<< Exodus 23: Seething the Kid in the Mother's Milk >>
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk. Exodus xxiii. 19.
WE gave in a previous discourse, a somewhat full consideration to the divine regulations in the preceding chapter, which constitute the laws concerning oxen. We endeavored to acquire from them that divine wisdom in relation to the principle in the human mind of plodding determination to go aright in the ways and walks of heavenly duty, of which the ox is the figure in the Word of God. In this respect we had an illustration of the divine declaration, The words of the Lord are pure words, The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. We propose to carry out a similar consideration with the text before us. As to its letter, a reader who has no idea of the sublime difference between the Word of God and the word of man, might ask, what can there be worthy of consideration in such a declaration as this, Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mothers milk? what can it be to me in my upward progress towards heaven; or, indeed, of what importance can it be to anybody, to know how the kid was to be seethed; or in what way this animal was to be boiled, or prepared either for ordinary food or for sacrifice? Yet we may rest assured that here, as everywhere, the true description of the Word of the Lord, is like that which was given of the incarnate Word, Never man spake like this man. Never book was written like this Book. Let us inquire what is to be understood in the Sacred Volume by the kid, the milk of the goat, and what by the duty of not seething the kid in his mothers milk. That the divine word uses this sacred symbol for the purpose of representing spiritual principles any one who carefully reads the Sacred Volume will readily perceive. It is so in relation to sheep and oxen.
But that it is so in relation to other animals, we shall fully admit if we bear in mind such a declaration as that, for instance, in Ezekiel xxxiv. 17, And as for you, O my flock, saith the Lord God, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he-goats.
We cannot fail to observe that, inasmuch as the Lord describes Himself as one who is taking care of His flock, and is about to descend upon earth and rescue His flock, when He says, I judge between the rams and the he-goats, He is informing us that He judges between those who are represented by those animals, and not the beasts themselves. We have again in Matthew xxv., in the Lords description of Himself sitting on the throne in judgment, and all nations being before Him, the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left, a similar description, but with this additional advantage, that He describes who are the sheep and who the goats, when He says, the sheep are those who have performed works of charity and kindness: I was an hungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was sick and ye visited me, and in explaining how this could be with those who had never seen Him, He says, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Thus, the Savior teaches precisely who they are that are represented by the sheep, and how it is that each person who possesses a little flock of gentle, kindly dispositions, has within him those very principles that will constitute him a minor shepherd with a spiritual flock. Such a one will be crowned and blessed by the Chief Shepherd when he meets him as the Divine Judge.
On the other hand, the goats are described as those, who, although they were right as far as their views, their doctrines, their principles of faith went, were still wanting in those principles of love and charity, which are always greeted with the divine blessing. It is precisely so, you will find, with other animals; they are descriptive also of other principles of the soul. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.
There are, in the divine sight, human beings whose varied affections are represented by all the animals which exist. There are some who, staid and plodding, are attentive to the various duties of daily Christian life, but who aspire and yearn but little after the higher things of heaven. They are God's fat cattle: they like to browse in the pastures, but do not ascend in their perception of heavenly things. There are others who are like the gazelles of the Most High, that delight in going up to the hills of heaven. These have grand scenery. They love grand views. They rejoice in the sunlight of Gods higher wisdom.
The goats are representative of such as are between these two. Goats enjoy rocky hill-sides.
They delight in skipping from rock to rock on the mountain, but do not often go to the top. They represent those who delight in principles of duty. Sometimes on the contrary, they represent those who know the truth, but do not act up to it. In the latter case they represent the goats that are condemned; in the former, they represent the goats that may be used in sacrifices.
In the Paschal Supper, and on various occasions in the Israelitish ritual, you will find that the goat was used as an offering to the Lord, as well as the lamb. The goat represents faith: the kid, the innocence of a new faith.
The goat, then, is a symbol in the Sacred Word, both from its hard, hairy coat, from its horns, and, especially, from its aptitude to play about the hill-sides, and leap from rock to rock, the mind of one who endeavors to become familiar with and delight in the things of faith. The spiritual rocks are the grand principles of truth, each one like a rock upon which the soul can build. The Lord himself being the grand quarry from which all the rocks of truth are hewn, Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, the Lord says, and to the hole of the rock whence ye are digged. He is the Head Stone of the corner, The Rock of Israel. And, those, therefore, who delight in thinking about His divine nature, His divine works, His divine teachings, concerning Himself and heaven and eternal life, are precisely like the goats that dance, as it were, from one rock to another, and rejoice in spiritual freedom and strength.
