Revelation 5 – Seal and Scroll, Harp and Bowl

Read Revelation 5

Of all the things that we see throughout the book of Revelation, the events of chapter 5 may feel the most familiar.  Images of “the lamb that was slain” and references to the “Root of David” are common references to Jesus.  The reference to the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” is also a somewhat familiar reference, dating back all the way to Jacob’s blessing on Judah in Genesis 49.

The scroll that has writing on both sides would be reminiscent of the giving of the law; God wrote on both sides of the tablets of stone that Moses brought down the mountain.  Ezekiel saw a similar scroll in one of his visions; that scroll contained words of lament and woe.  We are not told the contents of this scroll, only that it is seven times sealed.

There is a great deal of reference to the number seven throughout Scripture.  It is the number of God, the number of perfection, and the number of completion.  God created the world in seven days; there are always seven lampstands which represent God’s presence.  The seven seals on the scroll are possibly a reference to the perfection of God’s Word.  Perhaps one of the more confusing references, though, when it comes to the number seven, is that of the “seven spirits of God.”

As I am unfamiliar with this reference, I have done a bit of research.  There seem to be some mixed thoughts on what this is a reference to.  In Isaiah 11, the prophet references the “Spirit of the Lord” which will be on the prophesied Messiah.  Including the reference to the “Spirit of the Lord”, there are also the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.  Together these could reflect the “seven spirits of God” that we see many times in the book of Revelation.

Others have referenced the seven gifts of the Spirit that Paul references in Romans 12:6-8.  He writes,

 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

There have also been some references to these seven Spirits being a special class of heavenly being.  Scripture references the Archangels, the most powerful of heavenly beings next to God.  In the canonical books of the Bible, we meet two such Archangels, Gabriel, the messenger of God, and Michael, who leads the armies of heaven.  In the book of Enoch, a non-canonical text which is referenced by the book of Jude, the Archangels  Raphael (also mentioned in the book of Tobit), Uriel, Raguel), Remiel, and Sariel are mentioned.  I guess it bears mentioning here that Lucifer, also known as Satan, the devil, is thought to have once been an Archangel, but fell victim to pride, according to tradition, and was cast out of heaven.  That said, and 8th Archangel does cast a bit of doubt on the “Seven Spirits” = Archangels idea.

One other probable explanation for the “seven Spirits of God” reference is that it is simply pointing to the perfect work of God and the perfect ministry of God the Holy Spirit.  While this may not be quite as entertaining an explanation, it certainly is a probable one that would fall in line with the symbolism of Revelation.  Perhaps it’s a combination of several of these ideas.  What do you think?

One other thing that bears mentioning in chapter 5: a challenge goes out for someone worthy to open the scroll.  The search encompasses heaven, earth, and under the earth, a common phrase in Scripture that references the universal nature of the challenge.  John makes it very clear here that there is no one anywhere, at any time that is worthy to open the scroll… except the Lamb that was slain.

The praise and worship the erupts when the Lamb comes forward is also universal in nature, bringing wonderful imagery of the whole of humanity and all creation joining in.  For many, this is evidence of the mandate of the Great Commission being fulfilled and of the universality and unity of the Body of Christ, the Church, as she joins with all creation and the heavenly beings (10,000 x 10,000 = 100,000,000 angels) worshipping the Lord.  This is truly an image of worship without boundary, something we can take our cue from as we think about worship in our churches today.  Their only concern was to worship the Lamb.  Is that our only concern in worship?



Mark 14 – Why the Waste?

Read Mark 14

Admittedly there have been times in my life where I have seen people do things or give money where I wondered, “why waste time/money on that?”  Like the disciples, we think we know where other’s priorities should be and what they should be doing with the things God has blessed them with.

However, Mary’s actions here, Jesus points out, have a much deeper significance than what they saw on the surface: preparation.

