They sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were killed, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become God’s Kingdom and his priests. And they will reign on the earth.” - Revelation 5:9-10
Throughout the long history of the Christian church, many things have changed, but none has changed more than musical styles in worship. Each succeeding generation and each differing culture has looked for styles of worship that are relevant and pleasing both to the worshipers and to the Lord. As a result, new songs have found their way into the ecclesiastical repertoire alongside old favorites. This is something that is clearly indicated in the standard Anglican hymnbook, which is called simply Hymns, Ancient and Modern.
In John’s dramatic vision of heaven, “the twenty four elders . . . sang a new song with these words: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were killed, and your blood has ransomed people for God’ (Rev. 5:9-10). In biblical parlance, “a new song” heralded a new insight or a new discovery of truth, and this was no exception. The elders’ praise was augmented almost immediately with “the singing of thousands and millions of angels around the throne” (5:11). The reason for all this singing and praising was that, finally, a man had stepped forward to break the seals and open the scroll “in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne” (5:1). This securely sealed scroll, which was “sealed with seven seals” (5:1), contained the story of human history. It had remained sealed—not understood—until this man stepped forward to open it and make known the eternal purposes of the Lord, who was seated on the throne. This was cause for great praise, thanksgiving, and jubilation! It was a new experience, meriting a new song.
The only man “worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it” was identified as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne” (5:5). This is the same one foreseen by Judah’s father Jacob as he pronounced blessings on Judah shortly before dying (Gen. 49:9-10). The description of the “Lion” is unusual—as a “Lamb that had been killed but was now standing,” possessing “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God” (5:6). Yet this description is deeply and richly symbolic of Jesus, who laid down his life as a willing sacrifice, and who is now risen from the dead and invested with the sevenfold (symbolizing “perfect” and “complete”) authority of God and the sevenfold wisdom and insight of the Spirit. He is, in other words, the central figure of human history and the only one who can make sense of it.
New songs of worship should reflect fresh insights into the wonder of God’s purposes and should be expressions of worship to him. Style is not unimportant, but substance is vital.
For Further Study: Revelation 5:1-14
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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