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  • CHAPTER - GOD’S CLAIMS
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    < 023418 > EXODUS 34:18-21 The verses which are now to be before us seem, at first sight, very disconnected, presenting, apparently, a series of miscellaneous duties which the Lord enjoined upon Israel. First, mention is made of “The feast of unleavened bread” (v. 18). Next, we have the redemption of the firstborn, both of beasts and Israel’s sons (vv. 19, 20). Then reference is made to the sabbath (v. 21). This is followed by instruction concerning the observance of the feast of weeks and the feast of ingathering (vv. 22-24). Next we have prohibitions concerning the offering of leaven with God’s sacrifices, and the leaving over of the passover feast till the next morning (v. 25).

    Finally, God’s claims upon all the first-fruits of the land is made, and command is given that a kid is not to be seethed in its mother’s milk (v. 26). Thus, no less than seven different things are brought before us in these few verses. What, then is the link which binds them together? Wherein lies the unity of our passage?

    We believe the answer to our question is to be found in, the promise which the Lord gave when He first appeared to Moses at the burning bush: “And He said. certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” ( Exodus 3:12).

    The sequel to this is found in 19:3, 4: “And Moses went up unto God and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying. Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bear you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself.”

    Here in Exodus 34 Jehovah makes known the character of that “service” which He required from Israel.

    First of all, we have the two tables of stone, on which were inscribed the ten words of the Law. Submission to Himself, obedience to His revealed will is what God requires from His people.

    Second , Jehovah made known the principles which regulate the government of His people (vv. 6. 7).

    Third , the call to absolute separation from the heathen (v. 12), from their religion (v. 15), and from intermarriage with them (v. 16) is next given. No unequal loke must be formed between the children of God and the children of the Devil: compare 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. God had brought them unto Himself (see 1 Peter 3:18), and this wondrous and glorious fact must now be witnessed to in all their ways. In the verses that follow, comprising our present portion, we have the positive side brought out. “The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt” (v. 18).

    How blessedly this tells forth God’s grand design in redemption: it is not only for the purpose of emancipating His people and bringing them unto Himself, but also that they may be happily gathered around Himself. That is what the “feast” speaks of, communion and joy. God gathered His redeemed around Himself in holy convocation, Himself the center of peace and blessing.

    The feast of unleavened bread was inseparably connected with the Passover. The passover provided that sacrifice upon which the feast itself was based. The antitype of it is found in 1 Corinthians 5:7,8: “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.”

    The two together tell us that holiness is the consequence of redemption.

    The two cannot be separated. It is because our sins have been put away, that God can now take us into communion with Himself. First, God counts us to have “died with Christ” ( Romans 6:4-8). Second, we are to “reckon” upon this fact ( Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:14): faith is to appropriate it. Third, there is to be the practical expression of this in our daily lives: “Always learning about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” ( 2 Corinthians 4:10).

    We must distinguish between what the “unleavened bread.” itself emblemized, and what Israel’s actual feasting thereon typified. The bread was the Divinely-appointed symbol of Him who declared, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” ( John 6:51).

    Hence, because His person is holy, unleavened bread was appointed: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel” ( Exodus 12:15).

    If then God gave such explicit instructions to His people of old, to use only that kind of bread which suitably and accurately represented the immaculate body of His blessed Son, by what right may we today be less particular in the loaf selected for “the Lord’s supper?”

    The Lord Jesus Himself instituted that “Supper” as a memorial of Himself, given in death for His people. Concerning the emblems which He appointed, if we are subject to the Scriptures, there cannot be the slightest room for question. They were, first, bread, unleavened, as is clear from the fact that this “Supper” was instituted right after the paschal one ( Matthew 26:29) — therefore, when all leaven was rigidly excluded from their houses. The second was the “cup,” containing “the fruit of the vine” ( Matthew 26:29). Therefore when reminding the Corinthians of these, the apostle Paul wrote, “As often as ye eat (not simply “bread,” any bread, but) this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” ( 1 Corinthians 11:26).

    Alas, in this day of laxity, compromise and departure from the written Word, man’s substitutes for God’s appointments are received in most places without a murmur.

