We witness the pain and sorrow of our human existence each and every day of our lives. We read about car bombs exploding in Baghdad, and in other parts of the world, plunging families into the depths of despair. We hear stories of young lives being cut short because of disease, addictions, and tragic accidents that rob families of their hopes and dreams for their children’s future. We read about persecution in other countries where our brothers and sisters are viewed as disposable objects and their suffering is beyond anything that we can even imagine. We experience sorrow firsthand as we attend the funerals of mothers, fathers, grandparents, and friends. Marriages end in divorce, jobs are lost, finances are stretched to the breaking point, and our dreams are dashed on the rocks.
The frustrations of life, the pains of our existence, are not the exclusive property of adults. Sometimes we adults look upon kids and think that they have it made. They don’t have to deal with the problems we have to deal with in life, do they? Maybe not our particular problems, but have you ever been a ten year old and have to deal with day-to-day life while living with a mother who is an addict? Have you ever had to get yourself up for school, pack your lunch, if you have the food in the refrigerator, and get yourself to the bus stop on time by yourself? I know that child. Have you ever been in high school and not had a mom or dad, a home of your own, but yet you had a dream to graduate from high school? You couch surf from home to home, in the homes of those who are willing to take you in so that you can pursue your goal…on your own. Was that your high school experience? I know that child. Have you ever gone to bed at night and tossed and turned as you worried if a family member would violate you in the night? I know that child.
Sorrow and suffering are pervasive. Young and old alike cry in the quiet hours of the night, struggle, and suffer heart-breaking, gut-wrenching experiences. People of every race, every socio-economic bracket, and every profession suffer. What do we do? Where do we go when the pain is suffocating? Is there any way to find hope in the midst of our experiences of life? That is a great question. Whether we are living in Asia Minor in the first century and experiencing suffering because of persecution or living in America in the twenty-first century and experiencing heartache for totally different reasons, the Word of God has much to say to you and me. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Revelation 19:1-6.
1After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” 4The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” 5Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” 6Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:1-6 NIV)
As we come to the opening of Revelation 19 we read the response to God’s fulfilled promise begun in Revelation 17:1 where the angel said,
1One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. (Revelation 17:1 NIV)
When John was told that he was going to see the judgment of the great prostitute he was amazed at what he saw. What he saw was a woman dressed in the finest clothes that money could buy. She was draped in more jewelry than B.C. Clark. She was firmly planted in the seat of power, the lap of luxury. John was amazed! He thought he was going to witness God act, but what he saw looked like the continued prosperity of the great prostitute. How many times have we felt the same emotion of amazement at how evil seems to prosper? You keep seeking God even though your circumstances don’t seem to get any better. You keep praying, believing that God will act, but you don’t see any evidence of His acting on your behalf. Don’t give up my friends! Don’t give in! Keep trusting. Keep serving. Keep seeking God! The cries of those who had suffered under Rome’s heavy hand are turned to songs of celebration as we come to Revelation 19.
I want you to notice the first two verses of Revelation 19 where we hear from the people of God in heaven. Read along with me.
1After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Revelation 19:1-2 NIV)
The great roar of the people of God is heard as they shout, “Hallelujah!…” The Greek word that is used here is the word, “a`llhloui?a”, (hallelouia). This Greek word only appears in the book of Revelation, but it is taken from the Hebrew word, “Hy”)-Wll.h” (halleluyah). The phrase literally means, “you people praise Yah (short for YHWH).” It is actually a compound word, “ll;h’” (halal) and “Hy” (Yah). “Halal” means to “shine, to praise, boast, or to be boastful.” The phrase appears 165 times in the Old Testament as God’s people are called to boast of God’s marvelous character, His wondrous acts, and His unparalleled love for His people. As I mentioned, the word “Hallelujah” appears in the New Testament only in Revelation 19:1; 3; 4; 6. What are the people shouting about? The same thing God’s people have always shouted about—God’s Omnipresence reminds His people that we are never alone in our struggle, His Omnipotent power reassures us that He is bigger than our adversaries, His Omniscience comforts us in knowing that He alone knows all things at all times, our God Reigns!
