The Accompaniments of the Passover, pt. 2
by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
1And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2“Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.”
3And Moses said unto the people, “Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. 4This day came ye out in the month Abib. 5And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which He sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. 6Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. 7Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters. 8And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.’ 9And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. 10Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.
11“And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, 12That 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. 13And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.”
“And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, ‘Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel both of man and of beast it is Mine’” (13:1, 2). “The narrative of the Exodus from Egypt is suspended to bring in certain consequences, — responsible consequences for the children of Israel — consequences which flowed from their redemption out of the land of bondage. For, although, they are still in the land, the teaching of the chapter is founded upon their having been brought out, and it is indeed anticipative of their being in Canaan. If God acts in grace toward His people, He thereby establishes claims upon them, and it is these claims that are here unfolded” (Ed. Dennett).
A redeemed people become the property of the Redeemer. To His New Testament saints God says, “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). It is on this same principle that Jehovah here says unto Moses, “Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn”. The reference to the “firstborn” here should be carefully noted. It was the firstborn of Israel who had been redeemed from the death-judgment which fell upon the Egyptians, and now the Lord claims these for Himself. Typically this speaks of practical holiness, setting apart unto God. Thus the first exhortation in Romans which follows the doctrinal exposition in chapters 1 to 11 is, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Personal devotedness is the first thing which God has a right to look for from His blood-bought people.
“Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters” (13:6, 7). Typically this shows the nature of sanctification. Throughout Scripture “leaven” is the symbol of evil, evil which spreads and corrupts everything with which it comes into contact, for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). To eat “unleavened bread” signifies separation from all evil, in order that we may feed upon Christ. That this Feast lasted “seven days”, which is a complete period, tells us that this is to last throughout our whole sojourn on earth. It is to this that 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 refers. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Because we are saved by grace, through the sprinkled blood of Christ, it is not that we may now indulge in sin without fear of its consequences, or that grace may abound. Not so. Redemption by the precious blood of Christ imposes an additional responsibility to separate ourselves from all evil, that we may now show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Carelessness of walk, evil associations, worldliness, fleshly indulgences are the things which hinder us from keeping this Feast of unleavened Bread.
But much more is included by this figure of “leaven” than the grosser things of the flesh. We read in the N. T. of “the leaven of the Pharisees,” (Matthew 16:6). This is superstition, the making void of the Word of God by the traditions of men. Formalism and legality are included too. Sectarianism and ritualism as well are the very essence of Phariseeism. Then we read of “the leaven of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). The Sadducees were materialists, denying a spirit within man, and rejecting the truth of resurrection, (Acts 23:8). In its present-day form, Higher Criticism, Rationalism, Modernism answers to Sadduceeism. We also read of “the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). This is worldliness, or more specifically, the friendship of the world, as the various statements made about Herod in the Gospels will bear out. All of these things must be rigidly excluded. The allowance of any of them makes it impossible to feed upon Christ. Is it not because of our failure to “purge out the old leaven” that so few of the Lord’s people enter upon “the feast of unleavened bread”!
“And thou shall show thy son in that day, saying, this is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt” (13:8). Striking indeed is this. The basis of this Feast was what the Lord had done for Israel in delivering them from the land of bondage. In other words, its foundation was redemption accomplished, entered into, known, enjoyed. No soul can really feast upon Christ while he is in doubt about his own salvation. “Fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18) and this is the opposite of joy and salvation, of which “feasting” speaks. Little wonder then that there are so many joyless professing Christians. How could it be otherwise? “Rejoice” said Christ to the disciples, “that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Until this joy of assurance is ours there cannot be, we say again, any feasting upon Christ.
“And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth; for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt” (13:9). The Feast was a “sign” upon the hand, that is, it signified that their service was consecrated to God. It was also a “memorial between the eyes”, that is, upon the forehead, where all could see; which being interpreted, signifies, an open manifestation of separation unto God. Finally, it was to be accompanied with “the Lord’s law in their mouth”. The correlative of “law” is obedience. God’s redeemed are not a lawless people. Said the Lord Jesus, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and as John tells us, “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). Those who insist so urgently that in no sense are Christians under Law evidence a sad spirit of insubordination; it shows how much they are affected and infected, with the spirit of lawlessness which now, alas, is so prevalent on every side and in every realm.
