The land along my daily walk has lots of spring sights, some of which I give a name. Like the horses — one grey and the other a paint — I call Lum and Abner; or the four ducks, Donald and the Road Walkers. Two pit bulls who call to me from their pen, I have named Flat Head and Overhead Valve, from the shape of their heads.
The trees have put forth new leaves, and the dogwoods their flowers. When I walk past a dogwood, I bend a branch down to the examine the white petals which form the cross, with the mark of the nails on the end of each, and the crown of thorns in the center.
There’s a new calf too, a black-with-a-white-face baby bull I named Reuben, because he always sticks close to his mother, Leah. She got her name because she is not a favorite of Reuben’s father.
I can see at least two flocks of sheep from the road, but neither is near enough for me to see them well. Spring is a gentle time, and sheep are gentle animals. I wish I could spot a pure white baby lamb. Once, Mama told me that lambs were so obedient and meek that they would lay their heads on the chopping block under the axe that would take their lives.
There were sheep in Egypt during the Israelite’s last spring in slavery. The Pharaoh used them as machines to make brick for his building projects. They made bricks from mud held together by straw and baked in the sun. Each year, Pharaoh wanted more bricks from the same number of laborers. When the Israelites begged him for mercy, he took away the straw so they would have to provide their own while keeping up the quota he had set.
God had already sent Moses to deal with Pharaoh, but the prophet saw little success. Pharaoh considered himself a god, and so he saw no need to obey a rival. Jehovah put up with Pharaoh’s arrogance for a long time before His patience ran out. Then, He told Moses to get his people ready, because He was sending the Destroyer to persuade Pharaoh that Jehovah was the true God, and bad things happened to those who disobeyed Him.
We don’t know very much about the Destroyer, except that he worked at God’s command, and brought punishment to the disobedient in Egypt. He did this by entering every unprotected house, and taking the life of all the first-born males, human and animal, because the first-born male belonged to God.
God told Moses that there was only one way that the Israelites could escape the death angel: they must obey his commands to the letter. To stay safe, they had to paint the door posts and lintel of their houses with the blood of a lamb. God, who had complete and total control of the Destroyer, required the death angel to pass over any dwelling whose door posts had been so painted.
But the blood had to be a special kind. Every Israelite family had to choose their very finest lamb, a male between one and two years old, for the Passover Lamb. Then, on a special evening, the master of each Israelite household killed its lamb and caught the blood in a basin.
When the master of the house got home, he sent everyone inside, while he painted the blood of the Lamb onto the door posts with a piece of hyssop bush. After that no one was allowed to come through the door until the Destroyer had passed. Then they roasted the lamb, and prepared bitter herbs to eat along with it. They ate their meal standing, ready to leave Egypt when God sent word.
At midnight, the Destroyer passed through Egypt, taking all the first-born sons, and all the first-born animals. He must have begun with the palace. In the midst of his grief, Pharaoh called Moses to tell him to take his people and get out. The Israelites immediately left the land of Egypt.
God told them to keep the memory of the Passover alive. Over the years, at Passover feasts, they discerned valuable lessons from those times. They realized that they stayed alive because they did exactly what God told them to. They saw that only their very best lamb was good enough for God. They learned that disobedience to God brought punishment from the Destroyer. They learned that God cared deeply for them, and wanted to save them; and that the Destroyer hated them and would have destroyed them, had it not been for the blood of the Passover Lamb.
Years later, Jesus taught the rules of spiritual survival on those principles. His disciples learned there is a God who loves us, and a Destroyer who hates us. That Jesus was called the Lamb of God, because he was meek and as obedient to his Father as the lamb Mama told me about. They learned that His blood, shed on the cross, was the only way to stay safe from the Destroyer; that they could gain the protection of Jesus’ permanent sacrifice, not by painting blood on their doorposts, but by believing what their Master taught them, and by doing what he told them. They learned that obedience included telling the Risen Christ when they had displeased God, so that those hurtful deeds could be eradicated by the blood of their Savior.
Although God’s Passover Lamb died near Jerusalem, his disciples saw that Death could not hold him. On Easter morning, they saw Him, risen from the dead. Unlike Lazarus, who arose in his earthly body, they saw Jesus had a heavenly body. Other than the scars from the crucifixion, Jesus looked, moved, spoke and embraced them just the way he always had. But they knew this new body would never, ever die again.
So, the children of Israel learned from the Passover, and the disciples learned from events of Easter. But what about us; what are we to do? It seems we have three options: to believe what God says, to disbelieve what God says, or to give Him the doubt until we get some sense. If we could ask the Israelites or the Disciples I expect they would say number one is best. It brings eternal spring.
Leon Smith, a resident of Wingate who grew up in Polkton, believes the truth in stories and that his native Anson County is very near the center of the universe.