<< Exodus 12: The Passover II >>

passover And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s  passover. Exodus xii. 11.

IT is one of the laws of Providence ever to forestall His creatures for good, and thus forearm them when dangers are ahead. It is hence a wise maxim never to be elated in prosperity, but rather humble and grateful; never to be cast down in adversity, but rather to feel confidence. Just as day follows night, and morning follows evening, so the afflictions of the present will be turned by infinite love and tenderness into speedy consolation, comfort, and blessing. You will see this exemplified in numberless instances, and especially in the case before us.

The Israelites had arrived nearly to the termination of their period of bondage and distress. They were now about to enter upon their journey to Canaan. They would have many dangers to pass through. They were entering upon untried paths, surrounded by a great variety of circumstances that would bring them peculiar distresses, and so they were provided by divine mercy with an initiatory feast. They were commanded to provide throughout all their homes a feast to the Lord. They were to have a joyous gathering of their families in every home, and having partaken of the Paschal Feast to be ready with staff in hand and loins girded, to encounter the trials that lay before them.

You will remember a great similarity to this, in the circumstance of our Lord's eating the Passover with His disciples immediately before He was taken from them. He accompanied it with these divine expressions, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer. And so in the conduct of the divine mercy to us, we shall find we have never a burden, but the Lord has provided us with the means of bearing it, if we will be faithful.

It is thus that we are furnished with the soundest and truest reasons for a conscientious attendance upon divine worship and for faithfully and obediently taking the sacrament to which the Lord invites us.

For, in these acts of worship, the Lord gives us the inner comfort, help, and strength, that are seen by him to be needed for dangers upon which we have not yet entered.

Such, then, is one of the first reflections that come to the mind when me consider this divine institution appointed at that peculiar time, namely, at the close of the bondage of Egypt, and just before the commencement of the march towards Canaan. The whole of the circumstances are full of interest, and full of edification.

Before passing, however, to the consideration of all that is implied in the arrangements of this divine institution, allow me to notice an objection that has been urged in comparatively recent times against the reality of this remarkable occurrence. It proceeds from the Bishop of Natal. He says that at the time the Lord gave the command there was but one day for its being executed, for it is written in the 12th verse, 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. And then it is written in the 30th verse, And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And it came to pass at the end of the 430 years, even the self same day, it came to pass that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. Now, the objection runs thus: here were about two millions of people in the capital of Egypt and the surrounding country. They must have covered a very considerable district, and how (the objector asks) could this command of the Lord, that they should all get lambs, and have them sacrificed and eaten, be carried out in one day? It does seem a rather difficult undertaking. But it is also not a little difficult to understand how a grave and thoughtful reader could have made such a mistake as this objection implies. Notice the beginning of the chapter. You will read in the 3rd verse: Speak ye to all the congregation of Israel, saying, in the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house. Now, here the command is given on the very first day of the month ordering what they should do on the tenth day of the month--nine days after. And further, this lamb was to be kept until the fourteenth day of the month, And the whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it in the evening. And when we read of this self same day, it is not the self same day in which the command is given, but the self same day in which the lamb was to be sacrificedthat is to say, they had fourteen days notice.

The objection involves an extraordinary oversight.

When, too, we bear in mind that one of the peculiarities of the Israelitish mind is that it is more splendidly endowed with organizing power, probably, than that of any other nation, there will then be seen to be no serious difficulty in their making all the arrangements that were necessary to be made in fourteen days. If there was aught that was not provided for in the particulars laid down in the command, the Jews had so especial a power for organization and arrangement, that what would have been difficult to others, would have been easy to them.

On this occasion, you will find, that as soon as Moses himself received the command, he called all the Elders of Israel together. There was no crowding or giving the regulations out to the whole mass. They had their divisions of families, sections and tribes; they had their heads of families, their elders and chiefs. These were all called together, the divine will was given to them, and they instantly went about their work and got everything ready for carrying out the operations.

But, supposing this not to be the true account of the origin of the Passover amongst the Jews, what was its origin? How came it to exist? It does now exist--how did it begin? Every effect must have a sufficient cause. They have kept the Passover as far as all history gives us to understand, from its origin down to the present day. Every year as the time has come round, notwithstanding the growth of Christianity, and although the most powerful efforts have been made through dark and persecuting ages to compel the people to discontinue that which had been commanded to their fathers, they have, in spite of fire and faggot, persecution, dungeon, torture and death, kept this festival, which they considered a divine regulation, down to the present moment. And would it not be irrational to suppose that they who have been so scrupulously particular; so careful as to what they believed was a divine regulation, had somehow or other got hold of it at first in such a negligent and foolish way that there was no true ground for belief in it whatever? This is far more difficult to conceive than any of the objections that have been brought against it can make the actual occurrence itself. Nay, further, there is no instance in all history, in the records of any nation, of a persistent public memorial being maintained constantly from year to year through successive ages, that had not a real historical basis for it.

