The Biblical Illustrator
The beginning of months.
A new start
I. The idea of a new start is naturally attractive to all of us. We are fatigued, we are dissatisfied, and justly so, with the time past of our lives. We long for a gift of amnesty and oblivion.
II. There are senses in which this is impossible. The continuity of life cannot be broken. There is a continuity, a unity, an identity, which annihilation only could destroy.
III. “The beginning of months” is made so by an exodus. Redemption is the groundwork of the new life. If there is in any of us a real desire for change, we must plant our feet firmly on redemption.
IV. When we get out of Egypt, we must remember that there is still Sinai in front, with its thunderings and voices. We have to be schooled by processes not joyous but grievous. These processes cannot be hurried, they must take time. Here we must expect everything that is changeful, and unresting, and unreposeful, within as without. But He who has promised will perform. He who has redeemed will save. He who took charge will also bring through. (Dean Vaughan.)
The first month of the year
I. The first month of the year is a good time for religious contemplation and devotion. Then the flight of time, the events of life, and the mortality of man, may all furnish topics for reflection. Then especially should the Passover be celebrated, the blood of Christ anew be sprinkled on the soul; and in this spirit of trust in the Saviour should the year begin.
II. The first month of the year is eventful in the history of individual and collective life. How many souls, awakened by the circumstances of life, have been led to the Cross at this solemn period? What we are then, we are likely to remain throughout the year; we then get an impulse for good or evil which will affect our moral character to the end. The first month is the keynote of the year’s moral life. It is the rough sketch of the soul’s life for the year. We should therefore seek to observe it unto the Lord.
III. The first month of the year is important in its relation to the commercial prospects of men. The new year may mark the advent of new energy, or it may witness the continuance of the old indolence. Lessons:
1. That the ordering of months and of years is of God.
2. That the first month must remind us of the advent of the Saviour.
3. That the first month must be consecrated by true devotion.
4. That the Church must pay some attention to the calendar of the Christian year.
5. That God usually by His ministers makes known His mind to His Church. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The beginning of months
I want to bring to your mind this fact, that, just as the people of Israel when God gave them the Passover had a complete shifting and changing of all their dates, and began their year on quite a different day, so when God gives to His people to eat the spiritual passover there takes place in their chronology a very wonderful change. Saved men and women date from the dawn of their true life; not from their first birthday, but from the day whereto they were born again of the Spirit of God, and entered into the knowledge and enjoyment of spiritual things.
I. First, then, let us describe this remarkable event, which was henceforth to stand at the head of the Jewish year, and, indeed, at the commencement of all Israelitish chronology.
1. This event was an act of salvation by blood. The law demands death--“The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Christ, my Lord, has died in my stead: as it is written, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” Such a sacrifice is more than even the most rigorous law could demand. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Therefore do we sit securely within doors, desiring no guard without to drive away the destroyer; for, when God sees the blood of Jesus He will pass over us.
2. Secondly, that night they received refreshment from the lamb. Being saved by its blood, the believing households sat down and fed upon the lamb. It was a solemn feast, a meal of mingled hope and mystery. Do you remember when first you fed upon Christ, when your hungry spirit enjoyed the first morsel of that food of the soul? It was dainty fare, was it not?
3. The third event was the purification of their houses from leaven, for that was to go in a most important way side by side with the sprinkling of the blood and the eating of the lamb. You cannot feed on Christ and at the same time hold a lie in your right hand by vain confidence in yourself, or by love of sin. Self and sin must go. This month is the beginning of months, the first month of the year to us, when the Spirit of truth purges out the spirit of falsehood.
4. A fourth point in the Passover is not to be forgotten. On the Passover night there came, as the result of the former things, a wonderful, glorious, and mighty deliverance. “This month,” etc.
II. Now, secondly, I want to mention the varieties of its recurrence among us at this day.
1. The first recurrense is of course on the personal salvation of each one of us. The whole of this chapter was transacted in your heart and mine when first we knew the Lord.
2. But then it happens again in a certain sense when the man’s house is saved. Remember, this was a family business. A family begins to live in the highest sense when, as a family, without exception, it has all been redeemed, all sprinkled with the blood, all made to feed on Jesus, all purged from sin, and all set at liberty to go out of the domains of sin, bound for the kingdom.
3. Extend the thought--it was not only a family ordinance, but it was for all the tribes of Israel. There were many families, but in every house the passover was sacrificed. Would it not be a grand thing if you that employ large numbers of men should ever be able to gather all together and hopefully say, “I trust that all these understand the sprinkling of the blood, and all feed upon Christ.”
III. And now I come to show in what light this date is to be regarded, if it has occurred to us in the senses I have mentioned. Primarily, if it has occurred in the first sense to us personally: what about it then?
1. Why the day in which we first knew the Saviour as the Paschal Lamb should always be the most honourable day that has ever dawned upon us. Prize the work of grace beyond all the treasures of Egypt.
2. This date is to be regarded as the beginning of life. Let your conversion be the burial of the old existence, and as for that which follows after, take care that you make it real life, worthy of the grace which has quickened you.
3. Our life, beginning as it does at our spiritual passover, and at our feeding upon Christ, we ought always to regard our conversion as a festival and remember it with praise. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The beginning of days
If you have no such spiritual new year’s day, now is a good time to secure one. Says old Thomas Fuller: “Lord, I do discover a fallacy, whereby I have long deceived myself, which is this: I have desired to begin my amendment from my birthday, or from the first day of the year, or from some eminent festival, that so my repentance might bear some remarkable date. But when those days were come, I have adjourned my amendment to some other time. Thus, whilst I could not agree with myself when to start, I have almost lost the running of the race. I am resolved thus to befool myself no longer. I see no day like to-day Grant, therefore, that to-day I may hear Thy voice. And if this day be remarkable in itself for nothing else, give me to make it memorable in my soul; thereupon, by Thy assistance, beginning the reformation of my life.” Let this day be the beginning of months, the first month of the year to you. (H. C. Trumbull.)
The lessons of time
1. Time gives birth to actions.
2. God ordains that certain periods of life shall determine others (Luke 19:44).
3. There is an extension of man’s trial. One chance more.
4. Procrastination ends destructively, Not only thief of time, but also hardener of men’s hearts.
5. Time will end.
6. The issues of time will last for ever. (British Weekly.)
Turning over a new leaf
The time has come for turning over a new leaf. As the town clock struck midnight of the last day of the old year divers and sundry resolutions which had lain dormant a long time, waiting for the New Year to ring its chimes, came forth into new life. They had long had an existence, these new resolutions had, for in reality they are not new at all, but quite venerable; for on the first of January of many a past year they have been brought to the surface. And so the new leaf has been turned over, and on its virgin pages these new resolutions have been written, and, alas! not inscribed for the first time. Were they not written on the new leaf on the first of January, just a year ago, and the New Year’s day before that, and can you not go back, and back, and back, till you come to your childhood and the time when you first began to turn over a new leaf? These new leaves that we are always turning over--how they accuse us! We write on the newly turned page that we will do many duties which we have left undone--many duties in the home, the church--many duties to our friends, our neighbours, duties to God and to ourselves; and how long is it before there comes a little January gust and blows the leaf back again? and then all goes on pretty much as before. The trouble with this matter of leaf-turning, of making good resolutions only to break them, is twofold.
1. The effort is not made in good faith--it is more a whim than a solemn purpose put into action, and so it is we have altogether too much regard to times and seasons, and too little to the imperative demand of to-day. Conscience is a court whose fiat is to be obeyed not on New Year’s day, or Christmas, or on a birthday, but now--on the instant. A man who defers to execute a right resolution till some particular day has arrived will be pretty sure not to carry it out at all.
2. Then the second difficulty is that we rely too much upon our own will and too little upon God’s help. No man can change his own nature or reform himself. He can do much, if he but will, in the direction of carrying cut a good resolution; but the real efficient reliance must be God. (Christian Age.)
We have now reached the birthday of the great Hebrew nation, and with it the first national institution, the feast of passover, which is also the first sacrifice of directly Divine institution, the earliest precept of the Hebrew legislation, and the only one given in Egypt.
The Jews had by this time learned to feel that they were a nation, if it were only through the struggle between their champion and the head of the greatest nation in the world. And the first aspect in which the feast of passover presents itself is that of a national commemoration.
This day was to be unto them the beginning of months; and in the change of their calendar to celebrate their emancipation, the device was anticipated by which France endeavoured to glorify the Revolution. All their reckoning was to look back to this signal event. "And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it for a feast unto the Lord; throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever" (Exodus 12:14). "It shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in thy mouth, for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year" (Exodus 13:9-10).
Now for the first time we read of "the congregation of Israel" (Exodus 12:3, Exodus 12:6), which was an assembly of the people represented by their elders (as may be seen by comparing the third verse with the twenty-first); and thus we discover that the "heads of houses" have been drawn into a larger unity. The clans are knit together into a nation.
Accordingly, the feast might not be celebrated by any solitary man. Companionship was vital to it. At every table one animal, complete and undissevered, should give to the feast a unity of sentiment; and as many should gather around as were likely to leave none of it uneaten. Neither might any of it be reserved to supply a hasty ration amid the confusion of the predicted march. The feast was to be one complete event, whole and perfect as the unity which it expressed. The very notion of a people is that of "community" in responsibilities, joys, and labours; and the solemn law by virtue of which, at this same hour, one blow will fall upon all Egypt, must now be accepted by Israel. Therefore loneliness at the feast of Passover is by the law, as well as in idea, impossible to any Jew. Every one can see the connection between this festival of unity and another, of which it is written, "We, being many, are one body, one loaf, for we are all partakers of that one loaf."
Now, the sentiment of nationality may so assert itself, like all exaggerated sentiments, as to assail others equally precious. In this century we have seen a revival of the Spartan theories which sacrificed the family to the state. Socialism and the phalanstere have proposed to do by public organisation, with the force of law, what natural instinct teaches us to leave to domestic influences. It is therefore worthy of notice that, as the chosen nation is carefully traced by revelation back to a holy family, so the national festival did not ignore the family tie, but consecrated it. The feast was to be eaten "according to their fathers' houses"; if a family were too small, it was to the "neighbour next unto his house" that each should turn for co-operation; and the patriotic celebration was to live on from age to age by the instruction which parents should carefully give their children (Exodus 12:3, Exodus 12:26, Exodus 13:8).
The first ordinance of the Jewish religion was a domestic service. And this arrangement is divinely wise. Never was a nation truly prosperous or permanently strong which did not cherish the sanctities of home. Ancient Rome failed to resist the barbarians, not because her discipline had degenerated, but because evil habits in the home had ruined her population. The same is notoriously true of at least one great nation today. History is the sieve of God, in which He continually severs the chaff from the grain of nations, preserving what is temperate and pure and calm, and therefore valorous and wise.
In studying the institution of the Passover, with its profound typical analogies, we must not overlook the simple and obvious fact that God built His nation upon families, and bade their great national institution draw the members of each home together.
The national character of the feast is shown further because no Egyptian family escaped the blow. Opportunities had been given to them to evade some of the previous plagues. When the hail was announced, "he that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the house"; and this renders the national solidarity, the partnership even of the innocent in the penalties of a people's guilt, the 'community' of a nation, more apparent now. There was not a house where there was not one dead. The mixed multitude which came up with Israel came not because they had shared his exemptions, but because they dared not stay. It was an object-lesson given to Israel, which might have warned all his generations.
And if there is hideous vice in our own land today, or if the contrasts of poverty and wealth are so extreme that humanity is shocked by so much luxury insulting so much squalor,--if in any respect we feel that our own land, considering its supreme advantages, merits the wrath of God for its unworthiness,--then we have to fear and strive, not through public spirit alone, but as knowing that the chastisement of nations falls upon the corporate whole, upon us and upon our children.
But if the feast of the Passover was a commemoration, it also claims to be a sacrifice, and the first sacrifice which was Divinely founded and directed.
This brings us face to face with the great question, What is the doctrine which lies at the heart of the great institution of sacrifice?
We are not free to confine its meaning altogether to that which was visible at the time. This would contradict the whole doctrine of development, the intention of God that Christianity should blossom from the bud of Judaism, and the explicit assertion that the prophets were made aware that the full meaning and the date of what they uttered was reserved for the instruction of a later period (1 Peter 1:12).
But neither may we overlook the first palpable significance of any institution. Sacrifices never could have been devised to be a blind and empty pantomime to whole generations, for the benefit of their successors. Still less can one who believes in a genuine revelation to Moses suppose that their primary meaning was a false one, given in order that some truth might afterwards develop out of it.
What, then, might a pious and well-instructed Israelite discern beneath the surface of this institution?
To this question there have been many discordant answers, and the variance is by no means confined to unbelieving critics. Thus, a distinguished living expositor says in connection with the Paschal institution, "We speak not of blood as it is commonly understood, but of blood as the life, the love, the heart,--the whole quality of Deity." But it must be answered that Deity is the last suggestion which blood would convey to a Jewish mind: distinctly it is creature-life that it expresses; and the New Testament commentators make it plain that no other notion had even then evolved itself: they think of the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ, not of His Deity.(20) Neither of this feast, nor of that which the gospel of Jesus has evolved from it, can we find the solution by forgetting that the elements of the problem are, not deity, but a Body and Blood.
But when we approach the theories of rationalistic thinkers, we find a perfect chaos of rival speculations.
We are told that the Hebrew feasts were really agricultural--"Harvest festivals," and that the epithet Passover had its origin in the passage of the sun into Aries. But this great festival had a very secondary and subordinate connection with harvest (only the waving of a sheaf upon the second day) while the older calendar which was displaced to do it honour was truly agricultural, as may still be seen by the phrase, "The feast of ingathering at the end of the year, when thou gatherest in thy labours out of the field" (Exodus 23:16).
In dealing with unbelief we must look at things from the unbelieving angle of vision. No sceptical theory has any right to invoke for its help a special and differentiating quality in Hebrew thought. Reject the supernatural, and the Jewish religion is only one among a number of similar creations of the mind of man "moving about in worlds unrecognised." And therefore we must ask, What notions of sacrifice were entertained, all around, when the Hebrew creed was forming itself?
Now, we read that "in the early days ... a sacrifice was a meal.... Year after year, the return of vintage, corn-harvest, and sheep-shearing brought together the members of the household to eat and drink in the presence of Jehovah.... When an honoured guest arrives there is slaughtered for him a calf, not without an offering of the blood and fat to the Deity" (Wellhausen, Israel, p. 76). Of the sense of sin and propitiation "the ancient sacrifices present few traces.... An underlying reference of sacrifice to sin, speaking generally, was entirely absent. The ancient sacrifices were wholly of a joyous nature--a merry-making before Jehovah with music" (ibid., p. 81).
We are at once confronted by the question, Where did the Jewish nation come by such a friendly conception of their deity? They had come out of Egypt, where human sacrifices were not rare. They had settled in Palestine, where such idyllic notions must have been as strange as in modern Ashantee. And we are told that human sacrifices (such as that of Isaac and of Jephthah's daughter) belong to this older period (p. 69). Are they joyous and festive? are they not an endeavour, by the offering up of something precious, to reconcile a Being Who is estranged? With our knowledge of what existed in Israel in the period confessed to be historical, and of the meaning of sacrifices all around in the period supposed to be mythical, and with the admission that human sacrifices must be taken into account, it is startling to be asked to believe that Hebrew sacrifices, with all their solemn import and all their freight of Christian symbolism, were originally no more than a gift to the Deity of a part of some happy banquet.
It is quite plain that no such theory can be reconciled with the story of the first passover. And accordingly this is declared to be non-historical, and to have originated in the time of the later kings. The offering of the firstborn is only "the expression of thankfulness to the Deity for fruitful flocks and herds. If claim is also laid to the human firstborn, this is merely a later generalisation" (Wellhausen, p. 88).(21)
But this claim is by no means the only stumbling-block in the way of the theory, serious a stumbling-block though it be. How came the bright festival to be spoiled by bitter herbs and "bread of affliction"? Is it natural that a merry feast should grow more austere as time elapses? Do we not find it hard enough to prevent the most sacred festivals from reversing the supposed process, and degenerating into revels? And is not this the universal experience, from San Francisco to Bombay? Why was the mandate given to sprinkle the door of every house with blood, if the story originated after the feast had been centralised in Jerusalem, when, in fact, this precept had to be set aside as impracticable, their homes being at a distance? Why, again, were they bidden to slaughter the lamb "between the two evenings" (Exodus 12:6)--that is to say, between sunset and the fading out of the light--unless the story was written long before such numbers had to be dealt with that the priests began to slaughter early in the afternoon, and continued until night? Why did the narrative set forth that every man might slaughter for his own house (a custom which still existed in the time of Hezekiah, when the Levites only slaughtered "the passovers" for those who were not ceremonially clean, 2 Chronicles 30:17), if there were no stout and strong historical foundation for the older method?
Stranger still, why was the original command invented, that the lamb should be chosen and separated four days before the feast? There is no trace of any intention that this precept should apply to the first passover alone. It is somewhat unexpected there, interrupting the hurry and movement of the narrative with an interval of quiet expectation, not otherwise hinted at, which we comprehend and value when discovered, rather than anticipate in advance. It is the very last circumstance which the Priestly Code would have invented, when the time which could be conveniently spent upon a pilgrimage was too brief to suffer the custom to be perpetuated. The selection of the lamb upon the tenth day, the slaying of it at home, the striking of the blood upon the door, and the use of hyssop, as in other sacrifices, with which to sprinkle it, whether upon door or altar; the eating of the feast standing, with staff in hand and girded loins; the application only to one day of the precept to eat no leavened bread, and the sharing in the feast by all, without regard to ceremonial defilement,--all these are cardinal differences between the first passover and later ones. Can we be blind to their significance? Even a drastic revision of the story, such as some have fancied, would certainly have expunged every divergence upon points so capital as these. Nor could any evidence of the antiquity of the institution be clearer than its existence in a form, the details of which have had to be so boldly modified under the pressure of the exigencies of the later time.
Taking, then, the narrative as it stands, we place ourselves by an effort of the historical imagination among those to whom Moses gave his instructions, and ask what emotions are excited as we listen.
Certainly no light and joyous feeling that we are going to celebrate a feast, and share our good things with our deity. Nay, but an alarmed surprise. Hitherto, among the admonitory and preliminary plagues of Egypt, Israel had enjoyed a painless and unbought exemption. The murrain had not slain their cattle, nor the locusts devoured their land, nor the darkness obscured their dwellings. Such admonitions they needed not. But now the judgment itself is impending, and they learn that they, like the Egyptians whom they have begun to despise, are in danger from the destroying angel. The first paschal feast was eaten by no man with a light heart. Each listened for the rustling of awful wings, and grew cold, as under the eyes of the death which was, even then, scrutinising his lintels and his doorposts.
