Last week we looked at what many believe to be the first sacrifice in the bible and I speculated that I wouldn’t be surprised that the animal sacrificed to provide a covering for Adam and Eve was a lamb.
A lamb is the animal most commonly associated with the sacrificial systems in the bible. Every time a lamb was sacrificed it was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make.
The first clear sacrifice in the bible is recorded in Genesis 4:3-7 where Abel presented a lamb before God as an offering. The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament mentions this offering and described it as acceptable (Hebrews 11:4) although this was more to do with the faith with which it was offered.
As we travel through the Old Testament we see constant references to a lamb being sacrificed and it being a shadow of greater things to come. I will only mention a couple of occasions briefly here, because I will go into greater detail in future blogs.
The story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 is significant. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Everything has been made ready, the wood, fire and knife are all present but Isaac asks his father “..where is the lamb for a burnt offering? (Genesis 22:7) In a moment pregnant with meaning, Abraham responds “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8) A ram suddenly appears in a nearby thicket and the boy’s life is saved, but a deeply prophetic word has been spoken, the significance of which would transcend that particular situation.
Consider the story of the occasion of the first Passover in Exodus 12. A sacrificial lamb was central to this deliverance of Israel. The lamb had to be unblemished and its blood smeared on each house’s lintel and doorposts. The blood of the lamb protected each household from the destroyer.
As God presented the ordinances and laws to Moses, He laid out clear instructions on how sacrificial animals including lambs should be presented. They must be perfect and without blemish (Leviticus 22:21). Another shadow of the perfect sacrificial lamb to come!
In the book of Isaiah (chapters 52 and 53), it is revealed that the ultimate sacrificial lamb would be a man: like a lamb that is led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)
As we move into the New Testament it is revealed that the lamb would be Jesus. Notice how John the Baptist introduces him;
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
and then the next day to underline it:
and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)
Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples confirms this too;
knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 18-19)
Finally, the lamb is a central figure in the book of Revelation and a focus for the end times and the culmination of all things;
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, ….. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God (Revelation 5:6-9)
What a finale. We will join in this triumphal celebration as we celebrate the sacrifice Jesus the lamb made for us.