Every weekday contributors bring devotionals grounded in scripture as we learn to walk by faith in the way of the Lord and proclaim Christ faithfully.
April 14: The Lion who is the Lamb
The Lion who is the Lamb
God has to deal with the fundamental cause of the rot in his world, which is sin. As the Puritan, Richard Sibbes wrote, ‘Sin defiles our souls and takes away the sweet communion with God. It puts a sting in all our troubles, grieves the Spirit of God and does more harm that everything else in the world – nothing hurts us but sin, because nothing but sin separates us from God.’ This vision, and especially that of the ‘bloodied Lamb’, should bring home to us the seriousness of sin in the light of the holiness of God. The Bible provides us with what Charles Taylor calls the ‘social imaginary’, the totality of the way we look at the world, make sense of it and how we behave in it. It was the historian Herbert Butterfield who perceptively said, ‘If we imagine the world of generally righteous men with - at any given moment - only one especially wicked nation in it, we shall never envisage the seriousness of that situation with which Christianity sets out to deal.’ The Book of Revelation disabuses us of such Pollyanna optimism and presents the world as God sees it and as Christians should see it- broken and shameful.
April 13: The Victorious Lamb
‘Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth.’ (5:6)
There are two things to note in particular with regards the Lamb.
First, it is a sacrificial lamb (‘looking as if it had been slain’), like the ones used during the Exodus to ensure that the Angel of Death passed over God’s people (Exod.12:3-6). It is also not possible to miss the association with the lamblike servant of Isaiah 53 (Isa. 53:7).
April 12: The Divine Provision
It is the voice of one of the elders (the higher order of angels) which provides the reassuring answer to the angelic cry for one to put into effect the will of God, ‘And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”’ (5:5).
John being familiar with his Old Testament would have immediately known who the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, was. Genesis 49:9 speaks of the tribe of Judah being a ‘lion’s cub’, that is, from this tribe would come God’s appointed ruler. Similarly in Isaiah 11:1 the promise is made that ‘a shoot would spring up’ which would also be from the root of David’ (11:1). This is Messianic language. And this is the one who can take the scroll and put into effect God’s decrees. What qualifies him for this task is that he has triumphed. The Greek word suggests a victorious struggle which qualifies him for this unique role, having done that which the readers of several of the letters have been urged to do, namely, ‘conquer’ (e.g.2:8). Exactly what that struggle was we discover next as John lifts his head to look for this Lion only to see a lamb! ‘And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.’ (5:6)
April 9: The Drama of Despair
Bishop Festo Kivengere of Uganda was known as the ‘Billy Graham of Africa’. He once said: ‘Please don’t be shocked if you hear that there is a revolution in Burundi, Uganda or Zaire. This is Africa! It’s nothing when young countries get revolution. They are going to get some more. But that doesn’t mean that the Man of Galilee has vacated the throne! Christianity has never been scared of a revolution. Satan can roar like a lion, but he has no authority to shake the throne on which Jesus is sitting.’ The apostle John would have agreed wholeheartedly because he had seen that the throne on which the ascended Lord Jesus was sitting was nothing less than the throne of God.
April 8: The Worship of God
‘And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.’ (4:6b-7)
Often ancient thrones were constructed so they looked as if they rested on creatures. For example, King Solomon had lions’ heads protruding from his throne (1 Kings 10:20), and we see something like that here. These creatures, however, have characteristics of the highest order of angels, the cherubim. They have wings and different faces representing different aspects of God. One is like a lion-a symbol of royalty; one, an ox, a symbol of strength; another, the face of a man, indicating intelligence; and still another, an eagle, having the ability to act swiftly. All these attributes find their perfection in God. Not only do these creatures enhance God’s throne and co-ordinate praise to the one seated on the throne, but their symbolism suggests that God’s throne rests on royal decree; he alone has the wisdom to do what is right, the power to bring it about and to do so swiftly all at the right time and in the right way for the sake of his people.
April 7: The Transcendence of God
The awe-inspiring transcendence of God is depicted by the following images, ‘From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.’ (4:5-6)
First, there is the lightning and the thunder. In the days before the nuclear bomb what would have been the most powerful, destructive force the ancients could have referred to? The answer: a thunderstorm, the dark, wild, booming electrical storms which stalk the great continents where, when thunder erupts, the whole ground shakes, and when lightning strikes the whole sky is lit up. When God met with his people at Sinai, this is what they saw and they were terrified. Nature in the raw, nature unleashed at its most violent - that is what encircles the throne of God. To think that one can blithely walk into the presence of this God would be as suicidal as walking into an atomic blast - it can’t be done!