    In Central Africa, where flour is difficult to obtain, one company of professing native-Christians, with their white missionaries, use cocoanut in lieu of bread, and its milk for the cup. Another company known to us in Australia, use raspberry-juice. And why not? If we are justified in changing unleavened bread into leavened bread, prepared pieces of bread cut into cubes instead of a loaf broken — to remind us of the body of Christ broken for us: and an evening feast, a “supper,” into a morning ordinance: then who has the right to say where the line of departure shall be drawn?

    Personally. the writer had far rather never partake of the Lord’s supper again, than be a party to the sin of setting forth the blessed person of Christ by means of bread which has in it that which, in Scripture, is always the symbol of evil. If the loaf on the table has any symbolic significance at all, then a leavened one portrays a Christ with a corrupt humanity, and such is not the Christ of Holy Writ.

    We are well aware of the objection which is likely to be made, namely, We must not be occupied too closely with the symbols themselves, lest the heart be taken off Christ. Such language may sound very pious, but it illbecomes those who use it. Precisely the same objection is made by many pedo-baptists against immersion. They say, It is not the mere outward form, but the spirit behind the act that matters. But our Lord has said, “This do in remembrance of Me:” then how dare we “do” something else?

    If the outward symbols are of little or no moment, then why not be consistent and follow the “Quakers,” and abandon the external ordinances altogether? We can and do “remember” Christ at other times than when we are gathered around His table. But we can only “show the Lord’s death” ( 1 Corinthians 11:26). when we adhere strictly to His own appointments. And is our obedience in this, a small matter to Him who commanded Moses to “make all things” (even the pins and cords) for the Tabernacle “after the pattern shown him in the mount?” It still stands written, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to hearken than the fat of rams” ( 1 Samuel 15:22).

    Others object, If you are going to be such a stickler for the particular kind of bread used at the Lord’s table, you might just as well insist that we select an “upper room,” and partake of it sitting on the ground as the first disciples did. Our reply is, These details contributed nothing to the showing forth of “the Lord’s death.” which is the central design of the Supper. For that reason nothing whatever is said about these details in 1 Corinthians 11, where the bread and the cup are particularized. Had the apostle mentioned them there, then we should have been under obligation to heed and emulate them. But he has not. Really, such an objection is nothing more than an idle quibble. Let those who are responsible for making the arrangements at the Lord’s table, weigh in His presence what we have written. Let them ask, What kind of bread, leavened or unleavened, is the more scriptural? is the more appropriate as an emblem of the holy person of Christ? And which is least calculated to distress and stumble those of His people who, by grace, desire to be subject the Word in all things?

    Returning now to our type. That which was prefigured by the “unleavened bread” was the person of Him who is “without blemish and without spot” ( 1 Peter 1:19). Israel’s participation in the feast itself typified that holiness which is the believers in Christ. Note how Paul could say, to the failing Corinthians, “ye are unleavened” ( 1 Corinthians 5:7). But we must daily seek grace from on high to make this good in our lives, by walking in separation from all that defiles and corrupts: “Be ye holy, for I am holy” ( 1 Peter 1:16), is the unchanging demand of God upon us.

    And that upon which His demand is based is. “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.” If we are, by His wondrous grace, washed in the precious blood of Christ, He surely looks that we should keep our garments undefiled. If then we delight to contemplate the Passover, let us also keep, in a practical way, “the feast of unleavened bread,” and that for “seven days” — a complete period, the whole of our life on earth. “The feast of unleavened bread must be kept; God has provided us with it in Christ. He has brought in a new character of Manhood that we might feed upon it, and purge out all that is contrary to it.

    We see every where in the world an inflating principle, giving importance to that which has no true value before God. But in Christ we see One marked by purity, holiness, sincerity and truth: all that is delightful to God; and nothing inflated — nothing appearing to be greater than it really was. When they said to Him.

