Woke up this morning and decided that the best way to handle the day was to sleep through it. Unfortunately this is not a great life strategy. So I got up. Wandered downstairs and poured myself a bowlful of muesli and Revelation:
That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
and serve him day and night in his Temple.
And he who sits on the throne
will give them shelter.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne
will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of Living Water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. (Rev 7:15-17)
They read this at my granny’s funeral. It’s a nice picture: like a chocolate box twinkly man wiping his grandson’s nose. But look closer, and there’s more fire there than fluff.
The last time we saw God’s people in Revelation, they were described as the martyrs crying out from beneath the throne because they’d been “slain for the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” (Rev 6:9) An IVF blip does not compare. But just as their suffering brings them to the throne, it brings me there too. And the comfort they receive is mine as well.
Here’s the future that’s held out:
No more hunger and thirst – but deeper than that. No more scorching heat – but deeper than that too. More than being taken from the things that hurt, they’re taken to a Person. Three Persons in fact. The Shepherd who has become our Lamb, the Father who away wipes our tears and the Living Waters who slakes our thirst. We’re not just promised paradise – we’re promised God.
Revelation 7 shows us this future scene where suffering is past. But incredibly, the God of this future paradise is just the God we need for our present trials. The Lamb sympathises now. The Father cares now. The Spirit comforts now. Even in our suffering.
Suffering in itself isn’t good. It’s just hard. Even for Revelation-Level saints – martyred for their faith – their suffering is not what saves them. What saves them and keeps them when everything crumbles, is the grace and power of God.
That’s what they sing about:
‘Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength belong to our God
forever and ever! Amen.’
It belongs to Him, not us. We are weak and timid and stumbling. But our God that can be trusted.
I’m not exactly ‘crying out’ my prayers ‘in a loud voice’ like these guys. My prayers start with ‘your will be done’. They end with, ‘but I don’t get it and it hurts’. But I keep praying them and here’s why. The Lord I’m praying to, understands and cares. The throne is not empty. The Lamb is on the throne and He will shepherd us home.