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< 021201 > EXODUS 12, Though we have entitled this paper “the Accompaniments of the Passover”, other things will come before us. The instructions which Jehovah gave to Israel concerning the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are found part in Exodus 12 and part in Exodus 13.
Therefore as these two chapters are to be the portion for our study, we must not pass by other incidents recorded in them. First, then, a brief word upon the carrying out of the death-sentence upon the Egyptians. “And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn, of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captives that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead” ( 12:29, 30).
The very first message which the Lord commanded Moses to deliver to Egypt’s ruler was, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even my firstborn; And I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son , even thy firstborn ” ( 4:22, 23).
It is evident from the sequel that Pharaoh did not believe this message. In this he accurately represented the men of this world. All through this Christian dispensation the solemn word has been going forth, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” ( Luke 13:3): “He that believeth not shall be damned” ( Mark 16:16). But, for the most part, the Divine warning has fallen on deaf ears. The vast majority do not believe that God means what He says. Nevertheless, though oftentimes men’s threats are mere idle words and empty bombast, not so is it with the threatenings of Him who cannot lie. It is true that God is “slow to anger” and long does He leave open the door of mercy, but even His long-sufferance has its limits. It was thus with Pharaoh and his people. Pharaoh received plain and faithful warning and this was followed by many appeals and preliminary judgments. But the haughty king and his no less defiant subjects only hardened their hearts. And now the threatened judgment from heaven fell upon them, and neither wealth nor poverty provided any exemption — “there was not a house where there was not one dead”. A most solemn proof is this unto rebels against God to-day, that in a short while at most, unless they truly repent, Divine wrath shall smite them. “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” ( 12:40, 41).
It is very striking to observe the accuracy of the type here. It was not until the day following the Passover-night that Israel was delivered from Egypt.
As we have gone over the first twelve chapters of Exodus we have witnessed the tender compassion of God ( 2:23-25); we have seen the appointment of a leader ( 3:10); we have listened to the Divine promises ( 6:6-8); and we have beheld remarkable displays of Divine power (in the plagues), and yet not a single Israelite was delivered from the house of bondage. It was not until the blood of the “lamb” was shed that redemption was effected, and as soon as it was shed, even the very next morning, Israel marched forth a free people — remarkable is the expression here used: “All the hosts of the Lord (not “of Israel”) went out from the land of Egypt” ( 12:41).
They were the Lord’s by purchase — “bought with a price”, and that price “not corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of a Lamb”!
The same thing is to be seen in the Gospels. Notwithstanding all the blessed display of grace and power in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, at the close of His wonderful works of mercy among men, had there been nothing more, He must have remained alone. Listen to His own words; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone ; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit ( John 12:24). As another has well said, “Blessed as was that ministry, great as were His miracles, heavenly as was His teaching, holy as was His life, yet had He not died, the Just for the unjust, not one of all the sons of Adam could possibly have been saved. What a place this gives to redemption!” (Mr. C.
How sadly true. Though Christ “spake as never man spake” ( John 7:46), and though men confessed “He hath done all things well; He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak ( Mark 7:37), yet at the close we read, even of His apostles, “they all forsook Him and fled”. But how different after His precious blood had been shed! Then He is no longer “alone”. Then, for the first time, He speaks of the disciples as His “brethren” ( John 20:17).
The order of truth in Exodus 12, like every other chapter in the Bible, is according to Divine wisdom, yet the writer has to confess dimness of vision in perceiving the purpose and beauty of the arrangements of its contents. One thing is very clear, it evidences plainly that it was not of Moses’ own design. Here, as ever, God’s thought and ways are different from ours. A trained mind, accustomed to think in logical sequence, would certainly have reversed the order found here. Yet we have not the slightest doubt that God’s order is infinitely superior to that of the most brilliant human intellect. These remarks are occasioned by what is found in verses 43-50. After telling us in verse 45 that “The self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt”, verses to 50 give us the “ordinance of the Passover”, and then in verse 51 it is repeated that “The Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”. The strange thing is that this ordinance was for Israel’s guidance in the future , hence one would naturally have expected to find these instructions given at a later date, as a part of the ceremonial law. But though, at present, we can offer no satisfactory explanation of this, several points of interest in the “ordinance” itself are clear, and these we will briefly consider. “And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover; There shall no stranger eat thereof; but every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof” (vv. 43-45).
