The Consecration of the First-born.

The words that Moses heard out of the midst of the fire in the bush must not only have awakened in his heart the remembrance of God's goodness towards the fathers, but also have shown him that he had a personal link with the God of Abraham; for God had said to him, "I am the God of thy father." (The faith of Moses' parents is made mention of in Heb. 11) But "Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God." Such was necessarily the effect produced on the heart by the presence of God when He was not known as the Justifier. The instant it becomes a question of appearing before God, conscience makes itself heard bearing witness that we are sinners.

When Jacob had seen in his dream the magnificent vision of the ladder, whose top reached heaven, he awoke to the consciousness of the presence of God, and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Surely God had only spoken to him in words of grace and goodness; but his conscience in the presence of a holy God condemned him, and his soul was filled with fear.

We find the same thing in the case of Isaiah the prophet. (See Isa. 6) He saw "the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims. … And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." Then the prophet cries, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." God's answer to the prophet's cry, though it brought fully into light the real secret of his distress, applied to him the needed remedy at the same moment. One of the seraphims touched his lips with a live coal from off the altar of burnt-offering, and said, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."

God knows what we need. He acts by His Spirit to produce "truth in the inward parts," bringing us into His own presence, that there we may be made aware of our true state; but there too He makes known to us the fulness of that redemption by virtue of which He is righteous in "justifying him who believes in Jesus." (Rom. 3:26.) Before Christ had suffered for our sins, God, knowing what He was going to do in order to put them away righteously, "forbore" with sins; that is to say, He did not impute them to those who believed on Him, although He could not yet direct their hearts to an already accomplished redemption. Psalm 32, which is quoted in Rom. 4; speaks of the blessedness of this forgiveness, though still looking on, in the spirit of prophecy, to its complete fulfilment; but after the death of Christ, God could make known to all that He had been righteous in granting it in anticipation of the work of redemption. (Rom. 3:25.) In the various offerings God set forth by means of types, which all pointed to the one great sacrifice, the principle on which alone the righteousness of God could be satisfied with respect to sin; for "without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Heb. 9:22.) God was revealing Himself as "the God that taketh away iniquity, transgression, and sin;" and although only in figure, still He made it clear that for the putting away of sin there must be shed the blood of a spotless victim. But if we are thus delivered from judgment, we are at the same time sanctified, or set apart in holiness to God. Therefore we read (Heb. 9:13-14): "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" This is precisely what Isaiah found through grace at the seraph's hand; and we shall see the same principle presented in figure in the history of Moses, at the time when "the deliverance," of which God had spoken to him in the bush, was about to be accomplished.

God had said to Moses, "The cry of the children of Israel is come up unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." (Ex. 3:9-10.) In accomplishing the work of deliverance God brought nine plagues upon the Egyptians. At the moment when He was about to send upon them the last, which was to smite all the first-born of the land of Egypt, He instituted the passover as the means of sheltering His people from the sword of the destroying angel, who was to execute His judgment. The blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the two side-posts and on the upper door-post, put the house and all who were in it beyond the reach of the sword of judgment: "For," it is said, "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 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." (Ex. 12:12-13.) At the same time the Lord says to Moses: "Sanctify unto me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine." (Ex. 13:1-2.) Similarly in Num. 3:12-13 we find it stated of the children of Israel: "All the first-born are mine; for on the day that I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the first-born in Israel." God comes down to deliver His people; that is the first truth set before us, and the immediate result of it is that His people are set apart for Him. This great moral principle is thus clearly established, the destruction of the first-born being an intimation of God's thoughts as to this world, shadowing forth beforehand the judgment reserved for it.

The deliverance corresponds in extent to the judgment, and expresses at the same time the measure of personal sanctification, which is intimately linked up with the deliverance itself "Fear not," it is said: "for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; THOU art MINE." And again, "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise." (Isa. 43:1, 21.) So too, after the complete deliverance of the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, God sends them this message by Moses: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you UNTO MYSELF. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and AN HOLY NATION." (Ex. 19:4-6.)