And this would set him thinking that even a gracious God, Who had "come down" to save him from his tyrants, discerned in him grave reasons for displeasure, since his acceptance, while others died, was not of course. His own conscience would then quickly tell him what some at least of those reasons were.
But he would also learn that the exemption which he did not possess by right (although a son of Abraham) he might obtain through grace. The goodness of God did not pronounce him safe, but it pointed out to him a way of salvation. He would scarcely observe, so entirely was it a matter of course, that this way must be of God's appointment and not of his own invention--that if he devised much more costly, elaborate and imposing ceremonies to replace those which Moses taught him, he would perish like any Egyptian who devised nothing, but simply cowered under the shadow of the impending doom.
Nor was the salvation without price. It was not a prayer nor a fast which bought it, but a life. The conviction that a redemption was necessary if God should be at once just and a justifier of the ungodly sprang neither from a later hairsplitting logic, nor from a methodising theological science; it really lay upon the very surface of this and every offering for sin, as distinguished from those offerings which expressed the gratitude of the accepted.
We have not far to search for evidence that the lamb was really regarded as a substitute and ransom. The assertion is part and parcel of the narrative itself. For, in commemoration of this deliverance, every firstborn of Israel, whether of man or beast, was set apart unto the Lord. The words are, "Thou shall cause to PASS OVER unto the Lord all that openeth the womb, and every firstling which thou hast that cometh of a beast; the males shall be the Lord's" (Exodus 13:12). What, then, should be done with the firstborn of a creature unfit for sacrifice? It should be replaced by a clean offering, and then it was said to be redeemed. Substitution or death was the inexorable rule. "Every firstborn of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb, and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break its neck." The meaning of this injunction is unmistakable. But it applies also to man: "All thy firstborn of man among thy sons thou shalt redeem." And when their sons should ask "What meaneth this?" they were to explain that when Pharaoh hardened himself against letting them go from Egypt, "the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land; ... therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the womb being males; but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem" (Exodus 13:12-15).
Words could not more plainly assert that the lives of the firstborn of Israel were forfeited, that they were bought back by the substitution of another creature, which died instead, and that the transaction answered to the Passover ("thou shalt cause to pass over unto the Lord"). Presently the tribe of Levi was taken "instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel." But since there were two hundred and seventy-three of such firstborn children over and above the number of the Levites, it became necessary to "redeem" these; and this was actually done by a cash payment of five shekels apiece. Of this payment the same phrase is used: it is "redemption-money"--the money wherewith the odd number of them is redeemed (Numbers 3:44-51).
The question at present is not whether modern taste approves of all this, or resents it: we are simply inquiring whether an ancient Jew was taught to think of the lamb as offered in his stead.
And now let it be observed that this idea has sunk deep into all the literature of Palestine. The Jews are not so much the beloved of Jehovah as His redeemed--"Thy people whom Thou hast redeemed" (1 Chronicles 17:21). In fresh troubles the prayer is, "Redeem Israel, O Lord" (Psalms 25:22), and the same word is often used where we have ignored the allusion and rendered it "Deliver me because of mine enemies ... deliver me from the oppression of men" (Psalms 69:18, Psalms 119:134). And the future troubles are to end in a deliverance of the same kind: "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion" (Isaiah 35:10, Isaiah 51:11); and at the last "I will ransom them from the power of the grave" (Hosea 13:14). In all these places, the word is the same as in this narrative.
It is not too much to say that if modern theology were not affected by this ancient problem, if we regarded the creed of the Hebrews simply as we look at the mythologies of other peoples, there would be no more doubt that the early Jews believed in propitiatory sacrifice than that Phoenicians did. We should simply admire the purity, the absence of cruel and degrading accessories, with which this most perilous and yet humbling and admonitory doctrine was held in Israel.
The Christian applications of this doctrine must be considered along with the whole question of the typical character of the history. But it is not now premature to add, that even in the Old Testament there is abundant evidence that the types were semi-transparent, and behind them something greater was discerned, so that after it was written "Bring no more vain oblations," Isaiah could exclaim, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. When Thou shalt make His soul a trespass-offering He shall see His seed" (Isaiah 1:13, Isaiah 53:6-7, Isaiah 53:10). And the full power of this last verse will only be felt when we remember the statement made elsewhere of the principle which underlay the sacrifices: "the life (or soul) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life" (or "soul"-- Leviticus 17:11, R.V.) It is even startling to read the two verses together: "Thou shalt make His soul a trespass-offering;" "The blood maketh atonement by reason of the soul ... the soul of the flesh is in the blood."(22)
It is still more impressive to remember that a Servant of Jehovah has actually arisen in Whom this doctrine has assumed a form acceptable to the best and holiest intellects and consciences of ages and civilisations widely remote from that in which it was conceived.
Another doctrine preached by the passover to every Jew was that he must be a worker together with God, must himself use what the Lord pointed out, and his own lintels and doorposts must openly exhibit the fact that he laid claim to the benefit of the institution of the Lord Jehovah's passover. With what strange feelings, upon the morrow, did the orphaned people of Egypt discover the stain of blood on the forsaken houses of all their emancipated slaves!
The lamb having been offered up to God, a new stage in the symbolism is entered upon. The body of the sacrifice, as well as the blood, is His: "Ye shall eat it in haste, it is the Lord's passover" (Exodus 12:11). Instead of being a feast of theirs, which they share with Him, it is an offering of which, when the blood has been sprinkled on the doors, He permits His people, now accepted and favoured, to partake. They are His guests; and therefore He prescribes all the manner of their eating, the attitude so expressive of haste, and the unleavened "bread of affliction" and bitter herbs, which told that the object of this feast was not the indulgence of the flesh but the edification of the spirit, "a feast unto the Lord."
And in the strength of this meat they are launched upon their new career, freemen, pilgrims of God, from Egyptian bondage to a Promised Land.
It is now time to examine the chapter in more detail, and gather up such points as the preceding discussion has not reached.
(Exodus 12:1.) The opening words, "Jehovah spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt," have all the appearance of opening a separate document, and suggest, with certain other evidence, the notion of a fragment written very shortly after the event, and afterwards incorporated into the present narrative. And they are, in the same degree, favourable to the authenticity of the book.
(Exodus 12:2.) The commandment to link their emancipation with a festival, and with the calendar, is the earliest example and the sufficient vindication of sacred festivals, which, even yet, some persons consider to be superstitious and judaical. But it is a strange doctrine that the Passover deserved honour better than Easter does, or that there is anything more servile and unchristian in celebrating the birth of all the hopes of all mankind than in commemorating one's own birth.
(Exodus 12:5.) The selection of a lamb for a sacrifice so quickly became universal, that there is no trace anywhere of the use of a kid in place of it. The alternative is therefore an indication of antiquity, while the qualities required--innocent youth and the absence of blemish, were sure to suggest a typical significance. For, if they were merely to enhance its value, why not choose a costlier animal?
Various meanings have been discovered in the four days during which it was reserved; but perhaps the true object was to give time for deliberation, for the solemnity and import of the institution to fill the minds of the people; time also for preparation, since the night itself was one of extreme haste, and prompt action can only be obtained by leisurely anticipation. We have Scriptural authority for applying it to the Antitype, Who also was foredoomed, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).
But now it has to be observed that throughout the poetic literature the people is taught to think of itself as a flock of sheep. "Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron" (Psalms 77:20); "We are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture" (Psalms 79:13); "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6); "Ye, O My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men" (Ezekiel 34:31); "The Lord of hosts hath visited His flock" (Zechariah 10:3). All such language would make more easy the conception that what replaced the forfeited life was in some sense, figuratively, in the religious idea, a kindred victim. One who offered a lamb as his substitute sang "The Lord is my shepherd." "I have gone astray like a lost sheep" (Psalms 23:1; Psalms 119:176).
(Exodus 12:3, Exodus 12:6.) Very instructive it is that this first sacrifice of Judaism could be offered by all the heads of houses. We have seen that the Levites were presently put into the place of the eldest son, but also that this function was exercised down to the time of Hezekiah by all who were ceremonially clean, whereas the opposite holds good, immediately afterwards, in the great passover of Josiah (2 Chronicles 30:17, 2 Chronicles 35:11).
It is impossible that this incongruity could be devised, for the sake of plausibility, in a narrative which rested on no solid basis. It goes far to establish what has been so anxiously denied--the reality of the centralised worship in the time of Hezekiah. And it also establishes the great doctrine that priesthood was held not by a superior caste, but on behalf of the whole nation, in whom it was theoretically vested, and for whom the priest acted, so that they were "a nation of priests."
(Exodus 12:8.) The use of unleavened bread is distinctly said to be in commemoration of their haste--"for thou camest out of Egypt in haste" (Deuteronomy 16:3)--but it does not follow that they were forced by haste to eat their bread unleavened at the first. It was quite as easy to prepare leavened bread as to provide the paschal lamb four days previously.
We may therefore seek for some further explanation, and this we find in the same verse in Deuteronomy, in the expression "bread of affliction." They were to receive the meat of passover with a reproachful sense of their unworthiness: humbly, with bread of affliction and with bitter herbs.
Moreover, we learn from St. Paul that unleavened bread represents simplicity and truth; and our Lord spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod (Mark 8:15). And this is not only because leaven was supposed to be of the same nature as corruption. We ourselves always mean something unworthy when we speak of mixed motives, possible though it be to act from two motives, both of them high-minded. Now, leaven represents mixture in its most subtle and penetrating form.
The paschal feast did not express any such luxurious and sentimental religionism as finds in the story of the cross an easy joy, or even a delicate and pleasing stimulus for the softer emotions, "a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and playeth well on an instrument." No, it has vigour and nourishment for those who truly hunger, but its bread is unfermented, and it must be eaten with bitter herbs.
(Exodus 12:9.) Many Jewish sacrifices were "sodden," but this had to be roast with fire. It may have been to represent suffering that this was enjoined. But it comes to us along with a command to consume all the flesh, reserving none and rejecting none. Now, though boiling does not mutilate, it dissipates; a certain amount of tissue is lost, more is relaxed, and its cohesion rendered feeble; and so the duty of its complete reception is accentuated by the words "not sodden at all with water." Nor should it be a barbarous feast, such as many idolatries encouraged: true religion civilises; "eat not of it at all raw."
(Exodus 12:10.) Nor should any of it be left until the morning. At the first celebration, with a hasty exodus impending, this would have involved exposure to profanation. In later times it might have involved superstitious abuses. And therefore the same rule is laid down which the Church of England has carried on for the same reasons into the Communion feast--that all must be consumed. Nor can we fail to see an ideal fitness in the precept. Of the gift of God we may not select what gratifies our taste or commends itself to our desires; all is good; all must be accepted; a partial reception of His grace is no valid reception at all.
(Exodus 12:12.) In describing the coming wrath, we understand the inclusion equally of innocent and guilty men, because it is thus that all national vengeance operates; and we receive the benefits of corporate life at the cost, often heavy, of its penalties. The animal world also has to suffer with us; the whole creation groaneth together now, and all expects together the benefit of our adoption hereafter. But what were the judgments against the idols of Egypt, which this verse predicts, and another (Numbers 33:4) declares to be accomplished? They doubtless consisted chiefly in the destruction of sacred animals, from the beetle and the frog to the holy ox of Apis--from the cat, the monkey, and the dog, to the lion, the hippopotamus, and the crocodile. In their overthrow a blow was dealt which shook the whole system to its foundation; for how could the same confidence be felt in sacred images when all the sacred beasts had once been slain by a rival invisible Spiritual Being! And more is implied than that they should share the common desolation: the text says plainly, of men and beasts the firstborn must die, but all of these. The difference in the phrase is obvious and indisputable; and in its fulfilment all Egypt saw the act of a hostile and victorious deity.
(Exodus 12:13.) "And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are." That it was a token to the destroying angel we see plainly; but why to them? Is it enough to explain the assertion, with some, as meaning, upon their behalf? Rather let us say that the publicity, the exhibition upon their doorposts of the sacrifice offered within, was not to inform and guide the angel, but to edify the people. They should perform an open act of faith. Their houses should be visibly set apart. "With the mouth confession" (of faith) "is made unto salvation," unto that deliverance from a hundred evasions and equivocations, and as many inward doubts and hesitations, which comes when any decisive act is done, when the die is cast and the Rubicon crossed. A similar effect upon the mind, calming and steadying it, was produced when the Israelite carried out the blood of the lamb, and by sprinkling it upon the doorpost formally claimed his exemption, and returned with the consciousness that between him and the imminent death a visible barrier interposed itself.
Will any one deny that a similar help is offered to us of the later Church in our many opportunities of avowing a fixed and personal belief? Whoever refuses to comply with an unholy custom because he belongs to Christ, whoever joins heartily in worship at the cost of making himself remarkable, whoever nerves himself to kneel at the Holy Table although he feels himself unworthy, that man has broken through many snares; he has gained assurance that his choice of God is a reality: he has shown his flag; and this public avowal is not only a sign to others, but also a token to himself.
But this is only half the doctrine of this action. What he should thus openly avow was his trust (as we have shown) in atoning blood.
And in the day of our peril what shall be our reliance? That our doors are trodden by orthodox visitants only? that the lintels are clean, and the inhabitants temperate and pure? or that the Blood of Christ has cleansed our conscience?
Therefore (Exodus 12:22) the blood was sprinkled with hyssop, of which the light and elastic sprays were admirably suited for such use, but which was reserved in the Law for those sacrifices which expiated sin (Leviticus 14:49; Numbers 19:18-19). And therefore also none should go forth out of his house until the morning, for we are not to content ourselves with having once invoked the shelter of God: we are to abide under its protection while danger lasts.
And (Exodus 12:23) upon the condition of this marking of their doorposts the Lord should pass over their houses. The phrase is noteworthy, because it recurs throughout the narrative, being employed nine times in this chapter; and because the same word is found in Isaiah, again in contrast with the ruin of others, and with an interesting and beautiful expansion of the hovering poised notion which belongs to the word.(23)
Repeated commandments are given to parents to teach the meaning of this institution to their children, (Exodus 12:26, Exodus 13:8). And there is something almost cynical in the notion of a later mythologist devising this appeal to a tradition which had no existence at all; enrolling, in support of his new institutions, the testimony (which had never been borne) of fathers who had never taught any story of the kind.
On the other hand, there is something idyllic and beautiful in the minute instruction given to the heads of families to teach their children, and in the simple words put into their mouths, "It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt." It carries us forward to these weary days when children scarcely see the face of one who goes out to labour before they are awake, and returns exhausted when their day is over, and who himself too often needs the most elementary instruction, these heartless days when the teaching of religion devolves, in thousands of families, upon the stranger who instructs, for one hour in the week, a class in Sunday-school. The contrast is not reassuring.
When all these instructions were given to Israel, the people bowed their heads and worshipped. The bones of most of them were doomed to whiten in the wilderness. They perished by serpents and by "the destroyer"; they fell in one day three-and-twenty thousand, because they were discontented and rebellious and unholy. And yet they could adore the gracious Giver of promises and Slayer of foes. They would not obey, but they were quite ready to accept benefits, to experience deliverance, to become the favourites of heaven, to march to Palestine. So are too many fain to be made happy, to find peace, to taste the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, to go to heaven. But they will not take up a cross. They will murmur if the well is bitter, if they have no flesh but only angels' food, if the goodly land is defended by powerful enemies.
On these terms, they cannot be Christ's disciples.
It is apparently the mention of a mixed multitude, who came with Israel out of Egypt, which suggests the insertion, in a separate and dislocated paragraph, of the law of the passover concerning strangers (Exodus 12:38, Exodus 12:43-49).
An alien was not to eat thereof: it belonged especially to the covenant people. But who was a stranger? A slave should be circumcised and eat thereof; for it was one of the benignant provisions of the law that there should not be added, to the many severities of his condition, any religious disabilities. The time would come when all nations should be blessed in the seed of Abraham. In that day the poor would receive a special beatitude; and in the meantime, as the first indication of catholicity beneath the surface of an exclusive ritual, it was announced, foremost among those who should be welcomed within the fold, that a slave should be circumcised and eat the passover.
And if a sojourner desired to eat thereof, he should be mindful of his domestic obligations: all his males should be circumcised along with him, and then his disabilities were at an end. Surely we can see in these provisions the germ of the broader and more generous welcome which Christ offers to the world. Let it be added that this admission of strangers had been already implied at Exodus 12:19; while every form of coercion was prohibited by the words "a sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat of it," in Exodus 12:45.
If the household be too little for the lamb.
Too little for the lamb
I. The text reminds us of a primary privilege.
1. That each man of Israel ate the passover for himself; “every man according to his eating.” So do we feed upon Jesus, each one as his appetite, capacity, and strength enable him to do.
2. But this same delicious fare should be enjoyed by all the family--“a lamb for an house.” Oh, that each of the parents and all the children and servants may be partakers of Christ!
II. The text is silent as to a certain contingency.
1. The lamb was never too little for the family; and assuredly the Lord Jesus was never too little even for the largest family, nor for the most sinful persons.
2. There is no reason to stint our prayers for fear we ask too much.
3. Nor to stay our labours because the Lord Jesus cannot give us strength enough, or grace enough.
4. Nor to restrain our hopes of salvation for the whole family, because of some supposed narrowness in the purpose, provision, or willingness of the Lord to bless.
III. The text mentions a possibility, and provides for it.
1. One family is certainly too small a reward for Jesus--too little for the Lamb.
2. One family is too little to render Him all the praise, worship, service, and love which He deserves.
3. One family is too little to do all the work of proclaiming the Lamb of God, maintaining the truth, visiting the Church, winning the world. Therefore let us call in the neighbour next unto our house.
IV. The whole subject suggests thoughts upon neighbourly fellowship in the gospel.
1. It is good for individuals and families to grow out of selfishness, and to seek the good of a wide circle.
2. It is a blessed thing when the centre of our society is “the Lamb.”
3. Innumerable blessings already flow to us from the friendships which have sprung out of our union in Jesus.
4. Our care for one another in Christ helps to realize the unity of the one body, even as the common eating of the passover proclaimed and assisted the solidarity of the people of Israel as one nation. This spiritual union is a high privilege.
