Lecture 7 - The Memorial of the Passover

(Exodus, chaps. 12: 43-13: 16.)

Having dwelt upon the passover and its accompaniments, we
have yet to consider the "ordinance of the passover" as the Lord prescribed it
for a continual memorial. There are restrictions here which we have not read of
before - restrictions which it is important to note and to remember, which
apply, not to redemption itself, but to the enjoyment of it. God begins with us
as sinners, or He could not begin at all; but having redeemed us, it is as
saints that we enjoy the blessedness of our portion, and then must conform to
the conditions which the very nature of God imposes upon those who are called
to have part with Him. The "salt of the covenant of God" (which was never to be
lacking in any of the sacrifices) is the type of what preserves from
corruption, therefore of the holiness which our relationship with God implies;
and no joy can be enduring which is not thus perpetuated. Salvation from wrath
is from sin also. The gospel of peace is the gospel of reconciliation to God,
and therefore of separation from that which is opposed to God. In the
unleavened bread we have already had the first intimation of this; but we now
find God insisting much more strongly upon it, and guarding the precious feast
of redemption from the profanation of those who would turn God's grace into
licentiousness. All is in symbols, of curse; for the redemption itself was a
symbol of that which, I trust, all of us here know in its substantial

Deliverance was but just effected; the people were hardly yet upon
the road, before God proclaims how henceforth the passover is to be observed.
The deliverance is made the argument, as it were, for the injunctions which
follow immediately upon it. If we keep in mind the meaning of the types that we
have considered, that Egypt stands for nature as fallen away from God, Pharaoh
for the reign of sin and its bondage, there will be no difficulty in
apprehending that, while the first question to be settled is between God and
the soul (as the passover has shown us), it all bears upon our deliverance from
sin itself. That passover night sees the people's bonds broken, and at once
they begin to leave the place of their captivity. And so in what these types
point to. In the safe shelter which love has provided we adoringly learn the
love which has provided it, and it is that love which, laying hold upon our
hearts, secures them for God. "We love Him because He first loved us." And
then, "This is the love of God; that we keep His commandments." Thus not only
are we, as sinners, justified by His blood, but as "enemies reconciled to God
by the death of His Son." Christ's blessed work, while it shelters and secures,
purifies also; so that whereever we do not find this effect of purification we
are obliged to question whether the soul really knows the shelter.

You will
not suppose, I trust, that I am at all meaning to put souls at building their
peace with God upon their own walk or works. Thank God, we are privileged to
build wholly upon Christ. We are justified by faith, and faith has never self
as its object, but Christ. We are never called to believe in ourselves. It is
the Pharisee who thanks God that he is not as other men are; and his thanking
God for it does not make him any whit the less a deluded Pharisee. The publican
who can only smite upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner,
went down to his house justified rather than he. While that is fully so, it is
none the less certain that "faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone."
That would be a melancholy doctrine to teach that faith might be in the soul
and work nothing in it. It is not magnifying grace to suppose it less mighty
for purification than it is for justification. "Little children," says the
apostle, "let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous,
even as He is righteous." He cannot be righteous by his doings as Christ is
righteous, of course; but his practice of righteousness marks him out as one
whom God has justified, or declared rightous. "As many as are led by the Spirit
of God," says the apostle, "they are the sons of God."

How blessed to see
in a soul which has just gone through its passover night, and found in the
blood of the Lamb its own judgment borne by Another - and therefore for ever
rolled away - the promptitude with which it starts to leave the land of its
bondage. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under law,
but under grace"; and grace having been learnt, joying in God as having now
received the reconciliation, the joy of the Lord is the sure antidote for "the
pleasures of sin." There may be, and will be, much to be learnt yet: and
Pharaoh's power once for all broken, as it should seem, may struggle again for
the ascendency; yet in the true knowledge of grace will be found the secret of
power and the guarantee of holiness. Thus, then, the "ordinance of the
passover" connects these things:- "And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This
is the ordinance of the passover: there shall no stranger eat thereof: but
every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him,
then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat
thereof... All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger
shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover unto the Lord, let all his
males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it.. . for no
uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is
home-born, and to the stranger that sojourneth among you.

First, the
foreigner was to be excluded: the passover-feast was to be for Israel alone.
The seed of Abraham, the family of faith, alone can commemorate a deliverance
which they only have known. Yet God kept a door open for the stranger who would
submit to Israel's law; no more stringent conditions were required from him
than from the "home-born." Beautiful it is to see how all lines of demarcation
give way before the faith that asks, "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not
also of the Gentiles?" What can the answer be but, "Yea, of the Gentiles also!"
It is man that has fallen away from God, not God from man; it is man that puts
distance and erects barriers. God's choicest gifts are His most universal
gifts: air, rain and sun are for all; not a bird of the heavens but is welcome
to dip its bill in any of God's streams; and in the very centre of the city of
God, spite of its "wall great and high," flows that "water 'of life, clear as
crystal," as to which it is proclaimed: "Let him that is athirst come; and
whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely."

