Pastor Peter Walther
Revelation 5:11-14 / A Song for the Lamb
Easter 3 / April 10, 2016
Even though they may be rather insignificant animals, the little wooly quadruped that we call sheep have played a rather important role throughout the bible. Many of the patriarchs were shepherds, putting their lives on the line for these little sheepies. We can’t help but remember the role that sheep played in the Passover. While the nation of Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God saved the people who painted the blood of a spotless sacrificed lamb on the door frame of their house. That little lamb saved the people. But this picture of the Passover lamb pointed the eyes of the Old Testament people forward to someone who would save all people forever. John the Baptist made that connection when he said, “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He was pointing the eyes of the people to Jesus. Jesus took away the sins of the world. Now today, in our text from Revelation, Jesus is seen yet again as the lamb but in a very different context.
Here the gospel writer John is blessed by God to be able to see a glimpse of heaven. John was invited to view God's throne room. Around God’s throne were 24 other thrones, on which 24 elders were seated. In the center around the throne there were four peculiar living creatures covered with eyes. And there in the center of the throne, was the lamb. This picture is here in our church today! The imagery in our church here is riddled with pictures of the lamb. In fact there is the one to the left of the altar, a picture of this lamb in revelation. This lamb is seated in victory upon the seven letters that are spoken of in revelation. As John stood there, probably in shock from what he was seeing, he would hear one of the most powerful songs ever sung.
What made this song so great, because as I read through it, it didn’t seem all that impressive? But trust me, no song can ever compete. No song like this could ever be played enough. This song could never get old because this was a song meant for that passover lamb, the lamb who took away the sins of the world. This song sings the praises of Christ, who deserves and is worthy of all honor, love, respect, and obedience because those things are rightfully his! He is worthy to receive all riches, because He had to become poor for our sake's, so poor that he had no place to lay his head. But in his exultation, all things in heaven and earth are put under his control. He is worthy of the divine honor and glory which are now his in exchange for the shame and disgrace that came upon him when he was slain. He is worthy to be called God, and not just a famous passive aggressive criminal or teacher. But these words describe Jesus as God. The last word that the angels sing, the word praise, is really like the word “blessing.” Countless Hebrew prayers, the kind of prayers John had known since his childhood, began with the words "Blessed are you, Oh Lord king of the universe.” The angels were calling Jesus the God of the universe.
Thousands times tens of thousands of angels singing God’s praises back and forth. How awesome it is that even the angels in heaven are so deeply interested in the works of God and in your salvation. They sang together and praised God at creation. They sang glory to God and victory to the shepherds in the fields that Christmas morning when the savior was born. They rejoiced announcing the resurrection of Jesus that Easter morning. They rejoice every time a sinner repents, and they all join their voices in worship and praise of that one Lamb that was slain.
Jesus, our Savior, the lamb, deserves all this glory and honor, doesn’t he? He deserves to be praised doesn’t he? The things he did for all people deserves to be told, doesn’t it? And yet, the sin that I am so often enslaved to brings no honor to God. What honor is there in the way I have lived my life? By the way I have let society mold my view on the opposite gender, or being single or being married or partying and brushing off my work? What glory do I give to God when I am found talking badly about my family or friends or my coworkers? What praise do I give to God when I simply fail to share God’s word with the person who is wondering why everyone is making a big deal about abortion or gay marriage. What praise do I give to God when it seems like nine times out of ten when someone asks me what I did this past weekend, I hunch my shoulders and say, “Not much. I just hung out,” and I fail to show that I’m different from the world by saying I simply went to church. Being a christian witness can be as simple as saying you went to church this past weekend instead of sleeping in, and yet I fail to even bring that up in conversation when someone asks! If Jesus can make rocks to praise his name, what about the walls of our work, or school, or home. You know that cliche: If these walls could talk…If you think about that, I don’t think that really is a wish that we would want! Would the walls praise God for what we said or did last night? Probably not.
Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who was slain, came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. But, Jesus frees me from that sin. He frees me from the emptiness of this world and all of its wants and desires. It is only through Jesus that we can turn away from that sin that tries to put us in fetters and chains and drag us back to the darkness of this world. When we stay connected to Jesus, every day, with a little devotion in the morning and at night, thing are brought back into perspective. Jesus reminds me of forgiveness and he reminds me of my new life in Christ, one that brings honor to God. We hear the melody of this glorious song in heaven, a song of sins forgiven.
Our Savior Jesus Christ, the lamb who went to the altar to be sacrificed for us, also takes the throne for us because He is our King, now and forever. He is our king that brings all things under his control and brings his little flock to him. What inspiring picture for the scattered Christians bearing the brunt of persecution or suffering! We Christians feel like a little flock, don’t we? Because it feels like there aren’t a lot of Christians out in the world today. Those who claim to be Christians are often by name only. Christians sometimes feel isolated and in a very distinct minority. However, when all these saints are gathered in heaven and when all the angels are added to the number of the saints, we form of big group and we will join together with united voices to praise the lamb and give him glory and honor.
These words bring such great comfort to us as we go through the aches and pains, and as we go through the heartaches and the growing pains of this life. These words give us a visual picture of what Paul meant when he said in Romans 8, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Through all the difficulties and trials that touch our lives, these words stand as a powerful encouragement. We don't need to feel that we are all alone. You don't need to despair when we suffer chronic pain. Even if we suffer persecution for our faith, we have something that far overshadows our problems. We have a place reserved for us around the throne of God! It's not weird for us to say, We wish we were there, because that sounds awesome! What a song that must have been: a song of hope for us even in a time of trial.
What a song that must have been! One man went to the task of trying to bring this song to our ears. George Frederick Handel rose to the challenge of setting the verses of this song and the “Amen” of verse 14 to classical music in his famed work called Messiah. You are very familiar with the Hallelujah chorus of the Messiah, often sung at Christmas, but that is such a small portion of the entire musical masterpiece. The finale which is aptly named “Worthy is the Lamb” and then the “Amen” uses instrumental and vocal music and brings the Messiah to an overwhelming close. And as we speak, I have the youtube video posting to our Facebook page with this portion from Handel’s Messiah.
When God gave the musical inspiration to Handel to write such music, he was giving us a sample of that heavenly song: certainly inferior to the music of heaven which was heard by the apostle John, but awesome to get a glimpse. How blessed are we that God has revealed that one day we will be part of the heavenly choir privileged to bow down in the presence of the lamb who sits upon the throne!
John received a peek into heaven’s throne room. What John saw must have been encouraging to him and made him excited about what was waiting for him in heaven.The divine purpose of God’s creation has been achieved: there is a great multitude of saved people, who shall praise and serve God forever. God wanted people to know that he will achieve this purpose. For that reason, he allowed John to see this vision. We thank God that He gives to us a solid comfort! Jesus wins! I am privileged to say the same word that the four living creatures repeated, Amen!
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our risen and victorious Lamb of God. Amen.