Revelation 19 is a stark contrast to what we have been reading in Revelation 17-18. If you will remember, in Revelation 18, we witnessed three groups of people who went down with the fall of Babylon. There were the “kings of the earth” who lined their pockets with money because of their relationship with Rome, or Babylon. Revelation 18:9-10 tells us,
9 “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ (Revelation 18:9-10 NIV)
The second group that we witnessed in distress were the “merchants of the earth” in Revelation 18:15-16. Read along with me.
15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! (Revelation 18:15-16 NIV)
The last group named in Revelation 18 were, “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea.” We read about these folks in Revelation 18:17-19.
17In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! (Revelation 18:17-19 NIV)
The three groups of people who were awestruck and broken at their own collapse because they allowed themselves to be lured into the empty promises of a pagan society is countered by another group of three in Revelation 19. Take a look with me so that you can see what I am talking about. In verses 1-3 we see “a great multitude.” In verse 4 we read about “the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures.” Last of all, in verse 5, we read about “a voice from the throne.” In verses 6-10 we run into the “great multitude” once again, but this time they are shouting “Hallelujah!” because the wedding of the Lamb has come. We will get to that later.
We are a visual people wouldn’t you say? We like to “see it” in order to “believe it.” For those of you who are so inclined, those of you who want to see evidence, then here it is. Lay Revelation 18 beside Revelation 19, side-by-side, and see what you can see. Those who choose to turn away from God and rely upon others for their well-being, for their happiness, for their security—their end is disaster! For those who choose to trust God, to walk in obedience even though it doesn’t seem to “pay off” at the moment, and to endure hardship for the cause of Christ rather than bow their knee to the powers of Babylon that promise immediate gratification—their end is “Hallelujah!” Their end is eternal rest! Their end is a seat at the great wedding banquet of the Lamb of God! Somebody ought to say, “Hallelujah!” Can you see it? Can you not see the evidence right before your eyes? There is no person who can deliver on the empty promises they make to you to make you happy, to make you secure, to alleviate your problems and trials. There is no regime, no politician, that can make your life better, fuller, richer. You must trust in God and God alone.
Malcolm Muggeridge was born in 1903 and spent most of his life as an Agnostic. He was a British author, soldier/spy, broadcaster, and late in life converted to Christianity. Muggeridge was a brilliant man who witnessed much in life, but one of the most insightful things he ever wrote was about the failed promises of human power brokers to make life better. He wrote,
We look back on history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’ In one lifetime I have seen my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own assumption of power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests. All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ. (Malcolm Muggeridge)
Whether we are talking about Domitian and the Roman Empire, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, or one of the powerful leaders in our own country today who are making promises to us about what they will do if we only vote for them in the next election, these will all fail to deliver! We must trust God!
Why are the voices of Revelation 19 praising God? That’s a great question. Take a look with me. They are shouting “Hallelujah!” because “salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” We need to understand that “salvation,” in a biblical sense, is more than just “going to heaven” after it is all said and done. Salvation is God’s deliverance, His preservation, in the here and now as well. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the same word that is found here in Revelation 19:1 is used in a wide variety of ways to reinforce this idea and to show us that trusting in anyone or anything other than God for our deliverance is useless. In Deuteronomy 33:29 we read,
29 Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places. (Deuteronomy 33:29 NIV)
The same sense of the word is used in Judges 10:11-12 where God tells His people that He will protect them from the attacks of their enemies. Read along with me.
11The LORD replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?” (Judges 10:11-12 NIV)
Alongside of these uses of the word we also read time after time where God tells His people that the things they are trusting in, the people they are listening to, are useless to help them. Read with me from Isaiah 47:13-15.
13All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. 14Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by. 15 That is all they can do for you– these you have labored with and trafficked with since childhood. Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you. (Isaiah 47:13-15 NIV)
God’s salvation is our hope! The Lord is our hope! Both in the here and now and in the hereafter—God alone is our deliverer, our salvation. He alone is our hope, our protection. It is God’s salvation, God’s glory, and God’s power that the people of the first century, the people of the twenty-first century, and the people alive on the final day of history will celebrate!
