A Strong Angel

“And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.”
Revelation‬ ‭5:2-3‬ ‭NLT

I wonder who the strong angel was. The experts in Biblical analysis think it might have been the angel Gabriel, a name that means “God is my strength”. There is also a reference to Gabriel in Daniel 9, when he brought an answer to Daniel’s prayers. But whoever it was, the strong angel (some versions say mighty angel) shouted out a challenging request, “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it”?

Why would a worthy person, or being, be required to open this scroll, breaking the seven seals in the process? Obviously it couldn’t just be anyone, because the scroll was still in the right hand of God. And John continued, pointing out that there was no-one worthy enough to “open the scroll and read it”. The search for a worthy person covered everywhere in creation – Heaven, the earth, and Sheol, the place under the earth. There was no other place where a worthy person could reside. But what was so important about this scroll that was going to require a worthy person to open it? It was obviously something of much consequence never seen before, and all those in Heaven were in a cliff-hanging position awaiting to discover what was written.

What is a worthy person? Worthy of what? We see the UK Honours List, that comes out periodically, awarding “worthy” people an honour, encapsulated in a medal, for people deemed “worthy” by their work perhaps for charity or some other good cause. In the workplace, we perhaps notice someone who is “worthy” of a pay rise because of their hard working ethic. But none of these “worthy” people got anywhere near what the strong angel was looking for. 

We pilgrims achieve a certain amount of worthiness by default. Because of our unstinting faith in God through our journeys in life, we will one day receive our Heavenly reward, our crowns of righteousness. Perhaps this is a mention on the Heaven Honours List. We will hear the words of our Saviour, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). But we don’t aspire to becoming “worthy”. That is the road to pride. We seek to please God through our faith. Hebrews 11:6 reads, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him“.

In the rest of this chapter in Revelation we will find out more about the real “Worthy”, and what happened when the scroll was opened. The writings on the scroll will shock us. But hopefully inspire us as well.

Dear God. We thank You for Your loving care and kindness. For Your grace and mercy. For Your guidance on our walk through life. You pick us up when we fall and bring us back to earth when we become too full of ourselves. What a loving Father You are. We praise You today. Amen.

Glory and Honour and Thanks

“Whenever the living beings give glory and honour and thanks to the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the One sitting on the throne (the One who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.””
Revelation‬ ‭4:9-11‬ NLT

Glory, honour and thanks. Three important factors bound up and interwoven into our worship of our wonderful Heavenly Father. So what do these three words mean and how do they connect with God? 

If we take the word “glory”, we immediately relate it to something worldly. We say a warm and sunny day is glorious. The British national anthem, referring to the Queen, has the lines, “Send her victorious, happy and glorious”. A dictionary definition defines glory as being of great beauty or worthy of honour. But God’s glory, though incorporating these thoughts, is a lot more than anything we can define in human terms. The glory of God is who He is, the Creator of the Universe, emanating His beauty, His worth, His Name. And much of our human lives can convey a hint of what the glory of God is all about, in the things that we behold as being of beauty, precious and lovely. These hints of glory can also encompass less tangible thoughts and feelings. Our emotions will perhaps be moved by a piece of music, or a scene in nature. God’s glory is unlimited and, like Him, omnipresent. Ancient Jewish traditions talk about the shekinah glory of God, meaning that His presence is so intense that it is living with us. The pillars of fire and smoke in the Israelites exodus from Egypt are perhaps examples of this. Or the smoke filling the temple in Isaiah 6.

God is worthy of honour. How else can we think of, or consider, our wonderful Heavenly Father? Jesus, in the prayer we call the Lord’s prayer, taught His disciples to hallow or honour His name. We speak of Him reverentially. In fact, the Jews so revered God they wouldn’t even mention His name. We honour God in all that we are, and do. And those around us will perhaps gain a glimpse of God through us, as we speak or behave in ways that honour Him. 

And we thank God for all He has done. For the creation of our world and all that is in it. For ourselves and His presence with us. For being a Father to us, listening to, and answering, our prayers. For His Son, Jesus, who died for us, so that we would be able to enter His presence. The list is endless. Perhaps we can see why it has taken eternity for the living beings to worship God. And they haven’t finished yet!

Such was the Apostle John’s reverence of God that he wouldn’t even mention His name, instead referring to Him as “the One sitting on the throne” and “the One who lives forever and ever”. This description of God was echoed by the twenty four elders, as they too joined in the song of worship and praise.

Dear Heavenly Father. We pilgrims enter into the Heavenly worship, desperate to be included, as we earnestly model a piece of Heaven here on earth. On our knees we too express our glory and honour and thanks. Amen.

Our Calling

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”
Ephesians‬ ‭4:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What is our calling? We look at someone who is doing a job we feel ill-equipped for, or undesirous of, and say that that job must be a “calling”. For example, being a foreign missionary could be a “calling” because, from a worldly perspective, it’s not a job that would be considered as a step on a money-earning career. In my community there is an ICU nurse. She is a very caring person but admitted to me once that what she does is not glamorous or particularly financially rewarding – she considers her job to be a “calling”. 

But our Christian calling is clear, and is in response to our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ. We have to consider what we have been called from, and what we have been called to. Though we may immediately associate “calling” with a job or act of service to God, there’s something else that comes first. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” We are called out of the darkness of sin and worldliness into the wonderful light of God’s presence. It is at Calvary that we make this transition, responding to God’s invitation to accept His Son as our Lord and Saviour. And once we start living in the “light”, in God’s kingdom, another calling emerges. In John 8:12, we read, “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” Quite simply, we are called to follow Jesus, a personal “calling”, essential for the Christian pilgrim’s spiritual life and well being. Once saved through God’s love and grace we have only one overriding “calling” in life and that is to follow Him, walking in His light. So that is a major part of Paul’s appeal to his friends in Ephesus – in effect he was saying, don’t bottle it, don’t hide it, but live your lives the Jesus way. 

But what is the relevance of Paul once again mentioning his status as “a prisoner for serving the Lord”? I think he was saying two things. Firstly, he was pointing out that, by being in jail for his faith, he was making a very visible statement of his commitment to God. He was publicly saying that he was leading “a life worthy of [his] calling”. Secondly, he may have been giving a gentle hint to his friends, that they also, in living “a life worthy of [their] calling” might end up in a similar persecuted condition.

There is another meaning to the word “calling”. That is to do with how we spend our time, either in our employment or in our leisure time. And that boils down to our gifting and interests. For example, if I have an accounting qualification and faint at the sight of blood, then probably a “calling” to be a brain surgeon might not be quite right. Similarly, if I have a hobby that involves crafting knitwear, then wanting to spend my leisure time in collecting stamps might not be too rewarding. Personally, I don’t believe God will want us to do things or be people, that He hasn’t created us to be. But all our giftings are complementary, building the church of Jesus Christ into a composite, functioning entity.

So we are a chosen and called people, a grateful people saved through grace, ever willing to listen to His voice, hearing His call, as He leads us in our lives, day by day. Yes, it will involve being counter-cultural, but there is a day coming when we will hear those words, “Well done …”