Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Kevin Higginbotham, Music Assistant at Southwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, OK.
There has been and will be many sermons preached, articles written, and cases made for enthusiastic congregational singing. It is such a vital part of the worship service – as a pastor I know often points out, the music portion of a church service is the part of the service directed to God, whereas the preaching is the part directed to man. Yet why is it so often that congregational singing becomes “filler time” that we use to get everyone to find a seat, or the pastor uses to make his way to the platform, or the musically-talented few use to try to impress everyone around them with their vocal or instrumental prowess? I would submit that the reason for all of these things is that we’ve gotten our eyes off the One Whom we are to be praising during this time – and have thus forgotten that He is worthy of our utmost devotion and worship.
With this in mind, I would like to paint a picture in your mind of a scene described for us in the Book of Revelation, chapter 5. We would understand this chapter of Revelation to be describing a time after the church has been raptured, because all the events after this describe the tribulation and what takes place for those who remain upon the earth as they face God’s judgment and wrath. So first of all, it is necessary that you get in your mind the picture of every single saint who has ever trusted Christ as Saviour throughout all of time, standing in the throneroom of Heaven, and the following takes place.
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
So here we have a very significant scene. It seems at first to be a rather odd situation, with the book and the seals and no one being worthy to open it, but it is significant when you begin to think about it. Remember who would be in attendance here – the great saints of ages past, the martyrs, the apostles, the faithful missionaries we read biographies about, the powerful evangelists and preachers who’ve led thousands to Christ. Yet not one of them is found worthy. This is significant and sobering to reflect upon. Paul, the greatest missionary other than Christ Himself, was not found worthy. King David, great leader that he was, man after God’s own heart, was not found worthy. Daniel, Joseph, Noah, Abraham, Job, Stephen, John the Baptist – these mighty heroes of our faith, along with others of a more recent time – were not found worthy.
For that matter, all the false prophets and idols that men worship today were not found worthy either. Confucius was not found worthy. Buddha and Mohammed were not found worthy. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were not found worthy.
Let’s hit a little closer to home – your boyfriend or girlfriend was not found worthy. Your bank account was not found worthy. Your favorite sports star or pop artist was not found worthy. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were not found worthy.
Let’s bring it full circle – YOU were not found worthy. All the things and people we are so prone to “worship” by the way that we live our lives, all of those things that occupy the place of God in our day-to-day schedule, our conversation, our priorities, and our desires – all these are utterly worthless at this time. And let’s face it – any time we replace God with something else in our life and worship, we’re really choosing to “worship” self. But John makes it clear – he, you, and I are found unworthy as well.
To think that of all the great people who have ever lived, there is not one found worthy – this is a sobering thought. It is a depressing thought. It causes John to weep. We are all, every one of us, together in this unworthy state. However, the story does not end there. Let’s continue reading:
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
All is changed in this instant – someone has been found worthy to open the book, to loose the seals. He is described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. How John’s heart must have been stirred to hear this wonderful news. Doesn’t the name itself, “Lion of the tribe of Judah” bring to mind power, majesty, and supremacy? You don’t call someone a lion who is weak or insignificant. The Lion of the tribe of Judah sounds like a mighty warrior. The lion is called the king of the jungle or the king of the beasts because of his fearful might – and this Lion is to be feared even more so!
However, I want you to notice something very mind-blowing here. It took me aback when I read it a week ago in my devotions, because I had never noticed it before. Continue reading with me:
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
Imagine you’re John in this moment. You’re weeping because no one has been found worthy, and someone touches you and says, “Wait! Don’t weep! Don’t cry! Someone has been worthy – the Lion of the tribe of Judah!” John looks up to see this Lion, this conquering warrior, and sees instead – can you imagine it – a Lamb! Not a Lion, a Lamb!
Not just any Lamb, but a Lamb as it had been slain! This Lamb was slain, sacrificed, brutally slaughtered to pay the sin debt of His sheep. Oh yes, He is indeed the conquering, mighty, fearsome Lion described in verse 5, but at the same time, He is the loving, gentle, sacrificial, loving Lamb described in verse 6.
Oh how the scene in heaven changes at this instant! Continue reading:
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts 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 that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, 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, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Just imagine the scene – as this Lion-Lamb steps forward, the whole of heaven explodes with His praise! Can you hear it? The voices of every single saint who’s ever placed his faith and trust in Jesus for salvation, joined together in a mighty anthem like none heard before, a new song, shouting, making heaven ring with the refrain, “Thou art worthy, for thou hast redeemed us!” Buddha, Mohammed, your wallet, your spouse, your father, your friend, your secular idol, is not worthy because no matter what they have done, they could not do anything about your sin and its penalty – but He could, and He did! And it is precisely for that reason, John records for us, that He is worthy – of all praise!
One day, I believe you and I will get to sing in this choir of all choirs, lifting our voices in praise to the One Who is worthy, for He has redeemed us! The One Who is worthy, because He was slain. Because He’s the Lion-Lamb.
We will get to participate in this million-plus-voice choir, and on that day, I don’t believe anyone will pull out their phone to check the score of the ball game. I don’t believe anyone will be thinking about what’s in the oven for supper after church. I don’t believe anyone will be looking around at who’s missing or trying to outdo the person behind them. No, my friend, we will all be belting it out with all our might, singing loud, triumphant praise to the Lion-Lamb Who loved us, died for us, and saved us. I don’t believe there will be a dry eye in the place. I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.
What an awesome picture! What a great event to look forward to! Yet, do we not get the opportunity every Sunday and Wednesday to lift our voices as a local body of those who have been redeemed by this Lion-Lamb? Do we not get to join our voices as those who’ve been saved to praise His worthiness every week? Why would this deserve any less of our attention, focus, praise, and energy? Is He a different Saviour on Sunday in your Baptist church than He is in Heaven?
He’s there, you know. He promised that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst. So we can’t give the excuse that He is not present. The Lion-Lamb who came forward as the only one worthy to open the book in Revelation 5 is the same Lion-Lamb who attends your Sunday morning worship service as the only one worthy of your praise, your song, and your worship.
There is no more room for apathy in your congregational singing at church on Sunday than there will be in Heaven! And who cares if everyone around you is singing half-heartedly and you stick out? If you’re that one voice in a church of half-hearted apathetic singers that raises your voice in loud praise to God, God bless you! I like people that sing holding nothing back, because that tells me they have joy in the Lord. When I see people singing barely moving their lips, yawning, looking dead or zoned out, or barely muttering out the words, that also tells me their view of God. If you truly believe God is worthy, how can you not lift your voice in loud praise – who cares whether you’re the best singer or not!
Here’s a sobering thought – your praise tells an unsaved person who walks into your church your view of God as well. If you’re singing heartily and merrily to God, people will notice. If you open your book and mutter your way mindlessly through a song, they will also notice. It sends a message, and even if you think you have a proper view of God, what sort of view are you giving others of your God by the way you sing? Are you displaying Him as the Lion-Lamb worthy of all praise? Or are you displaying Him as someone some 18th century people wrote songs about but Who doesn’t really affect our lives, and Who doesn’t even deserve our full attention when we’re worshipping Him?
He is always worthy – and though we are not yet in that multitude in Heaven, we can have a foretaste of that glorious scene here below every church service when we open our hymnals to join in congregational singing. How sad if we miss out on it because we’re too preoccupied with self to notice the worthiness of the Lion-Lamb Who has redeemed us!