They Sang The Song
Key Verse 15:3-4
“And sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O 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.’”
Chapter 14 tells of the end times when the redeemed of the Lord would stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion. They are safe by his side, as they witness the reaping of the souls of those who would soon be judged and driven away from God and his blessing. They would be taken outside and trampled on by the winepress of God’s wrath. But not those who are sheltered and safe by the side of their Redeemer. And we can tell what distinguishes them from those who would be harvested for destruction. One of their distinctions is that they follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They also have a new song in their hearts that each of them sings to the glory and honor of the Lord who redeemed them. In Chapter 15 we see the beginning of the seven last plagues (also called the seven bowl judgments)— the final outpouring of God’s wrath on the world— which will actually begin in the next chapter. But there is a break in chapter 15 to record the song of those who had been victorious over the beast and who refused to accept his mark on their foreheads. The song they sing is not a new song like that of the redeemed of the previous chapter. Rather it is an old old song and we want to take a close look at its contents so that we too might learn to sing it in our hearts. But before we look at the contents of the song, let us follow the events marking the end times as they slowly unfold.
Read verse 1 “I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues— last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” The signs and wonders performed by the Living God throughout human history have not been few. They have been rather numerous and acting as a living testimony to the hand of God in all human affairs— signs and wonders that compel men to believe in God, to trust him and to rely on him in all things— signs and wonders that encourage men to seek him and to fulfill his purpose in their lives as the Father and Mentor of their spirits. These signs and wonders were the living testimony of God’s hand working through history to bring men and nations back into a relationship with God. These living signs and wonders shone brightly in every generation, acting as beacons for lost souls— such that it was impossible for anyone seeking God not to find him. The nation of Israel itself was as a living sign and a wonder to the world. For out of all people on earth, God called to himself a man Abraham, that Abraham might live by faith and that God might bless the whole world through him. And the rest is history— as they say. God fulfilled every promise for Abraham, and raised in him a nation and a people belonging to God. Then sign after sign and wonder after wonder God’s voice went out from that nation and was heard throughout the whole world. It testified to the grace of God, and called all people of the earth to repent of their sins, and to turn their hearts back to God.
One of the greatest signs and wonders of all time— prophesied and fulfilled— is found in Isaiah 7:14. “… The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” And so Emmanuel was born to save the world from its sins. During the & the ½ years that Jesus walked among us, his life itself became a sign and wonder of God’s presence with us. What Jesus did and said left no doubt in the minds of humanity that God had come down to earth to call us back to himself. One time the religious leaders demanded of Jesus a sign to prove his spiritual authority to judge them. And to this Jesus replied: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:18-22) He was speaking of his body, soon to be crucified and resurrected. Therefore, his death and resurrection became the greatest sign of all time— the sign that Jesus is the author and giver of life— the victor over death— the King of the heavenly kingdom— and the judge of the living and of the dead. Ever since Jesus gave his life on the cross for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead to usher in the age of salvation through grace, no sign nor wonder in heaven and on earth could ever outshine this glorious sign. For it is the wondrous sign of God’s immeasurable and unconditional love for us. Ever since Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, the world we live in was inundated with the wondrous signs of God’s love. Lives that have been touched by the grace of God and changed on the inside. Wicked hearts changed to good hearts overflowing with all the goodness of a good God. Selfish hearts that have known nothing but self gain and personal ambitions, changed into sacrificial heats that and give without end. Every life that has been changed by the gospel of life is a sign and wonder for the eyes of the world to see and to know that God holds hope for the hopeless, and a home for the homeless. And the signs and wonders will continue until when?
Until the day in which John tells us in Revelation 15:1 of nearly the last of God’s signs and wonders aimed at drawing sinful men back to God. Only by that time, it will be utterly too late. For the sign that John tells us about here is a great and marvelous sign of a different nature. It will be the sign of utter and complete judgment on those who have rejected every sign and wonder given them to heed the call to repentance before the doors are utterly and completely sealed for good. “I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues— last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.” The culmination of God’s wrath & judgment is a great and marvelous sign by nature, because every sign or revelation from God honors and glorifies God in its own way. While the death and resurrection of Jesus reveals the utter and complete love of God for unworthy sinners, so also the final wrath and judgment of God reveals God’s utter contempt for sin and the ravages of sin on those who loved sin more than they loved God. There was a man Nicodemus who believed in Jesus on account of the signs and wonders Jesus performed, for as he said: “no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2) He could not deny that it was God working through Jesus— that he should listen to Jesus. So Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again in order to experience salvation and heaven. When Nicodemus argued with Jesus, Jesus again told Nicodemus that to experience salvation, he needed to repent of his sins and be baptized by the Holy Spirit. When Nicodemus argued with Jesus that it was too hard, Jesus again explained to him that he only needed to accept the grace of God through Jesus death and resurrection. But Nicodemus still wanted to argue more with Jesus. Why? Why did a man like Nicodemus who knew for fact that Jesus was from God and that his words are true and bring life to those who listen— why would Nicodemus still resist what he knew he should do? Jesus tells us why. “This is the verdict” Jesus said to Nicodemus and to all who resist the gospel message: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) We can fool others and sometimes we can fool ourselves, but we cannot fool God. Those who reject the gospel love darkness more than light for fear that their evil deeds, the thoughts and desires of their hearts, would be exposed. The great and marvelous sign to this very day is that God loves sinners and wants to save them through Jesus’ death and resurrection. But in the end times, the great and marvelous sign will be that God will destroy sin and all who have loved sin more than they loved God.
