Revelation 4:11(3)

Sermon preached on June 24, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. 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.

Sports writer Tim Horgan of the Boston Herald tells a story about being at Fenway Park in Boston for a Red Sox game when he came upon a blind man in the stands near the first base line. It was when the great Ted Williams played for the Red Sox. A blind man attending a baseball game! It didn't seem to make sense yet Horgan found out that he often came to the games. So Horgan asked the blind man,

"Why do you come to the ballpark?"

The blind man replied,

"I come for Ted Williams. I can tell when Williams stands up in the dugout, when he takes his bat out of the rack, when he's getting in the on-deck circle. I can tell every move he makes—by the reaction of the fans."

Isn't that interesting. He went to Fenway Park because Ted Williams was playing. Even though he couldn't see Ted Williams, he knew what Ted Williams was doing and to a great extent he enjoyed Ted William's play.

Why did you come to church this morning? There are a lot of good answers to that question. I think if we did a poll here we'd come up with quite a few. But this morning we're just going to focus on one of the main reasons. What our text tells us is that

in worship we meet with God.

What is worship all about? The essence of it is meeting with God. In worship we come into His presence in a way that is different than our being with Him as individuals.

In our text the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders meet with God. They are in His presence. They praise God directly. They are confronted with His character. The four living creatures are amazed at His holiness, His power, His eternity. They praise Him for these attributes. The twenty-four elders praise God for His worthiness, for His power and will exercised in creation. They ascribe glory, honor and power to Him. They're praising God for His majesty, for the wisdom and glory that He displayed in creation.

So, when we gather together with God's people to worship we must, first and foremost, remember that we are there to meet with God.

In corporate worship we experience God's presence.

It's true that God is everywhere and that we are always in His presence. Psalm 139 tells us that we can never be out of His presence. It is true that we can worship God anywhere and at anytime, even when we are alone. But the Bible also speaks about God's special presence that He gives to His people when they gather as a group.

For example, in the Old Testament sometimes God's presence appeared to the Israelites in a cloud. (Exodus 13:21, 16:10, 40:34ff) For a time in the Old Testament we see that God's special presence was at the tabernacle and the temple. A cloud would cover the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord would fill the tabernacle. In Exodus 20:24 God said to Israel,

"Make an altar of earth for me
and sacrifice on it your
burnt offerings and fellowship offerings,
your sheep and goats and your cattle.
Wherever I cause my name to be honored,
I will come to you and bless you."

At that time His presence came to His people in a special way, in a way of blessing.

It's the same in the New Testament. In Matthew 18:20, in the context of church discipline, Jesus promised His presence in a special way where two or three were gathered together. It's also that way with worship. When we meet with His people to worship Him, God's presence is with us in a special way to bless us. In John 14:13 Jesus said,

"And I will do whatever you ask in my name,
so that the Son may bring glory to the Father."

The 'you' in 'you ask' is plural in number. The reference is not to an individual asking, but to a group of Christians asking. God promises to bless the gathering together of His people.

It was when Christians were gathered together that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church. Acts 2 tells us on the Day of Pentecost a sound like a violent wind come from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. What seemed to be tongues of fire came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. God came to them. In Acts 4 we see the same thing. After Peter and John were released Christians gathered together and prayed for God to give them boldness in the face of threats against them and to stretch out His hand and perform signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. When they prayed the place was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. We see this consistently in the book of Acts. In Acts 12 it was when the church was together praying for Peter that an angel went into the prison and brought him safely out. In Acts 13 we see that it was when the Christians were together, worshiping the Lord and fasting, that the Holy Spirit spoke to them and told them to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which He had called them.

We see this principle also in 1 Corinthians 11. God sent sickness and death to some of the Christians in Corinth because they abused the Lord's Supper in their public worship services. The Christians needed to be especially aware of how they treated one another during worship because God was there to bless them. When some prevented His blessing by creating a division in the church, He punished them.

When God's people meet together God is with them. He meets with them with the intention of blessing them. In 1 Corinthians 14:25 the apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that if they worshiped correctly and an unbeliever came in and saw God's people respond properly to the Word of God, he will become convinced that he is a sinner and,

"will fall down and worship God, exclaiming,
'God is really among you!'"

Notice the pattern—God's people meet together. God blesses them. Outsiders who come in know that God is present with them. When we meet for worship God meets with us. In worship we come into His presence.

If later this week someone asks you what you did on Sunday, you can say to them that you met with God. You met with Him when you gathered with God's people. You met with Him in order for Him to bless you and others.

