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GOD’S LAMB IN THE DEVIL’S ZOO, PART 3

The Bible often uses animal images to express human traits. For instance, sin is pictured as a crouching beast' waiting to pounce on Cain (Gen. 4:5). Jacob compares his sons and their descendants to various kinds of animals: Judah to a "lion's whelp" (Gen. 49:9), Issachar to a "strong ass" (49:14), Dan to a "serpent" (49:17), Naphtali to a "hind (deer) let loose" (49:21), and Benjamin to a "wolf' (49:27). David longed for God as a deer longs for water brooks (Psa. 42: 1). Solomon counseled sluggards to go watch the ants (Prov. 6:6) and said someone meddling with "strife belonging not to him is like one that taketh a dog by the ears" (26:17). The slothful man excuses his laziness by saying, "There is a lion...in the streets" (Prov. 26:13) and the righteous are as bold as a lion (28: 1). In Ecclesiastes we learn that "a living dog is better than a dead lion" (9:9).2

Animals also played a significant role in the life of Jesus. He taught us not to cast our "pearls before swine" (Mt. 7:6). He sent Peter to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth to use to pay the taxman (Mt. 17:27). He let some exorcised demons enter into a herd of swine which then ran done a steep incline and drowned in the sea (Mt. 8:32). In His "victory parade," He came into Jerusalem riding upon a colt, the foal of an ass. He sent His disciples to kill a Passover lamb for Him and them (Lk. 22:7, 8). He predicted that Peter would deny him three times before a rooster crowed twice (Mt. 26:34).

THE DEVIL'S ZOO HAD "WILD DOGS" (THE CROWD). The prophecy continues: "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet" (Psa. 22:16). David sees the sufferer's bodily pains made worse by a band of evil men who surround him. In some brutal way they pierce his hands and feet; they stare at Him (22:17); they strip him of his clothes and divide them out (22:18).

Dogs were possibly the first animal domesticated, as Job spoke of dogs that guarded his flocks (Job 30: 1). Solomon mentioned greyhounds (Prov. 30:3 1), which ancient Egyptians raced. Isaiah mentioned watchdogs (56:10). The Greeks raised mastiffs. We think of dogs as pets, but in the Bible they were usually more wild than tame. In ancient Israel, the dog was not "man's best friend." These unclean animals often banded together in packs to live off the refuse and food supplies of a village. Ravenous and ruthless prowling pariah dogs haunted ancient streets and dumps, ready to devour any edible thing (cf. Psa. 59:6, 14; 68:23; Prov. 26: 11; 1 Kgs. 14:11, 16:4; 2 Kg. 9: 10; Jer. 15:3). Dogs licked the blood of Naboth and Ahab, and ate all but the skull, hands, and feet of Jezebel (I Kgs. 21:19-24; 22:38; 2 Kgs. 9:35, 36).

Dogs are mentioned thirty-eight times in the Bible, and most of the references are derogatory. A male prostitute was called a "dog" (Deut. 23:18). Goliath disdained being likened to a dog that a boy might scare away with a sling (I Sam. 17:43). David saw himself as a dog unworthy of King Saul's attention (I Sam. 24:14). The Master taught, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs..." (Mt. 7:6a). The Jews called Gentiles "dogs"' (Mt. 15:26), but the humble Syro-pheonician woman was not insulted, so Jesus rewarded her with healing (Mk. 7:28). Dogs licked Lazarus' sores (Lk. 16:21). Paul says, "Beware of dogs..." (Phil. 3:2); Peter compared an erring Christian to a dog that returned to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22; cf. Prov. 26:11); and John said no "dog" goes to heaven (Rev. 22:14, 15).

In David's prophecy, the "dogs" referred to the blood-thirsty, crude, ignoble crowd, who, while less strong than their brutal leaders-Jewish "bulls" and Roman "lions"-were not less ferocious. Like dogs, they closed in on ("compassed") their prey. Ancient hunters frequently surrounded their game with a circle, and gradually encompassed them within an evernarrowing ring of dogs and men. When Jesus was praying in Gethsemane, the dogs closed in on Him: "And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people" (Mt. 26:47). The dogs closed in on Him again when Pilate asked if he should release Barabbas or Jesus (Mt. 27:21-23). When Pilate said, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it," the dogs responded, "His blood be on us, and on our children" (27:25). Later when Jesus was on the cross, they howled and barked like unclean and hungry dogs. Matthew says, "And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their beads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross ... The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth" (27:39, 40, 44). In the center of this hateful circle of bloodhounds stands the "hind of the morning" (as Psalm 22's title suggests). Around this bleeding, fainting man the enraged and unpitying enemies finally "hound Him to death."

THE DEVIL'S ZOO HAD A BEE (DEATH). Paul pictured death as a bee with its stinger removed: "0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:55, 56). The bee has not always been without poison, though. He was "defanged" at Calvary. Paul continues, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (15:57). Jesus was stung by death at Golgotha so that we would not have to be. At Calvary, Jesus "tasted of death" for us (Heb. 2:9) and paid sin's "wages" for us (Rm. 6:23). Sure, we'll still die (if He does not return first), but now "to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). The stinger is gone, we no longer have the "fear of death" (Heb. 2:15).

The day God's Lamb visited the devil's zoo was no holiday. The serpent injured his foot, the fox mocked Him, "bulls" slapped and spit on Him; "lions" pierced and tore Him; and the "dogs" fastened themselves upon Him. As Ness said, "This precious Lamb of God gave up His golden fleece for us."

Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Jacksonville Church of Christ