Reflecting on the text
Did you know that we are actually mentioned in the book of Revelation? Not by name, of course, but there is a symbol that represents us. (Don’t worry, very few get more than a symbolic mention.)
I hinted at this yesterday, but I didn’t explain myself very well. Do you remember the 24 elders surrounding God’s throne? Scholars debate their exact identity, but most agree that they represent the people of God. The number twenty-four most likely represents two twelves: the tribes of Israel and the apostles of the church.
In other words, they represent us.
Even more important than the question of their precise identity is the question of what they’re doing. We discussed one aspect of this already: they are sitting on thrones around God’s throne, participating in his loving rule of the cosmos.
So our job is to fall on our faces before God and worship.
“Worship” is somewhat of a loaded word, so let’s talk about it for a bit. How would you define or describe worship? What does it mean to worship God?
Worship derives from “worth-ship.” At the most basic level, it involves giving God all he’s worth. Certainly worship is one of (if not the) core practices of our faith. I would define worship as acknowledging and expressing the glory and sufficiency of God.
To worship means to recognize how incomparably huge God is, as well as how indescribably loving God is to his creatures, and to react accordingly.
But as true as this definition is, let’s try to make things a bit more helpful. After all, how does one actually go about “acknowledging and expressing the glory and sufficiency of God”? We think that this is done by noticing God and responding.
Think about this for a minute: to worship is to notice God and respond to him.
Living what we learn
I want to make a couple of quick observations about worship from Revelation 4, and then we’ll talk about how to live this out.
First of all, Revelation 4 reveals one of the main reasons why we worship God. Reread verse 11 and notice the reason given for our worship. We worship because God created all things. We worship because if it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t even be here.
Second, Revelation 4 reveals our particular role in the universe’s worship of God.
I’m sure you noticed the four interesting looking creatures in verse seven. These creatures represent all of God’s creation, and each of them spends all their time worshiping. There is one small problem, however, namely that lions and eagles and oxen (and squirrels and panda bears and chimpanzees and garden snakes) can’t sing. They are, at least to a degree, inarticulate. So how do they worship?
That’s where we come in. As N.T. Wright points out, this vision reveals that “the task of humans is to bring to conscious thought and expression the worship of the rest of creation.” We put words, as it were, to the roar of the lion and the flight of the eagle and the strength of the ox.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty cool. And it makes me want to become a better worshiper.
We usually don’t think about it, but we worship all the time. Worship is in our blood, and we can’t help but praise something. I want you to think about the most beautiful thing you’ve experienced this week. Maybe it’s something you saw, or something you heard, or something you smelled or tasted or did. Chances are, you worshiped in that moment. Not in the sense that you pronounced your steak or favorite painting divine, but by expressing—in thought, word, and action—your deep appreciation and enjoyment.
Once again, we were made to worship. So all we have to do is train ourselves to notice God all around us. Sounds easy enough, except for the fact that our minds are constantly barraged by hundreds of sights, sounds, and sensations. This is why “noticing” is a discipline, a practice (in the sociological sense) that we only establish through practice (in the habitual sense).
Our challenge today is to focus, to tune in, to pay attention to the beauty of God even as we go about meeting and reading and talking and writing and signing and filling out and emailing and building and teaching and disciplining and cooking and walking and lifting and driving and yelling and praying and crying and whatever else we might be doing (or wishing we were doing).
Here are some of my favorite creation pictures that help me remember how much I often fail to notice…