How Worship Should Be DoneRevelation 4:1-8Theme: Reverence for holiness.This week’s lessons teach us the appropriate way to approach the Almighty. LessonSo we come to the question that I raised at the beginning: How should worship be done? In both of these chapters the song of the seraphim is echoed by the praise of the elders who represent the church. They add to the praise given to God the Father at the end of chapter 4, and they join with the four living creatures in chapter 5 and in the final praise chorus (verse 13). They’re the last persons mentioned in these two chapters. “And the elders fell down and worshiped” ( chapter 5, verse 14). So there are patterns, particularly. And the question is, how do they worship and do we worship as they do? Can we echo the song that they sing, even as they echo the song of the mighty angels? Well, here are some features about worship that come from the passage.
First of all, true worship is the worship of God alone. Is there anything in these chapters more obvious than this? Here in its worship, the entire creation is focused utterly on God and so must we be focused if we’re truly worshiping. One of the complaints I have about so much that goes on in contemporary alleged worship services is that the attention is focused on people, or the worshiper, rather than on God. It’s possible to come to church, go to church, learn all sorts of encouraging things, feel good for what you’ve done and never have had a serious thought about Almighty God at all. But here in heaven they’re thinking about God. What they’re doing is fulfilling the first and greatest of the Ten Commandments. God said, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” But again, we could put it this way: what they’re doing in heaven is what Jesus called the first and greatest of all the commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). If we come to church, however valuable that may be, and we are focusing on something else rather than on God himself, we’re not worshiping, whatever else we may be doing.
And then, second, true worship honors God for his God-like attributes. Because this is what worship really is. It’s assigning to God his true worth. We’ll never do this exhaustively, of course, because God is the infinite One, throughout all eternity. We can be finding out about God and praising God, but the fact that we can’t praise God exhaustively doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t praise God as best we can or that our worship has no value. It does. It’s valuable for us. It’s valuable as a testimony to the world, and can we say it this way – it is valuable to God because this is what God desires.
What are the attributes of God that the four living creatures are praising? Well, God is praised for being holy: “Holy, holy, holy.” He’s praised for being almighty or sovereign, as the “Lord God Almighty”; he’s praised for being eternal–”who was, and is, and is to come.” That’s not a bad place to start. You can say many more things about God. We’re going to find that as we go on. We’re going to praise him for his grace, certainly; for the redemption that is ours through the work of Jesus Christ, but to begin with the holiness and the sovereignty and the eternity of God brings us to the place that humbles us and directs our thinking as it should be directed.
Third, true worship is ceaseless worship because what we’re told in verse 8 is that it’s offered to God day and night. That means day and night, day after day, year after year. We can’t do that by ourselves, of course, except in the sense that our entire lives should be ordered to God’s glory, but we can worship, ceaselessly, literally, along with others, and we do. All around the world people worship God in such a way that we could say praise from this planet goes up to God literally day and night and year after year. We have a part of that and it’s a great opportunity.
Study QuestionsWhat is the focus of all true worship?In what ways is our worship valuable?For what specific attributes is God praised by the four living creatures?
ReflectionMeditate on Matthew 22:37-38.