Worship Him :: Jan van Eyck, “The Adoration of the Lamb”

Jan van Eyck, The Adoration of the Lamb (detail of the Ghent altarpiece); oil on panel; between 1425 and 1429.

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.” (Revelation 5:6)

One of the most striking aspects of the book of Revelation is the imagery that abounds within the heavenly scenes of worship. Jesus, who first appears to John in overwhelming glory (Revelation 1:9-20), now appears in chapter 5 as a Lamb looking as if it had been slain. This is a strange picture unless one is familiar with sacrificial imagery throughout Scripture, and particularly references to Jesus as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Gospel writers labor to show the connection between Jesus and the Passover festival, highlighting Jesus as the One who reveals the love of God and brings ultimate salvation and healing between God and humanity through His sacrifice. “The Adoration of the Lamb” serves as a moving centerpiece of the revered Ghent Altarpiece, assembled by Jan van Eyck and his brother, Hubert. Looking at it, our attention is immediately drawn to the Lamb, standing strong yet bleeding, on the heavenly altar at the very center of this panel, which is surrounded by eleven interior panels on the altarpiece. The quotation mentioned above from John 1:29 is written in Latin on the altarpiece itself, while the fountain below the Lamb has written on it in Latin the phrase: “This is the fountain of the water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (drawn from Revelation 22:1). All around the Lamb at the center are angels and human figures who gather in worship before Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. When we consider the wonders of what Jesus has done through His life, death, and resurrection, what can we do but worship Him? He is worthy!

Prayer as Worship: Revelation

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church I concluded our series on prayer, “Great Prayers of the Bible“, by looking at two significant themes on prayer from the book of Revelation. The entire message was built around the idea of praying with the end state of prayer in mind. Basically, if we want to “begin with the end in mind,” what might that mean in the domain of prayer as we live daily toward the end state of prayer as depicted in the book of Revelation.

This has been a wonderful series throughout our Summer of Prayer at Eastbrook, and I’d encourage you to return to some of the earlier messages if you did not have the chance to view them. You can view this message video and the sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Praying with Paul: Philippians 1 [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” (Philippians 1:4)

It is fitting that this last day of the 30 Days of Prayer devotional ends with Philippians. This letter of Paul is jam-packed with lived theology as the Apostle writes an epistle of joy from prison to believers suffering greatly. It is not without reason that this letter of joy has lifted the spirits of believers throughout history in diverse places. Neither should it be missed that Paul’s prayer near the beginning of the letter encapsulates all the themes of the letter in one great prayer saturated with joy and concluding with praise.

Open your Bible to Philippians 1:3-11 and read this section of the letter. Take note of the gratitude and tender love which Paul expresses to the Philippian believers in verses 3-8. Paul’s prayer arises from meaningful relationships that have history and shared experiences. As you read through the entire letter you sense that the Philippian church has a special place in Paul’s heart. Maybe you could stop right now and thank God for the believers in your own life who mean so much to you. Consider the ways that God has blessed you through others and with others in your life. Thank Him for those who hold a special place in your heart.

The meat of Paul’s prayer begins in verse 9 as he asks God to increase their love. If Jesus said that people would know we were His disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35), Paul takes this seriously in prayer. The increase is not at random, however, and is connected to a series of requests related to knowledge, insight, and discernment. All these wisdom requests are like links in a chain leading toward Paul’s prayer that the believers’ lives would ultimately be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Thus, growth in the love of Christ toward others is paralleled by growth in the character of Christ within their lives. Do we need to grow in love? Do we need knowledge, insight, and discernment about God’s will? Do we need increasing fruit of righteousness in your life? I do. Why not stop right now to pray that God would shape those things within your life, in the life of your friends, and the life of your church fellowship?

The end of Paul’s prayer here is “to the glory and praise of God” (1:11). Every time I hear this final phrase in the prayer, I cannot help but think of the ending of the Lord’s Prayer: “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” All our praying concludes with praising. This is not just a formula that we apply to our regular prayers. No, this is truly a theological and eschatological reality. One day, all our confessions and petitions will cease and we will, at the end of all things, be caught up in the greatest praise of the Living God for eternity. At that day, we will join in with the elders, and the living creatures, and all the hosts of heaven around the throne of God in our eternal praise: “Holy, holy, holy, are you Lord God, Almighty….You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 4:8, 11; 5:13). As we conclude the 30 Days of Prayer, why not spend time now in praise of our God who deserves more than we could ever give?

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

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.