I’m finally at the end of what was supposed to be a year-long reading of the New Testament. My church in Texas started a campaign last year where each day we would read a chapter, and then we’d go online and read a devotion based on that chapter written by someone in our congregation. It’s taken me nearly two years, and I haven’t kept up with reading the online devotions, but I’m still finishing, and I feel great about that.
I’m in Revelation now, and I’ve had more questions come up in the first few chapters of that book than I had in reading all the rest of the New Testament. There are so many un-earthly creatures and events happening here. Things we definitely don’t see everyday.
What really struck me was my reaction to one of these things. In Revelation 4, a throne is described with ‘someone’ sitting on it. Surrounding the throne are twenty four other thrones with elders dressed in white robes sitting on them. There are also four very un-earthly creatures that sit around the main throne saying “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” They repeat this all day and all night, and every time they do, the elders fall down in praise, laying down their own crowns before the ‘someone’ and saying “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."
I read this, and then I rolled my eyes.
I guess maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing people down here, regular ol’ creations of God, trying to elevate themselves to this kind of status. Rock stars have their groupies; sports players have whole stadiums of screaming fans that they face in every game they play; and TV and movie actors have the paparazzi and all of the silly fans who put them on a pedestal to confuse them of their worth. I’m sure most of them got into their profession just wanting to play sports or act or make music. But we are a society that places incredible value on these people, and I’m sure it would go to anyone’s head. When I see anyone elevating themselves to superstar status or just embracing their fans’ adoration, my eyes roll. I’m not saying that these talented people don’t deserve recognition for their hard work. I love rewarding hard work. But you can’t deny that for some, it’s gotten way out of control.
And I’m not denying for a second that God deserves this kind of worship and praise and honor and glory from every living thing that ever has been and ever will be. That’s why I was caught off guard by my cynicism. But then I began to wonder if these creatures were doing this out of their own free will or if God created them to praise Him, whether He truly wants this kind of worship from us, whether it's necessary, and whether we can give it to Him now or if we have to wait until we're face to face with Him.
Revelation 5:11-12 has thousands of angels repeating a saying of praise. In verses 13-14 of the same chapter, every living creature praises him with a similar phrase. Honestly, it all seems a bit robotic to me. From what I can tell, God doesn’t like robotic devotion. He gave us free wills so that we could choose whether to worship Him or not. He could make us all praise Him. He could force us to recognize His hand in our lives and in our world. He could make it impossible to deny His existence. But He doesn’t. We have a choice. And I don’t really believe that if God were to part the skies and stick His face through and say “I am the Lord God Almighty. I made everything on this earth, and I love you” that everyone here would automatically believe Him. They sure didn’t believe His Son when He came here!
So I don’t really know if I can buy the whole idea that every living creature will be automatically compelled to worship Him. One of the things I look forward to the most is the day when every knee will bow before Him. Scripture says it will happen, so I know it will. I don’t think anyone will have their knees bent unwillingly. I’ve always believed that upon meeting God, they won’t be able to help it. We will bow down. We will just KNOW. But it’s the mass liturgical-like worship that confuses me. How would people who had never engaged God or His Scripture know what to say? I’m sure the Spirit could just give them the words, but I didn’t think the Spirit would enter anyone who had not yet put their faith in Christ.
Anyway, I was just really struck by the way these beings worshipped God, the way that I will one day worship Him, the way we all were created to worship Him. He deserves it, and yet I know I don’t view Him as THAT elevated yet. When I pray, I view Him more like an approachable, loving Father, someone who would blush in embarrassment at such expressions of worship. I don’t think I have enough of that healthy fear of God that is so important to a Christian’s walk. Without it, He’s just someone who dishes out grace and mercy and love, rather than someone who will pour out vengeance and justice and consequences as well. I’m a great deal more comfortable with the Mercy-Loving-Creator side of God. I worry that it keeps me from trying harder to obey His commands. I think with a better understanding of His power, that I would probably think longer and harder about some of the little things I do that I don't feel too badly about. Those little things aren't little to God. It's because of them that His Son had to die.
It's not like I'm not frequently in awe of God. When I go hiking in the mountains, I can’t help but be amazed by what He has created. When I think of my little son being formed in my womb right this second, I am in awe of God’s power. When I try to grasp the love that had to have been needed to get Jesus through what He went through, I am humbled and amazed. When I think of the love that God must have for us to send His Son to die like that…
I’m sure that in my reading the remaining last 12 chapters of the New Testament that I’ll have more confusion and questions. And they may find their way onto this blog. If anyone knows of a good book for better understanding Revelation, I’d appreciate the suggestion. But I really love where my heart is going here. I love that I’m seeing a side of God that the rest of the New Testament had yet to reveal. After I finish with the New Testament, I will start on the first books of the Scriptures. I know I will encounter God’s power there too. I appreciate having a deeper understanding of who He is. I love that He reveals Himself to us in His Word. If you haven’t already done so, find a Bible and dig in. He is worthy of our praise!