If there is one word that sums up Revelation 4-5, it would have to be worship. Worship is certainly the main action happening in Revelation 4-5. From the glimpses we’re given of heaven in Revelation, worship is the main action happening in heaven. And seeing earth is only the womb of heaven for those who know God, it seems to me that worship should be the main action of life, period!
Believe me, I don’t make that statement lightly. I don’t make that statement without a little sinking feeling.
Worship can seem like a lot of work to me. Too often, I think about worship as that activity performed on a Sunday morning during the singing time when I try desperately to pull my mind away from wherever it would wander if given its “druthers” back into a place of “worship.” A place where I try to drum up a certain emotional reaction. Where chanting mantras like, “We worship You, we praise You, we exalt You,” is supposed to create worship. And usually fails. For me, at least.
Self-propelled worship is a lot of work. It’s not very enjoyable. It’s not very exciting to think about heaven and its eternal activity of worship when I think about that kind of worship.
Among all the other things that self-propelled worship isn’t, fortunately for me, I don’t believe it’s much like real worship, either.
Singing, “We worship You, Lord, we praise You, we exalt You,” gives me nothing to go on. It doesn’t remind me why I’m worshipping. On the other hand, when I sing something like, “Great is Thy faithfulness[…] morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided[…] summer and winter and springtime and harvest; sun, moon and stars in their courses above; join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love[…] Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine with ten thousand beside,” then I can get caught up in worship. When I’m reminded of who God is, what He’s like, what He’s done, then I worship.
Too often, I’m unexcited by all the scenes of worship in heaven because I fail to see that worship happens for a reason. Worship is not a self-created emotional response entirely disconnected from reason. Worship is all about reason. We worship because there are reasons to worship.
I stated earlier that worship should be the main action of life. What I meant was rightly-directed worship should be the main action of life… because worship is the main action of life. Worship is what we all live for. The challenge is to direct our worship rightly.
We worship all kinds of things. When I see how excited some people are about hockey, how it’s all they can think about, how they can’t miss a game on TV, how they have all the players’ stats on the tips of their tongues at all times, I realize that worship is the main action of life.
When I see how excited some people are about their favourite music, how they can’t be separated from their headphones, how posters decorate their bedroom walls, how concerts whip fans into frenzies, I realize that worship is the main action of life.
When I see how excited people get about food, about being in love, about nature, about their families, about humour, about pursuing their dreams, you name it, I realize that worship is the main action of life. The challenge is to worship not the gift but the Giver. The challenge is to view hockey, music, food, romance, nature, family, humour, dreams, etc. properly — as just one more reason to direct our worship toward the One who created all good things.
When I think about it, worship is not a lot of work. Worship is what I live for. One thing I live for is my daily walk, a long walk out in the countryside, away from it all — out where I can see trees and sky and water and mountains and birds and the occasional deer. It’s my time to worship, and I live for it. Times like those make life worth living.
I don’t worship the trees, sky, water, mountains, birds, or deer. That would make worship shallow and unsatisfying in a big hurry. I go out to experience those things to be reminded Whom it is I worship and a little bit more about what He’s like. I go for my walks to be reminded of some of the reasons I have for worship.
I used to casually skim the worship passages in Revelation and, honestly, I was bored by them. Of course I knew that once I was before the throne of God in person, worship would not be at all boring. I knew worship would be spontaneous and not at all self-propelled. And I could understand that those involved in all the worship scenes in Revelation weren’t bored at all. But reading about their worship seemed to me like singing the, “We worship You, we praise You, we exalt You,” praise songs that leave me cold. The worship in Revelation seemed to be a lot of, “Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him…” and I wasn’t seeing the reasons from those passages that would remind me why I should worship.
True, there is a lot of the reaction of, “Blessing and honour and glory and power,” happening, but before the reaction, there are the reasons. The worshippers first pour out their reasons for worshipping.
The cherubim in Revelation 4:8 open the worship by reminding us of God’s holiness, His might, and His unchanging, eternal nature.
God’s holiness doesn’t always instantly lead me into worship (because of my own unholiness). But when I think about what it would be like if God were not holy… Well, I’m so grateful for God’s holiness.
And then there’s the fact that God’s holiness does not keep the twenty-four elders away from His throne. Because He found a way to impart His holiness — His righteousness, His perfection — to us, we’ll someday be worshipping before His throne. Just the fact that we can worship Him in spirit and in truth is an enormous reason to worship.
Then, the twenty-four elders remind us in Revelation 4:11 that He is worthy because He created all things. He created them for His pleasure.
And from Revelation 5:9 and 12, we’re reminded of what God has done for us. We’re reminded that the Lamb is worthy, first of all, just because He is worthy, in and of Himself, but also, He’s worthy because He was slain. He’s redeemed us by His blood. He’s made us kings and priests, and we’ll reign with Him. He’s done unimaginable things for us that we can only catch glimpses of at this point.
Because of who He is, He is all that is worthy of our worship. Because of who He is, He has done what He’s done. Because of who He is and what He’s done, “We worship Him, we praise Him, we exalt Him.”