Revelation 4:8-11

Sermon preached on May 27, 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.

One of the criticisms that people have made of the late Steve Jobs is that he sometimes neglected his family. He loved them, there's no doubt about that—but spending time with his family wasn't the most important thing in his life. After he had a liver transplant in 2009 his cancer went into remission and his family was hoping that he would use that time to spend more time with them. But he didn't. He dove back into his work. His wife said, (Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson)

"I think it was hard on the family, especially the girls. After two years of him being ill, he finally gets a little better, and they expected he would focus a bit on them, but he didn't."

When his biographer, Walter Isaacson asked the secretive Jobs why he asked him to write his biography and why he cooperated with him and granted him almost complete access to him, even granting him numerous interviews, Jobs replied,

"I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why, and to understand what I did."

For Steve Jobs, it appears that his work—which was about making great products through which he tried to change the world for the better—was the most important thing in his life.

I went to college with a guy who told me about his priorities. He was a little older and married with a family. He told me that his family was the most important thing in his life. He lived for his family. He was totally devoted to them. He said that his family came first and that God came second. If my memory is correct he put his school work third. Is that what life is supposed to be about—your family? It's certainly important. I don't think I'd quarrel with anyone if they placed it at number 2 on their list.

Others put money, financial success as the most important thing in life. Still others put health at the top. They will tell you that having your health is everything. But perhaps the most shocking quote I heard on this came from an eight year old beauty pageant queen from Camden, Indiana. She said,

"Facial beauty is the most important thing in life."

The child was taught that by her mother. In the same article her mother is quoted as saying,

"I think the most stressful part of the day is beauty."


But enough about other people. What about you? What's the most important, the most worthwhile thing that you do? What's most important in your life? Think about it for a bit. What are your priorities? What is your main priority?

Is it worshiping God? Is it gathering together with His people to meet Him and be confronted with His character and His will? Is it serving Him through worship? Is it in giving Him glory and honor and thanks? This scene from heaven shows us what the greatest activity of all is—it shows us the heavenly host worshiping God, proclaiming His greatness and being caught up in honoring Him.

There are many things in this scene that show us that the worship of God is the most important thing for us to do. One of them is the fact that

God is worthy to be praised, to be worshiped.

What is prominent in Revelation 4 and 5 is the worthiness of God. The twenty-four elders praise God saying, (verse 11)

"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."

That's also the thrust of the praise of the four living creatures in verse 8. They said,

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come."

They praise God because He is worthy. We see this in the praise in chapter 5 as well. When Jesus took the scroll of destiny, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sang a new song, (Revelation 5:9–10)

"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals, because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased
men for God from every tribe
and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."

Verse 12 of chapter 5 is similar. Thousands of angels, ten thousand times ten thousand sing,

"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"

God is worthy of praise, of adoration, of honor.

Why is God worthy?

There are many answers to this and in upcoming weeks we'll look at some of them. But the basic answer is that God is worthy because of who He is and what He does. It's almost impossible to separate God's person from His actions but this morning we're going to try to focus exclusively on the character of God. There is no one like Him. He does such great things because He is so wonderful.

For example, verse 8 tells us that the four living creatures praise God for His attributes of holiness, power and eternity. The point is that

God is such a glorious and exalted being, who is good and perfect in all His ways—that He is worthy of being praised for who He is.

I suspect that the four living creatures are not primarily thinking of any good that comes to them when they praise God. They are praising Him for who He is. But again, things are complicated because the four living creatures are exceedingly blessed by virtue of the fact that they are in close proximity to God and His throne. That's why in verse 9 one of the aspects of their praise is summarized as 'thanks'. It says,

"Whenever the living creatures give glory,
honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne
and who lives for ever and ever…"

Yet they are focusing on God, glorying in Him. He is so majestic, so glorious, so holy, so perfect—that His character compels them to honor, worship and praise Him. They are totally caught up in bringing Him glory, honor and praise.

You can take any one of God's characteristics and you'll find that that characteristic calls forth praise because it shows that God is so wonderful. Consider God's wisdom. In Romans 11:33–36 the apostle Paul declared,

"Oh, the depth of the riches
of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."

Or think of God's love. Wow. We could spend years and years on that and we would barely scratch the surface of it.

I could go on and on with example after example, but the point is that

God is worthy. You should praise Him accordingly.

Psalm 96:8 says,

"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;"

Do you do that? Do we do that? In Psalm 103 David realized that he didn't praise God enough. He was stirring himself up to praise God. But he realized that even that was not enough. He wanted others, the heavenly host, all creation—to praise God like they should.

So often we praise God for His goodness to us. And so we should. But we should realize that God is worthy to be praised for who He is. Even if He were to give us sinners nothing good, He is worthy to be praised. Even in executing His justice and wrath against sin—God is to be praised. The attributes of justice and wrath are glorious and good attributes. God is to be praised for them. I suspect that no one, even those who are feeling the effects of those glorious attributes, should be allowed to say,

"I'm exempt from praising God for them."

Now, I'm not sure about this, but I wonder if on the last day that everyone, even the lost, are going to realize this, and give God a measure of praise and honor. Philippians 2:9–11 tells us that one day everyone is going to acknowledge Jesus. We read that as a result of Jesus work in dying for sinners,

"Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place and gave him
the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

On that day they are going to honor God even though it will be too late for them to be saved. It will be right for them to confess that Jesus is Lord. It will be right for them to glorify God.

The great truth is that

God is worthy to be praised apart from any good that comes to us.

In Himself, because of who He is, He is worthy to be praised.

Satan told God that Job would curse Him to His face if He took everything away from Job. Job persevered in the faith. He bowed in worship and declared, (Job 1:21)

"may the name of the LORD be praised."

