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GOD'S LAMB IN THE DEVIL'S ZOO

A most fascinating Old Testament passage is a series of thousand-year old prophecies fulfilled in Christ's crucifixion (Psa. 22). David, by the Spirit, predicted that when our Lord was on the cross, the people around Him would act like animals.'  When we read the historical account that human crowd did seem bestial. You could say, then, that Psalm 22 talks about God's Lamb (Jn. 1:29, 3 36) in the Devil's Zoo. The Devil's zoo occupied a hillside just outside the city of Jerusalem two centuries ago.  That zoo had quite a collection of ferocious specimens.

THE DEVIL'S ZOO HAD A SNAKE (SATAN) (Gen. 3:15). Mother Eve was the first woman to have an unhappy encounter with a snake. That same serpent was lurking in the shadows in the devil's zoo when it got dark in daytime (Mt. 27:45). Perhaps no one but God's Son noticed the snake that day, but he was definitely there. We know this because God Himself had said he would be-four thousand years before. Interestingly, the punishments God doled out as a consequence of sin in Eden resulted in the first prophecy in the Bible.- It was Messianic and contained references to the Savior's birth, life, and death. The .,seed of woman" (a reference to Christ's virgin birth)' would have a lifelong enemy (the serpent) who would eventually "bruise His heel" (while getting its head crushed).

Jewish scholars must have pondered that business of heels and heads for centuries. Looking back at it now, it clearly referred-to the events of Calvary. Satan dealt the Seed of Woman the harshtemporary blow of a bloody, agonizing death; the Seed of Woman dealt Satan a devastating permanent blow in the third day resurrection. In the big scheme of things, the first amounted to a minor stone bruise on the foot; the latter amounted to an incurable head injury. The serpent lingers now on the deathbed, but his  kingdom will not survive (Rev. 20:10).

THE DEVIL'S ZOO HAD BULLS (JEWISH LEADERS). Picture the Lord Jesus as a helpless, unarmed, naked man, cast into the midst of a herd of infuriated wild bulls. That's the language the prophet chose to describe the pre-history he was seeing. According to Psalm 22:12, the "bulls of Bashan ,4 surrounded Christ at Calvary.

Cattle are mentioned in the Bible's first chapter and constituted much of the wealth of Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen. 13). A portion of Jacob's wealth consisted of forty kine and ten bulls (Gen. 32:15). Cattle figure prominently in the account of Joseph, Pharaoh, and the Egyptians. Part of the loot in a battle between the Israelites and the Midianites consisted of seventytwo thousand beeves (Num. 31:33). Bullocks were used in the consecration of the Levites, and in making sin offerings for the congregation (Ex. 29; Lev. 4). While in Egypt. the Hebrews were surrounded by bull worshipers. After the Exodus, they began to despair of Moses and his "invisible" God. So Aaron melted their jewelry and made a visible idol, the famous golden calf. These idolaters were punished severely, but some of their descendants fell into the same sin (Ex. 32; 1 Kgs. 12:18). The Bronze Sea (laver) in the Temple rested on the backs of twelve brass oxen ( I Kgs. 7:23-25), perhaps to show that Israel's strength was dedicated to the Lord (since bulls symbolize strength).

The "bulls" (in Psalm 22) turned out to be the priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and captains in the Gospel record. "Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they inight take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him" (Mt. 26:3, 4). Like bulls, they were powerful. They brought against Jesus the forces of false religion, corrupt politics, an unjust judicial system, and misguided public opinion. Tile blood-thirsty priests of the Sanhedrin, by induced testimony,' political intimidation, and mob violence achieved the crucifixion of Jesus  Christ.

Like bulls, they were brutal and merciless. Luke describes them as "fierce" (23:5). After binding Jesus in the Garden, He was taken first to Annas (Jn. 18:31), and then to Caiphas (18:24). While in the courtroom, "...they spit in his face. and buffeted"' him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands" (Mt. 26:67). Luke adds that they "blindfolded him" and "struck him on the face" (22:64). When the Rejected One was all alone, and bound naked to the tree, they walked around "bellowing" out their spiteful slurs: "Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God" (Mt. 27:41-43).