Revelation 11:16(2)

Sermon preached on August 25, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

During the past couple of weeks Marg has been going through music trying to pick out some pieces for her school choirs. On Wednesday I told her that she shouldn't be so worried about it because her choirs always sound great. She said,

"I'm worried because I have a couple of kids like you in my choir."

I asked her what she meant and she replied that she had a couple of kids that can't sing at all. They can't sing in tune. I was surprised and said to her,

"Don't you have auditions?"

She said that she didn't, that if a student wanted to be in chorus that they were allowed to be in chorus even if they couldn't sing.

No wonder she's been so worried all these years! I thought that if someone couldn't sing that they would be excluded from the chorus, that they just wouldn't make it. I had no idea that she had to deal with people like me. When I was in school we didn't have music except from Grades 3-5 and everyone had to take it. I've told some of you the story before how just before my Grade 5 Christmas concert, our music teacher came up to me and my friend Billy Chislett and said,

"Larry and Billy. I don't want you to sing. Just mouth the words. If you sing you'll ruin the whole thing."

Ha-ha. She was really worried about Billy and me.

If you have a singer in your choir that can't sing and they don't even know it, you're in a lot of trouble. One of the favorite stories that I like to tell about my dad and his lack of singing abilities was one the time that we were in church with my dad. Marg was sitting right next to him, and at one point in the service we stood to sing the hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today". At the end of every sentence in that hymn they have the word,


It has that word 4 times in very verse and there are 5 verses in the song and it's sang a total of 20 times in that hymn.

About half way through the hymn I noticed that there was something wrong with Marg. She was shaking a little. I looked over at her and she had tears streaming down her cheeks and she was shaking. She was trying her best to try to keep from bursting out in convulsions of laughter. She was trying to keep it in but she was having a really difficult time with it. The problem was that my dad was just belting out the words. He was singing as loud as he could and was just massacring the hymn, especially the Al-le-lu-ia's. It was something like you'd seen in a Mr. Bean sitcom. Marg was trying really hard not to lose it completely with tears streaming down her face.

Marg lost it during that song as far as worship goes. Something like that takes away from worship. It ruins it. She couldn't worship like she wanted to. She couldn't focus on God, on the resurrection. Even though she tried not to get distracted, she did. If there had only been 5 or 6 Al-le-lu-ia's she might have been able to hold it together, but around 10 she started to lose it.

Some things are like that in worship. They ruin a good thing. They don't go with it at all. They distract us. Rather than focusing on God, they take us away from Him.

But there are other things that degrade our worship. They make it unacceptable in God's sight.

Those are things we need to be concerned about.

The Bible tells us much about what is acceptable and unacceptable to God in worship. In the Old Testament when David was bringing the ark of God up to Jerusalem, a great tragedy occurred. We read, (2 Samuel 6:6–7)

"When they came to
the threshing floor of Nacon,
Uzzah reached out and took hold
of the ark of God,
because the oxen stumbled.
The LORD'S anger burned against Uzzah
because of his irreverent act;
therefore God struck him down
and he died there beside the ark of God."

They were transporting the ark the wrong way. It was supposed to be carried by the Levites. It wasn't supposed to be on a cart. Uzzah seems to have been one of the people in charge of it. When the oxen slipped and he reached out to steady the ark, God struck him dead. The Israelites weren't honoring God by bringing the ark to Jerusalem according to God's instructions.

We have another incident like that in Leviticus 10. Fire from the Lord came out and consumed Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu because they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord. Their worship was totally unacceptable to God. (Leviticus 10) There was arrogance and pride in their worship.

They were not like the 24 elders we see in our text. The 24 elders fell down on their faces before God. One of the main things this shows us is that

the worship of the 24 elders was one of utmost humility.

The 24 elders don't look at God as they worship Him here. They remind us of the story of the tax collector in the temple that Jesus spoke about. He wouldn't lift his eyes to heaven and he beat his chest. (Luke 18:13) He was exceedingly humble.

It's the same with the 24 elders. They don't look at God, at least not at first. I'm not sure about it but it could be that all their worship recorded here in verses 17 and 18 is conducted with their faces to the ground. They get off their thrones and put their faces to the ground. They don't just look to the ground, they put their faces on it. They are completely humble. Their there is no pride in them.

We must be like the 24 elders in our worship. Psalm 5:5 says,

"The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence;
you hate all who do wrong."

To be arrogant is to sin. It is a great sin. Throughout the Bible the phrase, 'the proud' denotes those who are repugnant in God's sight. Proverbs 16:5 says,

"The LORD detests all the proud of heart."

James 4:6 says,

"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."

One of the things that ruins worship is a lack of humility. Pride in those who seek to worship destroys proper worship. Pride is incompatible with true worship. When the 24 elders worship God they get off their thrones and fall on their faces.

There is no place for pride in worship. There is no place for self-seeking in worship. True worship can never be about attracting attention to yourself. The apostle Paul characterized true preaching this way, (1 Corinthians 1:23)

"but we preach Christ crucified:"

Preaching is to be all about Jesus and His work, His will for us, His comfort for us.

This is something that those who lead worship need to be aware of. They are not to bring the focus on themselves, but on God.

Preachers have to be careful of this. Even during a sermon a preacher is not to be the center of attention. He is not to draw attention to himself. I heard it said that,

'a preacher, while he is preaching, should hide behind Christ'.

Christ is to be focus, not the preacher. Charles Spurgeon speaking about Christ being our shelter, wrote,

"Our safety lies in getting behind Christ, and letting him stand in the wind's eye. We must be altogether hidden…"

But that could also be applied to preaching. The preacher must be altogether hidden.

