Lamb

6 2

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

[preface]

I find it fascinating that the very first description of Jesus, as He was beginning His ministry here on earth, is that He was declared to be the “Lamb of God”. For us today, the imagery provokes something soft and huggable. My granddaughter has a fluffy lamb doll. We have several in our home. Our kids would play with them and cuddle them. It was, and is, always cute.

But for those standing there on that day, we must not forget that these words were ominous.

For them, the lamb stood for sacrifice. It harkened their minds to the annual festival of the Passover where they were yearly reminded of the lambs that were slain so that their blood could be smeared on the lentils and doorposts of their homes. Why did they do such a gruesome thing? So that the Angel of Death would not enter. He entered many homes that night—homes without the protection of the lamb’s blood. He entered the homes of the poor, the middle-class, the rich and powerful. He entered the heavily guarded palace of the mighty Pharaoh. And when he did enter, the first born of that home was struck down dead. Without the blood of the lamb, no home was spared.

It was the blood of the sacrificed lamb which provided salvation from the wrath of God.

Do not let the deep implications of this escape your notice. When John first declared of Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” it was a heavy declaration.

This isn’t fluffy. This isn’t snuggly or huggy or cute.  It is ominous and portentous and should be accompanied in your mind with some kind of foreboding music. From the get-go, Jesus was declared to be the One who would be sacrificed for your sins and my sins.

This imagery of Christ was foretold by Isaiah:

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth. Isaiah 53:7

And this continues in the Revelation to John:

And I saw between the throne a Lamb standing, as if slaughtered… Rev 5:6

Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered… Rev 5:12

… they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev 7:14

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb… Rev 12:11

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev 13:8

But there is something both incredibly wonderful and terrible about this revelation that Jesus is the Lamb. It is often overlooked or forgotten, yet it is nothing but marvelous and worthy of great awe and reverence and even fear. Yes, Jesus is declared to be the Lamb that was led to the slaughter without resistance, without a word. But the Revelation to John presents to us the Lamb of God in His fullness.

The Lamb will be the object of praise:

And I heard every created thing which is in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, or on the sea, and all the things in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion forever and ever.” Revelation 5:13

And it will be the Lamb who will open the seals of judgment:

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come!” Revelation 6:6

It will be the wrath of the Lamb from whom kings and the prominent and commanders and the wealthy and the strong and the slaves and the free will hide themselves in caves and cry to the mountains and the rocks:

“Fall on us and hide us from the sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:16-17

In the great imagery of Revelation, the beast and the ten horns will wage war, and their war will be against the Lamb, but it is the Lamb who will be victorious:

These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful. Revelation 17:14

And it is to the Lamb that the people of God are married, and the wedding feast will be the Lamb's feast:

Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has prepared herself. Revelation 19:7

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:9

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9

There are nearly 30 references of Jesus as the “Lamb” in the book of Revelation.  In fact, it would be proper to say that in this book, the primary image of Christ is portrayed as the Lamb.

We are gazing at no small attribute of God here.

He is the Lamb who was slain for our sins. He is the Lamb who will bring judgment and wrath on those who are not His. It is the Lamb who is the Husband of the bride of Christ who will sing the song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:3). It is the Lamb who will stand on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1) and it is the Lamb who will receive “power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing”. (Revelation 5:12)

Worthy is the Lamb!

Spend time this week contemplating and meditation upon the marvelous revelation of God.

[previous: King] [next: Life]