    Who art thou? He answered. ‘Altogether that which I also say to you.’ That is unleavened bread, and as we appreciate it and feed upon it, we shall become unleavened; we shall hate and purge out every kind of leaven” (C. A. Coates). “All that openeth the matrix is Mine” (v. 19). God is the universal Proprietor. As the Creator of all, His rights are beyond question. But how little are they recognized and owned in a practical way! Our present verse is one which ought to be much before those who are parents. Listen fond mother, doting father, that little one in the cradle is not yours absolutely; in reality, it belongs to God. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord” ( <19C703> Psalm 127:3). Have you acknowledged this? Have you dedicated your little one to God? “Thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix” ( Exodus 13:12) was God’s word to His people of old. and it has never been repealed. O that you may be able to say with the mother of Samuel. “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: Therefore also I have returned him to the Lord” ( 1 Samuel 1:27,28).

    This is a subject of great practical importance, and there is much need to press it upon parents today. Scripture does not teach infant “christening,” or infant baptism, but it does infant dedication. Even the parents of Christ, when He was a child, “brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” ( Luke 2:22). And note that both here and in Samuel’s case, it was the parents personally, and not a priest, who performed the solemn act. The act of dedication is the formal acknowledgment that the child belongs to God: it is saying, as David said. “For all things come of Thee: and of Thine own have we given Thee” ( 1 Chronicles 29:14).

    The whole subsequent training of the child should be in the remembrance of this fact. Hold your children in trust from God, and “bring them up in the nurture and admonition (mark the ‘balance of Truth’) of the Lord” ( Ephesians 6:4). “All that openeth the matrix is Mine: and every firstling among thy cattle, or sheep” (v. 19).

    Clearly it is God here pressing His claims upon His people. The cattle upon a thousand hills are His. So too He declares, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts” ( Haggai 2:8).

    How often we forget this! Ah, it is one thing to sing. ‘Naught that I have I call mine own, I hold it for the Giver; For I am His, and He is mine.

    Forever and forever,” but it is quite another matter to recognize that we are but stewards, holding everything in trust from Him and for Him: “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” ( 1 Corinthians 4:2).

    If we shall be called to account for “every idle word” that we have uttered ( Matthew 12:36), how much more shall we for every pound or dollar that we have wasted!

    It is very striking and solemn to observe that in the three parables which our Lord gave on the subject of service and its reward, that, in each instance, He selected a coin to illustrate His theme.

    First , in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, a “penny” (Matthew 20).

    Second , in the parable of the Nobleman, “He called His ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them. Occupy till I come” ( Luke 19:13).

    Third , in the parable of the Man travelling into a far country He called His own servants, and delivered unto them His goods: and unto one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability” ( Matthew 25:14,15). The word talent signifies “a sum of money.” With it His disciples were to trade during the time of His absence. If the teaching of these parables were more before our hearts, Christians would be more diligent and faithful in laying up for themselves “treasure in heaven” ( Matthew 6:20). “But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem” (v. 20).

    This is a repetition of what was before us in Exodus 13:13. As so many of our present readers have not seen what we wrote thereon, almost four years ago, we deem it advisable to go over the same ground again, or at least to review what we then said.

    The words “the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb,” at once carry our minds back to the Passover night, when the firstborn of the Hebrews was “redeemed with a lamb.” Thus the Lord has linked together the redemption of His own people with the redeeming of asses. Again, it is to be noted that, “if thou redeem not (the “ass”), thou shalt break his neck,” just as the Israelites would most certainly have been smitten by the avenging Angel unless they had slain the lamb and sprinkled its blood. Thus God here compares the natural man with the ass! Deeply humbling is this!

    As we read in Job 11:12 “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.”

    Under the Mosaic law, the “ass” was an unclean animal, neither chewing the cud nor dividing the hoof. So too the natural man is unclean: “But we all as an unclean thing” ( Isaiah 64:4). Though a man may be most particular about his habits, yet within is he full “of uncleanness” ( Matthew 23:27). The “divided hoof” symbolizes a separated walk, a life that is lived with God and for God. The “chewing of the cud” speaks of rumination, meditation, — meditating in God’s Law day and night ( Psalm 1:2). But to these two things the natural man is a total stranger.

