Revelation 4:1-11 – In Another Dimension

Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík, Iceland

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also, in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“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.” (New International Version)

Whenever we open the door to God’s gracious invitation to commune with us, we gain an incredible glimpse of heavenly realities.

The Apostle John’s vision is so otherworldly that all he can do is try and describe what we saw with the limitations of language, metaphor, and simile.

Let’s acknowledge up front that, when it comes to the biblical book of Revelation, there are plenty of folk who want to understand it all. I believe this to be a fool’s errand, not because we ought not to try and make sense of things, but because far too many people try and conquer the text of Holy Scripture rather than letting Scripture capture them.

In our anxiety about the future, we would like some certitude, some semblance of knowing and understanding what will occur so that it will ease our icky feelings of not being in control. Newsflash: You and I aren’t in control of anything but ourselves. Ultimate control belongs only to God, not us. Our role is self-control.

So, before we start making complicated prophecy charts and trying to predict future events with precise certainty, let’s take a step back and see that worship is always the appropriate response to any vision of God – not conquering the Bible and colonizing other people’s minds with our supposed apocalyptic insights.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, and the soapbox is back in the closet, let’s simply appreciate this incredible scene before us of God’s heavenly throne room in today’s New Testament lesson.

Since God is an awesome God, I imagine that John was downright slack-jawed with awe over the bedazzling vision before him. It is a vision befitting a God of great majesty and power. The scene of worship which unfolded before John’s eyes is continual – praise and adoration of God has been going on, is going on, and will keep going on forever and ever.

To a church beat down by the world, John’s vision is meant to encourage and inspire the suffering believers toward persevering in faith. Hardship is but for a season; worship, however, is for all time.

The four living creatures worshiping God reflect the nature and character of God: the lion (majesty); the ox (strength and power); the man (intelligence); and the eagle (transcendent over creation). All of them, covered with eyes, front and back, testify to the sovereignty and omniscience of God, who sees and knows all things – nothing is hidden from God’s sight.

The twenty-four elders, likely signifying the twelve patriarchs of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles of the New Testament, together represent the one new people of God without walls or barriers to unity, fellowship, harmony, and peace. They all rightly honor God by giving back their own authority, given to them from the Lord to accomplish divine purposes on the earth.

We, as the people of God today, are meant to be encouraged and uplifted by the reality that God is forever the same – powerful, loving, good, honorable, and holy – and will be so permanently for all time and beyond time.

The Lord does not exist merely in three dimensional space, as we humans do. God is truly multi-dimensional and reigns supreme over each and every one of those dimensions – however many there truly are.

I suspect the Apostle John was privileged to step into another dimension so that he could return to our three-dimensional world with the good news that God is still and forever on the throne. God’s good purposes shall be accomplished, no matter how tough things get here.

Now is temporary; then is eternal. Let us, then, embrace that which is permanent and unchanging, even Christ our Lord, who shall return to judge the living and the dead, and consummate a benevolent kingdom which will last forever.

May you be so privileged to have the dimensions unveiled, for even a few minutes, and know the eternal love and grace of God for humanity. Amen.

Genesis 39:1-23 – Lead Us Not into Temptation

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife by Hermine F Schäfer 1964
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife by Hermine F Schäfer, 1964

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So, Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So, the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (NIV)

We learn a great about both God and Joseph in today’s Old Testament lesson: God is the supreme Sovereign over everything, and his providence is the force behind all of events; and, Joseph is morally conscious of his ethical accountability to the God who is always watching.

From a sheer worldly perspective, Joseph was a failure. Yet, from God’s vantage point Joseph was a resounding success because he was mindful of God despite his circumstances. Joseph was faithful in all his mundane workaday duties, which made him able to handle the advances and temptations of Potiphar’s wife.

The seductions of this life are legion. We are tempted at every turn to compromise our conscience or our convictions to either get ahead in life or avoid some difficulty. It would be easy to rationalize our actions, believing that a brief bedroom rodeo would not hurt anyone.  However, sexual infidelity is the opium of unfaithfulness to God. Cheating is cheating, whether we are caught, or not. Whitewashing the picket fence does not hide anything from God.

Seductions come in all sorts of forms: materialism and the allure of new stuff; preoccupation with comfort and painless experiences; shortcuts to job success and upward mobility; the hoarding and whoring of time; and, much more.

For me, an effective counter practice to the seductions of the world is to reclaim and redeem time through keeping the Daily Office (or the Divine Hours) – set times throughout the day in which I stop what I am doing and take a few minutes for Scripture and prayer. This practice reminds me that my life orbits God and centers in the Lord Jesus, and not the other way around.

Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. (Psalm 119:164, NKJV)

We succumb to seduction whenever our lives are mismanaged, lacking boundaries, and without effective structure. Discovering a rhythm of daily life that works for you is vital to resisting temptation and realizing spiritual development.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NLT)

May you flourish and thrive with the ethical fruit of righteousness and experience the settled peace of a well-lived life.

Almighty God, blessed Father, Son, and Spirit do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.