikes me is that apparently the people retained the uniqueness of their heritage even into heaven. The creative wonder of God’s varied creation continues on into the next world.) Added to the song of worship of the Lamb were the voices of angels without number, in other words all of heaven,  singing “Worthy is the Lamb.” The number seven is the number of perfection, of completeness, in Jewish thought. So then, it is not surprising that there are seven excellencies attributed to the Lamb. The Lamb is worshiped and counted worthy of receiving power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing. You’ll also note the earlier description of the Lamb with seven horns (which refer to complete power), seven eyes (which refer to complete knowledge), and seven spirits (which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God.) And then finally as the chapter concludes, every created being in heaven, all those on earth, and even those under the earth and sea (this could be referring to the dead or evil beings), join in offering worship to the Lamb. In the latter case if may be referring to mandatory response. Paul reminds us in Philippians that “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” This may be the fulfillment of Paul’s words. The concluding word of “Amen!” confirms “so be it!” This glorious description is the fulfillment of the earthly journey that began that starry night in Bethlehem.

Music: “Worthy Is the Lamb”  from Messiah Atlanta Symphony and Chorus Robert Shaw  DO NOT MISS THIS. This piece is, in my mind, the greatest musical setting of the text we’ve been writing about.

Lord God, most of the time my prayers are about things I’m concerned about or people for whom I’m praying. I find it very easy to pray thinking mostly of my world and asking you to intercede for it. But this time I want to pray a little differently. How am I to say you are worthy? I have a very small grasp of your worthiness. It almost seems arrogant for me to say such. But all I can say is that you are of greatest worth to me. Without you, I have no hope at all. Therefore, you are of greatest worth to me. All power in existence belongs to you and I greatly and happily rejoice in that truth. All riches are yours. Everything belongs to you and I greatly and happily rejoice in that truth. All wisdom resides in you and I take great comfort and peace and happily rejoice in that truth. All strength is yours and I am relieved and I greatly and happily rejoice in that truth, knowing you will never tire of anything in all of eternity. You don’t wear out even when I am completely exhausted. You are honored above all and I’m glad. I delight in your receiving glory. I have intrinsic joy in saying glory to you in the highest and blessing on you. All of these words fall short of what is in my heart. Like John, there are no words invented to express my adoration. Holy Spirit speak on my behalf where language fails.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Daniel Sharp

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