Summary: We can rest in the fact that: 1. God’s strength is disguised as weakness. 2. God has a plan. 3. God is in control.
In chapter four of the book of Revelation, John describes a scene in heaven which is beyond words. God is seated on the throne. He rules the universe. He has the right, the authority and the power to end the world. And he is surrounded by living beings that John has never seen before, and cannot adequately describe with the limitations of human language and experience. Worship of the most extraordinary kind overwhelms his senses. Now in chapter five, John continues his dramatic description of the scene in heaven. He sees a throne and someone sitting on it whom he does not even attempt to describe, but in his hand there is a scroll. There is writing on both sides of this scroll and it is sealed with seven seals. A call goes forth for someone to open the scroll, but no one is found who is able to open it. John understands the enormous significance of the scroll and begins to weep at the terrible calamity that he feels. But just then, he is told: “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.” John immediately turns to see this great lion that has just been described to him, but he does not see a lion. He sees a lamb. And not just any lamb, but one with death wounds. John can see the blood and the open wounds with which he has been inflicted.
What a shock it must have been for John to look for this great lion who would rip the seals with his great claws, only to see a small wounded lamb. But it is the lamb who walks up to the One seated on the throne and takes the scroll. And in the subsequent chapters, as he opens the seals, scenes come forth that set in motion the events of the final days of earth’s history. When these events are released by the Lamb, they rush forth with power and fury, and all the host of heaven fall on their faces as they worship the Lamb. It is an incredible and astonishing scene.
A paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. Here is a paradox. How can a lion be a lamb? The two are opposites. One is the hunter and the other the prey. One is placed in a cage with iron bars; the other in a petting zoo. We have all heard of an oxymoron. It is where seemingly contradictory terms are combined. It is an oxymoron to talk about jumbo shrimp, fresh frozen food, or a holy war. We talk about a cool heat, or a deafening silence. A lion-like lamb is an oxymoron. The terms do not belong together — except in heaven. Here the lion is the lamb. His power was found in his death, because with his death he purchased the souls of people, and he was thereby made worthy to open the scroll.
What is the meaning of this strange imagery which introduces the unleashing of end-time events? The first thing that this tells us is that we can rest in the fact that: God’s strength is disguised as weakness. The secret to God’s great strength is in his apparent weakness. Look at the Lamb of God dying on the cross. Was there ever any greater appearance of weakness on the part of God? They taunted him and said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40). The irony was that he was able to come down from the cross, but chose not to. What God was doing was the most powerful act that he would ever perform. Greater than the creation of the world, and greater than bringing the world to an end, Christ’s redemptive act on the cross was God at work in his greatest hour. His strength was hidden, but it was God’s most powerful moment. In this humble act of God, the devil was shamed and robbed of his power. We will never know, this side of heaven, what terrible struggles took place in the spiritual world between Palm Sunday and Easter morning. But one thing we do know: the lamb became a lion.
We keep wanting to have displays of power and have people see that we are on the winning side, but God is content with the appearance of weakness. His purpose in this is profound. What if God always won? What if good always triumphed and doing the right always paid tremendous dividends. Everyone would flock to God and follow him. People will do the things they benefit from personally. And people also want to be on the winning side. It makes them feel important. So God could actually win the world over through a consistent display of power. But where would people’s hearts be? Would they love God for himself, or for his power? Would they love him or fear him? Would they want God to use their lives, or would they want to use God for their own purposes?