5. Thoroughly carried out, heaven will thus be foreshadowed upon earth, for there love to Jesus and love to one another is found in every heart. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Sharing religion with others
There are some things which can be shared with our neighbours, and some which cannot, in the religious life. In securing the “means of grace” we can go halves with our next-door neighbours; but not so in the great fact of personal salvation. We can join with a neighbour in taking a pew in church, or in getting a waggon to carry us to church, or in subscribing for a religious paper--and paying for it too; but we can share no neighbour’s seat in heaven; his team will never carry us there; the truths which benefit him from the weekly paper do not, because of their gain to him, do us any good. And if our nextdoor neighbour’s family is a household of faith, that doesn’t make ours so. The members of his family may be saved and ours lost. Neighbourliness is commanded and commended of God; but God doesn’t want you to leave your salvation in the hands of your next-door neighbour. The blood above your neighbour’s doorpost will not save your household from death. (H. C. Trumbull.)
Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute Judgment.
The Lord God of gods
When, in Deuteronomy 10:17, Moses says, “The Lord your God is God of gods,” and when, in Joshua 22:22, the people exclaim, “The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, He knoweth”--what do the words mean? Are there other “gods” than Jehovah? It is likely this inquiry will come up in the mind of almost any student of the Bible when he is reading the account of the ten plagues. The question is hard to discuss; but two considerations can be offered for help, and then we can reach the conclusion.
1. One is this: the entire record, unless a most elastic ingenuity of exposition be employed, seems to say that the contests delineated in the exciting chapters which record the deliverance from bondage and the establishment of Israel was between supernatural powers, rather than between ordinary human antagonists. Pharaoh accepted the gauntlet thrown down by Moses as a defiance to his gods, and, with a courage worthy of a better cause, took it up cheerfully in their name. So the conflict proceeds. The nations stand silently and solemnly by while these tremendous antagonistic forces are employed in the royal abodes, and are aroused only afterwards when the pressure outside begins to be felt. The close of the narrative teaches us that they were perfectly intelligent from the beginning in the conceptions they had of what was going on. Pharaoh finally confesses openly the defeat of his gods when he says humbly to Moses, “Go then, serve Jehovah; and bless me also!” And with a like acknowledgment the Israelites ascribe all the glory of their deliverance to God. They do not behave as if they owed even a decent gratitude to Moses or Aaron.
2. We must put with this consideration a second: these so-called “gods” of the Egyptians are spoken of constantly as if they were not mere dumb idols, nor even mere ideal creations of human imagination; the language could have hardly been stronger if it had meant to leave the impression that they were living existences--beings possessed of life and intelligence and will and some power (see Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 1 Corinthians 10:20; Psalms 66:4-5). For some mysterious reason of His own, the sovereign Monarch of the universe has accepted an antagonism between the powers of evil and the powers of good in this world; and for nearly six thousand years Satan His creature has been waging battle openly amid the sublime agencies of nature with Jesus Christ His Son. We feel as if we must assume real antagonists when we read Moses’ own words in Numbers 33:4 : “The Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them; upon their gods also the Lord executed judgment.”
3. Thus, then, we reach our conclusion at which all along we have been aiming. Were Pharaoh’s gods real gods? How was Jehovah the “God of gods”? And what does our text mean, “Against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgment”? We ask you to recapitulate in your own minds the delineation made concerning the three cycles of miracles grouped around the three personages who stood on a certain occasion on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus Christ, Moses, and Elijah, each the bringer of a dispensation of revealed truth for men’s salvation, the law, the prophets, and the gospel. It is sufficient to say, here at the start, that this same onset of demoniacal forces is disclosed in each of these cases, and a recognition made of the fact that the old fight with Satan was renewed, the old fight which began in the Garden of Eden. Demoniacal possession is found in these same three cycles of time, and nowhere else in the history of the Old Testament or the New. This, then, is what is intended when we say that this was a contest between Immanuel and Satan, a positive resumption of the war from the instant when “the seed of the woman” began to bruise the serpent’s head. So, when we return to the story we are studying, we are bold to say that this whole contest between Moses and Menephtah was really the sublime and awful conflict between Immanuel and Satan for the slavery, on the one side, for the salvation, on the other, of the race of human souls whom the Almighty had originally made in His own image. Several most welcome explanations, therefore, meet us just here.
1. One is concerning the abrupt cessation of performances, on the part of Pharaoh’s magicians, when they exclaimed, “This is the finger of God.” They knew that the resistance was virtually over. We may even imagine that these people had sometimes been surprised already at what actually seemed their own power. Then there is a second explanation furnished by this disclosure.
2. We know now why this history has such an evangelical spirit attributed to it when references are made in the New Testament. Read over again, in the light of such an understanding of God’s true purpose, the story which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives concerning Moses’ choice in his early career; see how singular is the motive ascribed to him: He took his stand as a believer in Jehovah Jesus as his Redeemer--“By faith Moses,” etc. The New Testament writer identifies the two dispensations as the same. Israel was the Church, Jehovah was Jesus; so Moses became a Christian.
3. In the same way the allusions made to the incidents of the later history become intelligible. You recall the terrible trouble from the fiery serpents; put with that now the exhortation of the apostle Paul: “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.” He here says that Christ was the one who was tempted in that murmuring; it was Christ who was leading Israel through the wilderness. There never has been but one Church, but one Leader of God’s elect, but one Redeemer, but one way in which to be saved. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Past redemption point
On the bank of the Niagara River, where the rapids begin to swell and swirl most desperately, preparatory to their final plunge, is a sign-board which bears a most startling legend. “Past Redemption Point,” it reads. To read it even when one feels the soil firm beneath his feet sends a shiver of horror through one’s soul as he looks off upon the turbulent water and realizes the full significance of the sign. The one who gets into those boiling rapids and passes that point, cannot retrace his way, cannot pull to shore, cannot be rescued by friends. Past redemption point! How many men despise the warnings God sends, and pass the last stage at which they could arrest their evil way, and too late they find they have passed redemption point!
I will pass over you.
Our interest in the Passover, as in most of the other institutions of the Levitical economy, consists in its relationship to higher institutions, and to a more hallowed provision; it consists in the prefiguration by them of our Surety and Saviour, who is at once the Surety and Saviour of universal man. There are three points in the analogy to be considered.
I. We, like the children of israel aforetime, are in circumstances of sorrow.
1. They were in bondage. We also have been brought under bondage to sin, and our yoke is harder than theirs, for ours is heart-slavery, the iron has entered into our soul.
2. The Israelites were in circumstances of peril. The Lord was about to execute in their sight His strange work of judgment. The transgressions of our race, the sins which we commit, expose us to consequences far more imminent, and far more terrible.
II. For us, as for the Children of Israel of old, there is a remedy provided. The great doctrine of Atonement is here brought before us. By the blood of Jesus, seen by Divine justice sprinkled upon our hearts, wrath is warded off from us, and everlasting salvation is secured. The Cross is the meeting-place of God’s mercy for the sinner.
III. As there is such a remedy there can be no other. For us as for them there is but one way of escape. “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (W. M. Punshon, D. D.)
The blood of the Lamb
The blood of the slain lamb a type of that shed on Calvary.
1. The blood of salvation;
2. Of substitution;
3. Of sprinkling (useless unless applied);
4. Of separation. (D. Macmillan.)
I. This method of deliverance involved a sacrifice of innocent life.
II. This method of deliverance transcended human invention.
III. This method of deliverance proved completely efficient.
IV. This method of deliverance for its application required practical trust in God.
V. This method of deliverance formed a memorable era in the history of the Jews. (Homilist.)
I. The Passover celebrates a deliverance wrought in fulfilment of a Divine pledge. The baseness of man does not make void the righteousness of God.
II. The Passover festival was the beginning of a new and noble national life. It was the initiatory rite of a peculiar people. An eminent historian, with no theological interest, has compared it to the great feast at the beginning of the French revolution, which was to inaugurate the new age of fraternity. The suggestion is profound and pertinent. It was a national feast. It was to be a perpetual witness to them that the Highest had seen the affliction of His people, and had come down to deliver them; that He had established an intercourse with them which was to endure from age to age. Its full meaning was not, and could not, then be taken in; but they did know that it was the bond of a sacred union between the redeemed nation and Him who had redeemed it; that it was the sign of their acceptance of Him as Ruler and King instead of the Egyptian prince. During our own Civil War, when it had become evident on both sides that it was to be a life-and-death struggle, a proclamation, called the Emancipation Proclamation, was issued by the President, setting free some three or four millions of slaves. That proclamation had no immediate effect whatever upon the actual character of those whom it most concerned. It made them neither better nor worse. A quarter-century has passed away, and multitudes of them are still unchanged. They remain degraded, superstitious, ignorant; and yet you can say to them what you could not say to their fathers. They are free men. The Passover feast has been eaten. A life of liberty, with all its obligations and opportunities, is upon them; upon them whether they will or no; upon them for better or worse.
III. The Jewish festival has become a Christian sacrament. The paschal lamb was not only to be sacrificed; it was also to be eaten. Thus we are to keep the feast; thus we are to show a continuous participation in His sacrificial life and death. Crucified and risen with Him, we perpetuate the sacrifice in ourselves. (E. B. Mason, D. D.)
The paschal lamb
I. The paschal lamb itself. A beautiful type of the Lord Jesus--the perfect, spotless Saviour.
II. Its connection with, and application to, Israel.
1. A substitute (see Matthew 20:28). Christ suffered that we might live with Him and in Him.
2. Blood to be applied, as well as shed. Exercise of faith.
3. Flesh to be eaten. Christ the daily food of the believer’s soul.
III. The manner in which Israel was to eat of it.
1. With bitter herbs: repentance. When we feed on the Lamb of God, we must not forget what we have been, and what we are. We must remember our sins--worldliness, contentedness without God, impatience, and murmurings.
2. With unleavened bread (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
3. With loins girded. Travellers--pilgrims and strangers on earth. Look on scenes and occupations of world as on those which belong to wilderness, not home. At end of journey stands a continuing city, the heavenly Jerusalem. March on. (G. Wagner.)
(A Good Friday Sermon):--
I. I ask you to observe the provision which God made in the passover for the safety of his people. The dykes of Holland, which shut out the roaring ocean from the fertile fields, and the levees of the Mississippi guiding a mighty river in its course, have more than once been cut. But he who thus enchains the fierce spirit of the flood is apt to find himself in the pathway of its devastation. So can no man cut through the great principles of right and truth without opening sluice ways of destruction for himself. Reckless injustice, cruel oppression, will sooner or later overthrow the very man who has thus wronged his fellow. And nations may equally beware of breaching the barriers of Divine judgment. The water will find out the hiding-place of a guilty people. France reaps to-day the ripening harvest of her martyred Albigenses and her bloody St. Bartholomew. The stroke had fallen with relentless impartiality “from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn of the captive in the dungeon.” There was no distinction in the common and overwhelming calamity. So intertwined were Egypt and Israel. The slave was dependent upon his master, as the vine is upon the oak; but that very dependence only the more entirely involved the one in the calamity of the other. When death was on the wing of the pestilence, no power short of a miracle could separate the child of Jacob from the firstborn of Egypt. But a miracle did God work, a miracle so peculiar in its character that not one of all Israel’s thousands died with the sons of the oppressor. But their deliverance was duo to no foresight of their own. The soldier who cuts his way out of the encircling hosts of the enemy, the pilot who safely threads the mazes of the dangerous channel, the statesman who foils the blows and parries the thrusts of his country’s enemies on the battle-field of diplomatic controversy, can each point to the skill and prudence with which his web of plans was woven, and glory in his success. But when Israel was saved from the destruction of Egypt’s firstborn, no one of all their mighty host could say, “I saw the danger, and by my wisdom provided deliverance.” The whole method of safety for God’s people was one that originated with God Himself. No man would ever have thought of it, or, if he had, would have had any confidence in its success. It is a lamb slain, through which the Lord would guam each household of Israel from Egyptian condemnation. In one word, it was a sacrifice that alone could stand between the firstborn and the destroyer. Oh, when the Lamb is slain, when the sacrifice is made, when the Son of God hangs bleeding on the Cross, wilt thou wait till the shadowy wing of the death-angel darkens thy door, dreaming that thou hast some better way than God’s to save thy soul from righteous condemnation?
II. What was the Israelite to do to avail himself of the sacrifice which God had thus provided? Perched on a grey crag, like the nest where the eagle rears her young, Quebec looked down in proud security upon the St. Lawrence flowing to the sea. With muffled oars and bated breath, beneath the mantle of midnight, an English army floated with the ebb ti de down the stream, and lay hidden at the base of the frowning heights. Inaccessible as the fortress seemed, a path had been discovered. A way there unquestionably was by which the precipice could be scaled. But to avail themselves of that approach, to make use of their discovery, was a task so perilous, a venture so begirt with difficulty and danger, that none but heroes ever would have tried. So did God reveal to the Israelite a path by which he could save his household from the dread visitation of the angel of death. The sacrifice was slain. The paschal lamb lay bleeding its life away. But how was the Hebrew householder to use the sacrifice? Here was the road to safety, but was it not some mighty effort, some gigantic labour, some costly addition to the sacrifice which would make it defence in the mysterious visitation of the fast-approaching night? How through this pathway could the heights of security be gained? In one word, when God had done His share in the provision of the offering, what was man to do to apply its protection to himself? There is a Divine answer to that question: “Ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it into the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood; and the blood shall be for a token upon the houses where ye are, and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt.” And this is all l No mighty struggles to make the sacrifice more costly. No pompous rites to render it more acceptable. Nothing in the world but sprinkling a few drops of the blood upon the doorway of the dwelling. And even that was no work; it was simply an acceptance of God’s work. It was precisely equivalent to saying, “I cannot devise any way of defence to ward off the dread visitation from ray dwelling: but I trust God’s way.” Oh ye who are waiting on the brink of decision for Christ, I pray you hear this precious truth! I tell you, if you only knew what a glorious thing it is that a lost sinner can be saved just by accepting Jesus, you would not leave this church till His precious blood upon your soul bore witness to your salvation. Twenty years ago a venturesome whale-ship, driven from her course, found a deserted brig drifting among the ice-floes of the polar sea. Deserted by her crew, her rudder guided by no human hand, she had sailed, like the ship of the “Ancient Mariner,” into that silent sea. Her gallant discoverers brought their prize through untold perils into port. But the tidings spread that the staunch ship, which for well nigh two years had sailed among the frozen horrors of the northern seas, without a living soul within her open sides, was one of an English fleet that the British Government had sent to rescue the heroic Franklin. Then it was that our country did a beautiful, as well as noble act. Our government fitted up the vessel in every minutest detail. From stem to stern her old aspect was restored. On the deck, in her cabin, not an article was lacking to render her complete. And then, with grateful courtesy, the costly gift was sent across the ocean and given back, a freewill offering to the Government of England. The glory of the deed belonged to America alone. No British seaman had helped to save her. Not a farthing of English money had aided in her restoration. Even in her voyage across the Atlantic, the crew that manned, the officers that commanded, her were of our own country’s navy. For England there remained nothing to do. She could only accept the salvation of her vessel as a free and generous gift. Oh type of God’s work for man; image of the simplicity of man’s accepting faith! Brother, your soul has long been like a ship abandoned to the seas. God’s mercy alone has kept it so long afloat. Drifting amidst icebergs, tossed on a heaving sea, it is a miracle of Providence that it has not sunk beneath the depths. And now God would save it. He would rescue it from danger. He would restore its long-lost peace, its heavenly hope, its shattered purity, and give it back to you redeemed and for ever saved. But God will do it all. He will not give His glory to another. He will not let you add one solitary item to redeeming love, or pay one farthing for the blessings of salvation. There is absolutely nothing for you to do hut to accept the gift. And this is faith. Oh take Him at His word! (Bp. Cheney.)
I. First, then, the blood itself. In the case of the Israelites it was the blood of the paschal lamb. In our case it is the blood of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.
1. The blood of which I have solemnly to speak is, first of all, the blood of a Divinely appointed victim. This indeed is one of the underlying ground-works of the Christian’s hope. We can rely upon Jesus Christ’s acceptance by His Father, because His Father ordained Him to be our Saviour from before the foundation of the world.
2. Christ Jesus, too, like the lamb, was not only a divinely appointed victim, but He was spotless. Had there been one sin in Christ, He had not been capable of being our Saviour; but He was without spot or blemish--without original sin, without any practical transgression.
3. But some will say, “Whence has the blood of Christ such power to save?” My reply is, not only because God appointed that blood, and because it was the blood of an innocent and spotless being, but because Christ Himself was God.
4. Once more; the blood of which we speak to-day, is blood once shed for many for the remission of sin. The paschal lamb was killed every year; but now Christ hath appeared to take away’ sin by the offering up of Himself, and there is now no more mention of sin, for Christ once for all hath put away sin, by the offering of Himself. He is a complete Saviour, full of grace for an empty sinner.
5. And yet I must add one more thought, and then leave this point. The blood of Jesus Christ is blood that hath been accepted.
II. The efficacy of this blood. “When I see the blood I will pass over you.”
1. The blood of Christ hath such a Divine power to save, that nothing but it can ever save the soul.
2. This blood is not simply the only thing that can save, but it must save alone. Put anything with the blood of Christ, and you are lost; trust to anything else with this, and you perish.
3. Yet again we may say of the blood of Christ, it is all-sufficient. There is no case which the blood of Christ cannot meet; there is no sin which it cannot wash away.
4. The blood of Christ saves surely. If we have that blood upon us we must be saved, or else we are to suppose a God unfaithful and a God unkind; in fact, a God transformed from everything that is God-like into everything that is base.
5. And yet again, he that hath this blood sprinkled upon him is saved completely. Not the hair of the head of an Israelite was disturbed by the destroying angel. They were completely saved, so he that believeth in the blood is saved from all things.
III. The one condition. “What,” says one, “do you preach a conditional salvation?” Yes, I do, there is the one condition. “Where I seethe blood I will pass over you.” What a blessed condition! it does not say, when you see the blood, but when I see it. Thine eye of faith may be so dim, that thou canst not see the blood of Christ. Ay, but God’s eye is not dim; He can see it, yea, He must see it; for Christ in heaven is always presenting His blood before His Father’s face.
