Friday, April 2, 2010

The Lion and the Lamb

“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! 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 in the center of the throne.”

~Revelation 5:5-6a (NIV).

Who is worthy? Most people on earth rush to the front and say, ‘Pick me, pick me!’ But not John in his vision; he knows no one is worthy—certainly not himself—for this particular assignment and so he weeps at the thought that this task might go unaccomplished. This of itself is a remarkable obedience of grief.

Indeed, things are and will be very different in the realm of heaven as they are on earth. The breaking of the seven seals and opening of this regal scroll is delayed because God’s will as far as the appropriate One to do these things shall be accomplished, but not yet. The angels and beings of heaven never disobey like we’re tempted to and often do.

“Conquering” is a resounding theme that recurs through Revelation. Early on the Seven Churches were told that if they were to conquer (or “overcome”) the power their disobedience had over them, the doors of heaven—in various ways—would be opened to them (cf. Revelation 1:11–3:22).

The Lion of Judah, in imagery at least, is one that connotes power and majesty and royalty—for Judah was the tribe of Israel from which kings came from in the Old Testament. Yet, likewise—and one and same in Jesus—is the Lamb. Not powerful and majestic in the exact same sense or manifestation as the Lion, the slain Lamb is powerful in its obedience which saw it carry out God’s will to perfection.

For this reason, the Lamb is found the only worthy one to break the seals of God and open the scroll.

How incredible it is that the default expectation is a Lion-like creature would descend upon this task and complete it; yet God in his unparalleled wisdom has destined this innocent-enough figure—a slain one at that—accomplishes this momentous task.

And this is entirely consistent with the Messianic visions the Jews had for the mighty military deliverer... and what did they get? The Messiah “was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth [against his oppressors, or defend himself]” (Isaiah 53:7a).

What sort of message is God trying to deliver here? What sort of model is this Jesus?

The Lamb of God paradoxically has all the Lion’s powers—over the complete dominion of heaven and earth. But, it executes these powers with such holy humility and perfect self-effacing justice and timing.

The Lamb, the Lion of Judah—the one slaughtered and the redeeming blood sacrifice for me and you and for all humankind, bridging the vast divide between heaven and earth—will do what is prophesied in John’s vision. Only he is worthy:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

~Revelation 5:12b (NIV).

What is the Lamb’s example to us? Though he is Sovereign he wields power with majestic and surprisingly unforeseen justice. He is wholly obedient—even to death on a cross—to the Spirit that is God; he indeed is Spirit. Yet, he too is Example! The Lamb’s acts of Spiritual justice cut across the world’s conception of justice. So is ours to be; we are to be partakers of Spiritually discerned justice and wisdom from God.

Our task in life is to determine which side we’ll assign our allegiances to: obedient or disobedient; with God entirely or with the world (even partially). We cannot hedge our bets.

Where do we place our hope? Where is our security?

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Reference: Craig R. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001), pp. 76-80.

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