Let’s take a look at the final of the three words used in verse 1, the word, “power.” The Greek word, “du,namij” (dunamis) comes from the root word which means, “to be able.” The word is translated “power,” but it is also the word from which we get our English word, “dynamite.” The mighty multitude is celebrating the fact that God is able. Do you believe that this morning? Is God able to deal with your situation? God was able to deal with Pharaoh so that he let the Hebrew slaves go free, but can He handle your predicament? God was able to part the Red Sea, He was able to move Joseph from the prison cell to the King’s palace, and He was able to transform Paul from a persecutor of the faith to the greatest missionary the world has ever known. Is He able to quiet your soul in the midst of your terror? He was able to use John even though he was exiled on the island of Patmos, He was able to strengthen the brothers and sisters in Ephesus long after Domitian and the Roman Empire had come to ruin. Is He able to turn your situation around? Yes He is! I declare that He is able!
I want you to notice something about our Scripture this morning. What is taking place? What is happening in the opening verses of Revelation 19? Is this not worship? The worried, anxiety ridden countenance of the people of God has been transformed into glorious worship. John Piper writes,
Corporate worship is the public savoring of the worth of God and the beauty of God and power of God and the wisdom of God. And therefore worship is an open declaration to all the powers of heaven and to all of Babylon that we will not prostitute our minds or our hearts or our bodies to the allurements of the world. Though we may live in Babylon, we will not be captive to Babylonian ways. And we will celebrate with all our might the awesome truth that we are free from that which will be destroyed. Worship is not the performance of a routine of hymns and prayers and preaching and anthems…Focus on God, not the messenger. Concentrate on God, not the hymn tune. Pursue God, not just knowledge about God. And in all your focusing and concentrating and pursuing after God, seek to stir up your feelings to love him and honor him and admire him and fear him and enjoy him and savor him. Worship is the flagrant, open enjoyment of God as the fountain of Life. And therefore it is a public declaration that God is more to be desired than all the pleasures of Babylon. (John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, September 15, 1991)
The jolting reality of life has been replaced by the jubilant worship of God’s people. Scarred people, afflicted people, persecuted people, but God’s people! God’s people are called to worship in the midst of our pain, in the middle of our predicaments, and with the unending hope that our God reigns!
God’s people must be people who celebrate the goodness, the power, and glory of God. Please hear me! We are not to wait until we get to heaven to praise God, to extol His glory and goodness, and sing the songs of salvation. We are to be joyful, joyous people right now as well. “How can we sing the songs of heaven while we plod along on this broken road of life?” That’s the thinking of most Christians today. It reminds me of another group of God’s people who were living in Babylon long ago. Read along with me from Psalm 137.
1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:1-4 NIV)
This Psalm is referring to the captivity of God’s people by the Babylonians. In 586 B.C. the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem and took the city, carried away the most prominent and promising, and for 70 years the captivity kept God’s people away from their homeland. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God had spoken about what was going to happen before it ever happened. God also told the people why they would be carried off into a pagan land. It was because of the sins of Judah. When the judgment was executed instructions of what they were to do while they were in captivity were given. Look at Jeremiah 29:4-11 with me.
4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD. 10This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:4-11 NIV)
Were God’s people supposed to sulk and sit by the river and moan over what was happening to them? Were they supposed to throw a pity party for themselves? No, they were supposed to build houses, plant gardens, go to the weddings of their sons and daughters, and be a blessing to the Babylonians as they patiently waited upon God’s deliverance. While they waited on God’s deliverance they were also to avoid the false teachers and soothsayers who would tell them what they wanted to hear. They were to carry on with life as they waited on the Lord—He would be their Deliverer. That is what they were supposed to do, but what did they do instead? They hung up their harps, sat by the river, sulked, and stewed, and said, “It’s not fair!”
This is where many of us are today, this very morning. We have the sheet music to the “Hallelujah Chorus” at our fingertips, but we are so mired in our circumstances and situations that we can’t sing. Oh, sing! Sing people! Take this Scripture to heart, realize that our God holds all power, He is able to deliver you, to deliver me, and He will in His time. You and I are to live knowing that our Deliverer is coming, our Deliverance is certain! Live like the prophet who spoke as if it had already happened. Let the joy of the Lord undergird you, sustain you, and empower you to sing in the midst of the struggle of your life. In the midst of our present situation we can shout, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!”
I hope that this morning there is someone here who has never accepted Jesus into their heart and that you will cry out to Him this very morning. Let His deliverance take up residence in your heart. Let His salvation begin to work in your life. Let Him do a work in you that you will never be able to do in yourself. Come to the Lord and become one of His children this very morning. He will teach you to sing!
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
February 18, 2007