IV. And now, lastly, what is the lesson? The lesson of the text is to the Christian this: Christian, take care that thou dost always remember, that nothing but the blood of Christ can save thee. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The sacred love-token
I. “The blood shall be to you for a token”--A distinguishing token. A bloodless gospel is a lifeless gospel.
1. Our sin deserves death.
2. We believe in substitution. Christ died, “ the just for the unjust.”
3. We believe that we died in Jesus.
4. Believing this, we next come to the conclusion that we are safe.
II. The blood was an assuring token.
1. The token of suffering.
III. A most significant token.
2. The Lord’s property.
4. Perfect safety.
IV. A love-token.
1. Ancient love.
2. Intense love.
3. Mighty love.
4. Wise all-seeing love.
5. Unlimited love.
V. A recognition token.
1. The man who has this token is known to the angels as one of the heirs of salvation to whom they minister.
2. The devil also knows that mark, and, as soon as he sees it, he begins to assail the man who bears it, seeking in all sorts of ways to destroy him.
3. This blood-mark is known among the saints themselves, and has a wonderful power for creating and fostering mutual love.
4. Best of all, the Lord knows this token too. A Primitive Methodist brother, when he was in a meeting where a friend could not pray, cried out, “Plead the blood, brother!” and the advice was wise. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The institution of the Passover
I. The circumstances under which the Passover was instituted.
1. It was instituted under perilous circumstances.
2. It was instituted under exceptional circumstances.
3. It was instituted under painful circumstances. And so the Cross of Christ was instituted under circumstances morally dangerous, morally exceptional, and morally painful, but under circumstances which rendered it most welcome to the true Israel.
II. The proceedings by which the Passover was characterised.
1. A lamb was slain in the houses of the Israelites.
2. The blood of the Lamb thus slain was sprinkled on the upper door-post of the houses of the Israelites.
3. The slain lamb was eaten by the Israelites in an attitude of pilgrimage and haste. And so the soul must appropriate Christ; it must cultivate an attitude of moral haste, and it must be mindful of its pilgrim condition, if it is to be saved by Him.
III. The results by which the Passover was followed.
1. After the celebration of the Passover the Israelites were safe.
2. They were free.
3. They were joyous.
1. That every household should have an interest in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
2. That to experience the saving benefit of Christ’s death the soul must personally receive Him.
3. That Christ as dying is the only hope of the soul.
4. That Christ died for all. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The Passover illustrative of atoning work of Christ
I. In the victim it provides (John 1:29).
II. In the sacrifice it requires. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.”
III. In the duty it enjoins (Exodus 12:7). The blood of Christ is the only protection of the soul, and must be sprinkled as well as shed (Romans 5:11). The soul must make a personal appropriation of Christ. To know Christ will profit little. We must feast on Him by faith.
IV. In the spirit it demands (Exodus 12:22). The bunch of hyssop signifies faith and humility. David said, “Wash me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (Psalms 51:7). Hyssop is a lowly herb growing in rocky places. In the reception of Christ the soul must be humble.
1. The paschal lamb was also to be eaten with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). Here we have shadowed forth the need of repentance and sincerity. And if the soul is to receive Christ, it must be with a contrite heart and with a deep sense of demerit.
2. The paschal lamb was to be eaten in the attitude of haste (Exodus 12:11). The loins must be girded, the feet must be shod, the hands must hold the staff. The redeemed soul must sit loose to earthly things. The good are pilgrims in the world; they must be ready to go to Canaan.
V. In the peril it averts. (Exodus 12:13). An emblem of the dangers averted from men by a believing interest in the atonement of Jesus Christ. They are delivered from the power of the second death. They escape the stroke of the destroying angel. Their safety is welcome and happy.
VI. In the extent it contemplates. By a proper observance of the Passover all Israel would be preserved from the blow of the destroying angel, not one soul excepted. And so by application to the atonement of Jesus Christ the whole world may receive an eternal salvation from the awful penalties of sin. Lessons:
1. That Christ crucified is the only hope of moral safety.
2. That Christ appropriated is the only refuge of the soul.
3. That Christ must be received by repentance and faith. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The blood-marked house
The grand central truth of all the objective truths here is shadowed forth in that blood of the spotless lamb shed and sprinkled on the door-posts. It has a deep, mysterious meaning, and finds its interpretation in the history of Calvary and the Cross, far onward yet, even fifteen hundred years, in the history. The blood-marked house is but representative of every soul tenement on earth, the dweller in which--made alive to the impending doom by the voice that cries from Sinai, “Whosoever sinneth, him will I blot out from My book,” and by the voice crying from the depths within--hath fled from under the dark thundercloud of wrath, to Him who was lifted up on the Cross. This blood is not only the central idea of this, but of all the revelations of God. The whole gospel, is, in fact, summed up just here--“When I see the blood I will pass over.” Blood! blood! this is the one cry of the gospel--the Alpha and the Omega of the gospel. All hope of the Divine favour--all strength to resist and conquer sin--all power of a holy life comes from this blood. Is man redeemed? It is because “we have redemption through His blood.” Are any ransomed from sin? “Not by corruptible ransom of silver and gold” are they purchased, “but by the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without spot.” Are these justified? “Being justified by His blood.” Are these cleansed and made holy? “His blood cleanseth from all sin.” Are they, as strangers and wanderers from God, restored? “Ye who sometimes were afar off are now made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Have they access to the Father’s presence in prayer? It is because the High Priest “hath gone before” sprinkling the blood. Are they arrayed in spotless robes to appear at the court of the Great King? “They have washed, etc., in the blood of the Lamb.” Are sinners cast off at last to eternal death? It is because “they have trampled under foot the blood of the Son of God.” Thus in the gospel revelation, all mercy, compassion, and grace of God have their ground in that blood. All conviction of sin, all holy desire in the soul, as well as all hope and trust in the Holy Ghost, come from that blood. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Christ our Passover
Let us for once use the story as an illustration of evangelical faith as an instrument in attaining salvation under the gospel. In its analysis we are all agreed that saving faith has three elements--knowledge, assent, and trust. Now, we study these in turn.
I. In the first place, the security of the Children of Israel on that awful night lay partly in the intelligent knowledge they possessed of the prescribed means of escape from the destroying angel. Four things were taught them--
1. It was not the announcement of Moses which made this blood of a slain lamb the sign of deliverance from the plague, but the appointment of God Himself. The essential truth taught here is, that the crucifixion of Christ had no inherent value in itself which could atone for sin; it was the covenant of redemption that gave it its value.
2. It was not the shedding of the lamb’s blood which should avail to save them, but the sprinkling of it on the door. Every soul must accept the atonement on God’s terms.
3. It was not consciousness of security within, but evidence of obedience without, which would settle the fact of deliverance in every instance. It ought to be a help to sinners to know that God does not go over the past life of those who come to Him, as if on inquisition after their iniquities great or small, when once they plead the merits of His Son as their Redeemer. The vilest become clean in His sight when Christ is wholly accepted. The angel of Divine justice looks only upon the marks which show obedience and substitution.
4. It was reserved to God Himself to judge of the evidence of true and believing surrender to His commands. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
II. These four things were taught to the people on that remembered night, and constituted their necessary intelligence; from this it is easy to pass on and inquire after the second element of saving faith, assent, illustrated here in the story.
1. See how such a conception rebukes a feeling of indifference in the heart of any sinner.
2. See how this history rebukes a captious spirit making petulant objection to the sovereignty of God.
3. See how this incident rebukes the mistake of trying to be a Christian out of sight. No one is wise in attempting to obey God in secret, when it is written down plainly that part of the command is that we obey Him in public. So the Scripture says. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
4. See how this history rebukes all delay in the duty of obeying God. What if the Israelites one after another put off the preparation of the lamb for the Passover? What good was there in waiting? How strange it would have been for any one to say, “I want more conviction,” or for any one to plead, “I am not really so badly off as this assumes”; or for one to say, “My neighbours are so inconsistent that I cannot endure them” 1 If a duty is to be done, why does not each man do his duty now? This is what is meant by assent as an element of saving faith.
III. There remains only the third element of faith mentioned in the beginning--trust. Think of that family just the half-hour before midnight. The lamb lies there; the basin with its bunch of hyssop stained in it is close beside; the doorway is wet with the blood. They have done all their duty just as God bade them; that was all they could do. Now they wait; that waiting is trust--the trust we are talking about. It is the feeling within one’s heart which says, “Thus I have tried to do honestly all that the Lord asked at my hands; He told me to bend my will, make my prayer, take my Saviour, and after that leave all the rest to Him; there now I stand and wait.” (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The Egyptian and the Israelite
I. In the history of the Exodus, Egypt and Israel, the opposed nationalities, represent two different estates of the human life--the earthly and the spiritual. These opposite estates are presented in eternal contrast throughout the pages of Holy Writ. In the Revelation of St. John the Divine the mystical Babylon represents that earthly, perishable, debased life which is here represented by Egypt; and the everlasting destiny of the spiritual life is represented by the New Jerusalem. The same antithesis is expressed by St. Paul in the fifteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians. The apostle contrasts the earthly and the spiritual in the forms of the personal human life, out of which the national and the civil life have their origin: “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” So also in his Epistle to the Ephesians, the opposed states of life typified by Egypt and Israel, Babylon and New Jerusalem, derived from the first Adam and the Second Adam, are contrasted in the words, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The history of the Exodus does not merely narrate facts that occurred in a bygone, distant age. It is also an ever-contemporary history of the struggle of human life going on in every age. The slavery, oppression, debasement, and misery of Israel in Egypt represent to us the bondage, the discontent, and unrest of the human spirit enchained, degraded, and debased by the forces of the carnal and worldly life. The lusts and the passions that goad the human being into the debasing works of vice are task-masters that afflict with sore burdens. Man’s eternal inability to find rest and blessedness in the slavery of the sensual and worldly life, is expressed in the words, “The Children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God, by reason of their bondage.” The march out of the Egyptian bondage towards the confines of the land flowing with milk and honey, in order to stand before the Lord in “the mountain of His inheritance,” is the great historical parable, composed in the providence of God to represent the progress of the human soul out of the sensual life into the spiritual--out of the low life of the earthly level into the communion of the most high life of God. The Divine voice of the Eternal Love, speaking through the Church, is for ever summoning man to travel towards the land of nobleness and freedom: “When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt.” The means which God employed to relax the grasp of the tyrant, are the same which He still employs from age to age. The human soul, enslaved by the overmastering forces of the flesh and the world, cannot escape from its bondage without the aid of a power from above. How does God aid the soul to break its chains? He sends trials, sorrows, sicknesses, disappointments. The plagues are not sent in vain. In the hour of each visitation the tyrant grasp of the flesh and of the world upon the spiritual will is weakened, and the claims of spiritual truth are acknowledged. Old habits are not broken by a single chastening. This passage describes, with exact spiritual accuracy, the nature of the final visitation that carries conviction to the oft-hardened, unyielding soul. What, then, are the leading features of the visitation as here set before us? The manifestation of God’s presence; the gloom of a night unlit, save by the flashes of the angelic sword; the slaughter of Egypt’s best and choicest lives: the exposure of the vanity and weakness of Egypt’s creature gods. The all-pervading presence of God was now to be realized in the Egyptian kingdom, according to the words, “I will pass through the land of Egypt.” These words express the truth that God was about to compel those who had been living “without God in the world” to realize the power and majesty of His presence. The godless man, living through long years under the government of hard, tyrannical, untrained self-will, ignores the presence of God: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts.” When man has lived long without God in the world, lived the sensual, worldly life of Egypt, what power can enable him to realize the presence of the Invisible Lord, and to recognize in the passing hours the form of His Majesty? Nothing less than some overpowering shock that shakes to its very foundations the fabric of his life-habits, and convulses all the recesses of his being. Such a convulsion is here represented in the words, “I will pass through the land of Egypt this night.” The times in which God reveals the terrors of His presence to the sensual, worldly natures, are times of darkness. To the children of Egypt the countenance of God comes in the night of trouble, sickness, and dissolution. In the bright day of health, activity, and wealth, the Egyptian soul realizes not the nearness of God. This night is for ever falling upon the land of Egypt. The prospects of the sensual worldly life are for ever subject to the coming of the darkness. There is not a household in all the land of Egypt that does not, sooner or later, feel the growing darkness of the night of trial settling upon it. But another element in the power of the visitation that carries conviction, is the destruction of “the firstborn.” In Holy Writ this expression has a secondary and wider significance. It is used to denote all that is foremost in value and strength. Hence the destruction of all the firstborn of Egypt represents the eternal truth, that the choicest and strongest existences of the earthly and natural life are doomed to change and dissolution. The day of visitation is also a day in which the powerlessness of the Egyptian gods is demonstrated: “Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment.” The men of the world and the men of the flesh exalt some of the creatures into the throne that should be occupied by God. Thus does God for ever work out the emancipation of chosen souls. If the natural life were for ever undarkened by affliction; unchastened by bereavement; unrebuked by the overthrow of its idols, then the human spirit would never escape out of the tyrannous bondage of sensuality and gross worldliness, never rise into the mountain of God’s inheritance.
II. The Israelite lives are saved from the power of the destroyer. In the hour when the plagues oppressed the life of Egypt, Israel was delivered from the destroying power of the visitation: “I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you.” Although placed in the midst of the same objective circumstances, Israel and Egypt realized different effects from them. The land in which both sojourned was the same land; but for one people it was a land overrun by the plague of darkness at the very hour when the other people walked in the light. This miracle, accomplished historically in the contrasted destinies of the two typical nations, is repeated spiritually in the experience of all the souls that bear in themselves the two different types of human character, the earthly image of Egypt and the spiritual image of Israel. The land of our sojourning is still subject to the plague of darkness. For instance, the great mystery of human suffering is a problem which casts abroad a “darkness which may be felt.” Why do pain, want, and agony exist? To the sensual and worldly man the question is one for which no answer is to be feared. As the darkness of Egypt is for ever recurring, so also is the light of Israel. The very same trials which are inexplicably gloomy to the unspiritual man, are intelligible in their purpose, and full of light to the Christian soul. To the question, What is the purpose of suffering? he is taught to answer, that pains and agonies are means of spiritual discipline for perfecting strength and beauty of character. The Eternal Light of the world was shining in the Divine-human soul of Jesus Christ, at the very hour when He voluntarily passed under the visitation of the power of darkness, as the Captain of our salvation, to be made perfect by suffering. So for the members of His Body, the souls united to Him, the promise is fulfilled: “ He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” As the hour which was dark to the Egyptian was bright to the Israelite, so the sword that smote the firstborn of the earthly race passed by the children of the chosen. This miracle, also, is for ever repeated. But for the Christian, the “firstborn,” the chief, most cherished object of His being, is the hidden Divine life of Christ in the soul. In the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, we behold the fulfilment o! that eternal spiritual law, which gives safety to the firstborn of Israel. For us men and for our redemption He mortified the natural life, and sacrificed it upon the cross. To the earthly soul, in that self-sacrifice unto death the God man seemed to have yielded the chief treasure, the “firstborn object of preservation, to the destroying sword. But on the morning of the third day, it became manifest that the true Firstborn was not the life laid down upon the Cross, but the risen life that had survived the sword of the Destroying Angel in the night of Calvary, and come forth in safety and triumph out of the hour of gloom, and out of the pains of death, “because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.” So also in all the living members of Christ this destiny is for ever being accomplished anew. The Christian never loses his cherished treasure, the “ firstborn” of his heart. Why? Because in the voluntary self-sacrifice of his own natural will he has given up the natural earthly “firstborn,” in order to receive him again in a risen, restored form, ensured against the destroying sword. He who belongs to the moral commonwealth of Egypt, and knows no higher laws in the regulation of his inward life than those of natural flesh and blood, will lose the dearest firstborn of his being. He `who is enrolled in the commonwealth of Israel, as a living member of Christ, having inscribed on his heart the laws of the spiritual kingdom, has received that “firstborn” of the Eternal Life, who will be found unscathed in the darker hour “when the Destroying Angel passes through the land: “He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.” The plague can only be escaped by the spiritual franchise of Israel. They who give their hearts to the external treasures of the sensual and temporal life, will find their firstborn smitten down in the day of visitation.
II. The token of the covenant that marks the habitations of Israel. “The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” The Destroying Angel, according to the eternal order of God, passed harmlessly by the blood-sprinkled houses, and was not authorized to use His sword against the lives of any that presented that token. Throughout Holy Writ the saving efficacy of bloodshed in sacrifice according to God’s commandment is declared. “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” So in this passage, the power that redeems human nature from slavery and ruin is represented as dwelling in the blood: “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” But let us ask again, What is the connection between salvation through blood and the mystery of love? The hidden attribute of love can only be communicated to man by outward expression. The true expression of love is sacrifice. The most precious sacrifice expresses the strongest love. In order to give expression to infinite love, a sacrifice of infinite value was required. Man knows of no treasure equal in value to the gift of life. “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” Thus the shedding of the Divine-human blood was the expression of that love which “is the fulfilment of the law.” Therefore the power that redeems man from Egypt, and neutralizes all the influences that tend to debase and enslave his nature, is the power of Divine Love working in his being through the presence of the Holy Spirit, that came into humanity as the consequence of that infinite self-sacrifice on Calvary of Him, concerning whom the appointed witness testified, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” But we must bear in mind that the blood of the sacrificed life was sprinkled upon the habitations of Israel. What is the truth that we are to learn from that? The power of the Divine Love must influence the forms of our earthly human life. The means of grace in the Church are ordained for the purpose of bringing us under the saving power of the Cross of Christ. The highest of these means is the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. We must live the life of earnest Christian activity: “Thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded.” We must live in the desire of spiritual progress, earnestly preparing ourselves “to walk henceforth in His most holy ways.” We must try to live above the world, in the consciousness that we are hastening on towards another scene of existence: “Ye shall eat it in haste.” If we are crucified with Christ, and living the risen life in Him, the tokens of the saving power will be evident in all the habits of our being. The signs of the grace of God that bringeth salvation are for ever the same. They who are marked by them “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” The sobriety that enables us to control our own inward life, is one of the effects of the atoning blood. The sensual, the proud, the self-indulgent man has in the character of his life no sign of the spirit of self-sacrifice. (H. T. Edwards, M. A.)
Christ, our Passover
I. First of all, the need for the blood. And upon this we need to be very earnest, and to have a very clear conception. We must not put it on one side, as being a minor consideration. In that time, when Jehovah shall make an inquisition for sin, and shall search out iniquity, and shall set secret sins in the light of His countenance, then we shall feel, if we do not feel now, that there is a needs-be for the blood of Jesus Christ. But, brethren, we need to keep this before us. But think not that in the last day it will be as at this time--that each household shall give its contribution in redemption of its firstborn. Think not that the judgment as to come to households or to families. Be very clear upon that point: it is to come to you; and every one must give an account of himself unto his God.
II. Now I pass on with a joyous step to the next point--the nature of the blood. Notice here what our figure implies, by teaching, first, wherein is the efficacy of the blood; and, secondly, wherein it is not.
