The Lamb is Able
1. To receive praise
2. To cleanse through blood
3. To use His power to provide
Revelation 7:9-17 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" 14 I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (ESV).
How long ago was it when someone asked you what your favorite animal was? You might notice that in our short bios of the kids in school we ask some of them that question. Typically, it’s probably a question along the lines of what your favorite color or food is, usually asked of kids. But there’s certainly nothing wrong with adults having a favorite animal either. If you have been in my office you’ll notice I have a picture of a lion, my favorite animal.
If we had to choose a favorite animal of the Bible, it would probably be a lamb. The simple lamb is an animal that is so important throughout the Bible that you almost have to learn about it to understand what it means to be a Christian. Yet, I’m willing to guess that few people, if any, have ever said that their favorite animal is a lamb. A lamb is a young sheep, and one of the primary attributes of sheep is foolishness. Sheep are not smart animals. They are often helpless. They are easy prey for predators. They get themselves into trouble a lot.
What is it about this animal that is so important to the Bible? Obviously, we see a Lamb in our text today, from Revelation. This Lamb is Jesus. Jesus was called the Lamb of God because He came as the sacrifice for our sins. Early on the New Testament, John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” That was at the beginning of John’s Gospel, now in the final book of Revelation, another of John’s, we see Jesus again as the Lamb.
We’ll talk more about Jesus as the Lamb, but in order to really appreciate the significance of this animal, you have to dig deeper into Scripture. What we see is a perpetual theme throughout God’s Word. One of the main themes involving a lamb is sacrifice. The Lord commanded His people in the Old Testament to use lambs as sacrifices – for sin and guilt. These offerings before the Lord were much more than just an act of worship. It was symbolic of the Lamb, the one here in Revelation, who would offer a sacrifice that was more “acceptable (Romans 12:1)” – a sacrifice “once for all (Hebrews 10:10).”
Two prominent stories come to mind about sacrifice. Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. At the moment of decision, God provided a male lamb – a ram – to take Isaac’s place; thereby prophesying in action the very thing He would do with His Son – the One who would not be spared. Of significance is also the Passover festival, when a year-old male lamb, without spot or blemish, would be killed and its blood spread upon the doorposts of believers’ homes. Yet, again, in this sacrifice God embedded a picture of the very thing He would do to spare sinners of death.
Think of other important stories in the Bible involving a lamb:
· It was a lamb that Nathan used to teach David of his sin, picturing the innocence of the one that David had defiled (2 Samuel 12).
· It was a lamb that Isaiah used to described eternal peace in heaven, that the lamb would lie down with the lion (Isaiah 65:25).
· The prophet Jeremiah likened his ministry to that of being a lamb led to slaughter as the people persecuted and rejected Him.
· Ezekiel, as did Zechariah, spoke of how the shepherds of Israel, the spiritual leaders, had led God’s flock astray – literally to be killed.
· Jesus, the Good Shepherd, promised that He alone was the way to safety for His sheep, that is, believers.
Throughout the entire Bible, the lamb is prominent. And no more so than here in Revelation. Here we see three things about Jesus, the Lamb. He is worshipped. He cleanses by His blood. And He leads and reigns for you. And much like the other parts of Scripture, what is portrayed through Jesus here is parallel to what it means that we are His lambs. What He has achieved, you share in. How He has brought peace over sins, you embrace. You have a place with Him – in relation to Him. The praise He receives comes from your lips. The blood He shed for your life. The power He wields in your interests. We are lambs of God because we are with the Lamb of God.
Within that concept of Jesus as the Lamb is also a paradox however. As we mentioned before, why a lamb? Why a naïve and foolish creature – one which is so easily led astray? Well, that question is easy to answer from our perspective. We are foolish. We are ignorant. We are almost numb at times to the dangers around us. As the hymn writer aptly puts it, “The Shepherd dies for sheep that love to wander.” (TLH 143) But, what about Jesus? His characteristic as a sheep is not one of foolishness or stupidity. Jesus is the lamb in His innocence. A lamb is no predator. A lamb is not a danger to anyone. It is pure in that sense. The two concepts are no so far removed. The world often despises purity as a naïve and unrealistic thing – a pursuit not worth owning. The world loves strength. Yet, the two views of the lamb are also worlds apart. Our sins are the very things that separate us from God. Jesus had to come as one of us – He had to be more than the Shepherd, in order to win us to God. As our Savior, He is eternally worthy of our praise and honor. May it always be so in our hearts.
Here is the second paradox. We are washed clean by shed blood. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that blood is far from clean. Blood serves a good purpose but when it is shed, it defiles. Shed blood is messy and ugly. It is anything but clean and holy. Shed blood was so defiling that God commanded the Israelites to stay away from it. Those who came into contact with blood were required to be thoroughly cleansed. Yet, as John witnesses this vision one of the Elders remarks, These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. John knew this already. He wrote in his first epistle, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).” John also knew it because He saw it. He was at the foot of the cross. He witnessed the literal blood of Jesus flowing from His head, hands, and feet. John described the blood and water that flowed from the side of the Lamb, as His lifeless frame hung from the cross. John knew enough about blood. He didn’t really need the Elder to explain it.
But, John was witnessing the effect of all that work His Savior did. We, too, know what it is to come into contact with that Lamb of God. We know what John felt – the awe, the mystery, the wonder, that God’s Son would willingly shed His righteous blood for us. We know our sins. We feel the guilt. The paradox of being sinner and saint; of knowing the righteous judgments of God, that those breaking them are deserving of death. Our Savior’s love and grace is not a confusing thing. But, that He would do it for me. That takes more. That is something to meditate on, as much so as blood that cleanses. Neither John nor the Elder really needed an explanation to what they were seeing. But, they both were in the state of grand appreciation and depth of blessedness – of witnessing the love of the Lamb. We, too, have been and a privileged to witness the same, as we share the sublime grace of God who daily washes us of the filthy stains of our sins in the blood of His.
The final aspect of the Lamb is that He takes care of His flock. In contrast to the false shepherds of the Old Testament or the hireling of the New Testament, Jesus uses His power in our best interests. John’s vision of the scene concludes with images of how the Lord provides. They shall no longer hunger or thirst. They will be protected from the dangerous elements of the world, with their Lord in His presence. Tears and sorrow will be a thing of the past. For such gifts to be given, we need power. These are elements of the world that we are powerless against. Without the Lord’s daily provision, we would be helpless.
But, this power is capable of so much more. John describes at the beginning: After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
The power of Lamb is able to accomplish the seemingly impossible. It brings about the unity of all peoples from all backgrounds. It allows for sinful rebels to bow down in obedient worship and praise. These are miracles. These things are not part of some grand utopia here on earth. This is not a product of human hands and efforts. John says it as he hears it: “Salvation belongs to our God!” The Lamb provides for us – even for our eternal salvation, because He can. The gift is His to give. He is worthy. He is able.
Far too often, we’re too focused on our lives to think of this. We’re too worried about the things we can’t control. We’re too angry about the things that go wrong. We’re too confident in the things we’ve done. Look up, dear sinner! Salvation belongs to your God. The Lamb owns it. The Lamb freely gives it.
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
The Lamb knows your need. He shared in the hunger, thirst, and pain.
The Lamb knows your sorrow. He shared in the tears and hurt of sinful loss.
The Lamb knows your anger. He felt it in His body and in His soul as He shed His righteous blood to atone for your unholy life.
The Lamb is able and worthy – for you. Amen.