Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. – Revelation 14:1-5
The Lamb of God is the star of today’s passage and He has a backup choir of 144,000 “who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” He is also joined by a sound from Heaven like a roar of rushing waters and a peal of thunder. God’s presence or “voice” has often been described as sounding like rushing waters. The visions of Ezekiel were especially rich with this sort of water imagery. As we will see the “rushing waters” are really a metaphor for God and His plan for our faithful following.
I am not sure if the sound of harpists was coming from the 144,000, God’s presence, or some other host of angels. I would not normally associate the sound of a harp with either rushing waters or thunder. A gentle waterfall perhaps, but the sort of rushing waters that cascade over Niagara Falls not so much. Whoever was playing the harps was also singing a “new song”. Apparently no one can learn the “new song” except the 144,000, perhaps they are accompanied by the harps as they sing. I do not know.
This idea of a “new song” has come up before in my float through the bible. One of the clearest references is from Psalm 33:1-11 where it says “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” The God of the Psalms is the same as the God here who is listening to the new song being sung by these faithful followers that have been redeemed by the Lamb.
The ones who learn and sing the new song are those “follow the Lamb wherever he goes”. What does this mean? Perhaps on the simplest level it means always considering what would Jesus do (WWJD). Of course this is easy to place on a bracelet and wear around, but much harder in practice. Where did Jesus go when He walked the earth and where does He go now? I think He fundamentally seeks out those who are in need of healing and spiritual feeding whether they know it or not. He does this through the active participation of His followers and the Holy Spirit.
The faithful followers described here were purchased by the Lamb, “They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb”. This “purchase” took place over 2000 years ago on the cross, but also in a time-bending way it is taking place in the present and in the future – at the same time. I have been struggling with my secular synapses to think of something in my experience that is even remotely like this. The closest thing I can come up with, and it is far from a perfect simile, is, of course, water.
Water molecules within the hydrologic cycle are constantly being transformed from one form to another. The same water molecules that we are drinking in our glass of water today may have emerged from a sweat gland on the arm of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Kind of a gross to imagine, but true none the less. Seen from the perspective of the water molecule “life” might seem linear. It is a cloud, then a rain drop, spends some time making its way through pores in the ground, then it joins a raging river, and finally rejoins the ocean from which it came. Along the way it might be part of the blood in a lion or the hair or a bear.
Seen from an external perspective, perhaps one like God possesses, the rain drop is really part of a dance of other molecules in motion that are part of a plan and process created by the Logos that is from God, and is in a sense God Himself. This motion is far from meaningless as Ecclesiastes would posit. This “flow” of temporal events, that we perceive and experience as linear, is in fact quite non-linear from God’s perspective. We are all raindrops on our way somewhere, God has just given us free-will to choose if we will follow the Lamb or seek our own “sea”.
Prayer: God give us the wisdom and boldness to follow the Lamb wherever, and whenever, He may lead us.
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