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5
Judge
[preface] I suppose this attribute of God is one of the most rejected in our culture, for a people who have self-ascended into their own divinity surely deem themselves immune from judgment. Spurning the notion of transcendent truth, we now get to make up our own. “My Heart” becomes a divine voice and everyone should be obligated to acknowledge it as holy and unassailable. If I want to define my own sexuality, then the world should bow down and pay homage. The individual’s heart is revered as sacrosanct. This is why we have become a culture filled with little angry gods who are incensed with those who fail to pay them tribute. But, alas, there is reality. This is the reality that Paul writes about where the divine nature of God is evident to all men because of what God has made, yet man stand’s in defiance before Him and He therefore judges them[i]. Peter writes of scoffers who deliberately overlook the fact that God judged the world with a flood in the past and choose, therefore, to ignore that He will judge the world with fire in the future[ii]. The reality is that God and His transcendent Truth not only really do exist, but that He also judges the evil works of men: “God’s judgment is against people who do evil acts.” Revelation 2:23 This is quite unnerving to us today. God judges rebellion. He really does. Regardless of what your heart tells you, regardless of how much our culture scoffs at it, regardless of the snarky Hollywood quips, God judges rebellion. This was a reality for Adam and Eve and all creation[iii]; it was a reality for those in Noah’s day[iv]; it was a reality for Pharoah and Egypt[v] and for Sodom and Gomorrah[vi]. Time does not allow us to speak of Ananias and Sapphira[vii] or Babel[viii] or Israel (judged over and over again) or Uzziah[ix] or Jezebel[x] or the 185,000 Assyrians that God put to death[xi] or when God opened up the earth and it swallowed the entire tribes of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their households, their tents and every living thing that followed them[xii]. It is, indeed, “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31 These are things our culture doesn’t want to hear. And, if we were honest, we don’t either. It is possible that you really don’t like the picture and verse I posted at the beginning: Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. Isaiah 13:9 It just seems so... well, so judgmental! We would rather hear of a God of Hollywood love… a God of the wink and nod, “tsk tsk” and “boys will be boys” and “aren’t they just so adorable”. That’s the God we want… the God of pleasant things. Yet, God is both Creator and Holy, and He therefore has the right to judge rebellious acts by His creatures that are contrary to His Holy character and plans. But here we must be careful, for it is more than that He has the “right” to do it. He doesn’t judge simply because He has a right to, as if His judgment is merely an emotional reaction to being offended… a God pounding someone in order to assert His rights. He righteously judges because this is who He is. He doesn’t “judge” simply because He gets angry with someone. He judges because He is the Judge. This is sometimes hard for us to contemplate for we are so finite and depraved in our nature that we can only see judgment as a violent emotional outbreak rather than a holy, righteous attribute of God. When you step into a courtroom and the bailiff orders “All rise!” it is not because an emotional outbreak is about to enter the courtroom. The one who steps to the bench, wearing the judicial robes is a “judge”. So, too, is God. He is the Judge who judges rightly in accordance with what is righteous and holy. I sometimes wonder if the anthropomorphic language of God adorned in His robe is just as much the robe of a Judge as it is the robe of a King. The Judge of the universe will uphold righteousness and holiness. It may not be immediate and it may not be according to how you want it to be meted out. For our own rebellion, we would like for it to be overlooked; for our enemies, we want it swift and thorough. But, in the end, always according to His good plans and purposes, God will judge. His delay is often seen by the foolish as getting a pass or sometimes leads them to scoff “where is this God?” Sometimes we do the same, complaining when wrongdoers prosper or evil seems to reign. Of course, we are more than happy when God delays His judgment on us. This is the God we like. When my oldest daughter was a little girl, just learning to read, she was looking over my shoulder as I was studying J. I. Packer’s “Knowing God”. She looked at the title of the chapter I was reading and sounded out “God the Fudge”. It was written in a script and she mistook the “J” for an “F”. I thought it was funny and when I explained it to her we both laughed. But I’ve never forgotten that because it is in our nature to want to carve out the hard things in God and make them into soft things… sweet things that are more delightful to our own desires. But, the Judge has already meted out the most horrible of judgments, though there is yet a horrible one to come. This was the judgment rendered upon a totally innocent Man… a Man who lived a sinless life… a Man who obeyed God perfectly, even an obedience that took Him to the scourge and the cross. Jesus bore the entirety of God’s judgment and wrath for His people. All of it. God said that He would not let the guilty go unpunished. And if there had not been a substitute for us, this promise would have doomed us for all eternity. But God was pleased, for the sake of His elect, to place all of our rebellion on Him. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53 It was the Judge who smote Him. It was the Judge who pierced Him and crushed Him. For this we cringe at the massive weight He bore; yet for this we also rejoice and clap our hands in gladness for the judgment due us is no longer. The Judge didn’t lay aside our crimes; He just laid them on Someone else. Oh what a glorious mystery, this Good News! Let us ponder this week the goodness and the severity of God. P.S. I suppose I ought to here do the most unpopular thing and comment on the “Only God can judge me” mantra of our culture. You see it tattooed on a lot of body parts and you see it on posters and in songs and, well, everywhere. Although it has its genesis in a rap by Tupac Shakur in 1996, it is used today as a shut-down phrase for anyone or anything that attempts to tell me I can’t do what I want to do. It certainly isn’t an endorsement for God as Judge. But, as we all tend to use biblical sayings for our own purposes, so, too, does this phrase attempt to silence all who would disagree with the right to follow the longings of my own heart. Don’t be fooled by it. [Previous: Jesus] [Next: Just] Verses to contemplate throughout the week: God’s judgment is against people who do evil acts. Revelation 2:23 The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son. John 5:22 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. Psalm 7:11 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah Psalm 50:6 Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge the children of man uprightly? No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth. Psalm 58:1-2 Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. Isaiah 13:9 For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us. Isaiah 33:22 The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 7:27 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.” Ezekiel 18:30 Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Joel 3:12 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; Micah 4:3 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. John 8:50 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31 “…on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:16 “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…” 2 Timothy 4:1 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. Revelation 19:11 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Revelation 20:12-13     [i] Romans 1:18-32 [ii] 2 Peter 3:3-10 [iii] Genesis 3:1-20 [iv] Genesis 6-9 [v] Exodus 5-12 [vi] Genesis 19:1-29 [vii] Acts 5:1-11 [viii] Genesis 11:1-9 [ix] 2 Chronicles 26 [x] 2 Kings 9:30-37 [xi] 2 Kings 19:35 [xii] Numbers 16:1-35
4
Deliverer
[Preface] The word “deliverer” in the context of God’s nature is one that conveys His desire and propensity to “rescue” His people or “take them out” of danger or distress. This is true in both the Old and New Testaments where God delivers from physical, temporal danger, but ultimately, and more importantly, from the infinite danger of the coming wrath of God and the eternal separation because of sin. God has been gracious to record for us the many, many instances of delivering His people from the temporal to help give us the assurance that He has and will eventually deliver us spiritually. To a great extent, God has been “delivering” His people since the fall. Instead of wiping everything out, He promised a deliverer would come and crush the head of the serpent. When the depravity of mankind had so filled the earth that God had to destroy it, He delivered Noah and his family from the catastrophic deluge. When the children of Israel had fallen into slavery in Egypt, He delivered them from the bondage of Pharaoh. He delivered David from the sword of Goliath and Saul. He delivered Daniel from the lions, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego from the king’s furnace. He delivered Peter from Herod’s prison and Paul from the assassins. In Hezekiah’s day, He delivered His people from Sennacherib and the Assyrian hoard. He delivered Joseph from the evil intentions of his brothers. He delivered the disciples from the storm and Christ from the tomb. There is hardly any place in the Scripture where we do not see God delivering His people. He is not only the Deliverer, but He is the faithful Deliverer. For He has not only showed us over and over again that He has been the mighty Deliverer in the past, but He will also be the mighty Deliverer in the future. This is the basis for our hope. For one day, as Paul cried, He will deliver us from the body of this death…both the outer man that physically decays by the day and the inner, sinful man, that seeks to decay us from within. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25 In the meantime, He has delivered us from hopelessness…a woeful state of being enemies and haters of God, spiritually dead and slaves to our sinful nature, to a glorious state of being alive with Christ, redeemed from our bondage to death. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 Sometimes God delivers through a miracle; sometimes He delivers through an angel or a human agent, like Moses or Jonah. Most often, however, He chooses to deliver by providing us a way of escape: through saying “no” to our sinful nature and the temptation of the world; by walking away from the edge of a cliff or a cat that is hissing; by working hard to overcome the obstacles or challenges in front of us. What this means, contrary to our selfish desires, is that God will seldom deliver us from those things which He has given us the means by which we can deliver ourselves. He may not deliver you from starvation if you refuse to work. He may not deliver you from consequences if you refuse to say "no". He may not deliver you from loneliness if you refuse to engage with others. If you foolishly jump into a den of lions, you may get eaten. If you stick your hand into a furnace, you will most likely get burned. Don't mistake the Deliverer as One who rewards foolishness or laziness or self-centeredness. The Deliverer is not a grand Genie by which we can rub the lamp to remove the consequences of our folly. Now, he has certainly rescued this fool from his folly on many occasions, but it is not that we can demand it of Him. When we pray “deliver us from evil”, He may do so through a miracle or a Moses. But most likely it will be through the means by which He has graciously granted us to walk and persevere in this life: prayer, the Word and a band of brothers, for example. And, when He calls us to do this work through these means, it is His Spirit that enables us to do so. He may deliver, therefore, immediately through the miracle. He may deliver sometime soon, through a Moses. But it may be that He delivers after a long time of hard work and perseverance. But it will come. The Deliverer will deliver. In the end. Always. In the meantime, Remnant, persevere with great hope. [Previous: Delegator] [Next: Designer] May we contemplate this aspect of God’s nature throughout the week. Here are some passages to help us. Remember that all of the stories of God’s deliverance in the past are means of encouragement to us in the present, that God has proven Himself over and over again and He will be faithful to deliver us as well. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2 And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer… 2 Samuel 22:1-2 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. Exodus 6:6 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7 When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them… Judges 3:9 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37 But the Lord your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” 2 Kings 17:39 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7 I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 All my bones will say, “Lord, who is like You, Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?” Psalm 35:10 For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living. Psalm 56:13 But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay. Psalm 70:5 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses. Psalm 107:6 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26 Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you. Isaiah 46:4 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. Daniel 3:17 He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. Daniel 6:27 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25 …we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us… 2 Corinthians 10:9-10 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father… Galatians 1:3-4 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15