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God's Lamb in the Devil's Zoo, Part 2

From the beginning animals play an important part in God's storybook. A serpent started it all in the Garden (Gen. 3: 1). Noah sent out a raven and a dove to see the progress of receding floodwaters (Gen. 8:7, 8). A ram caught in a thicket took Isaac's place (Gen. 22). Pharaoh's teachers included frogs, flies, lice, locusts, and sick cows (Ex. 8-10). Sheep, heifers, pigeons, goats, and turtle doves were used in Jewish sacrifices and ceremonies (Exodus). Samson tore' a lion apart with his bare hands (Jd. 14:6), used three hundred foxes to set afire a field (15:4), and slew a thousand men with a "new" donkey jawbone (15:15). God used another donkey to teach Balaam (Num. 22), a whale for Jonah's schoolhouse, and a lion to punish a disobedient prophet (I Kgs. 13:24). David killed a lion and a bear before he ever slew a giant (I Sam. 17:34, 35). Daniel survived a night in a lion's den (Dan. 6:7). Ravens relieved Elijah's hunger (I Kgs. 17:6) and she-bears defended Elisha's honor (2 Kgs. 2:22-24). God quizzed Job about Behemoths and Leviathan (Job 3 8-4 1).

THE DEVIL'S ZOO HAD A FOX (HEROD) (Lk. 13:31, 32; 23:6-12). When Governor Pilate interrogated Jesus, he learned that Christ was from Galilee. Since Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and since he just happened to be in town for Passover, Pilate thought he could pass this political hot potato off to Herod. This was probably Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D., who is described by Josephus as a -crafty and incestuous prince (cf. Lk. 3:19, 20; 9:7-9). Interestingly, this is the same man who had earlier wanted to kill Jesus. The Pharisees tried to intimidate the Lion of the Tribe of Judah into leaving Galilee by telling him that "Herod will kill thee" (Lk. 13:3 1). Jesus knew their motives and refused to cease His work in the face of danger. With characteristic courage He replied, "Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." In other words, He said, "I'm going to keep my schedule. He knows where to find me."

Of interest to our study is that Jesus referred to Herod as a a term that is still used to refer to some politicians. When Jesus was taken to Herod, Herod was glad because he wanted to see a miracle. Jesus did no miracle for him-He did not even speak to him. Herod and his men of war "set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate" (23:11). Nonetheless, this was one time that a Lamb was more than a match for a fox.

THE DEVIL'S ZOO HAD LIONS (ROMAN OFFICIALS). What zoo would be complete without the "king of beasts?" David continues, "They gaped upon me with their mouths. as a ravening and roaring lion" (Psalm 22:13). Since Paul referred to the Roman government (perhaps Caesar himself) as "the lion" (2 Tim. 4:17), it is easy to infer that this part of the prophecy fits the Roman officials. The chief priests bound Jesus and "delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor" (Mt. 27:1), Pilate governed Judea ten years under the emperor Tiberius, from his 13th to his 23rd year A.D. 26 to 36.

Although lions are found only in isolated spots today, in early times India, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Greece, Asia Minor, and Syria all had lions. God's people were very familiar with lions; many Bible books mention them. Lions are mentioned one-hundred seventeen times in Scripture. Jacob compared three of his sonsJudah, Dan, and Gad-to lions (Gen. '19). Remarkably, Samson and David killed lions single-handedly (Jd. 14:5-6; 1 Sam. 17:34-37). David eulogized Saul and Jonathan as swifter than eagles and stronger than lions (2 Sam. 1:23). Benaiah "slew two lionlike men of Moab" and "a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow" (2 Sam. 23:20). Solomon adorned his throne, the greatest in the world, with fourteen lions (I Kgs. 10:19, 20). Lions were captured with pits and nets (Ezek. 19:1-9). Kings hunted lions for sport and, as Daniel's experience illustrates, used them as executioners. God let lions carry out His judgment upon the disobedient (I Kgs. 20:35, 36; 2 Kgs. 17:25).

The lion was the most dangerous and feared wild beast in Palestine. Their tawny hide blended into its golden fields and sandy wastes. They hid in forests and sometimes pounced from thickets near the Jordan River (Job 38:39, 40; Psa. 17:12; Jer. 49:19). A lion's strength is proverbial and is often referred to in Scripture. Agur referred to a lion as "strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any" (Prov. 30:30). Largest and grandest of cats, his massive body forces him to rely on strength instead of speed in hunting. A lion is so powerful that a swat of his paw can kill.

Like roaring lions, the Roman soldiers howled out mockeries (Lk. 23:36; cf Job 16:10). Like ravening lions, Jesus' enemies were hungry for a kill. They whipped Jesus; they nailed Him to the cross; they thrust a spear into His side (Jn. 19:1, 23, 34).

Like fed lions, they toyed with their prey. While the soldiers waited for Pilate to call for the prisoner, they had a little fun with Him: "Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head"' (Mt. 27:27-30). He claimed to be royalty, so they gave Him the trappings of a king. A crown (made of thorns). a purple robe (soaked in the blood of His bleeding back), a scepter (made from a stick which they used to hit Him over the head), and bowing subjects (with mocking retorts).

Christ was the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), but at the cross He was the Lamb of God. Jehovah was able to deliver out of the mouths of lions (I Sam. 17:37; Dan. 6:16, 20), but on this day He let the lions have their way.

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Jacksonville church of Christ
Jacksonville, Alabama