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WORTHY OF WORSHIP
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based on Rev. 5:1-14
Back in the early part of this century when Billy Sunday was drawing thousands to his meetings, a new song was introduced that became very popular. It become so popular that Homer Rodehaver, the great music man of the day, wrote a history of its influence. He traveled around the world and found it being sung in the French Foreign Legion even. Missionaries reported that it was sung by children in the remote interior of Siam. From around the globe came stories of its impact on all classes of people.
This new song, published in 1918 was the simple song, Brighten the Corner Where You Are. Mrs. Ogden, who wrote it wanted to do something great for God in the world, but like most people she had to live her life in the small world of her family and community. Then one day she wrote a song that expressed her own insight into God's will for her and all His children. The first stanza goes-
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do.
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.
The paradox is, she did just that and wrote her song for her own corner, but the light of it spread around the globe. You never know what a new song will do. It may die in birth, or become a giant best seller. The world and the church have this in common: They are ever looking for a new song to convey a message, and capture the hearts and minds of the masses.
As we gaze into heaven with the Apostle John we discover this goes on right into eternity, and there is ever a new song. John hears the whole kingdom of God, that is, all of the redeemed, and all of the animal kingdom, joining in a new song of praise to the Lamb. The paradox of this new song is that, though it is new, it is still a song of the old, old story of Jesus and His love. The theme of heaven is the same as the theme of the church all through history. In the cross of Christ I glory. The cross and what Jesus accomplished there will the theme of endless songs in eternity. When we experience the fullness of all He saved us for, we will never cease to sing a new song. Here we are to pray without ceasing. There we will sing without ceasing, and the one word that stands out as the defining word of all this praise is the word-worthy. Of the 7 uses of the word worthy in Revelation, 4 of them are right here.
In verse 2, the mighty angel asked the question, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" In verse 3, John weeps, for no one in heaven or earth was found worthy.
In verse 9, The new song sung by the 24 elders begins with the words, "You are worthy."
In verse 12, The angelic hosts of heaven join in the song making it completely universal, and they sing, "Worthy is the Lamb."
The theme of eternal and universal music will be, Jesus is worthy of worship. You only worship what is worth it. What is of ultimate value is what is worthy of our worship. All of life for the Christian is, in a very real sense, choir practice, for the grand performance of singing this eternal new song-worthy is the Lamb. We need to learn to do now what we will do forever, therefore, we need to understand all we can about the worthiness of our Lord. As we examine this heavenly scene the first thing we see is-
I. THE REQUIREMENT OF WORTHINESS.
The scene opens with the focus on a scroll in the right hand of God. It is a very long scroll with writing on both sides, but it is not readable because it is sealed with 7 seals which means it is so totally sealed it is as good as locked up in Fort Knox. Even that does not convey its secrecy, for there has never been a more top secret classified document in history. The only one who had access to this scroll was one who was worthy. This is the one requirement that would allow anyone to see this information.
Yet, with only one requirement there was no one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth who could even look inside, let alone open the scroll. You can't make any less than one requirement, but this one was too many for all the beings in God's creation. Gabriel or Michael, the great archangels of the Bible, did not step up and say I qualify. They were sinless beings who never disobeyed God, and they served Him faithfully, and worshipped Him consistently, and still, even these highest of holy angels could not meet this one requirement. They were not worthy to open the scroll, and if they were not worthy, then there is no point in looking on earth or under the earth. If you can't find jewelry in a jewelry store there is not much point in searching a hardware store. If none in heaven can meet this requirement, then the search is over. Worthiness at this point is the most scarce commodity in the entire universe. It is a sad lack too, for here is one of the most fascinating books in all the universe, and nobody will ever get to read it, for nobody is worthy.
John felt the frustration of this hopeless situation, and he burst into uncontrollable sobbing. You would think going to heaven would be more fun than this, but here is John bawling his eyes out in heaven because the scroll is worthless without someone who is worthy. John knew he was looking at the rarest book in history. How many books does God ever hold in His right hand? This was a one of a kind rare volume, but rarer yet, John thought, was someone worthy to open it and reveal its contents. So the scene produces tears in heaven. It is good for men like John to learn to cry to relieve their stress and frustration. But, on the other hand, these tears were unnecessary, and all John needed was a little patience.
After all, he ought not to have expected a rush of applicants who would have the audacity to say I am worthy to peer into the heart of God's diary, and read of His plan for the world. Who was worthy to open the diary of any man or woman, let alone the diary of God? John is devastated by the lack of worthiness in the universe, but what did he expect. Did he expect God to lower His standard and ask, is anyone 75 to 80% worthy? Then maybe an archangel or two would have stepped forward to open the scroll. But God required 100% worthiness, and John is depressed by God's standard. You can even get depressed in heaven as God's guest if you don't learn to accept God's standard, and have the patience to wait for His solution to the impossible.
John is still the impatient son of thunder who wants a quick and easy answer to everything. How do we deal with Samaritans who will not accept Jesus as the Messiah? We will call fire down from heaven to consume them. That was his quick and easy solution. Jesus rebuked such nonsense, but it is hard to change your personality, and here we see John weeping crocodile tears in heaven because no one is rushing up to open the scroll. Finally, one of the elders takes compassion on this impatient weeping saint, and points him to the solution for his problem.
