A Sea of Glass

Revelation 4:2-6a

[2] At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. [3] And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. [4] Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. [5] From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, [6] and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

By the time the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, most of the other apostles had been martyred.  In Revelation 2, Jesus tells the church of Smyrna that some of them would be thrown into prison and others would lose their lives.  In Revelation 3, Jesus encourages the church of Philadelphia to not fear the synagogues that would persecute them.  The people of God are afraid.

So in the vision revealed to John, what does he see?  In verse 2, the first thing John sees in heaven is a throne and One seated on it.  My wife and I are expecting our third child soon.  We anticipate chaos.  This world is often chaotic, but we can know that there is a King and He is on the throne.

This King created all things and is sovereign over all things.  He is not just King inside the church or the spiritual parts of our lives.  He is the King of everything that exists and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  He is sovereign over every molecule.

A Romanian pastor was jailed and beaten and he said this to his captors:

My God is teaching me a lesson. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God.

We may not always understand what God is doing, but we know that He is King and He can and He will ultimately work all things for our good.  Our God will conquer the chaos.

In verse 6, John sees a sea of water so still and peaceful it looks like glass.  In the Bible, the sea is usually a scene of chaos.  Paul gets shipwrecked, Jonah gets swallowed by a fish, and the Egyptian army is drowned in the sea.  Water is chaos, but Jesus comes on the scene calms the storm.

We serve a sovereign King.  This does not mean we will avoid suffering, but we can rest assured that the waters will be stilled, that the King is seated on His throne.

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Jesus Did Not Say

John 21:20-23

[20] Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” [21] When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” [22] Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” [23] So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Peter has just found out that he’s going to be a martyr.  When he sees his close friend, John, he asks Jesus, “What about him?”  Jesus replies,  “Why does that matter? You follow Me!”

This is absurd.  Peter is going to be crucified and John might never die?!  How does that make any sense?

People try to explain the confusion and suffering of life in different ways.  “God is testing us and making us stronger.”  “It’s punishment for sins.”  “There’s a lesson God is teaching us.”  Even if these things are true, these answers are not very satisfying.

Close friends of mine were pregnant with their first child.  At the doctor’s appointment in which they were supposed to find out the gender of their baby, they were told that their son had a terminal disease and he would likely not survive the pregnancy.  At most, he would live a few weeks after birth.

What could any of us say to them?

Well, here’s what we could not say to them.  We could not say why this was happening.  We could not say why this was happening to their child.  We could not say what exactly God was doing.  We could not talk about any of these things because we did not know.  We could only talk about what we do know.

Because of the word of God, we knew this was not happening because God does not love them or He had forgotten them.  We knew God was not punishing them and also that He was not indifferent.  We knew He was grieving for their son and for their pain.  We knew that God hates death and He sent His only Son to conquer death.  We knew that God would walk with them.  We knew that He would somehow work all things for their good.

Deuteronomy 29:29 reads, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Praise God, the baby did survive and is a wonderful little boy.  But in this life, things do not always work out the way we hope.  In the midst, all we can hold onto are the things that are certain.

We have all experienced things in the past that have made us ask, “Why?”  The honest answer is we don’t know why.  Many things in the future remain uncertain.  We have many questions.  The honest answer is we don’t know what will happen.  But what we do know is sufficient.  The God we do know is sufficient.  The promises He has revealed in His Word belong to us forever.

How Long?

Phil Ryken

Today I received an anonymous prayer card from someone who was at Tenth Presbyterian Church yesterday for worship.  The card asked us to pray for a baby whose heart is failing and may need a transplant.

The baby’s parents are believers in Jesus Christ.  On Saturday the mother, fearing for her daughter’s life, asked her husband, “How long will God continue to show us mercy?”

“Always,” he replied.

Love Alone

Caedmon’s Call

The prince of despair’s been beaten
But the loser still fights
Death’s on a long leash
Stealing my friends to the night

And everyone cries for the innocent
You say to love the guilty, too
And I’m surrounded by suffering and sickness
So I’m working tearing back the roof

How can I believe in God when there’s so much suffering?

Michael Ramsden

Maybe the reason we question God’s moral character when bad things happen is that we live lives largely independent from Him – in other words, do we really trust Him even when things are going well?

Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don’t need God. We don’t rely on Him on a daily basis, and so we don’t really know Him as we should. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we haven’t really been close to Him in the first place.

Link: Complete Article

The High Masts of Suffering

Michael Horton

For those who are tied to the high masts of suffering, there is often a fear that is greater than the fear of death. It is the fear of life. It is the fear of the next morning, and the morning after that. In the face of deep despair, the temptation is great to either turn away from God because the suffering is somehow credited to his wrath toward personal sins, or to turn toward him because one knows that he or she is at peace with God.

Genesis 17

[9] And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. [10] This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. [11] You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you…”

[23] Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. [24] Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. [25] And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. [26] That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. [27] And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

– Genesis 17:9-11, 23-27

God dictates to Abraham the sign of belonging to Him – circumcision.  The sign is both permanent and painful, yet at 99 Abraham does not hesitate.  Abraham is not interested in delaying, calculating the cost, or taking time to pray about it.  He knows what it is to belong to the Lord, and he is eager to bear the mark, aware that it involves temporary pain.

We live in a culture that aims to get as much as it can for as little cost or labor as possible.  What we will hopefully learn before too many years pass is that there is very little worth having that involves neither cost nor labor.  The best things tend to have the highest cost.  Yet if they are truly everything they say they are, they make that cost forgettable.  One such thing is belonging to the One True God.  It is everything He says it is.

Busy

John Piper

There is a mind-set in the prosperous West that we deserve pain-free, trouble-free existence.  When life deals us the opposite, we have a right not only to blame somebody or some system and to feel sorry for ourselves, but also to devote most of our time to coping, so that we have no time or energy left over for serving others.