“And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able… ‘Behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’ And I saw between the throne and the elders a Lamb that was slain, crowned in perfect power and seeing fully in the Spirit of God (Rev 5).”

When Israel had arrived at Sinai Mountain in the wilderness, God thundered with fire and lightning on the mountain, and the people stepped back in fear. They felt more comfortable if Moses met with God on their behalf. Israel looked at God through the lens of four hundred years of slavery, generations of being crushed by a ruler who claimed to be God. Though they were free in the journey to the mountain, they were unable to recognize his wooing as the Good Shepherd: protecting them from death, feeding them from heaven, sweetening their water, and crushing the enemy.

A God who would lay down his life for human beings??

He doesn’t just lead me because he is the leader; he leads me because he loves me. How good is God, to know me so well, that even when I run off or try to find my own green pastures, he lovingly leads me back into the pastures of his desires. How good is God, to know me so well, that even when I freeze with uncertainty about tomorrow, he rejuvenates my eyes with wonder and encourages me to see life as an adventure. He invites me to come up the mountain. He is confident that he overcomes my darkness. Every place in me that hides—he will introduce himself as the good and trustworthy Shepherd.

I can trust Jesus as my Shepherd because he is also the Lamb. He understands in every way what it means to follow, to be led, to trust and fully depend on God as his own Good Shepherd. Do you know what they sing about him in heaven, this Lamb that was slain for us? 

“Worthy are you to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 

The song they sing magnifies and honors his character of sacrificial love as the supreme power and wisdom. The Lion who overcomes is a slain Lamb. Everything in the Kingdom is upside down. Humanity wants a God that roars and devours, but he has chosen to be among the flock as one of us. 

Perhaps like Israel, we’ve been misguided by our own perception of God. We often think that we can lead ourselves to green pastures. Yet when we get into a desert place, we see God’s fiery presence and our situation as worse than if we returned to our land of enslavement. Look at the kings of the earth found in the Book that Reveals Jesus; the great and strong men hide themselves in the rocks, just as Israel did in the desert, saying, “Hide us from the presence of the One who sits on the throne, the great wrath of the Lamb. No one can stand. (Rev 6)”

Yet how can this Lamb have wrath that destroys his own? I have never seen a lamb act in violence. Do not be afraid. To fall at his feet is to know his goodness, his faithfulness, his love. His passion is to purify and protect us, not condemn us with unending punishment. The fire in his eyes consumes all that injures and separates us from him. But his kindness, the sword in his mouth, leads us to repentance. He removes the lens of slavery so we can see him rightly. Not only has he seen our suffering, but he has also suffered with us. How beautiful is his suffering, his undying love; he loved us so much that while we were still sinning, while we deliberately rejected him, he died for us. He loves us, and we are his own. And it is in this love that he emptied himself, took off all his clothes, got on his knees and put his hands over his head and said, “I love you, even if you kill me.”

Historically, animal sacrifice was not founded by Israel, but was adopted by them from nearby nations. God is brilliant: to show us the better way of love, he fully submitted to our human rituals of atonement, the ones that took innocent lambs and led them to golden altars, which came from the mindset that God would pleased by the act of our “sacrificial slaughter.”

Jesus became the lamb for our atonement, to end our rituals of trying to please him. He does not delight in sacrifice but in a broken spirit, a repentant heart, to take the mind of the Christ and make it our own. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want because he stands between me and the fire, the lightning on the mountain, and in him, I will not be devoured. His blood is mine. Jesus was committed to me through his last breath. And instead of being destroyed by fire, God breathed on the Sacrificial Lamb, and he became the Lamb of Fire. I lay down my will to preserve myself, and I let him lead me. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.