Monday, March 9, 2015

The Lion and the Lamb

We left off last week talking about original creation and whether God intended man to eat meat. (Short answer: I just don't know.) We have this adage we use - that the lion and the lamb will lie down together. It's not an actual verse; it's a hybrid of a couple of verses in Isaiah. But it's common enough that when I say it, you know what I'm talking about. I had originally thought of using this in terms of the man/meat discussion, but as I thought about this, it means so much more. 

I'm working on a paper on covenant and kingship for a Scripture class this week, and it's precisely this kind of thing that I'm looking at. So let's look at it. Just for fun.

Jesus is known as both the Lion and the Lamb. He is the Lion of Judah, which is an indication that He is the continuing king from the land of Judah. Because as we all know, the lion is the king of the jungle. Jesus is also known as the Lamb. He is the sacrificial lamb of God, the atonement for sin, in keeping with the Old Covenant (which we have also recently spent a good deal of time discussing here). So when we get in our heads this idea of the lion and the lamb lying down together, we could not be more theologically right.

Jesus laid His life down. He nailed it to a cross. He did this for us, and in that one act, both the Lion and the Lamb laid down. The Lion laid down His kingship; the Lamb laid down His life. Why does this matter? Because both are measures that get us back to the original creation.

We understand what the Lamb means. There's plenty in the Old Testament to tell us all of that. We know how a lamb was slaughtered, how its blood was poured out, what made it an acceptable sacrifice. We know that it was an aroma pleasing to the Lord. We know that it was the atonement for any number of wrongs, a great measure of the breaking of the covenant relationship between man and God. We understand, then, when we look at Jesus as the Lamb of God, what that means. It means Jesus was the atoning sacrifice. 

But what about the Lion? What about the king?

We hear a lot about what a rejection it was when the people of God asked Him for a king. I'm not sure we really understand what that truly means. Yes, it means they wanted a man to lead them in battle rather than God. Yes, it means they were looking for a political figure. It means they wanted to organize themselves around a central point - a city-state, a royal city, a steady leader. It was a rejection of God's leadership. 

It was so much more.

In the cultures surrounding the Israelites, in the contemporary peoples all around them, the king meant something else besides politics; he also meant religion. The king was the symbol of God among the people. The king was the guy you'd look to to see if God favored you today or not. If God was working on your behalf or not. The king was the go-between between the people and their god. You knew what was happening in the heavens by looking in the palace.

This, of course, radically changed the covenant between God and His people. He made a covenant with a man, with a father. Abraham. He made covenants with other men - Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. He made covenants directly with His people - Israel - in the wilderness, on the mountain. God was a God who wanted to be near to His people. He wanted to be close to them. He wanted them to be close to Him. He wanted them to follow the rules of His covenant and love this relationship as much as He did.

So when Israel asked for a king, they broke His heart. It wasn't just a rejection of His leadership; it was a rejection of His relationship. It was Israel saying, We want a man to stand between You and us, God. Give us a king, and You lead him, and we will follow him, and it will be like we're following You. Israel desired not just a new leader, but for the first time, a middle man. They rejected the covenant in asking for a king, even as they continued to follow the law. 

When Jesus, the Lion, the king, lays down His life, then, He's making a second powerful statement. Not only is He the atoning sacrifice that makes a way for us to come to God; He is also taking out the middle man. He's getting out of the way. He's restoring the covenant to man and God. No king required. No state religion. No political games. God is for the men; He always has been. Only when the King lays down do the people remember that. 

There's something else to be said about this King. But that will have to wait for tomorrow. 

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