The Burning Ones

In the summer of 2019, a quote from Corey Russell changed my life: “The four living creatures have been in the same room, staring at the same man, singing the same word forever and they’re not bored yet.” It birthed a prayer in me, “I want the revelation of the living creatures! I want to see what they see when they look at you!” I want to take some time to stare at the reality of the living creatures and consider what their mere existence means for our Christian experience. Let’s begin by looking at two passages of Scripture. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4 "In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’” Revelation 4:6-11 The word “Seraphim” used in Isaiah 6 literally means “to burn.” They are the burning ones who attend to the throne of God day after day and night after night. We are to understand these living creatures as real and not figurative. They actually exist. They are not beasts, animals or machines. They are covered in eyes, highly intelligent and highly aware. In other words, their worship is not mindless. They occupy the space closest to the throne of God; therefore, they are to be seen as the highest rank and order of angels. They are not the subject of the throne room. They are part of the jaw-dropping context of the One seated on the throne. In fact, 99% of what we read about in Revelation 4 is all context. The indescribable One seated on the Throne, He is the Subject. The four-living creatures never rest. They never grow tire, weary or get bored. I pose the question once again - what does the mere existence of the living creatures mean for our Christian experience? The four living creatures bear witness to the infinite satisfaction found only in God. I remember being in high-school and reading an interview of a famous musician who mocked the Christian concept of heaven. He said that if Christians are really so excited about going somewhere they’ll be singing forever, they should just start now. I remember being slightly unnerved and jarred by the thought. Forever is a long time. We are the generation of the fine-tuned, 75 minute church experience. And let’s be honest, as we anticipate the possibility of being quarantined for 14 days, many of us are grappling with how we will possibly keep ourselves occupied during this time. There’s only so much Netflix we can watch, only so many push-ups we can do, and only so many times we can refresh our social media feeds. Forever is a long time to be occupied doing anything. A friend recently asked me, if we had no problems, no pain and there was no suffering, would we need God? Another way to think about this is to consider, if you had a nice home in a lovely setting, no longer had to work to earn a living, were in perfect health, were surrounded by the people you love, who were also in great physical and emotional health, would you be satisfied? For how long? At what point would you get bored? Have you ever gotten bored on vacation? In my opinion, the inability of worldly pleasures to satisfy completely or to satisfy indefinitely profoundly reveals our deep need for God - the One who satisfies forever and fulfills our deepest longings. The four living creatures have discovered something in God that causes them to never want to leave the room. I believe that God is the only source of this type of perpetual wonder and fascination. One billion years into eternity you will still be catching new sides of God’s face. One hundred trillion years into eternity you will still be as overwhelmed by the beauty of Jesus as the day you first arrived. If only a world so devoid of lasting satisfaction would realize that in abandoning God, the fountain of living water, they have dug for themselves cracked and broken cisterns that can hold no water at all. Even our sources of legitimate pleasure: sports, entertainment, leisure, food, drink, and meaningful relationships only offer temporal pleasure. And our sources of illegitimate pleasure? Things like drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality, the love of money, vanity, etc.. Do these not leave us in an ever deepening pit of despair and emptiness? We need the revelation of the living creatures! We must learn to see what they see when they see God! The four living creatures testify to the Holiness of God Holiness describes the “otherness” of God. Holiness is the set-apart nature of God that puts him in a league of his own. He is creator, we are his created. Nothing else belongs to the category of God. Holiness describes the transcendent beauty of God. Holy is the word that is on repeat in the burning hearts of the living creatures. They thunder “holy” to one another in such a way that even the heavenly temple is shaken by their declaration. It is an awesome scene that reduces the prophet Isaiah to a heap on the floor crying out at the realization of his own unholiness. Isaiah is not just some scoundrel. He is the a chosen priest and prophets of the chosen people of God, yet at the revelation of the holiness, otherness, and transcendent beauty of God, he is prostate on the floor crying “Woe is me!” I believe that as a generation we are in desperate need of a fresh revelation of the holiness of God. When the four living creatures testify to the holiness of God, it causes others to recognize His infinite worthiness In Revelation we see that “whenever” the living creatures worship the One seated on the Throne, it causes the elders to fall prostate and cast their crowns before the throne. And what is the declaration of the twenty-four elders? “You are worthy…” Revelation leads to worship and as we make known the holiness of God, it causes our own burning hearts and the hearts of others around us to recognize His worthiness. The worthiness of God causes us to lay our lives at his feet. The worthiness of God causes our hearts to realize that He is “better than anything I could gain in life, or anything I could lose in death” (John Piper). Have you had this revelation in your own heart of the worthiness of Jesus? The Throne Room is built around the presence of God. Perhaps we need to rearrange the furniture in our lives to make sure that His throne is in the middle of all we do. A presence-centered life reflects the attitude, the priorities and the revelation of the living creatures who never take their eyes off his glory. He is worthy of such lives. As blood bought sons and daughters, I want to implore you to live your lives in such a way that you bear witness to the infinite satisfaction found only in God by delighting in Him more than anything else and testifing to his holiness in such a way that causes others to recognize his worthiness. Let us learn a lesson from the four living creatures and be the ones who burn for him. Pray with me, "I want the revelation of the living creatures. I want to see what they see, when they look at you!"

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