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Exodus 12:1-28 - Homilies By D. Young

The institution of the Passover.

Moses has now done with requesting and threatening Pharaoh. He leaves Pharaoh to the terrible smiting hand of Jehovah, and turns, when it is quite time to turn, to his own people. He who would not listen had to be left for those who would listen. It is now manifest that Moses is to be profitably occupied with matters which cannot any longer be delayed. It was needful to give warning concerning the death of the first-born to the Israelites quite as much as to Pharaoh. For some time they had been the passive, the scarcely conscious objects of Divine mercy and power. Painfully conscious they were of the physical hardships which Pharaoh inflicted on them, but they had little or no thought of deprivations and hindrances with respect to higher things. God had been leading them forward by a way they knew not, and now the hour has come for them to know the way and walk in it with understanding, choice, circumspection, and diligence. All at once, from being passive spectators in the background, they came forward to be prime actors in the very front; and God is here telling them through Moses what to do, and how they are to do it. More is to be done than simply wait for God's coming at midnight: that coming has to be made ready for with great solemnity and minuteness of preparation.

I. NOTICE HOW JEHOVAH HERE BRINGS THE VOLUNTARY ELEMENT INTO THE DELIVERANCE OF HIS PEOPLE AND THEIR CONNECTION WITH HIM . They are to be delivered , only as they are willing to be delivered. They are to signify their willing regard to conform with the will of God. The matter is made almost a personal one; if not brought before every Israelite, it is brought before every head of a household. Hitherto the immunities of the people during the course of the plagues had been secured in a mere external way. The protection belonged to a certain territory, and the Israelites had to exert no attention, take no trouble, in order to secure the protection. God kept the flies, the hail, and the darkness out of Goshen without requiring any mark upon the habitations and property of His people. But now, as the last visitation from God draws nigh, they have to take a part, and a very decided part, in making their exemption effectual. Jehovah comes, treating all who are in Egypt as belonging fully to Egypt, and it is for the Israelites to show by some significant act the deep difference which separates between them and the Egyptians. There had been, up to this time, certain differences between the Egyptian and the Israelite which did not depend upon the Israelite's choice. The Egyptian was master, and the Israelite slave; assuredly the Israelite had not chosen that. An Egyptian might soon lose all trace of his personal ancestry, but every Israelite could trace his ancestry back to Jacob, to Isaac, to Abraham; and this was a matter he had not chosen. The Egyptian belonged to a nation which had been smitten with nine plagues, but from the later and severer of these the Israelite dwelling in Goshen had been free; yet this freedom had been secured without making it to depend on the Israelite's own action. But now, as the day of redemption draws near, Jehovah reminds every Israelite that underneath all the differences which, in carrying out His purposes, He may make to exist among men, there is a common humanity. Before Him who comes smiting at midnight there is neither Israelite nor Egyptian, bond nor free; everything depends on the sprinkled blood; and the sprinkled blood depends on whether the Israelite has put it on his door of his own accord. If , that night, the Israelite did not of his own accord make a difference between himself and the Egyptian, then no natural distinction or past immunity was of the slightest avail. Even already it is being shown that circumcision availeth nothing, but a new creature. Israel can only be truly Israel as he is Israel inwardly. The mark upon the door without must come from the perfect heart and willing mind within. The only great abiding differences between man and man are such as we, fully considering our position, concur in making of our own free will True it is that we cannot establish and complete these differences in our own strength; but it is very certain that God will not do this—indeed, by the very limitations of the thing to be done, he cannot—except as we willingly and with alacrity give him opportunity.

II. In these instructions for the Passover, GOD BRINGS THE FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT OF PURE FAITH INTO ACTIVE EXERCISE . In Hebrews 11:28 we are told that by faith Moses kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them. And this faith extended from Moses to every head of a household in Israel. The whole instructions imply a trustful, disciplined spirit, on the part of those receiving them. Up to this time nothing had been required of them except to stand still and wait while God dealt with Pharaoh. They are left on one side, treated as helpless captives, whom it is vain to ask for what they cannot give. But now they are asked for something, and they have not only to render it willingly, but with the obedience of faith ( Romans 16:26 ). They are asked to slay a number of lambs, the number being determined according to a settled proportion. When the lambs are slain, the blood is to be sprinkled on the doors of each Israelite dwelling, and the flesh, prepared in a peculiar and exact way, is to be eaten by the inhabitants. Well , what should all this have to do with the protection of Israel? How should it advance the captives towards deliverance? If God had told them to get ready swords and spears, and discipline themselves for battle there would have been something intelligible in such instructions, something according to the schemes of human wisdom. But God does not deliver as men would deliver. It pleased him, in the fulness of time and by the foolishness of a slain lamb and sprinkled blood to save Israel. And yet it was not the slain lamb and sprinkled blood that saved by themselves. Moses and Aaron might have slain so many lambs and sprinkled their blood, and yet there would have been no efficacy in them. Their efficacy as protectors was not a natural efficacy. The efficacy lay in this: that the lambs were slain and the blood sprinkled in the obedience of faith. The thing done and the spirit in which it is done—truth and faith-go together in resistless power. There must be truth; faith by itself does nothing; for a man may believe a lie and then where is he? There must be faith; truth by itself does nothing; just as food does nothing unless a man takes it into his stomach. Of course it was quite possible for a sceptical Israelite to say, "What can there be in this sprinkled blood?"—and the very fact that such a question was possible shows how God was shutting his people up to pure faith. He asks them to act simply on the word of Moses. That word was now to be a sufficient reason for their conduct. Moses had done enough to show from whom he came. It is interesting to notice how faith stands here, asked for, the first thing, by Moses, even as it was afterwards by Jesus. As the Israelites believed because Moses spoke, so we must believe because Jesus speaks. Jesus speaks truth because it is true; but we must receive it and believe it, not because in our natural reason we can see it as true, but because of the ascertained and well-accredited character of him who speaks it. And we must show our faith by our works , as these Israelites did. It was not required of them to understand how this sprinkled blood operated. They acted as believing that it would operate, and the indisputable fact is that they were saved. It is a great deal more important to have a thing done, than to be able to understand all the ins and outs by which it is done. A man does not refuse to wind up his watch, because he cannot understand its intricate mechanism. His purposes are served, if he understands enough to turn the key. And so our purposes are served, if we have enough practical faith in Jesus to gain actual salvation through him. Exactly how Jesus saves, is a question which we may ask again and again, and vainly ask. Let us not, in asking it, waste time and risk eternity, when by the prompt and full obedience of faith, we may know in our experience, that however obscure the process may be, the result itself is a real and abiding one.

