We’ve all been there: not making the cut, not measuring up to the standard of expectation, disappointing people and basically falling short. Revelation 5:1-14 is one powerful vision that propels us to accept our limitation. Here in Chapter 5, we’re taking the 30,000 foot view. When it comes to the destiny of the universe, the nations and our lives, only God Himself in Christ can steer the destiny of the world and lead us. Left to ourselves, in spite of our best intentions, we will make a mess of it all and that includes sometimes even the most powerful nations on earth.
But there is comfort in that too. Yes, it’s not fun to realize that even powerful nations can falter at times, but it also points us upward, to the heavenly realities of the One seated on the throne. Here in Chapter 5, the focus is not on God as the powerful Lion, or the King seated on the throne, but on the Lamb that was slain. He is worthy to save us. And, the corollary is that we are not, hence the loud wailing by John himself in the vision.
The other significant take away is that Jesus, the Lamb of God is God Himself standing in authority co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit (“the seven spirits” is Bible-speak for the perfect Spirit of God). He is worthy because He died to ransom (more precisely, purchase, which is the language of the market place) people out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation. Nations can’t save themselves, let alone save you or me. This is why we need to resist the temptation to label any nation on earth with the status of God’s country. It also means we need to manage our expectation as to what any government can do. To be sure, blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, Psalm 33 affirms. We as citizens of heaven on earth strive to promote God’s righteous and Holy standard in our lives and in the country where we live. Through the ages, biblical principles have been at the forefront of societal changes: abolition of Roman gladiator games, abolition of slavery, caring for the wounded (the Red Cross), the sick (nursing and hospitals), fighting sex trafficking, protecting the unborn, the homeless, the poor and the refugees, Civil Rights, etc. However, when Jesus says “My kingdom is not of this world,” He pretty much puts to rest the illusion that any country on earth can somehow claim the mantle of being God’s Kingdom on earth. This is particularly important during this time of transition of power in Washington. God’s growing His Kingdom in the US, but it’s not God’s Kingdom on earth. There is a big difference and those who confuse their walk of faith with political affiliations will always end up disappointed and yes, even misguided in their expression of faith. It’s also fair to say this will impact folks on both sides of the aisle at one point or another.
Finally, the vision of Revelation 5 also points to the Love of God in Christ. Related to the above point, even a very cursory look at the history of the relationship between God and the nations of the world will tell you that nations aren’t exactly on friendly terms with God. Nations aren’t neutral toward God. Paul says it plainly: no-one seeks after God, no, not one (see Romans 3:10-12). In fact, nations conspire against God and His will (Psalm 33; Psalm 2, etc.); even God’s chosen nation and people rebelled against Him and suffered the fate of nations in the Old Testament (2 Kings 17). So when Jesus purchases at the cost of His life members out of every nation on earth to create His own nation of priests and kings (Revelation 5:10), He is reaching out to hostiles. But this is in fact the entire point of the Gospel. God’s sacrificial love for His enemies becomes our call as well (Romans 5:6-11). As peacemakers, we simply follow in the footsteps of our Lord. We reach out “across the aisle” to those we don’t like and we keep on loving them, “speaking the truth (=His Word) in love.”
Questions from Dolores and John:
- As followers of Jesus we are called to love both friend and foe sacrificially. What spiritual disciplines can you employ to better fulfill this calling?
- Who are your enemies or those to whom you have closed your heart? Earnestly bring these matters before the Lord for His wisdom to be revealed to you.
- Weeping and mourning are humanity’s shared experiences, and yet we have joy in knowing that our redeemer lives and has triumphed over our brokenness. What is your current practice of falling down and worshipping God daily out of gratitude for what He has done?