I preached a message at a funeral last evening. One of the dear, dear women of our fellowship passed away last week, leaving her wonderful husband and children to deal with all the proper realities of Christian grieving (anyone old enough to love is old enough to grieve), which is always grief in the presence of hope, and yes, even rejoicing. So when you are asked to bring the Word in a context like that, how do you approach it?

Each situation is different, of course. Doing funerals for unbelievers is a heavy, heavy weight, and just sucks the spiritual energy right out of you. It is so hard to deal with the lack of hope, the lack of peace. In the context of the faith, however, things are completely different. And when you are in your own fellowship, with friends and family and fellow believers who shared regularly in the departed person’s life, that is yet another context. You also have to consider what kind of time frame you will be given, how many people will be in attendance, whether you will be inside or outside, etc. It can be a challenging equation.

When I was asked to take the message portion of the funeral service I knew that Jeff Durbin would be taking the other elements, so I could concentrate upon just the message (well, and the closing prayer eventually). In this situation I would be speaking primarily, though not exclusively, to my own church body, in the place we normally meet.

As I turned my mind to the service one particular text (two, if we are being very specific) came to mind, and to be honest, I considered no others. I was thinking of two references to the Lamb in Revelation, the first in chapter 5, “standing as if slain,” and the second at the end of chapter 6, “the wrath of the Lamb.” I did not even give consideration to any of what might be called the “standard” funeral texts. I suppose, in a sense, Revelation 5 would at least be “in the realm,” since it gives us one of the few pictures we have of worship in heaven, worship that we would now be considering in light of the entrance into that place of our beloved sister. But why these two texts? Well, I emphasized the contradictory nature of the picture given of a lamb standing as if slain since, of course, lambs that are slain do not stand. This is a picture of the victorious Lord Jesus, still bearing in His body the marks of His crucifixion. There are, of course, many applications to be made from such a text that are fitting in the funeral context where we are speaking of the grounds of our confidence in the gospel.

I should mention that I did not have notes. I rarely use notes outside of debates, but in this instance I especially needed the freedom to work through the text as the situation required. Given earlier references in the service to our sister’s visiting of Ukraine in a missions context, and as I, too, have ministered there, I tied this into Revelation 5:9.

So after dealing with Revelation 5, and inviting us all into the presence of God in worship, I then made application to any unbelievers who might be amongst us by noting the similar oddity of the phrase “the wrath of the Lamb” in Revelation 6:16. I used this text to warn my audience of the reality of the wrath to come, and that while now the Lamb, standing as if slain, will receive any and all who come to Him in repentance and faith, a day is coming when that day of salvation will pass, and the Lamb will bring just wrath to bear upon the sins of men. The family wanted the gospel preached, so these two texts allowed that to happen.

The message was well received. It “fit” the rest of the service. So the question found in the title brings us to our conclusion. Given I never even considered any other text, is this what “supernatural guidance” looks like? I heard no audible voices, I did not go seeking some kind of spiritual experience. Instead, the Lord used me as I am, that is, He used me in the way He has created and guided me. I have spent much time in Revelation 4 and 5. I can give background and context without difficulty. I have translated both chapters multiple times. I have taught classes wherein this material has been placed in the context of the broader biblical canon. If we confess that God is sovereign over our lives, then was it not a supernatural thing for God to prepare me to use this text in this place, at this time? Does something “supernatural” have to be outside the guidance and providential direction of life? I surely do not think so.

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