III. Looking back on this passover lamb in the light of the finished work of Jesus, we see HOW AMPLE A TYPE IT IS OF HIM WHO WAS TO COME AFTER AND STAND BETWEEN THE BELIEVING SINNER AND THE AVENGING GOD .

1 . The lamb was taken so as to bind families and neighbours together. This reminds us of Him, who gathers round himself, in every place, those who form the true family, the new family; joined together not after the temporary, dissolving order of nature , but after the abiding, ever-consolidating order of grace. Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, there the true Lamb of God is present in all those relations of which the passover lamb gave but a foreshadowing. The true families are made by the coalescence of those who, living in one neighbourhood, have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

2 . The passover lamb was without blemish. Consider what is said in this respect of Jesus.

3 . It was a male of the first year. So Jesus was taken in the freshness and strength of his manhood ( Luke 3:23 ).

4 . The flesh of the lamb was eaten in the company for which it had been slain. It is only when we bear in mind the first passover in Egypt, that we reach the significance of all that was said and done on the night when Jesus sat down for the last passover feast with his disciples. Jesus took the bread and said: "Take, eat; this is my body." There was to be no more killing of the lamb; the bread, easily made and easily portioned out, took its place. But still the Lord had to say "this is my body." A body had to be thought of as eaten, and not mere bread. Really, when we look into the matter, we find that the sprinkling of the blood was only part of the protection; the eating was protective also. Assuredly the sprinkling by itself would have counted for nothing, if the eating had been omitted. When the blood was sprinkled, it illustrated faith in him who comes between God and the sinner. When the flesh was eaten, it illustrated faith in him whose life becomes our life. Being unblemished, he makes us unblemished, and being acceptable to God, he makes us acceptable also.

IV. We observe that even before the event to be commemorated was accomplished JEHOVAH MADE CAREFUL PROVISION FOR A MEMORIAL OBSERVANCE . Thus another indication is given to us, as to the completeness and order with which his plans were laid. Directions are given for the present need, and along with them are combined directions by which the record of this great liberating event may be transmitted to the remotest generations. Henceforth, the beginning of the year is to date from the month of these dealings with the first-born. Then there was also the appointment of the feast of unleavened bread. So crushing was the blow of Jehovah, and so precipitate the consequent action of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, that the Israelites were hurried out of the land with their dough before it was leavened. Here then in this domestic operation of preparing the daily bread was an opportunity given of setting forth once a year the complete separation which God had effected between the Israelites and the Egyptians. When for seven days no leaven was put in the bread, the great fact to be called up was this: that the Egyptians had hastened the Israelites out of the land. This memorial act called up at once the great change which God had produced, and in a comparatively short time. But a little while before and the Egyptians were spoiling the Israelites, demanding from them bricks without straw; now the Israelites are spoiling the Egyptians, getting gold and silver and raiment from them in profusion, and with the utmost good-will.

V. ALL THE OTHER PREPARATIONS FOR JEHOVAH 'S VISIT WERE TO BE CROWNED BY MAKING PULL PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE . Jehovah was coming to open the prison-doors and strike off the fetters; and he would have the captives ready to march on the instant. He is the God who makes all things to work together for good to them who are called according to his purpose. To him who is truly and devoutly obeying God, nothing comes but he is able to meet it. The obedient is never taken at a disadvantage; he is never defrauded of a great opportunity. The children of Israel were to eat the lamb in full readiness for the journey; even though it might plausibly be said that it was a making ready before the time. The lesson is, obey God in everything where as here the terms of his requirement are plain to the understanding and imperative to the conscience. Reasons are not for you, who know only in part, but for him to whom the darkness and the light are both alike.— Y .

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