    Thus, the “ass” accurately represents him. He is unclean. But thank God there is a fountain opened “for sin and for uncleanness” ( Zechariah 13:1).

    Again, the “ass” is a stupid and senseless creature. It has less of what we call “instinct” than has almost any other beast. In this too it resembles the natural man. Proudly as he may boast of his powers of reason, conceited as he may be over his intellectual attainments, the truth is, that he is utterly devoid of any spiritual intelligence: “But the natural man receiveth not the firings of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” ( 1 Corinthians 2:14).

    And again, “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, because of the blindness of their heart” ( Ephesians 4:17,18).

    How thankful Christians should be that. “We know that the son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true” ( 1 John 5:20).

    Once more; the “ass” is a stubborn and intractable animal. Often he is as hard to move as a mule. Such also is fallen man. He is a rebel against God.

    The history of every descendant of Adam is summed up in those terrible words, “we have turned every one to his own way” ( Isaiah 53:6). “There is none that seeketh after God” ( Romans 3:11). When God became incarnate and tabernacled among men, He had to say, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” ( John 5:40). When a sinner does come to Christ, it is because Divine power has “drawn” him ( John 6:44). And after we become Christians. the Holy Spirit has to take us in hand and “lead” us in “the paths of righteousness” ( Psalm 23:3. Romans 8:14).

    Most unpalatable to our proud hearts is such a line of truth as the above.

    Yet is it blessed if we bow to it and take our true place before God — in the dust. Only the illumination of the Holy Spirit can bring any of us to realize how ass-like we are. For this reason Solomon wrote, “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts” ( Ecclesiastes 3:18).

    Has God opened your eyes, my reader? Do you own that the “ass” accurately portrays all that you are in yourself — un-clean, senseless, intractable, fit only to have your neck broken? If so, you can appropriate and appreciate those blessed words, “Christ died for the ungodly” ( Romans 5:6). How marvelous the grace that has provided salvation for such: “The firstling of an ass thou shall redeem with a lamb!” “And none shall appear before Me empty” (v. 20). How can they! Once a poor sinner has had his eyes opened to see the ruin which sin has wrought in him, once he learns that he was “redeemed by the Lamb,” his heart is filled to overflowing, filled with gratitude and praise. The language which best expresses his thankfulness is, “Bless the Lord. O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name” ( <19A301> Psalm 103:1).

    No, the redeemed cannot appear before the Redeemer “empty.”

    Spontaneously must they heed that word, “By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name’ ( Hebrews 13:15). “And, none shall appear before Me empty.” If this were expressed in its positive form, it would read, “They shall come before Me as worshippers,” for worship is the presenting of something to God. As we have recently had three articles upon this subject in our magazine, there is the less need for us now to enlarge upon it. The first mention of “worship” in the O. T. gives us the basic and central thought in connection with the subject. In Genesis 22:5 we read that Abraham said, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship.” Abraham was about to offer his son unto the Lord! So the first time we read of worship in the N. T. we find the wise men presenting gifts to the infant Savior (Matthew 2). Our hearts should be filled with love and our mouths with praise as we appear before our gracious God. “Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest” (v. 21).

    The order of Truth presented in our passage is very beautiful. First, we have had that which speaks of absolute separation unto God (v. 18). Next, dedication unto God (vv. 19:20). Then, worship before, or the adoration of, God (v. 20). Now we get mention of the sabbath, the Lord’s provision of mercy for our soul’s occupation with Himself. It is to be observed that here a word is added to the previous references to the Sabbath which were before us in Exodus 16,20,31. Upon this Mr. Coates has said: “The rest of the sabbath must be observed, and the distinctive feature of it in this case is that ‘in ploughing-time and in harvest thou shalt rest.’ It intimates the necessity for recurring periods in which we cease from activity to contemplate in rest what God has done. The sabbaths must be kept, no matter what the needs of the Lord’s work may be: for I suppose that ploughing-time and harvest might typify the most exacting and strenuous times in His work.

    The soul must know what it is to lay aside its activities, and have its rest with God. I am afraid we do not always keep our sabbaths. We are either doing something, or occupied with what we are going to do. There is not enough restfulness with God.”

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