The Word for today:
The introduction to yesterday’s article was meant to be unsettling:
We marvel about a God who will die to save us.
At the same time, we wonder about a God who will kill to save us. As Joshua and Israel cross the Jordan River we recall the day God saved them by drowning the armies of Egypt in the Red Sea.
And as Joshua and the children of Israel are poised on the outskirts of Jericho, ready to begin the annihilation of their enemies in the Promised Land, we are forced to ponder:
Is the heart of God like a house divided against itself?
There are many Christians who want to believe that the sometimes fearsome God of the Old Testament was sort of on his way to turning into Jesus, their perfected–and perfectly predictable–pet.
But the Bible, if read in its entirety, won’t let us get away with such schlock. From Genesis to Revelation, the Messiah has been revealed as both Lion and Lamb.
How wrong we are to simplify and reduce and domesticate Jesus!
Let’s say it this way: we are just as wrong, on this side of the cross, to be blind to the fierce Lion Of Judah as were those on the other side of the cross who were blind to the gentle Lamb of God.
Right up to the cross, most of Israel–including the 12 disciples (1) and even John the Baptist (2)–assumed the Messiah would be a conqueror. Why wouldn’t they? They’d met him in the book of Joshua as the commander of the army of the LORD, with his drawn sword in his hand (Joshua 5:13-15).
(This “commander” is thought to be God the Son for a number of reasons. First, he accepted the honor Joshua gave him (an ordinary angel would never have done so.) The visitor also informed Joshua that he was standing in a holy place (Joshua 5:15), implying that Joshua was in God’s very presence. Finally, Scripture indicates that it was the Lord Himself who spoke: “Then the LORD said…” (Joshua 6:2). As the people were on the verge of conquering the land God had promised them, the preincarnate Jesus appeared once again and reminded Joshua who was really in charge of the battle.
The Commander, sword still drawn, will return to the Bible at the extreme other end of history. See Revelation 19.)
They understood God as Conqueror; but many just could not/would not see God as Lamb! They disavowed any mention of Messiah as the sacrifice for sin, even though he was clearly depicted in picture and prophecy throughout their Bibles as the seed of the woman who would be bruised (3); as the suffering servant of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53; as Me whom they have pierced, whom they shall mourn for, as one mourns for an only son… (4)
We find it hard to see how they could miss the Lamb. But they would find our wholly gentle Jesus just as unbiblical as we find their martial Messiah.
We must try with all our might to meet God on his terms and not on our own. We must not look away and disavow the Commander of the Lord’s Army as he directs the annihilation of Israel’s enemies.
We are not allowed to rewrite the Bible in order to make God resemble the passing sensibilities of any given era or culture. If we do, we create an idol whom we label “Jesus,” but who is not Jesus at all.
When we disarm the Commander of the Lord’s Armies; when we de-claw the Lion Of Judah; when we forget that unless he’d judged Egypt he could not have saved Israel, then we render our own salvation unaccomplished as well.
For where would we be if God Himself had not judged and slaughtered God Himself at the cross of Jesus Christ?
Jesus is Lion, Lawgiver, Judge, and Lamb. If he were not all of those, he could not be the Savior.
(1) see Matthew 16:21-23; (2) see Mathew 11:2-6; (3) Genesis 3:15; (4) Zechariah 12:10