Come Out of Her, My People (part 3)
This is the Word of the Lord. If you’re not in Revelation 19, go ahead and turn there. You can use a seatback Bible if you don’t have one. It’s right near the end of the Bible. And if you need an outline, raise your hand. We have been studying the fall of the great prostitute, the woman described in 17:1-19:5 known as Babylon. The primary command is in 18:4, “Come out of her, my people.” Come out of her, my people. We have spent three weeks wrestling with what does that mean? Because coming out of her doesn’t mean rent a U-Haul and move physically, geographically, but it means spiritually, you are called to be in the city God has called you, but not of that city. This command was true for the first readers two thousand years ago. It’s true for us today. It will be true in the future in the time of great tribulation. “Come out of her, my people.” And we’ve been wrestling with some indications. If this isn’t a geographical move, how do we know if we’ve done that? How do we know if we have come out of her? Are there any indications in the text as to what that might look like if we have come out of her? And we’ve noticed four, we’ve focused on the first three.
One, you see your addiction. Notice 17:2, “the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” We were intoxicated with idolatry and immorality. And when you come out of her, you suddenly see it. The second one, you hear your calling, 17:14. Those with Jesus are “called and chosen and faithful.” The words of Jesus summon us. We hear his voice. His word comes alive. We respond. Third, and this is one we looked at last week, you feel the tension. Chapter 18 is full of tension. You hear the cries of people weeping and mourning. It’s actually a funeral dirge. So, it’s terrible, but it’s also beautiful. It is melodic in the way it’s written. Even the style of chapter 18 is terrible and beautiful. There is a built-in tension. You’re weeping and mourning with this world system being destroyed, but you’re called in the midst of that to rejoice over her, looking forward to the ultimate victory Christ brings. We wrestled with that last week.
Today we’re focusing on number 4, you love to give God glory. You love to give God glory. Revelation 19:1,
“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.’”
Let’s pray. Father, when you taught us to pray, the first thing we pray is “Hallowed be your name.” You’ve made us to give you glory. Yet, as you know, everything inside of me wants my own name to be hallowed. Apart from your grace, I would just pursue my own glory. And so, Lord, we need a radical transformation — the direction, the purpose of our lives to be flipped, to be transformed — so that we can learn from brothers and sisters around the world who know what it’s like to seek your glory, even at the expense of their own lives. Like Pastor Andimi in Nigeria who was beheaded last month. But before he went to be with you, he wrote to his people,
“Be patient. Don’t cry. Don’t worry. Thank God for everything.”
So, Lord, we pray for that kind of desire to give you glory. Father, for many of us in here, we have had taste buds for your glory, but they are being distracted and dissipated on so many other things. We pray that today you would rekindle that hunger and thirst for your glory. We pray for those who haven’t known what that way of living is like, that today would be the day where you implant in them life with a craving for your glory. Thank you, Lord. Hear our cry. Grow, today give us a greater love for your glory, and help us to see the joy that comes to us, that we are most satisfied when you are most glorified. We pray that for the Fergusons, for the Cunninghams, for others who have lost loved ones recently, as they mourn this weekend. We pray for your all-satisfying favor to be on them, please, Lord. And please speak to us from your Word. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
There’s a word that appears four times, verses 1-6, “Hallelujah.” We sing it a lot. Our culture is mainly familiar with it, perhaps from the Hallelujah Chorus. But many people don’t know what it means. Hallelujah is an English word that is transliterated from a Greek word that is transliterated from a Hebrew word. That’s helpful, isn’t? Yeah. So, when you say “hallelujah,” you’re speaking Hebrew, but it’s a transliteration of Hebrew. It means praise Yahweh, praise the Lord. But let’s first be clear. What is a transliteration? To transliterate is to spell in the characters of another alphabet. Transliteration helps with pronunciation, but it doesn’t help with meaning. You get meaning from translating, not transliterating. Those are two different things. So, we have words in our language, English, that are transliterated from other languages, like “karate” is transliteration from Japanese. “Pajamas” – isn’t that interesting – you speak Urdu. That’s from Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan. It is a South Asian language that had a word “pajamas,” for kind of baggy, light pants. Eventually that word was stolen into English, and we use it to refer to pajamas. It’s a transliteration of a Hebrew word, “hallelujah,” which is used here four times in chapter 19, nowhere else in the New Testament. It is translated often in the book of Psalms. It’s there more often than you recognize it in English. For example, it appears a lot in Psalm 113-118, which is known in Hebrew as the hallel. The hallel primarily is known for this because Psalm 113:1, notice this. I’ll put it on the screen.
