The Lamb Is Our Shepherd
The 4th Sunday of Easter
The Lamb is Our Shepherd
Text: Revelation 7:9-17
It’s dark, isn’t it? The valley. I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and it is so dark. The darkness is so thick, sometimes I feel like there is no light in my life at all. The path is rough, rugged, and runs every which way. With with darkness surrounding me, I hardly know where I’m going. I stumble and fall a lot. Even worse, I know as I’m walking through this dark valley that I’m a sitting duck, or a sitting sheep I suppose. I’m an easy target. I’m weak. I’m vulnerable prey. There are dangers all around me. There is darkness all around me. I’m lost. I’m alone. I’m afraid.
Ever feel that way? There’s a reason why Psalm 23 has some of the most popular Bible verses in the world. Even people who don’t believe in the Bible will quote it. Perhaps the most striking picture that people know is in verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” That verse is so popular because all people can relate to it.
What is your dark valley? What do you think of when you hear the valley of the shadow of death? Maybe you think of a time you were staring death in the face. You had a complicated surgery. You had cancer. You were terribly sick. Maybe you think of the most troubling time of your life. Nothing was going your way. Nothing was working out. Nothing made sense. Maybe you think of a time when you felt completely helpless and hopeless. It seemed like you had no friends. It seemed like you would never scrape by. It seemed like you had nothing to look forward to. Maybe you think of the guilt that you carry—that horrible thing you did when you were younger, that habitual pet sin you can’t beat, or simply the sum amount of all things you’ve done wrong.
Maybe you hear “the valley of the shadow of death” and what immediately comes to mind is your life right now. It’s like you’re alone in the middle of the night on a dark path that is rough and rugged and runs every which way. You’re stumbling and falling. You’re weak. You’re vulnerable. You’re scared. You’re afraid.
The valley of the shadow of death. If you aren’t walking through it right now, you certainly have before. And this reality you don’t want to admit but you probably know: If you aren’t walking through it right now, you’ll be walking through the valley of the shadow of death again soon.
If it weren’t so sinful or shameful, it would be silly the way sheep handle these dark valleys. Sometimes we actually think that we are better off if we wander away from other sheep—as if we have to walk through that dark valley completely alone. Sometimes we actually think that we are better off if we stray from our Shepherd’s loving protection and care. And then sometimes—this is really crazy—sometimes we even get mad at the Good Shepherd for the dark valleys we are in when we are the ones who pushed him away to begin with.
When we go it alone in the valley of the shadow of death, either without other sheep or especially without our Shepherd, what is the result? We are afraid. We’re lonely. We stray even further doing anything and everything to get out of the darkness. But we won’t, because we can’t. When we are in the valley of the shadow of death there is only one who can comfort us, who can protect us, who can lead us safely home. That’s our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ.
This morning we have a reminder of just how great our Good Shepherd is. We jump back into a scene that we left last week. Last week we caught a brief sneak peak of heaven as we saw all the believers and angels bowing for Jesus the Lamb of God and singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” Today we are back in that context of a glimpse of heaven and we see a very similar scene, one that will certainly give us comfort as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death in this life.
Here’s what we see and hear with John first: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
What a scene! Here is this great multitude in heaven that no one could even count. (By the way, if a Jehovah’s Witness or anyone else ever tells you that only 144,000 will be in heaven, now you know the answer. It’s a multitude that no one can count!) This was also a mixed multitude made up of people of every color and culture. They were different in this life but in the next life they are united in their place and the purpose. Together there in heaven they are praising God. They are wearing white robes, which is a symbolic picture for the forgiveness and holiness that God has given to them. They are holding palm branches, a symbol of victory and praise (like on Palm Sunday a few weeks ago here). And together they joined with resounding voice to praise Jesus, the Lamb of God, crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
A much different scene than your life, isn’t it? A much different image than the picture of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Somehow that seems so distant and far off, so impossible as compared to what we’re experience right now.
But it’s not. This song of praise is our reality right now. Listen to their song again. “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” It’s his. Salvation belongs to God because he planned. Salvation belongs to the Lamb because he sacrificed himself as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. God accomplished our salvation and God gives our salvation. That’s your gift right here, right now.
