Have you ever paged through your church hymnal or checked its Table of Contents? The major headings in The Table of Contents in our hymnal reads as follows: “Hymns of Worship,” “Jesus our Savior,” “The Holy Spirit,” “The Word of God,” “The Church,” “The Christian Experience,” “Special Subjects” (i.e., occasional songs), and “Service Music.” It would be challenging to find a place under one of those topics for the hymn we review today because it praises God, in effect, for His wrath. And except for the wrath that the Father poured out on His Son on the cross, we do not find God’s “unusual task” (Isa. 28:21) to be the subject of singing. Not so, God. All that He does, including judging—deserves praise.
The Unusual Setting. We must call the setting of this hymn unusual rather than unique because the third, fourth, and fifth hymns are sung as an introduction to the seven “Seal Judgments” that signify the beginning of the tribulation judgments. The hosts of heaven—angels and saints—will be praising God in view of the horrific events about to unfold on earth. Close on the heels of the seven seals will come the seven “Trumpet Judgments” to be followed immediately by the seven “Bowl Judgments” mentioned in today’s context. John tells us unequivocally that this song he records will be sung about and within the context of God’s wrath at the end of the church age. He reports seeing “a sign in heaven, great and marvelous . . . because . . . the wrath of God is finished” (i.e., about to be concluded with the Bowl Judgments [Rev. 15:1]). And when the song is completed, John hears “a loud voice from the temple [in heaven]” commanding seven angels to “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God” (16:1). Heaven finds all God’s works, even His wrathful ones, to be eminently praiseworthy!
The Unparalleled Song.
Great and marvelous are Your works, Who will not fear, O Lord,
O Lord God, the Almighty; And glorify Your name?
Righteous and true are Your ways, For You alone are holy;
King of the nations! For all the nations will come and worship before You,
For Your righteous acts have been revealed.
Rev. 15:3, 4
The Unequivocal Significance. This hymn praises the character of God’s works, specifically His work of judgment. God’s wrath is not the vindictive, vengeful indignation of fallen men; it is not the expression of unharnessed carnal emotions; there is no sense of “getting even” or “getting back at” someone. God’s wrath expresses the holy nature of God and the horrendous nature of sin. When God completely judges sinners and sin, heaven will echo these three words of praise to Him: (1) “great and marvelous are Your works,” (2) “righteous and true are Your ways,” (3) “Your righteous acts have been revealed.” All that God does in judging, the motive for His doing it, the manner in which He does it, the means by which He does it, and the results of His doing it—however closely it is viewed from every angle—is gloriously praiseworthy. We will never fully know or appreciate Him nor be comfortable in His presence until we have reached this conclusion. The song addresses God by multiple names and titles to underline the unblemished, august, and transcendent nature of the One being praised for exercising purifying judgment on the earth and its rebellious inhabitants. He is addressed as (1) “Lord God,” (2) “the Almighty,” (3) “King of the nations,” and (4) “Lord.” The song explains what will be the luxurious fruit of God’s “unusual task”: (1) all “will . . . fear . . . and glorify” the name of the Lord; (2) “all the nations will come and worship” before Him. Finally, the middle line of the second stanza explains the foundational reason for this song: “For You alone are holy.”
The glory of God’s holiness will be the theme of heaven. Such are the perfections of His nature and works that even His acts that cause men to question or cringe (e. g., inexpressible judgment) will be the subject of eternal praise. Do you know, trust, and love this God? He is also our Redeemer and Lord.
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