Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Worship in the Book of Revelation”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Worship in the Book of Revelation”
For the week of  September 18 – 24, 2011
(PDF Link)

This week’s teacher’s notes contain a quote from page 52 of Annie Dillard’s book, Teaching a Stone to Talk:  “On the whole I do not find Christians…sufficiently sensible of conditions.  Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?  Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?  The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT…It is madness to wear ladies straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.”  Should we not worship with the awe that Isaiah felt when he saw the Lord high and lifted up?  Should not our hearts melt into surrender?

On Christmas Eve 1968 the Apollo astronauts became the first humans to see the far side of the moon.  Many of us associate their mission with the famous photograph known as Earthrise.  In awe at this significant event on Christmas Eve, the crew read the opening words of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”  An estimated 1 billion viewers, the largest single audience in television history, saw this live telecast.

Copernicus, taught the principle of mediocrity—that the universe was not designed with us in mind.  And the late Carl Sagan said “our planet is a lonely speck in the enveloping cosmic dark.”  But the Psalmist says that the heavens declare the glory (character) of God!

Revelation tells us that God is worthy of our worship because He is Creator.  Revelation 14: 7 says, “Fear God and give glory to Him for the hour of His judgment has come and worship Him who made heaven and earth the sea and springs of water.”  Again, Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy O Lord to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Two fascinating aspects of planet earth may shed light on whether or not our earth was designed with us in mind; 1) habitability, and 2) position of the earth in the universe.

God’s universe operates under finely tuned mathematical laws.  At least twenty factors must occur at the same place and time to allow for the existence of complex life as opposed to just simple microbial life.  These factors include liquid water, precise distance from our home star, a large moon supplying enough gravitational pull to stabilize earth’s axis at a nearly constant 23 ½ degrees, ensuring temperate seasonal changes, etc.  Our earth is the only planet in our solar system positioned to sustain complex living organisms.  The probability that all of the twenty essential factors would occur by chance is 10-15, or one in one thousandth of a trillion.

Earth with its conscious observers is positioned in our galaxy for discovery.  Our atmosphere has very little CO2, making it transparent.  A tiny sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum is useful to plants, animals and humans.  This thin sliver is precisely the type of light our sun produces in abundance.  It penetrates the transparent, yet filtering shield of our atmosphere to reach the surface of the earth.  This spectrum is one trillionth of a trillionth of the electromagnetic emissions.  It allows us to see into the cosmos where the heavens declare the glory of God.

When the psalmist contemplated the heavens, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars he exclaimed, “What is man that You are mindful of him of the son of man that you visit him!”  Revelation’s twenty-four elders and the four living creatures worship God day and night, because He is the Master Craftsman.  But the worship changes in Revelation, chapter 5.  First, there is a new song.  Secondly, the new song is catchy.  The twenty-four elders and four living creatures start singing, but then the voices of many angels are heard; ten thousand times ten thousand.  Every creature in heaven and on earth joins in the chorus.

What made the change? Isn’t creation good enough?  “I looked, and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb…and they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…”

The heavens declare the glory of God – the glory of His self sacrificing, self-renouncing love—a love that is utterly unselfish.  Revelation 14:3 tells of another new song which the redeemed of the Lord will sing.  Chapter 15 of the same book tells us that this song is the song of Moses, the servant of the God and the song of the Lamb.  It is a new song.

“In this life we can only begin to understand the wonderful theme of redemption…with the utmost stretch of our mental powers we fail to grasp its full significance. The length and the breadth, the depth and the height of redeeming love are but dimly comprehended…The cross of Christ will be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity…Never will it be forgotten that, He whose power created and upheld the unnumbered worlds through the vast realms of space, the Beloved of God, the Majesty of heaven, He whom cherub and shining seraph delighted to adore-humbled Himself to uplift fallen man; that He bore the guilt and shame of sin, and the hiding of His Father’s face, till the woes of a lost world broke His heart and crushed out His life on Calvary’s cross. That the Maker of all worlds, the Arbiter of all destinies, should lay aside His glory and humiliate Himself from love to man will ever excite the wonder and adoration of the universe” (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 651).

Worship in Revelation is about a God who is worthy.  I pray that we get it.  Amen.
--Lyndi Schwartz