Yes, the wall is
impregnable to enemies, but the door is open to receive friends; no "strait
gate" either, save as the world makes it; not "strait" as if divine love were
straitened; not "strait," as if His arm were shortened that it could not save,
or His ear heavy that He cannot hear; not "strait," if you remember that it is
Christ by whom men enter in; but strait only to His enemies, to His despisers,
for no man cometh unto the Father but by Him.

The condition here upon which
the stranger could be received and be as one born in the land, was that of
circumcision: "Let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and
keep it; for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof." For the meaning of
this we must go backward and f orward. Back to Abraham, the "father of
circumcision," who received it as "the seal of the righteousness of faith which
he had, being yet uncircumcised;" but we must read this in the light of the
apostle's saying, that, "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the
Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."

Though "Abraham believed God" when under the starry sky God said to him (a lone
childless man), "So shall thy seed be," we cannot say that he had no more
confidence in the flesh. Though the flesh had thus far failed him, he later
took the bondwoman to his heart, and has a child which is but the "wild man,"
and not the child of promise after all. Nature being yet strong in Abraham, God
has to go on for fourteen years as if in His own mind the promise
slept-unfulfilled. But "when he was about a hundred years old," and Abraham's
body "was now dead," God can come in again, and with a simple yet grand
announcement which Abraham's faith had never yet grasped, He says, "I am the
Almighty God, walk before me, and be thou perfect." For a dead Abraham an
Al-mighty God alone would do; for Abraham could not help God to raise the dead.
There He gives him the covenant of circumcision. The apostle Christianizes it
for us in the epistle to the Colossians: it is "the putting off the body of the
flesh." Abraham's confidence was no more to be in the flesh, and thus his faith
is now shown in that "he considered not his body now dead, neither yet the
dead-ness of Sarah's womb." The Almighty God could do all, must do all. It is
this God we are called to know, and upon these terms are we to be with Him-the
terms of "the circumcision of Christ."

This is the secret of unclouded joy,
as it is of perpetual worship. For "in Christ are we circumcised with the
cir-cumcision made without hands, in the putting off the body of the flesh."
His cross is God's sentence upon the flesh, His judgment upon it as finding
nothing in it that He can accept or take pleasure in at all. But He has put it
away thus by the Cross, that it may be removed out of our way, as out of His.
In Christ raised from the dead He finds all His pleasure; and in Christ raised
from the dead we find all our acceptance with Him. In Christ, to us there can
be no condemnation; in Christ no body of flesh, no trace of sin inherent or
adherent. In Him then our joy abides unbroken; and the "joy of the Lord is our
strength." We may even glory in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may
rest upon us. We rejoice in Christ Jesus entirely when we have no more
confidence in the flesh.

How simple then, and how emphatic is the

"No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof!" The circumcised man
is the man who has heart for the feast, the one with whom faith is in simple
exercise; and faith, as I have said, is in an outside object, never in

This will make us understand readily some further distinctions. Not
only a foreigner, but a hired servant also is excluded: "A foreigner and a
hired servant shall not eat thereof." Mark it well; a hired servant cannot eat
the passover. This should speak loudly to us. The bondservant, born in the
house or bought with money, may eat. Such an one as Paul delights to call
himself Christ's bondservant; and His redeemed love to own that they are indeed
His, bought not with silver and gold, but with His precious blood. By birth
also - new birth - we are His servants. But how many systems of teaching there
are which deliberately adopt the principle of hire, and make eternal life
itself a thing to be gained by service! It is the natural thought in man's
heart, doubtless, as it was in the prodigal's before he met his father: "Make
me as one of thy hired servants." But when his father had met him, fallen on
his neck, and kissed him, could he look in that face and dishonour his father's
love by such a request? And how can God's children do this now, except by not
believing that love?

Grace and works are two entirely opposite principles;
by uniting them, grace is destroyed: "If by grace, then it is no more of works,
otherwise grace is no more grace." Grace alone breaks the dominion of sin, as
the apostle says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not
under the law, but under grace." The hireling with God is the very type of a
self-seeker, of one who serves God for his own ends; but the power of
Christianity is exhibited in this, "that they which live, live not unto
themselves, but unto Him that died for them, and rose again." The principle and
power for service under grace is expressed by the psalmist when he says, "O
Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid:
Thou hast loosed my bonds." It is a loved bond-service for bonds loosed!

you understand this, beloved friends? It is what in another way is expressed to
us in the last chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. "We have an altar," says
the apostle, "whereof they have no right to eat that serve the tabernacle." The
"altar that sanctifieth the gift" is Christ Himself; the value of His blessed
Person gave virtue to His own offering. The offering has been accepted. God has
received His portion of the peace-offering, and we have ours still to "eat;"
that is what the apostle refers to. But the altar as such is now empty; there
remaineth no more sacrifice for sins: none is needed, for "By one offering He
hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," and therefore our altar is
empty; but the Sacrifice, once offered there, is the food of our souls. If
propitiation is effected, if the blood has once for all sprinkled the
mercy-seat, can we avail ourselves of the altar? Most certainly; but it is now
to the priest's golden altar that we come. It is Christ still; and now "by
Him," says the apostle, "let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
continually; that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name." But is
"the fruit of our lips" the only form this takes? No; surely; the next words in
the passage are, "But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such
sacrifices God is well pleased." Thus upon this praise-altar, not alone our
praises go up to God, but our deeds also, as part of the self-same "sacrifice!"
Our lives are to be the outflow to Him of adoring gratitude. Here the hired
servant has no place, while redemption's bondservant is fully at home.

we have, "In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth aught of
the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof."