Here we learn that three classes of people were debarred from eating the Passover.
First , no stranger was to eat thereof. This Feast was for Israel alone, and therefore no foreigner must participate. The reason is obvious. It was only the children of Abraham, the family of faith, who had participated in God’s gracious deliverance, and they alone could commemorate it.
Second , no hired servant should eat the Passover. This too is easily interpreted. An “hired” servant is an outsider; he is actuated by selfinterest.
He works for pay. But no such principle can find a place in that which speaks of redemption: “To him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” ( Romans 4:5).
Third , no uncircumcised person should eat thereof. (v. 48). This applies to Israel equally as much as to Gentiles. “Circumcision’ was the sign of the Covenant, and only these who belonged to the Covenant of Grace can feed upon Christ. Circumcision was God’s sentence of death written upon nature. Circumcision has its antitype in the Cross. ( Colossians 2:11,12). “But every man’s servant that is bought for money when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.... and when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” (vv. 44, 48).
A wall was erected to shut out enemies, but the door was open to receive friends. No hired servant could participate in the Feast, but a bond-servant who had been purchased and circumcised, and who was now one of the household, could. So, too, the foreigner who sojourned with Israel, provided he would submit to the rite of circumcision. In this we have a blessed foreshadowing of Grace reaching out to the Gentiles, who though by nature were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise”, are now, by grace “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God” ( Ephesians 2:12,19). — a statement which manifestly looks back to Exodus 12. “In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof (v. 46). “The lamb was to be eaten under the shelter of the atoning blood, and there alone. Men may admire Christ, as it is the fashion very much to do, while denying the whole reality of His atoning work, but the Lamb can only be eaten really where its virtue is owned I Apart from this, He cannot be understood or appreciated. Thus the denial of His work leads to the denial of His person. Universalists and Annihilationists slip naturally into some kind of Unitarian doctrines as is evidenced on every hand. “Thus this unites naturally with the commandment ‘Neither shall ye break a bone thereof’. God will not have the perfection of Christ disfigured as it would be in type by a broken bone. With the bones perfect a naturalist can show the construction of the whole animal.
Upon the perfection of the bones depends the symmetry of form.
God will have this preserved with regard to Christ. Reverent, not rash handling, becomes us as we seek to apprehend the wondrous Christ of God. And looking back to what is in connection with this, how suited a place to preserve reverence, the place ‘in the house’ under the shelter which the precious blood has provided for us!
With such a one, so sheltered, how could rationalism or irreverence, we might ask, be found? And yet, alas, the injunction, we know too well is not unneedful” (Mr. Grant).
It is indeed blessed to mark how God guarded the fulfillment of this particular aspect of the type. That there might be no uncertainty that Christ Himself, the Lamb of God, was in view here, the Spirit of prophecy also caused it to be written (in one of the Messianic Psalms), “He keepeth all His bones; not one of them is broken” ( 34:20). And in John 19 we behold the antitype of Exodus 12 and the fulfillment of Psalm 34. “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation that the bodies should not remain upon the Cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken , and that they might be taken away” (v. 31).
Here was Satan, in his malignant enmity attempting to falsify and nullify the written Word. Vain effort was it. “Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him” (v. 32).
Here we are given to see the Father “keeping ” (preserving) all the bones of His blessed Son. Pierce His side with a spear a soldier might, and this, only that prophecy might be fulfilled, for it was written, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced , ( Zechariah 12:10). But brake His legs they could not, for “a bone of Him shall not be broken”, and it was not! “And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel both of man and of beast it is Mine” ( <021301> 13:1, 2). “The narrative of the Exodus from Egypt is suspended to bring in certain consequences, — responsible consequences for the’ children of Israel — consequences which flowed from their redemption out of the land of bondage. For, although, they are still in the land, the teaching of the chapter is founded upon their having been brought out, and it is indeed anticipative of their being in Canaan. If God acts in grace toward His people, He thereby establishes claims upon them, and it is these claims that are here unfolded” (Ed. Dennett).