“Praise the Lord! [Guess what word that is? Hallelujah] Hallel [praise] O servants of the Lord, hallel the name of the Lord!”
Praise the name of the Lord. So, hallel means praise. Jah is short for Yahweh, the covenant name of God. Praise Yahweh, praise the Lord. This section in psalm, Psalm 113-118, known as the hallel, was typically sung by Jewish people to celebrate Passover, as they gave praise to God for delivering the Jewish people out of bondage in Egypt. The reason this is significant to us today is, I love to imagine Jesus singing the hallel with his disciples at Passover, when he initiated the Lord’s Supper, right before he went out into the garden to be betrayed, beaten, and crucified. When you read Psalm 113-118 with that awareness that your Savior read this, sang this, knowing what was before him. Let me just show you one example. Psalm 115:1 is in the hallel. Jesus singing this with his disciples who are clueless at this point, but he knows what’s coming.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”
I want your glory more than I want my own safety. I want your glory, even if it costs me being misrepresented, misunderstood, stripped, humiliated, crucified as a criminal.
“Not to us, but to your name give glory.”
Jesus models for us the difference between two kinds of glory — God-glory and self-glory. Let’s look at these here in our passage in Revelation. First of all, self-glory. You will notice in Revelation 18:7, Babylon is defined as the one who “glorified herself and lived in luxury.” Babylon gathered around her … Are you familiar with the word “sycophants”? It’s a good word. You don’t want to be one. A sycophant is a self-serving, servile fawner, like a parasite, barnacle, a backslapper, a leech. You see some examples from our text last week. The kings of the earth in 18:9 “committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her.” These people are in bed with her. And he’s talking metaphorically, yes, referring to immorality. But more than that, a sick, immoral, idolatrous co-dependence, a mutually parasitic relationship. Second example, 18:11,
“The merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore.”
Verse 15, they
“stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud.”
This is what self-glory does when everything starts falling apart. Self-glory comes in many forms. There is the obvious pompous arrogance and self-centeredness of Babylon in verse 7. But there’s also the pragmatism of the merchants. Who’s going to buy our stuff? If she’s destroyed, who’s going to buy our stuff? Even their mourning is laced with self-interest, pervades everything they do. Their mourning is over loss of pleasure. Who are we going to have fun with? Loss of profit — How are we going to make money? It’s all about them, and they distance themselves. They stand far off.
God really was working on my heart in this area this week. Monday morning, really early, like 3:30 a.m. we got up in the morning with a bunch of people and flew up to Minneapolis and crammed into a couple of Ubers. And I’m in the back seat. And I had my phone and I thought, I’m just going to stick it here on the ledge in the backseat of the car. I get dropped off at the hotel, and there’s that sick realization that I left my phone in the Uber. Now, the reason that’s a big deal is I didn’t bring my laptop. Everything I have is on this phone. I’d already that morning been in touch with numerous people about numerous crises. I have my plane tickets, email, texts, everything on my phone. So, we’re trying to get a hold of the Uber guy with the help line, and it’s not working. And I’m not the kind of person, generally, to start throwing stuff, yell, scream, cuss, generally, in church. No, I’m not doing that.
