Praise during pestilence
PRAISE DURING PESTILENCE (MATT24; REV 4)
1: God Knows (Matt 14:1-14)
2: God plans (Rev 4-5)
3: God judges (Rev 6)
4: God saves (Rev 7)
5: God is worthy (Rev 7)
order of worship
Welcome: Thank you for joining us.
o We live in interesting days. We had Jandre’ wedding and 2 police cars came to check up that we were not more than 100 people, so we are likely to get some more inspections this morning.
o This pandemic is likely to go on, not for weeks, but for months and the restrictions placed on us are likely to get more stringent. So we are not sure for how many more weeks we will be allowed to meet.
o But, as elders, we discussed the various options and decided that God expects us to co-operate with government measures to curb the virus, but God also expects us to worship Christ in the midst of it all. Jesus is worthy of worship today as any day and we’ve gathered to worship Him.
o As this pandemic continues to unfold, it’s not only our bodies that will be threatened, but our faith. People will not only be overcome with sickness, but with fear and sickness of soul. While government can do something to try curb the physical effects of the pandemic, the burden falls to the church to be active in combating its attack on our faith.
o The days are coming when we will not be able to gather to worship, but God will call us to scatter to witness, to serve the sick, to help the weak, to point people to Christ, who alone is worthy.
o So we’ve gathered to worship because Jesus is worthy of worship and we’ve gathered to worship because we need to worship, we need to focus on Jesus so we can strengthen our faith for what lies ahead….
Sing 1 – All I have is Christ
· Jesus, you alone are worthy, you alone can save, you alone can rescue from the grave. To you alone belongs the highest praise.
· This morning, its or special privilege to gather to worship you.
· Thank you for reminding us this week of your power and your glory, of our weakness and inability. We praise you that you can bring the world to its knees in a month, a week, or a day….and you can raise us up from the ashes.
· To you alone belong the highest praise.
o Government – wisdom, counsel, information, submission of citizens
o Sick and suffering – those who have lost loved ones
o Church – our faith, our worship, our witness.
o Midrand Chapel for the role you would have us play in the events of our day. Thank you for the privilege of being your ambassidors, help us to carry you name in a worthy manner.
o Unity and faith. For willingness to sacrifice and serve.
o Thank you for Jesus
· No child care because felt that children clambering over one another pose a higher risk, but is cry room for mothers with small children. Trying to keep the service shorter for the sake of our kids.
· Things are changing, please keep checking your emails, whatsapps – ask one another and communicate with one another what’s happening. If you have suggestions, welcome to pass them on.
· Elders will be around between the services if you want someone to pray with you. If you want a visit, or you know someone who needs a visit or practical help – let us know.
· Not sure how much longer we will be allowed to meet, but as that tapers off, we will certainly be allowed to serve, to help with the needs as they arise and we can worship together as we serve together. If you have suggestions, community contacts – let us know so we can prepare and mobilize people.
· Please don’t linger too long after the service – we don’t want people overlapping or defeats the object of meeting in separate groups.
· Come let us worship and bow down
· Across the lands
PRAISE DURING PESTILENCE
Storms put us in awe of God
I love thunderstorms. They scare me to death, but there is something awesome about the violent winds and rain and crashes of thunder accompanied by up to a billion volts of electricity that can incinerate a tree in a split second.
I can’t help being frightened and at the same time I can’t help but be in awe of the God is resides over every storm. We might be able to understand the scientific mechanism that lies behind every lightning bolt, but we can’t control them and we can’t avoid them. Which is why we are always left cowering before the majesty and glory and sovereignty of God…
This week we have entered a storm of another kind and we can’t help but feel a measure of fear – but it’s a fear that should leave us in awe of the God who rides on the wings of the storm.
God knows, God plans, God judges, God saves – God alone is worthy of worship…..
1: GOD KNOWS (Matt 24:1-14)
Turn in your Bibles to Matt 24:1-14
As Christians we should expect storms of various kinds and be ready for storms of various kinds
In Matt 24 Jesus is preparing His disciples for the last days, for that time period between His first and Second coming. In Matthew 24 He is preparing us to face storms of various kinds.
· 1-2 Can you imagine what that sounded to Jewish believers. The Temple, the dwelling place of God on earth, the very place that represented His name and glory and presence – completely destroyed. That would have challenged the faith of even the most faithful Jew, to think that God could let that happen to His Temple, that God would do that to His temple.
· 3-7 The last days will be characterized by wars, famines, earthquakes, and natural disasters of various kinds.
o The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has noted a dramatic increase in disasters of every kind.
o From 1980 to 2009 there was an 80 percent increase in the growth of climate-related disasters. (source: Borgenproject.org)
o And of course we have lived through 2 world wars in the last century, besides the many other smaller ones.