When the kid is spoken of, it is representative of the same thing as the goat but in a more interior, pure and exalted state. The goat is the mother. The kid--a new birth from the mother, is representative of faith, as it is when we first feel religion to be vital with us. When we livingly know that we have an immortal soul, an immortal future, and an eternal home--that life is a sublime career to prepare us on earth for happiness in heaven:--when these things come home to us, and we have a strong, fixed, and living conviction that this new precious faith is a divine thing, we possess one of the Lords kids of the goats. And this is no mean excellence. It is a divine virtue. If we join it to other virtues, we shall find it is blessed and rewarded by the Most High.
But religion ought to be with us a living and progressive thing. There is, unhappily, a great tendency in the human mind to rest after having made exertion--a tendency to repose too much upon past efforts. When we have once realized divine things, and have become Christians, and have felt a heavenly faith within our souls, there is a great tendency to suppose that all has been done that needs to be done; that now we have stepped over from the line of the enemies of God, and are on the right side, we may, therefore, rest and be quiet. But, Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel. Such souls, like metals that are not used, become rusty. They fall back upon past things, and forget that this world is not a continuing city, is only a place in which we are to work out our salvation constantly from stage to stage. Our goats should be fruitful goats--they should have bids--or in other words, in relation to our states of faith, as well as in relation to our states of heart and life, we should perpetually be going on to things newer, better, diviner, more exalted. Ye must be born again, is continually true of the whole mind. If this is not the case we sink into a state of backwardness, after a while we do not even keep our footing, but descend lower and lower until all becomes flat, stale, unprofitable, and dead within us.
Our first condition as to faith is one necessarily of a very imperfect character; our first goat--our first state of intellectual advancement, our first creed, is necessarily mixed up with a variety of misunderstandings and mistakes which we ought to leave behind after a while. The Apostle says, When I was a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, I spake as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things. Now, it is just so with everyone as to his state of faith. At first the secret thought of all is, that the Lord is much such a being as themselves--only all-powerful; that he looks at men with the vengeance of a severe judge or executioner; and that he will punish if they will not repent; and from fear of this punishment, in a state of fear only, with but little pure love of what is good, with but little even of an interior sight of what is true, but with fear of punishment, and hope of reward, we are stirred at first out of sin. We are spiritual hirelings. For a considerable time our religion is the religion of fear, that is, the religion of a moderated selfishness. The Apostle John when describing this state and its consequences says There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth our fear. These first religious impressions, which are those of this mistaken external character, and but a moderated selfishness, are much blended with self-complacency, and even self-righteousness. We look with a somewhat condemnatory feeling upon the state of others. We not only wish others to become better, but we often are very strong for having them improved in our particular way, or not at all.
This state is represented by the milk of the mother. It is an impure state, a state of low, narrow and tormenting religion. It is a disposition to look back. It is a great care for creed and little for Christianity.
When from meditation, love, and prayer, we have a more tender and a purer faith, it is more genial and comprehensive. We begin to find that God is not only the God of past ages, but the living God--our God. We have states of love, of innocence and faith. We are convinced indeed, that the Lord not only watched over the Israelites, and took care of them through the wilderness, providing for all their necessities, but that He has provided also for ours, and for those of all men and all ages. We are sure that the Lord redeemed Israel, and we are not the less sure that He has redeemed us. He guided Israel, and He guides us. He spake to Israel, and He speaks to us with a living voice in His Word, and in our souls. The pillar of cloud led His ancient servants by day, and the pillar of fire by night, and His Word and His love as surely guide us in our brightest and darkest hours. He is a living God, and our Savior, as certainly as he was the Savior of any beings or nations that ever lived. When our faith has acquired this living vital character, our goat has then a kid, or in other words, we have a state of inward faith, purer, higher, truer, diviner than before. The Lord intends in our text to teach us, that we should follow in this course, and not turn back. We must not have this kid seethed in its mother's milk. We must advance, not looking to old forms, creeds, or facts, but look to our own states and the Lord's goodness to us--feel that religion is a real thing, and its divine history is being re-enacted in us. We have spiritual enemies to battle with and to overcome, the Lord must be a Divine Conqueror in us. He is the Sun of the soul today, to warm us with His love. Today He defends us with His truth, and gives us power to fight against our everyday evils and to heal our present sorrows. Thus He brings us into the image and likeness of Himself. When this is the case we are not paring our kid in his mothers milk, that is, not with old, partly true and partly false impressions, but with the living states of holy faith, which spring up fresh and warm, in humble, but loving hearts and minds.
In such case this divine lesson comes home to us with power, Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
Allow me further to call your attention to the apparent disconnectedness of this divine declaration, and to draw your attention to one of the perfections, though a seeming imperfection, of the Holy Word.