But what was weird is, you know how every once in a while, the Spirit just puts your inner processes on big screen HD, you can see what’s happening in your heart. Because the Spirit is saying to me, “Hey, you’re not as important as you think. They’re going to be okay if you’re not in touch with everybody today. And I’ve got this. It probably will do you some good to be unable to be reached.” So that’s what the Spirit is saying to me. But inside, first of all, I’m embarrassed that I did something so stupid. “Let’s just leave this here.” Secondly, I want my phone. You know, that feeling? “I don’t want the fruit that God is going to bear in my life. That’s beautiful, you’re doing a good work. I want my phone!” And that inner tension is going on where the Spirit is like, “What are you doing?”
And this is the thought that came to me: When pressures rise, priorities shine. Think rise and shine. When pressures rise, priorities shine. Suddenly, I was seeing in HD on big screen my motivations, my priorities, what I really value, what I want. And all of us in church, it’s like we want God to be glorified. Glory to God. Let my whole life… But in a moment like that, and I know it’s a stupid thing. It’s a stupid little thing, a phone. But suddenly our priorities — what we’re really after, our motivations, what really drives us — in a moment of frustration are revealed. So, later that night, I made the mistake of listening to a sermon by John Piper. And he’s preaching from 2 Thessalonians 1. Look at the text. I’ll put it up on the screen. 2 Thessalonians 1:4,
“Therefore, we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”
Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying my loss of phone is this, but it’s interesting that Paul is boasting about these Thessalonian believers because in the midst of persecution (which is a very specific word for opposition for the sake of the gospel) and in the midst of their… and he uses a very general word. That word afflictions means pressure. And it can be any kind of pressure, any kind of tribulation, but it’s a very general term. It can refer to … Are you under financial pressure right now? Are you under health pressure, feeling weak, or battling sickness? Are you under family pressure? Are you concerned about relationships in your family or about of a loved one who is making really bad choices? All of that is pressure. And that’s this word that you are enduring. Next verse.
“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, [What is evidence? that your steadfastness and faith in the midst of, God is designing these persecutions, he’s bringing in these pressures/afflictions to evidence his righteous judgment. Why?] that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also are suffering.”
Now, we get wigged out with the word “worthy” and we immediately think “earn it.” That’s not what he’s talking about there at all. The word “worthy” means corresponding to/consistent with so that you may… Your life, hear me, God, the Master Potter is applying pressure to parts of your lives so that you will be conformed, the shape of your life will be consistent with the kingdom of God that you are a member of, a citizen in. You were a citizen of Babylon. You’ve come out of Babylon. Your life used to be shaped like Babylon and everything that drove Babylon — the satanic system of lust of flesh, lust of eyes, pride of life. No more! But God is going to use pressure, persecution and/or pressure on all of us. And rather than feeling like, “Oh, God hates me now that my life is falling apart.” No, no, no. God is applying pressure so that the shape of our lives could be consistent with the kingdom of God. Verse 6,
“since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us. [When? Immediately? Not always.] when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.”
He jets all the way to the end, Revelation, the part we’re coming to. Verse 11,
“To this end we always pray for you, [This is Paul’s prayer.] that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul is saying, “I always pray this for you.” Which means Paul is not afraid to pray for his brothers and sisters that in the will of God, we’re not wanting this, but you will encounter persecution/pressure, and that in the midst of that (when pressure rises, priorities are revealed), suddenly I see my craving for what I want. I feel dumb. I don’t like to feel dumb. I want my name hallowed. And God says, hallowed be my name, not your name. What are you after in that moment of pressure? Is it the same thing God is after? That’s what Paul is praying for these Thessalonian believers. And that’s the difference between self-glory, which in the midst of pressure is always going to turn a fist to God or toward a neighbor rather than embracing this shaping, loving, transforming work of our Father, who knows what will satisfy us and what will glorify him.
Let’s talk about God-glory, which is so different from self-glory. Three examples from Revelation 19:1-5. First of all, God-glory returns glory to its rightful owner. This is what the great multitude is crying out in verse 1.
“Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.”
