A Special Lamb

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A Special Lamb

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The light colored coat, illuminated by brilliant sunshine, stands in stark contrast to the lush green background that surrounds it. There is no hiding for this one, or any attempt of secrecy being made by it. Its life’s purpose is solely to serve humans, and it does so without defense or hesitation.  “Ovis aries” is the name of this common domestic breed numbering over one billion in a species that is deeply entrenched in human culture.

The contributions it makes have filled crucial human needs in societies throughout the history of human kind. Whether grazing the lush hills of New Zealand or browsing across sparsely growing fields in Africa; their hair, pelts, meat, dairy and laboratory uses fill many of the complex needs of modern societies. We know them as, sheep.

“Lamb” refers to the tasty meat of a sheep that is less than one year of age, after which it is referred to as “mutton.” Their prized meat is flavorful and tender and is often served as, “lamb chops,” “lamb shank,” “leg of lamb,” and “rack of lamb.” The latter refers to its row of eight small ribs whose delicate size will fit on an outstretched hand. As tasty as these tender lamb dishes are, they come at a price: the death of a precious little lamb.

Surely there are few lives more innocent than that of a lamb. After its five-month gestation period, it tumbles out of its mother and soon takes awkward first steps. This baby of the sheep family is of a subspecies that is without aggression or menace, and poses no danger to anyone or anything, except grass. It has no horns, no weapons and no intention of hurting anyone. When frightened, its defense is simply to run away.

God created sheep with specific traits that allow them to harmonize with humans, which provides an unusual opportunity to graze important animals with unparalleled convenience.

The sheep of Christ

Sheep are intelligent and quite smart about things that are good, noble, and upright. They remember the faces of up to 50 other sheep and of caring humans for two years. We are to have a similar trait as Christ’s sheep.

 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14 John 10:14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
American King James Version×
).

Sheep graze a zigzagging path allowing themselves backward glances utilizing excellent eyesight that can spot danger a half a mile away. They are very food-oriented and develop an innocent trust of those who feed and tend them.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out… This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40 John 6:37-40 37 All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×
).

Being gregarious social animals, sheep love the company of their kind and become easily stressed if separated or alone.  Consequently, sheep tend to congregate closely together and move as a group. God made their only defensive strength to be an intimidation they give when bunched tightly together. Shepherds work to keep small groups from wandering off from the main herd. Similarly, Christ’s “flock” is intended to be together for the unity and strength it supplies.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×
).

By nature, sheep have a strong “follow” tendency. A “leader” among them is often just the first one to move. There are no “prima donnas” among the flock, none trying to gain a following, take from another, and no one insisting that he or she is better than others (other than male competitions during rut season).  Likewise, we are to be Christ’s humble sheep, following Him and being led by God’s Holy Spirit.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peaceby those who make peace” (James 3:17-18 James 3:17-18 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
American King James Version×
).

Sheep vs. goats

Outwardly, goats appear similar to sheep in shape and size due to their species being related at higher level of taxonomy. At first glance, it can be difficult to distinguish between sheep and goats, their most defining attribute being tails that turn upward, or hang down.  Jesus used their outward similarity in His analogy of selecting true “sheep” for the Firstfruits of the God Family.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory…He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32 Matthew 25:31-32 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats:
American King James Version×
).

Just as Christ’s allegory highlights a contrast between these species, sheep and goats have little in common beyond their outward appearances.  While sheep are gregarious, harmless, trusting followers, goats are typically ultra-curious and self-willed. All goats, unless they are polled, have horns, which they use both offensively and defensively, and sometimes just because they can. Unlike grazing sheep, goats are browsers with a reputation for chewing on nearly anything they can get their mouths on (although they are particular about what they actually swallow). They have a propensity to eat the most prized of decorative shrubs, along with decimating the trees, fruits and vegetables grown by humans. They are independent and self-driven with a curiosity that takes them everywhere to chew up almost anything they find.

Once, on our fenced farm in Arkansas, we had a herd of goats that could not be contained, either with barbed wire or and electric fence. Their whereabouts often involved their devouring neighboring farmers’ gardens, or playing “King of the Hill” atop our car. Goats resist following a shepherd and dislike trying to be led by one. They are self-directed animals that vie to be the highest in stature (or altitude) among the herd.

We humans have developed goatish tendencies during our lives. Human nature tends to be self-directed, self-promoting, arrogant, ambitious and rebellious (2 Timothy 3:2-4 2 Timothy 3:2-4 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
American King James Version×
). God gave us His perfect Son, partly as an example of the type of Lamb, which we are to become. Those eventually selected for His Kingdom may not have become fully Lamb-like. However, they will have made it as far as becoming like “sheep.” Those choosing to retain their goat-like qualities will be separated for slaughter (Matthew 25:41 Matthew 25:41Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
American King James Version×
), while those who have become “sheep” will be transformed (Matthew 25:34 Matthew 25:34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
American King James Version×
) into Firstfruits at Christ’s return (James 1:18 James 1:18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
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, Revelation 14:4 Revelation 14:4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
American King James Version×
).

Christ our Passover lamb

The first Passover lambs were killed in accordance with God’s directive (Exodus 12:3-8 Exodus 12:3-8 3 Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
American King James Version×
). Their perfect little bodies were lifted into waiting arms before their throats were slit and their blood was poured out and spread upon doorposts. The entire carcass was roasted and the flesh eaten before the death angel passed over and the Israelite firstborn were saved. The carnage involving little lambs must have made a powerful impression about how the Innocent had to die in order for the lives of humans to be spared. But the lesson is necessary, and it provides us with an awakening to the terrible consequences that our sins generate.

“Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;  who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:22-25 1 Peter 2:22-25 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously: 24 Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
American King James Version×
).

1,984 years ago this March 25th, our perfect God with His loving, serving nature was flogged mercilessly, nailed to a tree, cut open and bled to death. He paid the penalty of death for sinning humans, which He had in no way harmed. Passover helps us to appreciate the magnitude of His perfect gift for us. At the same time, it becomes an example to us of a perfect life of loving, selfless service to others (Luke 10:3 Luke 10:3Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.
American King James Version×
). After coming to appreciate His fervent life of service and sacrifice, we are to take up our “cross” (Mark 8:34 Mark 8:34And when he had called the people to him with his disciples also, he said to them, Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
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) and imitate His example of personal obedience, sacrifice and service for the good of others (1 Peter 2:21-25 1 Peter 2:21-25 21 For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously: 24 Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
American King James Version×
). In doing so we will fulfill His desire for us to become Christ-like ourselves (Philippian 2:5-8).

Sheep husbandry is an integral component of cultures throughout most of the inhabited world. Likewise, “sheep” husbandry continues to be Christ’s work in His Church as He leads and cultivates godliness in His Flock (Acts 20:28 Acts 20:28Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
American King James Version×
). David felt very at home here under the tutelage and guidance of the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23). Those growing into true “sheep” in Christ’s flock are receiving gracious mercy from His sacrifice, and will one day share an inheritance with Him as members of the Family of God.

“Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever” (Psalms 23:6 Psalms 23:6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
American King James Version×
).

For more information on the sacrifice of Christ and what true Christianity is all about, read the Bible study aids Jesus Christ: The Real Story and You Can Have Living Faith .

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