Read verses 2-3a. “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.” Those who had been victorious over the beast and his image, those who refused to submit to the antichrist and his false prophet must have suffered intensely. They must have suffered rejection and criticism, abandonment and severe persecution. They must have suffered being denied the basic necessities of life and its small comforts since in the end times no one can buy or sell anything, not even water nor gas, if they did not identify with the devil and his world order of things. Those who refused to be marked by the beast must have lost family and friends on account of their association with the name of Jesus. Branded as unstable or dangerous or fanatical, they were cast out as refuse and left to reform to the world and its way or to perish. Most of them preferred to perish rather than to deny the name of Jesus and to betray his grace. All in all, their situation was pathetic and they appeared hopeless while they resisted the temptation to give in. But now we see how their situation changed. They stand in the safety of God and his throne on this side of the sea of glass that cannot be crossed, while their once tormentors stand on the other side that is just about to be purged and sent to Hades.
And no wonder they sing. They cannot contain their joy. They burst out in song. And what do they sing? They sing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb of God. And their song is an old song. The contents of the song are clear. But what’s intriguing is that they sing the song of Moses and that of the Lamb? What does the Song of Moses have to do with the Song of the Lamb? We may better understand this when we consider what the Apostle John write in his prologue to the gospel of John. He says: “John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’” (John 1:15-17) Indeed the age of Moses is the age of the Law, and the age of Christ Jesus is the age of Grace. And indeed both the Low and the Grace are the greatest of God’s blessings on this sinful world. God never abandoned this world. From the time of Moses to this very day, God has never stopped pouring his blessings on mankind. God gage us the Low— the word of God— from the ten commandments to the entire Old Testament. Ever since then the word of God had been the light shining in the darkness of this world. When the world was dark and sinful, God gave us his word to guide us in the way that we should go. His words given us first through Moses and later through the prophets had kept the torch of faith and that of hope burning throughout the darkness of the generations. Who can ever say that God had not left us with a guiding light to find our way back to God? No one. Many found their way back to God through God’s words and promises given to the Jews and consequently to the whole human race. Even in thick darkness people were able to find hope when they studied the Scriptures because through the Scriptures, they were also able to look forward to the age of grace. And the age of grace finally came through our Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God. The song of Moses, the Old Testament words of God were sung by every generation until the Lamb came and since then all heaven and earth sings the song of the Lamb.
The song of Moses was the song of God’s word. God’s word testified that God had equipped his people with his words to guide them in his light until the coming of the Christ. Then Jesus came. The Song of Moses did not change but it took on a new form. It sings of the Grace of God which he poured on all people through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. The song of the Lamb is the song of Grace. It testifies to the love of God who, in his mercy deeply understood that no matter how great the Words of God through Moses may be, they cannot rescue anyone from their sins. So God sent his Son who was willing to be sacrificed and his blood to be shed on the cross for the redemption of all people. When Jesus came to us, he came as the Lamb of God. He came to bear our sins upon himself. He came to take upon himself the punishment that we all deserve for breaking all God’s commandments. The song of the Lamb’s grace is also an old song. It is a beautiful song of a fatherly God who could not bear to see his children perish in their slavery to sin, and sacrificed all to pave the way for them to come home to their Father. In verses 2-3 we see the multitudes of those who did not worship the beast and his image— we see them bursting out in a song— the song of Moses and the Lamb. They cannot forget the glorious history of God who for generations gave sinners his word to keep their hearts aflame with faith and hope. Nor can they forget the history of God that opened for us all the way to eternal life through the grace of the Lamb. So, all heaven takes an intermission from the events of the end times to listen to a song that has been sung for generations, a song that cannot be quieted, a song that forever escapes from the grateful hearts of those who love God and who know what sacrifice God endured in order to make our salvation possible.
Look at verses 3-4. Read them. “and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O 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.” We know that the song of Moses and that of the Lamb are one and the same song. One sings of the Living Word of God passed down through the prophets. And the other is the song of God’s grace made possible through the sacrifice of the Lamb. But the saints who stop all heavenly events in order to sing this song also give special attention to detailing God’s hand of blessing throughout history.
First, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.” God’s deeds throughout history are indeed great and marvelous. God took Abraham an old man without a son and made him a nation of peoples belonging to God. It was impossible but God did it. God brought his ancestors to Egypt in order to nurture them into the nation. When the time was ripe, they were slaves in Egypt, but it did not stop God from fulfilling his purpose. He raised Moses for them, one man who stammered and stuttered to be God’s voice to a godless Pharaoh and nation of Egyptians. God then judged Egypt for all the false and useless gods it worshiped, and in the process brought his people out of slavery to the land he promised Abraham. His deeds were indeed great and marvelous in doing so. But his greatest of deeds were to bear with his people until he could entrust them with his Living Word. Finally, a nation of people were raised who could raise the banner of God to the world. That was a great and marvelous thing to do. The salvation he brought to them when they were slaves in Egypt only shadowed the true salvation he would later bring to them and to the whole human race through the sending of his One and Only Son Jesus to become the Savior of the world. For this they sang and for this we sing as well. And for this, our hearts must never ever stop singing.
