In the St. Baafs Cathedral of Ghent, Belgium, you can find a huge painting (95.39 inches x 54.21 inches) called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. This work, completed in 1432, was done by the famous Jan VanEyk and his brother Hubrecht. The painting, which mimics our walk through life, is quite remarkable. Security is on maximum around this piece of art, and it is illegal to even take pictures.
Anyone who pays the entrance fee will be mesmerized by the intricate beauty of this painting, with its rich, glowing colors and meticulously illustrated details. The theme, based on the book of Revelation, is the same message that Christians broadcast throughout life: Salvation is only obtainable through Jesus, the Christ, the Lamb of God.
This painting on display in St. Baafs Cathedral is mostly original. There is just one panel, the lower left corner, that is a reproduction of the original, but this reproduced piece tells a story: The work of art has not always had a peaceful existence!
In fact, its survival is a testimony by itself.
In 1566, over-eager Protestants stormed into Catholic churches in numerous cities around Belgium, destroying thousands of priceless works of art. It is unknown how the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb was spared, for it was certainly hard to miss.
The painting was again in danger in 1794, when overzealous French soldiers took it apart in sections. Most of these sections were then sold in 1816, and many faced destruction when a fire ravaged the building where they were stored. But despite this, they survived, thanks to the work of what would be considered in our time as a “simplified” fire department.
Thus, as you can see, the painting was doomed for destruction since its inception. Why? Was its message too revolutionary for this world? But it DID survive, for as truly as Jesus paid the price for us all, its message can never be destroyed. Interestingly, in its brokenness, the message became even more contagious.
I truly believe that the Hannah depicted in 1 Sam 1 could relate with this painting. She, too, faced ridicule, mockery and a life filled with pain. Not being able to have children, she was despised by her husband’s other spouse. In those days, people did not look too kindly upon women who could not bear children, so the town frowned upon her as well.
Desperate, she went into the temple and pleaded her case with the only Father she truly knew: “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.'” (1 Sam 1:10-11 NIV)
But even in the temple she was looked upon with scorn. “Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk …” (1 Sam 1:13 NIV)
But truly, she could boldly declare: “I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.” (1 Sam 1:15b NIV)
Broken, she became a vessel to proclaim God’s glory. Surrendering her all to God, God was able to turn her life around in such a way that everyone would notice. And notice they did! Especially when her tummy started to grow!
She devoted the rest of her life to shining out His reflection in her life. As promised, once her child, her son, was weaned, she brought him to the temple to serve the Almighty God. “‘So now I give him to the LORD . For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.’ And he worshiped the LORD there.” (1 Sam 1:28 NIV)
It must have been hard for her to give up her only son, the fulfillment of all of her desires, but she knew God had greater plans than she could ever imagine and she trusted Him. Her son, Samuel, became one of the most renowned characters in all of Israel’s history. His life portrayed who His true Father really was, the One who resides in heaven. And the rest is history . . .
In contrast, our lives are NOT history. At least not yet. Only part of our lives is in the past, and we still have a future to contemplate. What will become of it depends on what we do with our lives.
Do you feel broken and in despair? Do you feel like that painting that was torn apart in so many sections? Do you feel the fire of a raging neighbourhood? Do not give up! Instead, offer your complete brokenness to your best Friend in heaven, your Creator, your Redeemer. He can make you shine! He can bring you back to your feet with a huge smile.
It may seem completely impossible, but remember Hannah. Remember the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. They both faced the impossible, and they came through with flying colours. They personally experienced that “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 NIV)
You may be desperately seeking a job. You may have become used to doors being slammed in your face. You may be anxiously looking for love, and instead be experiencing abuse and rejection. Your finances may be non-existent. Your desires may not seem to ever be filled. Don’t let your circumstances bring you down! Your God is closer to you than you ever imagined. Reach out to Him. Surrender your brokenness to Him and your will personally experience that “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isa 40:31 NIV)
You, too, can shine brightly, thanks to the One who paid the price for your redemption, the Lamb of God.
(To access the entire “Broken for Revival” devotional series, please click here.)