But the consecration to God of all the first-born in Israel supplies us with other unfoldings as to the character of personal holiness; it shows us in what it consists, as well as the extent of its practical application. In an especial manner God said of every first-born, "It is MINE." This implied that it was to be offered in sacrifice; and with every clean animal this was the case. "The first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me." (Ex. 22:29-30.) Unclean domestic animals were to be redeemed: "But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb." And this same principle is applied to man: "All the first-born of thy sons thou shalt redeem." (Ex. 34:20.)

Now this redemption of the first-born sons in Israel was accomplished in a remarkable manner. (The details are given at the beginning of the book of Numbers.) They were replaced by the Levites. "Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the first-born that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be MINE." (Num. 3:12.) The Levites were thenceforth consecrated to the service of God, for the charge of the tabernacle, for the service of the priests, and afterwards for the instruction of the people in the law of God. They had no inheritance as a separate tribe amongst the children of Israel, but were to live on the tithes of the produce of the land, brought regularly by the people. "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord." (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 26:12-13.)

We see, therefore, that the consecration that flowed from redemption was entire and personal. As the sacrifice was wholly consumed upon the altar, thus the redeemed person is considered as belonging wholly to the Lord, soul and body, and in every respect set apart for His service.

The Lord said of His sheep, "I know my sheep;" to His Father He says of them, "The men which thou gavest me out of the world." (John 10, 17) Consequently the exhortation addressed by the Spirit to the believer is, that "ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1); and again, "Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:13-14.) The Christian, brought to God, and already delivered from death and judgment and Satan's power, is to live in dependence upon God and in communion with Him; so that the fulness of the redemption wrought for him may be reflected in the details of his daily walk. He has been delivered from the world, and from the judgment that is to come upon it; his daily life is therefore to express that he is dead to the world, and alive unto God, and that, recognizing that he is a pilgrim and stranger upon the earth, he is seeking the country and the city which God has prepared for him; for he already possesses, by faith, his inheritance in the heavenly Jerusalem. There is seen "the assembly of the first-born, which are written in heaven;" there are enjoyed the presence and communion of God the Judge of all, surrounded as He is "by the spirits of just men made perfect;" there is found the climax of eternal joy and blessing in Jesus, the First-born from among the dead, the Mediator of a new covenant. There too the soul finds the ground of all confidence before God, in "the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than Abel." There also we are surrounded by myriads of angels, the universal gathering, and learn that they are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. (Heb. 11:13, 16; 12:22, 24; 1:14.) Redemption brings us into the immediate presence of God, setting us there with a good conscience to learn that every need of the soul is met, and full provision made to meet all our spiritual enemies, and all the difficulties we have to encounter in this present life. Faith simply accepts what God has said, and takes freely and joyfully the place He has given. He has set us in Christ; and we have to learn in the path of obedience what it is to count on God in everything. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" He has chosen us in Christ "before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through the blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Eph. 1:4-7.)

We have only been able to glance at the truths contained in the sanctification of the first-born. But what a field of study is opened to us in the Word in connection with the service of the Levites! Our present purpose is, however, to confine ourselves to the great principles involved, and which we have sought to lay before our readers: first, what it is to have a "good conscience" in the presence of God, by means of the blood, under the shelter of which God has set us in sovereign grace; then that the completeness of personal consecration must correspond with the extent and perfection of the deliverance. Of course we do need God with us, as well as God for us, in order that this practical consecration may be carried out in practice. And He can never fail us. Moses went on in obedience, learning step by step from God the marvellous lessons of His grace. "Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them." (Heb. 11:28.) Is he not in this a precious example for us - one of those witnesses of faith by whom we are "compassed about"? W. J. Lowe.

All right experience ends in forgetting self and thinking of Christ.

If the believer is full of Christ, he does not even see the things around.

There is no middle path; for there is nothing good in this world. It is either Christ or flesh. Man is fallen and out of paradise, and there is nothing owned at all of man now. God made paradise, and man is out of it; and He made heaven, and man is not in it. But between the two there is nothing that God owns. God never made the world as it is, nor man as he is; that is, the moral state that man and the world are in. It grew up when God had driven man out of His presence. Then Cain went and built a city, and established himself and his seed outside God. It must therefore be, either "Ye are from beneath," or, "I am from above;" either "Ye are of this world," or, "I am not of this world." (John 8:23.)