WORSHIP, SOVEREIGNTY, AND THE DAY OF THE LORD
A. Everything was created by God, by his power and in his love, for the purpose of intimacy and communion. This perfect intent was disrupted by sin, but will be restored on the Day of the Lord in the resurrection. In the interim, God remains completely sovereign in his governance over the heavens and the earth. This framework gives context for worship: the acknowledgment of worth and the declaration of allegiance.
In the center, around the throne (representing sovereignty), were four living creatures… 8 Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty (governmentally), who was, and is, and is to come (sovereignly sitting on the throne)… 11 You are worthy (worship), our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power (acknowledgment of sovereignty), for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (NIV Revelation 4:6-11)
B. The worship of God’s sovereign governance over the heavens and earth is the eternal purpose of creation. However, after the Fall it becomes the anchor of hope for all creation, the navigational compass for our sojourning amidst evil and suffering in this age.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling (amidst temptation and evil) and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (cf. Day of the Lord), 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever (cf. sovereignty). Amen. (ESV Jude 1:24-25)
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship does not. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever… All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and His Son among all the peoples of the earth. Missions is not that goal. It is the means. And for that reason it is the second greatest activity in the world.”
1. Though evil and suffering continues to exist (because God loves that which causes it), God has complete power over it and will eradicate it in His time. In the interim, the Redeemed confidently trust in a benevolent and sovereign God who deserves absolute worship, even in the midst of death and wickedness.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (ESV 1 Timothy 1:15-17)
After they (Paul and Silas) had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (NIV Acts 16:23-25)
2. Throughout the Scriptures, it is soteriological context that primarily defines worship rather than divine ontological attributes. It is the revelation of God’s absolute power and love over creation, culminating in the Day of the Lord, that evokes the greatest response of worship.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in… 32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience (power) so that he may have mercy on them all (love). 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? (as Governor over creation) 35 Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (NIV Romans 11:25-36)
C. The logical consequence of God’s absolute and benevolent sovereignty is the restoration of all things by his ordained means, i.e. the Messianic Seed (cf. Gen. 3:15). If God is a loving and all powerful Ruler over his creation, then the Day of the Lord ought to be expected.
See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him… 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? … 15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust… 21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. (NIV Isaiah 40:10-24)
1. Worship of God is the eternal calling of humanity. However, after the Fall there is a shift—a groan that enters into creation. Men began to “call on the name of the Lord” (cf. Gen. 4:26) in eager expectation that the Sovereign God will restore all things.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs– heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (i.e. resurrection and Kingdom)… 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth (cf. Mt. 24:8; 1 Thess. 5:3; etc.) right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (i.e. groaning in intercession). 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (concerning the coming of Messiah and the redemption of our bodies). (NIV Romans 8:16-25)
2. The groan for the restoration of all things directly corresponds to the revelation of God’s absolute sovereignty. He is completely able to restore all things, and He completely desires to restore all things.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (NIV Revelation 6:9-11)
3. Thus, the opposite side of worship is longing for the Day of the Lord. All true worship of God upon his heavenly throne leads to the bolstering of faith in the coming of the Messiah who will execute the restoration of all things.
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. (NIV Revelation 11:15-18)
D. Consequently, the Church is exhorted to set her hope fully on the Messiah and the Day of the Lord as the appropriate response in worship. Reverent fear and trembling at the word of the Lord is the natural response to a real belief in the sovereignty of God over creation.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow… 13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance… 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. (NIV 1 Peter 1:10-17)
1. This exhortation is the center of the Lord’s Prayer. We orient everything in this age in light of the Day of the Lord.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (on the Day of the Lord). 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (on the Day of the Lord). 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV Matthew 6:6-15)
 John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 17-18.