WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Often at Christmas time we hear Handel’s oratorio Messiah with the announcement to Mary and the shepherds.  “For unto us a child is born” and “Glory to God in the highest” and then the oratorio moves into the second and third parts with prophesies of the coming Messiah and affirmation that the Redeemer lives and is worthy to receive all power, and honor and glory.   All the words are taken directly from Scripture.

The Messiah is really the story of Christ throughout His life with the focal point being His rejection, suffering, death and resurrection.  It is, therefore, properly considered at this time of the church year, when Jesus’ passion, His sacrifice and His resurrection is center in our collective minds.   

In Part II we are directed to “behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”.  This is a direct quotation of John 1:29, the words of John the Baptist in reference to Jesus Christ.  

Then the alto sings Isaiah 53:3.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

After describing the misery that the Lord would endure for our sin, the chorus vividly describes mankind, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 ESV

The tenor presents the crucifixion and resurrection, after which the choir erupts into a chorus describing heaven when Jesus defeats death and sin. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”  Psalm 24:7 KJV

The oratorio continues by describing the mission of the Lord’s people, going into all the world preaching the gospel and then by telling of the rebellion to that Word.  “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”  Psalm 2:1 KJV  After questioning why, the soloists reveal the Lord’s response to mankind’s opposition: 

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. … Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:4, 9 KJV

At this point we hear the famous Hallelujah Chorus, proclaiming the power of the Lord God and that God’s kingdom will reign forever and ever.  This too is from Scripture, specifically from Revelation 19:6. 

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

It is at this point that the audience rises in honor of the majesty of the music and of its message. For many of us, this is the crescendo of the oratorio.

After a recent presentation Parts II and III of the Messiah, I found it interesting to think about the placement of the Hallelujah Chorus.  It is not at the end of the work, rather it comes immediately after describing God’s prevailing power over man’s revolt against Him and His Anointed One.  This should be encouraging for each of us. 

The Chorus certainly praises God for His authority over mankind, for the strength of His kingdom, in recognition of His power and of the inviolate guarantee that things that He has ordained will, indeed, come to pass.  His providence will not be thwarted by anything that man or any other created being can do.  In short, God wins!  Hallelujah!

But, this is not the only instance of praise in the oratorio. 

Part III of the oratorio begins with the soprano singing “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Job 19:25.  These words should bring praise to the lips of every believer in our Lord.   

The substitutionary atonement of Jesus is told when the choir sings “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

And the hope of everlasting life is described when the bass sings “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV

The final song is one that is sung in heaven:  “saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’”  Revelation 5:12 NKJV

Not only should we sing Hallelujah because God defeats sin and evil, we should continue our praise and worship of our God and of His Son by acknowledging and praising Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, for His work on the cross, for His atoning death and resurrection for us, for He alone is worthy to be praised. 

Here is a presentation of the song “Worthy is the Lamb” as found on the album Glory to the Holy One, words by Dr. R. C. Sproul and music by Jeff Lippencott.

I am including the text of the words for your reference:

The veil of heaven opened wide
The scene was clearly set
John saw a scroll writ either side
Where seven seals were met
With booming voice the angel said
To now unseal the scroll
But none was found to meet the task
Not even one lone soul

Refrain

Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb
Worthy, worthy is the Lamb who was slain

Convulsed with tears and broken heart
John’s hope was now assailed
“Weep not,” the elder counseled him,
“A Lion has prevailed!”
No lion came to take his claim
No beast of royal reign
Instead there stood a bloodied Lamb
Like one who had been slain

Refrain

Ten thousand times, ten thousand more
The host of heaven cried
All blessing, honor, glory, and pow’r
To Christ, the Lamb that died

Refrain

Christ the Lamb, who was slain

Father, during this time of the year when we consider the Passion of our Lord, I can do nothing other than fall at the foot of the cross in recognition that He has taken my sin upon Himself and I have nothing to bring other than a broken and contrite heart.  May my life reflect praise for my Lord and my King to whom all glory and honor belongs.  

TUNING TOGETHER IN UNITY

We went to the symphony the other evening.  It was an incredible performance, featuring a 29 year old pianist from France.  Both of us were mesmerized by her awesome talent and by the way she and the orchestra mixed and matched each other, with their musical lines intertwining into a beautiful tapestry of sound.