There must have been something from which it had its origin, and something real and sufficient as a basis for it to rest upon.

It would be just as easy to suppose, that should some one get up in London and tell us that we were to have a feast because we had all been taken across the River Thames without the slightest danger, and without even so much as wetting our feet, the whole population would be induced to accept and act upon its suggestion. When a person can bring an instance of a nation thus led away to believe, and to commemorate as a great fact what was only a vague lie of some impostor, then there will be some reason in the objection that the Israelitish nation have been thus taken in and deceived.

But there is much less likelihood of this with them than there would be with us. They were the most literal, the most exact, and most peculiarly scrupulous of nations, in all things belonging to their religion.

We have been particular in dwelling upon this matter as part of the sacred history and as most important, because although there is a spiritual sense in it, and in every particular a divinely beautiful and important lesson, let us never forget that it is based upon the letter of the Word being divinely true. We must not deny the body of the Word to get at the soul. Just as in the case of every individual man he has a soul as well as a body, and a body as well as a soul, so in the divine Word there is the body of its letter, upon which, and within which rests the sacred soul of its spiritual signification.

Let us now ask what the spiritual signification is, which is couched in the remarkable and interesting particulars connected with the Passover.

Its highest signification is the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice or entire consecration of His Humanity. As the apostle Paul says:--Christ our PASSOVER is sacrificed for us. But its signification, even in relation to Him, is not simply that He died upon the cross, for that would take in very few indeed of the particulars which are given here.

It is quite true that the Lord was the Lamb of God, and that the Paschal Lamb was the type of which He was the greatest antitype; but not simply in the circumstance that he was put to death. He was the Lamb of God before that, and in a higher sense than that. He was the Lamb of God in this sense--that the divine innocence of God himself, that which forms the soul and spring of all spiritual innocence in any one of us--this Divine Innocence existed in the Lords Humanity. Behold the Lamb of God, said John the Baptist three years and a half before His suffering on the crossBehold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.

Men ask that punishment should be taken away; God takes away SIN, and so takes away sorrow. Frequently one hears persons who think of the Lords death upon the cross being everything, and His life and His spirit scarcely anything, express themselves as if they thought the Divine Words were Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the wrath of another God--that is, the wrath of the FATHER. But the passage does not say so. It says something far different and far higher. Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. That is to say, the lamb-like spirit of the Lord, when it descends into the hearts of His disciples, takes away anger, envy, the disposition to revenge and resentment, and makes the heart itself, a new heart of holy innocence and heavenly goodness. Take away the sin of the world and punishment dies of itself. Now it was in this sense, that the Lords Humanity was fully sanctified, consecrated, offered up by Himself in His life and in His death--every infirmity which He had received from the virgin mother being gradually subdued and removed---and became the perfect body of the Divine Love. In the evening of each state, the infirm earthly life was slain; in the morning of a new state, divine goodness took its place and so He was made perfect through suffering (Heb. ii. 10; v. 8, 9). For their sakes I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth.--John xvii. 19. It is this that made Him that grand object which every part of the Passover typified and represented. Thus He became the spotless Lamb of God, and His spirit flows forth to make all Hid people Lambs (Luke x. 3).

The Lords death upon the cross, sacred and important as it was in its consequences, was only one link in a chain. It taught us that He who had died for us, would do everything for us that could be needed for our regeneration. You will perceive by a number of particulars here, which could have no relation to the mere outward death upon the cross, that His death was not all that was implied in the sacrifice of the Passover.

The lamb, or the kid (it was to be either a lamb or a kid according to the convenience and the means of the householder) was not to be crucified. If the sacrifice had consisted in the natural death of the lamb, to represent the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, then it ought to have been crucified in order to make the representation exact; but it was not so. Again, it is said that this lamb was to be roasted with fire.

There was nothing in the Lords literal death of which that could be representative. The Paschal lamb was also to be eaten afterwards; there was no literal counterpart of this in the death of the Lord. Thus there were numerous particulars not represented by anything that took place in the Lords death, viewed only as an outward fact.

Now let us regard the spiritual sense, and every one of these particulars will appear to us beautifully significant. Permit me now to invite your attention to them seriatim.

