THE LAMB OF GOD
Craig A McKay
Isaiah 29: 1
John 1: 29, 30, 35-39 (to “day”)
We have read about a proud lion and a lowly Lamb. I do not want to speak too long about the proud lion. I want to focus on the Lamb - the Lamb of God - the One we sung of in our hymn together, and I would like to attract your hearts to Him. We read about this lion, Ariel, at our midweek reading locally, and this verse struck home to me. It really means, if you see the footnote ‘c’, ‘Lion of God’, but the people had strayed far from that. They were proud and, dear friends, a proud person will not get blessing in the glad tidings. You have to come down and see that you are a sinner and repent before God, and He would love to receive you. God would love to receive you as a repenting sinner: He loves repenting sinners. The gospel goes out so that persons might repent and receive Jesus, and receive remission of their sins: remission of your sins, dear friend. You are a sinner. Are you too proud to admit that you are a sinner? These persons were proud. Year to year they had had their feasts and they had forgotten all about God. Well, I do not want to focus on that, but do not be like that: do not be like the proud lion. Men would place a lot of stock in a man or a woman who can stand up and be firm and lead things forward and all that kind of thing, but in the glad tidings you are called upon to accept that you are a sinner, and to come to know Jesus as your Saviour.
You might wonder why I would read such an obscure verse in Isaiah, but remember that this is the great gospel prophet. This is someone that, before Jesus walked on the earth, had the heart of God towards these people. He said in chapter 1, “Come now, let us reason together”, v 18. They had nothing to reason with; they had no basis to reason, just as you do not, dear friend. You have nothing you can offer God, but do not worry: it has all been done, the cost has all been met. The precious blood of Jesus has been shed. In chapter 6, Isaiah records what was said, “Holy, holy, holy”, v 3. Isaiah had an impression of the holiness of God, and some understanding of who God was, although a full revelation awaited the incarnation of the Lord Jesus. In chapter 9, he speaks about the Lord Jesus: “his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace”, v 6. What an apprehension this gospel prophet had of the Lord Jesus and His glory: “his name is called Wonderful”. Then we get to chapter 53. Have you read Isaiah 53? The prophet knew something of the sufferings of Jesus. He could speak of the One who would bear “our griefs” and carry “our sorrows”, who would be “smitten of God, and afflicted”, v 4. That is the Lord Jesus; that is the Lamb: that is the One I want to speak about.
We have read in John’s gospel. I see, looking round the room, that most here would be believers - thank God for that - but perhaps there is one here who is not: perhaps you have never opened the Bible before. There is a young woman at my previous work who is about twenty-five and she knows nothing about the Bible, and cannot even name the four gospels. How sorrowful that is! I hope there is no one here like that, but if there is, do not worry, it is not a complicated matter. Jesus died for you, dear friends. He hung on the cross, and you need only put your faith and trust in Him and that precious blood that was shed from the side of the Lamb of God. So it is not complicated, and also this gospel is thought to be the last book of the Bible written so, in that sense, it is very current. It has not lost any of its meaning or depth. What a gospel it is! But the man who wrote this gospel is writing about another John, John the baptist. He was a man who lived a very simple life: he ate simple food and wore simple clothing, but what an appreciation he had of Jesus! Though, by nature, he was related to the Lord, he does not make any mention of that. Instead he says, “A man comes after me who takes a place before me, because he was before me”. John had an appreciation of Jesus as the Son of God - God’s own Son - a divine Person.
John begins this paragraph by saying, “On the morrow he sees Jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Probably most of us here were privileged to be at a fellowship meeting recently when the brother said that these two references to the Lamb of God were like the passover in Exodus 12, and like Nathan’s lamb that he spoke of to David, 2 Sam 12: 1-4. I was struck by it, and it has not left me since. I just find it quite wonderful the way we can get an impression of the Lord Jesus, something simple that can lay hold of us, and I would just like to develop that thought if I can in my measure, in the Spirit’s power, as to what it means that “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” is like the lamb in Exodus 12. Let us read it together! Scripture is far more poignant and able to convey God’s mind than the preacher because it is the living word of God. I suppose these verses have been read many, many times, but they never lose their currency and value, and the Lord would say something freshly to us.
