Exodus 12:37-14:20

The latter part of Exodus 12, and the whole of Exodus 13, are
occupied with two things. First, certain historical details concerning
the actual departure of the people from Egypt. Second, the record of
certain instructions, conveyed to them from God by Moses.

Verses 37-39, show us how greatly God had multiplied the people under
the afflictions of Egypt. They went out about 600,000 men, whereas when
Jacob went down there the number mentioned in Genesis 46: 27 is 70.
They went out complete with children, flocks and herds, as verse 38
records, but also with "a mixed multitude," who presently became a
source of weakness and trouble. This is a very significant statement
and worthy of note.

We do not find such a thought as God
having a people of His own until we come to the children of Israel in
Egypt. How striking then that as soon as God takes a people for His own
and calls them out of bondage to be for Himself, there should be the
intermingling of a foreign element, which helped to develop the
corruption innate in the people themselves. Thus it was with Israel,
and thus it has been in the history of the church.

40-42 show us the exactitude with which God keeps to His own appointed
time. He had mentioned 400 years to Abraham, as we see in Genesis 15:
13. We are not told the exact point from which the calculation of the
430 years starts, but on the very day it ended the people went out of
Egypt, and they are designated, "the hosts of the Lord," though to all
appearance they were but a large collection of liberated slaves. That
night of their deliverance they were never to forget. That it was the
"self-same day" of the Divine purpose is again affirmed in verse 51.

We have, in the intervening verses, further instructions from the Lord
as to the observance of the Passover. It was to be what we may call a
household feast, for all outside Israelite households were excluded
from it. The hired servant, who might at short notice quit his job, was
not regarded as of the household, whereas the bondman, who had sold
himself for money, according to the regulations of Exodus 21: 1-6, was
considered as belonging to it, under one stringent condition, that he
was circumcised.

This feast was for all Israel and none
could excuse themselves from it. All were to join in this observance
which kept alive the memory of the great deliverance from Egypt, while
at the same time it had a prophetic value, as pointing forward to the
death of Christ. This is apparent to us though in all probability the
children of Israel did not know it. In the same way the intention of
the Lord in instituting His supper is that all His saints should
observe it; the memorial of His death on the one hand, while pointing
forward to His coming on the other.

But whether the native
Israelite or the servant bought with money or the stranger, all must be
circumcised. This outward rite—a cutting around and off of man's flesh—
pointed on to that which was effected in the death of Christ, as is
shown in Colossians 2: 11. In this verse the words "of the sins," have
very little manuscript authority. It should read, "putting off the body
of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Christ" (New Trans.) As
Christians we are to recognize that we have put off the flesh in its
totality in the death of Christ. We are "circumcised" in His
"circumcision;" that is, His death.

The rite was one which
only applied to the males among the people. They had to suffer the pain
and inconvenience of it, the female was regarded as circumcised in the
male. In this respect also the type is a fitting one, for all the
suffering entailed fell upon Christ and we are circumcised in Him. Now
that the type has been fulfilled in His death, those who would merely
enforce the outward rite are dismissed as the "concision," which means
a mere cutting down, a lopping off, and not a complete removal. The
true circumcision today are those who worship God in the Spirit,
rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh as said in
Philippians 3: 2, 3. Such treat the flesh as condemned, and hence are
not merely trying to lop off its more objectionable habits.

Exodus 13 opens with another very important matter. In the previous
chapter the firstborn had been sheltered by the blood of the lamb. They
are now formally claimed by God as belonging to Him. "They are Mine,"
is the word, and hence Moses was to "sanctify" them; that is, set them
apart for God's special pleasure and service. If we turn to Numbers 3:
40-45, we find this confirmed, but that the Levites were taken in
substitution for the firstborn to do that service. This is the first
mention in Scripture of sanctification as applied to persons. The
previous use was in Genesis 2, when God sanctified, or set apart, the
seventh day of creation. Both scriptures help to show the simple
meaning of "sanctification"—"to set apart for God." It is because we
are thus sanctified that practical sanctification is incumbent upon us.
We have not been sheltered from judgment by the blood of Christ to set
us free to please ourselves but to be for Him.

Verses 3-10
made clear to Israel that the feast of Unleavened Bread was not
something to be observed just as they came out of Egypt, and then to be
dismissed as done with; It was for all time, as a memorial of the great
deliverance. If we had only the record in the three Gospels of the
institution of the Lord's Supper, it might be thought that the bearing
of that did not extend beyond the night in which He was betrayed. But
the fourth record, in 1 Corinthians 11, settles the point. It is to be
observed, "till He come." Israel was to "keep this ordinance in his
season from year to year." We observe the Lord's Supper from Lord's Day
to Lord's Day.

Verses 11-16, present another commandment to
be observed in Israel, as a further reminder of how God delivered them
from Egypt. All the firstborn in Israel, whether of man or beast, were
to be regarded as the Lord's. That the firstborn of Israel should be
linked together with the firstling of a donkey is a humbling thing, but
thus it is in verse 13. The firstborn of man must be redeemed. The
firstling of an ass might not be, and in that case it suffered death
itself. If redeemed, it was by the death of a lamb in its room and
stead, just as the firstborn were redeemed in Exodus 12. Thus again do
we have presented to us that redemption is made effective on a
substitutionary basis.

