Friday, March 12, 2010

and unto the Lamb (better than the angels, part 3 of 5)

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him" (Hebrews 1:6)

Why is worship so important to God, such that He commands worship for Himself alone? Unfortunately, many will never seek the answer to this question, since the question itself seems to provoke anger, giving rise to thoughts such as: What type of egotistical God commands anything for Himself?, or, Why is God so selfish that He needs our worship? These concerns are grounded in misunderstanding in that they anthropomorphize God. In other words, these questions ascribe to God attributes or qualities that are uniquely human, such as "need" and "selfishness." Yet, if we allow God to reveal to us the truth of the matter, we find that both God's glory and our ultimate good are tied to the importance of right worship. Moreover, understanding worship allows us to understand the nature of Christ more perfectly. For, being Himself God, Jesus is worthy of receiving worship. So, God declares Christ's superiority over the angels by saying "let all the angels of God worship Him" (Hebrews 1:6; Deuteronomy 32:43, LXX & DSS).

Perhaps it would be helpful to provide a basic definition of worship in the sense that I use it here. Although I'm sure the following is inadequate, we might say that worship is:

an act that admits or ascribes high(est) worth to the recipient of that action

The difference, then, between worship that is right and worship that is not arises from the nature of the one or thing that receives the action. So, if the action is in accordance with the nature of the one/thing worshiped (that is, the recipient indeed possess high[est] worth), then right worship is possible. When the action discords with the nature of the one/thing worshiped (that is, the recipient does not actually possess high[est] worth), the opposite is true, and we cannot worship rightly. With this basic, though I'm sure flawed, conceptualization of worship, we begin to see why right worship is both commanded by God and crucial for humanity.
God commands worship because in doing so 1) He agrees with His supreme reality, and 2) He seeks our well-being and satisfaction. God intrinsically possesses, or exists as, the highest value and is therefore the only object of worship that befits right worship. Furthermore, when we worship Him rightly, not only do we admit His worth and ascribe to Him the glory He already possesses, but we also experience the fulness of joy and satisfaction by being satisfied in and with Him. As a result, by necessity of there existing only a single Being who is worthy of worship, to worship anything else discords with reality and cannot give us any true pleasure.
With this in mind, we are now (somewhat) prepared to feel the weight of God's statement about Jesus in Deuteronomy and in Hebrews by declaring: "let all the angels of God worship Him" (Hebrews 1:6). How great and worthy must Jesus be if even the angels are to worship Him! In the context of what is discussed above, the unavoidable implication is that Jesus is worthy of worship because He is Himself God. By now, this should by no means surprise us, for we have already read that Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is (1:2-3), and that He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature (1:3). But, by revealing this attribute of Christ here, we see a stark contrast between Christ and the angels, since even the angels worship Him though they cannot receive worship themselves (see Revelation 22:8-9).
Again unsurprisingly, we find that people rightly worshiped Jesus, the God-man, in multiple instances recorded in the Scriptures. So, men from the east came to worship Jesus at His birth (Matthew 2:11). The disciples worshiped Jesus after He walked on water and calmed the stormy sea (14:33). Jesus was worshiped by a man whom He healed that had been blind from birth (John 9:38). He also received worship from His disciples after His resurrection (Matthew 28:9). Additionally, in the book of Revelation we gain a picturesque insight to the heavenly liturgy where God, including Jesus, is worshipped eternally. St. John faithfully records this as part of his vision:

I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:11-14, emphasis added)

So we conclude that, not only is Jesus "better than the angels" as a Son, but He is superior in that He, being divine, is worthy of worship. This reality of Christ's nature as ontologically distinct from and better than angels gives immediate comfort and satisfaction to us as we worship Him. Since Jesus is intrinsically the highest Being, How can we not but delight in Him? How can we not but desire to be found in Him? How can we not but long to glorify Him, perfecting our own joy and satisfaction? And as we read on in Hebrews, we consider: How can we not but confide in Him as the eternal High Priest, the once-for-all sacrifice, the mediator of a better covenant, the captain of our salvation, the Apostle of our confession, and the author and perfecter of our faith?

Image courtesy of and copyright the Metropolitan Museum of Art (

Plaque with Agnus Dei and Four Evangelists [German or North Italian Ivory Plaque]. Retrieved March 12, 2020, from

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