It was the mind of God that the moment, the might and the means of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt should never be forgotten. How important to note that God decreed that “this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” Ex.12.14. Again it is decreed that this momentous occasion “is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt; this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” Ex.12.42. Sadly, due to human failure, this has not always been the case, but regardless of the unappreciative attitude of men, the night of deliverance was highly significant in the eyes of God and fundamental to the outworking of His purposes as far as His people are concerned. It will ever be in the Divine estimation “the ordinance of the passover” Ex.12.43. The Passover will always be foundational to the relationship of God with His people, and in this regard is the first of the seven Feasts of Jehovah as detailed in Leviticus chapter 23. If it is so precious to God, it is exceedingly important that we should not only be familiar with its historical details, but also with its spiritual significance as a foreshadowing of the purpose, the price and the power of the redemption that we have experienced and presently enjoy through our Lord Jesus Christ. Its relevance to us today could not be clearer. While it is full of devotional truth for our hearts it has much practical import and it is in the context of the purity of the assembly at Corinth that “Christ our passover” 1Cor.5.7, is introduced.
In Genesis God had displayed His mighty power in creation. That perfect work was blighted by sin and the first book in our Bible ends with Jacob and his progeny in Egypt. The book that had started so delightfully with life, with God and man in sweet communion, ended with death and the searching record is that “Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” Gen.50.26. Much of a depressing nature had intervened between Eden and Egypt, and a superficial assessment of all that had taken place would lead to the unhealthy conclusion that everything was happening in a merely incidental fashion without any overarching control. Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth.
When God called Abram it was a defining moment. God had more in mind than his deliverance from the darkness of idolatry and the introduction of the principles of pilgrimage in this dark world. Promises were given of an earthly and heavenly seed, and in Abram the seed bed of a nation was established; albeit it would be hundreds of years before that nation would in its fullest sense come into existence. Abraham is described as “the father of us all” and “a father of many nations” Rom.4.16,17, and is truly the father of the faithful. For the purpose of this study it is both relevant and important to recognise him as the founder of the nation of Israel and to appreciate that through his call God was taking the initial steps towards the ultimate establishment of His earthly people.
Having brought forth the founder of the nation, through the wonders of His sovereign call, God revealed His mind to Abram. It is precious to observe that it is possible for an individual to be in such an intimate position that God would be pleased to disclose what He purposes and when He will bring about its fulfilment. It was a remarkable night when “He said unto Abram, ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance’” Gen.15.13,14. The coming out is the story of the early chapters of the book of Exodus and the Passover is central to that moment of emancipation.
There may be times when it appears that God has forgotten. When Joseph was unjustly detained in an Egyptian prison, when the rigours of bondage were most keenly felt by the children of Israel, and their cries by reason of bondage seemed to go unanswered, there would, from an earthly perspective, be every reason for thinking that God was unfaithful to His promise. Dependence on God must rise above appearances and circumstances, and faith must take hold upon His unfailing Word. In accordance with His perfect timing and consistent with His promise, “their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” Ex.2.23-25. It is reassuring that this God is our God. “For I am the Lord, I change not” Mal.3.6.
God is still on the throne,
He never forsaketh His own;
His promise is true, He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne.
(Kittie L. Suffield)
The time had come for God to act but how would He make His purpose a reality? Just as God had made choice of a man as the father of the nation so He made choice of another man to lead His people out of bondage and bring them to the birth, a new relationship with God as shall be noted later in this chapter. The early chapters of the book of Exodus provide a most encouraging commentary on how God selects an individual, moulds and shapes him, develops him often in secret and fits him for His service. God not only calls but fits and equips for service. Moses is the man in question and is in many ways a beautiful picture of our Lord Jesus, but it must be remembered that Moses was susceptible to failure whereas the Saviour was and is beyond every hint or possibility of fallibility. This avenue of truth is a very commendable and profitable study, but space forbids any further development of it.
Having preserved Moses while under the sentence of death, and having ordered affairs that he should be brought up and skilled in the palace of Pharaoh, God, in a remarkable way, interested him in the supernatural as he was attracted to “behold the bush [which] burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” Ex.3.2. Occupation with such a sight led to a profound but essential experience of gaining a deeper understanding of God and His attributes. He also had to gain an understanding of his own depravity and weakness through the lessons taught, for example, by putting his hand into his bosom and by it becoming “leprous as snow” Ex.4.6. It is clear from Exodus chapter 3 that Moses was God’s choice. Moreover it is equally clear that he was given a definite mandate: “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt” Ex.3.10. He was the one through whom God would work. Now is not the time to dwell on the reluctance of Moses to acquiesce or how God graciously countered his objections, but rather it is appropriate to highlight the fact that God had a chosen instrument and that, regardless of human failure, His purpose would be accomplished.
