Worship, why? He is Worthy, I am not. (Rev. 4:11)
Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, September 24, 2017
Attitude and attitude in worship:
I want to think about our attitude when we come to worship God. Listen to what Cuck Swindoll says about attitude:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Now, let’s start talking about worship. What is our attitude when we come to worship? Who do we think we are? Really? I remember hearing that Jon Eareckson Tada said something about when she gets to Heaven she is going to kneel on her new legs and worship God. Now, what you must know is that she has been a quadriplegic for decades. What does she want to do? She wants to worship God.
Please, reflect on your attitude as we look at this passage and as we talk about worship. Let’s read Revelation 4:1-11 and the application is that we humbly worship God because He is worthy. We are not worthy.
Please turn in your Bibles and let’s read Revelation 4:1-11:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
- I have one application. I am going to walk through this passage in order to show that God is worthy to be worshipped.
- In order to do this I need to explain where we are at in the Bible. I think it would be wrong of me to simply start us a quarter of the way through Revelation and not give more detail about this book.
- Actually, context is always important.
- This is Revelation chapter 4 and John, the writer of Revelation is taken into the throne room of God. Imagine this. Have you ever seen something absolutely amazing? Have you ever seen something that compelled you to realize how awesome our God is? Have you seen something that reminds you of how little you are?
- When I was a kid my parents took me to see Mount Rushmoore and I really was not that amazed or that shocked. It was a cloudy day and it just did not strike me.
- A few years later my parents took me to see the Grand Canyon and wow! That is all I can see. The Grand Canyon is amazing! I went there a few years later and it was the same reaction on my part. When I see the Grand Canyon, I am reminded of how little I am and how Great God is.
- But, even before that, I was going into third grade and we went to Myrtle Beach and I saw the ocean for the first time. I love, absolutely love looking out on the ocean. The ocean reminded me of how great God is and how big the world is.
- I remember being a child going into a planetarium at the Dayton Museum of Natural History. “Radical” was an adjective that I recently had learned. The person leading the show was showing us all the galaxies and where earth is and I said, “Radical” in a way that everyone could hear. Then the man leading the show said, “Is that the word these days?” “Radical” is a good word, but “awesome” is the best word. Seeing how big outer space is shows our awesome creator.
- We are little God is not just big, but amazing.
- In this text John is trying to describe the indescribable.
- Some studies show that children’s memories do not necessarily begin at age two or three. The problem is that before that age they do not have the words to retain, or process or explain what they have experienced. Therefore, there is no way for them to store these experiences in their memory. Think about that with this passage, and really most of Revelation. John’s vocabulary is not great enough, diverse enough to describe what he is about to see. How does that work? Neither would my vocabulary be exhaustive enough to describe this nor would yours. But what he does describe is absolutely amazing.
- Verse 1 is the beginning of this vision. John says that there was a door and a voice like a trumpet said “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” The first two words and last two words of verse 1 are “after this” that means what is in between is called an inclusio. Sometimes in the Bible there are inclusios which cover a few chapters. It is like a parentheses.
- In verse 2 John is “immediately” “in the Spirit.” This could mean that he was in the Holy Spirit, or Spirit just is a spiritual state.
- Now, this is not the first time John has written about being in the Spirit. In Chapter 1:10 John wrote that he was “In the ‘Spirit’ on the Lord’s day…” So, something we must understand with the book of Revelation is that there are all kinds of things happening around John all at once. John likely describes things as he can, using the terminology that he can, but also he seems to repeat things, but he really is not. He is simply describing the same thing again in order to describe something else related to it. I heard this described as a cyclorama. Those are 360 degree pictures that depict an event. There is one at Gettysburg. This shows the war all around you. What John is experiencing is all around him and it is outside of time. John is describing these things in a temporal way. We are looking for chronology but there is not.
- So, it appears what he is describing in this passage is similar to Revelation 21:9 so it is possible that John is seeing the New Jerusalem right here and then he particularizes the New Jerusalem in chapter 21.
- So, he describes a beautiful throne room with all kinds of jewels. Then he describes 24 thrones with elders on the thrones. The elders had crowns. I like the belief that the elders are reflecting all believers. For example, in Rev. 3:11 Jesus said not to let them take your crown. In Rev. 1:6 we are called a Kingdom of Priests. In the Old Testament there were 24 priests. 24 was an important number in Judaism. 1 Chronicles 24 we have a listing of the 24 orders of priests. The beginning of Luke’s Gospel we see Zechariah’s vision and we see Abijah was one of the 24 priests.
- Verse 5 references flashes of lightning and thunder. These are always signs of God’s presence. God is in the middle of this throne room. Remember what I said, John is trying to describe the indescribable. There is more in here but let’s skip to verses 8-11.
- There are four living creatures that never rest. They are constantly worshipping the Lord. “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
- Up until now we have talked about the setting and Who was at the setting and that is God. God’s presence was with them. Now, the response to the setting is worship.
- Let’s think about worship. Remember I talked about attitude. When you come here to worship is your focus and attitude on God? Who are we worshipping? Are we sacrificing ourselves? I am not talking about money, I am talking about surrender. Are we surrendered. Don’t say, “I don’t have the right attitude so I might as well stay home.” No, we must prayerfully seek the Lord and ask that He corrects our attitude.
