9 August 2012

Revelation 15:1-4

"They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb" (v. 3)


The ten plagues of Egypt in the book of Exodus (chapters 7-12) were seen as part of the process of releasing the people of God from the systems and powers that oppressed them. The series of plagues associated with trumpet calls in Revelation 8 and 9 are modelled on them. Here we have the promise of seven more such plagues. These will be described in Revelation 15:5 - 16:21. They are the final working out of the "wrath of God" (v. 1). Throughout the New Testament this phrase does not mean that God can be irrationally and violently angry. God is gracious, but even a gracious God ultimately has to allow those who have not acknowledged God and God's ways to experience the effects and the consequences of their sin - in the hope that this will bring them to turn to acknowledge God and repent!

The "sea of glass mixed with fire" (v. 2) is a kaleidoscopic image. The seas in Genesis are the waters of chaos over which the Spirit of God moves to bring order out of chaos, and life out of death. In the Exodus (Exodus 14) the people of God are miraculously brought to safety through the Red Sea and then through the Jordan. In Solomon's temple this was represented by a sea of bronze (which would reflect light to look like fire) and some basins for ritual washing (2 Chronicles 4:1-6). The early Christians thought of Baptism as passing through the Red Sea and sharing Christ's death (1 Corinthians 10:1-2; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).

Today's passage shows the people of God from all nations and cultures worshipping. They are singing a new song for a new exodus. The original "songs of Moses" (Exodus 15:1-18; Deuteronomy 32:1-43) were bloodthirsty celebrations of vengeance. That is noticeably absent here. The images are being re-minted. What we see is not a bloodthirsty lion-king, but a lamb.

To ponder

  • What would it mean for you to face the effects and the consequences of your sinfulness?
  • How might your worship help you to experience being brought to safety and to sing the new song of the Lamb?
  • What difference does it make to you that the Lord is a Lamb? Why?

Bible notes author

Ken Howcroft

Ken Howcroft was designated by the Conference in 2013 to be the President of the 2014 Conference. He is currently a minister of the British Conference of the Methodist Church seconded to the Methodist Church in Italy to look after the English-language Methodist Church in Rome.