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The Passover, pt. 1

by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

 

1And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2“This month [shall be] unto you the beginning of months: it [shall be] the first month of the year to you. 3Speak ye unto 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 an house: 4And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take [it] according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take [it] out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 7And they shall take of the blood, and strike [it] on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; [and] with bitter [herbs] they shall eat it. 9Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast [with] fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. 10And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 11And 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.

12“‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I [am] the Lord. 13And 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.’” 

 

In Exodus 11:4-7 we read, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it anymore. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue against man or beast, that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.’”  Notice carefully the exact wording of verse 5: it was not “all the firstborn of the land of Egypt shall die”, but “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.” This Divine sentence of judgment included the Israelites equally with the Egyptians. Yet in the seventh verse we are told “not a dog shall move his tongue against any of the children of Israel”, for the Lord “put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel”. Here is what the infidel would call ‘a flat contradiction!’ But as we are fully assured that there can be no contradictions in “the Word of Truth”, so we know there must be an interpretation which brings out the harmony of this passage. What that is, no mere human wisdom could have devised. The sentence of universal condemnation proceeded from the righteousness of God; the “difference” which He put between the Egyptians and Israel was the outflow of His grace. But how can justice and mercy be reconciled? How can justice exact its full due without excluding mercy? How can mercy be manifested except at the expense of justice? This is really the problem that is raised here. The solution of it is found in Exodus 12. All the firstborn in the land of Egypt did die, and yet the firstborn of Israel were delivered from the Angel of Death! But how could this be? Surely both could not be true. Yes they were, and therein we may discover a blessed illustration and type of the contents of the Gospel.

Exodus 12 records the last of the ten plagues. This was the death of the firstborn, and inasmuch as death is “the wages of sin”, we have no difficulty in perceiving that it is the question of sin which is here raised and dealt with by God. This being the case, both the Egyptians and the Israelites alike were obnoxious to His righteous judgment, for both were sinners before Him. This was dealt with at some length in our last paper. In this respect the Egyptians and the Israelites were alike: both in nature and in practice they were sinners. “There is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22, 23). It is true that God had purposed to redeem Israel out of Egypt, but He would do so only on a righteous basis. Holiness can never ignore sin, no matter where it is found. When the angels sinned God “spared them not” (2 Peter 2:4). The elect are “children of wrath even as others” (Ephesians 2:3). God made no exception of His own blessed Son: when He was “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21) — He spared Him not (Romans 8:32). But all of this only seems to make the problem more impossible of solution.

The Israelites were sinners. Their guilt was irrefutably established. A just God can “by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).  A sentence of death was passed upon them (Exodus 11:5). Nothing remained but the carrying out of the sentence. A reprieve was out of the question. Justice must be satisfied; sin must be paid its wages. What, then? Shall Israel perish after all? It would seem so. Human wisdom could furnish no solution. No; but man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and He did find a solution. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20), and yet grace was not shown at the expense of righteousness. Every demand of justice was satisfied, every claim of holiness was fully met. But how? By means of a substitute. Sentence of death was executed, but it fell upon an innocent victim. That which was “without blemish” died in the stead of those who had “no soundness” (Isaiah 1:6) in them. The “difference” between the Egyptians and Israel was not a moral one, but was made solely by the blood of the paschal lamb! It was in the blood of the Lamb that mercy and truth met together and righteousness and peace kissed each other (Psalm 85:10).

The whole value of the blood of the paschal lamb lay in its being a type of the Lord Jesus — “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8). Here is Divine authority for our regarding the contents of Exodus 12 as typical of the Cross-work of our blessed Savior. And it is this which invests every detail of our chapter with such deep interest. May our eyes be anointed so that we shall be able to perceive some, at least, of the precious unfoldings of the truth which are typically set forth in our chapter.

The first great truth to lay hold of here is what we are told in the 11th verse: “It is the Lord’s passover”. This emphasizes a side of the truth which is much neglected today in evangelical preaching. Gospellers have much to say about what Christ’s death accomplished for those who believe in Him, but very little is said about what that Death accomplished Godwards. The fact is that the death of Christ glorified God if never a single sinner had been saved by virtue of it. Nor is this simply a matter of theology. The more we study the teaching of Scripture on this subject, and the more we lay hold by simple faith of what the Cross meant to God, the more stable will be our peace and the deeper our joy and praise. The particular aspect of truth which we now desire to press upon the reader is plainly taught in many a passage. Take the very first (direct) reference to the “Lamb” in Scripture. In Genesis 22:8 we read that Abraham said to his son, “God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering”. It was not simply God would “provide” a lamb, but that He would “provide Himself a lamb”. The Lamb was “provided” to glorify God’s character, to vindicate His throne, to satisfy His justice, to magnify His holiness. So, too, in the ritual on the annual Day of Atonement, we read of the two goats. Why two? To foreshadow the two great aspects of Christ’s atoning work — Godwards and usward. “And he shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat” (Leviticus 16:7, 8).

