Are you a musician? Do you play a musical instrument? Well, if not, you will be playing one shortly, without the necessity of taking lessons or the burden of practicing. The first two songs in Hymns of Heaven apparently will be sung acapella, but the third will be sung to the accompaniment of a multitude of harps (or lyres). John Walvoord suggests that lyres accompany and speak of worship; John MacArthur suggests that in the Old Testament they frequently attended prophetic pronouncements. The uniting of those thoughts seems appropriate to this song.
The New Song.
Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals;
For You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood
Men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God;
And they will reign upon the earth.
Rev. 5:9, 10
The Occasion for the Song. John records a prophetic account of the Lord Jesus taking a book “out of the right hand of Him who sat upon the throne” (Rev. 5:7). The book (perhaps the title deed to the earth) in the form of a scroll is “written inside and on the back” and “sealed up with seven seals” (v. 1). “No one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book” (v. 3) except the Lord Jesus. The opening of each of the seals will unleash the beginning of horrific judgments that will characterize the seven-year tribulation on earth—judgments that only Christ has the authority and power to execute, judgments that will culminate in the eradication of all sin and the ushering in of eternity.
The Significance of the Song. The first stanza of this new song announces the worthiness of “the Lamb” (v. 8) to take the book and to judge the earth. In his gospel and referring to Christ, John had declared that “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (1:3). But here it is not on the basis that Christ created all things that He is pronounced worthy to judge, but by virtue of the fact that He was slain and with His blood has redeemed “for God” people from every population group in the world. Ultimately, He will not judge men primarily on the basis of His authority as their Creator but on their rejection of Him to be their Redeemer. Again, as John proclaimed in his gospel: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (3:18).
The second stanza may take us by surprise because it seems to shift focus from the worthiness of Christ to the believers whom He has redeemed. Until, that is, we realize that the emphasis remains on Christ. The first stanza addresses Christ’s death, e.g., “slain,” “blood.” The second stanza lauds what that death provided. Speaking of Christ, the song lays stress on the fact that “You made them to be . . . .” It is altogether praiseworthy that Christ would lay down His life for depraved sinners, redeem nothings and nobodies, make us citizens fit to dwell in the kingdom of a holy God, give us, unworthy creatures, the immense privilege of serving as priests in that kingdom, and, then to top it off, grant us the authority to reign as kings with Him.
You won’t need to purchase a lyre, see that it’s tuned, learn to read music, or practice till your fingers bleed. The lyre will be provided to go along with your new heavenly voice. The music will not come from a printed page but from deep within your soul and in perfect concert as a flock of birds flies and turns in midair in both unison and perfect harmony. And you will sing and play your lyre better than if you had been gifted like Beethoven. Are you ready? Christ may return at any moment.
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