Listen here to “Viam Dei” composed and directed by Jeff Lippencott on the album “Glory to the Holy One”.  

You will notice that each instrument plays a critical part in the overall musical score.  None is wasted.  Some are louder to be sure, but even the little triangle can lend its tone to the beautiful message being created by the entire orchestra.

But, although I have been to a number of concerts over the years and have always seen this happen, what struck me the other evening occurred before the conductor stood on the platform and raised her baton.  It even occurred before the conductor was on the stage. 

As the instrumentalists arrived on stage, they warmed up by practicing various points in the music for the evening, each one running through spots that likely caused problems for them.  The result was a cacophony of sound, not a unified melody or harmonic chord.  The Concert Master, the title for the musician in the position of first chair violin, walked onto the stage and the musicians stopped, silence – no sound from the orchestra. 

oboeThe Concert Master pointed to the oboe player and a clear, pure tone was heard wafting over the instrumentalists.  The various instruments were then tuned to the tone of the oboe.

Whether or not that tone was pitch perfect somewhere else was relatively immaterial (although I suspect it would have been on pitch anywhere, given the skill of our musicians).  The point was, it was to be pitch perfect here, at this point in time, so the musicians tuned their instruments to that pitch and that pitch alone. 

No one said “I’m going to use my pitch!  It’s better!.”  If that had been the case, there would have been discord among the instruments.  All of them needed to be tuned to the same pitch so that the resulting musical presentation would be in harmony.

Later, when a piano was rolled onto the stage for the featured instrumentalist to use for her Concerto, the Concert Master played a note on the piano and the orchestra tuned to that instrument.  After all, it would not do to have the instruments tuned to the oboe if the oboe was not in tune with the piano. 

As I was listening to the musical presentation, which was incredible by the way, I was thinking about how each of the instruments blend together to create the glorious music which we were experiencing. 

orchestra

How like the Church, the Body of Christ.  Scripture teaches us that we are to work together.  We all may have different gifts, talents, interests, abilities – but we are all part of the same Body and our role is important.  Remember the triangle – the percussionist who plays it plays a number of other fascinating instruments in the percussion section and the triangle is by no means the most important one.  But, somewhere deep in the midsection of the piece, there were two measures where the triangle was called for.  He stood and the little triangle was held high, struck the appropriate number of times, and then returned to its hook (or whatever it hangs on) until the next time it was needed.

The instruments that required tuning were all tuned to the same pitch.  In the Body of Christ, each believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is to be tuned to the same pitch as well. 

  • Each and every one of us is to look to the Word of God, the Holy Bible, as the message we are to proclaim. We read what Jesus said and what we are to do in the Scriptures, so it is imperative that each of us knows the Bible and that we each study it as our guide for living the life God desires.
  • Each and every one of us is to look to the Holy Spirit for our guidance, for our message, for our strength and for a proper understanding of the Scriptures.

Remember that Jesus said He would send the Spirit to be with us:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26 ESV

How would my life be changed if I tuned myself each day to the Scriptures?  How would my church be changed if each member tuned themselves each day to that which the Holy Spirit directed them to say and do?  Unity of mind and of purpose is desired and of paramount importance throughout the Scripture.

“A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Psalm 133:1 ESV

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

1 Peter 3:8 ESV

And in Ephesians 4 Paul writes that believers should walk worthy of the calling to which they have been called. 

How is that walk? 

We are to live with humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, because we are eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  Ephesians 4:1-6.

oboe

This week, remember the orchestra and the oboe.  Tune yourself with the Scriptures and walk in faith in the unity and bond of peace with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

 

Father, enable me to tune my heart to the tone of the Holy Spirit so that I will reflect the image of my Lord and Savior.  May my life be fueled by the Holy Spirit and may I walk in Your way, today and each day that You give to me.

OUR CREATOR GOD — THE HOLY ONE.

Scripture tells us at the very beginning of Genesis that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. The six days of creation are all itemized in Chapter 1 of Genesis.

Light — and the light was good.

Dry land and the seas– and God saw that it was good.

Colorado mountains, where earth and sky collide.
Colorado mountains, where earth and sky collide.
Oregon ocean waves and beach.
Oregon ocean waves and beach.

Vegetation, plants and trees – and God saw that it was good.

Yosemite Giant Sequoia Trees
Yosemite Giant Sequoia Trees

Lights in the heavens – and God saw that it was good.

