H. E. Phillips was a well-known gospel preacher of the 20th century. He lived and preached in Tampa, Florida, during the time I attended Florida College in the late 1960’s. For many years he was the editor of a religious journal, “Searching the Scriptures.”
It was during that time that he decided to have the Bible recorded on tape. Bro. Phillips hired a Shakespearian actor, Richard Lupino, to narrate the texts. Interestingly, Lupino didn’t know anything about the Bible. So H.E. would explain to him the characters and the setting and then Lupino would do an interpretative reading of it. To show how little he knew, when he came to the section about Paul, he asked Phillips, “Paul? Is he a good guy or a bad guy?”
When Lupino finishing reading Revelation chapters 4 and 5, he abruptly left the room. When he returned his eyes were red. He said, “Mr. Phillips I have performed on stages all over the world. I have read the finest Shakespearian literature, but I’ve never read anything more beautiful in all my life.”
Often in reading Revelation we become absorbed in the symbols and confused by the imagery and neglect to see the big picture. Without worrying about the symbols, it’s clear that these two chapters are describing worship.
In chapter 4 God is sitting on the throne. In fact, 14 times the word “throne” is used in this chapter to picture God’s glory, rule, and sovereignty. He is the Almighty. He is in control. John sees a magnificent splendor of adoration expressed to the Creator.
“The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.” (Rev. 4:10-11)
Then in chapter 5, we see the Lamb of God entered the picture. He is the Redeemer. While he is the sacrificial lamb, who was slain but lives. Paradoxically, He is the prophetic fulfillment as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” He possesses strength, courage and dignity. And He’s in heaven, having fulfilled God’s eternal plan for man’s salvation. Likewise, he is honored.
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. (Rev 5:11-14).
As I reflect on these resplendent scenes, I think how often we consider worship as a noun. A place to go. A service to attend. A time to begin; and end. On time, of course.
Yet, worship here is a verb. It denotes activity and action. It is not passive, but active. Worship is something you do, not something that is done to you. And it is something you must do. No one else can do it for you.
You can be in a place where worship occurs, but that doesn’t mean that you have worshiped.
You can only go away and say “I worshiped” when you say I honored God, not only with my presence but by my thoughts, my communion, my prayers and my praise. In my heart I have bowed down to him.
We come to a worship service with very complex lives. With problems. Challenges. Issues that we face in our homes. Professions. And personal lives. Worship is the ability to take our minds off those things and really focus on Him who is the object of our worship.
Worship is praising God.
It is veneration conveyed to Him who made us, loved us and redeemed us.
Worship is God-ward. Not man directed.
Worship is real, not artificial.
It appeals to the spiritual, not the temporal. To the sacred, not the secular.
It is unique. Special. Distinctive.
Worship is a function of both the head and the heart. It is directed by both understanding and emotion.
Worship is personal. I must engage in it myself. And although I join with other worshipers in an assembly, I am responsible for my worship. Accountable to God. Warren Hamby was right when he wrote, “Worship isolated from involvement is a bland and meaningless exercise.”
This Sunday when attending a worship service, be sure you worship.
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (Ps 29:2).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman