At the each Passover Seder just prior to the second cup of wine we sing Dayenu (lit. It would have been enough) a song that recognizes each of God’s beneficent gifts to Israel. After the enumeration of each gift we respond by singing Dayenu! It would have been enough! But Hashem has provided another gift which is first for Israel but then extends to the entire world, an innocent lamb of His choosing, the Lamb of God.
A Lamb for the Individual
The first mention in scripture of God’s provision of a Lamb is in the 22nd chapter of Genesis, a portion that has come to be known as the Akeda, or the binding. It describes the binding of Isaac, Israel’s second patriarch. Abraham is commanded by God to take his “only son” and bring him to Mt. Moriah to be a burnt offering. As scandalous as this seems to us, Abraham responds without protestation and arises early the next morning.
Isaac is a good kid. His very name means laughter and no doubt he brought only joy to his aged parents. In fact he is probably 14-18 years of age while his father is 100 years his senior. So if Abraham seems oddly compliant, what about Isaac? It seems quite apparent that if he didn’t want to obey his father and get on the altar, it just wasn’t happening! But he did, and it did! This just goes to show us that even the best of us can get called on the carpet at any time. The question is how will we respond…and how will God respond?
Isaac certainly knew what was coming. The young man did a quick inventory and took note of the knife, the rope, the fire and the wood. But no Lamb! When he questions where the lamb is his father responds, “God Himself will provide the lamb (Gen.22:8).” And so the Holy One did. Lesson learned; when life binds you up and places you upon the altar, remember that God will provide the lamb.
If God had only provided a lamb for me as an indivdual….Dayenu…It would have been enough!
A Lamb for the Family
The second prominent mention of God’s provision of a lamb is found in Exodus 12, the story of the Passover. After a prolonged battle for control with Pharaoh, God shows why He is the undefeated heavy weight champ. Since the first nine plagues that Hashem wrought against Egypt failed to make Pharaoh release God’s people, the tenth plague promised the destruction of every first-born son in Egypt. The only problem is that Israel was still in Egypt. But God gave a provision for Israel’s deliverance. They were commanded “that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.” (exodus 12:3) This month was the 10th of Nissan and for the next five days the lamb was to stay with the family enjoying all of the comforts that an small unventilated hubble in an excessively hot country can provide.
No doubt the kids would get very attached but on the fifth day the lambs would be brought to the doorway of the home and thre they would be laughtered among every family in Goshen where Israel resided. The blood of the lamb would be applied to the doorframes an lintels of each home as a sign to deter the angel of death and protect the children of Israel from the plague of death. If the lamb was to large for the household it could be shared with the neighbors, but no lamb would prove insufficient for the family. So it is with our own families. When our families struggle from within and are challenged from without it is good to remember:
If God had merely provided a lamb for my family…Dayenu…It would have been enough!
A Lamb for the Nation
Nearly a millenium after the Exodus the prophet Isaiah writes of a single personality who will suffer excruciating circumstances, and yet would silently bear this affliction. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) The Rabbinical interpreters came to refer to this person as the suffering servant, and they generally associate him with the entire people of Israel. Like the Passover Lamb this servant was to endure a fatal punishment for the sake of others. It certainly would make sense that they would identify this person with Israel, since Israel has often suffered at the hands of the nations. Also Hashem has called Israel into a sacrificial role as a nation of Kohenim (priests). But in verse 8 Isaiah states that this servant was stricken for the sake of Ami, My people! How could Israel be the sacrifice for its own transgressions? This only makes sense if this innocent lamb was uniquely one of Israel’s own, a lamb for the entire nation.
If God had only provided a lamb for the nation…Dayenu…It would have been enough!
A Lamb for the World
The first reference of this amazing lamb in the Besorot occurs in the first chapter of the fourth besorah. Yochanon ben Zechariah is immersing common people in the Jordan River in preparation for the Kingdom of Hashem. When he sees Yeshua coming he makes the oddest of declarations, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.” (Yochanon 1:29) The whole world? Even the goyim? Israel is occupied and oppressed and has been for centuries by a series of conquering nations. The latest, the Romans are perhaps the worst, at least the worst in memory. So would Hashem really make provision for these wretched, warlike imperialists? Didn’t Hashem drown the Egyptians when he liberated Israel? The mercy of God is unexpected and far-reaching! The Lamb that was first mentioned as a provision for an individual is now the provision for the entire world!
So if God had stopped there and only provided a Lamb for this present age…Dayenu…It would have been enough!
A Lamb Forever
While in exile on the Greek Island of Patmos, Yochanon haZakken had an elaborate apocalyptic vision that includes many profound prophetic pictures of an innocent lamb. Yochanon saw The Lamb of God seated upon the throne reserved for the Holy One. Oddly twenty-four elders and four peculiar beasts are worshiping the Lamb. (Revelation 5:1-10) The elders represent the twelve tribes of Israel as well as the authority of the twelve apostles, indicative of the physical Israel and the nations coming together in a new commonwealth of mutual blessing. The lamb is described as being “slaughtered” yet it lives, and when the elders look away they return their gaze to see not a slaughtered lamb, but he Lion of Judah. How strange are the ways of God who repeatedly exhibits His strength in the weak things of this world. Together on the throne of God, justice and mercy are again shown to be one, the perfect equanimity of the Sovereign.
If God had given us a Lamb to bear the sins of the entire world, Dayenu, it would have been enough. But He has given us the promise of a world renewed, when the Lion will lie down with the Lamb, and men will trade in their implements of war for the tools to build and provide for the needs of one another. The Lamb will show us that God’s perfect will is perfected not in our perfection, but is placed on display by our imperfections.
Then all will worship the Lamb and follow His instruction, and the sovereignty of God will be made known throughout the entire creation. Dayenu!