>The Lion and the Lamb

>This first day of March, I think of that old saying about the month coming, “in like a lion, out like a lamb.”

I take the maxim to mean that if March begins with a blustery day, it may end with a calm day. The opposite seems implied; if March begins with mild weather, it may end with wild weather.

The images of a lion and lamb bring two reflections to mind, both rooted in biblical imagery: a peaceful new earth where the lion lies down with the lamb, and Christ’s victorious return to earth as the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God.

I’ve seen Christian bookstore statues and artwork depicting a lamb lying beside a lion. Such works symbolize the peaceful coexistence of creatures depicted in Isaiah’s prophecies about the new heavens and the new earth. Speaking for the Lord, Isaiah says that the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. These beautiful prophecies include the promise, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” (11:6-9, 65:25).

The juxtaposition of the lion and the lamb is a powerful image of the peace and harmony that will pervade the new heavens and earth. But before this old universe is rolled up like a scroll and discarded, Christ will come to wage war on the nations of the earth and execute judgment on all its people.

Which brings to mind another image in Christian art: that of a lamb, often with a banner tucked under one leg. This image frequently appears in stained glass windows of cathedrals and older churches. A few weeks ago, I saw a statue of such a lamb in Old San Juan. The lamb’s banner symbolizes victory. This is not a mere meek lamb; this is agnus dei, the victorious “Lamb of God.”

At John the baptizer’s first sight of Jesus, he prophetically cries out, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

Christ as the Paschal Lamb, offered as atonement for the sins of the people, is a concept that permeates the Bible from the exodus to the apocalypse. The Passover lamb and every other lamb slain as a guilt offering throughout the Old Testament anticipated Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Isaiah compares the silence of the suffering Savior to that of a lamb being led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Paul specifically refers to Christ as “our Passover lamb” who “has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). The book of Revelation is full of references to the conquering Lamb (e.g., 17:14; 21:9, 23). It also speaks of the Lamb who will become the shepherd who guides his people to “springs of living water,” where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7:17).

The suffering and submission of the lamb meld with the power and supremacy of the lion when the Lamb, who alone is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals, is identified also as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).

These biblical images come to my mind today, as people evaluate if March is beginning like a lion or a lamb.

In the Old Farmer’s Almanac electronic newsletter‘s reference to the lion and the lamb adage, it mentions a “heavenly connection.” For a brief moment, I thought I might read about the biblical allusions. Alas, the newsletter’s “heavenly connection” doesn’t refer to heaven, but to the heavens.

The article notes that the constellation Lio (the lion) rises in the east at the beginning of March, while Aries (the ram) sets in the west at the end of March. For stargazers, therefore, the month comes in with the sign of the lion and goes out with the sign of the ram (or lamb).

I find that little nugget of information fascinating. God made the heavens and hung the stars in their places. They sang for joy at creation. Is it just coincidental that these two patterns of stars appear to be a lion and a ram? And is it just coincidental that the lion begins the month of March and the lamb ends it? I don’t know why God caused it to be so, but I know there’s not much that is mere coincidence in these shadow lands. Someday our faith will be sight.

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