God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets

This weekend at Eastbrook Church we began a new preaching series entitled “God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets.”

At the end of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, we find a collection of twelve small, yet powerful, books known as the Minor Prophets or “the Book of the Twelve.” The title “minor” refers to their length, and not to their significance, as each of these short books brings a powerful word from God to His people that challenges the status quo. As we walk through this entire collection, we will seek to hear God’s message to us today.

This series will eventually coincide with our Lenten journey to the Cross and Resurrection, with a devotional (more info to follow). Join us as we take a journey into the heart of God through this unique portion of the Scriptures.

Jesus is the Lamb

The second thought of my reflections from reading Scripture the other day is this: Jesus is the Lamb.

In Revelation chapter five, when the elder directs John to see the “Lion of Judah” who is alone worthy to open the scroll of God, John sees something quite unexpected. He does not see a lion at all.

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. (Revelation 5:6)

The victorious lion is none other than a bloodied and slain lamb. What is this? For those of us who are familiar with the Scriptures, our minds race back to the lamb of the Passover in Exodus. The lamb was killed and its blood wiped over the doorposts as a sign for God’s angel of destruction to pass over the Israelites during the final plague against Egypt. The entire sacrificial system of ancient Israel returned to this Passover action.

Our minds may rush to the words of the prophet Isaiah about the promised Servant-Messiah who would come:

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

And if we know the gospel stories well, we will likely remember the echoes of Passover before, in, around, and after Jesus’ death on the Cross.

The writer to the Hebrews draws together these Old and New Testament concepts with a few clear statements:

But now he [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people. (Hebrews 9:25-27)

Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb who stood looking like He was slain.

But here is the wonderfully mysterious tension that John encounters in Revelation chapter five. The victorious Lion is the slain Lamb. The roaring Conqueror is the voiceless Sacrifice.

And so, strength and weakness meet in Jesus. Power and humility collide in His death. The unending victory comes through the magnificent defeat (to borrow a phrase from Fred Buechner).

For Jesus is both the lion and the lamb.

Jesus is the Lion

When reading Scripture the other day, there were two parallel thoughts that leaped out of Amos and Revelation to capture my mind. The first is this: Jesus is the Lion.

The LORD roars from Zion
and thunders from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds dry up,
and the top of Carmel withers. (Amos 1:1)

The prophet Amos is not a tame man. He speaks cutting words that humiliate his hearers as unjust and unrighteous people. They should know better, he says, because God has spoken to them already through Moses. And so, because of their sin, God will come like a lion.

The lion has roared— who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken— who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:8)

Amos’ message is one just judgment upon the people of God.

As I read in the final book of the New Testament, I encountered the lion again. This time the scene is one of heavenly worship. There is a scroll in the hand of God with writing on both sides. It is sealed up and no one can open it. Heaven weeps because there is no one worthy of opening it.

But then, the Lion appears.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5)

The triumphant and powerful Lion of Judah is able. He has roared a triumph over all creation, and He stands victorious in heaven.

Jesus is that Lion. He is the victor.

As I think about Jesus the Lion, I am afraid. He is just. He is the judge. He is powerful. He has won the battle. I stand humbled and trembling before this powerful Jesus.

I remember the line from C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, where Mr. Beaver describes Aslan the lion to the children as both unsafe and good.

Safe? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.

Jesus is anything but safe. But He is good. He is the King.