The lamb was eaten under the shelter of the atoning blood, and there alone. Men
may admire Christ, as it is the fashion very much to do, while denying the
whole reality of His atoning work; but the Lamb can only be eaten really there
where its virtue is owned. Apart from this, He cannot be understood or
appreciated. Thus the denial of His work leads to the denial of His Person.
Universalists and Annihilationists slip naturally into some kind of Unitarian
doctrines, as is evident on every hand; and so do Rationalists of various

This unites naturally with the commandment: "Neither shall ye
break a bone thereof." God will not have the perfection of Christ disfigured,
as it would be, in type, by a broken bone. With the bones perfect, a naturalist
can show the construction of the whole animal. Upon the perfection of the bones
depends the symmetry of form. God will have this preserved with regard to
Christ. 'Reverent handling becomes us as we seek to apprehend the wondrous
Christ of God. And how suited a place to preserve this reverence is "the
house," the shelter which the precious blood has provided for us! One might
ask, How can irreverence be found in any one so sheltered?

Alas! the
injunction, we know too well, is not unneeded.

We must pass on to what is still among the memorials of the passover - the sanctification of the

Sanctification naturally connects itself with redemption, as
this whole book of Exodus is witness. In the epistle to the Romans, in which so
many types of the first part of Exodus find their counterparts, immediately
after the full liberty of the redeemed man is reached, we hear of
sanctification in the 6th chapter. In Hebrews we find how we are sanctified to
God by the blood of atonement: "By the which will we are sanctified through the
offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

This connection is what
we find here in Exodus. Deliverance from wrath through the blood of the lamb
and our path begun with God; then we find the sanctification of the firstborn
among the memorials of their redemption (ch. 13).

It was upon the firstborn
that the judgment in Egypt had descended, but they were spared in Israel. The
firstborn are types of human excellency, the sons who had natural claim to
birthright, the place of honour and rule. "He smote the firstborn of Egypt, the
chief of all their strength," says the psalmist. "Reuben," says the dying
patriarch, "thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength,
the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power," though he had to add,
"Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Hence the firstborns in the book of
Genesis lose the place of blessing. Cain, what is he? Ishmael gives place to
Isaac; Esau to Jacob; Reuben to Joseph. "That which is first is natural, and
afterwards that which is spiritual."

But God takes up the firstborn here to
show us in this passover scene His judgment upon all that comes of us, and
after the blessing of redemption is learned, to teach us to devote to Himself
"the chief of all our strength." "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn,
whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and
beast; it is mine." All these must be claimed for judgment or preserved by
redemption according to what is afterwards said:- "Thou shalt set apart unto
the Lord all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a
beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord's. And every firstling of an
ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb, and if thou wilt not redeem it then thou
shalt break its neck; and all the firstborn of man among thy children thou
shalt redeem."

How vain to read these typical institutions merely as
ordinances in the letter, and no more! Why, of all beasts, the special
introduction of the ass here, and only of the ass, to be redeemed with the
self-same "lambs" wherewith man himself must be redeemed? Does it not show,
when our eye is upon that to which all these ordinances point, that man is
himself identified with the "ass" that must be redeemed or slain? Surely so. We
have only to listen to the words as to Ishmael, firstborn child of Abraham, to
find God characterizing him, not merely as in our version, "a wild man," but as
it is literally, "a wild ass man"- not the drudge, the ungainly ass we usually
see, but the Eastern animal, fleet, beautiful, uncontrollable in spirit and
energy. Nature shows itself in this child of Hagar: he, father of the Bedouin
Arab of our day; and she a type of "the law which gendereth to bondage."

Hagar's seed is thus the child of law - that law by which God educated Israel
in His holy ways, which after so many centuries of patient training developed
but a race which, like the wild ass, refused the "easy yoke" of Him who came to
teach us, in Himself, the lesson of obedience - the Son of God, yet Son of Man
in man's own world.

Such is man! whether educated, refined, tranied up in
piety, unless God comes in. Ishmael is not merely Israel's picture, he is yours
and mine naturally; and in him we may surely find the ass for whom the lamb
must die; or whose neck - a neck that will not bear a yoke - must be

But we can read even more in this Ishmael was not the child of
Hagar only, but of Abraham also. The man of faith had taken the bondservant to
his heart, and Ishmael was the fruit of it. Though Abraham's seed, Ishmael is
cast out. Is it not easily seen here that even the man of faith, if he take up
law to produce fruit by, will find that the law is the "strength of sin," not
of holiness? The wild ass nature will declare itself in the fruit which God
cannot own, instead of the fruit He has promised! Thus "the firstling of an
ass" speaks to us. Blessed be God, for us, because of what we were, the Lamb
has already yielded up its life. We have but to apprehend, in peace, the
blessedness into which we have entered under the shelter of the atoning