Have you ever noticed the exquisite continuity of the Bible – how it takes one thread and interweaves that thread throughout all its pages to enrich the understanding of a major theme? We started this study of servanthood with verses in Deuteronomy 15:15 – 16. This door theme is repeated in Exodus 21:1-6:
The Law Concerning Servants
21 “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. 5 But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.
– Exodus 21:1-6 New King James Version (NKJV)
To catch up on previous posts within Part I of this series called, “Personal Relationships based on Servanthood: To the Lord, To Each Other, To Our Spouses”, click on any of the links below.
Part I: Servanthood to the Lord
WHEN A DOOR IS NOT ONLY A DOOR
But, wait, let’s not go too fast. We need to flip a few pages back to chapter 12 of Exodus, verses 21-22 to get a fuller understanding of the significance of the door, doorpost and …cross. Yes, that is the direction we are going…and even further.
21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.
– Exodus 12:21-22 New King James Version (NKJV)
Take a lamb – like in the Lamb of God Who is the One training His Bride-to-be; The One Who sacrificed His life. Dip the hyssop in the blood – like that shed at Calvary by the Lamb. Take the blood on the hyssop from the lamb (Lamb) and apply it to the wooden doorpost – like the wooden cross. The blood that was shed by the Passover lamb in Exodus 12 saved all the people of Israel who obeyed the command to stay inside the houses where the blood was applied to the doorposts and lintels. Under that blood they were safe from the Angel of Death. When Jesus came and shed His blood, the exact same protection applied.
Yet, there is even more significance to this doorpost because Jesus is, also, literally the Door.
“I AM THE DOOR”
Question: “What did Jesus mean when He said ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7)?”
Answer: The statement “I am the door,” found in John 10:7, is the third of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s Gospel. These “I am” proclamations point to His unique, divine identity and purpose. In this “I am” statement, Jesus colorfully points out for us the exclusive nature of salvation by saying that He is “the door,” not “a door.” Furthermore, Jesus is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the “sheepfold,” but He is the only door by which we may enter and be saved (John 10:9). Jesus is the only means we have of receiving eternal life (John 3:16). There is no other way.
To get a clear picture of Jesus’ meaning in this statement, it is helpful to understand a little of that ancient culture, especially of sheep and shepherding. Of all domesticated animals, sheep are the most helpless. Sheep will spend their entire day grazing, wandering from place to place, never looking up. As a result, they often become lost. But sheep have no “homing instinct” as other animals do. They are totally incapable of finding their way to their sheepfold even when it is in plain sight. By nature, sheep are followers. If the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the others will follow.
Additionally, sheep are easily susceptible to injuries and are utterly helpless against predators. If a wolf enters the pen, they won’t defend themselves. They won’t try to run away or spread out. Instead they huddle together and are easily slaughtered. If sheep fall into moving water, they will drown. However, sheep do fear moving water and will not drink from any stream or lake unless the water is perfectly still. This is why David in the 23rd Psalm tells us of the shepherd who “makes [us] to lie down in green pastures, he leads [us] beside the still waters . . . though [we] walk through the valley . . . [we] will fear no evil. For You [the Shepherd] are with [us].”
Sheep are totally dependent upon the shepherd who tends them with care and compassion. Shepherds were the providers, guides, protectors and constant companions of sheep. So close was the bond between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, who know and follow their shepherd’s voice. Shepherds were inseparable from their flocks. The shepherd would lead the sheep to safe places to graze and make them lie down for several hours in a shady place. Then, as night fell, the shepherd would lead the sheep to the protection of a sheepfold.
There were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in the cities and villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a porter or doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and to admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of which knew its own shepherd’s voice, and would lead them out to pasture.
The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space to enter. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep.
In this context, Jesus is telling us that He is not only the shepherd of the sheep, but also the door of the sheep. In doing so, He is vividly contrasting Himself with that of the religious leaders of His time whom He describes as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8). When Jesus says, “I am the door,” He is reiterating the fact that only through Him is salvation possible.
Look back at Exodus 12 and remember. It was those who voluntarily chose to be under the blood, to lock themselves inside the blood-marked house and stay there, who were safe. It is the continuing principle of the awl; willingly we come to The Door – Jesus – Who shed His blood. We enter, for life, into this new kingdom with this new Master. The price we pay is a small one in comparison to the blood He shed. We give up our free will. We symbolically get our ear pierced.
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.