Why We worship – Reflections on The Lion and the Lamb in Revelation 5

It’s the end of the season, the team need to win to stay up. They have been written off by the experts, they are playing Liverpool, a top team. Through the game, a group of dedicated fans keep singing and encouraging everyone to join in. Then a surprise, City score, it’s 1-0 and the final whistle goes and the whole stadium erupts in singing and chanting and cheering. Victory, relief, gratitude, joy.

Now another scene. There’s a battle going on.  It looks hopeless. But we’ve been promised that the hero will come. It’s the Lion of Judah. The nickname suggests majesty, power, dominion. Victory will be certain when he comes.  The Lion is here. You turn around, it’s a lamb that’s already been sacrificed. The enemies are laughing. That’s your hero … But they’ve missed the point -it’s exactly

through the surprise that the lion comes as the sacrificed lamb that victory is won.

 

And we are in Revelation 5. There is a Scroll. It reveals God’s Word, God’s plan and God’s explanation for all that is happening on earth. However, there is no-one with the right or the ability to open the Scroll.

 

Remember that the whole point of Revelation is to help us make sense of life now by giving us a “Heavens’ Eye view” of the whole of history.  John weeps because if the scroll is not opened then that perspective is missing.

 

Jesus is referred to as ”The lion of Judah.” This points to his kingship, power and authority as the “Son of David.”  However, this lion is revealed as a sacrificial lamb.  You see, god’s strength was seen at the very point when he looked weak. At the Cross, when Jesus died, it looked to many like evil had triumphed. However on the Cross, evil, Satan and death were deafeated. This is because it was through taking our place and bearing our guilt, dying in our place that Jesus dealt with the problem of sin.

 

So, it is in response to Jesus’ victory that creation responds in praise declaring

 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—     to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength     and honor and glory and blessing.”[1]

 

And …

 

“Blessing and honor and glory and power     belong to the one sitting on the throne     and to the Lamb forever and ever.”[2]

 

The response of the heavenly beings to Jesus appearing and being able to open the Scroll is worship. There is a sense of overwhelming relief, gratitude and joy.

 

What this means for Worship

 

There are some important implications for worship here

 

  1. Worship comes in response to God’s Revelation to us. This means that we praise God in light of what he has revealed to us about his name, character and purposes.
  2. Worship comes in response to what God reveals and therefore, we are not free to worship as we choose but should seek to worship him in the way that he tells us to
  3. Worship is not about us seeking to get God’s attention and to please Him in order that he will do what we want.  Worship is not about forcing God’s arm or manipulating him.[3] Nor do we use praise as a means to get into God’s presence or persuade him to come close to us. Praise happens in response to the incredible truth that God has already drawn close to us in the person of Jesus and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  Worship is not so much a plea for God to act as recognition that he has already acted.[4]

 

I want to suggest that this will cause us to think carefully about the language we use in our corporate worship and also how we organise it.[5]

[1] Revelation 5:12

[2] Revelation 5:13.

[3] Contrast Jesus’s willing compassion on the Crowds in Matthew 14:13-21 with Herod’s response to his step daughter’s dance in Matthew 14:1-12.

[4] Of course we will want to nuance this with reference to the ongoing role of intercessionary prayer.

[5] Noting as always that corporate sung worship is only one part of a whole life of worship.

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