During the time I was a student at Florida College there was a preacher in Tampa, H.E. Phillips, who hired a Shakespearean actor, Richard Lupino, to produce an audio recording of the New Testament.
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 finished 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.
Then in chapter 5, we see the Lamb of God entering the picture. He is the Redeemer. 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.
Pause and take the few minutes required and read these two chapters slowly. Thoughtfully. And reverently.
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 personal. I must engage in it myself. And although I join with other worshipers in an assembly, I am responsible for my worship. Warren Hamby was right when he wrote, “Worship isolated from involvement is a bland and meaningless exercise.”
These two chapters remind us of three important facts when we come to worship.
1. We are thankful for the gift God gave. “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son…” (Jn 3:16), “God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all” (Rom 8:32). Thus, our salvation is not earned by our own merit but is a gift of God (Eph 2:8). Worship is both a privilege and an opportunity to thank God for His “indescribable gift” (2 Cor 9:15).
2. We are humbled by the price Jesus paid. In our self-absorbed culture, the idea of giving one’s life for another is foreign to our idea of self-preservation. It’s so unusual, when it occurs, it makes the evening news. Well, here’s the Good News. Jesus loves you. And Me. And he died to redeem us from sin, and reconcile us to God. Worship ought to bring us down from positions of pride and pomposity and humble us in His presence.
3. We honor the dignity of Deity. God is on the throne. He rules and reigns. We recognize his purity. Power. And eternal presence.
Jesus has risen victoriously from the grave. We praise him for his power. Riches. Wisdom. Strength. Honor. Glory. And spiritual blessings we enjoy in Him.
God and Christ deserve our honor. Demand our respect. And are worthy of our praise.
It’s not surprising that after the apostle John experienced these awe-inspiring scenes revealed by the angel, he wanted to fall at his feet and worship him. However the heavenly messenger succinctly retorted with two words that speak to us today:
“Worship God” (Rev 19:10).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman