Of Dead Hamsters and Precious Lambs

Pine Lake, GA

From Exodus 11-12

“Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.” Exodus 11:42

We came home Tuesday evening after an afternoon in the park with good friends, a short trip to a nearby lake and beautiful sunset and as we walked in the door she did what she always does: ran to the hamster cage. I heard her say, “Oh look, Robert’s laid out all flat and just sleeping…Mommy, I think Robert’s dead!” I rushed over to the cage and his little brown eyes were opening and closing slowly. It happened in the three to four hours we had been gone from the house. Some of the wood chips surrounding his body were bloody, so I feared the worst and the only one I could suspect was our other hamster, Lucy. They nipped at each other on a fairly consistent basis, but I don’t know how this last time went down, I only know that Little A was hysterical and I told her to take Lucy into her room for a few minutes.

I called my parents. Having raised about a million hamsters growing up, my dad is the resident expert on said rodent behavior. I couldn’t get them, so, just like every day of these past six years, this one came with its own challenge…I picked him up and turned him over, the bleeding was coming from his lower abdomen, and poor thing, he was heaving for breath. I stood there and prayed. I prayed for a miracle and thought, “Lord, don’t let this little guys suffer.” He took about 4 more big breaths and that was it. I wrapped him up in tissues and placed him in a shoe box and closed the lid.

Being true apartment dwellers for years now, we own no shovel and had gotten rid of our garden spade somewhere along the way, for at least a little while Robert would be under the bag of salmon in the freezer. Little A sobbed. My heart ached for her, she said, “We only had him for 5 months!”

Wring my heart out, Little One.

And so this week’s study on Pharaoh and Moses and these people who had been slaves for 430 years continued, this time with loss and preparation. This is the loss of the one and only homeland they had ever known. One ruled by an oppressor so fierce and stone-hearted, that he was ready let his own son die at the expense of his stubborness…it was here that God began to give instructions, as part of the Passover, the time commemorating that God would indeed spare his people of the last, most devastating plague of the death of all the first-born in all the land. But it required the shedding of blood. The blood of something perfect, spotless, whole.

It was specified (Exodus 12:5-6):

-the lamb was to be a year old

-without spot or defect

-they are to take it in on the 10th day of the month, but aren’t allowed to slaughter it until the 14th–why? My commentary says so that they could make sure it was genuinely without defect, but someone shared in our class that she read it was because in this time it would become precious. I certainly don’t know what kind of bond can be formed in a matter of four days, but I looked at one way that Webster defined this word: too valuable or important to be wasted or used carelessly.

The selection, care and preparation of this animal were some of the first instructions that God gave to the Israelites. It must have been seen so foreign, but if this was the same God that had brought all these plagues that the Hebrews had not only experienced and by His very hand spared, then they knew it was in their best interest to obey. They were told to cook this lamb thoroughly, share with other families if the portions were too big, prepare with bitter herbs, and burn up whatever was left. They were to eat it with sandals on their feet and cloaks on in preparation for a journey that would take much, much longer than any of them anticipated.

When I think of “precious,” I think of first-borns and I think of the relatively small amount of pain that I had to see my daughter experience this week in the loss of something dear to her and I think of the magnitude of the Father’s love for us to give His precious son.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr’s, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

©1995 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music
Words and Music by Stuart Townend

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