In this Lenten season of 2016 our world is wracked by terrorism, war, oppression, hatred, and economic chaos. It is just the right time for worship, for lingering daily in God’s presence, seeing such a world in the light of God. Pastor/theologian Eugene Peterson says, “In a world in which we are constantly subjected to dizzying disorientations, worship is the act in which we are reoriented.”
Jewish sage Abraham Heschel writes how “Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God.” Worship does become a way of insight, a way of seeing God, the world, and ourselves more clearly. To paraphrase poet William Blake, worship cleanses the “doors of perception” so that we are better able to see what is true and real. In worship we see things not as politicians, advertisers, media, and an entertainment culture want us to see, but as God sees. As Leo the Great observed, worship “makes conspicuous” the world as it really is.
Worship shines truth into a world of half-truths and deceit. Worship gives clear vision to see God working out all things for His glory and our eternal good. Theologian Karl Barth concluded, “Christian worship is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life.” And it is worship that is the focus of this daily Lenten devotional, “Worthy Is The Lamb”, using the worship songs from the book of The Revelation.
We will find the last book of the Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, to be a wonderful handbook for worship, for seeing the world in the light of God. The Revelation is filled with praise, prayers, doxologies, antiphonal singing, trumpets, harps, silence, incense, prostrations, victory shouts and the supper table of the Lamb. What the Book of Psalms is to the Old Testament, the Book of The Revelation is to the New. It is a book that moves us to worship.
ABOUT THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION
The full title of the Bible’s last book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1). It is a revelation given by Jesus Christ, about Jesus Christ in His ascended glory. The word “revelation” is a translation of the Greek apokalupsis, which literally means an “unveiling”. Thus, the book is the unveiling of the glory of Jesus Christ, helping us to see the world in the light of that glory. As the Gospels reveal Jesus in His lowliness and humility, The Revelation reveals Him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The Revelation is given to the aged apostle John, as the other apostles have all been killed for their faithful witness to Jesus Christ. It is as if God has miraculously preserved John’s life for the purpose of encouraging persecuted, suffering Christians at the end of the first century.
John is on the prison island of Patmos as he receives this revelation from Jesus Christ. He has been banished to the desert island by Emperor Domitian, who crowned himself “our lord and god”. Refusal to worship Domitian as “divis”, “god”, is punishable by death. It is Domitian “who is the emperor who has gone down in history as the one who bathed the empire in the blood of Christians.” (Ray Summers, Worthy Is The Lamb).
It is the worship songs in The Revelation that will be the daily focus of this Lenten devotional. The worship songs give us a behind-the-scenes look at history while celebrating God bringing all things together in Christ. While many of the prose sections of The Revelation can be difficult to interpret, you will find its worship songs clear and to the point. These songs have been the inspiration for some of the world’s greatest music and art. As you worship with these songs “Heaven is introduced into the present.” (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination) They will help us see today’s world in the light of the glory of Jesus Christ. So let us worship!
HOW TO USE THIS DAILY DEVOTIONAL
This daily Lenten devotional takes up eight songs of worship from The Revelation. It is significant that this is the only book in the Bible promising a blessing on those who read it, specifically: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy” (Revelation 1:3 NRSV). Each section of this devotional presents a song for your audible reading, reflection and worship. Each day you will:
- PRAY asking God to bless this time you devote to Him
- READ ALOUD the worship song and text for the day
- REFLECT on the daily reading
- READ ALOUD again the worship song and text for the day
- WORSHIP God each day in a way that is meaningful for you. The way in which you worship might vary day to day. Depending on the day, you might choose to talk with God about what you are thinking and feeling about the song, or meditate on the worship song, or intercede for others, or sing, or be silent before God. Ask God to guide you.
We pray that God use these worship songs of The Revelation to reveal His glory to you and bless you as you center your life in Him.
THE SIX SUNDAYS OF LENT
From the early days of Christianity Lent has been a worshipful 40-day journey to Easter Sunday. The six Sundays of Lent have not been counted as a part of Lent because each Sunday is a day for celebrating the festival of the Resurrection. Sunday has always been looked on as a “little Easter”, the day for observing Christ’s victory over sin, death and all the powers of darkness. We celebrate Christ’s Resurrection not just once a year, but weekly as a day expressly for worship. It is a “holy” day, literally a day different from all other days. Thus, in this Lenten devotional we honor each Sunday as the Lord’s Day, a day for celebration and worship.
It is significant that the apostle John “was in the spirit on the Lord’s day” when he received The Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:10). The word “Lord’s” in “Lord’s day” is an adjective having the sense of “belonging to the Lord”. Along with other early Christians John celebrates the Lord’s Day as a way of protest against an Empire devoted to Emperor worship and the “Emperor’s Day”. On the Lord’s Day John is proclaiming allegiance to Jesus Christ and declaring, “Jesus is Lord”. It was on the Lord’s Day as John was in the spirit worshipping that the Lord revealed His glory. John saw the world in the light of Him who sits on the throne.
In addition to corporate worship on Sundays we suggest that you consider the following additional ways of worship during Lent. Feel free to choose one or more of these ways of worship. You might even like to use them throughout the year.
- GOD MOMENTS
Think about those times when you most feel God’s presence in your life. They might be walks in nature, listening to music, reading Scripture, visiting the sick, talking with a close friend, etc. Since these are times you feel God’s presence, make some time to do those today.
- PRAYER FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
The Bible commands, “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (Hebrews 13:3). More Christians are being persecuted today for their faith than at any other time in history. Let’s not forget them! An informative and helpful guide to praying for persecuted Christians can be found on the Internet at “Voice of the Martyrs” http://www.persecution.com/idop (click “Prayer Map”).
- POST IT
Place a large poster board on a wall in your home, with Sharpie markers and Post-It Notes close at hand. Throughout the week write on a Post-It-Note a prayer or thank you to God and place it on the poster board. Gather around the poster board each Sunday and lift up your prayers and thank yous to God.
- SUNDAY CANDLE
Light a special Sunday Candle for your Sunday meals. The lit candle is a reminder of God’s presence in our troubled world. As you light the candle you might say something like, “We light this candle to remind us that Christ is always present with us”. In the early hours of Easter (Saturday night or early Sunday morning) you can use this candle for a candle-lighting celebration. Light this Sunday Candle In a dark room and use it to light each person’s votive candle. In doing this you celebrate the light of Christ spreading throughout the world. (Children will love this!)
- WORSHIP MUSIC
Listen to Handel’s Messiah, especially the “Hallelujah Chorus”, “Worthy is the Lamb”, and the final “Amen”. Handel turned to The Revelation for frequent inspiration and lyrics. If you do not have a CD of Messiah, you can listen free to the complete oratorio by going to YouTube on the Internet and entering “Handel Messiah”.
- REACH OUT
Every Sunday there are many who are unable to be a part of corporate worship. They are sick, grieving, in care centers, hospitals and prisons. Go and be with them. This is “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father” (James 1:27).