I have an old shepherd in my congregation. He and his wife spent their younger years tending sheep out on the rolling prairies of eastern Montana. When I stop in for visits they often speak of those days. I’m all ears. For not only are their insights and stories interesting in themselves. They often provide me with illustrations for when I preach those texts which speak of the shepherd relationship the Lord has with us, His sheep.
One of the more amazing tidbits I’ve picked up from them has to do with how shepherds care for motherless lambs. Among those who care for sheep, it’s common knowledge that you can’t bond an orphaned lamb with just any ewe. Every lamb has its own unique smell. A ewe recognizes her lamb by its scent. If it doesn’t have the right scent, she’ll reject it. This is quite a predicament for a hungry orphaned lamb. But shepherds know how to remedy the problem. What they do is skin a dead lamb and fit its coat around an orphan like a sweater. Then they present the orphan to the mother of the dead lamb, whose skin the orphan is now wearing. Because it smells like her own lamb she will accept and nurse it.
Born in sin and belonging to Satan, we humans don’t have the right scent as far as God is concerned. We give off a spiritual stench which Holy God can’t stand. In God’s nostrils we stink like a rendering plant on a sultry summer day. We reek with sin. And God, according to His holiness, doesn’t want to go anywhere near such a smell. “Your sins have separated you from your God” says the prophet Isaiah (59:2).
To be rejected by God means death for sinners. It means eternal banishment in hell. Talk about a predicament! But God knew exactly how to remedy the problem. Not only that–God wants to save us orphans from our just desserts.
The Lamb Of God
Enter Jesus, the Lamb of God! Jesus is the sinless Lamb whose heart and life are a sweet savor to God. Of Him the Father says: “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17).
Jesus is the Lamb led to the slaughter. On the cross He took upon Himself all sin. The world’s sin was so tightly wrapped around Him that it actually became His sin (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). What happened then? God smelled the rot and was repulsed. He turned away from the foul stench and gave Jesus what sin merits: wrath and punishment. As a result, all sin has been atoned for.
But that’s not all. God then took the perfect life of Jesus and dressed us in it. He clothed us in the unspotted wool of His own dear Lamb. So now we have a different scent, the right scent, the scent of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 2:15). Now God accepts us as His very own. By faith in His Son He adopts us into His flock. No longer orphans with no future, we are the people of God’s pasture with a guaranteed place at God’s side, now and forever!
Endless praise to Jesus for making us poor sinners acceptable to God! Let us join heaven’s chorus which sings: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Rev. 5:12).
— Pastor Michael Wilke