“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits 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.” (Rev. 5:12-14)
I had the great honor of attending the Chenaniah Summer Institute concert last Friday evening. Sidenote: it’s a pretty insane gift to live in a tiny town where on any given week there may be some high end concert that some folks pay tons of money for in big cities, but because we have a bustling little community of artists, composers, musicians, and choirs, I can pop downtown and walk in to a hall and hear a number of pieces performed and then pop home like it was nothing.
But it wasn’t nothing. The theme of the concert was “Worth is the Lamb” and the concert closed with Handel’s famous setting from The Messiah. And it was wonderful. Of course you can click over to your Spotify right now and pull up a number of recordings of that piece. But there’s nothing quite like sitting in an audience listening to a live performance, watching the violinists’ arms driving, the trumpets raise and brandish, the timpani (those are the big drums) rumbling and banging and booming.
I honestly don’t know how Handel could bring himself to finish it. How do you stop singing, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb!” How do possibly get to the point where you say, that’ll do? Of course that final anthem in the Messiah breaks into the final piece which is over four minutes of “Amens.” I imagine anyone who’s studied the piece knows what I just noticed on Friday, but Revelation says that the four living creatures said, “Amen,” and then the elders fell down and worshipped, and so the Amen chorus begins with a solo (or just a few voices) from each voice (Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano) imitating those four living creatures, and then all of the voices join, all the angels and the myriads of saints gathered to the throne.
Our Twilight Zone
And here we are living in what seems like a twilight zone of COVID mandates, vaccine threats, woke cancel culture, and Joe Biden and his cronies shuffling around breathing heavy into mics. What can we do? How can we stop the madness? It’s easy to feel powerless and impotent, like there’s nothing we can do. And of course there are plenty who are trying to run another political play. We have to stop them in the next election! Pass a law! And of course I do think we should use every play we have to stop the commies. But I think it was John Piper who said that missions exists because worship doesn’t. In other words, the point of missions and evangelism is to call the world to worship Jesus. Missions will be finished when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord. But in the meantime, people who don’t worship Jesus don’t really care to obey Him. Why is abortion legal in our land? Because our land has rejected Jesus. Why is our country run by fools and clowns? Because we will not worship Christ.
Let me make a distinction here between people who “go to church” and those who worship Jesus. In one of the first statements or interviews (I don’t remember which) I read or heard from James Coates (the first Canadian pastor to be arrested for leading his people in worship, I believe), I remember hearing him say that Jesus was worthy of our worship. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. Such a simple statement, but so profoundly true. Why go against government regulations and meet for worship? He is worthy. Why disregard mask mandates and social distancing requirements? Because Jesus is worthy. Why risk slander, fines, and imprisonment?He is worthy of our worship. He is worthy.
So as I was driving home from listening to “Worthy is the Lamb,” and it dawned on me. The reason we are not free, the reason we are oppressed by wicked rulers and tyrannical nannies, the reason perversion is celebrated in our streets, the reason the unborn are still being murdered by the thousands each day, the reason the clowns in our capitol buildings keep voting for economic insanity that will ultimately enslave us all – the reason, the fundamental reason is because we don’t think Jesus is worthy to receive all “power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And how do I know? Because we keep giving power and wealth and might and honor to scoundrels and fools and blood-thirsty tyrants.
Who is Worthy?
Just imagine some congressman or governor running on the platform “Jesus is Lord of all,” routinely opening his Bible to explain his public policy objectives on immigration, finance, or education. He gets laughed off the stage. Then imagine some dude in a dress calling himself a “conservative” running for governor. You’ll get an hour on primetime interviewed by one of our “conservative” talking heads. Of course a bunch of the “church going” people excuse themselves by saying that even though they disagree with the dude in the dress, he’s definitely the more viable candidate and has more experience. And they appreciate the guy with the Bible, but that just doesn’t seem realistic. And making room for the fruits and nuts out there, the fact remains that what we are saying on the whole is that Jesus doesn’t seem very realistic. We are saying that He is not worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
But the thing that really struck me is that we should not lose sight of how simple our problem really is. Whether it’s Biden and his cronies, the Supreme Court, your state’s COVID insanity, or your city’s latest nanny policy, remember that this is really all that must be done. It’s so simple: we must bow the knee. We must proclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” That’s the message and that’s the solution. The reason the world doesn’t sing “Worthy is the Lamb” is because they don’t think He is worthy. They have other gods, other saviors, other solutions, other salvations. They are looking to the State, to some new economic policy, to magic multicultural Zen, to medicine and chemicals, but they are worshipping their gods. By their dedication to those solutions, they are proclaiming that those gods are worthy of all power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. It’s not whether but which.
There will be god who is worshipped; there will always be some god to whom is ascribed all power and wealth and wisdom. But no other god has given His own life for His people. No other god has taken the penalty due for our sin upon Himself. No other god has loved such unlovely people and tasted death for them all. No other god has died and risen from the dead, to make all things new. And that is why no other god is worthy. Only Jesus is worthy. Because He is the Lamb who was slain. And by His blood, He has made us clean. He has brought us near. He has made us a kingdom of priests.
Do Not Despair
So do not despair: The Lamb is on the throne. Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb. And precisely because He is on the throne, He is worthy. And because He is on the throne, all of this nonsense is nothing to Him. Christ has already died and risen from the dead and has reigned these 2,000 years. What are these rebellious men and women but a swarm of angry ants on the sidewalk of history? Shake your fists again, you little six-legged insects.
But this is the point: you cannot sing “Worthy is the Lamb” and then go your own way. Is He worthy to receive all glory and honor and power and wealth? Then give it to Him. These tinpot dictators are not worthy of all glory and honor and power and wealth. They are worthy of whatever honor Jesus commands us to give them, no more and no less. They are not worthy of our obedience when it comes to how we will gather to worship the Lamb who was slain. They are not worthy of our obedience when it comes to mask mandates and vaccine edicts. They are not worthy of our obedience when they command us to shut down our businesses or schools. They have not died for our sins. They have not risen from the dead to make us completely new. They are not lords of our families or our churches. We can and do honor their offices, but they are mere men and women like us, or else they are royalty like us. But only Christ is worthy of all our honor and glory and power and wealth.
So the offer is here: Christ is worthy of our worship and praise. Worship Him. Bow down. Humble yourself. Bend your knee. Now serve Him. Are you baptized? Then you are under orders. Does the Spirit dwell in you? Then He yearns jealously for your obedience to the Lamb who was slain.
There is no political solution to this mess. There is no policy platform that can right this course. Our western Christian civilization has plunged off the cliffs of insanity. There is no course correction in midair. But the beauty of this moment, the beauty of living in these days is realizing that our only hope is Christ. It’s Christ or nothing. Christ or chaos. Christ or utter desolation. But Christ is on the throne. The Lamb has already been slain for the sins of the world. The Spirit has been poured out. This is not a moment for despair. This is a moment for great hope. This is a moment for bold obedience. This is a moment for prayer. And this is a moment to sing louder than ever, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” Christ has purchased the nations with His blood, and so all of the nations will come. The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.
Why won’t we stop meeting for church? Because Christ is worthy. Why won’t we submit to unjust decrees and dictates? Because Jesus is worthy. Why are we so happy while we are hated and despised? Because the Lamb is worthy.