From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Six, Day Four
Most of us picture lambs as downy white animals frolicking in rolling green meadows or carried tenderly in the arms of their shepherd. Lambs represent gentleness, purity, and innocence. Though it is one of the most tender images of Christ in the New Testament, the phrase "Lamb of God" would have conjured far more disturbing pictures to those who heard John the Baptist hail Jesus with these words. Hadn't many of them, at one time or another, carried one of their own lambs to the altar to be slaughtered as a sacrifice for their sins, a lamb that they had fed and bathed, the best animal in their small flock? Hadn't the bloody sacrifice of an innocent animal provided a vivid image of the consequences of transgressing the Mosaic law? Surely, John must have shocked his listeners by applying the phrase "Lamb of God" to a living man.
When we pray to Jesus as the Lamb of God, we are praying to the One who voluntarily laid down his life to take in his own body the punishment for our sins and for the sins of the entire world.
John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
Praying the Name
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. . . . "
Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down." Exodus 12:12-13, 21-23
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center before the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. . . . And they sang a new song, saying:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
members of every tribe and language and people
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests
to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."
Revelation 5:6, 9-10
Praise God: For purchasing your soul with the currency of his Son's death.
Offer Thanks: Because God himself is your safety.
Confess: Any complacency about living your life for Christ.
Ask God: To help you approach each day with hope and trust.
A few years ago I woke in the middle of a wintry night to the unmistakable sound of someone creeping stealthily up the stairway. Aware that my children were too afraid of the dark to be roaming the house at 2:30 in the morning, I decided the best course of action was simply to confront whoever was lurking in the shadows. So with heart racing and hands trembling, I threw open my bedroom door. Startled by the boldness of my action, the intruders froze, staring straight at me. Oddly, the criminals were holding hands. Six-year-old Katie and four-year-old Luci were creeping up the stairs together. Close questioning revealed that my daughters had been searching the house for leprechauns and pots of gold, which they assured me could best be found in the middle of the night. (Don't ask who had been filling their heads with tales of leprechauns!)
Shaken by thoughts of how defenseless I would have been against a real intruder, I arranged to have a security system installed the next week. Whatever it cost, the sense of safety would be worth it. Now we could sleep in peace.
The book of Exodus talks about another kind of security system, one innocent of codes, wires, alarms, or warning signs but one far more effective than anything ever devised by human beings. Prior to their exodus from Egypt, God told Moses to instruct the Israelites to smear the doors of their houses with the blood of the Passover lamb. Any home so marked would be spared God's judgment. The angel of death would pass over it, visiting only the homes whose doors remained unmarked. In this last, most terrible plague, the Egyptians would lose their firstborn sons as punishment for resisting God's command to let his people go.
But why did God insist on a visible mark to distinguish between his people and the Egyptians? Couldn't he tell the difference? Of course, it was people and not God who needed this visible sign of God's protection.
But what does this ancient story have to do with us today? Last night I woke with a troubling thought foremost in my mind. I was thinking about death, about its inevitability, as though we are all riding a giant assembly line toward it. I thought about how nothing in this world is strong enough to halt its advance — not science, not money, not even love. From the best to the worst, from the youngest to the oldest, all of us are heading toward death. But instead of scrambling to get off the assembly line, because we know we can't, we act as though we aren't even on it, as though there's no such thing. And so we spend our time on the line chatting and laughing and planning and scheming and working to make life better, as though we are all going to live forever. I began thinking of all the things that had preoccupied me in the past week. They seemed trivial, even ridiculous, in light of my inevitable future.
But what do such gloomy thoughts have to do with any discussion of safety and security? Think of it like this: What if the Exodus story tells us something about our own future? What if it points to another Passover Lamb, to Jesus of Nazareth, who was himself killed shortly after celebrating a Passover meal with his disciples? What if it is his blood that marks us and sets us apart as God's people so that when the angel of death passes over us at the final judgment, we will experience not death eternally but life forever?
Indeed, belonging to Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the only security system capable of preserving us from death. It's the only thing powerful enough to get us off an assembly line that would otherwise lead to our destruction. Because of the death of the Lamb, we can live forever in perfect peace and joy. That is the hope we share, believing as we do that because Jesus lives in us, the Father will one day raise us up with him to a place that is eternally secure.
Take a moment to close your eyes and lift your heart to Jesus, the Lamb. Imagine him slain for you. Now picture him alive again and standing next to God's throne in heaven. What do you see? What does he say? How do you respond?
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.