We all should be like Job. Job didn't serve God because God made it worth his while. When Job lost his possessions and his children we read that he fell to the ground in worship and said, (Job 1:20–21)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and
the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."

Job served God because God was worthy. He knew that God was to be praised even in the midst of disaster. Even if God turns His hand against us—we should still praise Him.

This truth is also taught to us in Lamentations 3. Listen to Jeremiah. (verses 1–18)

"I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
He has driven me away and made me
walk in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand
against me again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh
grow old and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding,
he dragged me from the path
and mangled me and left me without help.
He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.
I became the laughingstock of all my people;
they mock me in song all day long.
He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, 'My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD.'"

But does he stop praising God? No. He said, (verses 22-23)

"Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

What words of praise! He praised God for His love, for His compassion, for His faithfulness. Even though God's people were undergoing the greatest distress—he praised God for preserving the surviving Israelites, including himself.

Jeremiah taught that God always treats us better than we deserve. We always have reason to praise His great name. In the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem, in the midst of the loss of everything, the city walls being torn down, the palaces and houses being reduced to rubble, the temple being desecrated and set on fire and destroyed, plundered of its gold other precious metals—God is compassionate. As Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:31–32,

"For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love."

He has hope and He praises God.

Another place we see the appropriateness of praise in the most adverse circumstances is in the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

Jesus' suffering on the cross needs to be approached with the utmost reverence and awe. Many things there are beyond our capability to fully understand—how our sins could be laid on Jesus' account and how He endured the curse and wrath of God for them. On the cross Jesus cried out in agony, (Matthew 27:46)

"My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?"

He was quoting from Psalm 22.

Quotes in the New Testament are pointers, not just to the particular verse that is quoted in the Old Testament , but to the context that they are taken from. Psalm 22 is a great prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus. Some people think that Jesus quoted all of Psalm 22. But even if He didn't, His words were to take His hearers back to Psalm 22 and the predictions there. Psalm 22 speaks about His hands and feet being pierced. It speaks about how they divided His garments among them and cast lots for His clothing. It mentions how they mocked Him. It speaks of Him being laid in the dust of death.

But what's particularly important for us to notice is that
Psalm 22 has sections of praise in it. Jesus, even in the midst of agony—praised God and extolled His character. We read, (verses 1-4)

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day,
but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them."

On the cross, Jesus praised God. He was experiencing God's wrath, which He knew would continue until His death—and yet He praised God for His faithfulness. He lifted up God's name and extolled it— "You are enthroned as the Holy One. You are the praise of Israel."

Listen as well to verses 22-23. Jesus said,

"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!"

In the midst of being forsaken by God, in the midst of enduring the wrath of God—Jesus praised God and encouraged other to praise God.

We see the same thing in
Psalm 69, which is another psalm that details some of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. In verses 19–21 we read,

"You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst."

But just like Psalm 22, Psalm 69 has great praise to God. We read, (verses 30-35)

"I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah."

On the cross, Jesus praised God! He prayed that this cup be taken from Him. But it could not be. In the midst of that, in the midst of God's wrath—He praised God!

God is worthy to be praised! It doesn't matter what is happening to us, we should praise Him! Praise is always appropriate. He is holy. He is glorious! He is majestic—high and exalted. He is perfect! He always does what is right.

Look at the four living creatures in our text. We read that

they never stop proclaiming God's holiness, power and eternity.

We read, (verse 8)

"Day and night they never stop saying:
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.'"

Craig S. Keener writes, (Revelation)

"These beings, glorious beyond human conception, serve no other purpose than to extol the character of God…"

And they do it without ceasing. That shows us, in no uncertain terms, that God is worthy to be praised at all times, in all circumstances. His name is to be lifted high at all times. He is worthy.

Christians, apply this to your life—

praise God constantly!

When do you praise God? Is it mostly when things go good for you? But what about those bad days, when things are so discouraging, when things are so bad that you don't feel like getting out of bed?

Christians, what a privilege is yours. Every day you have the opportunity to praise God and to lift His name high. In any circumstance you find yourself in—praise and adoration to God is appropriate. God is so worthy. Do you praise Jesus Christ as you should? After all, it's Jesus that reveals God to us. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:6

"For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

Verse 9 summarizes the praise of the four living creatures as that of giving,

"glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne
and who lives for ever and ever,"

According to Grant Osborne, 'glory and honor', (p. 238)

"signify the prestige or esteem that God deserves."

We should be always praising Him.

Secondly, it's important that you apply this to your life because most people today don't have any idea of God's worthiness and

you need to show them His worthiness of God by praising Him in all circumstances.

Our society today—they don't believe in God's worthiness. Their opinion of God is so low that they don't think about Him. They suppress the knowledge of Him that they have. If they do think of Him they say,

"How can there be a good God with all the suffering in the world?"

And if bad things happen to them they get angry with God and complain about Him.

They have no idea of what God is really like. Their idea of God is distorted. They don't like what the Word says about God. They don't like that it refers to Him as Father instead of Mother. They don't like what the Word says about marriage being between a man and a woman. They seem hardened against God. It's hard to reach them with the gospel.

But if they see you praising God even when things go bad for you—that can't help but have an impression on them. On the surface they may say that you're crazy, but deep down it may affect them differently and shake them out of their slumber so that they can begin to see how great our God really is.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

what you should understand is that you are missing out on the greatest thing in life.

Revelation 4 & 5 show us what true life is about, what true satisfaction and happiness consist of—knowing God and praising and serving Him. He is the source of all good.

Right now you're missing out on this greatest of blessings. The thing you, you don't even realize it. But there will come a day when you will realize it and you will see that it is only through Jesus. I pray that you come to that realization before it's too late. Go to Jesus today.