(Part II in a IV-part series)
Amos, his father Benjamin and his uncle Shimron had just finished driving their sheep to the outskirts of Bethlehem. Amos, a young man of 14, had placed his bedding at the entrance to the fold, keeping the sheep inside and guarding the flock from predators. These were not ordinary sheep. They were special. The flock included the lambs that would be used as a sacrifice when the Passover was observed in Jerusalem that coming spring.
The lambs in the flock of Amos were peaceful and gentle. They were easily led from place to place and Amos loved all the sheep of his flock. He had gathered each and every one in his arms. But his family needed to sell the lambs for household income, and the worshippers in the temple in Jerusalem paid the highest prices for the sacrificial lambs at the Passover.
Sometimes called the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, Passover was the greatest of the Jewish festivals. Amos knew that as many as one million worshippers came to Jerusalem to celebrate the events described in the book of Exodus, when God delivered Israel from the heavy hand of Pharaoh in Egypt.
Benjamin had often told his son the story of Moses and the Passover. Inflicting a series of plagues on the land of Egypt, God warned that the firstborn of each house would perish unless the doorways were marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. In preparation, the Israelites gathered in families and groups of families to eat the spring lamb, cooked whole, and to protect their households with its blood. They also were instructed to eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs. That night the Angel of Death passed through Egypt killing Pharaoh’s first-born son and all the other first born in the land of Egypt in those homes not marked with the blood of the lambs. The people of Israel were then released from bondage.
The lambs used at the Passover Feast were those without blemish. They had no sores on them or broken bones. They were as close to perfect as an animal could be and they fetched the highest prices. If Amos and his family could deliver these special sheep, born last spring, and soon to reach one year in age, the family would have enough money to last the year.
That’s why guarding these lambs was so important. The priests at the temple in Jerusalem would simply not accept any but the finest and most perfect lambs.
Amos had never been to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, but hoped to as he grew older. His father and uncle had been many times. It was a requirement for all those who were able.
At the Passover, there was a sense of deliverance for those covered by the blood of the Passover Lamb. And the Jewish people held high hopes that the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, might come at this holy time. The Messiah, it was prophesied, would save his people and be a light unto the Gentiles. Amos thought certainly that the Messiah would be a warrior like King David and challenge and defeat the armies of Rome.
One thing Amos knew from his father’s teachings was that not a single bone of the Messiah would ever be broken and that, like the Passover lambs, the Messiah would be perfect and unblemished. Amos also remembered his father saying that the Messiah would come from the root of Jesse, of the house and lineage of David. And since Bethlehem was the
City of David, it would be appropriate if the Messiah was born in Bethlehem.
“Maybe this is the year He will come,” Amos thought to himself. “And maybe even to Bethlehem.”
And then Amos saw the incredible light.
Next Week: The Glory of the Lord