I am occasionally and graciously asked to teach one of the Ladies’ Bible Study lessons at our church. This is both a fun task, because it means that I get to spend some time with their lesson book (which is published by the PC(USA) and is usually incredibly well-written material), and a daunting task because some of these ladies excel in Biblical literacy and are more than capable of teaching this class without any of my help (which is what they usually do).
This year, the study material is on Revelation. This is really exciting. Once I read through a good part of the book, I was thrilled because it’s a really well-written study.
I volunteered to teach this past Monday. I figured it would be good because I would have had all of break to work on my lesson. But then I didn’t really get a break, and then I scheduled a lock-in for New Year’s, and then everything related to the internet at our church broke and I spent extra time trying to fix it, and then all of a sudden it was Saturday and I still had not prepared my lesson.
Here’s what happens when that happens: I pray. A lot. And ask God to illumine the text for me very, very quickly! God’s always faithful!
I know there are a lot of ways that people read and use the book of Revelation. I don’t agree with a lot of them, honestly. I think a lot of time is spent attempting to decode the book and to lay a future timeline based on it. I think a lot of time the text is taken horribly out of context and far away from the author’s intentions.
Revelation is a book written for a church and a people who were already facing the trials of persecution and was meant to offer hope in these circumstances. As American Christians, we are pretty far removed from the struggles, tribulations and trials of the persecuted church. I think that worldview has a lot to do with how we want to read and interpret Revelation.
My text was Revelation 7-8:5. This is a beautiful, wonderful, full passage. In the midst of the opening of the Seven Seals, there is a pause while God’s people, believers from all tribes, are sealed and protected. A multitude of many nations, tribes and tongues gathers in worship around the throne. The saints wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb and they paradoxically are brilliantly white. The Lamb is the Shepherd and all tears are wiped away. The final seal is opened and greeted with ominous silence and then finally–the judgment is unleashed.
As I sit safely in our bedroom, typing on my computer, secure in my freedom to both publicly follow Jesus and publicly lead others to do the same, I pray for my brothers and sisters facing persecution for their faith worldwide. I pray for those who are close to me and are dealing with problems and pain in their lives. I pray for myself when life seems overwhelming. I’m grateful for a God who seals and shelters and holds his people secure in the midst of trial and struggle. When the question (at the end of chapter 6) hangs in the air: “Who is able to stand?” I’m glad that the answer is “All of us are able to stand, with God’s grace.”
Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen. (Rev. 7:12)
(artwork: Hubert Van Eyck Revelation 7:10)