The first particular, to which I would draw your attention, is that this lamb or kid which was to be selected by the household according to the number of souls, one for a household, ought not to be considered as at all suggestive of one who is to be punished. The idea of many who suppose that the meaning of the words sacrificed for us is that the Lord was punished for us is simply a desecration of the original idea of sacrifice. The real meaning of the word sacrifice, as the word itself implies, is to make sacred. It is made up of two words--sacer and fio--I make sacred. Sacrifices in ancient times, and sacrifices in their real idea, mean dedication, and not destruction--consecration to the will of the Lord, not punishment. And, hence, we read, in that beautiful verse of the 51st Psalm, which speaks of true sacrifice, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou will not despise. In the same way St Paul says, in the Epistle to the Romans,--I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.Ch. xii. 1. Again, but I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a SACRIFICE acceptable, well-pleasing to God.--Phil. Iv. 18. Sacrifice means dedication to the Lord--offering up the things sacrificed to do His will. And, in the symbolical ritual of the Jews, all the different animals which were offered up, represented all the different feelings of the heart and mind, that should be consecrated and dedicated to the Divine Being that they may be blessed by Him. The Lords Humanity was entirely and supremely offered up and became filled with the Divine Love,--a whole burnt offering: man must offer up every affection and thought in his degree following his Savior, and thus become a sweet sacrifice to the Lord.

The next feature of the Passover to which I would call your attention is the use of the blood of the lamb, or of the kid.

It was to be received into a basin and then marked over the lintel and the two door-posts of each house; and then, it is said, the destroyer could not possibly enter in. Now, blood, which is a liquid element, and next in importance to flesh, in the body human or animal, is representative of the living truth, of next importance to holy goodness, when it is received into the soul, and flows through it and nourishes it. Hence, our Lord says, Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinkteth my blood hath eternal life.--John vi. 54. It is not outward blood which is to be drunk, any more than it is outward flesh which is to be eaten.

I have been sometimes struck with the fact, that amongst the large number of preachers, who insist that everything in religion consists in believing that the literal blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the people, few speak of eating His flesh; yet we are to eat the Lords flesh, as well as drink His blood. I must confess to never having heard a single one of that class of preachers refer to eating the Lords flesh. They never had apparently the least suspicion that anything more was to be done than to attend to the blood,--and that, the literal blood. With them it is believe, believe, believe, that the Lord shed His blood for you. That is the whole essence of religion. If you do this, you are sure to be saved.

The Word says we must drink His blood, and thus receive it into us, because the blood of Christ means the loving influence of His wisdom flowing from the Lord Jesus. It must enter into our minds, permeate our lives, fill us with new thoughts, impart to us all that is holy, good, wise, and pure, and form in us a new nature.

The Israelites put the blood upon the lintel, and the door-posts. The house represents the mind, the lintel and door-posts represent the communication of the mind with the world. There are two doors in each mans soul, an inner door, which is intended to communicate with heaven, and of which the Savior says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will open the door I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.

There is another door, a door of communication with the world--the senses--the eyes, the ears, and all those different perceptive faculties by means of which the world enters in. Taken together they may be regarded as the outer door of our spiritual house. In a state like that which is represented here by Egypt all that the world gives is evil and false; but by guarding the door-posts and the lintel with the blood of the Paschal Lamb, you so fortify yourself by divine wisdom that no destroyer,--no destroying evil, can enter in.

You are ready to resist every fallacy, and every falsehood. You keep the door of the soul guarded and closed.

It is said further, They shall eat the flesh of the lamb (or kid) roast with fire, and with bitter herbs shall they eat it.

The lamb of heavenly innocence, imparted from the Lamb of God into the soul is to be accepted with the fire of holy affection--roast with fire--that is to say, received with fervent love. You will pass over from all the impieties of evil, into all the sincerities and virtues of goodness and truth.

But the Israelites had also to eat the Passover with bitter herbs.

When we are resolved to commence our march towards the heavenly kingdom, we must not suppose that it will be a perfectly easy work. We must not forget that there is yet very much in our natural inclinations that opposes heaven, and therefore heaven must oppose our natural inclinations. Those faults that are hard for us to forsake must really be given up. These are the things which require divine truths for their correction, which, like bitter herbs, are salutary but not pleasant. Who is there that has commenced to walk towards the kingdom of heaven, and has not felt many truths like bitter herbs? Yet, we must say, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lastly. With your loins girded--that is, with your purposes fully determined; with shoes on your feet-that is, prepared with the truths of daily life; with your staff in your hand--that is, the promises of the letter of the Divine Word sustaining you; eat it in haste--that is, receive the saving good into your hearts without delay or hesitation. Then, go forth children of heaven. Take the freedom your Savior God has wrought for you. Commence the march of the Christian life, which, through the checkered states of time, shall issue in the peace and bliss of heaven.

Author: Jonathan Bayley --- From Egypt to Canaan (1869)

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