It is this aspect of truth which is before us in Romans 3:24-26, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood to declare His righteousness... that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 we read, “Christ our Passover”. He is now our Passover, because He was first the Lord’s Passover (Exodus 12:11). If further confirmation of what we have said above be needed it is supplied by another term which is used in Exodus 12:27. Here we are expressly told that the Passover was a “sacrifice”“It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover”. Nor is this the only verse in the Scriptures where the Passover is called a sacrifice. In Exodus 34:25 we read that God said unto Israel, “Thou shalt not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover be left unto the morning”.

Again, in Deuteronomy 16:2 we read, “Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the Passover unto the Lord thy God”. So also in the New Testament, it is said, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). We emphasize this point because it has been denied by many that the Passover was a “sacrifice”. Objectors have pointed out that the paschal lamb was not slain by the priest, nor was it offered upon the altar, for there was no altar which God could own in Egypt. But such an objection is quickly removed if reference be made to the later Scriptures on the subject. After the Exodus the “passover” was never allowed to be killed anywhere except in the place which God had chosen. This is abundantly clear from Deuteronomy 16:4,5, “And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coasts seven days, neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning. Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee; but at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt”. The Israelites were here expressly forbidden to kill the passover in their own homes, and were commanded to sacrifice it only “at the place which the Lord Thy God shall choose to place His name in”.

What that “place” was we may learn from Deuteronomy 12:5,6 and similar passages — it was the Tabernacle, afterwards the Temple. That the Passover was a “sacrifice”, a priestly offering, is further proven by the fact that in Numbers 9:6,7,13, it is specifically designated a “corban”, and it is certain that nothing was ever so called except what was brought and offered to God in the Tabernacle or the Temple. Furthermore, there is definite scripture to show that the blood of the paschal sacrifice was poured out, sprinkled, offered at the altar by the priests. “Thou shalt not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of My sacrifice remain until the morning” (Exodus 23:18) — only the priests “offered” the blood. Plainer still is the testimony of 2 Chronicles 30:15,16, “Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the Lord. And they stood in their place after their manner according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood”. And 2 Chronicles 35:11, “And they killed the passover and the priests sprinkled the blood”. So again Ezra 6:20, “For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves”. Note “the priests and Levites” killed the passover for all the children of the captivity!

Now there are two lines of thought associated with sacrifices in Scripture. First, a sacrifice is a propitiatory satisfaction rendered unto God. It is to placate His holy wrath. It is to appease His righteous hatred of sin. It is to pacify the claims of His justice. It is to settle the demands of His law. God is “light” as well as “love”. He is of “purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13). This truth is denied on every side today. Yet this should not surprise us; it is exactly what prophecy foretold (2 Timothy 4:3,4). Plain and pointed is the teaching of Scripture on this subject. Following the rebellion and destruction of Korah, we read that all the Congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron saying, “Ye have killed the people”. What was God’s response? This: “The Lord spake unto Moses saying, ‘Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment’” (Numbers 16:45). How was the consuming anger of God averted? Thus: “And Moses said unto Aaron, ‘Take a censer and put fire therein off the altar, and put on incense and go quickly unto the congregation and make an atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun.’ And Aaron took as Moses commanded and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people; and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed” (Numbers 16:46-48)!

A similar passage is found in the last chapter of Job. There we read, “The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against thee and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams and go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly.’” Here, then, is the primary thought connected with “sacrifice”. It is a bloody offering to appease the holy wrath of a sin-hating and sin-punishing God. And this is the very word which is used again and again in connection with the Lord Jesus the Great Sacrifice. Thus, Ephesians 5:2: “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”  Again, “Once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, (Hebrews 9:26). And again, “This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). The meaning of these passages is explained by Romans 3:25,26: Christ was unto God a “propitiation”, an appeasement, a pacification, a legal satisfaction. Therefore could the forerunner of the Redeemer say, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The second thought associated with “sacrifice” in the Scriptures is that of thanksgiving and praise unto God; this being the effect of the former. It is because Christ has propitiated God on their behalf that believers can now offer “a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). Said one of old, “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy” (Psalm 27:6). Said another, “I will sacrifice unto Thee with a voice of thanksgiving”(Jonah 2:9). This is why, after being told that “Christ our Passover hath been sacrificed for us”, the exhortation follows “therefore let us keep the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:7). The paschal lamb was first a sacrifice unto God; second, it then became the food of those sheltered beneath its blood.

The ritual in connection with the Passover in Egypt was very striking. The lamb was to be killed (Exodus 12:6). Death must be inflicted either upon the guilty transgressor or upon an innocent substitute. Then its blood was to be taken and sprinkled upon the door-posts and lintel of the house wherein the Israelites sheltered that night. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22), and without sprinkling of blood is no salvation. The two words are by no means synonymous. The former is for propitiation; the latter is faith’s appropriation. It is not until the converted sinner applies the blood that it avails for him. An Israelite might have selected a proper lamb, he might have slain it, but unless he had applied its blood to the outside of the door, the Angel of Death would have entered his house and slain his firstborn. In like manner today, it is not enough for me to know that the precious blood of the Lamb of God was shed for the remission of sins. A Savior provided is not sufficient: He must be received. There must be “faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25), and faith is a personal thing. I must exercise faith. I must by faith take the blood and shelter beneath it. I must place it between my sins and the thrice Holy God. I must rely upon it as the sole ground of my acceptance with Him.

 

 

 

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