2 Samuel 24v17
When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.”
We have a problem. We all mess up from time to time. We like David have done wrong. David saw the error of his way and that of the people of Israel and he offered himself up to take their place. The idea of sacrifice wasn’t new, it was part of the culture. Animals have long been used to take the place of our mistakes but it was always meant to be a symbol not a solution.
David here offers himself as the one to make atonement - take the place, a sacrfice. He invites God to lay the guilt of the people on him and his family. He describes himself as “the shepherd”, who should take responsibility for his flock.
But this was never going to be enough. It was going to take a much bigger sacrifice - the sacrifice of God’s very own Son to sort out the mess we are in. A 1000 years later that Son was born, and became the shepherd and the sacrifice David never could.
I finish with the words from Coelius Sedulius, translated by John Ellerton)
From east to west, from shore to shore,
Let ev’ry heart awake and sing:
The holy child whom Mary bore,
The Christ, the everlasting king.
Behold, the world’s Creator wears
The form and fashion of a slave.
Our very flesh our maker shares,
His fallen creatures all to save.