3 August 2012Revelation 7:9-12
"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (vv. 9-10)
Last weekend we witnessed the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games. Along with the pageantry and spectacle was the moving sight of athletes bearing their national flags from virtually every nation in earth entering the Olympic Stadium.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are two of the very few moments when people from every nation, tribe, and people gather in a single place. Throughout these Games many of us will have been supporting Team GB or athletes of some other nationality. (I am rooting for Team GB, but also hoping that the Antigua and Barbuda squad acquit themselves admirably.)
If, like me, you have been unsuccessful in getting tickets (to anything!), the London Games might be a slightly sore point just at the moment. Moreover, with everything taking on an Olympic theme you might be forgiven for feeling that an Olympic take on the text of Revelation is a bit overstretched.
Nonetheless, I find it difficult to avoid the impression that John's vision in Revelation 7 has a slight feel of the ancient Olympics about it. A great multitude, from every tribe and nation, peoples and language, wearing white robes and carrying palm branches? Can you hear the resonances?
However, the shouts of acclamation of this multitude are directed not towards all conquering athletes but rather to Almighty God and to the Lamb. In addition to the multitude, the heavenly hosts also offer similar acclamation.
The Book of Revelation constantly seeks to lift our gaze from earth to heaven. This is not in order to make us so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. Rather it is an attempt to enable us to see ourselves in the light of heaven in order that we might gain fresh perspective on our current situation.
In these few weeks when the world pauses to celebrate sporting prowess, human endeavour, and the Olympic spirit perhaps it is a good time to pause to think about what great things we might attempt to the glory of God.
- "To the glory of God." We often see these words on cathedrals and other places of worship. What might this mean for the way in which you lead your life?
- The Baptist missionary William Carey put it admirably: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God". If you were to attempt something great to the glory of God, what might that be?
- Now that you've identified it, have you good reasons for not attempting it?