Super Moon in Mississippi.
Super Moon in Mississippi.

All creatures that move, in the sea and in the air – and God saw that it was good.

Hummingbird getting a drink for nourishment.
Hummingbird getting a drink for nourishment.
Florida Spiny Lobster seen in aquarium along Florida's coastline.
Florida Spiny Lobster seen in aquarium along Florida’s coastline.

All beasts of the earth and all that creep on the ground – and God saw that it was good.

Caribou with large rack in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Caribou with large rack in Denali National Park, Alaska.
Pet pooches are under His care too!
Pet pooches are under His care too!

Then, in Genesis 1:26-27, and 31, God said:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’   So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Everything that He had made was very good. Simply put, God’s creation is good and it gives glory to its Creator.

Looking at the creation of God, it is clear that beauty is an attribute of the Creator God. David speaks of it like this:

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4 [ESV]

God’s desire for beauty is also expressed in Exodus 28:2 where God is telling Moses what garments the priests were to wear when conducting worship before Him even in the wilderness tabernacle.

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. [ESV] (The emphasis is mine)

A review of the construction of the tabernacle is way beyond the scope of this post, but it was clearly a pinnacle of beauty, shining with gold, bronze, silver, precious jewels for the objects to be used in worship, and even for the thread used to create the curtains. The directions were explicit and detailed, and they were dictated by God. Beauty is an attribute of our Creator. Read Exodus Chapters 25 through 40 and see the incredible detail God directed for the construction of His tabernacle.  Then remember where it was built — in the wilderness.  Clearly, this was not the most beautiful of places, but His tabernacle was to be beautiful because it was to reflect our God and one of His attributes, beauty.

Beautiful music and singing are also part of God’s creation and an expression of His beauty.   Way back when David was king, we read that he appointed the priests to sing a song of thanksgiving to God. Read 1 Chronicles 16 aloud, to yourself or anyone else who would listen, and your spirit will be lifted as you, through David’s words so long ago, praise the Lord for His wondrous works. Verse 10 of this chapter directs that we are to “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”

This past Monday evening, we were blessed to attend a concert sponsored by Ligonier Ministries for the performance of sacred music entitled “Glory to the Holy One.”  The concert was held in Nashville, Tennessee.

Downtown Nashville at night.
Downtown Nashville at night.

The venue was the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a beautiful building that is dedicated to the symphony.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee

The building was beautiful with marvelous craftsmanship evident throughout.

Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
Inside the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, Tennessee
The symphony platform was ready.
The symphony platform was ready.

Of course, the acoustics were incredible. The choir was extraordinary and the symphony was wonderful. But the music touched your soul, heart and mind.

The choir and symphony ready for the music to begin.
The choir and symphony getting ready for the music to begin.

Our seats were much closer to the musicians than I anticipated … we were IN the music, not just listening to it! This picture was taken while we were sitting in our chairs.

Superlatives are inadequate to describe the event. The words to the hymns were written by Dr. R.C. Sproul and the music was composed and conducted by Jeff Lippencott. Tears streamed more than once as God’s glory was extolled in music and singing. The words to the hymns were beautiful and poignant, detailing the journey of faith and culminating when we see Jesus face to face.  Here is one of the hymns entitled The Secret Place, the words are below the link for your reference.

Excerpt from music on soundtrack of GLORY TO THE HOLY ONE

Who dwells within His most secret place

Is never far from His blessed grace

‘Neath His great shadow all will be well

No better place now for us to dwell

 

Refrain

The secret place of God Most High

The shadow of our mighty King

The dwelling place where angels cry

Is where our praise will forever ring

 

Fear not the terror that comes at night

Nor flaming arrows by morning light

His truth is always our sword and shield

Against His power, all foes must yield

 

Refrain

 

A thousand fall now at ev’ry side

Ten thousand more may have yet to die

Yet plague and sword can

Ne’er kill the soul

His angels guard us now safe and whole

 

Refrain

 

Refuge and fortress for all who trust

No safer pasture for men of dust

‘Neath wings and feathers of Holy Lord

No great comfort can He afford

 

Refrain

 

I pray that these words and the music will be a blessing to you this day.

Father, thank you for the gift of music and for the talents of those who can create, compose, sing and perform such magnificent works to your glory and honor. I thank you too for the truth of the words of this hymn. No safer place can find us than when we are in your care, now and forevermore.