What Songs Do They Sing in Heaven? + One of the Greatest Mission Endeavors in History. #353
Hello friends and happy Monday! As I type this, our little area of Central California – Monterey – has joined with the other parts of Central and Northern California in a brand new lockdown. Covid is absolutely demolishing California, especially Los Angeles, and your prayers are greatly appreciated! Our readings today begin with 2nd Chronicles 16, then Zechariah 1, John 4 and Revelation 5.
Honestly, this is one of those days where we could do a whole podcast on every chapter. in Zechariah, we will learn a lot about angels, including that they can ride horses, apparently (further evidence that angels don’t have wings…cherubim and seraphim do, but angels are never said to have wings in the Bible…) Zechariah is a pretty fascinating book – one of the most spiritual books in the Old Testament, and it contains almost ten percent of the mentions of the word ‘angel’ in the entire Bible. John 4 features Jesus’ visit to Samaria, where He puts on a clinic about how to speak to somebody about truth.
In 2nd Chronicles 16, we see something fairly heartbreaking. In our chapter from yesterday, we were introduced to King Asa, who was wholehearted for God…until late in His life where he trusted in the king and armies of the Arameans to deliver his people from a coming attack, rather than trusting in God. For this misstep, God sent a seer to confront Asa:
7 At that time, the seer Hanani came to King Asa of Judah and said to him, “Because you depended on the king of Aram and have not depended on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from you. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a vast army with many chariots and horsemen? When you depended on the Lord, he handed them over to you. 9 For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to show himself strong for those who are wholeheartedly devoted to him. You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore, you will have wars from now on.” 10 Asa was enraged with the seer and put him in prison because of his anger over this.
2nd Chronicles 16:7-10
Sadly, Asa responded terribly to discipline and utterly refused it. It would seem that Asa forgot the wisdom of his forefather Solomon:
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, Proverbs 3:11
Hating the righteous discipline of the Lord and resenting it when you are chastised for doing wrong can lead to a dangerous and extreme hardness of heart. Asa followed God for almost 3 dozen years – seemingly wholeheartedly – until this incident. It does not appear that Asa fully repented either:
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a disease in his feet, and his disease became increasingly severe. Yet even in his disease he didn’t seek the Lord but only the physicians.
2nd Chronicles 16:12
Let this be a cautionary tale for us, brothers and sisters. The right response when we are disciplined by God is repentance, not anger or punishing the messenger. Also note here how the Bible utterly refuses to present us with legendary figures who are heroic in their virtue. Over and over and over again in the Word we see that all humans have sin in the deepest parts of their being and thus have great need of a savior.
Our focus today is on Revelation 5 – which might give us one of the clearest glimpses into Heaven and the afterlife in the entire Bible. Let’s read and discuss.
In the beginning of the chapter, God is on His throne and He is holding a sealed scroll that nobody – but Jesus – the Lamb Who Was Slain – Can open. That He can open this sealed scroll causes great celebration in Heaven, because this scroll will unleash the beginning of the end, and the return of Jesus, but make no mistake – when each seal of the scroll is opened, bad things will happen on the earth. But before that happens – we have an amazing celebration of praise in Heaven, and we get to hear one of the songs of Heaven:
8 When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,because you were slaughtered, and you purchased people for God by your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.
What a wonderful song! And right after this, comes an even greater celebration:
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. 12 They said with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!
Countless thousands all saying or singing that the Lamb – Jesus – is worthy. How utterly wonderful! It reminds me of one of my very favorite stories in all of church history:
Count Zinzendorf was a wealthy young aristocrat that owned land in Hernhutt, Saxony, Germany. Even as a child, his heart was turned to Jesus in an unusually passionate way – especially for a nobleman. As he grew older, Zinzendorf became inflamed with passion to see people come to Jesus. He married and he and his wife had 12 children, but that did not diminish either of their fires for missions. In the early 1720s, a group of persecuted Moravians came to his estate, seeking asylum, led by Christian David. Z gladly gave them asylum, and CD traveled 10 times into Moravia getting more and more refugees until the community came to number approx. 300 people – Lutherans, Calvinists, Separatists, Brethren, Anabaptists, Catholics, Puritans, etc.
in 1726 the community was splintered – they all believed different things and squabbled like crazy. A false teacher in their midst had been mistreated by Lutherans and ultimately preached that Zinzendorf was the antichrist, and even Christian David was persuaded. Zinzendorf went house to house and pastored the people through the Word and through prayer.
August 13, 1727, a Wednesday morning communion gathering ignited a revival of love and harmony among this splintered group.
“Through the experiences of the preceding weeks, all the exiles had been humbled under an intense conviction of their OWN sin and spiritual helplessness, which caused them to BEGIN ESTEEMING OTHERS MORE THAN THEMSELVES. This mutual kindness and affection was even more striking considering the great conflict the settlement had just weathered. The spirit of conviction that had come upon the Moravians, and the deepening humility and love that it led to seemed to touch the very heart of the Holy Spirit in such a way that He could not help pouring out His power on them.”
2 weeks after this, 24 men and 24 women covenanted together to begin to pray one hour a day together around the clock. This prayer meeting went on night and day, uninterrupted in the midst of this community for over 100 years. Let me say that again: A 100 year long prayer meeting.
5 years after this House of prayer was established, Johan Dober and David Nitschmann were stirred by Zinzendorf and the testimony of a black man named Ulrich who had seen the slaves in the West Indies, to sell themselves into slavery to carry the gospel to the plantations on the islands around America. Ultimately the Moravians baptized over 13000 converts in these islands before any other Christian missionaries showed up. By 1742 the community had sent out 70 missionaries to 5 continents out of a community of 600.
Dober and Nitschmann were denied entry as missionaries to the slave plantations of the West Indies in the Americas…so they SOLD themselves into slavery. They boarded a ship to head off and share the gospel with the other slaves, thinking they might not ever see their family and friends again. It is said that as their ship pulled away from the docks and their families, one of the men raised his hands and called out to their loved ones on shore, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
Amen, and amen.