The more I look, the more I realize how the Word of God is synchronized. Sometimes because of our lack of understanding of the culture and times of 2 thousand years ago we put things in the context of our own specific culture and reasoning. Obviously that presents a problem. Each culture, each country produces its own uniqueness and to really appreciate the history, the music, the tradition and other nuances one must try to become acquainted with those different aspects. So when we read the Word of God, for an example, we must understand the culture, the time and the people the Scripture is addressing. How does it line up with other factors found in Scripture?
We will be in the season, within a few weeks, where Christians will be remembering the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus the Christ, commonly known as Easter. It is also the same time of the Jewish Holiday Passover. Coincidence, no I think not. Maybe, just maybe in order to bring even more clarity of the perceived ending chapter of Jesus’ earthly life, we need to go back to the beginning.
Luke 2:6-14 – “And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.””
As an American, chances are one of the first songs you learned as a child was “Mary had a little lamb”, remember? “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow….” I believe upon close inspection we will find yes, it is true. Mary indeed had a little Lamb.
Have you ever wonder why the shepherds were out watching over their sheep at night? Who were these Shepherds that the angels made the announcement found in Luke 2:11-12? How did the shepherds know where to go to find this babe? Why did they not have any hesitation or discussion as to what direction to take? After all it was not like the angels gave them a location. The answer is simple. These were not ordinary shepherds. They were “Priestly Shepherds” and the sheep they were guarding were “Sacrificial Lambs” which were used during the Passover. Because these particular sheep were used for sacrifice they had to be watched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These sacrifices had to be perfect and anyone wanting to buy a lamb for the Passover would come to Bethlehem to be guaranteed of getting “the best”. Bethlehem was considered in that day the “Holding Pen” for the “Sacrificial Lambs” so on this night Bethlehem became the “Holding Pen” for God’s Sacrificial Lamb, Mary’s baby. Is it no wonder that the angels would appear first to these “Priestly Shepherds” and they would be the ones to first join Mary and Joseph in welcoming “THE ULTIMATE” sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ. If this indeed is true, then the nativity scene we traditionally see at Christmas with the baby Jesus surrounded by cattle, and sheep and donkeys in a lean to shelter is not a reasonable picture of this birth event. I point back to my initial comments in understanding the times and culture. If truly Christ was born in a special place for special sheep for a special event then the environment would have to be favorable for the expected outcome.
MICAH 4:8 “And thou, O tower of the flock (Migdal Eder), the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem, O tower of the flock” –
Migdal Eder was the watchtower that guarded the Temple sheep that would be the sacrificed in Jerusalem. Again these were not just any sheep and the shepherds who watched over them were specifically trained for this job. They were educated in the requirements and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished.
Migdal Eder was where the shepherds would watch over their flock from the second story and the first story was where the newborn lambs were placed from the fields of Bethlehem. The shepherds would wrap the newborn lambs in SWADDLING CLOTHES to protect the body of the lambs which would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple just about four miles away in Jerusalem. Swaddling clothes were used to tightly bind the new lambs from being bruised and injured by thrashing around. I imagine it provided a form of comfort just like when a human baby is wrapped in a blanket at birth. The lambs would be laid in a manger until they had calmed down. They immediately understood where to go to find the newborn Messiah, Jesus Christ. He would be found where the angel had told them, wrapped in SWADDLING CLOTHES lying in a manger in the lower floor of the tower of the flock, Migdal Eder. Jesus was born in Bethlehem where all sacrificial lambs were born, and died in Jerusalem where all sacrificial lambs were killed. He was born as the Lamb to be sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.
Abraham saw the arrival of the Lamb. When he was going to offer up Isaac, Isaac asked where was the sacrifice. And Abraham said, my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:
In order for Christ to be the Passover Lamb of God, He would have had to fulfill the role in its entirety. The Lamb had to be born in Bethlehem, without blemish. He would have to be a male and in the prime of life as a one year lamb was accept to be in prime strength. A man in his early thirties is to be assumed to be in his prime.
In John 1:29 – John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” In other words this is no ordinary man, this is the “Lamb of God”. Yes it is true!! Mary really did have a little Lamb! What other events significantly point out the fact that He indeed is the ‘sacrificial’ Lamb of God? We shall see next week.
Briefly, a couple things I saw in writing this blog post. First, the shepherds were not watching the flock from the comfort of the second story of the tower at night. When the enemy, wolves, bears and lions are most likely to strike in the darkness of night, they were in the field to protect. They took their call to guard, protect and serve seriously, boots on ground, realizing the value of those charged to them. What say you Pastors and Ministry Leaders? Second let’s give the innkeeper a break. There was no room in the inn because there was not supposed to be any room in the inn… and it’s not the innkeeper’s fault. In order to fulfill and satisfy Christ’s end, Mary and Joseph could not get in at the inn. Here a thought some of you have tried to get in with the in crowd and try as you might, you never really get in. It could be because you are pregnant with something special and it cannot be delivered in the company of the “inn” crowd.