If they ask you if you saw Him, you can say, no, but just like the blind man at Fenway Park, you don't have to see someone to know that he's there. The things that He does shows that He's there.

The second thing we see in our text is that

the four living creatures and the 24 elders are confronted with God's character, with His will, and they give Him praise, glory and honor for these things.

It's not explicitly stated here but what lies beneath the surface is the fact that the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders are blessed by being in God's presence. They are delighting in God. They are experiencing the greatest blessing by being in His presence.

How is that? Well, for the four living creatures, they are in God's presence and they are confronted with God's holiness, His power and His eternity. They delight in God, in His glorious characteristics. They respond by giving him glory, honor and thanks. The 24 elders are confronted with God's will as revealed in His creating and sustaining all things. They respond by declaring God's worthiness and attributing to Him glory and honor and power.
Both groups are delighting in God, in His attributes, in His will.

Note this well. They delight in God, in His attributes.

That's what we are to do. We are to delight in God, in God's attributes.

The great lesson for us is that we need to make sure that we do that. This is the way to blessing. Do you delight in God's holiness like the four living creatures? Do you delight in God's will like the 24 elders? Do you praise and honor God for His glorious attributes like the heavenly host does? We must do this. We must delight in this.

For the very sad truth is that

in our society today there's great pressure on us not to praise God for what He's like. They exert pressure on us not to praise Him for His attributes—like holiness, like His will.

What do a lot of people in our society tell us? They will say,

"I met with God and do you know what, he's a girl! It's 'Mother', not 'Father'. She's female."

That's not meeting with God. That's idolatry.

Others will say,

"I went to church and I met with God and I found out that he accepts my behavior. You can be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, whatever. You can covet another man's wife or lust after a younger woman who is not your wife, and it's okay as long as she is your 'soul mate'. You can do those things and still be close to God. You can use obscene and filthy language like everyone else because those words are 'out there'. And you can still be close to God. God accepts us all exactly as we are."

They're saying that people don't have to change. They don't have to repent. What they're affirming, without saying it, is that God is not holy. They're saying that He'll accept a lot of behaviors that the Bible calls perversions.

What is our God like? What should we be praising Him for?

One of the things that the four living creatures praise God for His holiness. God is holy. He is ethically pure. He is separate from sin. Sin is an affront to Him. People need to repent of their sin. That's what God's Word tells us. The 24 elders praise God for His will as expressed in creating and upholding all things.

How do we know what God is like? How do we know what we should praise Him for? Michael Horton writes, (The Christian Faith, p. 786)

"Every relationship… involves two parties. God communicates his grace through Word and sacrament and we communicate with God in prayer. Preaching and sacrament communicate the gifts that we need from God for our spiritual survival, and prayer is our Spirit-provoked reply."

Note that well. When we meet with God, God speaks to us and communicates with us through His Word. The primary way we meet God is through the reading and preaching of the Word and the sacraments. In his Institutes John Calvin comments on Ephesians 4:10-13 where it talks about God's way of up-building the church. Ephesians 4:10–13 says,

"It was he who gave some to be apostles,
some to be prophets,
some to be evangelists,
and some to be pastors and teachers,
to prepare God's people
for works of service,
so that the body of Christ
may be built up until we all reach
unity in the faith and in the knowledge
of the Son of God and become mature,
attaining to the whole measure
of the fullness of Christ."

Calvin writes, (Institutes 4:1:5)

"We see how God, who could in a moment perfect his own, nevertheless desires them to grow up into manhood solely under the education of the church. We see the way set for it: the preaching of the heavenly doctrine has been enjoined upon the pastors."

God speaks to us through His Word. Michael Horton writes,

"We come to church because the Creator and Redeemer has called us to assemble. He has something to tell us that will rock our world… Through all of these words, he is performing miraculous wonders for, in and among us. Christ is present in our midst, in the power of his Spirit. Preaching and sacraments aren't just more occasions for us to act, but means of the Father's action, in his Son, by his Spirit. Even our own singing has as its chief purpose not mere self-expression, but making the word of Christ dwell in us richly, with thanksgiving in our hearts (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19)"

In worship God meets with us and through the power of His Spirit transforms us according to His Word. In 2 Timothy 4:1–5 Paul told Timothy to 'preach the Word'. He said,

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,
I give you this charge:
Preach the Word;
be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage—
with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when men
will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them
a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away
from the truth and turn aside to myths."