From verse 17 we learn that the
Philistines were already settled in the coastal plain of Palestine, and
that they were a warlike race. Now for the pilgrim people of God war is
inevitable, but God in His compassion did not mean Israel to be faced
with it within a few days of their deliverance. Hence what looked like
the short and easy cut to Canaan was avoided and the longer route by
the Red Sea was ordered of God. There was therefore a good reason for
the longer and more difficult route, just as there are good reasons for
difficult passages in the lives of saints today. Though the more
difficult road had to be taken, they went under authority. Translators,
it appears have some difficulty as to the exact meaning of the word
translated "harnessed," but in a general way it surely indicates that
they went forth in good order as a host and not as a disorderly rabble.

We see from verse 19 how observant Moses was of the dying
charge of Joseph, though uttered long before Moses was born. In this
charge, as Hebrews 11 shows, the faith of Joseph expressed itself, for
he knew it would be better for his bones to rest in the land in which
Messiah's glory should shine than lie entombed in the elaborate and
costly sepulchres of Egypt. God did not permit the desires of his faith
to be overlooked.

The closing verses of the chapter record
how God put before His people the visible symbol of His presence. He
became their Leader in this striking way and in spite of all their
subsequent failure and faithlessness did not forsake them. In the
pillar of cloud He was their guide by day. In the pillar of fire He was
their light by night. And what He was, He was always. What they had in
this visible way we have in His word today and in the presence of His
Holy Spirit.

Exodus 14 opens with definite direction being
given through Moses as to the first movement they were to make. There
was nothing haphazard about this, though it led them into what seemed
an impossible position. God knew exactly what Pharaoh's reaction to
this move would be. Panic-stricken he had let the people go, but he was
just the same Pharaoh. His heart was quite unchanged and the hour had
now come for his destruction. When God hardens a man's heart his doom
is fixed, and God would be honoured in the judgment of him and his

Thus it turned out in the event. The move they made,
as Divinely directed, appeared to the warlike eye of Pharaoh as a
colossal military mistake. They were entangled in the land, with the
sea before them and the wilderness on either flank It was so apparent
that Pharaoh could not resist the temptation to have his last revenge
upon them So collecting the very flower of his formidable army, he
planted his forces behind them; the obvious thing to do from a military
standpoint. The children of Israel were now hemmed in by death on every
side—death by drowning in front; death by wilderness starvation on the
right hand and on the left; death by the sword of Pharaoh behind.

This the people saw quite clearly They cried out to the Lord, which was
right. But they also cried out against Moses, which betrayed their lack
of faith. Modern discoveries of the many graves of Egypt and their
treasures enable us to appreciate the sarcastic sting in their words,
"Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die
in the wilderness?" A few days before, "the people bowed the head and
worshipped" (Exodus 12: 27). How different now! Immediately danger
appears they betray their lack of faith and claim that they had asked
to be let alone to serve the Egyptians. Here at once we see the germ of
that unbelief which eventually led to their carcases falling in the
wilderness. They did die in the wilderness, not because Moses or God
failed them, but "because of unbelief" (Heb. 3: 19).

words were a cutting blow to Moses, but his answer to them is very
fine. No recrimination, but rather a word of calm faith, calculated to
still their panic and assure their hearts. The people put their
unbelief between themselves and the Egyptians, whereas he saw the Lord
between them, and about to act on their behalf. It was not theirs to
act, but to see the salvation of the Lord as He acted on their behalf.

While Moses displayed this calm faith that may well fill us with
admiration, he yet made a mistake. He bade the people to "stand still,"
whereas when he cried to the Lord the command was that they "go
forward," and he was to act on behalf of the Lord. Their going forward
was to be an act of faith by which they would appropriate the
remarkable salvation that God was about to effect. If they had remained
stationary, the dividing of the sea would not have delivered them.

Can we not see a striking type here? The great salvation which is ours is not something that we accomplish, but it is something that we appropriate in
faith, and we are warned against neglecting it. By His death and
resurrection Christ has wrought salvation on our behalf, and we have no
hand in it. But this does not shut us up to that species of fatalism
which would say that there is nothing we can do about it, and that, if
we are to be saved, we shall be without any move on our part; and that
if we are not going to be saved, that is final and nothing we can do
will alter it. Truly only Christ can accomplish the work but it is ours
to go forward in faith and receive for ourselves the benefit of what He
has done. Let us endeavour to hold evenly the balance between these two
sides of Gospel truth.

Moses was to act, lifting up his rod
over the sea, when the Lord would carve a way through it for His
people. That way would be salvation to Israel but destruction to proud
Pharaoh and his host, and that in such signal fashion as to be
remembered through many generations. We see in type that a way of life
was to be made through the waters of death.

Verses 19 and
20 record what we may venture to call the decisive move in this
tremendous drama. The Angel of God in the pillar of cloud removed from
the van of the Israelites and planted Himself between them and the
pursuing Egyptians. The Angel was about to walk with them through the
waters of death, but He would do so as covering their rear with the
cloud of His presence. Whatever was now about to happen, no Egyptian
would be able to strike a single Israelite unless he could pierce
through the cloud. Before he could touch any of those who were escaping
from slavery he would have to overcome God Almighty!

not this move then the most decisive of the whole remarkable series? It
happily illustrates the great word that the Apostle wrote in Romans 8:
31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can
be against us?" Yes, indeed! Who can be? Let us never lose the sense of
the security and the triumph of this wonderful fact.