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No. 40: The Lamb of God, Part 2

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 40
August, 1992
Copyright 1992, Biblical Horizons

(continued from Biblical Horizons No. 39)

Why the Lamb?

But why the lamb? We have seen that the bull was the offering for the sins of priests, especially as they represented the nation before God in His house. Wasn’t Christ the greatest of all men? Wasn’t He the Great High Priest? Should He not rather be symbolized by the bull?

Why didn’t God choose the bull as the primary sacrifice, and them have the lamb for lesser offenders, and the birds for the least? Why didn’t Abel offer a bull? Why wasn’t it a bull that was substituted for Isaac? Why not a bull at Passover? Why isn’t Jesus called the Bull of God?

This is a subtle question, and its answer has two parts. First, since all the sacrificial animals pointed to Christ, we must say that Christ is indeed the sacrificial Bull of God, the Heifer of God, the Turtledove of God, etc. But primarily He is the Lamb of God.

Second, and here is what I believe to be the reason for the centrality of the lamb, Christ represented us as in Adam. Consider Adam’s estate. Adam was not a poor man, so he would not have been represented by a turtledove or a pigeon. Nor, on the other hand, had Adam grown in age and wisdom and been granted rule over people. He was not an "elder." Thus, he would not have been represented by a he-goat. Finally, Adam, though a priest, was not a high priest. He did not represent a nation before God; there was as yet no nation to represent. He was a raw youth, only a day old, when he sinned. Thus, he had not grown to be a bull. He was still a lamb.

The Garden of Eden was equivalent to the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Citizens of Israel had access to the courtyard to offer rams. Only priests had access to the living room in the Tabernacle, and only the high priest had access to the throne room. In the Garden, no house had yet been built, and thus Adam had not yet ascended to the status of special priesthood. He did not yet have bull status. He sinned in his youth, while still at the status of the ram.

Remember that the lamb is one year old (Num. 28:3, 9, 11, etc). It is not fully mature. The bull is also one year old, before it enters puberty and becomes mature (and ornery). The sacrifice of a young animal represents the cutting off of sin in its youth. God had allowed sin to mature into a ripe fullness before the flood, but after the flood He promised to cut it off in its youth (Gen. 8:21). Thus, as soon as Ham sinned, God cut him off, and as soon as the priestly Shemites (Joktanites) sinned at Babel, God cut them off (Gen. 9:24; 10:25-30; 11:2).

By dealing with sin while man is in his youth, God opens up the future for a development of the true kingdom and culture. The sinner is restored through the sacrifice of a one year old animal; thus, after a year of sin, he can move forward in grace. To use another common Biblical analogy, judgment comes on the third day, so that the kingdom can develop to the seventh day. Never again will sin develop all the way to the seventh day. (There are scores of transforming events in the Bible that happen on the third day, in the third month, in the third year, or at the third hour. Passover, coming at the point of transition between the 14th and 15th days of the first month, inaugurates the third week of the year.)

Analogous to this, man’s sin is dealt with when he is a lamb. He is an ordinary soul, as Leviticus 4:27 puts it. By dealing with sin at that point, God makes it possible for men to grow up and become civil leaders (he-goats) and ecclesiastical leaders (bulls).

Jesus dies as a citizen, not as a civil or ecclesiastical leader; as a lamb, not as a goat or bull. He dies in His youth, at the age of 33. It is His third decade and the third year of it. He dies at Passover, the beginning of the third week, and He is raised on the third day. By being the Lamb, Jesus gives us a new start as the New Adam. He has ascended to heaven, where He leads the nations as Elder, the Goat of God, and heads the nations as the High Priest, the Bull of God. In union with Him, we can grow to become goats and bulls also; yet as the Dove and Pigeon of God, He is present with the poorest of His children. All this is possible because He is, first and foremost, the Lamb of God.

Additional Notes

1. The Spirit comes as a dove. This indicates to me that the Kingdom of God begins among the "poor" of the earth, not usually among the mighty. It grows to embrace goats and bulls, but in the New Testament we do not find many priests (bulls) or the leaders of Israel and Rome (goats) forming the foundation of the kingdom. Perhaps the larger meaning of this is that it is the poor in spirit, the doves and pigeons of God, who have the kingdom of heaven, as the first beatitude says (Mt. 5:3). Only those who see themselves as poor doves will look up to the Lamb. The bulls and goats of this world must assume the posture of poor doves and pigeons in order to recognize Him.

2. As God’s Ram of Reparation, Jesus dealt with Adam’s high-handed trespass against God and with our deep-seated sinful natures. It is interesting that of all the sacrifices, only the ram of reparation may sometimes be offered in the form of silver instead of as a living animal (Lev. 5:15, 18; 6:6; corrected translation). I believe that this was established by God so that no one in Israel, realizing that the ram of reparation was the foundational sacrifice, would believe that the blood of a mere ram would ever suffice. The offering was symbolic and typological, and the conversion of the ram into money pointed to the fact that it was inadequate to take away transgressions. It forced the student of Leviticus to realize that only the coming Ram of God, the Greater Isaac, would take away transgressions and cleanse the conscience.

3. Why silver and not gold? In the symbolic system, gold is most precious and bronze least precious. Silver is in the middle, the same place as the ram between bull and bird. It seems to me that this is what establishes the connection. (On this system of values, see Jordan, From Glory to Glory: Degrees of Value in the Sanctuary, pub. by Biblical Horizons .)