(By the way, I got my phone back, eventually.) Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. This Babylonic world system is characterized by theft, glory theft. It steals salvation, grabs glory, pirates power. All of these belong to God. There are self-salvation plans flowing all around us and in us. If I can somehow make this amount of money, somehow convey this to people, somehow accumulate, somehow stay healthy, somehow, all these … then I will be satisfied. These things will save me. And God is saying “no, no, no.” Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. Come out of her, my people. Come out of her, my people. And so “Come out of her, my people” is ultimately a call into the glory repo business.
Years ago, we talked about this, that all of us are in the glory repo business. What do you do? I’m in the glory repo business. I repo glory, glory that has been stolen by my own heart and by you people. We are all glory thieves, and we get to go through our days humbly, joyfully, winsomely reflecting glory back to the Source. The fountain of every speck of glory in the universe ultimately comes from, through, to the God of all glory.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.”
Number 1, returns glory to its rightful owner. Secondly, revels in the rightness of God’s justice. Look at verse 2. Revels in the rightness of God’s justice “for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Babylon here is being judged for two things. One, corruption, the second, destruction. By the way, these are the same two things that Jesus focused on in John 8:44 when he described the devil as a liar and a murderer. He corrupts, he deceives, and he destroys. And this verse is wrestling, verse two is wrestling, with the question that many of us wrestle with. And I’m not going to go into it in detail, because last November in Revelation 15 we dove into that. The title of that sermon was, “Is God’s Wrath on Wrong Right?” And that’s a huge issue in our culture. Is God right to judge wrong? What about nice people? Is it right? And as long as we remain in the hypothetical … Well, maybe I’ll just say for me, as long as I remain in the hypothetical, I am constantly confused about this question.
What the Bible does is it brings it down from the hypothetical — What about? What about? What about? — into reality. Let me give you one example. Psalm 51 is a great example where David is asking for mercy for his horrible abuse of his royal power. He committed adultery. He set up an innocent man to be killed in battle, and now he’s crying out for mercy. And look at his words Psalm 51:3,
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, [Lord] you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
Now, what about the fact that you sinned against Bathsheba? And what about the fact that you sinned against Uriah? How can you say, “against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”? Well, what David is getting at, he’s not denying the horizontal dimensions of sin. But what he’s highlighting, as Kidner points out, is if our bodies are made and bought by God, and our neighbors are all made in the image of God, every horizontal sin is ultimately a vertical one. Right? I can’t sin against you without sinning, ultimately, against the one who made you in his image. I am sinning against an image bearer. That’s what David is getting at. Yes, he sinned against Bathsheba, horribly. Yes, he sinned against Uriah. Yes, he sinned against his own people. But ultimately, he is saying, I have sinned against you. And then in light of that, the reason this is important, let’s back up into verse 4 and get a running head start to the end of verse 4.
“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”
See, if I don’t think God is ultimately the one I sinned against, then I’m not going to think what he says about me and my sin and what he does about me and my sin is right. Do you see that? What David is saying is, what you say about me and my sin is the most accurate assessment of me and my sin, way more than what I feel about me and my sin. Because, maybe I can try to justify my sin because those people hurt me or they said or they did or other people are worse, or whatever else. No, what you say about my sin is right, and whatever you do about my sin. If you hurl me into hell forever, that is perfectly just considering the fact that my sin is against an infinite person.
Now, we don’t get confession until we get that. Many of us think confession of sin is, “Hey, man, if I did anything to offend you, I’m sorry.” No, that’s what you say when you bump into somebody in the Walmart line. “Hey, man, I’m sorry.” That’s fine. That’s an accident. I didn’t see you. I bumped into you. It’s not a confession of sin. It’s not an acknowledgement that what I’ve done is a sin against the holy, holy, holy God, and that I deserve the judgment. And the reason this is so important is, one of the reasons today grace doesn’t mean anything is because justice doesn’t mean anything. Grace doesn’t mean anything if you wipe out justice because grace is not getting what we deserve. But if you don’t think you deserve it, you can’t get grace. Right? Once we say, “God, I deserve whatever you send my way” and then we hear his voice saying, “Hey, I gave that to Jesus. I judged Jesus on the cross.” That’s why he prayed this not to us, but to your glory as he went to the cross, because he was seeking your good and my glory. I have already paid for that sin. Therefore, you can bathe in my grace. And you will always have a cheap grace if you have a low view of God’s justice, because you won’t have a clue what you’ve been forgiven until we truly see what God has done. So, this God-glory revels in the rightness of God’s justice.
