The Lion and the Lamb
Just when I thought I was doing one painting, God turned it into two! How does this happen? Well, last month, as I finishing up the painting of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, I began to see the name of Jesus, “The Man of Sorrows,” everywhere. I sensed that somehow this was leading me to the next painting, but I wasn’t sure what the subject would be.
With an even larger canvas on my easel, I began asking the Lord what image He was wanting me to depict this time. In my mind’s eye a picture of the Lamb of God began to form. A Lamb with the crown of thorns and a loving gaze full of mercy and compassion. At the time, I thought this was the extent of the painting. It wasn’t until a few days later, as we were again reading Jeremiah Johnson’s book, The Power of Consecration, I discovered the other half of the image God had in mind.
In the second chapter Jeremiah details and encounter he had with the Lord and the sobering words he received from Him: “I am releasing apostolic and prophetic messengers who will trumpet my end-time judgements to the Church and warn of the consequences of those who only know the Lamb of mercy and grace, but reject the Lion of Judgement and wrath. Many only know Me as the great intercessor, which I am, but I am also the coming King and Judge."
All of a sudden, as we read these words, I saw the image of the Lamb of God once again. But this time, in a mirror image from the Lamb, I also envisioned the Lion of the Judah. Never in my own imagination would I have thought to flip the canvas upside down and paint not just one image, but two - two very distinct but intertwined parts of God’s nature. It is this, “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies,” as Jonathan Edwards observed 250 years ago, I believe the Lord is wanting the Church to behold rightly in this hour.
Will we rightly recognize the Judge when He comes, or will we miss Him just as the Pharisees did when Jesus came in righteous zeal, clearing the Temple of the merchants? Or will we misunderstand His mercy as the Pharisee’s did when He went to the cross without a word in His defense?
After I began to painting the Lamb of God, a dear friend, seeing the Lion and Lamb juxtaposed on canvas, gave me a book by John Piper: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. She asked if I had ever heard his description of Jesus as the lion-like lamb and lamb-like lion. I was overwhelmed as I read how Piper details out the “diverse excellencies” of this very conjunction in the nature of God.
I wish I could share all the chapter here with you, but suffice to say, never have I read a more beautiful description of our Savior whose, “uncompromising justice is tempered with mercy. His majesty is sweetened by meekness. In His equality with God he has a deep reverence for God. Though He is worthy of all good, he was patient to suffer evil. His sovereign dominion over the all the world was clothed with obedience and submission. He baffled the proud scribes with His wisdom, but was simple enough to be loved by children…"
In light of this, I found myself praying the prayer Piper wrote at the end of the chapter and longing that I, along with His Church, would embrace completely the Lamb of mercy and our coming King and Judge, the Lion of Judah:
“Oh how we need the whole Christ! Open our eyes to see the fullness of His excellence. Remove the lopsided and distorted images of your Son that weaken our worship and lame our obedience. May the Power of Lion and the love of the Lamb make our faith unshakable."