1. You will see that the great efficacy of this blood is that it is the blood--not any blood, but the appointed blood. Supposing any one had been so foolish, on that day to which our text refers, as to say, “I will not sprinkle the lamb’s blood, but the bullock’s, or some other animal’s blood, on the door-post”--what would have been the result? It would not have been the appointed blood that was to save. The efficacy of the blood was that it was appointed. Jesus Christ came not of Himself, but was sent by His Father. I hear some one say, “How shall I be sure that God will accept the blood of Christ?” Why, He hath appointed it, and surely if it is His own appointing He will not disown what He hath done Himself; and if He hath appointed the blood to be the means whereby you are to be passed over, rest assured that what He hath fixed He will stand to.
2. And then, again, you will perceive that from this Lamb’s blood there is an idea of innocence and of purity. Christ stood not only the innocent Man, but He stood the righteous Man--having lived a life of righteousness, and having wrought in His own flesh and blood a righteousness such as the world hath never seen, and never shall see the like again. We therefore glory this night in the purity of the blood of Jesus Christ.
3. Then, too, you will see that this blood was substitutionary blood. It was blood that had been shed in the place and stead of the family upon whose door-post it was put. Here thou canst see, if Christ died for thee, God, in justice, cannot demand the victim twice, the offering twice--first of all thy substitute, and then thee. That were injustice. He hath received the offering at the hands of the substitute, and therefore thou canst say there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. These are the three things in which the type agrees with the antitype. Now we pass to something in which they differ. The type was the blood of a lamb, but He who comes is the blood of a man. Any one who has ever seriously thought upon the subject must have discovered what the apostle Peter so clearly revealed afterwards, that it is impossible for the blood of bulls or of goats to take away sin. But when we come to behold the blood of the perfect Man, then we see that there is something which can remove sin. The blood of bulls and goats could not do it; but the blood of God’s own Son in human flesh can do it. And now to that which, after all, is the leading characteristic of this blood, by which we expect to be passed over. It is Divine in its nature, or rather Divine in its value. This, then, is the nature of the blood--appointed by God the Father, perfectly pure, substituted for us, blood of man with the value of Deity--that is the nature of the blood, seeing which, God says He will pass us over.
III. Then, thirdly, we come to the application of that blood. Yes, I allow that that blood was applied by the man to the door-post, but it was only so applied as he was influenced by a solemn power. It was done by the man himself for the family--I mean the head of the household representing the household--but that was because he was influenced so to do, by sovereign power and sovereign grace. If ever you are saved, you will not be saved in spite of yourself, but you will be saved by being made willing in the day of His power. There is no getting out of human responsibility. There is no getting away from the fact that there are Divine commands. There are Divine promises, but they are linked with Divine commands. There is the promise that will enable you to keep the command, but bear in mind that you will have to put on the blood, though it will be by the sweet constraint and sovereign power of grace.
IV. And now we must pass on to the effect of the application of blood. We know how God passed through and smote of every household of Egypt the firstborn, but not one died in Israel. Oh, if you could have known the agony some doubtless were in as they sat in their houses that night waiting for the midnight hour to strike--all awake--strong and healthy--not one sick one was found amongst them--not having retired to rest because they needed it not, but all feasting, and yet listening--eating in haste because they wanted to listen as well as because they wanted soon to depart--listening to the death-shrieks of those who were smitten by the angel passing by--wondering whether the angel would come there or not. At last the angel comes, and passes on. Oh, I could think of that till it thrills through me! Did the angel sweep his wing through the air with a perceptible sound, or was all silent till the shriek of death rose again? What it was like I know not; but I think it must have been--oh, it must have been an awful hour to the children of Israel, though it was a gladsome one to their souls! Perhaps at that time there were anxious inquirers too, saying, “Oh, but we cannot see the blood.” Ah, but the angel can; the promise is not, “When you see the blood I will pass over you,” but, “When I see the blood.” And I dare say there was somewhat of trembling and anxiety lest the blood should hot have been put on rightly, or lest something should have been omitted. I have no doubt they did not feel perfectly secure till the angel had passed by, and they were safe, secure, and passed over. And so it happens with the Christian. Though he may have believed in Christ there will come times when he will be inclined to say, “I cannot see the blood,” and when he will be very downcast lest death should come to him then, and he should not be quite secure. So then, there may be fear, and trembling, and doubting, and yet perfect security. But still I am certain of this--God would have us to be sure of it and to trust Him. And yet I feel this also, He would have us not to be high-minded, but to fear; for He says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Therefore the effect of the application of this blood is this--it is certain you will be passed over, but at the same time you must not be too high-minded--still trusting the blood--never forgetting that you may deceive yourself.
V. And now just to put two or three possible cases where this blood shall not be applied. I go to the entrance of a solitary Israelitish house, and see there are signs of mourning about it. I enter, and I find the mother with the corpse of her firstborn child upon her knees. She is crying, “O my son, my son, would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” I say, “How is it that death should have smitten him down? Did you not put the blood upon the doorpost? No, you did not, or he would not have been killed. I see no blood upon the door-post--how is this?” “Oh, I never heard of such a thing as blood--I did not know of it.” “Oh!” says one, “did no man care for my soul? I never heard of the message of mercy till it was too late, and we never were told that death was coming, nor of salvation from the wrath to come, and we have perished for lack of knowledge.” Now, I put it seriously to you, and after the manner of men, of course: Are there not souls lost in the same way now? Are not the heathen crying out perpetually? Does not a wail from the uttermost parts Of the earth penetrate the air? Now, let us pass on to another cause. I come to another house, and I find them wailing. I say, “How is this?” The head of the household says, “Oh, my boy, my boy! I was passing by, and I heard an elder saying something to the people; I went still further, and heard another elder of Israel saying something to a great crowd; but I went on. I did not know what was going on, for I had just bought a yoke of oxen, and was going to prove them--or purchased a piece of land--and I was so occupied with these things that I did not think to listen. My whole heart was engrossed and engaged upon these things, and I did not think about the plague; and now see the result. Death has come, and we have been struck down in this way.” Ah, how many of you will be struck down in the same way! God’s servants have been preaching about faith, and the wrath to come; but you have been too busy to trouble your minds with such things. I will suppose another case. I say, “How is this, my man? You are perfectly aware of it, I know, because Elder So-and-so took care to tell you of it.” “Yes, I am without excuse, I admit; but you know, sir, I thought to-morrow would have done quite as well as to-day, and so I put it off till to-morrow, and so now my boy is gone.” Oh, delay not, for delays are dangerous--procrastination is the thief of time. I could go on giving instances of persons who are thus lost; let me give one more and I have done. I go to a house and I see death there. “What!” I say, “another case of delusion? Whose is the mistake here? I see the lamb, I believe you have been feasting--I see preparations for the passover, and yet there is death. How is this? “Well, sir,” they reply, “we thought of everything, but we forgot the blood.” Ah, many will have at the last day Christianity, but no Christ--they will have everything but the blood. They will say, “Lord, Lord,” but He shall say, “I never knew you; ye never knew Me; ye may have spoken My words, but you never had Me in your hearts.” It is not Christianity in its most perfect form, or most sanctimonious garb, or most earnest, zealous efforts before the world--it is not Christianity at all that saves, but Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. (J. A. Spurgeon.)
The Passover in Egypt and its typical significance
1. The first feature which strikes us is, that the rite was of Divine appointment. This significant Hebrew ceremony would never have been thought of by an Israelite himself. It would have been the last thing that would have suggested itself, on the concluding night of bondage, to kill one of the members of their flock and sprinkle door-post and lintel with its blood. The method of the great Divine Expiation for the sins of the world was pre-eminently God’s devising. What human mind would ever have formulated such an idea as that the Eternal would send to this apostate earth of ours the Prince of Life and Lord of Glory, in order to effect, through a death of self-surrender and suffering, the emancipation and final salvation of His people?
2. Let us note, next, the name and nature of the appointed victim--a lamb. The animal of all others that seems to suggest the idea of innocence and meekness. In the lion’s whelp, with all its playfulness, there is early discerned the incipient fierceness of untamable years. It seems to us a poor reason which some have given for the selection of the paschal offering, that it was what could most readily be furnished by the shepherds of Goshen from their herds. Let us see, rather, in this first simple element in the typical significance, what the writer of an after age calls, “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.”
3. As a further expansion of this thought, the selected paschal lamb was to be “without blemish.” Plague-mark or disease or infirmity dare not attach to it. No animal would be accepted with torn fleece or broken limb. Christ was “a Lamb without blemish and without spot.” He “offered Himself without spot to God.” As one flaw or vein in the marble fatally damages the sculptor’s work; as one speck in the lens of microscope or telescope destroys its use and demands a recasting; as one leak would inevitably submerge the noblest vessel that ever rode the waters; so, one leak in the Mighty Ark of Mercy would have been fatal to His qualifications as a ransom for the guilty. Blessed be His name, the Lamb “slain for us” was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” What a host of witnesses conspired on earth to testify to His immaculate purity!
4. The paschal lamb was not only without blemish, but “a male of the first year”; that is to say, had attained its full growth. It was the choicest of the fold. It was, in its lowly way, the type of absolute perfection. Behold again, a yet additional attestation to the all-perfect Sacrifice! It surely adds to the touching thought of His death, that it was just when the adorable Saviour had attained all that was complete as the Ideal of humanity, that “He was taken out of the land of the living.” The Heavenly Flower was cut down, not when in early incipient bud, but in amplest blossom. The pure white Lily bowed its head, not when the latent beauty was undeveloped, but when it had fully revealed its “calyx of gold.” The Divine Tree of Life succumbed to the axe, not in the early spring when its branches were unclothed and the fruit unformed; neither in late autumn, with the leaves prematurely seared--but in the full summer of its glory; when every bough was laden with verdure and hanging with richest clusters. The magnificent Temple fell, not when half upreared, nor yet when toil and suffering had left their lines and furrows on the gleaming marble; but rather, just when the top stone had been brought forth with shouting, and the cry arose, “Grace, grace unto it!”
5. The paschal lamb was separated from the flock and kept alive four days. This formed a further Divine injunction, as you will find by reference to the detailed instructions in the opening of the chapter from which our text is taken (verses 3, 6). Christ, as we have already seen, was designated for His atoning work and sacrifice in the counsels of the Father from the foundation of the world.
6. The paschal lamb--after being presented “on the fourteenth day of the first month, at full moon, between the evenings”--was slain. Here is the foundation truth of the gospel: “the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Yes, the “sprinkling”; for observe, that under the varying forms of observance in earlier and later Jewish times, this expressive action was rigidly preserved. Not enough for you or for me is the slaying of the Lamb: in other words, the mere historical fact that the Divine-human Victim died. The Israelite might have piled buttress on buttress, pyramid on pyramid, to effect exclusion. He might have strengthened his dwelling with bars of brass and pillars of iron, lintels and door-posts of cunning workmanship. The Destroyer’s weapon would have cleft them in sunder. “Neither is there salvation in any other.” The work of Jesus must stand alone in all its solitary grandeur and sufficiency. “When I see the blood”--“the blood,” says God--“I will pass over you.” The final injunction to the Hebrews regarding their offering; viz., that after the carcass of the victim was “roast with fires,” it was to be eaten: the whole was to be eaten, nothing was to be left. What, among others, is one great spiritual lesson here inculcated? That it is not enough to rest satisfied with the initial act of pardon and forgiveness through the blood of the Cross. Christ must not only be looked to by simple faith, but in His own expressive but much misunderstood and misinterpreted words and simile, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except” (in a lofty, spiritual sense) “ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God, ye have no life in you.” (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
The protecting blood
There is a legend that on that night of the Exodus a young Jewish maiden--the firstborn of the family--was so troubled on her sick-bed that she could not sleep. “Father,” she anxiously inquired, “are you sure that the blood is there?” He replied that he had ordered it to be sprinkled on the lintel. The restless girl will not be satisfied until her father has taken her up and carried her to the door to see for herself; and lo! the blood is not there! The order had been neglected, and before midnight the father makes haste to put on his door the sacred token of protection. The legend may be false; but it teaches a very weighty and solemn admonition to every sinful soul who may be near eternity and is not yet sheltered under the atonement of Jesus Christ. (T. L. Cuyler.)
“In what way can the death of Christ, considered as a sacrifice of expiation, be conceived to operate to the remission of sins?” Archbishop Magee replies: “To this the Christian answer is, ‘I know not, nor does it concern me to know, in what manner the sacrifice of Christ is connected with the forgiveness of sins; it is enough that this is declared by God to be the medium through which my salvation is effected. I pretend not to dive into the counsels of the Almighty. I submit to His wisdom.’” The blood as a remedy
A very useful lesson is taught in the following striking incident: “One night I found,” says a minister, “at a meeting, two lads of sixteen years of age sitting in a corner with their open Bibles. One had already been conversing with me; I had noticed the other in an anxious state. ‘Well, Johnny,’ I said, ‘what are you and George doing here?’ ‘I am trying to clear up his doubts,’ said Johnny. ‘What does he doubt?’ ‘His interest in Christ’ ‘Well, what are you doing?’ ‘I am pointing him to the blood.’ ‘But is he not looking there already?’ ‘Perhaps he is, but I’m telling him to look till it grows on him.’” Ah, that is what we want; to look at the remedy till it so grows as to annihilate guilt; to look at Christ and heaven till they so grow upon us as to outshine and eclipse the world. To look at the pattern He has set us till it grows in glory, and we grow through the power of the Spirit more “into the same image”! (J. Cox.)
On board a British man-of-war there was but one Bible among seven hundred men. This belonged to a pious sailor who had made a good use of it. He had read it to his comrades, and, by God’s blessings on his labours, a little band of praying men was formed that numbered thirteen. One day this ship was going into battle. Just before the fight began, these thirteen men met together to spend a few moments in prayer. They committed themselves to God’s care, not expecting to meet again in this world. Their ship was in the thickest of the fight. All around them men were stricken down by death. Two of these men were stationed with three others in charge of one of the guns. The other three men were killed by a single cannon-ball, bat there in safety stood the two praying men. They had agreed that when the battle was over those who might still be alive should meet if possible. They met soon after, and what was their joy to find the whole thirteen were there. Not one of them had even been wounded. What a blessed shelter it was that protected those men of prayer! (R. Newton.)
A feast to the Lord throughout your generations.
Analogy between the Jewish Passover and the Lord’s Supper
I. The Jewish institution was commemorative; so is the Lord’s Supper.
1. It was a “memorial” of a deliverance from the most cruel bondage.
2. It was a “memorial” of a deliverance from the most cruel bondage by the sacrifice of an innocent victim.
3. It was a “memorial” of a deliverance wrought by the sovereign compassion of God (Exodus 3:7-8).
II. The Jewish institution was social; so is the Lord’s Supper.
1. Here all feel that they are in the same moral condition.
2. Here all feel that they are dependent on the same Redeemer for salvation.
3. Here all feel that they are members of the same family and destined for the same house.
III. The Jewish institution was binding; so is the Lord’s Supper.
1. It is binding on all.
2. It is binding on all perpetually. (Homilist.)
I. The preparation for the Passover.
1. Divinely commanded.
2. The Passover a new era.
3. Details explicitly given.
II. The blood of the Passover.
1. The disposition to be made of it.
2. The purpose.
III. Eating this Passover. Its typical significance. Lessons:
1. The Old Testament seems typical of the New Testament.
2. Doctrine and practice vividly portrayed. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
1. It is a day that reminds us of the deep sympathy of mind with nature. The springtime of the year has many meanings for us all. The face of the earth is renewed; and in imitation of it we renew our dress and the face of our homes. And for thoughtful and sensitive minds, doubtless the lesson goes very deep and very far; they feel the gentle hint that old dust and cobwebs should be swept out of the mind, and that they should seek for a fresh stock of impressions to carry the work of imagination cheerfully on.
2. We are reminded of our part in the lot of humanity. A long history seems to close; a new one opens on us Easter Day. We derive the name of Easter from an ancient heathen goddess, Ostera, worshipped by our ancestors. A thousand years ago, her priestesses on Easter eve washed their faces in clear springs: it was a kind of sacrament in her worship. Then, too, the Easter fires were kindled on many a height, as the name Osterberg, which often occurs in Germany, reminds us. The Easter water and the Easter fire had substantially one tendency and one efficacy--to cleanse from evil, to drive away evil spirits, to bring blessing to the hearth and home, to the fields and the toil of the husbandman. How far and wide the notion of a purgation, in the most comprehensive sense, of the doing away with the old and a new beginning, has extended through the world! We may begin our inquiries in the East of London, where the Jews make a thorough cleansing of the house and of the utensils against the Passover season. With the old leaven let malice and wickedness go out of the heart, and let it recover its unleavened state of sincerity and truth. Corresponding customs to those of the Jews are practised among peoples in all parts of the world, and there is not a tribe of black or brown men from whom we may not learn something edifying for ourselves. At a feast of first-fruits of a tribe of North American Indians, they provide themselves with new clothes, new pots and pans; they collect all their worn-out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town of their filth, which, with all the remaining grain and other old provisions, they cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire. After having fasted for three days, all the fire in the town is extinguished. During the fast they abstain from the gratification of every passion and appetite whatever. A general amnesty is proclaimed; all malefactors may return to their towns. On the fourth morning the high priest, by rubbing dry wood together, produces new fire in the public square, whence every habitation in the town is supplied with the new and pure flame. Then there is feasting and rejoicing, and on the following days they receive visits from their friends of neighbouring towns, who have in like manner purified and prepared themselves. A man of genius, in describing these things, says, “I have scarcely heard of a truer sacrament--i.e., an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace--than this, and I have no doubt that they were originally inspired from heaven to do thus, though they have no Biblical record of the revelation.”
3. But this feast reminds us of deeper things--of things that never were, nor could be, learned from nature--of the hope of humanity, of triumph over death. If we look at the imagery and traditions of the nations, there is evidence of an overwhelming persuasion that the soul has a life distinct from the body, and that the soul will live again. One strong belief was, when the body was consumed on the funeral pyre, the human burden, as a Roman poet calls it, was cast away, mortality ceased, and higher life began. The phoenix bird, which arose from out of the ashes, was one of the symbolic images in which antiquity found this thought expressed. In another way we may see the same belief forming the very basis of worship. And at the great feasts of the year, such as Eastertide, the first thing was to bring offerings to the spirits of the departed, solemnly to commemorate them, and to unite with them in the social feast. What made those high days so peculiarly solemn, was the thought that the ancestral spirits had come back from the viewless regions to hold communion with their living posterity, and to impart to them a fresh blessing. And here, again, at the head of this belief, is something sweet and sound. If we let the heart’s logic have its way with us, we shall hold that the life of humanity is continuous and unbroken, and that they who have gathered with us in the house of God in times gone by return from time to time to visit us in our lingering exile from bliss, and, it maybe, secretly to inspire us to follow their faith and to attain whither they have attained. (E. Johnson, M. A.)
