Though basic, my Italian still allowed me to understand what our neighbor was so excited about. And were those two words not in my newfound vocabulary, the goat tied to the other end of the rope she was holding would have provided a vital clue. “Two goats!”
Our neighbors had acquired two goats, one small, one big and both named. That was about all I could gather from the chatter of the family with whom we share a thin wire fence. “Per latte?” I asked. With a shrug of shoulders, the oldest told me the goats were not for milk.
It isn’t all that uncommon to have various farm animals in the part of Italy where we live, so I just assumed that these two goats were pets. Over the next few days, we watched as the children loved on their new little playmates with a voracious love that would make any good goat nervous. They pulled and prodded, called them by name, and played what looked a bit like “hide and seek” with them. It was sweet, really. We couldn’t help but think, “Oh, the poor goats!” and smile knowing our children would love them just as “tenderly”.
In watching this sweet exchange of the natural affection and interest these children and ours had toward these two little animals, we were reminded vividly of the Passover lamb. Each year this lamb without blemish was brought into the home for four days and quite likely loved and chased and named just like these goats were. However, its purpose was great in the Passover season and its symbolism greater as it pointed to the perfect sacrifice to come, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.
So for about 4 or 5 days we saw and heard and smelled our newest goat neighbors. Until one day we didn’t. “Dov’e caprini?” “Where are the goats?” And with the move of her finger across her neck, the little girl communicated that the goats were no more. They were not for milk, instead, they were for food.
You see, it is Ramadan this month and our neighbors are Muslim. Goats play a role in the holiday, both as food and as a sacrifice. This wasn’t the first time that I had prayed for this family living next door, as their religion is obvious by their clothing choice and prayers; but now, seeing the emptiness of their ceremony starkly contrasted with my first ponderings about the Passover Lamb, I found myself praying more and with a hollow feeling inside as I realized in a new way, their lostness without Christ.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:31-34
Sheep and goats. Saved and lost. One day they will be separated by the Perfect Lamb.
Oh Lord, please turn the hearts of these neighbors toward you. May they be counted among the sheep. May they trade the emptiness of the sacrifices of their hands for the greatest sacrifice made for them by the only one who laid His life down and took it up again.
Goats and Passover lambs and a neighbor family who needs you. So much to ponder and a heart full of prayers.
In recent years, God has brought a number of young couples into my our life. My wife and I have often marveled at the way these incredible people have been willing to sweep away the “traditions of men” so prevalent in much of the Church today and return to the Bible itself as the source of their primary instruction. Last year, I conducted a Passover Seder in one of their homes. Clearly, what was discovered has remained with the Pflukes.
A great resource for the Bible education of your family is available through the ministry of One For Israel. Here is just one example of what the Pflukes and others are now using to study the Scriptures and build their own Bible knowledge, put what they learn it into practice, and teach others what God has taught them.