With just the brief notice given in the last lecture, I must pass over the history of the plagues of Egypt, until we come to the last, in which we find what is more or less plain to every Christian heart — the death of the first-born, and God's deliverance from it by the passover blood.
The apostle has given us inspired interpretation as to it: "Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7, 8).
It is to the Christian memorial feast that the apostle refers, of course; and, in several respects, that is different from the passover. This we shall see hereafter. I am not aware that this in Egypt is even called a feast at all. The circumstances were perhaps too solemn. And we may remember that Israel's feast to Jehovah was to be held in the wilderness. However this may be, the passover lamb figures Christ Himself, as the blood that sheltered them figures the blood of the Cross. The blood anticipated the judgment upon the people, so that when it came, they were untouched by it.
In this last plague Israel was made to realize their own solemn position before God. They were subject, naturally, to His judgment as much as the Egyptians. They had to meet, not a lesser infliction than the Egyptians, but death itself, which is God's sentence upon all men, and the figure of the final doom beyond this life. Death they must meet, pass through it, and leave behind them, before they can be freed from Egyptian bondage or their feet leave Egyptian soil. In Egypt they must keep the passover: and to this the very first verse of this chapter points: "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt."
There is no progress on the part of the people up to this. God has been moving, no doubt, steadily onwards towards the accomplishment of His own purposes in their salvation; but to them, as to all others to whom God's mercy comes, it comes where they are. "The people which sat in darkness saw a great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up." There may be plenty of exercise and experience of a certain sort in this condition, and plenty of effort also at self-help; but it only confirms the fact that no advance is made in the path of God, nor even towards God, until the shelter of the Cross is reached and known. They sit in darkness and keep the passover in the land of Egypt — the land of bondage.
This is declared in another way in this divine communication: "And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." The preceding months of the year are blotted out, as it were, and God begins afresh for them with the paschal month. Grace gives them this new be ginning; and it can do nothing kinder than to blot out the past. And so it is with our history until that which is the antitype of the passover is known. Our previous history has its use as a lesson, no doubt; in that sense it is not all lost. Will anything be really so, even in this world's history? All will have its moral lesson in the coming day of revelation; instead of being forgotten, it will abide in profit for us forever. But when God says, "1 will remember no more," it has a very different meaning. He cannot really forget any more than He can repent; yet both terms are relatively used of Him. He does not remember our sins and iniquities when He treats us as if these had never happened — when we can find nothing whatever in His conduct toward us which indicates His remembrance of them; when not only they are no more a shadow in our heavens, but not a mote even in the sunshine of His perfect love.
His "not remembering," however, has its solemn as well as its gracious side. Love would gladly remember, not forget. If our deeds and words be such that love itself can only draw the veil over them,what must they be! Yet the veil that love can draw may be so surpassingly glorious, that the glow of it may enable us to look back, as well as forward. For, if God sets aside the past with a new beginning, He directs our eyes to the beginning in fact to the veil with which He has covered the past. Thus our passover month is henceforth the beginning of months to us. The blood of Christ, which has blotted out the past, has begun for us all things anew. The veil of the past is the glory of the present and the future.
But the year does not begin exactly with the passover itself. If the death of Christ for us blots out our past, it surely blots not out His blessed course on earth — that path of perfect obedience which led Him to the cross! Thus, the Passover is on the fourteenth day of the year, not the first. On the tenth day, the lamb was taken, and kept up four days, until the fourteenth day at even, when it was killed. That all this is significant, I suppose none of us will doubt; and the numbers are, of course, a special part of it. How full of meaning is this fourteenth day for the passover, a number compounded of the number of testimony — two, and that which speaks of divine and perfect workmanship seven! For have we not here the perfect work which is the great subject of God's testimony?
The other numbers are no less clear and beautiful. Ten days of the month are passed when the lamb is taken. The ten days point to the measure of human responsibility, as the ten commandments do. They pass in silence before the lamb is taken — a silence which answers to what seems so great a gap in the Gospels. What account have we of those thirty years in which our Lord grew up in retirement at Nazareth, and lived in the quiet fulfilment of human duties in the carpenter's house? We have a brief vision of Him at His birth; a still briefer one of His visit to the temple at twelve years old; then no more till He comes forth at thirty (the Levite age), to take up His work among men openly. Then, fulfilling righteousness in that Jordan-baptism — in which all others confessed their departure from it He is sealed with the Holy Ghost, and proclaimed by the Father as His own Beloved. John announces Him as the Lamb of God; and the Father's Voice, and the Spirit's act, declare Him how much more than without blemish!
The lamb being taken, not immediate sacrifice follows, but the keeping it up four days. Four speaks of testing; and this follows immediately the announcement of the divine satisfaction and delight in Him. Hitherto He had lived under God's eye alone; now man and the devil are to test Him as they please. To the devil He is at once exposed; not going there of His own mind, but led of the Spirit expressly "to be tempted:" all circumstances designedly permitted to be as adverse as to the first man in Eden they were favorable. His language to His disciples, at a later day, tenderly acknowledges their companionship, even though it had been so deficient; but in these forty days of temptation by the devil, He is alone. And this testing brought out only His perfection. The four Gospels show the result; how, as Messiah, Minister, Son of Man and Son of God, He approves Himself the same blessed One whom all circumstances only magnify.
At the end of these four days, the lamb was slain; its life is surrendered in meekness: "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth."
The character of the offering is not otherwise dwelt upon in Exodus. It is in Leviticus, where as priests we go in to God, that the various aspects of the sacrifice are displayed; for the soul at first is not in condition to take it in. Here, in Exodus, it is naturally more the effect of His work for us than the glories of the work itself; although some details, necessary for our full peace, we shall find in the sequel. But first of all, and most prominent, is the power of the redeeming blood under which the people find refuge.
What we have here, in an unmistakable way, is that redemption must first of all be by blood before it can be by power: that the wrath of God must be met, before the enemy can be — that the enemy's full judgment and our deliverance are only completed at the Red Sea. But the first and deeper question is to be settled between the people and God.
As we have already seen, the enemy is the sin that reigns over us and holds us in bondage. We are apt to think that the first thing is, by God's help to deliver our selves from the bondage of sin. We are slow to realize that first of all, and while still slaves in Egypt, God's sure and dreadful judgment upon sin must pass over us where we are; that whilst power over sin may yet be an unsolved problem, our peace with God is made by the precious blood, by which, if under it, we are sheltered from the wrath to come.
"And 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; and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt."
I need scarcely dwell upon the fact that God's eye was upon the blood; His judgment therefore could not be on the people. Whether young or old, whether good or bad, whether experiences and feelings were right or wrong in any one of them, was not the point: God looked upon the blood. Had judgment entered a house so shielded, not only the blood would have been dishonored, but the truthfulness and righteousness of God would have been done away with. These stood on the side of all those who had fled for refuge to the hope set before them. And so with us. The glory of the gospel is that the righteousness of God itself is on the side of every one who welcomes it in faith.
The blood was for the eye of God, rather than the people's eye. As often said, it is not, "When you see the blood," but "When I see it." As it is God whom sin has offended, it is to Him that the blood of atonement speaks. And in the resurrection of Christ He has declared His complete and perfect satisfaction with that atonement. He only can take in its full value. He rests in it. He has found a ransom. Peace is made. It is not ours in any way to make peace, but only to enter into it, and enjoy it. There may be no need to dwell upon this for those present here tonight, yet to recall it to our minds is unspeakable comfort, and should be the occasion of fresh praise in our hearts.
Let us now look at another point in this picture, of which there are so many, and so important. While outside the house the blood of atonement spoke to God, inside He had provided what was to satisfy them, and enable them for that path w ith Him upon which they were now to go forth.
