The Roar of the Lion, The Silence of the Lamb
November 27, 2016
Part 1: Back to the Future
We are going through the beginning of the book of Genesis. And it is good for us as we wait for the return of the Lord. We are reminded of the big picture and the reason for our existence. We are able to see the grand meaning of the person and work of Jesus Christ. And we are strengthened in our faith to look forward to the world that is to come. By going back to the beginning, we are really going back to the future.
When God made man in his image, he meant for Adam and Eve to reflect the pattern of God and follow after him. This was the purpose of mankind. Just as God created and filled the earth, so Adam was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Just as God had dominion and rule over everything, so Adam was to have dominion and rule over everything on the earth. And just as God worked and then rested, so Adam was to work and then enter a blessed sabbath rest.
But Adam’s work was not a blank check. Adam was given terms and conditions. Promises and rewards. A tree of testing and a tree of life. Adam’s very existence, and Adam’s very relationship with God was fundmentally covenantal.
And so the grand story was set into motion. Would Adam obey and trust and worship and pledge allegiance to his Maker? Or would Adam disobey and trust another voice and elevate himself and rebel against his King? Would he earn that glorious sabbath rest beyond the garden? Or would he earn a horrifying judgment beyond the grave?
Part 2: Sound and Spirit
Throughout the Old Testament, God’s majestic and holy presence is accompanied with massive sound. After God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, he brought them to Mount Sinai in order to show himself to them. The Lord commanded Moses to prepare everyone for the moment. No one was to appear without clean garments. No one was to have marital relations beforehand. No one was to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it.
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. That was Exodus 19. And then in Exodus 20, God opens his Word to Israel with the Ten Commandments.
The massive sound that comes with God’s presence is a sound of power and glory, a sound of righteousness and justice. Consider these stunning words from Psalm 29. “Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. // The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. // The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. // The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. // The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ // The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!”
What a massive sound! Scripture booms with the resonance of God’s power and glory and righteousness and justice. The power of God is fortissimo. The glory of God is greater than the grandest thunder. The righteousness of God is nothing like smooth jazz. The justice of God cannot be suppressed by any noise-cancelling headphone.
What a massive sound! It was this kind of sound that signaled to David’s armies that the LORD had gone out before them to strike down the enemy. It was this kind of sound that brought down the walls of Jericho. And it was this kind of sound that Adam and Eve heard in Genesis 3:8.
Adam sinned against God. And God responded accordingly.
The sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day was not a sound of a quiet stroll or soft crunches of of footsteps on a rocky path. The sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day was a sound of judgment - a loud sound, full of righteousness and glory. For Adam sinned against God. And God responded accordingly.
The cool of the day was not a reference to a casual evening breeze. The cool of the day was actually the Spirit of the day. The Hebrew word that most English Bibles unfortunately translate as “cool” is actually the word ruach or “wind.” But that word here in Genesis 3:8 ultimately refers to the Holy Spirit - the same third person of the Triune God who hovered over the waters in the beginning of creation, the same Spirit who led the nation of Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the same ruach who rushed into Samson, the same “wind” promised by God in Joel 2 to be poured out at Pentecost. For Adam sinned against God. And God responded accordingly.
And the Spirit of the day is not telling us that the Holy Spirit is a morning person. The Spirit of the day is really the Spirit of THE Day, Day with a capital D, the Day of the LORD. And the Day of the LORD is a day of power and glory and righteousness and justice. The Day of the LORD will be a day of destruction, cruel wrath, and fierce anger (Isaiah 13). The Day of the LORD will be a day of vengeance (Jeremiah 46) and a time of doom (Ezekiel 30). The Day of the LORD will be great and awesome (Joel 2), bitter (Zephaniah 1), magnificent (Acts 2), and sudden (1 Thessalonians 5). And according to 2 Peter 3, when that day comes, “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” Adam and Eve faced an impending justice that was full of power and glory and righteousness. The sound and the Spirit was an ominous but appropriate response to Adam’s sin. Adam sinned against God. And God responded accordingly.
Brothers and sisters, this is what Adam and Eve faced. Or to be more precise, this is what Adam and Eve heard. And that is why they hid. They didn’t merely hide because they were ashamed of their nakedness. They hid because they were afraid of their due judgment. Last week, we looked at Adam’s act of sin, which I described as the most sorrowful and melancholy moment in all of Scripture. Today, we look at the advent of God’s righteousness and justice, which I describe to you now as a very fearsome and foreboding moment. Can you imagine what Adam and Eve felt in that moment? Fear and dread? Trembling and recoil? They must have remembered God’s terms and conditions: “…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Can you imagine what Adam and Eve felt in that moment of certain and impending death? This is what Adam and Eve faced.
And so when they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
But then a most interesting thing happened next. They were not given death right on the spot. Instead, they were given a question.
