When this song first came out it created such a stir because it was so beautiful and worshipful. As with so many things in life, once we get used to something, it is easy to go on autopilot and not engage as we once did. It could be because we are hardwired for the novel, at least in our contemporary culture, but instead of moving on to something new, perhaps we would benefit more by looking deeper at something we consider familiar.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. Worthy. Let that idea rest on your mind. Who is worthy? In heaven they were looking for someone worthy to break the seal and open the scroll, but no one was found. John wept, because during the pause in the action while heaven was searched for the worthy candidate, it appeared that no one could be found, and that distressed John to the max. But the angel with John reassured him that there was One, and only One, who was worthy to break the seal and open the scroll, the Lamb who was slain. He alone could open and read the scroll. He alone was (and is) worthy.
The Lamb that was slain is Revelation’s favorite name for Jesus. In some ways that is very understandable, because in his gospel John quotes John the Baptist as saying of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1:29). This verse is our introduction to Jesus’ ministry, and now we are reminded by John that the Lamb had indeed completed His mission and taken away the sins of the world by giving His very life. The Lamb was slain; slain for us. Heaven never gets over the cross; it continues to be the focus of the worship of the Lord throughout eternity—He alone is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing, and all of heaven will celebrate that fact, especially those of us who will dwell there only by virtue of His redemption of our souls. We will declare Him worthy, indeed!
This song frequently mentions God’s holiness, because that, too, is a strong theme of the Revelation worship scenes (as well as the rest of the Scriptures). We don’t make enough of God’s holiness, perhaps in part because we subconsciously recognize that His holiness sets up demands on us concerning our own holiness. Again, our culture is very out of step with the biblical requirements to live a holy life, and so is our human nature. We want the perks of salvation without the crosses or altars which come with it. Praising the holiness of God reminds us that this essential attribute of God is to be both praised and emulated. The Lamb was slain so He could cleanse a Bride and make her holy and fit for a holy habitation with a thrice-holy God.
Revelation speaks of a New Song. This makes perfect sense because God is revealing a new thing. First, we must recognize that the songs which move us most are ones to which we relate, especially on an experiential level. For someone to sing, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen,” with meaning, they most likely have experienced deep troubles. Not only are the redeemed saints able to sing with understanding about the worth of the Lamb as their Savior, they are now witnessing for the first time the Revelation of Him in His exaltation. This new experience, this new understanding gives rise to a new song, as rapt with wonder they behold Him as He has never been seen or experienced by them before. While we aren’t there yet, we can still sing new songs of fresh revelation and experience, even if those come through a new understanding of an old song.
One of the things that gets refreshed in our view in heaven (and often needs to be refreshed even now) is the idea of the Mercy Seat. This covering over the Ark of the Presence was where the blood of atonement was sprinkled annually on the only day of the year when only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. It represents both the Presence of God and the atonement for our sin. Jesus is the atonement for sin which is necessary for us to draw near to the presence of God. He not only sits on the Mercy Seat, He is the Mercy Seat. Through His blood we come to a seat of Mercy, not a Judgment Seat. Consider that carefully and see if that doesn’t push the wonder and gratitude buttons of your heart a bit. Without Him, we would all have an appointment with the judgment and wrath of God, but Jesus has taken that for us. What a reason to praise and worship Him!
As I went through the song I was numbering themes upon which to meditate and realized that there are WAY too many to cover in the space allotted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take these themes and ponder them yourself, allowing their meaning to soak deeply into your heart and unlock your praise as you sing this song. What does it mean to you that He is Lord God Almighty? Is He your everything? Why or why not? Do you sense the corporate nature of your praise—with all creation? Do you adore Him (above all others)? What fills you with wonder about Him? How does the mention of His name affect you? There’s much, much more in this song, so link to the lyrics and music; then open your heart to examine it, absorb it, and worship.