It is understandable that much attention be given to the detailed account of the children of Israel being brought out of the slavery of Egypt. At the same time it would be unfortunate not to appreciate that the delivery of the firstborn, under the shelter of the blood, represented safety and deliverance from the execution of the tenth and final plague or judgment. Those that treated the children of Israel so cruelly would be held accountable and bear commensurate judgment and Pharaoh would learn that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” Heb.10.31. In executing such judgment God was not only causing Egypt to bear the full consequences of its cruelty and maltreatment of His people, but He was demonstrating to and communicating to them His total abhorrence of all that Egypt represents. John Grant comments: “There is nothing in that land which is exempt from His condemnation. The rivers, the fish, the cattle, the land, the people all feel the stroke of judgment. Hail comes from heaven, darkness covers the land and at last the greatest blow of all falls when the firstborn of all, from the monarch to the lowest servant, and the firstborn of all cattle, die under the hand of Jehovah. Those who were to be brought out of Egypt will learn by the ‘sign’ that there is nothing that is of value to Jehovah, and, no matter how attractive it may appear to the eye, it is only fit for judgment”1.
1 Grant, John. “Exodus – What the Bible Teaches”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 2004.
A firm grasp of the Divine hatred of Egypt and everything associated with it would be a great preservative and may we never lose sight of the reality that “the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” Ex.11.7. It is not surprising that the devil, in his capacity as the head of the world system is unrelenting in his efforts to remove that distinction that God has so clearly made. May we be preserved from going down to Egypt as Abram did, with such disastrous consequences, Genesis chapter 12. Let us remember the Lord said of His own “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” Jn.17.16. We are exhorted “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” 1Jn.2.15.
The moment came when Moses delivered his final message to Pharaoh. It was a message communicated with solemnity, and dignity, and carried the majesty of the representative of the God Who had sent him. The timidity of a former day had gone, and without fear, Moses reminded Pharaoh that “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die … 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 any more” Ex.11.5,6. Furthermore he reminded him that “against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast” Ex.11.7. Pharaoh had a big lesson to learn. Just as he had introduced a sentence of death upon the male children of the Israelites so now a far greater judgment would fall upon the firstborn in Egypt. The truth remains, “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” Gal.6.7. As Moses, in a state of anger, emerged from addressing Pharaoh, the Lord revealed to him that Pharaoh would neither listen, nor let the people go. Having heard the communications and witnessed all the wonders performed by Moses and Aaron we read the weighty words that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land” Ex.11.10. It is important to observe that God acted in this way toward Pharaoh only after he had repeatedly rejected every Divine entreaty and defied every opportunity to let the people go. The attitude of Pharaoh to God remained unchanged and unrepentant. The promise of impending judgment does not in itself bring about any change of attitude. Dennett observes: “He rejected the word of the Lord, placed himself in open antagonism to Him and His people; and now his heart is judicially hardened. And God still acts upon the same principle. We thus read in 2Thessalonians of some on whom He will send strong delusion that they should believe a lie. ‘But wherefore? Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved’”2. It is sad when such a situation is reached but “these things were written aforetime … for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” Rom.15.4.
Having displayed the glory of His power and His opposition to Pharaoh and to every aspect of the idolatrous systems represented by Egypt, God turned His attention, as we have already noted, in keeping with the impeccable timing of His purpose, to the emancipation of His people not only in terms of delivering them from tyranny but bringing them out of the land itself altogether. This moment is spoken of as a completely new beginning: “the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, ‘This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year unto you’” Ex.12.1. What had gone before did not count with God as far as this new chapter was concerned. Redemption is the start of an entirely new relationship, a new journey and the commencement of a new calendar of feasts already appropriately described as the Feasts of Jehovah. Of the seven feasts the Passover was the only one that was instituted and first celebrated in Egypt.
The seventh month of Israel’s civic calendar became the first month, the month Abib according to Ex.13.4. It is highly significant that Abib is associated with “green ears” Lev.2.14, that is, shoots of spring. The testing days of winter have receded and a new phase has begun. In the case of Israel the days of bondage and hardship were behind them, and truly for them it was a fresh start. Any contemplation of their experience of redemption compares very beautifully with the moment of personal salvation. How appropriate to observe that the Lord spoke to Nicodemus about the necessity of the new birth, Jn.3.7, and how Paul reminded the Corinthians that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2Cor.5.17. Salvation is not reformation; it is glorious and gracious regeneration.