Observe how little of coherency appears between this law and those which precede and follow it. It is an immediate connection with the precepts, Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. The first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mothers milk. It is scarcely possible, looking at the matter from the outside, to conceive anything apparently less connected than these precepts.
One might ask, what has the kid or its mother to do with bringing the first fruits of the land into the house of the Lord? and what has this to do with not suffering the fat of the sacrifice or Feast, as it would be better rendered, to remain until the morning, or from the night until the morning? Yet disconnected as these regulations appear to be, looking only at the letter, if we regard them as they are beneath the letter, we shall find they are all in the closest connection, and have the truest and most divine coherence. They form an illustration in this respect of the same truth as was exhibited in the Lords garments. The outer garments of the Word made flesh were separate, and the soldiers divided them amongst them; but the inner robe was woven all of a piece from the top downwards, representative of this very fact, that the outer part or letter of the word is varied in its style, and the soldiers of religion, like the Roman soldiers, take the piece that suits them; they divide its outer garments; but the spiritual sense, the inner divine lesson, is woven all of a piece. It glows from the first to the last with admirable divine order throughout the Sacred Volume of Revelation. Viewing the subject in this light you will easily see that each one of these particulars, apparently without coherency or connection, is precisely a declaration of smaller portions of the same great truth. It is what we have said before--namely, that the Lords will is continual progression in the regenerate life. Not that our future states should be merely a renewal, as it were, of our former ones--simply reclining upon what has happened to us in days gone by, but that the Lord should be our living God end Savior every day. Hence, it is said, Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread. Leaven being a bitter substance derived from previous fermentation, would represent the falsehood of a decayed system. Neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning--that is, we should worship the Lord from celestial love now, and earnestly; not wait for another opportunity. Neither look behind nor before, but do your duty now is the spirit of the Divine Law.
When we come to worship the Lord,--when, for instance, on Sabbath morning, or each day we offer up the sacrifice of our hearts and feelings, we should not do so from habit or custom, or command; not from old creeds or councils, nor because it has been the practice of the church in past ages, and so must be right, but, because we feel that we are the children of the living God, and have enjoyed His daily mercies. We live in His glorious world below; we are to live in His more glorious world above. The Lord seeks to conjoin us with Himself, that He may impart to us purity, and peace, and joy now. We have a sacrifice to offer, we have the hopes and joys and desires of our soul; we have need of His strength and blessing today, and, therefore, we will offer up to Him our worship and seek from Him, the living God, to have His blessing now. In the same way, when it is said, The fat of my feast shall not be kept from the night until the morning, it is to teach us that the inward joy, the real delight, which is represented by the richness of the fat (as we have It spoken of in Isaiah lv., when the Lord says, Eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness) is not to be deferred. Come with holy joy now; do not draw near with the conviction of old states; do not endeavor to be, as it were, heedless and helpless during the course of the week, and then, on the Sunday, think how happy you once felt, but come now. A whole universe of bliss is around you, waiting the opening of grateful hearts and minds to pour in and bless you. Think that you are going to meet the living God. Feel that you are drawing near to have a holy feast, and desire to realize then and there the sacred state that is described in Psalm xxiii., Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. When the heart is in that state of loving, warm affection which seeks to know the Lord now, which yearns to eat of His flesh, and drink of His blood now, that burns to be in communion with Him and His angels now,--when this is the case, the fat of His sacrifice is not kept from the night until the morning; but there is a beautiful and holy fire in our hearts, and the incense of a sweet savor arises to heaven. We eat that which is good, and our souls delight themselves in fatness. It is the same thing that is taught m the next precept. The first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God.
That is to say, each new state, each new generation of what is true and good, each holy thought, each dawn of a new harvest, should be regarded as from the Lord of heaven and earth, as completely as the several parts of the Bible were in days gone by. It is the Lord helping us to have First the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. In this way you perceive all these precepts have some truth to teach, some lesson to give.
Put off old states, do not be for ever looking behind; but go forward to those things that are before. Seek to have opened up new flesh of inward purity, and get new thoughts of clear and holy faith, new experiences of states of inward joy and delight, and in this way you will be able to take up the Divine language of Psalm ciii., Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his Holy Name. He reneweth thy youth like the eagles. His mercies are fresh every morning. Each new state is a new gift. He is not the God of the past only, but the God of the present: He blesses us, saves us, enlightens us, gives us the victory in all our daily efforts, over whatever would depress, whatever would deprave, whatever would sensualize; and enables us to become ever more and more angel-like, God-like,never seething the kid in his mothers milk, but always getting fresh milk of that kind of which the apostle Peter speaks, when he says, I have fed you with the sincere milk of the Word that ye might grow thereby.
Author: Jonathan Bayley --- From Egypt to Canaan (1869)