We always find in the deliverances of God’s people that God is also going to punish the world. He bears testimony against it, a universal testimony, without excepting anybody. The law distinguishes men according to their acts, but the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, because they have not believed on Him whom God has sent. Hence the gospel begins with treating the world as already condemned. God has made trial, in every way, of the human heart. The gospel supposes that this probation is closed, and declares all the world lost. Souls often desire, and therefore need, to prove what their own strength is, and find they have none; even converted souls sometimes try to commend themselves thus to God. But it is to dishonour Jesus, and to deny their own condition as judged of God.
In Egypt God was content with the first-born of each house as a manifestation of His judgment. Pharaoh would not let the people of God go. When God demanded as a right that they should serve Him, the world—Pharaoh its prince—would not yield. Signs and plagues were then wrought to arrest their attention, and enforce the rights of God, but Egypt would not listen. Pharaoh was hard, then hardened, and at last becomes a monument of judgment for the instruction of all men. So it was in the days of Noah, and so it is now that the world once more is warned of the approaching judgments of God. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the gospel.
Meanwhile God demands a complete submission to His revealed will. He demands that the world should submit to Jesus: all those who will not shall be forced to do so when judgment comes, and then to their own confusion and endless sorrow. God presents His Son in humiliation, in order to save the world; but without submission to Jesus all is useless, because this is what God requires and values. To believe in the Son is eternal life, is salvation; to reject the Son of God is judgment. God will have a surrender of the heart to Jesus, as Saviour and Lord, a surrender to His own grace in Him. Thus is the heart and everything else changed, and all question as to good works is set aside. All here turns on receiving or rejecting Jesus. God passes over everything. Zaccheus may speak of what he has been in the habit of doing, but that is not the point now: “This day is salvation come to this house.” If Jesus is welcomed, there is life; if Jesus is refused, there must be vengeance by-and-by for those who do not submit. How happy for the poor convicted sinner that he has not to search in himself for something to present to God! If the heart is open, Christ is the grace and glory and perfection that is needed, and the moral effects soon and surely follow.
Still, the word of God presents the certainty of judgment. Satan has possession practically of the world, but God retains His rights. The unconverted are deceived by the enemy, and are in his power. Satan does all he can to make the world believe that they are free and happy, that they are, or may be, righteous and good enough. But God has His rights. The world will not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and hopes to escape judgment. Satan, too, takes advantage of all that God would employ to awaken and bless the soul. Thus, with the unconverted in Christendom, natural conscience is ashamed of that which the heathen do even in their religion. But this is used of Satan to persuade men that they can present themselves before God, and worship Him in private or public, because there is nothing in these lands so gross as among Pagans. But God holds to His rights, and nothing is well if Jesus be not received in faith.
In Jesus all that is perfect in God and man is presented to the conscience. The holiness of God is there, not condemning, but in perfect grace; but God will have an entire submission to Jesus. Nobody that comes is cast out. He is God in all His goodness to attract hearts, He is man in all His lowliness to exercise no will, no choice, but to receive every one that comes to Him, for such is the will of Him that sent Him; but God desires submission to Jesus. If Jesus is rejected, tins is the conclusive proof that the heart will not have God in any way that He takes in presenting Himself to man. It is the evidence of man’s heart, of his pride, his hardness, and his levity. Nothing like these can stand in the presence of God, and Jesus manifested His presence in love. Pride is ashamed of the cross. Vanity cannot go on before Jesus, despised and rejected of man. God searches the heart in this way, and man does not like it. He is bound to own himself a sinner, to submit his conscience, and give up his will; but he will not. It is the joy of Jesus to seek the wanderer; but to return in his rags, to shew bis wretchedness, is most distasteful to man’s nature: grace alone can make him do so. His pride therefore hates grace more even than law. The heart cannot endure to be laid completely bare; but if man is to be blessed, God must search the heart, and He saves the soul for ever. God acts according to what He is, not according to our thoughts. If man will not believe in Jesus, God will manifest what He is by judgment.
Egypt must be smitten. But first we have the security of such as submit to God, confiding in the sprinkled blood of the Lamb. Israel was well aware of the judgment about to be executed upon the land of Egypt. It should always be thus with renewed souls. They ought to consider the ways of God when He will judge the world in righteousness.
When God reveals the judgment, He reveals also the means of escaping it. The soul which has the fear of God keeps close to His word, and the question is raised between God and Israel. Could Israel stand if God came in judgment? The Egyptians were sinners, and would surely be judged; but if God came down to judge, what were the children of Israel? Where were their sins? God directs Moses that they should take of the blood of the slain lamb, and strike it on the two sideposts and on the upper door-post of their houses. “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.” To the mind of man it was folly, but the simplicity of faith honours the word of God, and acts upon it. The destroying angel of Jehovah passed through the land, and if there had been Israelites ever so honest, but without the blood on their door-posts, he must enter and slay. For God was under this sign judging sin, and sin levels all distinctions; and where the blood was not, there sin was in all its hatefulness to a holy God—sin unatoned for and unjudged.
So now it is, Christ and salvation, or no Christ and no salvation. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. There is the utmost certainty for those within the blood-sprinkled doors. It is the Lord who executes the judgment by His angel. It is impossible for Him to be deceived, and impossible for man to escape: but He says, “when I see the blood I will pass over you.” There need not be a doubt, whatever the judgment.