· 8 In the last days things will get worse. These are but the beginning of the birth-pangs.
· 9-12 The last days will also be characterized by sin, lawlessness, apostasy, persecution and false teaching.
o Open Doors reported that persecution of Christians increased by 13.9 percent last year and are higher than they’ve been in the last decade
o I think you are getting the idea.
· 13: What is most needed in the last days = perseverance in the faith, in the truth vs 13.
o Adverse circumstances and lies and falsehoods and apostasy in the church – is going to tempt many to turn their back on God. It’s going to test our faith and call for faith.
o The storms that God sends call forth faith in God’s children.
Why did God tell us this beforehand?
· So we would know that He knows, that He is in control. That these things are not happening as a result of circumstances or chance – but by the careful planning and purpose of God.
· 14 The last days will also be characterized by the preaching of the gospel. God has not delivered us from the storm, but left us in the storm – so we can preach the gospel…
We, as Christians, should expect storms, we should be ready for storms of various kinds because Jesus has told us beforehand that they are coming.
2: GOD PLANS (Rev 4-5)
The book of Revelation expands on Matthew 24.
Unique glory and worship (rev 4-5)
· Rev 4:1-6 John gets a picture of heaven, a window is opened into heaven and into the future and He sees God on His throne – God seated in the midst of a storm as it were, clothed in majesty and power.
· Rev 5:1-4 There is this scroll which is rolled up and in the hands of God who is on His throne. The scroll represents God’s written, ordained plans for the universe. The history of the world written beforehand and waiting to be unfolded and revealed.
· God’s purposes and plans – waiting to be enacted, waiting to be brought into reality and destined to become our history.
· No-one is heaven has the glory, the power, the right – to bring all of God’s plans and purposes for the world and for lost humanity to its climactic end….
· Rev 5:5-14. But the lamb who is slain. So He alone is worthy of worship, He alone is worthy to receive glory, power, wealth, wisdom.
· Jesus, the lamb – will gather from the nations of the world, all their wealth, all their wisdom, all their power, all their glory – gather it to Himself as a demonstration of His own unique glory and wisdom and wealth and power.
3: GOD JUDGES (rev 6)
Its in the context of the unique power and glory and worth of Jesus – rev 5 – that we understand rev 6
Read Rev 6:1-2
· The seals begin to be broken and God’s plans for the end of times begin to unravel as each seal is broken, so a particular judgment comes upon the earth.
· I believe that the climax of God’s judgment is reserved for the very end of the world, the last 7 years which we call the tribulation, and that the church has already been raptured out of the world. But I don’t want to get into eschatology this morning because I don’t believe the book of Revelation was inspired to improve our eschatology, but to strengthen or faith and improve our worship and witness in the world.
· The major events, or stages in God’s judgment, are depicted as horses riding out into the earth. Each horse symbolizing another kind of disaster. Read each paragraph with brief explanation
1.1-2: The white horse: a dictator establishing a forced peace
2.3-4: The red horse: War
3.5-6: The black horse: Famine
4.7-8: Pale horse: Death by sword, famine and pestilence. 25% of the world killed.
6.12-14: Natural disasters
If we don’t get caught up in trying to over interpret all the details – the overall picture is clear. God is sovereign and all of humanity must bow before Him.
humanity is humbled before god
Who is opening the seals?
· The lamb. He is enacting, or bringing about all the events that unfold. As the seal is broken, the next section of the scroll is unraveled and the events that are written on it, that have been planned and purposed by God, they happen – exactly according to God’s plan.
· We might be able to trace the political factors that result in a war, or the geological factors that result in an earthquage or famine, or the scientific facts that result in a virus spreading. We may even be able, by human intervensions to reduce the impact, the loss of life, the damage and destruction that results.
· But we can’t prevent these things from happening according to God’s plan, we can’t stay the hand of God anymore than we can control where a lightening bolt hits, or where and when a Tsunami happens.
Why are these seals being opened?
· Because the world is corrupt and sinful and must be judged by a righteous and holy God.
· God said in the garden – the cost for disbelieving God and disobeying God would be death and God is true to His word. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, banished from God’s presence and destined to live in a world corrupted by their sin, full of thorns, and thistles, and rust and moth, and disease and sickness and death.
· The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).
· It’s not that every time we get sick it’s because of our sin personally – but we live in a world that is destined to be judged and completely destroyed – and we have the evidence, the constant reminder of that every day, in so many ways.
· Not saying that this pandemic is direct result of a particular person or nations sin. Saying that it is the consequence of living in a fallen world, a world that has been judged by God and is destined to be judged by Him. Saying that every time we see these destructive things that overwhelm and overtake us – must remember that they are signs, evidences, reminders of God’s power, of God’s judgment and reminders of His final judgment.
