Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Shepherding Lamb?

Revelation 7:9-17

“The Lamb…will be their Shepherd.”  Really?  Isn’t that a little odd?  It would seem strange to me to expect a lamb to be a shepherd, after all it is sheep who need the shepherd.  So what is going on here in Revelation 7?

            The shepherd is supposed to guide and protect the sheep of his flock.  Can someone who is described as “the Lamb” really be capable of the sort of guidance that we need in the 21st century?  Can a lamb protect us from the wolves ready to attacks us, the lions ready to devour us, the false shepherds who wish to lead us astray?

            Make no mistake, the 21st century poses a set of problems and challenges to the Christian faith that are dangerous to our Church.  Atheism, the once quiet, disinterested, and small group of those who believe nothing spiritual exists, has become militant, intent on uprooting any form of serious spiritual faith.

            The internet has given us easier access to dangerous tools of the devil.  Those who bombed innocent civilians in Boston this past week could very easily have learned to make their explosives on line.  With just a few strokes of the keyboard you can learn how to destroy hundreds, even thousands of lives.

            The world-wide-web gives us access to too much information at times, the wrong kind of information.  It can certainly be used for good, but also for evil.  It can connect us to loved ones, but it can just as easily connect us to pornography, hate groups, and false information.

            We have come to a tipping point in America where the surrounding values of the culture not only do not match with those of the Christian faith, but they are adversarial to it.  We can’t simply agree to disagree.  Christians are being systematically shunned and spurned, told to change, get on the right side of history.

            The temptation for us is to think that the Lamb is not up to the task of defending us from this evil.  Surely a meek little sheep cannot guide us through these turbulent waters.  There is no way a lamb can protect us from the dangerous philosophies and religions that wish to destroy our faith.

            And so we seek something more.  We look for answers apart from the Lamb of God.  We look to mysticism, trying to receive some sort of direct emotional experience with God, circumventing the person of Jesus.

            We look to our jobs for meaning, to our families to give us hope, to science for absolute truth.  We look to our nation, the good ole’ U.S. of A. to fill in the place and role of God.  Of course a lamb cannot be our shepherd.  We must look for a better one.

            Perhaps John was thinking the same thing.  As I explained last week, Revelation 6 is all about the judgment of God.  John not only hears, but actually sees God pouring out His wrath upon this sin-filled world.  

            Can you imagine what John saw, how horrifying it must have been?  He sees bloody war, unimaginable famine and disease.  In the book of revelation John sees the earth destroyed three different times.  He sees the devil unleashed upon the earth to wreak his worst havoc.

            John had far better reason than we to think that perhaps the Lamb was not up to the task of being the Shepherd.  And it is for this reason that John sees what he does in Revelation chapter 7.  

            At the beginning of chapter 7 John sees the church of God on earth, all Christians still living during those turbulent end times, sealed with the mark of God upon their foreheads.  The seal of God keeps them safe during the horrors of judgment.

            Then, in our text for this morning, John sees an uncountable crowd of people from every race and tribe upon the earth singing the praises of God and the Lamb.  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.

            The Lamb shepherded God’s people through the greatest tribulation that the world would ever know.  He sealed them with His blood while they lived through it.  He raised them from the dead and gave them victory over death at His triumphant return.  

            The Lamb protects them from hunger, thirst, and heat.  He leads them to drink deeply from the cool and refreshing waters that give eternal life.  He wipes away all their tears.

            If the Lamb can shepherd His people through the Great Tribulation, which will be far worse than anything you and I have ever seen, then He can certainly shepherd us through these dark days.

            We are not living through the Great Tribulation, only a normal one.  Times like these are merely par for the course when it comes to being a child of God, citizens of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

            We have been sealed through baptism with the mark of Jesus Christ, the Lamb.  We belong to Him.  We are under His protection from the dangers of false doctrine, false accusation, sin, and vise.  

            The Lamb continues to guide us with His Word.  He teaches us time and again that He is our Savior, worthy of our trust.  He leads us down the narrow way, and picks us up each time we fall. 

            John’s vision is for us too.  It is to comfort us in our affliction, restore us when we have sinned, and reassure us of the strength of the Lamb, our Shepherd. 

The Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is just full of contradictions.  He is a shepherding lamb.  He washes us white with His blood.  And He is the Lamb who was slain, but is alive.  

This is no ordinary sheep, small and fragile.  The powers of hell threw everything they had at Him and He took it all, overcoming even the devil’s most powerful assault: death.  The Lamb is tough.  More than that, He is all-powerful.  

This almighty, undying Lamb is our Shepherd.  He will guide us through the changes and difficulties of this world.  He will protect us from the eternal consequences of our own sin.  He will raise us from death. 

Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen!

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