The Worship of September Lament
William O’ Connor loves to write daily journals. Whenever he feels down or loses heart, he will browse through his journals, and meditate on the grace of God and how His mighty hand works on him; so that he could regain his composure and continue his life journey with faith:
September 18, 1999 Sunny
The doctor’s office called this afternoon and confirmed that my beloved wife has inoperable breast cancer, we could only lift everything into God’s hand………..
September 25, 2000 Cloudy
Mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there was not much time left, I need to grasp every opportunity to take care of and love her…………..
September 11, 2001 Sunny
When I was working in the office this morning, there was an emergency meeting and an urgent dismissal. It was heard over the news that American Airline Flight 11, heading from Boston to LA, lost their transponder signal 10 minutes after the take off and 45 minutes later, it collided head-on to the north tower of the World Trade Centre in New York. Our office was right in the heart of the city of Toronto and was a high-rise building; everyone was trembled and worried about the terrorist attack…..Wait a minute, my brother and nephew were on the plane! George was leaving Boston and taking Jeff to a tennis tournament in LA today! That means they have already……….
September 12, 2001 Sunny
I did not go to work today. My heart was broken! I would like to cry out loud, but could only weep without tears! This is the darkest moment of my life, I feel so feeble, so fragile that I would shatter into pieces any time…..Lord, why me? What do you want me to learn from all these hard times? I am not as spiritual as Job, as ‘after God’s Heart’ as David, as holy and submissive as Joseph, I am just an ordinary Christian! I can take it no more! Now I experienced what the psalmist said in 66:12, “You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Above all, these trials will bring me closer to you and rebuild a deeper relationship with you. Lord, Who am I? I am just as trivial as dust, lowly and debased. I am totally nothing! You forfeited your royalty and stepped down from heaven in order to give yourself up to us. How could a created being talk back to you like a stubborn ass? Just like the psalmist said in 39:9, “I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.” Lord, help me to humble before you and submit myself unto you. I prostrate before you and worship you with all my heart, for you are the Lord of lords, the King of kings. You are the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise, Amen!
Your Initial Response
What transformed William’s mindset from a prayer of self-centredness to a prayer of worship?
7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
8And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.
9And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
11Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
12In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
13Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
14The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ( Revelation 5:7–14NIV)
1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)
iEXP Bible Study Method
1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.
2 Fill in the blanks: And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a ________ and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the __________ of the saints. (Rev. 5:8)
3 Circle all of the actions and words relating to the creatures’ worship offered to God.
4 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.
2) “Expound” (E)
iEXP Bible Study Method
During the awesome worship in heaven, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders were offering prayers and a new song to the Lord. Do present Christians know how to use prayers and songs to worship the Lord?
1 The saints offered prayers to the Lamb; where and when did they come from (Rev. 5:8)?
2 Why was the Lamb worthy to open the seals of the scroll (Rev. 5:9)?
3 Why did the four living creatures and twenty-four elders sing a new song to the Lamb (Rev. 5:9)?
4 The Lamb made these people to be a kingdom and priests; what is the meaning behind it (Rev. 5:10)?
5 Why did the Lamb, who was slain, worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise (Rev. 5:12)?
In the Gospel of John, the Apostle John integrated two sets of imagery, the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53:7 and the Passover lamb from Exodus 12:46, as means to illustrate that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In the Book of Revelation, the same author also called Jesus Christ “the Lamb,” and this title came up twenty-seven times. However, the latter is different to the former emphasis, as John presently stresses that Jesus Christ is victorious over all His enemies. In other words, Jesus Christ will appear as a victorious Lamb in the end times of humankind. The Heavenly Father, who sits on the throne, will authorise the Lamb of God to execute His plan for the redemption of the world. One point worthy to mention is that, Jesus Christ’s accomplished salvation on the cross, rather than the act of seizing the scroll, was the act of victory (cf. Rev. 5:6, 9).
Rev. 5:8 “golden bowls full of incense”
John clearly points out that the “golden bowls full of incense” symbolised the prayers of the saints (Ps. 141:2). As Jesus Christ received the scroll from the Heavenly Father, the four creatures and twenty-four elders immediately prostrated and worshipped Him. The “harp’ is often called David’s harp and is the most beloved instrument of the Hebrews. The harp had from three to twelve strings and was usually played by stroking the strings with a pick. The frame of the harp was often made of silver or ivory and thus considered to be an aristocratic instrument. The harp was a symbol of music and the “golden bowls full of incense” was a symbol of prayer. By means of music and prayer, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders prostrated on the ground before Jesus Christ, and offered worship and praise to Him.
Rev. 5:9 “a new song”
There are three different hymns in Revelation 5:9-13. The first hymn is a song offered to the Lamb by the four creatures and twenty-four elders (5:9-10); the second one is a song offered to Christ by a multitude of angels (5:11-12); and the last hymn was a song offered to the Holy Father and the Holy Son by all created beings (5:13). The first hymn is called a “new” song because it has never been sung before in heaven. Regarding to its nature, the first song is a worship song (pointing out that Christ is worthy to be worshipped), it is also a gospel song (pointing out that Christ was the Saviour who was slain), it is a missionary song as well (pointing out that with the blood of Jesus Christ, He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation), it is a personal devotional song as well (pointing out that Christ has made believers to be a kingdom and priests). Finally, it is also a prophetic song (it prophesises that Christians will reign with Christ).
Rev. 5:9 “its seals”
Regarding the problems and tribulations that the seven seals triggered, it is recorded in the section of Revelation 6:1-8:1. As the awesome worship in heaven is finished, God will execute a series of judgments, and the opening act will begin after the first seal is broken. In the entire history and universe, only Jesus Christ has the qualification to open the seven seals, because He used His own blood to redeem the entire humankind.
By the accomplished salvation of Jesus Christ on the cross, not only those believe in Him have become a royal priesthood who can serve God (1 Pet. 2:9). Moreover, they will rule with Christ as kings in the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:6).
After witnessing the four living creatures and twenty-four elders offered the Lamb with a song and a prayer, the Apostle John heard the voice of worship of many angels, and thus it caught his attention. Ten thousand times ten thousand of angels worshipped Christ loudly, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Besides “praise,” all others are intrinsic qualities of Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfect Redeemer, and only He was worthy to be worshipped.
Soon afterwards, John heard the praises of all creatures of the universe. They ascribed praise, honor, glory and power to the Heavenly Father and Christ.
As the four living creatures heard and saw this majestic scene of worship, they echoed with amen, and the twenty-four elders responded by prostrating and worshipping on the ground.
In the vision, the Apostle John saw how the creatures worshipped God. Worship is not just a personal thing, and it is also a corporate one. Besides, worshippers must pay attention to the attitude, the action and the content of worship.
3) “Exercise” (X)
iEXP Bible Study Method
1 Ask the Lord to constantly remind us that He is the object of our prayer, worship and service.
2 Sunday worship is very important; Christians must highly regard it and participate in corporate worship.
3 Memorise Revelation 5:8.
8And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)
4 Resolve to worship the Lord with songs.
5 Resolve to worship the Lord with prayers
6 Resolve to learn various kinds of songs.
7 Learn from the example of four living creatures and twenty-four elders, and practice worship in accord with other believers (Rev. 5:14).
8 Treasure not only the opportunity of worship but also experience God personally during worship.
4) “Proclaim” (P)
By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.
iEXP Bible Study Method
After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.