The lamb is theirs to feed upon, and God is bent upon their enjoying this provision of His love. They are not only to be sheltered, they must be sustained also. The lamb is to be eaten all of it. If the household were too little for the lamb (we read nothing of the lamb being too little for the house) , then, says the Lord, "Let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every one according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb."
Thus God would have Christ apprehended by us. He would have our souls sustained; He would have Christ honored. We are to eat to appropriate to ourselves what Christ is. Eating is appropriation for our need; and that which we appropriate becomes part of ourselves; so God would have Christ become as it were part of ourselves — that we should be characterized by what He is. As Himself said, "He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me." And there is such a laying hold of Christ for our soul as makes Him to be reproduced in us. In the measure in which we spiritually feed upon Christ, our life will bear His character.
Oh that we knew more of this! How would the truths of Scripture change in us from hard, dogmatic, unlovely forms, into those soft and beautiful lineaments of the life itself! Christ Himself is what we want, in the midst of a utilitarianism which "wastes" no box of ointment on His head; not the Christ of a mystic dream, but a living and life-giving Christ.
Let us note another thing here: that God has ordained death to be the food of life. We are so familiar with this that we are apt by the very fact to miss its significance. Nature everywhere is thus instructing us (if we would but learn) in the deeper lessons of divine wisdom! The laying down of life becomes the sustenance of another life. For man, this did not begin till after the deluge; at least it is only after this that we read of divine permission to slay animals for food. And when we see in that deluge the ark of salvation as its central figure, bearing within it the nucleus of a new world (figure of how God saves us, bringing us in Christ into a new creation) , its similitude to what we have here bursts upon us. It is as sheltered and saved from death that we can feed upon death. Thus is Sampson's riddle fulfilled: "Out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness." Death is not only vanquished and set aside by the Cross, but it is the sweet and wonderful display of divine love and power in our behalf, accomplished in the mystery of human weakness. Christ's death is become the food of life — of a life eternal.
Let us observe also the mode of eating the lamb.
"And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs shall they eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire: its head with its legs, and with the purtenance thereof."
We are to notice three things, which destroy the dangerous dreams which are abroad with regard to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. First of all, it was not to be "raw" or "underdone." The fire must do its work, do it thoroughly, upon that which was to be the representative of Christ — for our redemption. In God's Word, fire is everywhere used as a figure of God's wrath. The lamb exposed to the full action of the fire, thus represents to us the Lord in atonement, not merely laying down His life, but "made sin for us" — the chastisement for our peace falling upon Him, in our awful place. The whole lamb, roasted with fire, they were to eat, and so are we.
And again, "Not sodden at all with water," — or rather, "not done in water," or boiled — "but roast with fire." The water would hinder the direct action of the fire; and as water is the type of the Word, His delight in God's will, in God's Word to Him, was not to hinder the action of the fire. Could He be made sin, who knew none? That is just what Scripture affirms. The holiness of His life, the blessed perfection of His obedience, did not prevent or soften the agony of the cross which He endured for us. "He who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The lamb was not sodden in water, but "roast with fire!"
"His head with his legs, with the purtenance thereof" (or "inward parts") , were all exposed to the searching fire. The head expresses the thoughts and counsels with which His walk (the legs) keep perfect company. The inward parts, the affections of His heart, were the motive power which impelled Him upon the path He trod. The fire tested all; it brought forth nothing but sweet savor to God, and is for us the food of our true life; and for us now to appropriate. It is the great want — may we not say? — to know more Christ's mind, to walk in His blessed ways, to apprehend His love! All this is set before us to enjoy and make our own, at the very beginning of the way in which He would lead us. It is not merely peace that God would have us enjoy, but Christ — Christ bestowing all these, and made known in them, yet Himself immeasurably more than all these things put together. It is a Person, without whom the heart is not sustained, the soul is not fed. Indeed, without occupation with Christ Himself, the superficial knowledge of peace and salvation may but too easily be associated with very worldliness. Christ alone keeps and satisfies.
I pause here. The rest of what the passover scene unfolds, so far as I am able to speak of it, we may take up next time.