Wednesday, May 18, 2011
What Made John Weep? By Dudley Hall
"Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Revelation 5:1-4 (ESV)
"In the apocalyptic book of Revelation, John the apostle tells of an experience he had on the Isle of Patmos. The genre of apocalyptic literature (of which Revelation is a classic example) features symbols to impress the images of transcendent reality on the reader's imagination.
In John's description there is the throne, which speaks of sovereignty where everything recognizes that God alone is worthy to be worshipped. The twenty-four elders represent both the Old and the New Covenant people of God (twelve patriarchs and twelve disciples). The seven Spirits of God represent the perfect presence of God. There is a scroll which is a legal document containing the meaning of God's purpose on earth including the inheritance and who will get it. It is sealed with seven seals meaning it is perfectly sealed. No one can open it. There are kings there - Saul, David and Solomon - but they can't open it. There are prophets there - Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah - but they can't open it. There are priests there - Aaron and Melchizedek - but they can't open it. Nero can't open it. The Caesars can't. Plato and Socrates can't. It is a sad situation.
John, who is the visitor to the heavenly realm, represents us. He is sad because no one can possibly answer the questions that mankind needs answering, nor solve the problems that mankind faces. Life is confusing and ultimate meaning is hard to find. What can be done?
Mankind still stands there with a sad soul. We continue to hope for a savior who can answer the big questions, yet leave us with our pride intact. We look to man's ingenuity and nature's resources. When those fail, we look to control with money and power over others. When that doesn't work, we look inside for better self-understanding. When that pales, we look into the dark shadows of magic and sorcery.
The sad soul is enamored with present circumstances. The complexity of life and the incomprehensible nature of evil seem worthy of abundant worry and anxiety. We are captivated by conspiracies that might give a clue to the meaning of it all. We are susceptible to new "revelations" that offer more than God has given in his scriptures. We focus on the material economy and make our decisions on its health. We measure success the same way the material world does, and our attitude is more attuned to the stock market than the promises of Almighty God.
Sad souls render faulty survey results. Being unable to see what is inside the scroll, we demand what we thinks is desirable. The issues of life, death, meaning and eternity are so nebulous, we decide it is just better to be distracted - even at church. Good performances by professional speakers and musicians and good programs for the children can be a relatively easy substitute for reality. We can boast of the numbers of people attending meetings and the size of our buildings even though we don't know what the inheritance is or who gets it.
Those who haven't seen inside the scroll are eager to have another chance to improve in some area. It gives a sense of progress, which translates into some shade of meaning.
When we can't see the true Sovereign of all, we conclude that mankind is sovereign. If that is so, then what we want becomes the highest value determining all our decisions. We are left under the rule of sad souls who can't open the scroll and thus govern the world from that sad state of true ignorance. What is even sadder is that we continue to operate the church from this consumer/customer satisfaction base. If there is only one Sovereign, then he alone should be surveyed. His desire is the only one that matters if we are living in his kingdom.
Who opens the scroll? The Lion/Lamb of the tribe of Judah. Any interpretation of reality that does not come through him is deception. He alone can reveal what life means. He alone defines the inheritance and who gets it. He alone gives the big picture of God's purposes. In him there is more truth than we could discover in eons of time. Why would we want to focus any place else?
What is in the scroll? The enemy has contested the plan of God, but God defeats the enemy and his forces by means of grace. Jesus is the star of the drama, and God's people are vindicated by him. The issue is settled. We are now granted the privilege of living as his people under his rule in his appointed place. There is an explanation if we are willing to trust the only one who can explain.
Often we find ourselves weeping over the condition of certain groups of people. Our compassion drives us to take notice and do something. Sometimes we act out of that compassion rather than in response to God's assignment. Hunger, nakedness and oppression should never be ignored by those who see, but what should really cause us to weep is the hordes of people who need to see what only the Son can open to them. We cannot leave them in tears of hopelessness. When Jesus opens the scroll, the tears are wiped away. We can give them bread and hope in the gospel." Dudley's website http://www.sclm.org/