The Bible, rich in metaphorical language, reserves its most vibrant word pictures for the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Living Bread and the Water of Life, the sun of righteousness and the Morning Star. He is the Shepherd of the Flock, the Heavenly Bridegroom, and the Head of the Body, the True Vine and the Corn of Wheat. He is the Beginning and the End of all God’s ways, the Alpha and Omega of all God’s revelation, the First and the Last of all God’s purposes, the Root and the Offspring of the Messianic hope, the Cornerstone and the Keystone of the church, the Author and finisher of faith. The writers of the scriptures, borne along by the Spirit of Truth, reached into every field of knowledge – Astronomy, Botany, Zoology, Architecture, Anatomy, Lexicography – to add palate colours for their portrait of the Messiah.
Words fail, however, when seeking to portray the One who is the Word of God. Obviously, when utilizing metaphors and similes, we know the subject is only like the picture in certain respects. If it were like the picture in every respect, it would not be a picture of the thing; it would be the thing itself. That means, of course, that a metaphor may instruct us in what the Lord is not, as well as what He is. Often an artist finds it easier to draw the shape of the space around an object than to draw the object itself.
So it is with one of the most inclusive metaphors in the word of God: the Lamb. The story of God’s Lamb unfolds from that scene on the threshold of Eden, with Abel’s ‘firstling of the flock’ staining the cursed earth soon to be stained with Abel’s own blood, through to John’s window into paradise with the combined choirs of earth and heaven worshipping the Lamb who sits on the throne of God.
Obviously the Lord Jesus is like a lamb in a number of ways. He is like a lamb in His spotlessness, ‘Christ, as of a lamb without blemish’, 1 Pet. 1. 19. He is like a lamb in His submission, ‘He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter’, Isa. 53. 7. He is like a lamb in His silence, ‘like a lamb dumb before his shearers’, Acts 8. 32. He is like a lamb in His substitution, ‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us’, 1 Cor. 5. 7; see also Exod. 12. 3-5. And he is like a lamb in His sin-bearing, ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’, John 1. 29; see also Lev. 4. 32.
There are some things about God’s Lamb, however, that are unique. When Abraham, ascending the heights of Moriah, told his son, ‘God will provide Himself a lamb’, Gen. 22. 8, he was stating a profound and eternal principle. ‘Salvation is of the Lord’, and anything that man touches is flawed and unsuitable to satisfy the God of infinite perfections. Every lamb that was given to God first came from God. But this Lamb was given by God for men. In what ways is God’s Lamb unique?
No other lamb offered itself
No lamb volunteered to die for its owner. ‘Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offerings for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God’, Heb. 10. 8-9. True love, true service, true devotion must be volitional. In the quiet, acquiescent nature of the lamb there was a reflection but not the reality of the Lamb who, knowing what ‘the slaughter’ entailed, said, ‘Not my will but thine be done.’
No other lamb fully satisfied the heart of God
In fact, all the lambs together, not to mention the thousands of goats and bulls, the rivers of oil and mountains of frankincense, could not meet the demands of His righteousness. ‘Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?’, Micah 6. 7. ‘For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the thing, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered?’, Heb. 10. 1-2. But this Lamb, ‘by one offering … hath perfected forever them that are sanctified’, Heb. 10. 14.
No other lamb provided justification and sanctification
Atonement through the blood only temporarily and partially dealt with the problem of sin. But God’s Lamb ‘beareth away the sin of the world’, John 1. 29. ‘In those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year’, Heb. 10. 3. Not so the Saviour! The New Covenant, based on His sacrifice, reads, ‘And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more’, Heb. 10. 17. It was impossible, of course, for a lamb to be both a sweet-savour and a non-savour offering. One was burned (olah, to cause to ascend) at the brazen altar while the other was burned (holocausta, to utterly consume) in a clean place outside the camp. When the offerer’s hands were laid on the sweet-savour lamb’s head, there was a symbolic transfer of the acceptability of the offering to the offerer, ‘It shall be accepted for him’. But when the offerer’s hands were laid on the non-saviour lamb’s head, there was a symbolic transfer of the guilt of the offerer to the offering. Obviously both could not be true of any ordinary lamb. But in Christ we have God’s answer both to the offensiveness of sin to God, ‘being now justified by his blood’, Rom. 5. 9, and the damage it has done to us, ‘God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us’, Rom. 8, 3-4. God’s Lamb allows God to be both Justifier and Sanctifier of those who believe in Jesus.
No other Iamb died and then rose again
Who of God’s time-bound creatures can understand how this Lamb can be not only slain at the watershed of history at Golgotha, Acts 2. 23, but also spoken of as ‘slain from the foundation of the world’, Rev. 13. 8? Yet when John is instructed to behold Judah’s Lion in glory, he writes, ‘and I beheld … a Lamb as it had been slain’, Rev. 5. 6. In spite of the gold and pearls and precious stones, the thrones and angels and marvellous creatures, the trumpet blasts and choirs and earthquakes – it is the Lamb that rivets John’s attention. What other Lamb is worshipped because He is very God, Rev. 5. 8? He is the theme of angel’s praise, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing’. Then every creature in heaven, earth, sea, and in the underworld joins in the chorus, ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever’, Rev. 5. 11-13.
No other Iamb rent the veil
It was as the priests busied themselves in preparation for the evening sacrifice that God’s Lamb cried out, ‘It is finished!’ What was finished? Among other things, the veil was finished; it was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The selective priesthood was finished, although they would not discover this until the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. The blood sacrifices were finished. In fact, all the shadows had found their substance in the Lamb on the middle tree. Now He leads His people into the holiest, into the immediate presence of the Almighty, ‘by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh’, Heb. 10. 20. This Lamb has opened the way for us into heaven itself.
There is, of course, much more. What other lamb has the right to the title deeds of the world, Rev. 5. 1-7? What other lamb executes such wrath upon the Godless that they would prefer the mountains to fall on them, Rev. 6. 16? What other lamb – hornless, fangless, clawless, harmless-became the proud ensign of a mighty army of overcomers, Rev. 12. 11? What other lamb has a record of every human choice for or against his sacrifice on their behalf, Rev. 13. 8? What other lamb makes war and triumphs over all his foes, Rev. 17. 14? And what of the Lamb’s wife? And the Lamb’s song? And the Lamb’s light? And the Lamb’s throne? There is no one like God’s Lamb! No wonder ‘the Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land’, (Samuel Rutherford).
None other Lamb! none other name!
None other hope in heaven, or earth, or sea!
None other hiding place for sin and shame,
None beside Thee.
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