In the sequence of events unfold here at the end of Jesus’ life, there is a great deal of parallelism between His sacrifice and the Passover feast.  What we don’t get here is that, when the Priests prepared for these events, there was a considerable amount of preparation and washing that needed to take place so they would be clean.  There was also specific things that needed to be done by each family to prepare the Passover meal which included what needed to be done to the Passover Lamb.

Jesus Himself is our Passover Lamb, the one who would die and whose blood would cover our sins and grant us eternal life.  Jesus functions in the position of the priest, performing the sacrifice before God in representation of all humanity.  In both cases, Mary’s actions serve as preparation for what was about to take place.

It is important for us to be willing to open our eyes to a bigger picture.  We don’t always know what God is up to when we see people do things that we wouldn’t necessarily agree with.  Why give so much to a university when you could give to the church or the poor?  What if that money went to a scholarship for someone who came to know Jesus through a campus ministry?  It wouldn’t seem so wasteful then would it?



Day 29: Leviticus 1-4; Laws for Offerings (Part 1)

We’ve made it four week today!  To me it doesn’t really seem like that long ago that we started.  I don’t know about you, but it seems like just yesterday that 2013 started, and now its almost February.  One thing that this means though, is that we are entering into the Books of Leviticus and Numbers… some of the most difficult books to read if you ask me.  This is where I’ve always fallen away from the reading because it seems so dull and so completely out of touch with our lives today.  My hope is that through some discussion and reflection, we can discover more to these books than some outdated laws and sacrificial rites that we don’t follow anymore.  I will confess though, that I am a bit out of my league here as far as what I know about these things.  Throughout the next few weeks I will be drawing on a lot that I have learned from my Old Testament classes at Kuyper College and Western Theological Seminary.

As we get into these laws and regulations set down by God, I think that it is appropriate to start with a foundation of perspective in regards to what we are reading here.  While It is entirely true that God set these laws down as a way for the people of Israel to live, they are also meant to be a foreshadowing of things to come.  If you remember with me, ever since the incident in the Garden of Eden when humanity rebelled and fell into sin, God has been working towards restoration.  The whole course of redemptive history is about God’s work towards restoration and ultimately reconciliation.  Redemptive history isn’t simply about God bringing Jesus for the sake of individual salvation, but about God working His will to restore His creation to the perfection it was created in and for.  We see examples of this throughout the Bible, some that we have just read in Exodus about what happens when animals do bad things and whatnot.  We’ll read more about this in Leviticus and Numbers as well.

Much of what we are about to read is about living in right relationship with neighbors, with creation, and with God.  The Law was one way that God could set down a code of conduct for the people of Israel in which He could instruct them to live differently, as a testament to God.  The people of the earth would see them and through them see the Glory and Love of God.  This is perhaps one reason why the rules seem so strict and precise.

The alter of burnt offering

The Hebrew Sacrificial rite was one of the ways in which people were to show their desire to live in right relationship with God.  A way of atoning for sin had to be established for God’s people.  Again we see the symbol of blood, as we saw in The Passover which we read about in Exodus 12, and in the consecration of the Priests which we read about just a couple of days ago.  That symbol of blood, death for life, is a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice that would come in the form of Jesus Christ.  See… the killing of animals was never meant to save… but as a way of showing faithfulness, and of creating an understanding of the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice.  When we look at these laws of Leviticus we are given the setting, the background, and the context for the that “once for all sacrifice” of Jesus Christ, the Messiah… the only true way of redemption, atonement, and reconciliation.



Day 20: Exodus 11-13; Let My People Go: The Passover and The Exodus

Goodness… I don’t even know where to start with this post after reading this section.  There is so much that is going on here!

Well, to continue our discussion from yesterday, this is the final plague, God’s final attack on the Egyptian deities.  He has dismantled many of the other gods that the Egyptians had, but now He has taken on and defeated (as if there was ever a fight to be had) the gods of life and death.  God has shown to Pharaoh his absolute power of all things, and proven to the Egyptians that their gods are nothing in comparison to the God of Israel.  So Pharaoh drives them out of the land just has God had said.  And, like God told Moses, the people of Egypt gave them whatever they wanted and the people of Israel became quite wealthy an account of their former masters.