It is on this same principle that Jehovah here says unto Moses, “Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn”. The reference to the “firstborn” here should be carefully noted. It was the firstborn of Israel who had been redeemed from the death-judgment which fell upon the Egyptians, and now the Lord claims these for Himself. Typically this speaks of practical holiness, setting apart unto God. Thus the first exhortation in Romans which follows the doctrinal exposition in chapters 1 to 11 is, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” ( <021201> 12:1).
Personal devotedness is the first thing which God has a right to look for from His blood-bought people. “Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters” ( 13:6, 7).
Typically this shows the nature of sanctification. Throughout Scripture “leaven” is the symbol of evil, evil which spreads and corrupts everything with which it comes into contact, for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” ( 1 Corinthians 5:6). To eat “unleavened bread” signifies separation from all evil, in order that we may feed upon Christ. That this Feast lasted “seven days”, which is a complete period, tells us that this is to last throughout our whole sojourn on earth. It is to this that Corinthians 5:7, 8 refers. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; Therefore let us keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Because we are saved by grace , through the sprinkled blood of Christ, it is not that we may now indulge in sin without fear of its consequences, or that grace may abound. Not so. Redemption by the precious blood of Christ imposes an additional responsibility to separate ourselves from all evil, that we may now show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Carelessness of walk, evil associations, worldliness, fleshly indulgences are the things which hinder us from keeping this Feast of unleavened Bread.
But much more is included by this figure of “leaven” than the grosser things of the flesh. We read in the N. T. of “the leaven of the Pharisees , ( Matthew 16:6). This is superstition, the making void of the Word of God by the traditions of men. Formalism and legality are included too.
Sectarianism and ritualism as well are the very essence of Phariseeism.
Then we read of “the leaven of the Sadducees” ( Matthew 16:6). The Sadducees were materialists, denying a spirit within man, and rejecting the truth of resurrection, ( Acts 23:8). In its present-day form, Higher Criticism, Rationalism, Modernism answers to Sadduceeism. We also read of “the leaven of Herod ( Mark 8:15). This is worldliness, or more specifically, the friendship of the world, as the various statements made about Herod in the Gospels will bear out. All of these things must be rigidly excluded. The allowance of any of them makes it impossible to feed upon Christ. Is it not because of our failure to “purge out the old leaven” that so few of the Lord’s people enter upon “the feast of unleavened bread”! “And thou shall show thy son in that day, saying, this is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt” ( 13:8).
Striking indeed is this. The basis of this Feast was what the Lord had done for Israel in delivering them from the land of bondage. In other words, its foundation was redemption accomplished, entered into, known, enjoyed.
No soul can really feast upon Christ while he is in doubt about his own salvation. “Fear hath torment” ( 1 John 4:18) and this is the opposite of joy and salvation, of which “feasting ” speaks. Little wonder then that there are so many joyless professing Christians. How could it be otherwise? “Rejoice” said Christ to the disciples, “that your names are written in heaven” ( Luke 10:20). Until this joy of assurance is ours there cannot be, we say again, any feasting upon Christ. “And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth; for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt” ( 13:9).
The Feast was a “sign” upon the hand , that is, it signified that their service was consecrated to God. It was also a “memorial between the eyes”, that is, upon the forehead, where all could see; which being interpreted, signifies, an open manifestation of separation unto God. Finally, it was to be accompanied with “the Lord’s law in their mouth”. The correlative of “law” is obedience. God’s redeemed are not a lawless people. Said the Lord Jesus, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments ” ( John 14:15); and as John tells us, “His commandments are not grievous” ( 1 John 5:3). Those who insist so urgently that in no sense are Christians under Law evidence a sad spirit of insubordination; it shows how much they are affected and infected, with the spirit of lawlessness which now, alas, is so prevalent on every side and in every realm. “And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as He sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, That thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord’s. And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck; and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem”. ( 13:11-13).
The deep significance of this cannot be missed if we observe the connection — that which precedes. In Exodus 12 we have had the redemption of the “firstborn” of Israel , here it is the redemption of the “firstling” of an ass. In the second verse of chapter 13 the two are definitely joined together — “Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb of the children of Israel, both of man and of beast; it is Mine”. That there may be no mistaking what is in view here, the Lord gave orders that the firstling of the ass was to be redeemed with a lamb, just as the firstborn of Israel were redeemed with a lamb on the passover night. Furthermore, the ass was to have its neck broken, that is it was to be destroyed, unless redeemed; just as the Israelites would most certainly have been smitten by the avenging Angel unless they had slain the lamb and sprinkled its blood. The conclusion is therefore irresistible: God here compares the natural man with the ass! Deeply humbling is this!
