Spring is in full swing and we see signs of growth and renewal everywhere. Some of the most common pictures associated with spring are flowers and lambs. In God's word, there are many references and illustrations using sheep & lambs, but what do they mean? Our industrialized, division-of-labor-centric society has removed the meaning and, therefore, the power from many of the descriptive images found in the Bible. My family and I have been blessed with some insight due to the abandonment by its mother of a lamb that we were able to adopt. His name is Sammy. Because Sammy came into our lives, we have a better understanding of what a lamb is.A lamb is LOVABLE
If Sammy was in his pen, he was always bleating for you. If he was out, he just wanted to be by you. Stacey told me when I went out to feed him late (instead of her) “Make sure you pet and cuddle him and let him nuzzle your neck.” This might sound slightly silly if you've never been in the situation. Consider Isaiah 40:10,11 the descriptive illustration is of the Lord with mighty arms tending the flock, gathering the lambs in His arms, holding them in His bosom. This is the picture God gave Israel to show how he cared for them. In II Samuel 12:3 A story was told to David to elicit a reaction – A man bought a lamb, she grew up with his children, she ate and drank from his food, she lay in his arms, and she was like a daughter to him. This rang true for David – as a shepherd, he may have acted the same or known others who did! It's just so easy to love a lamb!
A lamb is PLAYFUL
If you haven't seen a lamb run & jump, you're missing some pure fun. I was worried the first time I saw Sammy run - I thought he had been spooked. Later, I realized he was just trembling with excitement as he ran and kicked around the yard. This same picture is used in Psalm 114 to describe the earth trembling in God's presence as the psalmist compares the hills to a lamb! Even the hills - the very definition of stoic immobility - tremble for joy in the presence of the Lord!
A lamb is INNOCENT
Sammy would - if allowed - follow anyone anywhere. Lambs are easily led. Thinking of biblical images, the first passage that might come to mind is Luke 15:1-7 where the shepherd goes to seek the one sheep that has wandered off, because they so easily go astray. Jesus also portrays the innocence of lambs by contrasting them with wolves in Luke 10:3. He tells his disciples He is sending them out among the devious and crafty wolves of this world to innocently spread His message. God speaks through Hosea in Hosea 4:16 to show the difference between Israel's behavior with what God desired. He compared the effort of trying to instruct Israel to the task of feeding a stubborn heifer - surely a challenging task! Instead He would have them be a gentle lamb in pasture that happily and eagerly comes to be fed. Also, in Isaiah 53:7 the expression “like a lamb to the slaughter” is silent is used. This doesn't imply that a lamb's death march is in complete silence, rather - innocently - the lamb will go wherever it is led never suspecting anything. It doesn't resist because it doesn't realize what is happening.A lamb is FRAGILE
A lamb is totally dependent for sustenance until it is weaned, and Sammy would call for food or company if we aren't with him. Again, the picture from Isaiah 40 is that of God carrying the lambs primarily because they need that care and attention. In I Samuel 17:34 David tells of the animals that came to steal the lambs that he would have to try and protect, because they are so helpless. Obviously a predator would choose a helpless lamb instead of a full grown sheep that might put up a fight. Jesus, in John 21:15, asks Peter if he Loves Him. We know Peter's response - Of course Lord, you know I Love you. Most remember “feed my sheep,” as Jesus' response, but the very first thing Jesus asks of Peter is “feed my lambs.” The weak are those that deserve the focus in providing care. A lamb needs a lot of care and attention.A lamb is Pure
Above all else, lambs represent purity. Comparisons are often made using interchangable images of being as white as snow or like a lamb. Lambs really are white as snow! Stacey gave Sammy a bath and he was practically glowing! It would seem that it is because they are so innocent, so lovable, so DEAR and so visually clean that God set them as the sacrifice so often insisted upon in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. In 1 Peter 1:18,19, Peter reminds the readers that it is the lamb without spot that alone can be the sacrifice for sins. John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29 that Jesus is the lamb of God that came to take away the sins of the world. This is exactly as revealed in Leviticus 4:1-32 as it is only a pure, perfect lamb that was acceptable for the sin offering.
Think about the picture that God portrays of the owner caring for his only lamb. Why was David so outraged that this one lamb was taken from the owner? Because the owner loved her like a daughter! What a sense of loss is portrayed in that story! Try for just a moment to imagine the grief associated with this loss. I spent most of the day Saturday thinking about this, because he was growing up with my daughters, we fed him with our own hands, we held him in our arms, we loved him. I thought of all of these things with tears in my eyes as I dug a grave because our little Sammy died Saturday morning.
We fully expected to have other animals slaughtered, but we allowed him into our hearts as our farm pet. We made the deal with ourselves that we would let ourselves become attached to a few farm pets so that, when it was time to slaughter those appointed for that end, we could more easily deal with it. We had idea that he would be gone so soon!
Think again about the label John the baptist proclaimed for Jesus – the Lamb of God. We, as 21st century, enlightened Americans instantly think of the requirements in Leviticus and stoically claim “Jesus is the lamb because that is what God required for forgiveness.” That is certainly a true statement. Unlike in David's story or Leviticus, this wasn't just some person's lamb – this is God's Lamb and God did nothing worthy of the death of His Lamb. But God allowed His Lamb to die, so that you and I don't have to – He was given as a gift for others. Don't neglect this gift! Unlike Sammy, Jesus doesn't remain buried. He rose to a new life to lead the way for us to follow. Think of the renewal symbolized by lambs, think of the rebirth of spring and rejoice that God has blessed us with the opportunity to follow Jesus in this. In Isaiah 40 God has given us the picture of loving His Lamb and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His lamb – His Son – because God wants us all to know His love as faithful lambs in His flock.