On February 16, 2012

The Anger of the Lamb

So last week we talked about how Revelation really starts picking up steam. John finds a scroll, and find that it contains the the plans for God’s redemption of the world. But no one is worthy to open it…until the Lamb appears. The Lamb is the only one worthy of carrying out God’s total redemption project, so it sounds like things are turning around. Evil has met it’s match. The Lamb opens the scroll to read the redemptive plans of God. But….

Things get worse before they get better.

Once the scroll is opened a series of horses begin to start riding by. Which is not what we expected. One scholar says that the difference between Revelation and other books in the New Testament, is like the difference between reading words and reading music. We have to realize that this is a different kind of communication, and that the audience would have been able to read the sheet music. These horses stand for something. They are the symbols of the world’s oppression, violence and injustice and tyranny. The horses are white and red and black.

Which explains all those weird Skittle commercials.

And these principalities and powers wreak havoc on the world. The world is falling apart, and the things that have caused suffering from Genesis 3 on seem to run loose unchecked.

So the Saints in Heaven ask the question that is on all of our lips, even if we don’t know it. They ask, “How Long O LORD?” How long are things going to be like this? How long will Hell wreak havoc on the world? How long will babies die of AIDS, or the young of cancer? How long will war and death and tyranny carry the day? How long will the resources that can feed the many, be hoarded by the few?

If you’ve got any kind of heart, these questions have probably crossed your mind as well. They should. They are the question of Heaven.

And the answer, of course, is not the one we want. Like 2 Peter before, Jesus’ answer in Revelation is that God is patient. He knows that the ultimate enemy isn’t one with flesh and blood, and so he patiently waits and hopes to redeem the tyrant as well as the tyrannized. But there’s one more thing that Revelation tells us.

In Verse 16, we find out that the evil of the world finally beings to realize what will happen, and  they are terrified of the Anger of the Lamb.

I love that phrase. The Anger of the Lamb.

When was the last time you saw a mad baby sheep? Yes, God acts with a gentle authority, yes He wins through sacrifice, and yes this God is angry.

Not as a cruel tyrant who rules over the world as it was His own personal North Korea, he judges as a Lamb with vulnerability. But this Lamb is angry. He’s angry at the same things the saints are. He’s angry at the things that we are. It’s not right that the world has turned out this way. It’s not right that life gives and take away so much, so often. And if you’ve ever found yourself wondering why God doesn’t act, or found yourself angry at the pain of the world, then maybe it will be a bit comforting to know Jesus is paying attention too. And the Lamb is angry.

So there is a time in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is approached by a man with a withered hand. Like most disfigured people in 1st century Judaism, this man is prevented from entering the Temple. He’s cut off from the religious life of the community. But that doesn’t stop him from breaking into a religious gathering that Jesus is at. He wants to be healed, and he’s heard that Jesus may just be able to help him. Unfortunately, he came to Jesus on a Saturday.

The religious leaders are watching Jesus like a hawk. They think that they may have Jesus trapped. If he heals the guy than he has broken the Sabbath, and if he doesn’t the crowd will lose respect for Him. But Jesus isn’t thinking about this PR nightmare. He’s thinking about the man. And Mark tells us something interesting. He tells us that as Jesus realizes what’s on the religious leaders minds, Jesus gets angry.

He wants to restore the man to completeness. They are looking at how to move one more step up their own personal ladders. They are using God to get ahead at the expense of a man who’s lived a pretty hard life. And Jesus is ticked.

His anger leads to the Restoration of the man, and to a better understanding of who God is for everyone involved.

That’s the Anger of the Lamb.

This is what the Scroll of Revelation is telling these persecuted Christians. It’s not pretending like the sword of Domitian (the Roman Emperor who was about to start a widespread violent persecution against Christians) doesn’t exist. It’s not trying to pretend that cancer and miscarriages and violence don’t really matter. Revelation, like all theology starts with the facts. The world, the way it is, is broken. But God is watching. And He will act.

Maybe there is a chance, if your life is in tune with God, that the things that make you angry in the world, are doing the same things for Him. He’s not passive in this whole thing. And maybe your anger is a way that God is actually pushing you to get more involved with setting the world right. But even if they do not, you need to know:

One day God will judge the evil of the world. He will say to about all the greed and abuse and violence and death, you are wrong and you can no longer last.

But until that day comes, you should know the Lamb is Angry.

 

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  • Preston C.

    Great thoughts, Jonathan.

    I think we have always misdirected God’s anger. Growing up I always thought God would be angry at me. That when I sit in judgment God would only see my bad, and that Jesus would have to rescue me from God.

    I am thankful I no longer believe that. I believe, as you mentioned, that God is angry that things are not as they should be, and that his wrath will come to set things right again. We have already been made right through Jesus and are now agents, or vehicles, of God’s redemptive power.