Revelation 4-5 08/14/2016
Awaiting the Bridegroom: “Knowing the Beloved: The Priestly King”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
Culture shock is a real thing. I could tell story after story of how we experienced culture shock during our two weeks in Africa. But it less than two weeks we had become somewhat encultured into their way of living, and coming back home to Spokane was another culture shock experience. Traffic may be among the biggest deals. In Kenya they drive on the “wrong” side of the road – that always takes a little getting used to. And they drive with their hands “on the horn” (almost constantly). And, while they have lane dividers and traffic lights, I’m not convinced either lane dividers or red lights mean anything at all! When I was taught to drive I was told to keep a 2-second safety margin between me and the car ahead of me. In Kenya, it seems, they are taught to keep a two-INCH safety margin! (I now struggle with all of those things in Spokane….)
On Friday morning I had breakfast with a man who has been my friend for nearly as long as I’ve lived in Spokane. John Tusant, former Executive Director of the Greater Spokane Association of Evangelicals (an interdenominational group I have been a member of for 20 years, and have served on the board of for over 15 years); he’s now, in his retirement years, a missionary in Mongolia. He’s on furlough right now, but he was due to return to Mongolia yesterday. Since I just got back from a trip to Kenya, and he’s been “on the field” in Mongolia for almost 5 years, I asked him about how one comes to understand the distinction between “culture differences” and “moral/ethical differences” (when is a “cultural difference” more than simply a different way of doing something, but becomes an unethical way of doing something? – an obvious situation might be: it’s some native people’s religious culture to offer virgins as sacrifices into the volcano).
John’s answer was to take the time to really know the person and the culture in which he lives. After you learn the culture, you can see if the person is a person of integrity and good character, or just someone who takes advantage of young virgins….
It has been 5 weeks since our last look at the last book of the New Testament, the book of Revelation. Since then we have had two guest preachers, a Sunday of photos and stories from Kenya, and a Sunday worshiping with several other churches in Harmon Park for the Hillyard Festival Weekend.
Today we come back to this fascinating close to the canon of Scripture.
As a quick reminder, this Summer, among several other one-Sunday sermons, we are taking an overview look at the Book of Revelation – to see what it promises and how those promises effect our lives and faith today.
In the first two Sundays of this series we saw that this book could be seen as a love letter from the Bridegroom Jesus to His Bride, the Church. We saw that while many see this book as confusing and uninterpretable, we are choosing to see it in its simple format of Jesus’ revelation of Himself to us, His beloved. Then we imagined being truly known by the One who loves us more than all the words in the world could say! Today we will see a little of what it means to truly know our beloved – to know Him and His culture.
As we invest our next several weeks working through the Revelation 4-18, we will not be reading them to figure out every jot or tittle of this book, but we’ll be reading them to better know the One who sends us this book. He knows us, deeply, intimately, personally. How well do we know Him?
Since this is a book which reveals, unveils, makes clear, who Jesus is – today we start to see that picture come into focus.
Look with me at Revelation 4 & 5. I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 4 & 5, and to listen for the ways Jesus reveals Himself – as Priest and as King.…. —-
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
Before we get too far today, I know some of you remember our last Sunday here, when worship went for the full 90-minutes. Just to put your worried souls at rest, today we will not go beyond 85-minutes, I promise. Part of how we will streamline this sermon depends on your involvement. When I ask you a question, anonymously shout out an answer. Ready?
Name some ways you have always “pictured” Jesus:
Shepherd, smiling, gentle, soft-spoken, ruddy, strong, (I am super glad no one said, blond-haired and blue-eyed).
How does Jesus describe Himself in this chapter?
Jasper and ruby, a rainbow like an emerald, lightning and rumbles and thunder.
And where is Jesus in this chapter?
Seated on the throne!
Who sits on a throne?
(Go ahead and use the Lego bulletin cover to get an idea) The King!
The first thing to know about Jesus is that He is King! Sovereign! In charge! Ruler! And He is beautiful beyond description!
And what happens around this throne? Songs! Songs of praise! O Sifuni Mungu! Holy, Holy, Holy!
All of creation stands before Him and sings His praises!
And note, the end of chapter 4, it says, “For by Your will [all things] were created.” That does not mean that God demanded their creation, commanded it to happen – although that might be a fine way to describe how it happened. The “why” of it happening is that it pleased God to create.
Thursday night Caitlin and I went out to the back side of Mount Spokane, where it was as nearly pitch black as we could find, to watch the magnificence of the Perseid Meteor Shower. We saw dozens of meteors in a vastly uncountable number of stars that filled the sky. God took pleasure in creating each of those stars, and galaxies, and planets, and moons, and molecules, and atoms…. And took great pleasure in creating you!
In Genesis, after each “day” of creation God said, “It is good”; after creating humans He said, “It is very good! Look at that! Beautiful!”
And He creates us to be in relationship with Him!
Since we’re in the middle of the 2016 Olympics, it seems natural to bring up the line from the 1981 movie about the 1924 Olympics when Eric Liddell from Scotland told his sister, “I believe that God made me for a purpose – for China. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt.” (Chariots of Fire)
Do you ever feel God’s pleasure? What are you doing when you feel God’s pleasure in you? — Do that more!
And before we close today’s teaching – Jesus is not simply King of kings and Lord of lords! He is all that! But He sits on the throne also as One who represents His people before His heavenly Father. He is King! But He is not an ordinary King! Jesus is a Priestly King who has not only offered up a sacrifice for God’s people, but became The Sacrifice for God’s people!
Paul reminds us in Philippians that there will be a day when “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord” – This Revelation is Jesus’ love letter to His beloved, inviting us to bow our knee and confess our faith today!
Revelation 5 tells us Judgment is coming. But Revelation 4 invites us to know the Beloved today!
Do you know Him?
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by Your pleasure they were created and have their being….
And from Revelation 5:13-14 we join this passage in prayer:
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea—I heard everything everywhere say,
“Blessing, honor, glory, and power belong
to the one seated on the throne
and to the Lamb
forever and always.”
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshipped.
Chariots of Fire; Warner Bros; 1981.
Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 27-38.