In today’s Bible reading, we see two things that are called, “awe-inspiring”: an awe-inspiring sign in heaven (v. 1) and the awe-inspiring works of God (v. 3).
Awe is a word that is foreign to many Believers. We just don’t see things as being “awe-inspiring”.
The things of God tend to be, quite frankly, normal. Boring. Ho-hum. Have we become calloused? Have science and Hollywood so desensitized us to magnificence and a sense of wonder? If so, is there a way to get that sense of wonder back? I think there is. And I think this chapter gives us a clue how.
John tells us that overcoming Believers sang the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. In other words, they sang what’s revealed in Scripture: Moses from the Old Testament and the Lamb in the New Testament.
Reading, meditating, and worshiping based on God’s Revelation can give us a fresh glimpse of what is truly awe-inspiring. God’s Word can give us the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to dwell on. (Philippians 4:8) As we meditate on these things, we see new facets of the things of God as a jeweler sees new facets of a diamond as she peers through a magnifying loop.
When’s the last time you spent time worshiping God in song? I’m not talking about singing about God. I’m talking about singing to God. There’s a world of difference between the two. One references God in the third-person. The other references God in the second-person.
“Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3-4 CSB)
Note how their song addresses your works, your ways, your name. You alone are holy. all the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts. The overcomers aren’t singing about God. They are singing to God.
The next time you’re in church, note the songs you sing. If your church uses hymnals (or if you have your own), note whether the songs are about God or to God.
A few years ago, as I prepared a sermon on this very issue, I thumbed through the hymnal we used in church. I was shocked to see how few hymns actually addressed God in the second-person. Almost all of the hymns referenced God in the third-person. Now, there’s nothing wrong with singing about God. But singing about God isn’t worship.
Spend some time today singing songs to God. Use your Bible to express your adoration to the lover of your soul. Here are a few places to start. These Scriptures are examples of worshiping God in the second-person.
The Psalms are full of praises about God. As you read, ask God to overwhelm you with a fresh glimpse of Himself and His ways. Personalize the Psalms and other passages into second-person references to God.
Finally, spend a few minutes listening to my sermon, Worship in the First and Second Person Singular Present Tense.
In today’s Bible reading, John describes a dilemma. The One sitting on the throne holds a sealed scroll. An angel calls out, asking for someone who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals. John says he was grieved because no one was worthy to read it or to even look in it. John wept. (Revelation 5:4)
But then, someone resembling a slaughtered lamb steps forward. And heaven erupts in praise: The slaughtered Lamb is worthy!
Don’t miss this. Don’t be distracted with the creatures. Don’t be distracted with the description of the creatures. Don’t be distracted by any of it because the main idea behind what’s going on is that Jesus is worthy to read God’s scroll. He is worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing. (Revelation 5:12) John can’t count how many angels cried out in praise. He only says “countless thousands plus thousands of thousands”. (Revelation 5:11)
If you want to go to heaven, but don’t like the idea of worshiping God, you’re going to be miserable in heaven.
When the Lamb opens the scroll, the angels sing a new song. (Revelation 5:9) Imagine an eternity of new songs.
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say, Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! Revelation 5:13 (CSB)
Imagine the sound of every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them praising God. Simultaneously. Awesome!
Then worship begets worship as the four living creatures approve with a hearty, “Amen” and the twenty-four elders bow in worship. (Revelation 5:14)
All of us have itchy ears. The question is, how do you scratch?
If you’ve been around church for very long, you may have heard Paul’s warning in today’s Bible reading. “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
All of us Believers have our favorite Bible teachers and preachers. And we have our favorite Christian music. Some of our favorites are well worth the time to listen to! These are the kind of Bible teachers, preachers and songs that will lift your spirits when you’re down. They’ll feed your hungry soul. They’ll point your eyes to Jesus and the glory of God. They’ll give you a hunger for more of God!
Some of our favorites are OK. I mean, they aren’t bad, but they aren’t really good either. These Bible teachers and preachers will tell you what God says in the Bible. The songs will give you a nice beat to keep your toe tapping. But in the grand sceme of things, they are simply “amusing”.
One of my professors warned about Christian “amusement”. The word literally means “not-thinking”.
And then there are the favorites that shouldn’t be. These Bible teachers and preachers have so little nourishing content, it’s difficult to sort through all the chaff just to get to the wheat. And some are so bad, there’s actually no spiritual nourishment to be gained. And some of the songs have pretty melodies and harmonies, and some of the words are sentimental, but the songs lack anything of real substance.
Paul’s concern was not about the outright “bad” teaching and songs. Yes, bad teaching should be avoided. Yes, bad Bible teachers and preachers should be avoided.
But we should also avoid a steady diet of marginal and questionable teaching. We should avoid a steady diet of one-dimensional Christian music that only looks back at the day we were saved and the day we get to heaven. We should vary our songs so we don’t just sing and listen to songs about God; we should sing and listen to songs to God at least as much as we sing about Him! Now, lest anyone think I’m bashing one type of music and promoting any other type, I’ll just say that there’s good and there’s bad in all kinds of Christian music. Some of the “old” stuff is good and some of it is bad. Some of the “new” stuff is good and some of it is bad.
There are lots of ways to scratch our itchy ears. Some are very good and helpful. Some are OK. But some are to be avoided completely.
So how do you scratch your itching ears? Remember: Don’t be “amused”!