December 9: Behold, the Lamb of God

This post is part of a series of Christmas Devotionals by Dr. John Neihof, president of Wesley Biblical Seminary. You can find all of the devotionals by clicking here.

Scripture passage: John 1:29

Lambs were a frequent offering of sacrifice among the Hebrew people. The first recorded sacrificial lamb of sacrifice was offered by Abel. His brother, Cain, offered a bloodless sacrifice of fruit, vegetables, or grain. God rejected Cain’s sacrifice and accepted Abel’s blood offering.

Cain’s bloodless offering proclaimed, “I’m no sinner. I don’t need the blood.”

But he was. And he did.

Behold the lamb.

Noah’s family disembarked to ark after it rested on Mt. Ararat in modern day Turkey. Noah built an altar and offered sacrifice to God. Among the clean animals offered must have been a lamb. A sacrifice. An offering. An act of worship.

Behold the lamb.

Abraham’s mounted Moriah’s summit. Isaac came along for the offering. He did not know that his life was the sacrifice that God would require. Abraham was struck with the incongruity of the holy God requiring him to offer his son Isaac as a human sacrifice. Not to the true and living God! That sacrifice was reserved for idols.

I don’t know how Isaac was placed upon the altar. But there he was. Abraham lifted the knife to plunge it into the throat of his only son. The voice of God cried his name, “Abraham, Abraham. Turn around and see the ram caught in the thicket.”

That day God provided a ram for an offering. Isaac was spared.

Behold the lamb.

Moses heard God’s call to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage. Nine plagues upon the Egyptians were God’s wake-up call for Pharaoh and the nation. The death angel was the 10th plague. The Passover lamb was killed and roasted for dinner. Its blood was reserved to mark the door of the house. The death angel noted the blood on the Hebrew homes and passed over. Only the unmarked Egyptian homes lost their firstborn to the death angel.

Behold the lamb.

Sinai was God’s wedding celebration with His chosen people. The Law. The tabernacle. The sacrificial system. God’s Presence among His people.

“The High Priest of Israel, raised his razor-sharp knife and recited the prayer of blessing as he slit the throat of a lamb. The creature did not make a sound as it lay before him. It fell instantly limp as its life drained into a bowl. An assistant took the container from the High Priest. The blood was splashed onto the four horned corners of the seventy-five foot square altar as the High Priest called out in supplication. The air, heavy with wood smoke, became thick with the aroma of charred animal fat and incense. The meat of later sacrifices would be eaten by the temple workers and their families. But the first and last lambs of each day’s worship cycle were dedicated to Adonai Elohim alone… an appeal of propitiation for the whole community of Israel.” (Thoene, B. & B. 2002, Stones of Jerusalem, Viking Press).

Behold the lamb.

Malachi found himself frustrated with people’s sacrifices of defective lambs. The people offered defective animals, and Malachi made the point that if they were going to offer defective animals, they might as well offer unclean animals on God’s altar.

“Only clean animals could be offered. Pigs, dogs, and camels, were among the unclean, while sheep, goats, and cattle were clean. A sacrifice was also supposed to be unblemished. The Jews deceived themselves by saying that cleanness was what really mattered, and that if the animal was clean, a few blemishes didn’t really matter… The people were insulted when Malachi told them that a blemished animal was the same as an unclean one. For the quality of the sacrifice said something about the heart of the offerer. A heart which would try to palm off a cheap, blemished offering to the Almighty, the Holy One, is an unclean heart.” (John Oswalt, Where Are You, God? Victor Books, 1982, p. 44).

The shepherds saw the angelic announcement in the sky. They heard the proclamation.

“‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:10-14 NKJV).

The shepherds rushed to the lambing cave and found the young couple and their newborn.

Behold the Lamb.

He was only eight days old when Mary and Joseph took him to temple. An old man, Simeon, and an old woman, Anna, recognized him as Messiah. That eighth day baby Jesus life, he was circumcised at temple, according to the Hebrew custom.

Behold the Lamb.

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