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Praise for God's Character Including His Wrath

Revelation 15:3b-4
'Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.' (NIVUK)

As angels get ready to pour out the final plagues from the bowls of God's wrath (Revelation 15:1; 16:1) as the last series of judgements on the earth, the already-in-heaven church are assembled to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:2-3). They worship God who will bring the world back out of its sinful anarchy to be judged under His authority. Today's verses contain the contents of their lyric. Although, for the sake of space, it is printed in prose form, John wrote it as Hebrew poetry. When you look at each sentence as being two lines of poetry, separated by a comma: then you should see the pattern of Hebrew parallelism. This literary style encourages reflective thinking and worship by preventing holy phrases becoming too familiar, trivialising their meaning. The more we explore the ways in which the phrases amplify each other, we are drawn to a deeper understanding and worship of the Lord.

So, for example, 'great and marvellous are your deeds' is matched with another perspective on the same subject, 'just and holy are your ways'. Whatever God does is outside of our scale of greatness and justice, wonder and holiness. His greatness is demonstrated by His justice, and His justice shows how great He is in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. In the same way, the 'Lord God Almighty' is the 'King of the Nations'. He is not just our personal God whom we choose to follow. He is the only God, the Sovereign ruler of the universe, before whom all the nations must bow. That thought is emphasised by 'all nations will come and worship You': it is a future certainty.

The question, 'Who will not fear You, and bring glory to Your Name?' is answered by 'All nations will come and worship before You'. In the end, despite the antagonism of many people-groups, everybody will bow down and speak out that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Today's derision and blasphemy will become tomorrow's dread fear of the God they have rejected (Revelation 11:18). Because God is 'holy', He revealed His 'righteous acts' ahead of time to John so that when He takes action - everybody will know who has done it (Amos 3:7), and they will glorify Him. This is the song of praise that the faithful, victorious saints present to the Lord. It has nothing to do with how good God's people feel, but everything to do with how God's character and Word is unchanged: He will always do what He has promised.

True worship is focussed more on the giver than the gift, on their character than the circumstances. This song might provide a helpful antidote to some 'worship lyrics' that seem preoccupied by the worshipper's emotions and experience. In heaven, the song is of praise for the worked-out character of the Holy God – even when He acts in judgement. Today, those who delight themselves in the Lord, find that their God-ward desires are satisfied (Psalm 37:4). For each painful day until Christ's return, we trust in the Lord's holy justice to avenge His people, so that we do not need to take any revenge (Romans 12:19). And in the meantime we should pray blessing on our enemies (Matthew 5:44), and tell them the gospel so that they might repent and be spared in the coming judgement (Jeremiah 26:2-3).

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for being the same, yesterday, today and for ever. Forgive me when I forget the security of trusting in Your unchanging character, failing to delight in You when You are gracious to me, and failing to appreciate that Your holiness demands Your justice. Thank You that Jesus Christ has taken away the sin of all who believe in Him. Help me to live and worship in the confidence that You will do everything well, keeping Your Word to those who trust You and reserving judgement for those who despise You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams