MANY YEARS AGO, I purchased a copy of In the Footprints of the Lamb by George Steinberger. I figured if both Ole Hallesby (1879-1961) and Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994) recommended this book, it was worth reading—and it was. Since my first reading, I have reread it often.
Hallesby wrote in the Foreword of the first edition of this book in 1915: “I know of no devotional book that I have reread so many times. It is to an unusual degree filled with words of eternal life. Through many years of bitter suffering, its author learned to see the Savior as the Lamb of God and himself to walk the pathway ‘in the footprints of the Lamb.”
These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
THE FOOTPRINTS of the Lamb of God mark out the only way upon which true spiritual progress is possible. It is the pathway where we find enduring peace, where we live a fruitful life, where we win spiritual victories, where we attain to the goal of glory. He who follows the Lamb in His way comes at last to where the Lamb Himself is. And the Lamb is in the midst of the throne. No other way leads thither.
Often the way of full salvation through Christ is proclaimed—and this we must continue faithfully to do—but the way in which such a saving faith can be realized in practical daily living has been far less adequately set forth. This way is the Way of the Lamb.
We ourselves often do not really understand our own life, we do not understand our own pathway; we “buffet the air” again and again as long as we have not learned to know the secret of the Lamb and His way of life. Even before Pentecost, Peter was a zealous and honest soul, but he did not understand that the Master had to live and die as a Lamb. Therefore, it was that he denied Him.
In the Christian life our relation is to a Person, not to a doctrine. He left us an example. We may be led astray by doctrines, and we may grow weary of them, but we never grow weary of looking up to the Lamb and walking in His footsteps. Let us through all eternity worship the Father because He has given us the Lamb, not only as an offering for sin, but also as a guide! And how blessed this is for us, especially in our time when so many conflicting voices call: “Here is the Christ!” and “Lo! He is there!”
The Way of the Lamb is first of all a prepared Way.
The Savior’s holy feet once walked upon it. Even though at times it may seem veiled and shadowy, it is nevertheless opened and made ready by Him, and this is sufficient for us. The Way therefore is not an unknown one, for all along it we see the Master’s own footprints. In all our difficulties—at home, in the world, in poverty, in lowliness—everywhere we see the prints of His feet. He is “acquainted with all my ways” (Psa. 139:3). “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).
On this Way the soul no longer complains: “I am not understood! I am judged unfairly!” He, our High Priest, understands us, and this brings peace to our hearts. The sheep does not seek to be known and understood by others than its shepherd; it is enough for it to see his footprints, and hear his voice. When we follow the Lamb, there is nothing which can stand in our way or hinder our progress.
What we need in order to go up to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-3), that is, what we need in order to walk the way of death, will in the last analysis be a matter of our own choice. If we are willing to follow the Lamb, our paths will everywhere be prepared, for in every place and along every road there is abundant opportunity to die to self. He who seeks this will never be disappointed. He will find what he seeks; and this is the secret of happiness.
He who follows the Lamb has once and for all given up his own will, his own ways. He has no purposes and interests of his own. He allows his Shepherd to cancel his own wishes and plans. He observes and understands that on this way there is no longer room for a self-possessed life; and he who passes judgment upon his own life and gives it up can easily be tolerant toward the life of others! Hence, in this way one does not so easily take offense. When we stumble because of others we are not walking in the footsteps of the Lamb; we are not children of the day but of the night (John 11:9-10). To say that this or that person stands in my way is just as absurd as to say that this or that person prevents the sun from shining upon me.
Concerning this problem in the Christian life someone has said, “A Christian never feels himself misunderstood, no true Christian is ever neglected. On the contrary, a Christian knows that he daily neglects many things in his relation to others.” He who follows the Lamb cannot expect to be understood by all. There are ways in which the believer must walk alone with his God. When Abraham went with his son up to Mount Moriah, he went alone. He left his wife at home and his servants at the foot of the mountain. None of them would have understood the way he was to walk. Therefore he did not say that he was going away to sacrifice, but to worship. But what do we say in a similar situation? Let us be honest, and admit that we no longer understand the Way of the Lamb! We are like the children who at Christ’s entry into Jerusalem cried, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” but did not realize that the King would have to go out through another gate of the city to die on the cross, and that He calls us out with Him to share His reproach (Heb. 13:13).
The first Christians were much better acquainted with this Way because they saw many who walked in it, some who with joy sold their possessions and parted them to all, others who dwelt in caves and dens and gave up not only their possessions but also their lives. For they did not wish to be above the Lamb. The vine branches are known by their oneness with the vine itself. Pierce the vine or the branch at any point, and everywhere there flows the same life-giving sap. That which makes our union with the Savior and our “abiding in Him” so difficult is that we desire to go another way. And yet there is no more blessed way on earth than the pathway of the Lamb. “Your paths drip with abundance” (Psa. 65:11).
The Way of the Lamb brings us abiding peace.
There we find rest. We find peace in the same degree that we follow Him. And we retain it as long as we are one with Him. This peace is not something we must strive or pray for; it is given to us as soon as we take His yoke upon us and follow Him (Matt. 11:29). The Bible distinguishes between “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:7). These two are not the same. Peace with God, or peace in one’s conscience, is a gift God gives to the sinner as soon as He comes to the cross; the peace of God, or peace in one’s heart, is a blessing one receives through obedience to God’s commandments (Isa. 48:18). Jesus also distinguishes between these two experiences in His well-known invitation to those who are weary (Matt. 11:28-29). He speaks first of the rest which He will give to those who come to Him, and then of the rest which is found by those who follow Him.
In the Way of the Lamb we find a peace which abides, because there we learn to let Him deal not only with our sins but also with our difficulties, whether these concern our own person, our family, or some work which rests upon us in the Kingdom of God. Thus did Mary. She allowed Jesus to step in and answer her sister’s complaint (Luke 10:38-42). And later, when Judas spoke his accusing words, she again allowed the Master to answer on her behalf (John 12:1-5). To be converted to God and still to be troubled with cares, with envy, or with a wounded spirit, is something entirely unnatural. Such souls lack that peace of heart which not only passes all understanding but also conquers every trial. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “ Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way” (2 Thess. 3:16). Can He really give peace in all ways? Yes, certainly! He can give peace through both the bitter and the sweet, through storm and calm, through adversity and prosperity. He Whom we follow is the Lord of Peace. As long as we seek peace outside Him we may lose it at any moment, or it may at least be disturbed. But the peace which can be disturbed is not real peace. For the true Christian, years may come and go, his conditions of living may alter, but never his peace. This changes no more than does Jesus Himself. Oh, may we never doubt the possibility of possessing such a peace, nor be afraid to walk in the Way where it is found!
This Way is called: In the Footprints of the Lamb. There we learn to understand the meaning of the cross, to comprehend its power, and to walk in its shadow. The deepest meaning of the cross is to give up one’s own I. Only when this dark tyrant has been wounded unto death can undisturbed peace rule. And then we no longer seek to preserve that which is condemned to death. We desire no longer, like Martha, to maintain our own authority; we gladly lay the government upon His shoulder, Who is called the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). Then our peace grows ever deeper and greater. For as far as His government extends, so far extends also our peace. Jesus lived not for Himself but for His heavenly Father. For this reason His peace remained unbroken when His own received Him not, when they were ready to stone Him, and even when they nailed Him to the cross of shame.
On the Way of the Lamb we live a fruitful life.
Jesus served us through His words. He served us with His holy life. But above all He served us as the Lamb. As the grain of wheat which allowed itself to be laid in the earth to die, He bore much fruit. Made perfect through suffering and crowned by death, He brought many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). As a dying Lamb He became a perfect Savior; without the suffering of death He would never have been this. Try only to imagine His life apart from His character as a Lamb. What would then remain of Him? A prophet mighty in word and deed, as the Emmaus disciples said. But as such He could not save us.
Similarly, try to imagine the character of the Lamb apart from your life! How much remains then of your Christianity? Only as a Lamb could Jesus serve and save. Only as lambs can we serve, and help our brothers to be saved. Therefore Jesus sent His disciples out as lambs. Lambs are fruitful because they give up their own and allow that which is their own to be taken from them. “And as a sheep before its shearers is silent” (Isa. 53:7).
Fruit is more than profit. Fruit reproduces itself. We can tell whether or not our teaching and our life are light by whether or not they create and ripen spiritual fruit in others. Only where there is life can there be fruit; and, according to John 6:47-59, life, eternal life, exists only where one has been willing to die together with the Lamb. For the greatest victory of our Lord is when He finds on earth those who share His death with Him. Such persons teach by visible example, the type of teaching we all know to be the most effective.
Today a minister wrote me: “I can only be of blessing to my congregation when I live Christ before their eyes. I believe that this is the most effective kind of preaching. It has always attracted me personally and it still continues to do so. He who thirsts, gladly refreshes himself at a cool flowing fountain. And are not we called to be ‘foun-tains’?” Yes, wells of living water! (John 4:14).
It is not enough that we have life; we must have it more abundantly (John 10:10 and 7:37). But the life of Christ can be revealed only by those who have died and whose “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). In Isaiah 53:11, it is said concerning the Lamb that “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.” Here we have hidden travail and visible fruit. The followers of the Lamb can do this type of work because they are willing to live a hidden life, and because they, as followers of the Lamb, have the heart of a shepherd. How deeply we need such persons as can do hidden soul-work! These give strength, poise, and blessing to all our public activity. One soon notices the effect in a congregation where no one lives a life of prayer.
“I would gladly do something for the Lord,” said a Christian to me, “but I am deaf, and therefore I cannot associate with people.” I answered, “Speak to your God about these souls, speak to Him in secret, and He shall reward you openly.”
Do you know how the Lamb received the seed of creative spiritual power? “He made His soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10). That is, He took upon Himself the guilt of others and bore it as though it were His own. So also did Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel. They said, “We have sinned!” That is the Way of the Lamb.
As a lamb one can do every type of work. No work is too humble for the lambs, for all they do is done to the glory of God. Many a daughter would win her mother more quickly for Jesus if she, instead of constantly telling her that she should be converted, would wash the dishes for mother, clean up the house, and thereby show her what conversion really is. We have enough people to do great things; but who is willing to do the little things? Begin with the little things, and you will not only find enough work but also harvest a blessing.
In Exodus 12:3 we read: “Every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.” Each of you must see to it that a lamb is provided for your household. How can this be done? When we rejoice in the Lamb at home! And when is this possible? When we ourselves are as lambs. The spirit of the lamb is always attractive, and its nature is victorious over all obstacles. We read in Isaiah 42:4 concerning the Lamb of God, “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth.” How did He accomplish this? Not by words, but by a sacrifice: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).
How do you “establish justice” in your own home? When you, without murmuring, can give up your own rights. I know a widow with ten children who are all converted to God. Her home is a bit of heaven on earth. In it there is never heard scolding, complaining, or imperious commands. Each member of the home reads the desire of the others in their eyes. And how has this home become thus? Not by words, for the mother has never said to the children, “You must be converted.” By self-denial and unselfish living she has made the Lamb to be precious to her loved ones. I visit this home as often as I can, though not in order to instruct, but to learn.
On the Way of the Lamb one wins a victor’s crown.
It was as a lamb that our Savior conquered, not as the Lord of heaven and earth, who “spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:9). He sent His disciples out as lambs to overcome a world which knew Him not but was bitterly opposed to Him—and they conquered it! When Jacob was overcome, he conquered and became an Israel. To be weak is not the same as to stumble and to fall, but it is rather to be helpless and without defense, to be nothing in one’s self. Then there is room for the power of God. In 1 Corinthians 1:25 Paul says that “the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Here weakness is attributed to God. “When I am overcome, He is my helper,” says David. God always takes the part of the weak.
There is a holy way in which to be defeated; one can suffer defeat for God’s sake. Mary submitted to her sister, Martha. She remained patient when the latter rebuked her. Hannah submitted to the taunts of Peninnah; she allowed herself to be abused. Jesus’ whole life, from His first day to the death on the cross, was nothing else than submission, but He endured it for God’s sake. And step by step it brought victory to His side. It was therefore that “the grace of God was upon him” so mightily, and God was His unfailing help. Thus He went from victory to victory; and where He descended to the deepest depths, He won the most perfect and glorious victory. With nail-pinioned hands and feet, but with a heart full of obedience, He conquered sin, and the world, and hell.
On Mount Zion, where as the most despised and scorned, He suffered defeat, John saw Him stand as the Lord of Victory, and at His side the fruit of His death, a 144,000 in whose foreheads His and the Father’s name are written. Where you today allow yourself to be “overcome” for His sake, you will sooner or later receive the fruits of victory. When Joseph was sent to prison, when Daniel was cast into the lions’ den and his friends condemned to the fiery furnace, they did not appear to be victors, yet such they were. Here God’s weakness was stronger than men, stronger than an empire of a 120 provinces. And what was revealed in the garden of Gethsemane, before the council of the Jews, before Pilate’s judgment-seat, in the hands of the soldiers, and on the cross? God’s weakness, which is stronger than men, yes, stronger than all the kingdom of death!
In Hebrews 11 we are given a vision of the heroes of faith. The first had to give up his life because his brother hated him, and concerning the last ones we are told: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented…. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (11:37-38). Were these heroes? Yes, in the judgment of God! It is written that they “out of weakness were made strong” (11:34). What does this mean? Through suffering they became able to bear much suffering; by enduring they were made strong to endure; by being defeated they learned to conquer. Because Jesus for three whole years had endured Judas, He could cry out from the cross, “Father, forgive them.” Because He had experienced being denied by His own, He could bear to be denied by a whole people. Thus did the Lamb become a lion.
The Way of the Lamb is the only way to glory.
Because Jesus humbled Himself He was exalted. Four steps downward led Him up to glory. We read in Philippians 2:6-9:
- He gave up the privilege of equality with God.
- He humbled Himself.
- He became obedient unto death.
- Yes, even the death of the cross!
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). That was His way to glory, and for us, too, there is no other way. Only the way in the footprints of the Lamb leads to the throne; to be glorified as the Lamb, is to become like the Lamb. We cannot become like Him as God’s Son, as the King of heaven and earth, but we are called to be like Him in being as lambs. He is the pattern according to which God molds us.
When God planned to create man, He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen 1:26). The image that resembles Him, the Son of Man, is God’s ideal. And from this ideal He has never turned away. In Revelation 19 we see it realized. There a great multitude is seen standing by the side of the Lamb as His bride, in appearance like unto Himself. We have often stopped with justification, but God does not stop here. Those “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). How glorious is God’s thought for us: that we are to be “conformed to the image of His Son”! (Rom. 8:29). How do we attain to this? We are given the answer in the same chapter: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). They know that the Lord’s hand guides their way and that He leads them only in paths that are necessary for their discipline and growth. They know that only those shall stand by the side of the Lamb who dare to follow Him.
Therefore they walk in His way, even if it should be said concerning them, “We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:36). They do not seek gifts and blessedness; they seek only Him. They say with Asaph, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Psa. 73:25).
For the people of Israel the desert was the way to glory, but because they were not willing to follow their God through hardships and trials, the glory departed from them. In the moment that the glory of God’s people should have been most clearly revealed, they murmured and set themselves up against His will, grieving the Holy Spirit. Israel was called to be an example of God’s faithfulness and power to all coming generations. But they fell short of attaining to God’s purpose for them; they were not willing to put their trust in God when they walked through the darkness, and therefore would not follow Him through hours of tribulation either.
Has God led you out into the desert? Has He plucked from under your feet all that you depended upon? Then a glorious experience is yours! See if this be not a way whereby God will glorify you! Do not complain about what you have lost, and do not yearn to have it given back again, for then you are like Israel who wished to turn back to Egypt. God will lead you on further. Instead of the fleshpots He gives you bread from heaven, and instead of water from the Nile, water from the rock. But you must put your trust in Him also in the desert, and through days of darkness and difficulty. This is possible, however, only for those who have lost their self-assurance in the desert whereto God beckons His children.
Out upon these ways God does not force His children. He allures them.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,And … you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ …To make them lie down safely” (Hosea 2:14-18).
What did Israel find upon this way? She found greater riches, a living hope, an undisturbed joy, a deeper understanding, a more inclusive peace, an unbroken security, a deeper soul-cleansing, and the most intimate fellowship with her God. Can this be called a desert? Not by those who like Moses, see beyond reproach, the reward; who like David, see beyond suffering, the Savior; who like Jesus, see beyond the cross, the crown (Heb. 12:2). What do you see beyond disgrace, beyond suffering, beyond the cross? Do you see the widening vistas of glory that lie beyond all these?
When Judas went out, determined to betray Jesus, and the bitterest drop fell into the Savior’s chalice of suffering, He said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). Glorified through suffering! Every pathway seeking to avoid the suffering which God has sent involves just that much lost glory. “God gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Every time we turn away from an experience of humbling, we turn away from His grace. How much glory and grace we have already missed. Jesus did not turn aside, in the hour of darkness, but laid His agony in the Father’s hand in order that He might not lose the blessing that lay therein. In John 17:1 He says, “Father, the hour is come. Glorify Your Son …” What hour was this? It was the bitter hour in Gethsemane and on Calvary. What did He expect from this hour? Transfiguration, glory! Nor has He been disappointed in that expectation. What infinite glory Gethsemane and Golgotha have brought to Him! Millions of creatures in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea sing a new song: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” (Rev. 5:12).
Do you also have hours of darkness and bitterness? What do you expect from them? That they shall pass as swiftly as possible? It is not for this reason that they are given to you, but that they may bring you a new glory. These are sacred experiences! Be very careful, therefore, with yourself and others. Run not away from the heavenly Jeweler’s work, for in just such hours the diamond’s facet attains a new brilliance that it may shine yet more clearly thereafter. What radiance was brought to Daniel by the den of lions, to his friends by the fiery furnace, to Hannah by her patience with Peninnah, and to Mary by her silence! In Proverbs 4:18 we read, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” The steps whereby Joseph went down into prison have surely greater radiance for us than his steps upward to the throne of a king.
That which makes the men of God so great and impressive is not, first and foremost, what they have accomplished. It is rather how they are able, by God’s help, to pass through the greatest difficulties and the darkest hours; when, like Abraham, they give God the dearest they have; when, like Daniel, they brave the greatest dangers; and when like Moses, they endure that which is well nigh impossible. Thus they glorify God. That is the glory which the child of God constantly seeks. Glory for himself he does not desire.
This article is taken from In the Footprints of the Lamb by George Steinberger; edited and mildly modernized with Introduction by Ralph I. Tilley;
copyright © 2015 Ralph I. Tilley.
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