What is the effect of the judgments? (15-17)
· It humbles the world. The kings, the generals, the rich, the powerful, the slave, the free – everyone is forced to bow before the one who is mightier than them all.
· It puts the fear of God into people who live in arrogant disobedience and disregard for Him.
· It shows us all, from the least to the greatest, that we are not so wise, not so powerful, not so invincible as we thought.
· It humbles us….and at least for some, it then prepares us for salvation…..
4: GOD SAVES (REV 7)
· Rev 5 asks the question – who can open the seals? The answer, only the lamb
· Rev 6 ends by asking – who can stand? Who can withstand God’s judgment? The answer, only those who are saved by the lamb
Rev 7:1-4 – those whom God has sealed will be sustained through the judgment in order to serve Him and be a witness for Him.
· Again, I don’t think we must get hung up on trying to desipher the details when the main point is so clear.
· The main point is clear – God will seal those, personally and specifically, from both Jews and Gentiles – and they will not be touched by the judgments that unfold but sustained through them.
· They will become God’s witnesses, to call people to repentance and faith so that even until the very end – God is extending a hand of grace, even in the midst of judgment.
If these events that unfold are not just acts of nature, but acts of judgment,
judgments of God – who can stay His hand, who can prevent His judgment? Who is more powerful than God?
Read Rev 7:9-12
· Salvation belongs to God and to the lamb. That term salvation means deliverance. If God is the almighty and righteous judge that stands behind all this judgment – then who can rescue, who can save, who can deliver from God’s hand? Who can withstand His judgment?
· Only the lamb, God the Son, the one who drank the cup of God’s wrath in our place….
· Salvation belongs to the lamb.
· Since God is bringing these judgments, He controls them. He determines who lives and who dies and who gets saved and who doesn’t.
REV 7: 13-15
· Again, I believe that the events described in Revelation are the end time judgment which is called here, the great tribulation. A greater outpouring of God’s wrath than the world has ever seen – the final climactic judgment that will ultimately result in the complete destruction of the world and the recreation of a new heaven and a new earth.
· But Jesus said that before the delivery, comes the birthpangs, the pains that precede remind us of what is to come.
· God has revealed this to us so that we would understand – if these great catastrophic events that Revelation describes take place under His sovereign control, by His sovereign plan. If God is able to deliver and sustain His servants through the great tribulation – He can certainly sustain and deliver us through the small tremors that precede it.
5: GOD IS WORTHY
So don’t miss the progression here.
· Rev 5 asks – who is worthy – who has the power, the honour, the right to open the seals and bring all of God’s plans and purposes to their climactic end?
· Rev 6 asks – who can withstand such might and power and judgment
· Rev 7 – concludes He is worthy because He has all might and power and honour. He is the great judge but He is also the great deliver, the great savior.
· Rev 5 gives us a peak into the old heaven
· Rev 6 gives us a peak into the destruction of the earth
· Rev 7 gives us a peak into the new heaven – once all is said and done – all pain, all fear, all tears will be wiped away and all will be made new.
All 3 chapters inspire worship and awe for those who see and recognize the power and glory and worth of the lamb of God who alone is worthy.
God knows, God plans, God judges, God saves, God alone is worthy – therefore = we worship.
If you want to navigate through the storm, be it a global pandemic, or a personal crisis…. You have to fix your eyes on the God who rides on the wing of the storm and see that He is worthy. You have to worshp and witness.
Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, some of whom were seasoned fishermen and who had whethered many storms. But on that day a storm raged so violently that even they were sure that they were going to die….
Jesus was asleep on the boat – completely unfazed by the crisis which was unfolding. Resting in God and waiting for His disciples to remember who was in the boat with them….
When they woke Him, they ask what we always ask when we are in a storm and full of fear “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Don’t you see, don’t you care?
Jesus gets up and with a word – banishes the storm, the wind, the waves – everything becomes immediately calm – in an instant there is no evidence that there ever was a storm.
Then true fear seizes them, as the recognize the unique majesty and power of the one who calms the storm with a mere word. They get a glimps of the glory and majesty of Jesus – mighty to judge, mighty to deliver.
And Jesus asks them quite simply, “Where is your faith?” The storms that God sends call forth faith in God’s children.
Faith doesn’t come from fixating on the storm, on the destructive, overwhelming power of the storm, faith doesn’t come by fixating on ourselves and how powerless we are, how overwhelmed and in danger we are. Faith comes by fixating on the one who rides on the wings of the storm.
We are meeting as believers today in the midst of the storm because whatever else we do, we must worship and we must witness – because Jesus alone is worthy.