Week of May 8: Praise and worship focused on the One on the throne
By DOREEN SMALLS
Lesson scripture: Revelation 4:1-2, 6b-11
John, the apostle of Jesus, wrote the book of Revelation while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos for his activities as a Christian missionary. During his imprisonment, John was given a prophetic revelation. In chapter four, John shared glimpses of worship of God in heaven.
Visions and voices
We are surrounded with things that capture our attention through sight and sound. One of the first things we do in the morning is either watch television or listen to the radio. Vivid pictures can bring stories to life while spoken words can invoke our human emotions. Through sights and sounds, an ordinary event can be transformed into an extraordinary experience.
The book of Revelation is filled with visions and voices. Chapter four begins with John standing at an open door in heaven. He was beckoned by a voice to enter and to witness what was taking place. John stated, “After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place’” (Revelation 4:1).
John records that he heard a voice that sounded like a trumpet. He saw creatures that looked like animals while others had human characteristics. He also observed a throne circled with emerald like a rainbow; 24 elders dressed in white; flashes of lightning; and glass sparkling like crystal. What he saw and heard was enough to overwhelm anyone, but John’s eyes were directed to the center throne and “one seated on the throne” (Revelation 4:2).
The One seated on the throne is the primary focus. Everything else surrounds the One and gets their instruction from Him. All praise and worship was directed toward Him. This vivid picture of worship is inspiring for us today. According to Kevin Baker, pastor of Reconciliation United Methodist Church, “Christian worship, at its best, is a foretaste and a sign of the worship that is to come.”
What symbols, sights or sounds inspire your worship of God?
The Sovereign God of Israel and the Church
Much of the imagery and the symbolism in chapter four of Revelation can be referenced to passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. These images point us back the beginning of creation and reminds us of the true God who is the creator of heaven and earth.
John mentioned that a rainbow surrounds the throne that appears like emerald. In Exodus, we recall the story of Noah and the rainbow as a sign of the covenant. After destroying the earth with a flood, God told him, “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:13). The rainbow is a reminder of the covenant between God and all creation. “The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:15). This rainbow in heaven discloses all colors which “point to the glory and splendor of the one God who is all in all.”
John noted, “The one seated looks like jasper and carnelian” (Revelation 4:3). These stones could characterize the richness, the beauty and the brilliance of God. Jasper and carnelian were the “first” and “twelfth” gems discovered in the breast piece of the priest’s garments; twelve gems “that shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes [of Israel]” (Exodus 28:21).
God told the twelve tribes, “If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and made a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6).
Pictures of lightning flashes and the rumblings of thunder recall Moses’ experience with God on Mt. Sinai. God said to Moses, “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire … Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder” (Exodus 19:18-19). On the day the Lord rescued David from his enemies and from Saul, David sang “He shot his arrows and scattered his enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them” (Psalm 18: 14).
The sovereign God who is seated in heaven’s throne is the same God who created the heavens and the earth and all things in it. What worship symbols remind you of the Old Testament stories?
Songs of praises
John concluded this chapter with songs that offered praise to God. He declared there would be four living creatures singing to God day and night without stopping. They would sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). God is far beyond anything or anyone that we could ever deem as holy. The term “almighty” denotes that ultimate power originates with God and God alone.
The second song explains that God is “worthy … to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11). This symbolizes that God is worthy of the highest glory and honor. God is the one with the power to create all things.
Our God is indeed worthy of all the praise. What songs do you sing that remind you of his glory and power?