I. Obedience. Lamb to be killed, prepared, eaten, None to be left till morning. Eaten in a certain form and manner. Christ, the Lamb, slain for us, to be received as a whole. His yoke, His cross, as well as His crown. Example. Redeemer. Righteousness.
II. Faith. More reasonable that they should shed the blood of their enemies than of the lamb, and use the sword than the knife. Spreading fire and slaughter. More reasonable, apparently, to help and trust themselves than confide in a word spoken, and a few drops of blood on the door-post. Our faith, and Jesus the Lamb.
III. Humiliation. Eaten with bitter herbs. Penitential recollections. They prevented mere carnal delight in the feast. Our bitter herbs: remembrance of sin; of our condition; of our prospects, etc.
IV. Deliverance. Last night in Egypt. The blood sprinkled. The destroying angel. Door of every Israelite’s home opens, and the family comes out. The escape. Learn:
1. That God gives songs in the night. “In darkest shades, if Thou appear.”
2. That Christ our Passover was slain for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).
3. That we should receive Him with all humility, obedience, and faith.
4. That trusting in Him, we shall have a great deliverance. (J. C. Gray.)
A laudable custom
Rev. Joseph Sortain, the eloquent Brighton preacher, was of Huguenot extraction. He always observed the custom of his persecuted ancestors of reading the twenty-third Psalm at family worship on Saturday evening. When sometimes asked by guests why he had a special portion of Scripture for that evening, he would reply, “It was the custom of my Huguenot forefathers, and I wish to gain inspiration for my Sunday’s duties by the associations it calls up.” (J. Tinling.)
The feast of unleavened bread.
The feast of unleavened bread; or, the ordinances of God, and the manner in which they should be observed
The feast of unleavened bread was a distinct ordinance from the Passover, though following immediately upon it. At this feast the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread; probably to commemorate the fact that they had left Egypt in such haste that they had no opportunity to leaven their dough, and were consequently obliged to eat unleavened cakes. It would also remind them of the power of God in bringing them out of Egypt when they were without provision for their journey, and it would teach them a lesson of trust in the Divine providence. This feast was an ordinance of God. We observe in reference to it--
I. That the ordinances of God are clearly made known and enjoined upon man.
1. Divinely authorized.
2. Morally beneficial.
3. Wofully neglected.
This neglect is prevalent; it is fearful; it is inexcusable; it is morally injurious; it will ultimately meet with its due punishment.
II. That the ordinances of God are to be observed in a spirit and temper free from sin.
1. In a spirit free from hypocrisy.
2. In a spirit free from malice and bitterness.
3. The home-life must be in sympathy with God’s ordinances.
What we are at home we shall be in the ordinances of God. The home-life and the ordinary worship are inseparable; they are part of the same service, and must be pure.
III. That the ordinances of God are to be observed with solemnity and propreity of moral conduct and demeanor.
IV. That those who profane the ordinances of God are unworthy of them, and should be denied the privilege of them. “That soul shall be cut off from Israel.” Lessons:
1. That there are in connection with the Church of God many ordinances to be observed by men.
2. That these ordinances should be observed with due solemnity and appropriate conduct.
3. That neglect of these ordinances is disobedience to the command of God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood.
Three great truths taught by the Passover
I. The universality of condemnation. Israelite and Egyptian are brought under one common charge of guilt, and there they all stand, “condemned already.”
II. The great truth of substitution. The lamb instead of the firstborn. “Behold the Lamb of God,” etc.
III. The third truth taught is appropriation. The Israelite would not have been safe if he had merely killed the lamb; he had to sprinkle its blood on the lintel and on the two side posts. When we repose our confidence in the Person of Christ, we have taken the bunch of hyssop and dipped it in the blood, and from that moment we are safe. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)
Christ, our Passover
I. The first thing is this, that salvation then and now is freedom from impending doom. Let us revive that essential idea of our most holy faith in all our hearts and minds. The times greatly need it. As there hung over Egypt that night the awful threat of God’s descending wrath, so let my soul and yours never forget there hangs over this city the threat of impending vengeance. And just because of that, a motive which worked that night upon the hearts of Israelites, and ought to work upon our hearts now, was, and should be, the element and moving principle of fear. Let me reassert this: let me iterate and reiterate it--that fear is a legitimate motive in salvation. Perhaps the Israelites on that occasion were immediately drawn by loving obedience to obey what God had spoken. If so, they were different from you and me. I rather think that while some temperaments would just quietly and unquestioningly yield whenever Moses declared the mind and heart of God, as to what was coming of doom, and as to how salvation was to be secured, others would question; others would be reluctant; others would be very like ourselves. But we do hope that, no matter how they felt “rubbed the wrong way” (if you will allow the familiar expression), they had sense enough, whether drawn by love or driven by fear, to sprinkle that blood and get in under its shelter in time, and stay there. Ah, yes, it is said to be unphilosophical, that if you do not draw men with love, you will never drive them by fear. Men are moved by fear every day. Why did you go and insure your house last week? Was it not through fear? Why did you insure your life last week, even though the doctor told you that there was nothing wrong with you? Was it not from fear? Grand men, large broad-brewed men, are men who are moved by fear. Methinks Noah was a grand, broad-brewed man, and “Noah, moved by fear, prepared him an ark for the saving of his house.” It was fear as well as love that clenched every bolt in it. So never go away and boast, my friend, that you have such a big intellect that fear will not move you. This is a real legitimate element in salvation. God works upon it. He plays upon that heart-string by His Word and by His Spirit. He did it then in that night in Egypt.
II. Now, I should like to say, further, re-stating some simple but essential elements of gospel revelation regarding sin and salvation, that salvation was of God’s devising. It was altogether a matter of revelation. Nothing was left to man but bare obedience of mind and hand and foot. Mark that I do not say that God spoke irrationally; I do not say that God simply came and overmastered them with despotic tyrannical power, but I do say that God came forth out of His secret place that memorable night, and Himself devised the plan of salvation. God Himself devised such a plan that no soul needed to be lost if that soul simply believed and obeyed. It was all of God, it was all of grace; so still.
III. I wish to say, further, that on this night of this divinely appointed salvation, when it was received and obeyed, there were one or two things which would surely strike the recipients, and those who were obedient to this heavenly revelation. “Draw out a lamb,” says Moses, speaking for God, “draw out a lamb and kill it, and take its blood and sprinkle it on the lintel and on the two side posts.” Every Israelitish father who killed the lamb, not simply with a knife and with his hand, but whose mind and heart were working behind the knife, must surely have had this thought borne upon him--“If I am not to die, something is to die.” Substitution. Oh, let me ring it out! “For me, for me,” yeas bound to ring in his ears with every gurgling of that lapping blood. That again is the heart of salvation, for you and for me. If I am to go free, this innocent thing has to part with its very life’s blood. “By His stripes we are healed.” Bless God for this substitutionary salvation. Then this salvation on that night in Egypt, and this night for you and me, was not only substitutionary, but another very simple idea I would like to revive in your hearts and minds, and it is this: it was after all a matter of simple obedience. “Take the blood.” It was not enough that it was sprinkled by every Israelitish father or head of a household who represented them all. Every Israelitish father had to take that bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood, and strike it on the lintel and pass in, he and his household, just as he was told. And there is an element, therefore, in salvation that is illustrated there. What is faith? It is a simple literal bowing of the soul in abject obedience. And, again, it comes out, contrariwise, that the very essence of unbelief now is not a want of understanding, but a want of obedience. There is a moral taint in unbelief. Now, come away to another evening away down the stream of time for centuries; and again it is becoming dark, and there is a darkness deeper than the darkness of the darkening sky. The darkness and blackness of sin, and of all time, are gathering round about that hill called Calvary. Now, watch that Saviour Christ. See that innocent holy Man, holy as a lamb, without blemish and without spot. See the soldier as he thrusts that spear into His side, and out there come blood and water. And, remember this: there is the last blood that shall ever be shed for human sins. “There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall devour the adversaries.” “Take you a bunch of hyssop, and strike the lintel and the two side posts.” God actually condescending to tell a man how to sprinkle the blood! He left no loop-hole by which a man might be lost if he wanted to be saved himself, and to save his wife and his children. If lost, you will be inexcusable. What was the hyssop? Well, so far as I can gather from Scripture, it was a very common plant. You remember that when the range of Solomon’s botanical knowledge is being indicated, it is said that Solomon spoke of trees from the hyssop that grows out of the wall to the cedar that is in Lebanon. What a poor salvation if God had said, “Take a sprig of cedar.” What an easy salvation it was when He said, “Take a bunch of hyssop”--that kind of coarse grass, I suppose, that would grow out of any dyke-back--just like the grass that grew out of the thatch of your mother’s house away in the country long ago--a thing so simple; do you not see that everybody could get at it? Instinctively the father’s hand went for it, and used it. There is a something in the powers of your soul and mine that is common and handy, and is continually in use in this work-a-day life of ours. It is continually in use like the bunch of hyssop. And what is that? It is faith. Believe me, faith is as common as the hyssop that sprang out of the wall. With all the rack and ruin that sin has made it is here. Now, what you have to do is this. Take that faith, that confidence that you are exercising in brother-man and sister-woman every day--it is the very cement of society--society would tumble into chaos without it--take that faith of yours and give it a new direction. Give it an operation which it never had before. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Faith is common, natural, reasonable, sublime. You put it to its highest power, its loftiest use, when it is turned to trust God in the word that He has spoken, and in the love that He has displayed on Calvary.
IV. And the last word I have to say is this-the last word in the text, “take the bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood, and let none of you go out of the door of his house until the morning.” I hear to-day, and so do you, about “development,” and “growth”; and what we hear about them gets wearisome, does it not? There was very little development that night. “Let none of you go out of the door of his house until the morning.” Go in, and stay in, if you would be saved. That is to say, there was to be no advance, and absolutely no development from the simplicity of faith. That which they had begun to do saved them only as they kept it up. Human nature is the same all the world over, whether you are in Egypt or in London; and I can imagine a young Israelite, a young fellow just like ourselves, full of flesh and blood, full of natural go and glow and enthusiasm, feeling it a little irksome as the evening wore on, and as the night darkened down; and feeling that it was rather an ignoble, inglorious position to be huddled in there like sheep, with that word over them, “Let none of you go out of the door of his house until the morning.” And to be saved in this simple way by the blood-red mark which they did not see, but which, being outside, could be seen by the Destroying Angel as He passed. And I should not wonder, as the Israelites and the Egyptians were not separated one from another, if the Egyptians were all round about the Israelites; and I should not wonder if some young Egyptians came round about these blood-streaked houses and cried, with scoffs and jokes, “Come out! Come out!” and laughed and said, “What are you doing in there? There is no judgment. There was never such a fine night in Egypt. Come out! Come out!” Was not that hard to bear? Is not that taunt in our ears yet--“Come out, yon stupid believers!” And I can imagine a young Israelite chafing and getting restless as the night wore on, and there came no sign of this doom, and no sign of this judgment; I can imagine him shaking himself, and saying, “I will assert my manhood. This may do for the old people”; and he is going over to the door, but his father rises, and with a voice like thunder says, “Unhand that door! Back for your life!” And he was right if he did. He was right. The Egyptians might laugh that night, and the young, restless, hot-headed Israelites might have a little trouble, but nobody laughed in the morning. And you and I, children of faith, believers in God and in God’s Christ who died for sin, just for a little while have to stand the laugh, and I admit that it is against our pride. By the grace of God, and in the obedience of faith, let me charge you, hold on, my brother, as you began. Let us keep together, we who belong to “the household of faith.” How that expression receives its illustration from this story. Let us keep together. Let us encourage ourselves to stay in doors until the morning. Some of you, God bless you, will not have long to wait. God bless all white and whitening heads in this assembly; you will not have long to wait. “Now is the time of your salvation nearer than when you believed.” For you the morning cometh. (J. McNeill.)
Anxiety in reference to salvation
There is among the Hebrews a legend of two sisters who that night had, with the rest of their household, gone into their dwellings. One of them stood all ready to depart, and began quietly eating her portion of the roast body of the lamb (a type of the soul feeding on Christ), her mind at perfect peace and rest. The other was walking about the dwelling, full of terrible fear lest the Destroying Angel should penetrate therein. This one reproached her sister for being so careless and confident, and finally asked her how it was that she could be so full of assurance when the angel of death and judgment was abroad in the land. The reply was, “Why, sister, the blood has been sprinkled; and we have God’s word that when He sees the blood, He will pass over us. Now I have no right to doubt God’s word. I believe He will keep His word. If I were in doubt about the blood having been shed; or if I doubted either the integrity or ability of God in connection with His word, I should be uneasy. But, as I do not question the fact that the blood has been shed, and as I believe that God will be true to His word, I cannot but be at peace.” They were both equally safe; but one was at peace, while the other was not. Or, as we should say now: one had assurance; and the other was full of doubts. But if the doubting one had believed what God said, she could not have been in distress. It is even so now. Those believers who make the finished work of Christ the ground of their hope, and are resting simply and sincerely on His Word, are at peace; while those who are trying to find peace in themselves, in their frames and feelings, are never at rest. It is the Blood of Jesus that makes us safe; it is the Word of God concerning blood that makes us sure. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Ye shall keep this service.
Celebration of the Passover
I. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the principle of vicarious suffering. It is seen in the birth of the infant, in the history of the family circle, in the events of everyday life, but supremely in the Cross of Christ. In the Cross of Christ it is seen in its highest embodiment, in its truest meaning, and in its most glorious possibility. There is the innocent dying for the guilty, the God-man suffering for the race.
II. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the need of falling in with all the requirements of the great scheme of salvation. The method whereby the Israelites were to be protected from the stroke of the Destroying Angel was Divinely originated, clearly revealed, and imperative in requirement. The sinner must be saved in God’s way, and not after his own. He may reason about the peculiarity of the method of salvation; be may think that other means will be more effective to the end desired; but if he at last is found out of the Divine way of safety, he will inevitably be lost. The blood of Christ sprinkled on the heart is the only sign the Destroying Angel will recognize and regard as the token of safety.
III. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the fact that the Divine method of salvation will avert the most awful peril. The trustful soul shall not be hurt by the second death.
IV. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the fact that the efficacy of the Divine method of salvation should be associated with public religious ordinances (Exodus 12:24).
V. In this incident we have a clear recognition of the fact that the good should be able to give an intelligent explanation of their moral safety (Exodus 12:27). (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The need of an intelligent apprehension of the service and worship of God
I. It is necessary in order to the true performance of religious service and worship.
II. It is necessary in order to the true performance of parental duty and instruction.
III. It is necessary in order to refute and silence the sceptical reasonings of men. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The blood of sprinkling and the children
I. The importance attached to the blood of sacrifice is here made very plain.
1. It became and remained the national mark.
2. It was also the saving token.
3. It was rendered as conspicuous as possible.
4. It was made very dear to the people themselves by the fact that they trusted in it in the most implicit manner.
5. The paschal bloodshedding was to be had in perpetual remembrance.
6. This sprinkling of the blood was to be an all-pervading memory.
II. The institution that was connected with the remembrance of the Passover. Inquiry should be excited respecting spiritual things in the minds of children. The doctrine of the expiatory sacrifice is a gospel for the youngest. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Children should be taught the doctrine of the Cross
It is well to explain to children the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, for this shows forth the death of Christ in symbol. I regret that children do not oftener see this ordinance. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper should both be placed in view of the rising generation, that they may then ask us, “What mean ye by this?” Now, the Lord’s Supper is a perennial gospel sermon, and it turns mainly upon the sacrifice for sin. You may banish the doctrine of the Atonement from the pulpit, but it will always live in the Church through the Lord’s Supper. You cannot explain that broken bread and that cup filled with the fruit of the vine, without reference to the Lord’s atoning death. You cannot explain “the communion of the body of Christ” without bringing in, in some form or other, the death of Jesus in our place and stead. Let your little ones, then, see the Lord’s Supper, and let them be told most clearly what it sets forth. Tell them who it was that suffered, and why. And when attention is excited upon the best of themes, let us be ready to explain the great transaction by which God is just, and yet sinners are justified. Children can well understand the doctrine of the expiatory sacrifice; it was meant to be a gospel for the youngest. The gospel of substitution is a simplicity, though it is a mystery. We ought not to be content until our little ones know and trust in their finished Sacrifice. This is essential knowledge, and the key to all other spiritual teaching. With all their gettings may they get an understanding of this, and they will have the foundation rightly laid. This will necessitate your teaching the child his need of a Saviour. You must not hold back from this needful task. Do not flatter the child with delusive rubbish about his nature being good and needing to be developed. Tell him he must be born again. Don’t bolster him up with the fancy of his own innocence, but show him his sin. Mention the childish sins to which he is prone, and pray the Holy Spirit to work conviction in his heart and conscience. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Did as the Lord had commanded.
Worship and obedience
1. Worship of God in faith, humility, and integrity is the fittest way of expressing thanks to him.
2. God’s revelation of grace in providences and ordinances deserve praise from His people.
3. Worship of God and obedience to Him are well coupled (Exodus 12:27).
4. Dispatch in obedience is very requisite in God’s Israel.
5. Sons of Israel are fit to give worship and obedience, and Jehovah only to receive it.
6. Obedience and worship must be regulated by God’s Word only.
7. As God gives to ministers, so the Church must receive, and do exactly. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
A great cry in Egypt.
The death of the firstborn of Egypt
I. We see here that God’s vengeance is as certainly executed upon the rebellious as it is threatened. Men cannot elude the stroke of heaven.
II. We see here that God’s vengeance is upon all sinners, no matter what their social position, whether king or beggar. He takes the rich from their wealth, the poor from their misery; and perhaps in the next life the relations of men may be inverted--the poor man may be the prince, and the prince the slave in the dungeon.
III. We see here that God’s vengeance comes upon sinners when they least expect it, and in their moments of fancied security. The darkness cannot hide from Him, We know not what will be in the approaching night.
