Almost the same vision appears in chapter 5, but this time the Lion of Judah, the Lamb, the Son of God appears and is accorded exactly the same degree of worship that the Father receives. (Show that to the next Jehovah’s Witness that knocks on your door!).
But the Lamb has a further key role to play, as evidenced by the first recorded example of worry and concern in heaven. There was a great scroll, full of writing on both sides and sealed with no fewer than seven seals. Perhaps this represented the plans and purposes of Almighty God in the redemption of the whole world. Whilst it remained sealed, no-one could look or act upon the plans contained inside. It was stalemate! No-one was found sufficiently worthy to break open those seals… except one! That One alone is the perfect man and perfect God; having died as the ultimate sacrifice, having conquered the powers of death and hell, He is able to open the scroll representing the saving will of God and maybe the names of the redeemed. He alone can turn the Chosen People into the Redeemed Church, by his blood!
‘Lion of Judah’ is a name found first in Genesis 49:9,10. Christ was also the ‘Root of David’, who conquered the ‘Goliath’, the Devil, who kept this world in fear and bondage for so long. It having been announced, John looks for such a lion and sees, instead, a Lamb! The proud king of the beasts is equally the humble victim that was slaughtered for our sakes. He had come into this world the first time, full of the power of God – the seven horns – and full of the Holy Spirit – the seven eyes. Now, as the Mediator between God and mankind, He approaches the throne of heaven with boldness and takes that scroll out of the Father’s hand, preparing to break those seals and fulfil the complete will of God.
Heaven explodes with praise and worship, now not only of the Father but of the Son. The four living creatures and the 24 elders all bow down in worship, along with their harps – representing sung praise – and their incense bowls – symbolising our prayers. A new song is begun, to celebrate the uniqueness of Christ’s victory. People have been purchased by Christ for God – chosen from every tribe, language, people, and nation. They are now included in the new Kingdom of Heaven, becoming priests who will continue the act of mediation between man and God, accomplished through the gospel.
Hundreds of millions of angels join in the great new song, this time giving the Lamb a seven-fold acclaim: “power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory, and blessing”. The entire universe then joins with them to worship the Father and the Son together, celebrating both the creation and the redemption of the world!
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen”.
ESTHER 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10
Woe to you, Haman! You had it coming to you! Justice is well and truly exercised in the first chapter of today’s reading, since our God is a God of Justice, the ‘Judge of All the Earth’. Here’s how it happened: First, he doubled the caffeine content of King Xerxes’ bedtime cappuccino – preventing the king getting a wink of sleep. Second, he made the king very bored, in fact so bored that he asked for some legal documents to be brought to him (rather better than counting sheep?). Thirdly, his eyes fell on the record of Mordecai’s rescue of the king a few years beforehand.
Xerxes was an honourable man; he wanted to know if Mordecai had been suitably rewarded for his acts of bravery and patriotism. It transpired that he hadn’t . Fourthly, God made sure that Haman was the first person the king met early the next morning – early because Haman wanted to get the king’s permission to execute Mordecai that morning. Fifthly, he asked Haman for advice on how to really reward and show favour to someone who had earned it and, without even pausing, Haman’s pride naturally assumed that the king meant him! Sixthly, the king ordered Haman to execute that plan to the letter (rather than executing Mordecai on the scaffold!). God not only has a strong sense of justice, but a great sense of humour too!
The Book of Esther is a tale of three pairs of banquets: two at the beginning, two in the middle, and two at the end. Most believers’ good work seems to be done in the context of food! The middle pair of banquets happens now: Esther petitioned the king to save her people who are threatened with extermination by his previous decree. She also named Haman, the king’s favourite, as the main instigator of this evil plot. Realising that he has been tricked, the king was very angry with Haman. Haman, realising that his life expectancy had rapidly diminished, fell onto the couch where Esther was reclining and begged her for mercy. The king was not merciful however, and there was very convenient gallows recently constructed nearby…
But, for the Jews, there was still a big problem. Persia had a constitution that stated that any law that was passed could never be repealed. The king was therefore powerless to stop the legalised attacks on Jewish communities. What could he do? He legally permitted the Jews to assemble, to arm themselves and to kill any attackers on that appointed day with legal impunity. This might have been a big deterrent to any attack being made at all. It was a wise judgment on the king’s part; wisdom from heaven, I suspect!
On the day in question, most anti-Jewish groups stayed indoors. Those that were foolish enough to venture out with weapons were soundly defeated. The Jews in Esther’s home city of Susa were given two days to bear arms and they made maximum use of the time, putting to death Haman’s ten sons in the process. The Jewish nation was therefore safe, rescued by the Lord, in response to the brave actions of Esther and the prayers and fasting of all the people. By way of annual celebration and remembrance of this event, the Feast of Purim was established – named after the ‘lottery’ that produced the date originally chosen for their planned demise!
Even though the Book is named after Esther, the other hero of the day was Mordecai. He served the Lord faithfully all his life. He brought up Esther, his niece, to know and to serve the Lord faithfully too. He challenged her to make use of her privileged position to speak up for the Jewish nation and he never hid nor denied his Jewish culture and faith. A brave man! God rewarded him by having Xerxes promote him to the next highest position in the land – rather like the lives of Daniel and Joseph. If we are truly faithful to the Lord and zealous for his people, then we too will be exalted by God in many ways in our lives.