“And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as He sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, that 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 his neck; and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem” (13:11-13). The deep significance of this cannot be missed if we observe the connection — that which precedes. In Exodus 12 we have had the redemption of the “firstborn” of Israel, here it is the redemption of the “firstling” of an ass. In the second verse of chapter 13 the two are definitely joined together — “Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb of the children of Israel, both of man and of beast; it is Mine”. That there may be no mistaking what is in view here, the Lord gave orders that the firstling of the ass was to be redeemed with a lamb, just as the firstborn of Israel were redeemed with a lamb on the passover night. Furthermore, the ass was to have its neck broken, that is, it was to be destroyed, unless redeemed; just as the Israelites would most certainly have been smitten by the avenging Angel unless they had slain the lamb and sprinkled its blood. The conclusion is therefore irresistible: God here compares the natural man with the ass! Deeply humbling is this!
The “ass” is an unclean animal. Such is man by nature; shapen in iniquity conceived in sin. The “ass” is a most stupid and senseless creature. So also is the natural man. Proudly as he may boast of his powers of reason, conceited as he may be over his intellectual achievements, the truth is, that he is utterly devoid of any spiritual intelligence. What saith the Scriptures? This: “Walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Ephesians 4:17, 18). Again: “If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4). How accurately, then, does the “ass” picture the natural man! Again: the “ass” is stubborn and intractable, often as hard to move as a mule. So also is the natural man. The sinner is rebellious and defiant. He will not come to Christ that he might have life (see John 5:40). It is in view of these things that Scripture declares, “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt” (Job 11:12).
It is instructive to trace the various references to the “ass” in Scripture.
The first mention of the “ass” is in Genesis 22; from it we learn two things. “Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his ‘ass’” (v. 3). The “ass” is not a free animal. It is a beast of burden, saddled. So, too, is the sinner — “serving divers lusts”. Second, “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship” (Genesis 22:5). The “ass” did not accompany Abraham and Isaac to the place of worship. Nor can the sinner worship God. Third, in Genesis 49:14 we read, “Issachar is a strong ass, couching down between two burdens”. So, too, is the sinner — heavily “laden” (Matthew 11:28). Fourth, God forbade His people to plow with an ox and ass together (see Deuteronomy 22:10). The sinner is shut out from the service of God. Fifth, in 1 Samuel 9:3 we are told, “And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost”, and though Saul and his servant sought long for them they recovered them not. The sinner, too, is lost, away from God, and no human power can restore him. Sixth, in Jeremiah 22:19 we read, “He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem”. Fearfully solemn is this. The carcass of the ass was cast forth outside the gates of the holy city. So shall it be with every sinner who dies outside of Christ; he shall not enter the New Jerusalem, but be “cast into the Lake of Fire”. The final reference to the “ass” is found in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, behold, thy King cometh unto thee, He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass”. Most blessed contrast is this. Here we see the “ass” entering Jerusalem, but only so as it was beneath the controlling hand of the Lord Jesus! Here is the sinner’s only hope — to submit to Christ!
In Genesis 16:12, we have a statement which is very pertinent in this connection, though its particular force is lost in the A.V. rendering; we quote therefore from the R.V., “And he shall be a wild-ass man among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him”. Those were the words of the Lord to Sarah. They were a prophecy concerning Ishmael. From Galatians 4 we learn that Ishmael stands for the natural man, as Isaac for the believer, the seed of promise. In full accord, then, with all that we have said above is this striking description of Sarah’s “firstborn”; he was a wild-ass man. The Bedouin Arabs are his descendants, and fully do they witness to the truth of this ancient prophecy. But solemn is it to find that here we have God’s description of the natural man. And more solemn still is what we read of Ishmael in Galatians 4; he “persecuted him that was born after the Spirit” (v. 29), and in consequence had to be “cast out” (v. 30).
In view of what has been said above, how marvelous the grace which provided redemption for “the firstling of an ass”! “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Ah, dear reader, have you taken this place before God? Do you own that the “ass” is an accurate portrayal of all that you are in yourself — unclean, senseless, intractable, fit only to have your neck broken? Do the words of the apostle suitably express the real sentiments of your heart — “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15)? Or, are you like the self- righteous Pharisee, who said, “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11)? Christ came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, (Luke 5:32). He came “To seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Again, we ask, Have you taken this place before God? Have you come to Him with all your wretchedness — undone, corrupt, guilty, lost? Have you abandoned all pretentions of worthiness and merit, and cast yourself upon His undeserved mercy? Have you seen your own need of the sinner’s Savior, and thankfully received Him? If you have, then will you gladly “set to your seal that God is true”, and acknowledge that the “ass” is a suitable figure to express what you were and still are by nature. And, then, too, will you praise God for the matchless grace which redeemed you, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Thank God for the Lamb provided for the ass. The more fully we realize the accuracy of this figure, the more completely we are given to see how ass-like we are in ourselves, the deeper will be our gratitude and the more fervent our praise for the redemptive and perfect Lamb.
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