Second, “Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.” God’s salvation to Israel through Moses is great and marvelous— as well as God’s salvation for the whole world through his Son Jesus. But God did this in history not because Israel deserved to be liberated from slavery in Egypt nor did he send his son because we deserve to be liberated from sin and are worthy of salvation. God did this because he is a just God whose ways are true. Our God is one whose ways are just and true. Human beings live in sin, and they must die in sin. That is God’s just way. Sin must be punished. If God does not punish us, he is not truly a just and true God. He would be a compromiser. But God is just and true, as are his ways. He must judge sin. People think that God is love and therefore he must eventually save everyone, so there is no hell, and no need for repentance nor for faith in Christ. But the fact that there is Christ, Jesus our Lord, is the sign that God is just and true. In his justice he must punish us. But he is also true to his promise, and so he must save us. So God did this marvelous thing in and through his Son Jesus. God punished sin in Jesus so that all who confess their sins and turn to Christ in faith may be rescued from the just punishment of God over sins committed. God is indeed just and true, and for that the saints sang a song of praise for his justice. They did not say, “we would have been spared anyway because God is good.” That would be a lie, and God is true. They sang praise because they knew that if God had not found a solution to the sin problem in Jesus, and only in Jesus, they would have all perished in their sins. That is the song we too must sing. “Just and true are your ways, [oh] King of the ages.” I deserved condemnation but you rescued me by sacrificing your One and Only Son.
Third, “Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Gods ways are just and true. And so, because his way is just and true, because he is a God of impeccable justice, the fruit of his justice is awesome and righteous acts. The greatest of God’s righteous acts can be summarized in a few words— Jesus and all that Jesus came to do— reveal God’s most glorious and righteous acts. Jesus’ life itself is the revelation of God’s righteous act. Jesus once stepped in to the temple and saw that the temple was being used for the selling and the buying of cattle and such, for exchanging money and so forth. How could this righteous God tolerate such godless behavior in the temple of God? He couldn’t. Jesus proceeded to destroy all that was defiling God’s temple. It was a righteous act. It reflected the righteous heart of God who wants his people to come to the temple not for personal gain but to meet God in the humility of heart and to receive the necessary forgiveness for their sins. God’s righteous acts are endless, we only need to observe Jesus’ life and tell that God’s ultimate righteous act was in sacrificing his Son, but before that took place, every healing, every mercy, every prayer answered, every rebuke and every encouragement, every show of love and every blessing, every tear Jesus shed reflected the wonders of God’s righteous acts. And he calls us to follow in the same footsteps. We cannot sacrifice our lives on the cross for the sins of the world as Jesus did, but we certainly can do everything else he did when we are eager to imitate Jesus’ righteous acts. When the saints sang of his righteous acts revealed, they specifically meant all that God has done from the beginning of time, till the day when history would be sealed up forever. But when they sang of his marvelous deeds, and his just and true ways, and righteous acts, they also sang of what these wondrous characteristics of God should inspire of us his people to do. What they convict us to do.
Fourth, to fear God; to bring glory to his name; to bring the nations to worship before him. When God gave us his words through Moses, when God finally sent his Son to become the sacrifice of atonement for our sins, God had purpose. God’s purpose is broad and wide and deep and we can trace it throughout the whole Bible, from Moses in the Old Testament to Jesus in the New Testament. But in general God’s purpose is simple and clear. God would have us fear him— revere him. So he tells us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) When we love God like that, we fear him. And when we fear God, we can then live lives that glorify and honor his name. when we love the world, and walk in its ways, we cannot glorify God nor honor his name, even if we go to church and say the Lord’s prayer 10 times a day. To fear God and glorify his name is to follow Jesus, pleases God and serves his purpose. If we do not know this, then we must ask God, “How can revere you Lord, and serve your purpose in my life.” Not only God’s purpose for us to honor his name but to also bring all people of the world to God that they might worship him. When God gave is his words as his blessing, he intended that Israel should share the word of life with its neighbors. But they did not. Likewise, when God shed his grace upon us through his Son Jesus, he also intended that we bring the nations to worship Jesus and to serve his purpose. We are exceedingly blessed. We have the word of God, and we have the grace poured out to us through Jesus. And there is still time to fulfill the purpose for which God has called us— to fear him, glorify his name, and bring the nations to worship him. Praise God for the saints who took a moment in heaven between end time events to sing a song of praise. May God teach us to do the same from day to day.
Read verses 5-8. What a glorious scene of the heavenly throne. How awesome is God’s presence and his power— power to save and power to punish. May God help us to study Revelation with a prayerful and thankful heart, learning not to get entangled in mysteries, but to hold on to that which edifies us and matures us into his servants who are ready to sing his praise now and always. Amen.