The book of Revelation is an incredible source of deep gospel truth and encouragement for the church. In it, we find the church in victory through Jesus Christ despite the wickedness of the world. In it, we find the church reflecting the glory of our Savior despite the dark, demonic efforts to subdue her. In it, we find the church sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise as the world around her take the mark of the beast. In it, we find the church standing blameless before a just and mighty God who judges and wages war with the kings of the earth who are in league with the beast. On and on it goes; truth after truth that reinforces our faith, encourages our hearts, and warns the world around us. It is such a shame that it’s application and deeply devotional messages are often overlooked. Instead, it is popular to study or teach this book merely to figure out what the future holds; as if it is some sort of Farmer’s Almanac that is simply predicting the weather for the upcoming season.
One nugget of truth that I came across recently in my studies of this great book of the bible has gripped my heart with it’s challenge and relevance to the modern day church. I would like to share this devotion which comes to us from the nineteenth chapter.
The apostle John, who was given the revelation of Jesus Christ to show to His bondservants the things which must soon take place, was given a vision in chapter 17 of the judgment of the world’s systems because of it’s wickedness. In this vision, the corrupt world is metaphorically referred to as the great harlot, the great city, and Babylon. Additionally, in chapter 18, we are given a detailed description of the sorrowful yet fearful reaction of the unbelievers as they witness the destruction of the world and it’s systems “in one hour.” Chapter 19 begins with the joyful reaction of those in heaven crying, “Hallelujah!” While the kings of the earth mourn their loss, themselves being faced with the fierce wrath of God, the redeemed of the Lord are declaring the greatness of their God for His justice, vindication, and eternal salvation.
Then about halfway through the chapter, the angel, who has been leading John through these visions of the fall of Babylon and the resulting praise in heaven, pauses to give John some instructions.
“Then he said to me, “‘Write, “‘”Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”‘” And he said to me, “‘These are true words of God.”‘” Revelation 19:9 (NASB95)
Several times throughout Revelation, John is commanded to write down the things he sees and hears, so this is nothing new. This time he is instructed to record a blessing that is promised to everyone who is invited to partake of God’s eternal life made possible through the Lamb. As the angel gives him instruction, he also points out to him that this promise carries weight not because it is the angel’s promise, but because it comes to us from God Himself, who is Faithful and True.
Then in the next verse, a very peculiar thing happens.
Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10 (NASB95)
Poor John. After all he has been through and witnessed through the Revelation, it seems as though the greatness of this last vision is just too much, and he loses his head for a moment, falling at the feet of the messenger to honor him in worship. But the messenger is quick to correct him. And rightly so! The angel points out that he is just simply a fellow servant and witness like the rest of Christ’s followers. He is in no way deserving of the worship that God alone deserves.
The golden nugget of truth that should challenge us all lies within this verse. The point is this – If we fall down in worship to anything other than God, we are:
- Elevating creation to a status it was never intended to have
- Selling ourselves short because we will be disappointed
- Dishonoring the One to whom our worship truly belongs
A few thoughts on each should clarify what is on my heart.
Misplaced Worship means Misplaced Creation
When we worship anything other than the God who created everything, we find ourselves exalting the created instead of the Creator who created the created. This means we are elevating something finite to the status of the One who is infinite. Creation was never intended to have this status over God, but it seems to be a common symptom of fallen humanity to make this error, as Romans points out.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 1:22-23, 25 (NASB95)
We enjoy God’s creation on many different levels and in many different ways. Nature lovers who like to hike and climb through the woods. Joggers who celebrate the first break of day by going on a brisk run. An inventive builder who applies the gift of his craft to design and create a structure for a family to occupy. A skillful musician who is able to sooth hearts with a God-given ability for melody. Newlyweds who zealously commit themselves to each other ’til death do we part.’ Parents who are overjoyed at the birth of a child in the delivery room. Not to mention the enjoyment of the very breath we begin breathing at the time of our birth and spend the rest of our lives taking for granted.
These are all great things within God’s creation that have been given to us to enjoy. When our priorities are correct and in their proper order, creation is a blessing. But when we take the affection and love that is intended for God and focus it towards His creation, thereby elevating it to a level that is reserved only for the Almighty, the blessing becomes a curse. We are exchanging the glory, truth, and holiness of God for something that is inglorious, untrue, unholy, and unhealthy.
Misplaced Worship means Misplaced Satisfaction
Furthermore, if our love for God is misplaced, we will find that our hearts will never be fully satisfied. When we find ourselves worshiping the created over the Creator, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves dissatisfied and disappointed with our choice. We must understand that creation was never meant to quench the yearning thirst in our hearts for our Creator. This world and the things within it may give the temporary, false impression that they are satisfying, but we are selling ourselves short – God has so much more to offer. The things of creation, including the angels, as good as they are, will in no way ever replace the ultra fulfilling relationship found only in our Creator.
Ecclesiastes states that God has placed eternity in the hearts of man. At the center of mankind’s soul is an understanding that there is something bigger and greater than this universe. God has left within each of us the fingerprints of an all-present, infinitely eternal, self-existing Deity. Similar to a detective trying to match the fingerprints of a suspect at a crime scene, so it is our good pleasure to match the fingerprints of God with those He left on our soul.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2 (NASB95)
I believe God has placed it in the hearts of humans to pursue Him in curiosity and in wonder. When we attempt to replace that pursuit with finite objects, there is something in the very core of our being that is being neglected. We were created to pursue and know God.
Misplaced Worship means Misplaced Honor
Additionally, by misplacing the affections of our worship, we are placing creation in a position of honor that it was never intended to occupy. When we choose to ignore the holiness of God by trading His glory for that of something less, God is also placed in a position of dishonor He was never intended to occupy.
“For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth…” Psalm 97:9 (NASB95)
Our Lord will not allow Himself to be second place to His creation. In fact, it is impossible for this to happen. It may happen in the hearts of mankind, but in reality, God never plays second fiddle. It isn’t that God is some sort of megalomaniacal usurper, it is that the very nature of who God is will not allow it to happen. We fail to understand the awesome majesty and infinite holiness of who God is which therefore, makes it difficult for us to understand verses like this:
“I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another…” Isaiah 42:8 (NASB95)
When we give our hearts in worship to someone or something other than the Lord, we are treading on dangerous ground. The magnificently, unique glory of God will not be cheapened by our misplaced affections and attentions. In fact, it is impossible; something must give, and it will not be God.
As fallen creatures with weak, sinful dispositions along with short term memories, we must constantly submit ourselves to the heart-convicting presence of the Holy Spirit and the double-edged sword of the Word of God. This passage of scripture finishes with an interesting sentence.
“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
So let us ask ourselves these questions:
Is the essence of our lives built around Jesus Christ or is there something else that occupies our passion?
Is the message of our lives that we are communicating with others the testimony of the Son of God or has another message taken it’s place?
Is the test of our lives the holiness of the sinless Lamb of God or is there another philosophy that we hold in higher esteem?
If we have fallen down in worship to any created thing, it’s time to get up, refocus, and worship God.