Also mentioned here is the vast number of people that left.  Roughly 600,000 men plus women and children.  As we talked about a couple days ago, the people had grown from a group of 70 people into this large number, easily over 1 million.  They were able to do this living in a fertile land area, protected by the world power of the time.  What marvelous providence from God.

Here in this reading too we see the image of the smoke (or cloud) and fire again.  While this time it doesn’t happen in a vision, the Lord leads the people of Israel out of Egypt through a pillar of cloud (smoke) and fire.  These are, like the smoking fire pot, and even the burning bush experience, symbols of God’s power and holiness.

Finally, there is one big thing in this section that will forever impact the coming stories, foreshadowing the coming feasts that we celebrate and will celebrate some day: The Passover.  We’ve talked a little bit about feasts.  If you don’t remember, it was on January 4 with the feast that Melchizedek gave when Abraham rescued Lot.  That was a foreshadowing of the Passover and the many other feasts that would become a part of the Hebrew religious tradition.  All of these feasts, but especially the Passover feast are themselves a foreshadowing of the feast which we now know as the Lord’s Supper!  And, really, the Lord’s Supper (communion and/or Eucharist) is actually itself a foreshadowing of the feast of the Lord in Heaven in which we shall participate when Christ comes again and all things are restored.

There is a great deal of other symbolism in the Passover as well!  The Lamb, the blood of the lamb, the bitter herbs, the lack of yeast, and even the part where they aren’t supposed to leave anything behind.  I’m interested to know your thoughts on what these symbols all mean!

 



Day 6: Genesis 20-23; Abraham, Issac, and Faithfulness

There is an old saying that “those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”  While I don’t necessarily know if Abraham was forgetful or was just deceitful, but it seems as though even here he still struggling in this strange up and down of trust and mistrust of God.  He deceives Abimelech which almost costs the man his life, and a few years later he willingly offers up his only son as a sacrifice in obedience to God.  I often think that we tend to uphold important people in the Bible like Abraham and show the way that they followed God completely and willingly. We use them as an example of how we should be living.  However, we don’t always look at the things with which they struggled, the issues of things like trusting God.  While these things don’t necessarily teach well when it comes to upholding right living, they do make them more human, more like our own sinful self.  And yet God uses them for great things!  Abraham struggles to trust God fully at times, and yet God still uses him to be a blessing for all the nations.  How much more can God use us?  Are we open to it?

Also today we see the fulfillment and extension of the covenant.  Issac is born and God says that the blessing of Abraham will be passed on to him, not Ishmael.  To this birth, Sarah laughs.  Have you ever gotten to the end of something you were doing where everything came together perfectly, just at the right time, in a way that you would have never seen or thought possible?  I’ve been there… and sometimes I just sit back and laugh.  For all the planning, struggling, and working that I do, everything is still in God’s hands and God will handle it in God’s time, which is always perfect.

It is important too to remember the ways that God shows His faithfulness here.  First, God remembers Hagar and Ishmael, the cast-outs of Abraham’s family.  These two could have probably just disappeared into history without another word, but God is faithful to His promise and provides for them.  Some actually think that Ishmael is the father of the Arab world today.  This isn’t the place to speculate on that, but it would help to explain the continuing animosity in that region.

The other great showing of faithfulness from God is in His provision for Abraham and Issac.  Though he was completely willing, almost too willing it might seem, to sacrifice his son, God provides the sacrifice for him.  God guides them to the mountains of Moriah, also know as Mount Sinai, and there provides a lamb for the sacrifice.  If this sounds somewhat familiar, its because this is another type of foreshadowing.  This isn’t the last time that God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, and later when He does it again it will be in fulfillment of His Covenant promise with Abraham to bless all the nations through his family.  More specifically, Jesus is the the Lamb of God who dies as a sacrifice for our sins.