Editor’s Note: For those of us who aren’t familiar with Jewish traditions, Passover is an eight-day festival which is celebrated from the 15th to the 22nd of the Hebrew month called Nissan. The dates on the American calendar change every year. This year Passover is Friday, April 22 (Shabbat, or Sabbath) in the evening through Saturday, April 30 after sundown.
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A number of years ago I heard Jimmy DeYoung, an outstanding news commentator and Bible teacher, make a presentation at a Bible prophecy conference. Since it was during the Christmas season, he was teaching about the birth of Jesus in the first chapter of Luke. He read to us Luke 2:8–12:
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’
Dr. DeYoung then asked the audience a surprising question: “Did you ever wonder why this was a sign?” This left us all speechless. I had to admit to myself that I had never even questioned it. Why was it a sign? Dr. DeYoung had us turn to the book of Micah. We were all familiar with Micah 5:2, which prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but many of us were not familiar with Micah 4:8, which prophesied that He would be announced at the tower of the flock (Migdal Eder). Dr. DeYoung, who had lived in Jerusalem for a number of years, told us that Migdal Eder was a two-story tower that had been built in a pasture outside Bethlehem. The remains of the tower had recently been discovered.
Dr. DeYoung explained that the shepherds in the field had not all been the lowly shepherds that we had always assumed. They were actually priests from the temple who were doing shepherding work to assist in the birthing of the sacrificial lambs so that they would be unblemished for sacrifice. While the shepherds were keeping watch over the flock from the top floor of the tower, the shepherd-priests would bring the pregnant sheep in from the field to the tower’s bottom floor, where the sheep would give birth. As soon as a lamb was born, the priests would wrap it with strips of cloths made from old priestly undergarments. This was done to keep the lamb from getting blemished. The priests would then place the lamb onto a manger to make sure it would not get trampled. Wow! So when these shepherd-priests went into Bethlehem and saw the baby Jesus wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, they must have exclaimed, “There is the Lamb of God, prepared for sacrifice, unblemished!” They had to be excited beyond description, because they were the only ones who could have understood the sign. It was just for them from God. It was personal!
I presume that Jesus’ swaddling cloths were from the same source as the lambs’ cloths. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was married to the priest Zacharias. Elizabeth could have given her the cloths made from the priestly undergarments. It is highly probable that the first clothes that Jesus wore were the clothes of a priest. What a sign! I was so intrigued by this that I did some further research. These historical observations and parallels were confirmed by many messianic rabbis and the renowned historical writer Alfred Edersheim. I also sought out help from Bob Ibach, an experienced archaeologist, who had done some digs in Israel. He found the written account and pictures of the discovery of “the tower of the flock,” Migdal Eder. This whole insight made the account of the announcement of Jesus’ birth astounding and even more exciting!
More and more facts began to unfold in my research. I was talking further with David Schiller, my Jewish teacher and friend, about what I had learned about the shepherds and the lambs. He amazed me with some more historical insights. He explained that each Jewish family would put the family name around the neck of their lamb that they took to the Temple to be sacrificed. They did this to make sure they received their own lamb back for the Passover dinner. I wondered if there was any significance to this piece of trivia. As I was contemplating this, Schiller pointed out to me a particular object found in most of the paintings of Christ on the cross. There was a small sign at the top of the cross that looked like four letters: “INRI.” I discovered that this was an abbreviation of the sign that Pontius Pilot placed on the cross as seen in John 19:19:
Pilate also wrote an inscription, and put it on the cross. It was written, ‘JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.’
I learned that the letters were the first letters of each of the nouns in the inscription in Latin. I contacted my daughter Ruth, who is very good with Latin, and asked her to show me the inscription in the Latin Vulgate. That confirmed it: “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” (INRI).
Then Schiller opened my eyes to an incredible observation. Since the inscription had been in three languages — Latin, Greek, and Hebrew — he transliterated it for me from Hebrew to English. I saw before me these words: “Y’Shua HaNatzri V’Melech HaYehudim.” I was absolutely stunned when I took the first letters of each of these words. It spelled “YHVH,” the Tetragrammaton form of the name of God! YHVH and YHWH can be used interchangeably. When this technique of abbreviating is used, the title on the cross in the actual Hebraic script undeniably reveals the name of God. In English, the name is pronounced “Yahweh!”
Just like the Jews put their family name on their lamb for sacrifice at the Temple, God put His name on His Lamb for His family, which includes you and me!
God gave us so many pictures in order that we could understand the magnitude of His loving grace!
Excerpted with permission from Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts by Michael Norten, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2015.
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There are many names for God revealed in Scripture, Yahweh being just one. God put His name on His Lamb for us to show and demonstrate His love for His people. Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily