Summary: To inspire the congregation as they discover God’s response to their prayers.
Sermon Objective: To inspire the congregation as they discover God’s response to their prayers.
The temple priest’s day began at dusk. That is the start of the new day for him and his people and it began with the liturgy of evening prayer known as “Arvith.” The priest would make his way inside the temple, just outside the veil of the Holy of Holies, and he would take the coals from the Brazen Altar (where the daily burnt offerings were sacrificed) and place them on the Altar of Incense (a.k.a. the Golden Altar) and then take a liquid incense and pour it over the coals. The ritual took about 30 minutes from beginning to end. The incense burned continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
The saturated coals would be placed in the priest’s censer and he would move throughout the temple behind filling the temple with the sweet smelling smoke and aroma. The incense represented the prayers of the saints (that were purified by a lamb’s sacrifice) making its way to God’s presence. It was a ritual of faith, believing God could and would accept the prayers and respond to them because of the sacrifice.
This event would be the scene behind the words of David’s prayer in Psalm 141:1-2, “O LORD, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
It was an imagery that most of John’s parishioners in Asia-Minor would recognize immediately. It was designed to offer them hope … to maybe even provoke a euphoric gasp from them as they listened to the reader share the vision and, in their mind’s eye, they saw God’s response.
Rev 8:1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Rev 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
Rev 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
Rev 8:4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
Rev 8:5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Rev 8:6 Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
There were massive engines of persecution raging against the Christians of the latter first century. One has to wonder, Why didn’t they cut and run? Why didn’t they cave in? I suggested two reasons last week from chapter seven (the support of fellow believers and transcendent worship). Now I would like to offer one more simple answer … THEY PRAYED.
And their prayers did not fall on deaf ears.
In John’s vision we see a sequence of events connected to the prayers of the Saints.
FIRST, THERE IS SILENCE (VV.1-2)
John begins this scene by telling us there is silence in heaven. Prior to this chapter there has been anything but silence. But now there is a hush. THIS SILENCE IS DEAFENING … IT IS THUNDEROUS! The silence suggests that everything in heaven halts so that the prayers of the saints may be heard.
The sheer stillness is even more effective than the thunder and lightning. Even the music of heaven stops so that God’s ear may catch the whispered prayer of the humblest of his trusting people. The needs of the saints mean more to God than all the psalmody of heaven.
For me, His listening to us is a greater marvel than Him speaking to us.
Rest assured, God gives the prayers of His saint His undivided attention.
SECOND, THERE IS SUPPLICATION (VV.3-4)
John has been setting the stage for this scene for a while now. In Rev. 5:8 we are told that “the golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” are brought before God. In 6:10 we are allowed to eaves drop on the prayers “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” And God’s response, 11… and they were told to wait a little longer…
I discover something about prayer as I re-read 6:10 and as I read this book, especially the seven trumpets that follow this scene. THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER IS NOT TO GET MAN’S WILL DONE IN HEAVEN BUT TO GET GOD’S WILL DONE ON EARTH.