And then finally, number 3, removes class distinctions. It removes class distinctions. Look at verse 3.
“Once more they cried out, ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’ And from the throne came a voice saying, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.’”
Talk about diversity. You’ve got elders, living creatures, servants, small and great. Babylon was all about status and self-glory. Chapter 18:7, “I sit as queen, I am no widow.” God-glory wipes out social caste systems. It democratizes our identities. This verse 5 is taken from Psalm 115:13, from the hallel.
“He will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great.”
Since all glory comes from, through, to God, we are all united in our posture. He resists the proud. He gives grace to the humble. Romans 3:23,
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
All of us are self-glory addicts, but we are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. What happens to self-glory? Look at he says next, verse 27,
“Then what becomes of our boasting? [It is boxed out.] It is excluded. By what kind of law? By the law of works? [Have you done enough?] No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is [declared righteous] justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
God’s grace changes us from self-glory addicts to God-glory fiends. Grace leads us to God’s glory because God is the only one who can change us. Therefore, God is the only one who can get the glory for changing us, because the way he changes us is not by pasting us up on the outside, but by transforming us from the inside to the outside.
Let me illustrate this with a little Jonathan Edwards. Edwards talked about the difference between common virtue and true virtue. Common virtue is not all bad. It helps make society livable. It’s why most people aren’t axe murderers, because there’s a certain fear and pride that drive us. We don’t want to be viewed as horrible. We don’t want to face any social consequences. So, we generally keep the big rules. And again, that’s not all bad. That’s part of the way a society can survive. But if that’s the only motivation, fear and pride is the primary motivation, that is why some people who have been in church for 30 years suddenly go off the wagon. They start sleeping around or commit some horrible crime or some upstanding member of society starts doing things where everybody’s like, “Whoa, he was the nicest guy. How could he do that?” It’s because of this. The same (Keller points this out.), the same fear and pride that drove him to be an upstanding citizen is the same fear and pride, in a different context when pressure is on, that drove him to do something horrible. Because the self-glory that drove all of that was never severed, never transformed.
The difference between that kind of common virtue and what Edwards calls true virtue is explained here. Edwards asked the question, “What is then true virtue?” And this is Tim Keller’s paraphrase of Edwards explanation.
“It is when you are honest, not because it profits you or makes you feel better, but because you are smitten with the beauty of the God who is all truth and sincerity and faithfulness. It is when you come to love truth-telling [and I would say truth-living] not for your sake, but for God’s sake, and its own sake. That kind of motivation can only grow in someone deeply touched by God’s grace.”
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love [did you see that] and your faithfulness!” There is a love that God germinates in our hearts for something bigger than our own comfort or our own reputation or our own cell phone. It goes deeper than the circumstances and getting what we want and changes us from the inside out.
So, a couple of quick questions for us to wrestle with. What is the pressure you feel right now? How are you being tempted to relieve that pressure? Perhaps sleeping with Hagar, like Abraham trying to relieve the pressure by finding his own solution to the problem. And what would the opposite of that look like? What does it look like to seek the glory and goodness of God right in the midst of the pressure?
Father, we ask that you would, as we prayed earlier, grow in us a love for your glory so that when we seek our own name, when we crave relief more than Christ-likeness, you would convict us and once again draw us back to a place where we revel in your goodness. Like we prayed last week in the new song we learned, “Will we raise a Hallelujah in the middle of the mystery?” Before we even know how it’s going to work out or what it all means? Will it be louder than the voices in our heads that are screaming unbelief? Lord, please give us those taste buds for your glory. And we ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.