It says in Exodus 12: 1, “And Jehovah spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you”. By Isaiah’s time they were just set feasts; it was just a pattern; it was just routine. Is your life routine? Is your Christianity routine? Have you settled down? It is not to become routine; it is to remain vital and real. May you be revived, dear believer, if you are a believer in Jesus! May we be revived! May these things not become routine to us! “Speak unto all the assembly of Israel, saying, On the tenth of this month let them take themselves each a lamb, for a father’s house, a lamb for a house”. You can see how practical God makes things for us. “And if the household be too small for a lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls”. God is considering for “the number of the souls”. He is doing that tonight. Christianity is wonderfully practical. God does not make things complicated for us. Perhaps you have heard God spoken about as an austere God of judgment. Far from it, dear friend! Judgment, as Isaiah says, is “his strange work … his unwonted act”, chap 28: 21. That is not how God is presenting Himself: He desires you to know Him as a God of love. He is presenting this lamb; it is figurative; although for the Israelites it was a literal lamb. It says, “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a yearling male”, and it goes on to say, “and the whole congregation of the assembly of Israel shall kill it between the two evenings. And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two door-posts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it”, v 6, 7.
The Jews were in captivity in Egypt. They were slaves and they were made to make bricks, and then when the king became displeased with them, they were made to make bricks without being given straw, Exod 5: 18. God felt their slavery; dear friend, you are a slave to sin if you are still in your sins, and God feels that too; He wants to set you free. The Lord Jesus came that He might set us free. People are in the bondage of sin. What does that mean? The only way that people today use the word ‘sin’ is when they speak about ‘living in sin’, perhaps there might be an edge of the word in that, that men and women might understand how God feels in relation to things. It is not how men feel; it is not how others look upon you or what they think that is important; it is how God feels. Are you clear with God? If you were to die now, if the Lord were to come for us now, would you be among those He would take to be with Himself? If you were to die, would you be able to face a holy God with a clear conscience, dear friends? That is what is offered in the glad tidings.
It is five hundred years since Martin Luther got his conviction in relation to faith; five hundred years have passed. How many persons have been liberated from the thought that they can pay for their sins? You cannot pay for your sins. I would be terribly afraid if I thought I had to pay for my sins. Would I have enough? I surely would not. They have all been met in the precious blood of Jesus of whom this lamb is a type. That means it is a picture for us to help us understand it. They took the literal blood of that lamb and they put it on the door-posts and on the lintel above the door, and that house was saved. God passed over that house, and the firstborn did not die. It is not just the firstborn that is under judgment now: it is all of us, every single one of us, and God wants to pass over.
Perhaps we might be able to eat of the lamb: “And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire”. Perhaps even in this time we might be able to eat, might be able to take in something of the wonder of that One, the Lord Jesus as Saviour. It is more than just accepting it. When we have to install new software, we just click ‘accept’ to the terms and conditions and on we go: we do not even read it. It is not like that in the glad tidings. We are to eat something of this Lamb. Roast lamb is very flavoursome dish, is it not? And so spiritually, we are to taste something of it and apprehend something of the Lord Jesus in His glory and His greatness as our Saviour; that He died, and died for us.
There is more than that too: it says there is nothing to be left until the morning, v 10. This is a type. At the cross the Lord Jesus exhausted the judgment of God. Once God had dealt with the matter of sin in Jesus, the Lord said, “It is finished”, John 19: 30. With a loud cry He went into death. Jesus was not consumed by the judgment of God. What a wonderful One He is! Do you have a sense of your heart going out towards Him, to Jesus? Do you have a sense of being drawn to Him? If you feel even the slightest inclination that way, give yourself wholly over to Him. You will not regret it. He is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.
Note these two disciples; after John the baptist said about Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God”, they went away and followed Jesus. How attractive He was! There was attraction there, and it seems that John lost two disciples. Was he troubled by that? Not at all! The One who was before him was rightfully followed by these persons who came to abide with Him, which suggests affection. You have to have affection for Jesus; you have to love Jesus.
But then it was also said, as to the second reference - “Behold the Lamb of God”, that this was like 2 Samuel 12. “And Jehovah sent Nathan to David”. (How good of God to do that! God would be doing that tonight: He would send the word to you that you might receive it.) “And he came to him, and said to him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing at all, but one little ewe lamb which he had bought, and was nourishing; and it grew up with him, and together with his children: it ate of his morsel, and drank of his own cup, and slept in his bosom, and was to him as a daughter. And there came a traveller to the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock, and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that had come to him; and he took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that had come to him. Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As Jehovah liveth, the man that hath done this thing is worthy of death; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man!”