As a simple little sheep walking through the valley of the shadow of death I often feel so helpless and hopeless. I’m trembling and terrified. But that’s because I often forget that my enemy the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion has already been crushed by Christ on the cross. If you were walking through a valley in the Rocky Mountains in the middle of the night and already knew in advance that all predators were lying dead and that you absolutely with complete certainty were going to make through the valley to the other side—would you be afraid at all? Probably not.
And we don’t have to be either. We know our enemies our defeated. We know that God has saved us and we will make it through this valley to eternal life in heaven. Rather than being afraid or angry or frustrated we can simply do this: Praise the Lamb who took away our sin, the Lamb that is also our Shepherd who leads us safely to our eternal salvation.
That group of people of every kind and culture was not the only multitude praising God in this scene. The angels joined them: Verse 11: “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’” Last week we heard the picture that there were over 100 million angels praising God. This week the angelic chorus is back at it as they fell down before the throne of God and worshiped.
Another image that seems so foreign to our experiences in this world. When you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death the last thing you might want to do is fall down with your face to the ground. If you’re in a dark valley, who has time to stop? Who would think it wise to bow down, to put your face to the ground? Who would think to worship when there are so many other problems and pains to worry about?
That’s exactly what the devil would have you think. When the darkness of this sinful world surrounds you, he wants you to think that you don’t have time for your Good Shepherd. He wants you to believe that you are losing and you are lost, even though you’ve already won and been found.
But when we are walking through life’s dark valleys this is exactly what we need to do the most. We need to stop and pause instead of running frantically around. We need to stay close to our Good Shepherd. We need to worship.
And when we do, what a joy our worship is. Consider our worship here today. This morning you stepped out of death’s dark valley into this reprieve, this sanctuary, the very house of your own Good Shepherd. Here today he is refreshing your very soul with the cool waters of his life-giving Word. Here he is gently comforting you and guiding you with a message about this tender care as your Good Shepherd.
It is good and right to take time to worship the Lamb of God who is also our Good Shepherd because we know that one day will be joining the countless hosts of angels to give a resound “Amen” to the praise of God as we ascribe to him all glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength for ever and ever.
The Lamb of God is our Shepherd. Not only in the joys of heaven but also here in this world is our opportunity to Praise him and worship him for all that he has done.
As the apostle John surveyed this impressive scene of the glories of heaven and the eternal worship and praise taking place, a question was asked of him. Verse 13: “Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’” John answered, “Sir, you know.” John probably knew the answer himself, and he knew that the person there in heaven knew too. He surely did and he gave this answer to John: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Those that John saw wearing white robes in heaven were the believers. There are all believers of all time from all locations. They are wearing white because the red blood of the Lamb washed their sins away, making them clean and holy forever and ever. The ones that John saw were the ones who had come out of the great tribulation.
This is what you have to look forward to. Some day, perhaps some day soon, you will be dressed in the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Some day, perhaps some day soon, you will be done with the great tribulation. Your walk through the valley of the shadow of death in the darkness of a sinful world—that’s the great tribulation. And someday soon, the Good Shepherd will lead you out of it.
What will that even be like? It will be like this: “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Some day. Some day soon the Good Shepherd will lead you to experience that yourself. All darkness, all valleys, all death will be gone. You’ll be before the throne of God and serve him joyfully day and night. God will spread his tent over you, dwelling with you and protecting you in his eternal shelter. You’ll never be hungry or thirsty or have any other want or need. There will be no pain or problem like beating sun or scorching heat. You will simply live in joy and peace because the Lamb who sits on his throne will be your Shepherd for ever and ever. He will lead you, his sheep to those eternal springs of water and he will wipe every tear from your eye forevermore. Take comfort in what your Good Shepherd has waiting for you!
There are so many dark days during this life. Maybe you feel like you are stuck in the darkness right now. This is to be expected in a world filled by sinful darkness. But even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you know that Jesus is your Good Shepherd. You know what he has done for you, giving you forgiveness and salvation, and you know what he will do for you, giving you life forever in heaven. So Praise him, Worship him, and Take Comfort in him for who he is and what he does.
Then as you continue walking through the troubles and tears of this life, believe this prayer and song with all your heart:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Posted on April 28, 2016, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Dark Valley, Darkness, Good Shepherd, Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus, Lamb of God, Revelation, Revelation 7, Sermons, Shepherd, Valley of the Shadow of Death. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.