The Lion King
Last Thursday my wife and I decided to go see the new live-action (technically “photorealistic computer animation”) The Lion King film. My wife has always been a huge fan of the Disney classics, watching each possibly hundreds of times. I saw them once when I was a kid and was content with that. But I’m always game for heading to the theater, so this is the movie we landed on.
The new film was really well done, receiving mostly positive reviews. The script stayed pretty true to the original, with some clever 2019 updates and embellishments. The music, of course, is undeniably spectacular, as most Disney music tends to be. Without question though, the most fascinating aspect of the experience for me was going back and watching, as an adult, a film that I hadn’t seen in 25 years. Processing a work of art as an adult after you did so as a child can be a startling venture. You see things. You pick up on subtleties, messages, and themes that you originally missed.
For instance, what struck me instantaneously was the classic opening scene. As the sun rises over the horizon, all the animals from across the Prideland come and gather around Pride Rock. Elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, antelope, birds of all sorts, and critters that scurry across the ground – these are creatures that generally don’t get along. These are natural enemies. They rank on various tiers in the food chain hierarchy. And yet, when they hear that opening anthem, that call to gathering, they drop everything they’re doing, lift their heads and turn, and proceed to march together in unison. Some are traveling on one another’s backs. Some are hitching a ride on the elephants’ tusks. Creatures from all over the known world, who aren’t supposed to go together according to the world’s divisive categories, are gathering as one.
Why? Well, something special is clearly going in the world on this day. When we arrive on-site, we see that a wise old baboon, who serves as something of a high priest over the Serengeti, is hoisting a lion cub, the prince, the Son of the King. The king is named Mufasa, and this new king is named Simba. The high priest baboon, Rafiki, lifts Simba up into the air and all the creatures unite to praise him in perfect harmony. Not only that but after their initial vocal burst of celebration, they bend down before their King in reverence. This is worship.
Obviously, The Lion King isn’t a distinctly Christian movie. In fact, there are lots of non-biblical concepts taught throughout. But like all great film and literature, the Messianic allusions throughout the movie are hard to miss when you’ve become conditioned to looking for such things. So, for instance, the very first piece of advice that Mufasa (Father) gives to Simba (the Son) is that the people don’t need a typical king found in this world. They don’t need a king who takes, but a king who will give of himself. Clearly this is a story of a Sacrificial Savior as King.
Today, what I want you to see primarily is how this iconic opening scene is an overwhelmingly accurate picture of the worship that will take place at the end of time, and then reflect on what the ultimate picture of worship teaches us.
Worship at the End of Time – Revelation 5:5-6, 12, 14
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne … In a loud voice they (i.e. the elders and all creatures from all nations, tribes, languages, and cultures) were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Application 1 – Public Worship is directed toward a Lamb on a throne who was slain for you
According to what John sees in Revelation, worship at the end of time will have all of its energy and all of its focus directed toward a Lamb on a Throne Who was Slain for Us.
Now there are lots of interesting specific details about the worship that’s going on in this vision. There are lots of stringed instruments (Rev. 5:8). There are sweet smells (Rev. 5:8). There is diversity (Rev. 5:9). There are countless participants (Rev. 5:11). There is undeniable intensity and passion (Rev. 5:12). There is appropriate posture (Rev. 5:14). Etc.
And yet, while there are actually many details, the style is nonetheless nebulous. Somehow the style is fitting for “persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9) This should teach us that the culturally conditioned stylistic preferences that we use in our worship services probably make don’t matter too much. We have no idea what the style will be in heaven and therefore should never consecrate a human style. Objectively, the one detail that we can know for sure that will take place is that all of the concentration will be on a Lamb on a Throne Who was Slain to take away our sins.
Consequently, it stands to reason that in our own worship services, we would champion music that primarily directs us to the Lamb on a Throne Who was Slain.
Additionally, it also means that the primary thing someone like me, a pastor/worship leader, should ever be doing in worship is directing you repeatedly to a Lamb on a Throne Who Was Slain for you. Hold your ministers accountable to this. I’ve told my congregation that if I’m ever primarily giving you life advice, teaching you personal empowerment and self-worth by any means necessary, or offering 5 Ways to Become More ________________, you need to get rid of me and get a different worship leader that WILL point you to the Lamb on the Throne Who Was Slain. I’m not suggesting that preaching would never contain practical life advice. The Bible is chock full of wise and godly life lessons and teasing out the implications is also part of preaching. But John’s Revelation tells us that true Christian worship is ultimately and fundamentally aimed at the Lamb on the Throne Who Was Slain for us.
Application 2 – Worship in your daily life is directed toward a Lamb on a throne who was slain for you
You’ll notice in Revelation 5 that it doesn’t tell you what day of the week it is. We have zero indication that John is describing a scene unfolding at 10:30 am on a Sunday morning (assuming that were even possible in eternity).
This teaches us that every day of salvation will be directed towards the praise of a Lamb on a Throne Who Was Slain for our sins. Not just Sundays. Therefore, the more the other 167 hours of the week are directed the same way, the more heavenly-aimed and godly our days become.
What does this look like? Well, when your ego bleeds a little as you forgive someone who has wronged you, you’re directing your day towards the Lamb on the Throne Who Was Slain for you. When you resist temptation as an innocent lamb, you’re directing your day towards the Lamb on the Throne Who Was Slain for you. When, despite the chaos of the circumstances surrounding your work, your health, your relationships, you remain calm because you know exactly who is sitting on the throne powerfully ruling all things on your behalf, you’re directing your day towards the Lamb on the Throne Who Was Slain for you.
Eternal worship WILL BE incredible. But the worship here today can be otherworldly, heavenly too. Just point it in the right direction.