IV. We see mere that God’s vengeance may make the most obstinate sinners yield to the demands of heaven. It is well to avoid the penalties of sin, though this is the very lowest motive for obedience to the will of heaven. The submission of Pharaoh
1. It was immediate upon the plague.
2. It was complete in its obedience.
3. It was comprehensive in its injunction.
4. It was welcomed by the Egyptians. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
“Not a house where there was not one dead”
I. We shall notice some of the particulars detailed in this remarkable history. It is of no utility we read it, if it be not with care for our instruction.
1. Evidently there was a Divine design in this event. All events are of Providence, and not a single death takes place, however man seeks to shun it, without its concurrence. But in this ease, God obviously determined on giving palpable proof of His hand, that the blindest of the Egyptians should be able to see and own it.
2. Let us ascertain what was the design of God in this peculiar visitation of the Egyptians. He may bear long in patience with the unjust and cruel, but not always, and the lingering stroke will fall the more heavily at last.
II. When God resolves on punishing the rebellious, it is impossible to stay his hand.
1. How sudden was the infliction l No sign was given to the rebellious of this particular calamity; for they had been furnished with signs which, they had net properly regarded.
2. What may we suppose were the contemplations and feelings of the Israelites during these solemn proceedings? No doubt they had often been tempted to think hardly of Providence that had given them such evil things, and the Egyptians their good things of wealth and prosperity, at their cost. Now what a reverse! “He is not unrighteous who taketh vengeance.”
III. The scenes of mortality, still so common in our world, ought to produce in us a disposition to thine of our own approaching dissolution. Let two things be well considered.
1. A sense of the transitory nature of earthly scenes unquestionably is most necessary as a preparation and stimulus to seek the salvation of the soul. 2 What is it to be prepared for death? There is no other question equal in importance to this. You must see and feel yourself a lost sinner without Christ as your Saviour. (Essex Remembrancer.)
The marks of spiritual death
1. The first mark of spiritual death which I shall mention is that of living in any open and acknowledged sin; such as profane swearing, sabbath breaking, drunkenness, adultery, covetousness, and such like.
2. Another mark of spiritual death is a dependence in whole or in part upon ourselves for salvation. One of the first acts of the Spirit of God upon the heart is to convince men of sin.
3. A third mark of this state is, when under the preaching of the gospel, no change takes place in the life or conversation.
4. Another mark of this state is, a practical preference of the creature to the Creator, or of self to God. When the soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit, it makes God its chief happiness.
5. Another mark of those who ai e spiritually dead is, living without private and secret prayer. (J. H. Stewart, M. A.)
A king’s bereavement
Henry I., on his return from Normandy, was accompanied by a crowd of nobles and his son William. The white ship in which the prince embarked lingered behind the rest of the royal fleet, while the young nobles, excited with wine, hung over the ship’s side taunting the priest who came to give the customary benediction. At last the guards of the king’s treasure pressed the vessel’s departure, and, driven by the arms of fifty rowers, it swept swiftly out to sea. All at once the ship’s side struck on a rock at the mouth of the harbour, and in an instant it sank beneath the waves. One terrible cry, ringing through the stillness of the night, was heard by the royal fleet, but it was not until the morning that the fatal news reached the king. He fell unconscious to the ground and rose never to smile again! (H. O. Mackey.)
A father’s grief
On the death of his only son, the famous Edmund Burke wrote as follows: “The storm has gone over me, and I lie like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane has scattered around me. I am stripped of all my honour. I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth. I am alone.” (J. Tinling, B. A.)
The last plague, and the deliverance of the Israelites
Two questions naturally arise here: Why in this judgment upon the life of man should precisely the firstborn have been slain? and if the judgment was for the overthrow of the adversary and the redemption of Israel, why should a special provision have been required to save Israel also from the plague?
1. In regard to the first of these points, there can be no doubt that the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt had respect to the relation of Israel to Jehovah; “Israel,” said God, “is My son, My firstborn: if thou refuse to let him go, I will slay thy son, thy firstborn” (Exodus 4:22-23). But in what sense could Israel be called God’s firstborn son? Something more is plainly indicated by the expression, though no more is very commonly found in it, than that Israel was peculiarly dear to God, had a sort of firstborn’s interest in His regard. It implies this, no doubt, but it also goes deeper, and points to the Divine origin of Israel as the seed of promise; in their birth the offspring of grace, as contradistinguished from nature. As the firstborn in God’s elect family is to be spared and rescued, so the firstborn in the house of the enemy, the beginning of his increase, and the heir of his substance, must be destroyed: the one a proof that the whole family were appointed to life and blessing; the other, in like manner, a proof that all who were aliens from God’s covenant of grace, equally deserved, and should certainly in due time inherit, the evils of perdition.
2. In regard to the other question which concerns Israel’s liability to the judgment which fell upon Egypt, this arose from Israel’s natural relation to the world, just as their redemption was secured by their spiritual relation to God. For, whether viewed in their individual or in their collective capacity, they were in themselves of Egypt: collectively, a part o! the nation, without any separate and independent existence of their own, vassals of the enemy, and inhabitants of His doomed territory; individually, also, partakers of the guilt and corruption of Egypt. It is the mercy and grace alone of God’s covenant which makes them to differ from those around them; and, therefore, to show that while, as children of the covenant, the plague should not come nigh them, not a hair of their head should perish, they still were in themselves no better than others, and had nothing whereof to boast, it was, at the same time, provided that their exemption from judgment should be secured only by the blood of atonement. (P. Fairbairn, D. D.)
A picture of the wrath to come
Is this a dreadful picture? Yet it is but a type of what must be--a shadow merely of the wrath to come to all the unsprinkled souls’ tenements in eternity. Ye that affect to think so lightly of death and eternity! see here this shadow and gather the elementary ideas of what shall be, from what has been already, under the government of God. Standing, in imagination, amid these complicated horrors in Egypt--the groans of the dying, mingling with the shrieks of the living, throughout a whole empire--all earthly pomp and power levelled to mingle its unavailing cries with the lowest and meanest in a common woe,--here see what it is for God to “whet His glittering sword and His hand to take hold on vengeance.” (S. Robinson, D. D.)
God’s direct interference
It is to be observed that in this last plague God is represented as descending in His own Person. It is no longer the man Moses, standing as a mediator between the king of Egypt and the King of kings. God Himself awakes to judgment; He hath girt His sword upon His thigh, and is come down;--“Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt” (Exodus 11:4). This solemn assurance, though it might well strike terror into the hearts of the miserable Egyptians, would encourage and confirm the Israelites. What God had undertaken could not fail, could not miscarry. The course of Moses’ policy with Pharaoh hitherto had brought them no deliverance, but some increase of their sufferings, and many disappointments. Now they might feel assured that the promised rescue was at hand. The God of their fathers has given over the Egyptians appointed unto death, and is gathering the Israelites together for safety and release. Through the fall of Egypt salvation is come unto Israel; and the judgment which slays the one people is ordained as a type of mercy and redemption for the other, to be commemorated evermore. If God made use of natural means in a supernatural manner, as in the case of the locusts, and generally of the other plagues, the miracle would not, on that account, be less miraculous. But there are circumstances in the account of this plague which distinguish it from any known or specific form of disease. The firstborn only were smitten; these were singled out in every family with unerring precision, the houses of the Israelites, wherever the blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the door-posts being passed over. The death of all those thousands, both of man and beast, took place at the same instant--“at midnight.” Every one of these extraordinary events had been foretold by Moses. Whatever explanations modern scepticism may suggest, they were admitted without hesitation both by the Egyptians and the Jews to be the Lord’s doing, and marvellous in their eyes. The God whom they knew not had come among them, and made His presence felt: they stood face to face with their Creator. Fear fell upon them, and a horrible dread overwhelmed them; their flesh trembled for fear of Him, and they were afraid of His judgments. The sins of the parents were now visited upon the children: the seed of evildoers was cut off. Slaughter was prepared for the children, for the iniquity of their fathers. Is God unrighteous, then, that taketh vengeance? No;this is an act of retribution. The Egyptians had slain the children of the Israelites, casting their infants into the river. Now the affliction is turned upon themselves; the delight of their eyes is taken from them; all their firstborn are dead, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat upon his throne, unto the firstborn of the captive that was in his dungeon. (T. S. Millington.)
A Southern lady, writing of the early days of the war in America, says--“The fear of an uprising of the blacks was most powerful with us at night. The notes of the whip-poor-wills in the sweet.gum swamp near the stable, the mutterings of a distant thunderstorm, even the rustle of the night wind in the oaks that shaded my window, filled me with nameless dread. In the daytime it seemed impossible to associate suspicion with those familiar tawny or sable faces that surrounded us. We had seen them for so many years smiling or saddening with the family joys or sorrows: they were so guileless, patient, and satisfied. What subtle influence was at work that should transform them into tigers thirsting for our blood? But when evening came again, the ghost that refused to be laid was again at one’s elbow. Rusty bolts were drawn and rusty fire-arms loaded. A watch was set where never before had eye or ear been lent to such a service.” (H. O. Mackey.)
THE TENTH PLAGUE.
And now the blow fell. Infants grew cold in their mothers' arms; ripe statesmen and crafty priests lost breath as they reposed: the wisest, the strongest and the most hopeful of the nation were blotted out at once, for the firstborn of a population is its flower.
Pharaoh Menephtah had only reached the throne by the death of two elder brethren, and therefore history confirms the assertion that he "rose up," when the firstborn were dead; but it also justifies the statement that his firstborn died, for the gallant and promising youth who had reconquered for him his lost territories, and who actually shared his rule and "sat upon the throne," Menephtah Seti, is now shown to have died early, and never to have held an independent sceptre.
We can imagine the scene. Suspense and terror must have been wide spread; for the former plagues had given authority to the more dreadful threat, the fulfilment of which was now to be expected, since all negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh had been formally broken off.
Strange and confident movements and doubtless menacing expressions among the Hebrews would also make this night a fearful one, and there was little rest for "those who feared the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh." These, knowing where the danger lay, would watch their firstborn well, and when the ashy change came suddenly upon a blooming face, and they raised the wild cry of Eastern bereavement, then others awoke to the same misery. From remote villages and lonely hamlets the clamour of great populations was echoed back; and when, under midnight skies in which the strong wind of the morrow was already moaning, the awestruck people rushed into their temples, there the corpses of their animal deities glared at them with glassy eyes.
Thus the cup which they had made their slaves to drink was put in larger measure to their own lips at last, and not infants only were snatched away, but sons around whom years of tenderness had woven stronger ties; and the loss of their bondsmen, from which they feared so much national weakness, had to be endured along with a far deadlier drain of their own life-blood. The universal wail was bitter, and hopeless, and full of terror even more than woe; for they said, "We be all dead men." Without the consolation of ministering by sick beds, or the romance and gallant excitement of war, "there was not a house where there was not one dead," and this is said to give sharpness to the statement that there was a great cry in Egypt.
Then came such a moment as the Hebrew temperament keenly enjoyed, when "the sons of them that oppressed them came bending unto them, and all they that despised them bowed themselves down at the soles of their feet." Pharaoh sent at midnight to surrender everything that could possibly be demanded, and in his abject fear added, "and bless me also"; and the Egyptians were urgent on them to begone, and when they demanded the portable wealth of the land,--a poor ransom from a vanquished enemy, and a still poorer payment for generations of forced labour,--"the Lord gave them favour" (is there not a saturnine irony in the phrase?) "in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And they spoiled the Egyptians."
By this analogy St. Augustine defended the use of heathen learning in defence of Christian truth. Clogged by superstitions, he said, it contained also liberal instruction, and truths even concerning God--"gold and silver which they did not themselves create, but dug out of the mines of God's providence, and misapplied. These we should reclaim, and apply to Christian use" (De Doct. Chr., 60, 61).
And the main lesson of the story lies so plainly upon the surface that one scarcely needs to state it. What God requires must ultimately be done; and human resistance, however stubborn and protracted, will only make the result more painful and more signal at the last.
Now, every concern of our obscure daily lives comes under this law as surely as the actions of a Pharaoh.
Exodus 12:33; Exodus 12:35
The Egyptians were urgent upon the people that they might send them out of the land.
Hastened out of Egypt
1. Note the reason of this urgency. Fear lest death overtake them all.
2. Note the utter selfishness of the motive. No true repentance in it.
3. Urgency is fitting when there is imminent danger.
4. There is the greatest need of urgency in every sinner’s case. Doom and death are at hand. (Homiletic Review.)
The Israelites going out of Egyptian bondage; or, the freedom of the Church
I. That the Israelites were given their freedom by those who had long oppressed them; and so the Church shall be freed by those who have long enslaved it.
II. That the Israelites, in availing themselves of their freedom, had to make many temporary shifts; and so the Church, in stepping into liberty, will have to encounter many perplexities.
III. That the Israelites, going into freedom, took with them all the wealth they could get from the Egyptians; and so the Church, in entering upon its liberty, should avail itself of all the valuables it can obtain from the world. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Borrowed from the Egyptians.
Borrowing from the enemy
I remember, when visiting Denmark some twenty years ago, I learned a little incident in the history of a great Danish admiral. On one occasion, when commanding a little sloop--it was before he was admiral--he had the audacity to engage an English frigate in battle. They both fired away, but after a little time the captain of the frigate noticed that the firing from the sloop ceased. A flag of truce was hoisted; a boat was lowered, and the Danish captain came alongside. Addressing his opponent, he said, “Sir, our powder is all done, and we have come to borrow some from you!” The devil has been using money against the cause of God for many years; let us take it from him, and turn his guns against himself. (Dr. Sinclair Patterson.)
Exodus 12:33; Exodus 12:35
The Egyptians were urgent upon the people that they might send them out of the land.
Hastened out of Egypt
1. Note the reason of this urgency. Fear lest death overtake them all.
2. Note the utter selfishness of the motive. No true repentance in it.
3. Urgency is fitting when there is imminent danger.
4. There is the greatest need of urgency in every sinner’s case. Doom and death are at hand. (Homiletic Review.)
The Israelites going out of Egyptian bondage; or, the freedom of the Church
I. That the Israelites were given their freedom by those who had long oppressed them; and so the Church shall be freed by those who have long enslaved it.
II. That the Israelites, in availing themselves of their freedom, had to make many temporary shifts; and so the Church, in stepping into liberty, will have to encounter many perplexities.
III. That the Israelites, going into freedom, took with them all the wealth they could get from the Egyptians; and so the Church, in entering upon its liberty, should avail itself of all the valuables it can obtain from the world. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Borrowed from the Egyptians.
Borrowing from the enemy
I remember, when visiting Denmark some twenty years ago, I learned a little incident in the history of a great Danish admiral. On one occasion, when commanding a little sloop--it was before he was admiral--he had the audacity to engage an English frigate in battle. They both fired away, but after a little time the captain of the frigate noticed that the firing from the sloop ceased. A flag of truce was hoisted; a boat was lowered, and the Danish captain came alongside. Addressing his opponent, he said, “Sir, our powder is all done, and we have come to borrow some from you!” The devil has been using money against the cause of God for many years; let us take it from him, and turn his guns against himself. (Dr. Sinclair Patterson.)
Journeyed from Rameses.
The setting forth of the Israelites from Egypt
1. The sons of Israel, or Church of God, are in a moving state below.
2. From countries and cities with habitations, God leads His people sometimes to pitch in booths.
3. The number of the seed of God’s visible Church is great and multiplied according to His word.
4. Men, women, and children, God numbers with His Church or Israel (Exodus 12:37).
5. Providence so ordering, all sorts of people may join themselves to God’s Church, though not in truth.
6. God’s Word fails not in giving His Church great substance when He seeth it good (verse 88).
7. Liberty from Egypt is Israel’s good portion with unleavened cakes.
8. Sufficiency and contentation God giveth His people in their straits.
9. In working liberty for His Church, God may put them upon some hardship. 10. God sometimes prevents the providence of His Church for themselves, that He may provide for them (Exodus 12:39). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
A mixed multitude went up also.--
The nominal followers of the Christian Church; the motives by which they are actuated, and the perplexities by which they are tested
I. The motives by which the nominal adherents of the Christian church are animated.
1. They are acquainted and impressed with the history of the Church, and hence are induced to follow it.
2. They have an inner conviction that the Church is right, and hence they are sometimes led to follow it.
3. They are associated by family ties with those who are real members of the Christian Church, and hence they are induced to follow it.
4. They are troubled by ideas of the retributive providence of God, and so are induced to seek shelter in the Church.
5. They have an idea that it is socially correct to be allied to the Church, and therefore are induced to follow it.
6. They always follow the multitude.
II. The perplexities by which the nominal adherents of the Christian church are tested. We read elsewhere that “the mixed multitude that was among the Israelites fell a lusting” (Numbers 11:4). Their unhallowed desires were not gratified. Their deliverance had not been so glorious as they had imagined. Trial was before them, and they rebelled against the first privations of the wilderness. And so it is, nominal members of the Christian Church are soon tested, and they often yield to the trying conditions of the pilgrim Church life.
1. The nominal members of the Church are tested by the outward circumstances of the Church.
2. They are tested by the pilgrim difficulties of the Church.
3. They are tested by the pilgrim requirements of the Church. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The character and conduct of the mixed multitude
I. The character of this mixed multitude. Some, perhaps, were mere idolaters; others had outwardly renounced their superstitions. Some might be connected in marriage with the sons or daughters of Israel; for such are mentioned: and some, perhaps, were a thoughtless rabble, whom curiosity had called from their homes, that they might go three days’ journey with the people, to sacrifice to the Lord in the wilderness.
1. With such a view of the mixed multitude, we may reasonably imagine that they had a very imperfect knowledge of the God of Israel.
2. This mixed multitude had been induced to follow Israel, probably because they had seen the miraculous interpositions of God in behalf of His people, and wished to partake of them.
3. Others, again, had probably accompanied the Israelites in unreflecting carelessness, without anticipating the difficulties and trials before them.
4. The mixed multitude seem never to have entirely united themselves to the community of Israel.
II. Their conduct in the hour of temptation. The passage in the book of Numbers informs us that they fell a lusting. We know not the peculiar nature of the trials to which they were exposed; but we find them soon yielding to the power of temptation, and the love of sin.
1. They speedily became discontented with their condition.
2. The inspired penman speaks no more of this mixed multitude; and therefore we are justified in supposing that they who escaped the fire of the Lord, quitted the camp of Israel, and returned to Egypt. In that mixed multitude which throng around the Church of the living God, and profess communion with it, there are, I fear, not a few who sin after the similitude of the transgression committed in the wilderness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. That profession is not necessarily true religion.
