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The Song of Triumph
I. The life of the redeemed is here represented as a 'Service of Song'. This will afford matter neither for merriment nor surprise, if we reflect for a moment or two on the function of song. Music is a language, and frequently the only language that can give expression to the highest thoughts of the mind, or the deepest feelings of the heart. For words cannot utter what is greatest in us. Looks may dp it, glances, gestures, smiles and tears may do it, but it is never so well or so effectually done as when the gifted sons and daughters of song come to our aid. (1) It is further to be noticed that all life, as it approaches perfection, becomes melodious. (2) There is no music like the music of triumph, and no songs like those which celebrate deliverance.
II. I take it as beautifully significant, that the burden of this song should be what it is, and that it should be called 'The Song of Moses and of the Lamb'. Moses, the much tried servant of God, the heroic leader of a stiff-necked people; and the Lamb, the eternal symbol of sacrificial suffering and sorrow. For it is a mistake to suppose that noble sorrow, nobly borne, silences the voice of song. Shelley says, 'Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought'. It is partly true, it is mainly sentimental. But this is wholly true, that sorrow when, as I say, it is nobly borne, when the pathetic 'How long?' passes into no form of rebellion and self-will is important to hang or keep the harp upon the willows. Song breaks from it as the phoenix from the flame.
III. It is further suggested by this vision of the redeemed, that the conquerors of all ages take part in this song. The radiant hope here 'set before us' is, that all who have overcome will unite in the eternal song. They shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, with the marks of conflict still upon them, and there, standing upon the 'Sea of glass,' with the golden fires as of a grand sunset flashing across its smooth surface, they shall roll to highest heaven 'the song of Moses and of the Lamb'. Think of that, my heavily-laden friend! The very thing that weighs upon thee most, thou shalt set it to music some day.
IV. Let us expect conflict There is something more than a happy alliteration in the well-worn phrase. 'No cross, no crown.'
V. Only let us look for victory from the right source. 'Looking unto Jesus' is the only safe attitude for the best and bravest of us.
J. Thew, Broken Ideals, p. 61.
Compare a sentence written by Mrs. H. B. Stowe during the dark hours of the war between the South and North: 'If this struggle is to be prolonged till there be not a home in the land where there is not one dead, till all the treasure amassed by the unpaid labour of the slave shall be wasted, till every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be atoned by blood drawn by the sword, we can only bow and say, "Just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints".'
References. XV. 3. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1656, p. 289. H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 295. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 136. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 137.
Dr. John Brown, in his letter to Dr. Cairns, tells of his uncle 'astonishing us all with a sudden burst. It was a sermon upon the apparent plus of evil in this world, and he had driven himself and us all to despair so much sin, so much misery when, taking advantage of the chapter he had read, the account of the uproar at Ephesus in the Theatre, he said, "Ah, sirs! what if some of the men who, for about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians, have for the space of eighteen hundred years and more been crying day and night, Great and marvellous are Thy works, O Lord God Almighty; just and true are all Thy ways, Thou king of saints; who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy Name; for Thou only art holy ".'
The Glory That Shall Be Revealed
I. In the text we hear of those songs and of that music, of those victors, those happy palm bearers, who are keeping the true Feast of Tabernacles; who with joy and gladness have been brought and have entered into the King's palace. And we hear too of the mighty tribulation through which they passed; how they got the victory over the fourfold enemy, over the wild beast and over his image and over his mark, and over the number of his name. That Anti-Christ, who, conquered, the warfare of the Church will be accomplished, her iniquity pardoned; that image, no doubt some devilish caricature of the miracle of the Resurrection; and his mark and his name the impressing of which, whatever it may be, will bring on the final persecution. It is worth while to notice how, from the very beginning, Satan has seemed to exult in imitating God's miracles; as when Jannes and Jambres cast down their rods and they were turned into serpents; or changed water into blood, or brought forth frogs upon the land. So, as the greater number of holy writers piously believe, that deadly wound of the wild beast which was healed, will be a diabolical parody of the Resurrection. For it goes on directly, 'All the world wondered after the wild beast' as if it were the crowning, the stupendous miracle which clinched his authority. And notice as we are marked in our foreheads with the Lord's sign, so will his unhappy servants be with the mark of the wild beast; and as the promise to him that overcometh was the white stone and the new name, the Lord's new and everlasting name, written on it, so must the others have the wild beast's name; or (and time only will show what is the difference) the mark of his name.
II. And about the sea of glass. Notice; there was but One, who, in this world, walked even on the sea; His one follower, who so desired to walk we know how his attempt ended. But, put the whole mystery together the boundlessness of the sea, the transparency of the glass, the brilliance of the fire, I remember once when in one of the narrow sea-straits that divide the little islands of Denmark, I was voyaging this way and that way a whole summer day, with nothing to do but to lean over the boatside, and to watch how the glorious rays of the sun shot in through the pure green sea, working out those ripples of gold and emerald which no earthly words can describe; how the sight brought to my mind the true sea, that sea, glorious in its boundlessness and in its depth, but which yet has the element of fire added to it, and perhaps some little thing more of the future kingdom was then made known to me.
III. Then, they shall not pass over it; then they shall not say, 'Lord, if it be Thou, bid me that I come to Thee upon the water'. No, then they shall stand on the infinite abysses of God's judgments; shall see how all things have worked together for good to them that love God; shall perceive how all the waves of this troublesome world were bearing them onwards to the calm of the Everlasting Port; and that, with the clearness of the glass; that, with the love of the fire, they stand on the sea of glass.
J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Apocalypse, p. 71.
Revelation 15:4 ; Revelation 18:7
These are the only two passages in which the word glorify is used in the book of Revelation; once, to describe the Christian, once, to describe the pagan, attitude. For the latter see R. W. Church's Cathedral and University Sermons, pp. 25 f. ('Can we believe that He whose words were so terrible against the pride of Egypt and Babylon, against that haughty insolence in men, on which not only Hebrew prophet, but the heathen poets of Greece looked with such peculiar and profound alarm that He will not visit it on those who, in their measure, are responsible for its words and temper, when it takes possession of a Christian nation?')
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 15". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20