- I must confess, my attitude is not perfect, some of you may have better attitudes than mine. I must ask God to work on me. We must ask God to work on me.
- We are going to get into this now and I want it stated that I am not preparing to say what style of worship is best or what songs are best or right or wrong (and there are some songs that are not about God, but us), I want to show you that when we are with God we respond in worship. I want to focus on attitude. Look at this.
- Look they say “Holy” how many times. Anyone, share how many times we see the adjective “Holy.” Three times. In Jewish language they could not say “holiest” so they would say something three times and that meant “most holy.” They are saying that God is most holy. He is the holiest. He Is Lord, He is God, He is most powerful or almighty.
- He is eternal.
- Then, whenever they gave glory, honor and thanks to God, the elders would throw themselves down. Wow!
- That is humility. Dr. Mulholland of Asbury Theological Seminary shared:
- We are not a bowing culture. When Dr. Mulholland enters the room the students do not bow to him, but when he taught in Korea when he came in they would bow and if a student came in late they would bow. Bowing acknowledges God as God.
- Worship is allowing God to be God. Not just praising God and saying God you are God, but allowing God to be God.
- I am not asking that you bow, but maybe we should. How do we know that our attitude is one of humility?
- I do not know that answer, I am asking you. I have pride in my heart like I am sure you do and maybe in bowing or falling on the ground we are forced to remember our station before God. Is our attitude one of humility in worship.
- It used to be common to pray on our knees, maybe we must get back to that. I had a preaching professor who talked about studying on His knees.
- In the Old Testament Moses would fall prostrate before God in repentance.
- We see this sort of humility all throughout the Bible.
- Where are we?
- Let’s pray and repent of our attitude of pride and lack of reverence before we move on. I am sure I am not alone, but if you feel you don’t have to repent then as I pray you don’t have to or you can pray, “Father God thank you that my attitude is correct…”
- Next, these elders did not simply fall down. They offer their crowns before the throne. This is surrender. They cast their crowns. The crown represents role, authority. The Elders, who represent us, are surrendering their rule of their relationship to God, to God. Are we allowing God to be God on His terms or our terms. Casting crowns allows God to be God on His terms. John uses the present tense, they “are casting.” They are continually casting crowns. Our relationship with God is a love relationship which means we are free to say “no.” This means that we continually offer our authority and power before God and surrender and say, “You are Lord and I am not.”
- Cast (βάλλουσιν). Read βαλοῦσιν shall cast. The casting of the crowns is an act of submission and homage. Cicero relates that when Tigranes the king of the Armenians was brought to Pompey’s camp as a captive, prostrating himself abjectly, Pompey “raised him up, and replaced on his head the diadem which he had thrown down” (Oration “Pro Sestio,” xxvii.). Tacitus gives an account of the public homage paid by the Parthian Tiridates to the statue of Nero. “A tribunal placed in the centre, supported a chair of state on which the statue of Nero rested. Tiridates approached, and having immolated the victims in due form, he lifted the diadem from his head and laid it at the feet of the statue, while every heart throbbed with intense emotion” (“Annals,” xv., 29).
- Lastly, they worship as well.“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
- Who is worthy to be worshipped? God.
- Who created all things? God.
- Your will they were and were created.
- John is seeing who we are and who all creation is, what all creation is.
- John is seeing that we existed in the heart of God’s love before we were created.
- Ephesians 1:3: Paul notes that our lives are immersed in blessings. Verse 4: God chose us before the foundation of the world. “chose” this means to speak forth. Genesis 1: God spoke forth creation. We were in the heart of God before we were created, before anything created. There was no emergency in Heaven when we were conceived, maybe in our mother’s life.
- Psalm 139
- By God’s hand we existed and were created.
- We are not accidents.
- The only response is self-sacrificial worship. The only response is worship in humility.
- The only response is to join the elders, which we may be in that group anyways and say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.”
When I was a child my dad would rebuke me and say, “You need an attitude adjustment.” I wonder where our attitudes are at when we come to worship, or, why limit it to worshipping with the body of believers? Why allow our attitude to be a mess throughout the week. Maybe we simply must ask the Lord to work on our attitude.
In Fiji, singing hymns can get you in trouble. About one million Methodists live in the south Pacific island country, and each summer 20,000 to 50,000 of them gather for a conference. Before the conference begins, they have a massive choral contest. About 10,000 people participate. They sing hymns. That’s it. Hymns. But in July 2009, the government shut them down. “No choral contest this year,” the government said. There is a lot of turmoil in Fiji, and the government feared that the big crowd might get out of hand. According to news reports, “Church officials said the government fears the conference and singing contest will lead to further political instability.” Nothing like singing Methodists to make a government nervous!
They are on to something there, though. Christians worshiping the Lord really are dangerous—although perhaps not as those officials feared. Worshiping God in Christ upsets world systems. It is revolutionary, subversive. It brings another kingdom into view.
Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: Kim Cain, “Fiji Bans Massive Methodist Hymn-Sing,” Religion News Service (7-31-09)
 Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 485.