Timothy was to preach the Word. He was to correct, rebuke and encourage. The Second Helvetic Confession says, (1:4)

"The preached Word is the Word of God."

In other words, if the Word of God is faithfully and accurately preached, it is an exposition of God's will for your life. It is God speaking to you. It is not the inspired Word of God but the fact is that God works in the preaching of His Word. There is a great blessing there in so far as it is an exposition and application of His Word.

Now what this means is that

when you are in church you need to pay close attention to the Word that is read, preached and administered in the sacraments.

You're meeting with God. Nothing less than that is involved. God is present and is exercising His rightful Lordship over you and all things. He speaks to you in His Word. We meet Him and are confronted with His will when we read His Word. We meet Him and are confronted with His will when we hear the Word properly preached. We meet Him and are confronted with His will when we gather with other Christians and see 'Christ in them'. As such God speaks to us by their good example.

Do you put a high value on God speaking to you? Do you pay attention? Four or five years ago I remember seeing a video clip of President Bush giving a speech. I think it was at a school as there were some kids lined up behind him. The focus was supposed to be on the President and what he was saying. But someone soon noticed that there was a kid in the picture behind the President and he wasn't paying attention to the President at all. He was squirming, yawning, acting bored and distracted, looking around at others. When everyone else was clapping, he was yawning. When they finished clapping, he started. Besides all that, he was putting his body through various contortions. He grabbed his head with his two hands and turned it. At another point he was doing something with his leg and at one point he bent way over like he was going to fall to the ground. The video was quite funny and became very popular. But it was really disrespectful to the President.

Are we like that in God's presence? In church you should not take a break during the Scripture reading, sermon or singing. I'm not just talking about getting up and going to the bathroom during such times. Do you let your mind wander? Do you let distractions come into your mind and take it off what God is saying to you? Don't be like that.

In church you're meeting with God. You are to come with reverence and awe. You are to attend to marvel at God, at what He is like. You are to come and be willing to submit to His will. Your meeting with God, being confronted with His character—should invoke praise and adoration. There is no one like our God.

The third thing we see about worship is that

meeting with God should invoke delight in His will, it should produce holiness in you.

The 24 elders praised God for His will. They said,

"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."

Do you praise God for the works of His will? Do you delight in them? Do you want His will for your life? When you come to church, do you desire God's will to be done in you? Remember when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told us to begin, (Matthew 6:9–10)

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth
as it is in heaven."

When we come to worship God, when we pray to Him in public worship, we are to honor Him, for who He is, for His attributes. We are to delight in His will and desire that it would be done on earth and in our lives.

Many people today don't desire that. They hear God's Word and just don't like it. They're like the ancient people of Israel who are described in Isaiah 30:9–11,

"These are rebellious people,
deceitful children, children unwilling
to listen to the LORD'S instruction.
They say to the seers,
'See no more visions!'
and to the prophets,
'Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.
Leave this way, get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!'"

That is the exact opposite of the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders. They delight in God's attributes and His will. They praise and honor Him for them. They want His will done everywhere.

If we are going to worship God properly we need praise God for His attributes and delight in His will. We need to make sure that we apply His Word to our lives. John Frame writes, (Worship in Spirit and Truth, p. 9)

"authentic worship includes a life that is obedient to God."

When we truly worship God we desire to be obedient to Him. The four living creatures and the 24 elders were delighting in God, in His attributes, in His will.

What this means for you as a Christian is that when you go to church,

you should be seeking for God to greatly bless you here.

God is here. He is here to bless His people. Many people go to church and when they return home they,

"I didn't get much out of it today."

Why is that? Whatever the reason it wasn't God's fault. God was present there. He was present to bless you. If you didn't receive His blessing it wasn't His fault. He was perfect. He had His hand out with a blessing for you. You failed to receive it.

It could have been your fault. Perhaps you didn't pay attention like you should have.

Or it could be someone else's fault. Perhaps they distracted you during the service. That should not be. Perhaps someone said something insulting and hurtful to you. Then it's their fault. Shame on any of us if we do that. We need to stop it. God doesn't tolerate that for long.

Christians, don't let that happen to you. Be blessed by the public worship of God. You meet God there. He is there to bless you. Be sure you get that blessing.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what this means for you is that

you should seek to get the very best blessing from this service.

What is the best blessing? It's meeting with God and coming into a saving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus is here. He is inviting you to Himself. Respond to His invitation right now. Without Him you'll be lost forever. Find life in Him.