The “ass” is an unclean animal. Such is man by nature; shapen in iniquity conceived in sin. The “ass” is a most stupid and senseless creature. So also is the natural man. Proudly as he may boast of his powers of reason, conceited as he may be over his intellectual achievements, the truth is, that he is utterly devoid of any spiritual intelligence. What saith the Scriptures?
This: “Walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” ( Ephesians 4:17,18).
How accurately, then, does the “ass” picture the natural man! Again; the “ass” is stubborn and intractable , often as hard to move as a mule. So also is the natural man. The sinner is rebellious and defiant. He will not come to Christ that he might have life ( John 5:40). It is in view of these things that Scripture declares, “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt ” ( Job 11:12).
It is instructive to trace the various references to the “ass” in Scripture.
The first mention of the “ass” is in Genesis 22; from it we learn two things. “Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his “ass” (v. 3). The “ass” is not a free animal. It is a beast of burden, saddled. So, too, is the sinner — “serving divers lusts”.
Nor can the sinner worship God.
Fifth , in 1 Samuel 9:3 we are told, “And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost ”, and though Saul and his servant sought long for them they recovered them not. The sinner, too, is lost, away from God, and no human power can restore him.
Sixth , In Jeremiah 22:19 we read, “He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem”.
Fearfully solemn is this. The carcass of the ass was cast forth outside the gates of the holy city. So shall it be with every sinner who dies outside of Christ; he shall not enter the New Jerusalem, but be “cast into the Lake of Fire”. The final reference to the “ass” is found in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, behold, thy King cometh unto thee, He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass ”. Most blessed contrast is this. Here we see the “ass” entering Jerusalem , but only so as it was beneath the controlling hand of the Lord Jesus! Here is the sinner’s only hope — to submit to Christ!
In Genesis 16:12 we have a statement which is very pertinent in this connection, though its particular force is lost in the A. V. rendering; we quote therefore from the R. V., “And he shall be a wild-ass man among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him”. Those were the words of the Lord to Sarah. They were a prophecy concerning Ishmael. From Galatians 4 we learn that Ishmael stands for the natural man , as Isaac for the believer, the seed of promise. In full accord, then, with all that we have said above is this striking description of Sarah’s “firstborn ”; he was a wild-ass man. The Bedowin Arabs are his descendants, and fully do they witness to the truth of this ancient prophecy.
But solemn is it to find that here we have God’s description of the natural man. And more solemn still is what we read of Ishmael in Galatians 4; he “persecuted him that was born after the Spirit” (v. 29), and in consequence had to be “cast out” (v. 30).
In view of what has been said above, how marvelous the grace which provided redemption for “the firstling of an ass”! “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners , Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8).
Ah, dear reader, have you taken this place before God? Do you own that the “ass” is an accurate portrayal of all that you are in yourself — unclean, senseless, intractable, fit only to have your neck broken? Do the words of the apostle suitably express the real sentiments of your heart — “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief ” ( 1 Timothy 1:15)?
Christ came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, ( Luke 5:32). He came “To seek and to save that which was lost ” ( Luke 19:10). Again, we ask, Have you taken this place before God? Have you come to Him with all your wretchedness — undone, corrupt, guilty, lost?
Have you abandoned all pretentions of worthiness and merit, and cast yourself upon His undeserved mercy? Have you seen your own need of the sinner’s Savior, and thankfully received Him? If you have , then will you gladly “set to your seal that God is true”, and acknowledge that the “ass” is a suitable figure to express what you were and still are by nature. And, then, too, will you praise God for the matchless grace which redeemed you, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” ( 1 Peter 1:19).
Thank God for the Lamb provided for the ass. The more fully we realize the accuracy of this figure, the more completely we are given to see how ass-like we are in ourselves, the deeper will be our gratitude and the more fervent our praise for the redemptive and perfect Lamb.