It is not said, when you see the blood, but “when I see “it. The soul of an awakened person often rests, not on its own righteousness, but on the way in which it sees the blood. Now, precious as it is to have the heart impressed with it, this is not the ground of peace. Peace is founded on God’s seeing it. He cannot fail to estimate it at its full and perfect value as putting away sin. It is He that abhors and has been offended by sin; He sees the value of the blood as putting it away. It may be said, But must I not have faith in its value? This is faith in its value, seeing that God looks at it as putting away sin. Your value for it looks at it as a question of the measure of your feelings. Faith looks at God’s thoughts.
God, then, sees the blood: on that we rest to escape judgment, not upon our own view either of sin or of the blood of the Lamb. God Himself estimates the blood of His own Son, as He it is who fully hates our sin: we feel both most when we enter into this, and rest on it in faith. Faith lays hold of His judgment of sin, and feels the need of His value for the blood of Christ.
This is the first great question—a question between a holy God and a sinful people. God appears as judge. The expiatory blood of redemption bars to Him the way as judge, and it secures the people infallibly; but God does not enter within— its value is to secure from judgment.
The people, having eaten in haste with the bitter herbs of repentance, begin their journey; but they do so in Egypt; yet now God can be, and he is, with them. The more we know Christ, and enjoy His purity, the more gravely shall we feel our sins. It was then that the Israelites ate the Lamb, but they ate it in security. It would have been sin to have thought that God could fail in His word or His deliverance: and it is sin now to doubt that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.
Israel may be in Egypt, but they are no longer slaves there. Their loins are girded that night, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in hand. Such, too, is our position in the world. Israel begin their journey with the question of sin settled. They had been secured, and they knew it, even in the midst of God’s judgment of sin. When the revelation of God enters the heart, one cannot find peace till the revelation of His grace is as clear to us as that of His dealing with sin. The Christian finds his judgment fallen on Christ Himself; he begins with submitting to the righteousness of God, who condemns our nature and acts, root and branch, but shews us the condemnation borne by the Lord Jesus.
Have you submitted to Jesus? God demands it. He asks for no other offering nor sacrifice; He presents Jesus, and shews you what you are. The worst sinners in the world may be received in grace by Jesus. “Behold now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation.”
When Israel went forth, the rage of Satan knew no bounds. Pharaoh made ready all the chariots of Egypt, and his horsemen and his army, and pursued after. Never had Israel been so sad as they were on the eve of their new deliverance. But now that sin in their case was settled, it was a question solely between God and the enemy. “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel* that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”
It is well to distinguish the judgment of the first-born from that of the Red Sea. The one was the firstfruits of the other, and ought to have deterred Pharaoh from his rash pursuits. But the blood, which kept the people from the judgment of God, meant something far deeper and far more serious than even the Red Sea, though judgment was executed there too. What happened at the Red Sea was, it is true, the manifestation of the illustrious power of God, who destroyed, with the breath of His mouth, the enemy that stood in rebellion against Him. It was final and destructive judgment which effected the deliverance of His people by His power. But the blood of the paschal lamb signified the moral judgment of God, and the full and entire satisfaction of all that was in His being. God, such as He was, in His justice, His holiness, and His truth, could not touch those who were sheltered by that blood. Was there sin? His love towards His people had found the means of satisfying the requirements of His justice; and at the sight of that blood, which answered everything that was perfect in His being, He passed over it consistently with His justice, and even His truth. Nevertheless, God, even in passing over, is seen as Judge. Hence, likewise, so long as the soul is on this ground, its peace is uncertain, its way in Egypt, even though all the while truly converted; because God has still the character of Judge to it, and the power of the enemy is still there.
At the Red Sea, God acts in power according to the purposes of His love. Consequently the enemy, who was closely pursuing the people, is destroyed without resource. This is what will happen to the people at the last day, already, in reality—to the eye of God—sheltered through the blood. As to the moral type, the Red Sea is evidently the death and resurrection of Jesus, and of His people in Him; God acting in it, in order to bring them out of death, where He had brought them in Christy and consequently beyond the possibility of being reached by the enemy. We are made partakers of it already through faith. Sheltered from the judgment of God by the blood, we are delivered by His power that acts for us from the power of Satan, the prince of this world. The blood keeping us from the judgment of God was the beginning; the power which raised us up with Christ made us free from the whole power of Satan who followed us, and from all his attacks and accusations.
The world who will follow that way is swallowed up in the waters. This is a solemn warning; for the world who call themselves Christians do take the ground of a judgment to come, and the need of righteousness; but not according to God. The Christian goes through it in Christ, knowing himself otherwise lost and hopeless—the worldling in his own strength, and is swallowed up. Israel saw the Red Sea in its strength, and thought escape was impossible. So an awakened conscience dreads death and judgment. But Christ has died and borne judgment for us, and we are secured and delivered by that which in itself we dreaded. The worldling, seeing this, adopts the truth in his own strength, as if there were no danger, and is lost in his false confidence. To the believer, what was the subject of his fear—death and judgment—gives him joy, now that he knows the results, in God’s hand, of the death of Christ. “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” Honey is taken out of the lion’s carcase. The resurrection of Christ is the standing witness that the Christian’s judgment is past, and that the world’s judgment is coming (Rom. 4; Acts 17). Christ is risen, and therefore we are justified in Him; so is the world to be judged by Him.