I think the brother I heard was suggesting that Jehovah had calculated what would touch the heart of David. David was a shepherd, but by this time he had moved on a long way and he had sinned terribly, had done a terrible thing: He had taken another man’s wife and sent that man - a faithful and good man - into battle, resulting in his death. It was an awful thing, a wicked thing in the eyes of God. People say, ‘What does it matter if these things go on in the world? Live and let live.’ Well, we are to feel them, but we are to feel them as God feels them. We are not to be self-righteous about things that happen or take high ground, but we feel them as God feels them. Nathan was with God in this matter, and that is why he was so effective; he went with this story about a lamb.
David had been a shepherd. Literally in those days there were not green fields with fences all around them, and the shepherd sitting in his vehicle with dogs to bring the sheep in. David would have lived with his sheep, searched out pasture for them, slept out with them; he would have known them all and he would have been close to them, and, in type, he gave his life for them. A lion came at one point and he fought and killed the lion; a bear came and he killed that bear too, killed them both, 1 Sam 17: 34, 35. David loved the sheep. So this man came to him with a story about a man who had a “little ewe lamb” . The lamb we read about earlier was “a yearling male”. The thought of a lamb, I should say, is not like lambs we see in early spring, skipping about. The “yearling male”, in reference to the Lord Jesus, is an adult animal, you might say, in its prime, like the Lord Jesus at age thirty when the Father could say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight”, Matt 3: 17. That is like the “yearling male”; it is a mature thought. But here we have a “little ewe lamb”. That is a female. This detail was calculated to extra-specially draw out the feelings of David. How he felt this! His indignation came out, but his indignation was right. It was founded not on hatred but affection. He would have loved that lamb and what was done to it in this story drew out his indignation, and then Nathan says to him so skilfully, “Thou art the man!”. God would say that to you tonight. If you are reading about this thinking, ‘How awful! What a thing to do!’ God would say, ‘You are just like that’ if you are in your sins. ‘You are causing offence to Me’.
It is a great mercy that God is faithful towards us: “Faithful is the word”, 1 Tim 1: 15. God would tell you directly, ‘Friend, you are a sinner’. He would not hide the truth from you. He would not, as men say, beat about the bush. God speaks to you directly and He would tell you you are a sinner and He would say immediately, ‘Accept the Saviour. Here is my well-beloved Son. Here is the Lamb of God’.
What does David say? Does David offer a whole load of excuses? Does he draw upon past history with God to say what a right person he had been? You know, and I say this sympathetically, you are probably trying to do the best that you can. You probably do not feel you are a gross sinner like many that we read about in the papers and so on. You are probably feeling that you are doing the best that you can. Well, today God would say to you that you are a sinner, and if you are without Christ, you are lost. Dear friend, you need a Saviour. So David does not defend himself. “And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against Jehovah”, v 13. And here is the wonderful news: “And Nathan said to David, Jehovah has also put away thy sin: thou shalt not die”. What wonderful grace! Not much wonder David could write about the “loving-kindness of Jehovah”. I meant to look it up in the Psalms, how many times David speaks about the “loving-kindness of Jehovah”. It is like grace; that is the word we would use today. Loving-kindness is not just love. You might stand at a distance and love someone, but this is loving-kindness: it is love that would make a move, would show its kindness towards you in giving its very best.
And so, just to go back to John, these persons, “the two disciples heard him speaking”, heard John the baptist speaking about the Lamb of God. Notice it is not now “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”, but it is “the Lamb of God”, conveying the wonderful affection that John had for him. “And the two disciples heard him speaking, and followed Jesus”. Oh that that would be the result from this preaching tonight, that there would be someone who would follow Jesus, that would go after that One, give their heart to Him, perhaps for the first time or perhaps in renewed committal to follow Jesus, to go where He would go, where He would lead.
Where would He lead? The first chapter of the epistle to Ephesians is so full because it conveys God’s thoughts for us. God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ”, v 3. He would lead you into that area; that is where the Lamb of God would go. He would lead you into that area that you might become a worshipper. It is a great thought, not only to be a repenting sinner but to become a worshipper, to worship God and to give an answer to Him, and to worship the Lamb too. What things could you say about Him? We heard last week in the preaching about “my beloved”, most affecting. Think of the Song of Songs, how that espoused one could speak so feelingly and so affectionately about her Beloved, chap 5: 10-16. I am sure each one here could say something about the Lamb of God. It does not matter how eloquent it is. You might not stand up on a podium and get an award for what you might say, but in the heart of the Saviour, in the heart of God, He would delight to have one who is able to speak attractively and affectionately of their Saviour.
Well, may that be the portion of each one here for the Lord’s name’s sake!
25th June 2017