Yet this is hard for preachers to do. Edward Irving was a great preacher in London in the 1800's. He had worked in Scotland as an assistant to Thomas Chalmers previous to this and when he went to London, it seemed to be with the attitude,

"I'll show you what great things I can do!"

Five years later he had built a great congregation I think it was at the opening of his church in London that he invited Chalmers to speak. But he could not give the limelight to Chalmers. Chalmers later wrote to his wife, ("Forerunner of the Charismatic Movement, The Life of Edward Irving" by Arnold Dallimore. p. 90-91)

"I undertook to open Irving's new church in London. The congregation, in their eagerness to obtain seats, had already been assembled three hours. Irving said he would assist by reading a chapter for me. He chose the longest in the Bible [the 119th Psalm]… There was a prodigious want of tact in the length of his prayers—forty minutes; and altogether it was an hour and a half from the commencement of the service ere I began."

Chalmers was invited to be the speaker, yet Irving could not give up the spotlight. That's an extreme example but it shows that pride can arise in minister's whose job it is to glorify God.

This is difficult for song leaders too. Leading worship in song is supposed to be different from performing in a concert. At a concert, the focus is on the performers. If one of the performers has a guitar solo, the focus is exclusively on him for a few moments. It's usually about,

"Wow, isn't he great. He can really play well."

It a church setting, that's not to be the focus. The focus is on getting people to focus on God.

J.S. Bach recognized the danger of focusing on music rather than God. He often wrote the letters "S.D.G." on his music manuscripts when he finished them. They were from the Latin meaning,

"To the glory of God alone."

That should be the focus of song leaders.

But what about the other participants? What about you?

Is your worship hindered by pride? It's not just preachers and song leaders who can have pride during worship. We all have to be careful.

Pride can express itself a lot of ways, in things others can see and things they can't see. Someone can daydream during the sermon. No one can see that going on but that's certainly not imitating the 24 elders.

In our country we have such a casual attitude toward worship. Doesn't that come from not being humble enough? Should we all be on our knees with our faces to the floor during worship? I'm not advocating so much that physical posture, but I am advocating that we have that inward attitude. If we have that inward attitude, I think our time here would be quite different.

Contemporary American worship sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Someone told me once about a service they attended and, I think it was just after the minister started preaching, a guy pushing an ice cream cart entered the sanctuary and the guy took out a 'freeze gun' and froze the preacher and went on to tell the congregation about some upcoming VBS event or something like that.

An old friend from Lisbon told me about a couple who brought their baby to church to get baptized in the old Presbyterian church there. When the baptism was over and they turned and walked down the aisle, instead of going back to their seats, they just kept going. They walked right out of the church and went home. They got what they wanted and then they just turned their backs on God.

How far we are from worshipping God with the attitude of the 24 elders. I read recently about someone complaining about the flippant attitude people today have toward worship services. He complained about how it seems that children today are trained to go to the bathroom during the sermon. He wrote,

"Frankly, when I was growing-up, I did not even know [the church] had a bathroom, because unless I was ready to vomit, I did not leave that pew…"

What about arriving on time? Does being late for church show proper respect and honor to God? Does it cause you to miss blessings?

A lot of people would say,

"Of course not. The first part of the service is only the Call to Worship, a prayer, the Introit, the opening hymn, the prayer of praise. How can you say that I'm missing out on something when those things are so minor?"

But that's missing the main point. The question is,

"Are you missing out on blessings because you don't have as much humility toward God as you should have?"

Esau missed getting the blessing from his father. In one sense you could say that it as because he was late. But it had to do more with his attitude toward God.

It's really about your inner attitude. Do you fall down on your face before God?

That question is perhaps best answered by evaluating how you respond to the teaching of God's Word.

If the Word of God is properly preached, how do you deal with it in your life?

Some people put off and delay accepting God's Word. When the apostle Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come before Felix the Governor, Felix was afraid and said, (Acts 24:25)

"That's enough for now! You may leave.
When I find it convenient,
I will send for you."

King Agrippa said to Paul, (Acts 26:28)

"Do you think that in such a short time
you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Others reject God's Word completely. When Paul preached before Festus, Festus interrupted and said that Paul was out of his mind.

If you're like them, rejecting God's Word, don't think that your presence here is earning you points with God. Quite the contrary, you're not on your face before God. Instead you're rejecting Him and laying up judgment for yourself. You need to change your ways. You need to go to Jesus. You need to do that today.

But even Christians can be un-submissive to God's Word. They hear it and they don't like it. God's Word tells you to leave your sin. But often Christians, or people who claim to be Christians, don't want to leave their sin. They don't like what God's Word says about their present situation. It demands that they change. It demands that we be holy. In a situation like that what are you going to do? Are you going to bow down, fall on your face and submit to God—or are you going to turn your back on God and walk away?

You see, with serving Jesus it's all or nothing. He demands that you fall on your face before Him. He will take nothing less. As Jesus said in Luke 14:26–27, 33

"If anyone comes to me
and does not hate his father and mother,
his wife and children,
his brothers and sisters—
yes, even his own life—
he cannot be my disciple.
And anyone who does not carry his cross
and follow me cannot be my disciple…
In the same way, any of you
who does not give up everything he has
cannot be my disciple."

Christians, fall on your face before God.

May His glory be your greatest desire. May you delight in His Word and will. May you delight to serve Him and put His will into practice in your life. May He be your King.

Christians, fall on your face before God. Stop being a distraction to others. If you're going to do anything in worship, may it be to help others worship God.

Christians, fall on your face before God. It's not about you, your preferences, your desires, your will—no, it's about being on your face before your King. It's about Him being all in all.