This ends our Bible-reading series that extended from Acts through Revelation. What a blessing! We’ll be starting another reading plan soon to see where God takes us as a church.
The Book of Revelation never allows us to take our eyes off God. And it never lets us forget our propensity as humans to worship something other than God.
The minute John’s vision was interrupted – the second it came to an end – John inexplicably fell down at the feet of an angel to worship. The angel quickly corrected John. We are not to worship created things – not things made out of wood or stone or gold. We are not even to worship angels, which seem to be the mightiest of the created beings. No, we are only to worship the Creator.
“Worship God,” the angel said.
The first commandment for God’s people comes to mind here. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). In fact, reverence for God made up the next three of the Ten Commandments as well – against idol-making, against taking God’s name in vain, and for keeping the Sabbath holy. God is God, and we are not to put anything before him. The angel said, “Worship God.”
We can see in John’s actions how people so quickly could fall prey to the antichrist and false prophet of Revelation 13. “And they worshiped the dragon,” we are told (Revelation 13:4). Somewhere deep inside us, we are looking for something to worship. And the closer it is to us the better. We tend, it seems, to worship things that are at hand and that seem to give us a bit of comfort in a difficult world.
We are told these days to listen to “the science.” Sometimes, it seems like some people consider “science” to be a living, breathing thing that only speaks the truth. Science alone, it seems, is what will guide us through the difficult times.
But “the science” seems to change everyday. It is a fluid thing. Scientific studies frequently contradict themselves. And “the science” is, by nature, very focused. It studies one thing to the exclusion of others. “The science” says it is best to close down restaurants and schools, but the science that tells us that does not answer how those closures might impact the people who are sent home. “The science” asking for shutdowns doesn’t concern itself with those questions. That would require an entirely different kind of scientific study. And that study might give different advice.
And yet we are told to believe in “the science.” We’re told to do what “the science” says, even if it is telling us to do two contradictory things – or a hundred contradictory things.
In short, yes, it is possible to worship science – and scientists. We can fall down at the feet of science and give it glory.
We also can fall down at the feet of ideas – like kindness, and love, and tolerance, and equality. Like science, these things can seem to promise us a way to navigate our difficult lives, and they seem to hold out hope for a better future, if only we would carry them out. These are wonderful ideals, but they must be undergirded by something even more fundamental than themselves. Showing “kindness” to one person in our culture can become a reason to be hated by others. And “love” may in fact be unloving if it allows people to continue on in self-destructive behaviors. The same goes for “tolerance” and “equality.” These are in the eye of the beholder, so they say.
And all of this false worship comes alongside those well-known idols of money, sex, and power. We can worship these things, too. We can fall at the feet of these things, seeing them as avenues to the good life. They hold out a promise to make all things better, if only we could grasp them.
And we ought not forget we can worship ourselves. Tradition has it that Satan’s pride dropped him out of heaven. He would not submit to the rule of God. Satan thought he needed more. We can fall down at the feet of our pride – of ourselves – an awkward position indeed!
And so we are prone to worship things close at hand, whether people or ideas, objects or ourselves. But the angel said, “Worship God.”
One of the distinguishing marks of Christianity is that we be distinguishing people. We distinguish between eternal and temporal and between good and evil. Ultimately, we need to be able to distinguish between God and everything else. We need to know him to worship him.
Our practices as Christians are designed to teach us to know him. Prayer and Bible study and singing and gathering and taking the Lord’s Supper and fasting and serving are designed to point us to him. Sometimes it is cognitive, like a good sermon sinking home. Sometimes it is experiential, like when we find ourselves serving unnoticed and unappreciated – like Christ. Sometimes it is emotional, like when we find ourselves surrounded by our brothers and sisters in prayer.
These things point us to God. We learn to know what he’s like. And we learn to love him more and more. And we determine to worship God with more clarity and conviction.
In the Book of Revelation, we learn God is a God who makes and re-makes. He is a God of resurrection. The dead come to life. The created is re-created. Jerusalem will meet the new Jerusalem. The world of men will become the kingdom of Christ.
This is God’s business. Our business is to worship.