Te Deum – Part 3

Te Deum – Part 3

Te Deum – Part 3.

“… The glorious company of apostles praise you,

The noble fellowship of prophets praise you,

The white-robed army of martyrs praise you,

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you; 

This amazing hymn of adoration continues to include the cloud of witnesses in our prayer life. All of creation, the whole of nature, is worshiping God. And there are the angels and all the powers of heaven singing in endless praise as well. And now we have a further vision of those who sing along with us as we adore the Lord… the apostles, the prophets, the martyrs, and then finally those from around the world.

The Apostles. These original twelve disciples didn’t volunteer for the job. They were appointed by the Lord, hand-picked by Jesus after a night of fervent prayer. Surprisingly, they didn’t graduate from rabbinic school, they were instead inexperienced and unlearned men from a wide variety of professions. And yet they were given the monumental task of closely following Jesus in intimate fellowship, preaching the Good News, healing all manner of illnesses, and even casting out demons. They were a mixed bag of fishermen, a hated tax collector, and even a zealot thrown in to make those campfire chats interesting. Yet somehow in their vast differences they were known for their unity as they provided the foundation for the New Testament Church. The word apostle means sent on a mission, and Jesus was clear with His marching orders from the start. That term was also applied to those not necessarily in the Twelve, including Paul, the “apostle to the Gentiles,” and Mary Magdalene, who is known in church history as the “apostle to the apostles,” since she was given the mission by the resurrected Jesus of going to the Twelve and telling them the news. The apostles  seemed to symbolically replace the twelve tribes of Israel as the New Covenant took root, twelve being the perfect number in Jewish circles. As it turned out, all of the apostles were martyred, except for John. After some time as an exile on Patmos, he returned to Ephesus to work in the churches there and take care of Mother Mary. To confirm their role in the history of the Christian Church, the New Jerusalem’s city walls stand on twelve foundation stones, each one bearing the name of one of the apostles (Rev. 21:14): Simon Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew and Philip, Matthew Levi, Nathaniel, Thomas the Twin, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Matthias who replaced the traitor Judas Iscariot. They are indeed a glorious company and are even now joining the throng around the throne, worshiping God and their Lord and Master Jesus the Messiah.

The Prophets. Once God called someone to be His prophet, life was never the same. When speaking for the Lord, it was not uncommon for the people to shoot the messenger. On the one hand, what greater honor could there be than to be God’s spokesperson, Gods mouthpiece? On the other hand, the writer of Hebrews had this to say about the prophets in 11:32-38“It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets… Their weakness was turned to strength… Some were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some where sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All of these people earned a good reputation because of their faith…” And this group of holy fools, of persecuted but victorious believers, are considered a “noble fellowship” by the Church, and are receiving their reward right now by singing around the throne.

The Martyrs. All those who have sacrificed their life for Jesus’ sake are highly honored in the Kingdom of God. They are rewarded with a place of distinction in the New Jerusalem. They are seen by the Church as holy warriors who gave their lives for the Faith, an army who fought the good fight till the end. “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will not erase their name from the Book of Life.” (Rev. 3:5). “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?’ ‘These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.” (Rev. 7:13-14). The white stands for unblemished purity, and blood from the Lamb is the great purifier. In earthly terms, blood stains clothes and can not be easily removed. In heavenly terms, blood cleans the soul and makes it permanently unspotted. Jesus wasn’t shy about trying to prepare His followers for what lay ahead for many of them. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). “If you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10). “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25). As has been said down through the history of the Church, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Jesus said the  same thing with a word picture: “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24). Wearing their white robes and praising God, the  martyrs joyfully wear their crown of life.

The World. There is an unforgettable scene in John’s vision of the New Jerusalem: “After this, I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb… And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10). This scene of universal worship is a fulfillment of a prophetic word of long ago, spoken to Abram from the Lord. “Then Yahweh took Abram outside and said to him, ‘Look up into the sky, and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!And Abram believed Yahweh, and Yahweh counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Genesis 15:5-6). All those saints gathered round the throne in the New Jerusalem are indeed the children of Abraham, they are lights in the sky. Can anyone imagine the joy of the worship in the throne room, all God’s people together at last, from every country on the globe, from every time period in history, all united in their adoration of God? Will we be praising God in our earthly tongues, or will there be a redemption of languages with everyone sharing the same tongue of praise? Will every style of music be displayed around the throne to celebrate out earthly distinctiveness, or will there be one heavenly way to sing and make merry before the Lord? Think of it, we will be rubbing shoulders with believers from around the world and through history. Shouldn’t we now be learning to worship with those of other races, countries, languages? Let’s start getting used to that heavenly scenario on this side of the pearly gates!

This musical interpretation of Te Deum is by none other than Handel of “Messiah” fame. If you were inspired by Messiah (and who wasn’t?), you will be likewise of Handel’s work here. Enjoy.

Handel: Te Deums (COMPLETE) – YouTube