Part 3: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
On the seventh day, the day after he created everything, God sat in judgment and evaluated everything as “good.” But now here, God sat in judgment to declare everything as “bad.” God as the maker of Adam’s covenant now evaluated Adam’s work. And God did this by putting Adam on trial.
Question 1: “Where are you?” Question 2: “Who told you that you were naked?” Question 3: “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Question 4: “What is this that you have done?” These are profound and fascinating questions. By the way, every aspiring parent or lawyer should take note. Adam (and Eve) were put on trial. And it’s worth noting that none of their replies really answered God’s questions. God confronted Adam about his sin. God prosecuted Adam for his sin. Adam had no defense. And while there were no such things as buses in Genesis, Adam basically threw his wife under the bus.
But in this moment of God’s prosecution and Adam’s trial, I cannot help but think about the fact that the trial was never necessary. In America, the law requires due process. Even if a person is basically guilty, he or she deserves a fair trial. But God did not need due process. God knew everything that happened in the garden. So why did God open his prosecution with the question, “Where are you?”
Part 4: The Silence of the Lamb
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
Brothers and sisters, Adam’s fair trial points forward to Jesus’ unfair trial. And everything that came with the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day… came down on Christ. The volume of the sound of God’s judgment in Genesis 3 was never turned down. God merely pressed the pause button. And then when it was time for Jesus Christ, the second and last Adam, to suffer and die for us, God pressed play. And there was fortissimo at Calvary. The sound did not come from Christ himself. For on the cross, he was not acting as the Lion of Judah. He was acting as the lamb that was slain. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. And so Jesus was silent. Silent in mistrial. Silent in criminal status. Silent in bearing our sin. Silent in getting what he did not deserve. Silent in getting what we fully deserve.
And why did he do this? He became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become his righteousness. Why did he do this? He took us, the church, his bride, out from under the bus, so that he could throw himself under it. Why did he do this? He was fulfilling terms and conditions. Why did he do this? He was providing a better clothing than sadly sewn fig leaves and loincloths. Why did he do this? He stood trial for you because you would never be able to stand trial on your own. Why did he do this? He took condemnation away from you. Why did he do this? He loves you.
And so, Jesus died. But then a most interesting thing happened next: Jesus rose again from the dead.
Part 5: The Roar of the Lion
At the end of Narnia, in the final battle scene, it seems that all is lost for the kingdom of Narnia. Peter leads his army for one final battle against the White Witch. But he goes without Aslan. And the battle turns dark. Peter is outnumberd. The White Witch breaks through the wall of fire. They fall back. Peter is shot off his horse. Oreius dies. Eagles are turned into stone. Edmund is stabbed.
But just as all hope is lost, a sound of comes from the high land. And upon a great cliff comes the lion Aslan - the new and resurrected Aslan. And he roars.
Listen to the words of Jeremiah 25: “The Lord will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Brothers and sisters, that roar has come in the resurrection of Christ.
Jesus rose again from the dead! This means that you’re covered. This means that you’re good with God. And this means that you don’t have to hide from God anymore. You are now royally clothed with the righteousness of Christ. You are now blameless and holy before God. You are now his child and his friend. And the only sound that we hear now is the sound of the roar of the Lion of Judah - the roar of victory and glory. Therefore, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
And let us roar too. John writes these words in Revelation 19: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”
Part 6: Closing Thoughts
I would like to close this sermon with some thoughts and ideas that may be of benefit to you.
First, let us get ready for the Day of the Lord. I’m talking about the return of Christ. This Day is a real day, and it is coming soon. Do not forget about it. Get ready for the Day of the Lord.
Second, rest assured that God is not silent or aloof or deaf or blind. He knows exactly what is going on. He sees the wicked and the evildoers. And though he remains silent right now, he will not be silent at the end. Thus, suffer well under trial and persecution. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Third, let us stop playing the blame game with God. People often blame God for their suffering. And people often ask the question “Why does God allow suffering?” with the underlying assumption that God is to be ultimately blamed for suffering. But that is a messed up assumption. Yes, it is true that God is sovereign over suffering. Yes, it is true that God ordains it. But God is not the one to blame. Adam is the one to blame. And so are we. Suffering does not mean that God is not good. Suffering means that man is not good. Stop playing the blame game with God.
Fourth, let us stop playing the blame game with others. Why is your bus so big? Why is everyone a criminal - except you? Instead of falling into prejudgments, assumptions, or quick conclusions when problems arise, let us ask questions and be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Let us stop feeling like we have to justify ourselves or shift blame onto others. Let us be better with our words and with our relationships.
Fifth and finally, let us be humble. We like to think that we got some volume of our own. We like to think to ourselves, “I’m going to make some noise!” But the fact of the matter is that we are nothing compared to God. Macbeth was onto something when he said, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” Let us roar with praise to our Lord. But let us not be prideful people who are full of sound and fury. Let us be fortissimo in our boasting of Christ. But let us be pianissimo - or better yet, just silencio - in our boasting of self.