The Great Multitude in White Robes
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.
Let me just start out by saying this morning that I love my job. Yes, there are times that it can be stressful, there are times where it can be nerve racking, there are even times when I wonder if what I’m doing is the thing which God actually wants me to be doing. Like any job, it can be really easy to let those stressful and nerve racking times wear me down. In the midst of those stressful, worn down times … that is when I really start to question and wonder if what I’m doing is what God wants me to do.
But then I get to participate in something like our National Youth Gathering in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago. There in Minneapolis, hanging out with our 10 youth and being surrounded by 23,000 plus teenagers and adults worshipping and praising our very Real.Present.God., I find this sense of peace and over whelming joy. The same thing applies with our Vacation Bible School. Yes, the prep work for both of these types of events can be stressful and physically draining … but when I’m in the midst of them, it’s like those stressful times never existed. Actually, no matter how tired I am at the end of the events … there is this sense of rejuvenation, a new boost of energy which reminds me of how much I love what I do.
This togetherness which comes from things like the National Youth Gathering and Vacation Bible School, even if it isn’t the overarching theme of the event … it’s there. It’s there because this is how God originally created us to be. After God finished creating the earth, the universe, the birds of the air, the beasts of the fields, and even those creeping things which creep on the face of the earth … the LORD God created man. And after the LORD God created man, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Adam goes on to name all the creatures of the earth, but there was no suitable helper found. You remember this story, God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, God took one of the man’s ribs and from that rib he created woman (2:20-22). God created woman to be a helper, a companion for the man, and when Adam saw her, he was overjoyed! God created man and woman to be together. We are to live not in isolation but in family, in community with those God has placed around us.
This togetherness, even though it wasn’t the overarching theme of the National Youth Gathering, it was the theme of this year’s Vacation Bible School. God created mankind to be one big family, one big happy family. But as we learned this past Monday … this beautiful picture of a big happy family which God had planned was tainted with the entrance of sin. This sin of wanting to be God led Adam and Eve to eating the fruit they were forbidden to eat. This sin of wanting to be God led Cain to kill his brother Abel. This sin of wanting to be God led to a whole host of other indescribable sins which only continued to get bigger, bolder, and more gutting wrenching for God. Finally, God had enough. God told Noah to build the ark, bring his family and every kind of animal on board … and then God flooded the earth. God essentially was starting over and recreating everything. But there was a problem. After the waters receded and Noah, his family, and the animals were able to get off of the ark … sin still existed.
God told Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). God didn’t tell this Noah and his sons only once but two separate times. Fill the earth, spread out and increase up on it. But this is not what the people did. Instead, like before the days of Noah, the people stayed together and because they stayed together … they started to come up with some really bad ideas. Ideas which were contrary to what God had told them.
Remember what it was that God told Noah and his family? God said to Noah that you are to increase in number, find some exotic place to live and stay there forever. Even though that is what the people did, that is not what God said. You see, the people who settled in the land of Shinar, they decided that they were going to build a city with a tower in the middle of it which reached all the way to the heavens, and catch this, so that they can make a name for themselves and not be scattered over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:4). Is that what God wanted them to do? No, God said to increase in number and fill the earth. But again, God’s people thought they knew better than God. But the thing is … God had a different plan in mind.
We learned this week that the reason why we have so many different languages across the globe is because God came down to the people building this city and tower and God confused the language of the people. God took these people who wanted to make a name for themselves and made it so they couldn’t even pronounce each other’s name. Because they couldn’t communicate with each other, they were forced to find those they could understand and move, and scatter over the face of the earth.
Now I know this contrary to the whole idea that God wants us to be together, that God wants us to live as one big happy family. But here’s the really important thing to realize … rebellion against God … it leads to divisions among people. When we decide that we are going to do things my way instead of God’s way, not only do we sin against God, but we sin against each other. In sinning against God we only distant ourselves from Him. In sinning against each other, we tear apart and destroy the relationships which we have with one another. When we distant ourselves from God, when we tear apart and destroy the relationships we have with one another … we become less and less like a family and find ourselves more and more alone.
If this is true, which it is, you may be wondering … so how do I fix it? Well the obvious answer is to quit sinning … but the reality is, it isn’t that easy. Actually, it’s impossible, we can’t just quit sinning. Psalm 51:5 says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” So if we can’t quit sinning and our sin drives a wedge between me and God … well then I guess we are all just condemned to hell huh?
Well, not exactly. You see, God out of His infinite mercy and His steadfast love … He pursues after you. God doesn’t want this wedge to be there separating you and me from Him, so even though our sin has us walking away from Him … God pursues you! God comes after you! And God does it in a very real way.
It is through the very real presence of God’s very own Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, in which God shows you His infinite mercy and His steadfast love which endures forever. Through Jesus, the payment for our sin has been paid for in full! Through Jesus, the wedge which separates you and me from God has totally been removed! We are able to come right up to God in prayer and through our relationships with each other. Jesus lived that perfect life, died on that horrendous cross, and rose victoriously from the grave so that we may live with Him and those who believe in Him forever in paradise.
In this in between time, in this time where we live between when Jesus ascended up into heaven and the time when he returns, Jesus gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit which lives and dwells within us. The presence of the Holy Spirit gives us this peace which surpasses all understanding. The presence of the Holy Spirit within us gives us this sense that you and I are a part of something far bigger than ourselves … we are a part of the family God. In Christ, we are brothers and sisters. But not just brothers and sisters here in this place, but brothers and sisters around the world and throughout eternity.
Being allowed to see into the future, John records in Revelation 7, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” This great multitude … that is you and me, that is every Christian. One day, the ultimate reversal of the Tower of Babel event will be happen. On that day, you and I will stand arm in arm with our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world as one family. One family, one race, all around our one and only Savior. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.