II. That trials are necessary proof of faith and love.
III. That evil communications corrupt good manners. (R. P. Buddicom.)
The mixed multitude
I. The emissaries of Satan. In all ages there have been these corrupters of the truth in the Church, who have bred schisms of all kinds, “creeping into houses,” and “leading captive silly women”; and, as they have gained power and position, becoming more bold in the propagandism of error, both in doctrine and form.
II. The hypocrites. Worldly men come into the Church for the purpose of making “gain of godliness,” and using religion as a “cloak of covetousness.” I remember very well, when I was a young man, going away from home into a newer part of our country with a view of making my fortune. I was advised by a respectable business man to “connect myself with the most popular church in the town,” as a means of “getting on,” and securing the recognition-and help of the best people. Soon after I became a pastor, I overheard a merchant talking to a young man, and endeavouring to persuade him to join the church; he used as an argument the fact that when he cams to that village a young man, that was the first thing he had done; and he affirmed that it was “the best stroke of business he had ever done.” He attributed his success in life to that fact. And no doubt the hypocrite was right. Verily he had his reward.
III. The formalists. By these I mean those who are more or less apprehensive of the future, and somewhat troubled about their sins, and who take to the formalism of Christianity as a means of security against the possible dangers of another world. They know nothing of Christ and His salvation; are strangers to conversion and regeneration: but seize upon the forms and ceremonies of religion as being all that is needful. Among this number may be classed a vast number who have fled for refuge to the “Church” in serious earnest, but who are at best the merest parasites, or semi-parisites. They have no life in themselves, but are clinging to persons or things from whom or from which they fancy they can draw lifo for themselves. Poor souls! did they only flee to Christ, and be joined to Him, they would indeed be saved; but, as it now is, they are mere Egyptians who are in the midst of the camp of Israel without the mark or sign of blood upon them.
IV. The self-deceived. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
People looking on will judge everything according to their own quality. You cannot get bad people to form good judgments. You cannot persuade good people to form mean and contemptible judgments. Let us suppose Moses and Aaron at the head of this great throng. Criticism would thus speak respecting the multitude: They must be better than they seem, or they would not follow the leadership of such men as Moses and Aaron; it is a very motley crowd, but it must be substantially good at heart, because look at the leadership which it has chosen. Or criticism might speak thus: Moses and Aaron cannot be much after all, or they would not allow this rag-tag-and-bob-tail following. Thus criticism, I repeat, is determined by quality. In the one case the multitudes get the benefit of the moral elevation of their leaders; in the other case the leaders come in for depreciation because of the motley character of their followers. Blessed be heaven, the Judge is just who shall judge us all. We shall not be left at the disposal of imperfect and selfish criticism. A crowd, even in church, is not to be judged indiscriminately or pronounced upon in some rough generalization. The crowd is “mixed.” Men are not all in church for the same reason. Men are not all in church through the same motives. Some are in church who do not want to be there; they have a purpose to serve: some are there on account of mere curiosity. Others are in church to pray, to confess their life-sins, and seek the pity of God as expressed in pardon at the foot of the saving Cross. Outside criticism would thus judge us differently. Whilst we say this about the outward church, the great surging crowd that may be within the hallowed walls, we could say practically the same thing about the inner church. Even the inner church, gathered around the sacramental board, is a mixed multitude. For example, look at the difference of spiritual attainment. There is the veteran who knows his Bible almost by heart, and here is the little learner spelling out its earliest words. Have they a right to be in the same church? Their right is not in their attainments, but in their desire. But this makes church life very difficult to conduct: very difficult for the pastor and teacher, very difficult for the constituent members themselves. One can go at a great pace; another can only crawl. What is to be done when there is such a diversity of power? Then look at what a mixture of disposition there is even in the inner church. We are not all of one quality. Some men are born generous; other men are born misers. It is easy for some men to pray; other men have to scourge themselves to their knees. Look at the difference of faculty for work you find in the church. One man will do anything for you in the way of music. He likes it; it would be a burden to him not to do it. Thank God for such service! Another man will work in the Sunday school. He loves children; their presence makes him young; he can never be old so long as he sees the light of little faces. Every man is himself a mixed multitude. That is the philosophy. Have you ever gone far enough in the task of self-analysis to find out how many men you, the individual man, really are? You are self-inconsistent; you are not the same man at night you were in the morning; whatever you do, you do in a mixed way. It is human nature that is the mixed multitude. We know that we have motives; we have never seen them, but we have felt them; we know of a verity that we never do anything with a pure, simple, direct, frank motive. Sometimes the motive is as a whole good, with just one tittle taint in the middle of it. Sometimes the motive is predominantly bad, with just one little speck of white on the outside or on the left hand. So are we. It is the same way with our thoughts. We are not always impious. Sometimes even the unbeliever feels as though he could believe if one beam could be added to the light which already showers its glory upon his life. Sometimes the believer feels as if he had been misled, as if he were following some aerial sprite, some shadowy spectral nothing. At what point is he to be judged? God will judge him at his best. God accepts our prayers in their bloom. Do not, therefore, condemn yourselves because sometimes you are in moods that really distress the very soul; on the other hand, do not flatter yourselves and commit yourselves to the seduction that ends in utterest failure of life. What is the great work which the gospel has to do in the soul in relation to all this mixture of motive and thought? It has to take out all the bad and throw it away. Come, thou Holy Ghost, and take out of our hearts the selfish motive, the miser’s greed, the debasing thought, the little, mean, contemptible purpose; tear it up, burn it in unquenchable fire. When a man can so pray he has a seed hope that one day he shall be self-unanimous. Blessed will be the realization of self-unanimity. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The remora, instead of swimming far by its own exertions, greatly prefers being transported from place to place on ships’ bottoms, or even the bodies of sharks. When one of the sharks to which a remora is clinging is caught by a hook, and is pulled out of the water, the little parasite is shrewd in its own interest, for it drops off and makes for the bottom of the ship. As long as a ship remains within the tropics, numbers of remorse cling to its bottom, whether that be coppered or not, whence they dart off occasionally to pick up any morsels of greasy or farinaceous matter that may be thrown overboard, retiring again rapidly to their anchorage. These hangers-on resemble our social ones in the following particulars: they like travelling about; they do not care what they attach themselves to so long as it suits their purpose for the time; they will not get along by their own exertions if they can find others to carry them; they are sharp in their own interests, and know quite well when to desert a supporter; and they are ready to avail themselves of discarded or accidental ailment. (Scientific Illustrations.)
The children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. Already, at the outset of their journey, controversy has had much to say about their route. Much ingenuity has been expended upon the theory which brought their early journey along the Mediterranean coast, and made the overthrow of the Egyptians take place in "that Serbonian bog where armies whole have sunk." But it may fairly be assumed that this view was refuted even before the recent identification of the sites of Rameses and Pi-hahiroth rendered it untenable.
How came these trampled slaves, who could not call their lives their own, to possess the cattle which we read of as having escaped the murrain, and the number of which is here said to have been very great?
Just before Moses returned, and when the Pharaoh of the Exodus appears upon the scene, we are told that "their cry came up unto God, ... and God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant ... and God saw the children of Israel, and God took knowledge of them" (Exodus 2:23).
May not this verse point to something unrecorded, some event before their final deliverance? The conjecture is a happy one that it refers to their share in the revolt of subject races which drove Menephtah for twelve years out of his northern territories. If so, there was time for a considerable return of prosperity; and the retention or forfeiture of their chattels when they were reconquered would depend very greatly upon circumstances unknown to us. At all events, this revolt is evidence, which is amply corroborated by history and the inscriptions, of the existence of just such a discontented and servile element in the population as the "mixed multitude" which came out with them repeatedly proved itself to be.
But here we come upon a problem of another kind. How long was Israel in the house of bondage? Can we rely upon the present Hebrew text, which says that "their sojourning which they sojourned 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 came out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:40-41).
Certain ancient versions have departed from this text. The Septuagint reads, "The sojourning of the children of Israel which they sojourned in Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years"; and the Samaritan agrees with this, except that it has "the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers." The question is, which reading is correct? Must we date the four hundred and thirty years from Abraham's arrival in Canaan, or from Jacob's descent into Egypt?
For the shorter period there are two strong arguments. The genealogies in the Pentateuch range from four persons to six between Jacob and the Exodus, which number is quite unable to reach over four centuries. And St. Paul says of the covenant with Abraham that "the law which came four hundred and thirty years after" (i.e. after the time of Abraham) "could not disannul it" (Galatians 3:17).
This reference by St. Paul is not so decisive as it may appear, because he habitually quotes the Septuagint, even where he must have known that it deviates from the Hebrew, provided that the deviation does not compromise the matter in hand. Here, he was in nowise concerned with the chronology, and had no reason to perplex a Gentile church by correcting it. But it was a different matter with St. Stephen, arguing his case before the Hebrew council. And he quotes plainly and confidently the prediction that the seed of Abraham should be four hundred years in bondage, and that one nation should entreat them evil four hundred years (Acts 7:6). Again, this is the clear intention of the words in Genesis (Genesis 15:13). And as to the genealogies, we know them to have been cut down, so that seven names are omitted from that of Ezra, and three at least from that of our Lord Himself. Certainly when we consider the great population implied in an army of six hundred thousand adult men, we must admit that the longer period is inherently the more probable of the two. But we can only assert with confidence that just when their deliverance was due it was accomplished, and they who had come down a handful, and whom cruel oppression had striven to decimate, came forth, no undisciplined mob, but armies moving in organised and regulated detachments: "the Lord did bring the children of Israel forth by their hosts" (Exodus 12:51). "And the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 13:18).
All the hosts of the Lord went out.
I. We cannot treat the Exodus as an isolated fact in history. Egypt is the type of the cunning, careless, wanton world, out of which in all ages God is calling His sons. The Exodus remained a living fact in history. The infant Jesus went down into Egypt, as the infant Israel went down, not to repeat the Exodus, but to illume afresh its fading lines.
1. The Children of Israel were an elect race, because they were of the seed of Abraham: that constituted their distinctity. You are of the race of the second Adam, of the same flesh and blood as Jesus; and all who wear a human form and understand a human voice, God calls forth from Egypt; His voice calls to His sons, “Come forth to freedom, life, and heaven.”
2. You, like the Israelites, are called forth to the desert, the fiery pillar, the manna, the spiritual rock; and while you aim at Canaan, His will, His heart, are on your side.
II. Note the moral features of the Exodus.
1. There was a life in Egypt which had become insupportable to a man. That bondage is the picture of a soul round which the devil’s toils are closing.
2. The Israelites saw the stroke of heaven fall oil all that adorns, enriches, and nourishes a worldly life.
3. They had a Divine leader, a man commissioned and inspired by God. We have the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who, in the house and the work in which Moses wrought as a servant, represents God as the Son.
4. We discern a condition of utter dependence on the strength and faithfulness of God. They and we were delivered by a Divine work.
5. Notice, lastly, the freedom of the delivered Israelites; a broad, deep sea flowing between them and the ]and of bondage, and the tyrants dead upon the shore. Such is the glorious sense of liberty, of wealth, of life, when the deep sea of Divine forgiving love sweeps over the past and obliterates its shame. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
I. First, consider the mode of their going out.
1. When the Children of Israel went out of Egypt it is a remarkable thing that they were forced out by the Egyptians. The dove fleeth not to his cote unless the eagle doth pursue it; so sins, like eagles, pursue the timid soul, making it fly into the clefts of the Rock Christ Jesus to hide itself. Once, our sins kept us from Christ; but now every sin drives us to Him for pardon. I had not known Christ if I had not known sin; I had not known a deliverer, if I had not smarted under the Egyptians. The Holy Spirit drives us to Christ, just as the Egyptians drove the people out of Egypt.
2. Again: the Children of Israel went out of Egypt covered with jewels and arranged in their best garments. Ah! that is just how a child of God comes out of Egypt. He does not come out of his bondage with his old garments of self-righteousness on: oh! no; as long as he wears those he will always keep in Egypt; but he marches out with the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ upon him, and adorned with the goodly graces of the Holy Spirit.
3. Note, moreover, that these people obtained their jewels from the Egyptians. God’s people never lose anything by going to the house of bondage. They win their choicest jewels from the Egyptians. “Strangely true it is, sins do me good,” said an old writer once, “because they drive me to the Saviour; and so I get good by them.” Ask the humble Christian where he get his humility, and ten to one he will say that he got it in the furnace of deep sorrow on account of sin. See another who is tender in conscience: where did he get that jewel from? It came from Egypt, I’ll be bound. We get more by being in bondage, under conviction of sin, than we often do by liberty.
4. They came out in haste. I never met with a poor sinner under a sense of sin who was not in haste to get his burden off his back. No man has a broken heart, unless he wants to have it bound up directly. “To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart,” says the Holy Ghost; He never says to-morrow; to-day is His continual cry, and every true-born Israelite will pant to get out of Egypt, whenever he has the opportunity.
II. The magnitude of this deliverance. I would have you particularly remember one thing; and that is, that great as this emigration was, and enormous as were the multitudes that quitted Egypt, it was only one Passover that set them all free. One agonizing sacrifice, one death on Calvary, one bloody sweat on Gethsemane, one shriek of “It is finished “ consummated all the work of redemption.
III. The completeness of their deliverance. As Moses said, “Not an hoof shall be left behind.” They were to have all their goods, as well as their persons. What does this teach us? Why, not only that all God’s people shall be saved, but that all that God’s people ever had shall be restored. All that Jacob ever took down to Egypt shall be brought out again. Have I lost a perfect righteousness in Adam? I shall have a perfect righteousness in Christ. Have I lost happiness on earth in Adam? God will give me much happiness here below in Christ. Have I lost heaven in Adam? I shall have heaven in Christ; for Christ came not only to seek and to save the people that were lost, but that which was lost: that is, all the inheritance, as well as the people; all their property.
IV. The time when the israelites came out of Egypt. God had promised to Abraham that His people should be in bondage four hundred and thirty years, and they were not in bondage one day more. As soon as God’s bond became due, though it had been drawn four hundred and thirty years before, He paid the bill; He required no more time to do it in, but He did it at once. Christopher Ness says, they had to tarry for the fulfilment of the promise till the night came; for though He fulfilled it the selfsame day, He made them stay to the end of it, to prove their faith. He was wrong there, because Scripture days begin at night. “The evening and the morning were the second day.” So that God did not make them wait, but paid them at once. As soon as the day came, beginning with our night, as the Jewish day does now, and the Scriptural day always did--as soon as the clock struck--God paid His bond. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A night to be much observed unto the Lord.
I. The Passover the appointed means of a great deliverance. The destruction of the firstborn secured Israel’s freedom; the rite itself saved Israel’s firstborn.
1. Wrath was averted.
2. Individual faith and action were required.
3. Perfect safety was thus obtained.
II. The Passover as ordained feast of remembrance.
1. Not a formal service, but gratefully rendered, and intelligently observed; the father instructing the child as to its meaning (Exodus 12:26-27).
2. To be kept by all the people (Exodus 12:4). The redemption to be celebrated by all the redeemed.
3. In each successive generation. A perpetual witness of Jehovah’s delivering mercy; an unfailing type; a constant test and measure of religious life. Kept by Moses (Numbers 9:1-23.); by Joshua (chap. 5.); revived by Josiah; in Nehemiah’s time (Ezra 6:1-22.); in our Lord’s time widely observed.
4. Every detail was divinely ordered.
5. The lamb was eaten with special accompaniments Bitter herbs denoted penitence; unleavened bread, sincerity. Godly sorrow chastens Christian joy. True consecration marks the believer’s praise.
6. In a pilgrim spirit. Loins girded, shoes on feet, staff in hand. Christ’s service here is not the Christian’s rest. His eye is fixed on heaven; and, while he works and praises, his true cry ever is, “Come, Lord Jesus.” (W. S. Bruce, M. A.)
Freedom and discipline
I. Scholars have said that the old Greeks were the fathers of freedom; and there have been other people in the world’s history who have made glorious and successful struggles to throw off their tyrants and be free. But liberty is of a far older and nobler house. It was born on the first Easter night, when God Himself stooped from heaven to set the oppressed free.
II. The history of the Jews is the history of the whole Church and of every nation in Christendom. The Jews had to wander forty years in the wilderness, and Christendom has had to wander too, in strange and bloodstained paths, for eighteen hundred years and more. For as the Israelites were not worthy to enter at once into rest, no more have the nation of Christ’s Church been worthy. As the new generation sprang up in the wilderness, trained under Moses’ stern law, to the fear of God, so for eighteen hundred years have the generations of Christendom, by the training of the Church and the light of the gospel, been growing in wisdom and knowledge, growing in morality and humanity, in that true discipline and loyalty which are the yokefellows of freedom and independence. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)
A holy celebration
It is the night of our regeneration; it is the night of our conversion (night or day, it matters not which); the time in which we actually received salvation, and were made partakers of this Passover, that we would just now admonish you to remember. At that particular time important events transpired for us. The most important events, to us, that ever occurred in our history, happened on that occasion. There was a point in our life up to which we were dead: then we were made alive. There was a point up to which we were condemned: then, in an instant, we were acquitted. Now, what events transpired on that occasion?
1. Well, the first was, it pleased God then to show us the blood of Jesus, and to apply it to our souls. That night, too, or that day, whichever it may have been, we do remember that we enjoyed a feast upon our Saviour. The blood was sprinkled, and so we were saved; and then we sat down at the table, and began at once to feast upon the precious things stored up in the person of Christ.
2. And then it was that for the first time in your life you felt that you were free. You were free; but finding yourself free, you also discovered, for the first time, that you were a pilgrim; for the Israelites, as they ate that paschal supper, had to do so with their loins girl and staves in their hands, like men that were to leave that country. You found that now you were a stranger. If you had an unconverted parent, you could not talk to him or her about your soul. If you had old companions, you felt you must bid them farewell, for they would not understand you; if you did not know you were a pilgrim before, you found it out the very next day, when you began to talk with them. O! it was a time to be remembered, and I want you to remember it now--those blessed days when we began to live!
3. Important results will flow to you from the preservation of this memorial. It will humble you and foster the grace of humility. Have you become an old experienced Christian, my brother? Go back to the hole of the pit whence you were digged. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The ordinance of the Passover.
Minute instructions in reference to the observance of the Passover
I. That God not only institutes ordinances for men, but also shows in what way they are to be observed.
II. That God will not allow any stranger to the death of Christ to partake of His Holy Sacrament. “There shall no stranger eat thereof.”
III. That a mere hired and nominal relation to the Church does not give a true right to the Holy Sacrament. “An hired servant shall not eat thereof.”
IV. That circumcision of heart is necessary (Exodus 12:48). (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 12". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24