WORSHIP SONG THREE
Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might
forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
See the bottom of this post for how to use this daily devotional
READ ALOUD Revelation 5:1-14
I sometimes have an “aha! moment” when I see that things are not as they had appeared. I might have been wrong in my thoughts about a person or a long-held opinion. The book of The Revelation is filled with God-inspired “aha! moments” as it reveals how things really are on planet earth, rather than how they might appear. The book is an apocalypse, a pulling back of the veil to show us things from heaven’s high vantage point. We are graced to see how history plays out from God’s perspective.
N. T. Wright calls Revelation 5 “one of the most decisive moments in all scripture.” (N. T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone) Up to this moment John has been focused on heaven’s throne, but now he is struck by sight of a scroll. It is a scroll “in the right hand of the one seated on the throne”. It is an extraordinary scroll, “written on the inside and back” and sealed with seven seals, seven being the number of perfection in the Bible.
While the scroll might be puzzling to us, John’s first century readers would have immediately understood its significance. It’s obviously a last testament or will. Roman Law prescribed that a will be witnessed by seven witnesses and sealed with their seals. The contents of the will would be summarized in writing on the outside of the document. (see G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary)
When a will was drawn up, witnessed and sealed, a trusted family friend, a familia emptor (“buyer for the family”), then entered the proceedings. He would symbolically buy the testator’s estate so that the estate would become the ‘property’ of the family friend until the death of the testator. Upon the testator’s death the family friend would award the estate to its rightful heirs. But only the person who was “worthy”, i.e. possessing the right credentials, could open and execute the will.
As John beholds this scroll in the right hand of the one seated on the throne, he knows that it is God’s will and final settlement of the affairs of our world. It is the testamentary disposition of God’s Kingdom. It reveals God’s purposes for our world, and shows that things are not as they always seem. New Testament scholar George Eldon Ladd writes about the scroll’s significance:
What simpler and more sublime way of picturing God’s ultimate sovereignty over all history could be found than this picture of the scroll resting in the hand of God? However strong evil becomes, however fierce be the satanic evils that assail God’s people on earth, history still rests in God’s hand. (George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary of the Revelation of John)
But then we see John weeping, “bitterly weeping”. He weeps because there is no one found who is “worthy”, possessing the right credentials to open the scroll and execute God’s purposes for human history. In an old sermon Pastor W. A. Criswell enters the pathos of John’s weeping:
They are the sobs and tears that have been wrung from the heart and soul of God’s people as they looked on their silent dead, as they stand beside their open graves, as they experience in the trials and sufferings of life, heartaches and disappointments indescribable…And I wept audibly, for the failure to find a Redeemer. (W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation)
And we weep too! Often bitterly. Sometimes hopelessly. But then, things are not always as they seem. There are God’s grand “aha! moments”. There is Someone “worthy to open the scroll”.
“Worthy is the Lamb…”
READ ALOUD Revelation 5:1-14
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.