You woke late. In the chaotic rush to get out the door, the kids started fighting. Now everyone, including you, seems exceptionally grumpy. And you begin to wonder why your trip to church almost never feels like a scene from peaceful paintings of horse-drawn carriages carrying happy families to worship. You feel the rising tension of: “The sermon probably won’t speak to me anyway. Nobody would miss us. We should just turn around and go home. It’s not worth all this exhausting effort!”
But, oh, don’t give in. Don’t forsake gathering with other believers in God’s earthly sanctuary. In those moments when you’re tempted to think of Sunday morning worship as an imposition to your comfort, remember instead this mind-boggling (yet true) explanation of what you really enter into as you arrive (even if late) at your local church.
Sunday morning worship … and throne-room angels
“It would be hard to discount the role of angels in the history of redemption. As an indication of their importance, note that the Greek word for angel, angelos, occurs more frequently in the New Testament than hamartia, the term for sin, and agape, one of the words we translate as “love.”
… Angels are mentioned frequently, but the focus is often more on the messages they bring than the nature of the angels themselves. Nevertheless, we can learn much from the descriptions of angelic activity found in Scripture…some of the angels are tasked with the continual worship of God in heaven. The seraphim described have six wings: two for flying, two for covering the face, and two for covering the feet (Isaiah 6:1-2). In the Bible, men and women are often blinded when in the presence of the Almighty (Acts 9:1-9), presumably because of the glorious light of His splendor. Thus it would seem that the angels in Isaiah 6 cover their eyes to protect themselves from this light. This underscores just how different the Lord is from His angels. These angels have not sinned and are holy, yet they must shield themselves from God’s transcendent and majestic holiness. These angels worship the Creator, emphasizing His moral perfection and otherness with threefold repetition: “Holy, holy, holy.” (Isaiah 6:3)
In our corporate worship we are privileged to enter heaven and join with these magnificent creatures in praise of God’s glory and grace. Hebrews 12:18-24 tells us that worship is more than just the gathering of saints in an earthly sanctuary. When we praise God alongside His people we actually enter heaven itself, bearing witness with the angels to our Lord’s holiness and beauty. We should, therefore, never consider worship as something dull and dreary, for we enter into the gates of heaven and join the angels in God’s throne room singing praises of His majesty.” (R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk Devotions, May 19, 2015)
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:18-24)
This Sunday, no matter the temptation to skip or the fight required to arrive, forge forward. Join the gathering of earthly saints in your local earthly sanctuary. Praise God alongside His people, bearing witness of your Lord’s holiness and beauty, and join in with the very throne-room angels as you sing praises to His majesty!
Painting: Winter Day by Karen Arnold