God is worthy – Revelation Bible Guide Day 8
February 28, 2018
Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; 6and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.
Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. 8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” 9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, 11“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Points of Interest
- “Around the throne…” We’re returning to the palace image from yesterday. In this week’s guide, we’re slowing down the pace to let our minds and imaginations soak in Chapter 4 and 5’s images of God and calls to worship. Revelation gets pretty weird in our material over the next three weeks, but before we go there, we’re trying to do the same thing Jesus
did for John – center our minds in God’s beautiful and powerful being.
- “four living creatures, full of eyes” – John reworks a strange image from the first chapter of the Bible’s book of Ezekiel. This tradition of God having other non-human sidekicks may be part of the evolution of faith from polytheistic to monotheistic. Early in the Bible, God is presented as the most supreme of all the gods, the only god worthy of allegiance and the only god able to love and help and rescue. Over time, Jews and then followers of Jesus came to understand that there is only one true god at all. The writers, though, continue to picture God as surrounded by other beings that worship God or do what God
- “full of eyes… lion, ox, human, eagle” – John’s imagery and metaphors aren’t visually literal but symbolically and imaginatively evocative. Whoever these creatures literally are or aren’t, we’re to imagine, with their slew of eyes everywhere, that they are watchful. God’s people see everything, they don’t miss a beat. They are also noble and strong and wise and fast.
- “Holy, holy, holy” – Anyone and anything that’s near God can’t help but keep talking about how awesome God is. “Holy” means other or separate, but in a good sense. God is more beautiful and powerful and perfect than any other known reference point – arrestingly different.
- “who was and is and is to come” – God is before and after all time and found in the present within time and in eternity beyond time. This is part of God’s wow factor. I’m hesitant to try to explain this, but for instance: Can we pray for something that already happened? Can we trust that God will be good in the future? Can we hope to find God in this moment, whatever this moment brings? Perhaps a yes to all of that and more.
- “they cast their crowns before the throne” – There’s a drama playing out around God. The human representatives maybe stand for all of us that stick with Jesus until we achieve victory in life (the conquering all the letters to the churches talk about). And everyone’s got a crown. Everyone has power and leadership and responsibility and honor. But when the four MCs start singing, everybody throws their crowns to the ground. They all forget about themselves again and love and respect God. This cycle of God loving and empowering us and doing good work, and us losing ourselves in wonder and love and worship seems to be the nature of human destiny as John understands it.
- “You are worthy” – In a time and place when all of John’s audience and John himself were subject to a Roman emperor and a whole pyramid of power and class structures underneath that, Revelation’s God is radically counter-imperial. Only God is worth allegiance. Only God has ultimate power. There’s an implicit invitation to all people who read Revelation to ask who and what we follow and lead, who and what promises our security, and to re-center our worship and trust and allegiance on God.
This week we invite you to welcome Jesus to knock on your door, to center your life, and to shape your vision of God. Imagine for a moment that Jesus has invited you to a sing along. In a beautiful room, creatures of all types are singing about God’s beauty and power. What about God would you find arresting? What song would you sing?
A Direction for Prayer
Pray that your church’s worship life would be vigorous and joyful, that you and others would have your imaginations captured by the beauty and power of God.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. The series starts here.