“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered… Revelation 5:5-6
Lions are ferocious fighters with no natural predators. So the lion has earned his name as the king of the jungle even though they actually live on the savannah. Two male lions will fight to the death if need be for the attention of a lioness. And so when the question is posed in Revelation as to who will open the scroll that has a message of hope for God’s people, we see the Lion who “has won the victory” to claim His bride as the one equal to the task. Opening the scroll by breaking the seven seals one at a time, Jesus who is the Lion claims His wife, the church, as His own.
And yet when John looks at the scene, he discovers the Lion is actually a Lamb! And not just any lamb, but the Lamb who was slain for our sins. We see a great truth for our daily lives in this imagery of Revelation. Jesus won the victory by laying down His life for all of humanity. He became a lamb because we are lambs! He died as a lamb because of His great love for us. He took our sins whose weight crushed Him on the cross. He won the victory, not as the Lion that He was, but as a lamb He came to be. He won the victory over sin with love as a lamb, not with the teeth of a lion. It is the power of love in the end, not the power of might that wins.
We are thankful for the Lamb who went to the cross for us, but we live like lions most days. When someone mistreats us or falsely accuses us, we find it hard to live like a lamb. We are even puzzled to know how to turn the other cheek and love our enemies as Jesus has instructed us to do. We feel justified in doing about anything to the person who mistreats us. We will hurt them emotionally with our words and attack them spiritually with His Word.
As I read these verses today, I am convicted to love all people. It will take the strength of the Lion of Judah to tame my lion-like tendencies, but that is what I seek. I have never been tempted to hurt anyone physically, but it is my tongue that strikes like a lion. What will you submit to the Lion of Judah to be tamed? How will you love others as the Lamb of God loves you?
“…Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” Isaiah 7:9
King Ahaz of Judah “trembled with fear” when he heard that Israel and Syria had joined forces to attack Judah. He assessed the situation and knew that he could not win the battle. Judah was doomed. There was no hope in the heart of King Ahaz. This is when God told Ahaz that “the invasion will never happen.” God is more powerful than any force in the universe, let alone on earth. There is no king, ruler, army, or insurgency that can defeat God.
I don’t know about you, but I often focus on the threatened invasions in my life. They come in the form of temptations, selfish desires, discouragement, and self-doubt to name just a few. When I focus on the invaders alone, I tremble in fear just like Ahaz did of old. But God promises us victory. He does not leave us alone to fight the battles of life. No matter what you or I face, we are not alone. The God of Angel Armies will defeat any foe that comes our way. He only requires one thing from us: faith.
Just as He told Ahaz, He tells us today, “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” In other words, God cannot do what we will not allow. Above all else, God respects our freedom to choose. The Good News is that we only need the faith the size of a mustard seed to move the mountains of sin and invasions from our life. (see Matthew 17:20) A “firm faith” simply means that I focus on Him rather than my problems and trust His path for my life rather than my own. I don’t even need to open the door to my heart as Jesus knocks, I simply need to whisper, “Come in.” That’s the faith the size of a mustard seed.
I have a friend who was attacked by a pack of dogs as she was on a long distance training run. The dogs were mauling her as she was flat on her back next to a pile of garbage. She had given up hope of coming out of this situation alive when she saw a car approaching. She picked up an umbrella from the garbage pile and held it up as the car passed. The gentleman in the car noticed the umbrella and realized a person was being attacked. He came back to rescue her. She received expert care and had a full recovery.
God is in the rescue business. Your situation may seem hopeless, you may be under fierce attack, but God is more powerful than anything you are facing. May your faith stand firm and hold up the umbrella in the trash pile next to you. God will do the rest.
King Jehoshaphat of Judah was terrified by the news that the surrounding nations had united into one gigantic army to march against his kingdom. So He immediately turned to God for salvation because het knew his army could not prevail. If they were going to be victorious, it would be by God’s power. And so he prayed, “You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against You!” (2 Chronicles 20:6)
As the enemy army approached, the kingdom of Judah was helpless and afraid. This is when God spoke, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (v. 15)
There are times when life overwhelms us. Death, failure, attacks on our character, an argument with our best friend, betrayal, loss, loneliness, temptations, or one of a hundred other enemies march upon us like the mighty army marching against Judah. Every time we are attacked we have a choice to make: fight or stand firm. Jehoshaphat was told by God to “Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory.” (v. 17)
It’s hard to stand firm and let God fight. We don’t even know what that looks like most of the time. Perhaps that is why we try to fight every battle ourselves. When we are hurt by someone, our first instinct is to attack. If we are faced with a temptation, we try to resist. Whenever we fail in life, we ignore it rather than learn from it. When we disagree with a friend, we argue or disengage. The issue comes down to relying on ourselves or trusting in God. Do I really believe in God? Do I believe that He will defend my character? Do I believe that He has the answers to my failures and hurts? Do I believe that He will heal my broken heart? Will I believe His Word or the word of those around me? Jehoshaphat understood how to obtain victory in life when he said, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.” (v. 20) We live by faith. That’s the only way we can stand firm with God rather than fight with our own strength.
What does it look like for you to stand firm today? Will you have faith in God’s will for your life? Will you trust His Word to be authoritative in your life today? Stand firm today! God will fight your battles.
In my career as an obstetrician before I became a pastor, I performed thousands of circumcisions. They were quick and easy to perform. The primary issue was the pain the procedure would cause. And as with any medical procedure, a consent form was required to be signed by the parent or legal guardian before I would perform the surgery.
In the Old Testament, circumcision was a sign that you had accepted God’s covenant and His lordship in your life. In the New Testament, we see the spiritual application of this procedure as having real life consequences. We read in Colossians 2:11, When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.
What a promise! Do we realize the good news contained in the fact that Jesus will perform a spiritual circumcision on our heart? And all we have to do is invite Him into our heart! To the Master Surgeon, circumcision is a simple procedure. It will be painful, for sure. And it requires us to sign a consent form to be signed by us. But the rewards are literally out of this world that begin with a change in our evil desires! Paul alludes to this fact in verse 23 where he states that the ceremonial law which points forward to Jesus, could “provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” But by cutting away our sinful nature, our desires are changed. When our desires our changed, our behavior changes. And we have done nothing but submit to a procedure that our Savior does masterfully! The issue is whether we want our evil desires to be changed. Think about it. Thank about your desires. A desire is something you really want. If you really want something, it is hard to make a decision to allow Jesus to transform you to the point that you don’t want it anymore. It’s a painful procedure and one that can fill us with anxiety.
It is painful and provokes anxiety because we want what we want and we want it now. We want to be free. We think that freedom means pursuing our desires. But our evil desires always result in more pain at some point in the future. What we fail to realize is that true freedom only comes when we are free in Christ. This means we allow Christ into our hearts to perform this simplest of procedures.
You see, we are actually bound by our desires. Evil desires lead to behaviors that may feel great at the time, but always cause pain in the end. This pain is much worse than the pain of a spiritual circumcision that leads to a life of peace, contentment, and joy. So the issue comes down to this simple question: Will I submit to the pain of a spiritual circumcision today, or would I rather endure the pain of my evil desires tomorrow?