The Atonement: Agnus Dei.

“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (I Peter 1:18-19)

I am certain you have heard the Latin title Agnus Dei. It may refer to one of Michael W. Smith’s most familiar and beloved worship songs. It is also the title of Francisco De Zurbaran’s animal oil painting (1635-1640) depicting a bound lamb ready to be sacrificed.

Agnus Dei is also a symbolic reference to Jesus Christ. It means Lamb of God. It is referenced in the Scriptures from John the Baptist’s declaration in John 1:29 when he saw Jesus approaching him in order to be baptized. The text says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Revelation 5:6 says, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”

The Scriptures make numerous references to the word lamb. It is illustrative of patience (Isaiah 53:7) and playfulness (Psalm 114:4-6). It also depicts vulnerability to danger (I Samuel 17:34) in which the care by a shepherd is required (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11).

A lamb was a source of food (Deuteronomy 32:14; 2 Samuel 12:4; Amos 6:4), clothing (Proverbs 27:26) and worship (I Chronicles 29:21; 2 Chronicles 29:32). When offered in sacrifice to God, the lambs could either be a year old male (Exodus 12:5) or female (Numbers 6:14). God’s people sacrificed lambs to Him from the earliest times (Genesis 4:4; 22:1-8). Sacrificial lambs were offered every morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-39; Numbers 28:1-4) and also at special feasts during the year (Exodus 12:1-7).

Lambs were also not only offered on the Sabbath day (Num. 28:9), at the feast of the New Moon (28:11), of Trumpets (29:2), of Tabernacles (13–40), of Pentecost (Lev. 23:18–20), but also on many other occasions (1 Chr. 29:21; 2 Chr. 29:21; Lev. 9:3; 14:10–25).

Lambs provided an extensive commerce (Ezra 7:17; Ezekiel 27:21), and were often used in paying tribute (2 Kings 3:1-4; Isaiah 16:1). Additionally, covenants were confirmed by the gift of a lamb (Genesis 21:28-30) and the image of a lamb was the first impression on money (Genesis 33:19; Josiah 24:32).

Spiritually speaking, lambs depict the purity of Christ (I Peter 1:19), a cherished item (2 Samuel 12:1-9) and the Lord’s people (Isaiah 5:17; 1:6). Lambs also illustrate the weakness of believers (Isaiah 40:11; John 21:15), the patience of Christ (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32), and those who minister among the ungodly (Luke 10:1-3). They also represent Israel when deprived of God’s protection (Hosea 4:16), the wicked under judgment (Jeremiah 51:40), and the complete destruction of the wicked (Psalm 37:20).

Most importantly, the lamb was a symbol of Christ (Genesis 4:4; Exodus 12:3; 29:38; Isaiah 16:1; 53:7; John 1:36; Rev. 13:8). Christ is called the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), as the great sacrifice of which the former sacrifices were only types (Numbers 6:12; Leviticus. 14:12–17; Isaiah 53:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Next time, we will examine the Levitical sacrifices and see how they symbolize and represent the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 5:11-14 says, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

 Take time today to praise the Agnus Dei who took your sin away by His sacrifice on the cross.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!




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