He says to him, do not weep, there is one who is able to open the scroll, and it is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David. John looked and saw the Lamb of God; the Lord Jesus; the crucified Savior. The famous painting of Salvidor Dali called, The Christ Of St. John Of The Cross, hangs in the Glasgow art gallery. It pictures the cross of Christ being lifted right off the earth, and ascending into the sky. It has ceased to be merely an earthly event. It has become a cosmic event. That is the message of Revelation 5. The cross of Christ, and the Christ of the cross are the central theme of heavens new song because the crucified Savior is the only one in the universe who is worthy to open the scroll.
He alone is worthy because He alone has done what is necessary to fulfill the purposes of God that are written in the scroll. No one else could bring to pass the things that God has decreed. The salvation and the judgment of mankind all hinge on the work of the cross. Nobody else died for the sins of the world, and nobody else was worthy to open the scroll. Only one could meet the requirement, but one is all that is necessary. One is enough when the one meets the requirement of worthiness. Jesus achieved this status of being worthy the old fashion way-he earned it. It was not a gift of the Father. Jesus had to shed His blood to purchase men from every tribe, language, people, and nation. He earned the right to open the scroll and see the destiny of the mankind for whom He died. Nobody else ever did anything that meant everything for the destiny of everybody. Jesus is one of a kind Savior, and, therefore, worthy of worship. The second thing we see is-
II. THE REWARD FOR WORTHINESS.
When the Lamb took the scroll from the right hand of God, the first reward for His worthiness was-WORSHIP. All living beings fell down before the Lamb and worshipped the one, and only one, who made it possible for them to be a part of the kingdom of God, and to be in the presence of God. They worshipped the Lamb by singing a new song. All through history and into eternity, singing is a major part of worship.
I think it is important that we take note of the fact that they worship with a new song. It has been a problem in Christian worship through the centuries that Christians resist new songs. We get locked in to certain songs, and get lazy, and refuse to learn new songs, and it is new songs that keep our worship alive, fresh, and vibrant.
One Sunday after the morning worship, Isaac Watts complained to his father about the dull and lifeless Psalm-singing in the church. His father said, "If you don't like it, give us something better." Isaac went home and opened his Bible to Rev. 5, and put this new song of heaven into his own words for a new song on earth. This is what he wrote:
Behold the glories of the Lamb
Amid His Father's throne,
Prepare new honors for His name,
And songs before unknown.
Thou hast redeemed our souls with blood,
And set the prisoners free,
Hast made us Kings, and Priests to God,
And we shall reign with Thee.
This new song was sung at the next service in the Southhampton church, and it was so well received they encouraged Isaac to supply more new songs. That began the career of Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnology. This new song of heaven inspired the new song on earth that changed the whole history of the singing of the saints on earth. Heaven's praises have had a powerful influence on earth, for Watts went on to write 700 hymns, and after him many more began to write them. Because Jesus was worthy to open the scroll, He has been praised with literally thousands of new songs.
Songs are a vital part of worship in heaven and on earth, but it was not easy to change the tradition of singing only the old songs of the Psalter. The Baptist were among the resisters. Benjamin Keach, a Baptist pastor in London, tried to introduce a new song in his church. He argued for it for 14 years before he was allowed to use a new hymn in the regular service, and then it was to be at the end of the service so members who opposed it could leave first. Some were so upset they did leave, and never came back. They started a church of their own where hymn singing was strictly forbidden. Thank God such nonsense will be over forever in heaven, and every tongue will join in the new song of praise to the Lamb who is worthy of worship. This will be just part of the reward for His worthiness that He will be the theme of eternal praise.
Peter Machenzie was a miner in Durham, England, who helped evangelists draw crowds. One day he got the crowd gathered, but the evangelist did not show up. And so he had to preach himself. He was not prepared so he said to the crowd, give me a subject. Someone shouted out, "What do they do in heaven?" He paused for a moment and said, "One thing they do is sing. Singing is a basic part of the joy of heaven, and I hope to be leading a choir. I'll probably say turn to number 749, My God and Father While I Stray. And the angels in the choir will say, Peter you are in heaven, you can no longer stray. And I'll say, then turn to 651, Though Waves In Storm Beat Or My Head, and the whole angelic choir will be on their feet again reminding me this is heaven and we need fear no more storms. Then it will finally dawn on me that other themes will end but the new songs of praise will be the endless theme of our songs, for Jesus will always be worthy of our praise."
There are few things we can do in life more important than that of praising our Lord. It is His reward to be praised because He is worthy, but it leads to revival in the lives of those who sing His praises. St. Augustine in his famous Confessions tells of how he was changed by the new songs that Ambrose introduced into the church of Milan. He writes, "How abundantly did I weep to hear those hymns and canticles of Thine, being touched to the very quick by the voice of the sweet church song. Those songs flowed into my ears and the truth streamed into my heart so that my feelings of devotion overflowed, and the tears ran from my eyes and I was happy in them." Here were tears on earth, not like John's tears because no one could open the scroll, but just the opposite-because he who did open the scroll is worthy of worship.
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