The new beginning is established on the bedrock of redemption. Everything that follows and is developed in the experiences of the nation will flow from the impregnable foundation of redemption through blood and power enjoyed on that never-to-be-forgotten night when the Passover was instituted. After the initial institution in Egypt it was never kept in exactly the same way again. As we ponder the very precise instructions that the Lord gave unto Moses and Aaron in relation to the first Passover it is not difficult to detect a parallel with how the Lord Jesus made arrangements for the keeping of the last Passover before He went to the cross. How precious that “He sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat’” Lk.22.8. In terms of the detail given in Exodus chapter 12 it is important to note:
Moses and Aaron were instructed to speak “unto all the congregation of Israel” Ex.12.3. Now for the first time the idea of a company emerges and, while the company is made up of individual families, God is making it known that these people are distinct in their corporate identity and as such are infinitely precious to Him. It was ever His purpose to have “an holy people unto the Lord thy God” and in light of this He “hath chosen [them] to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” Deut.7.6.
With the sentence of death passed upon the firstborn of Egypt the vital question to be addressed is how the firstborn of Israel will escape and be free from a similar fate. The answer is clear but highly significant and full of meaning. The word from the Lord to Moses was, “Speak 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: and 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’” Ex.12.3,4. Without highlighting presently the issue of the timing or the potential availability of the sacrifice to a neighbouring household, the major consideration is that God’s purpose and the righteous claims of His character could only be met through the selection of a lamb. On the basis of the sacrificial lamb God could act both righteously and graciously and deliver the firstborn from the penal consequences that he or she would otherwise face.
Why a lamb? Firstly, the teaching regarding the lamb in Exodus will develop that introduced in Genesis where the offering brought by Abel represented a lamb for an individual, now the key issue is a lamb for a nation. How precious to note that such a delightful progression will be further expanded to embrace the glorious truth of a lamb for the world, Jn.1.29. Secondly, the idea of the lamb is a perfect fit with God’s prophetic outline in relation to His beloved Son, and in this context it is inevitable that our thoughts should run to that moment when “there stood a Lamb as it had been slain … And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, ‘Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth’” Rev.5.6,8-10. Thirdly, it is only the lamb that fulfils all the characteristics that are essential if the Lord Jesus is to be accurately and appropriately typified.
The criteria governing the taking of the lamb could not have been more specific. There was no room for personal preference, natural innovation or improvisation of any kind. God saw to it that nothing would deprive His Son of any of His personal glory whether typically, historically or futuristically.
The injunction was clear: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats” Ex.12.5. “Without blemish” is suggestive of the Saviour’s purity. Often this Scripture is misquoted and the words “without spot” are added. The expression “without spot” is found in Numbers chapter 19 in relation to the red heifer, which is the subject of chapter 10 of this book. It is, however, most instructive to note that when Peter wrote about the Lord Jesus to believers of his day, he reminds them “that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.18,19. The lamb of Exodus chapter 12 is clearly linked with a once and forever experience of redemption, whereas the red heifer of Numbers chapter 19 is, equally clearly, linked with the provision for cleansing from defilement by the way. Peter brings both together in a very practical and Christ- exalting way and it is precious to observe that there is in our Lord Jesus all that is necessary for every aspect of Christian experience.
Before leaving the vital matter of the Saviour’s purity it would be remiss not to emphasise His essential and intrinsic holiness, that is, He not only did not sin, but there never could be the slightest suggestion that He could sin. It was impossible for Him to sin. Often the word ‘impeccability’ is used to describe the uniqueness of His holiness and although not found in Scripture, it is most appropriate. Its root is the Latin word impeccabilis, meaning ‘sinless’ and an English dictionary will provide the term ‘sinless’ as a substitute for the adjective ‘impeccable’. While the inability of the Saviour to sin is much under attack, it must be defended with godly tenacity and conviction. The first Adam demonstrated that he had potential to sin. Let us rejoice that no such tendencies marked the last Adam. He could remind His own that “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me” Jn.14.30, and it should ever be remembered that He is “the faithful witness” Rev.1.5.
The chosen lamb was to be a male of the first year. This carries a suggestion that the Lord Jesus would partake of flesh and blood and enter true and perfect humanity. How precious to observe that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” Jn.1.14. Note again that “as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” Heb.2.14. It must also be observed that in partaking of humanity the Lord Jesus was never divested of His eternal Deity. Just as the ark of the covenant was made of shittim wood and overlaid with pure gold, Exodus chapter 25, so Deity and humanity were joined together at incarnation, never to be separated; truly “the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” 1Tim.3.16.
Verily God, yet become truly human –
Lower than angels – to die in our stead;
How hast Thou, long promised Seed of the woman,
Trod on the serpent and bruisèd his head!
(H. d’A. Champney)
There is something most appealing and pleasant to the eye about a lamb of the first year. It is full of vigour and vitality and marked by strength and energy. All of these features are so pictorial of the Lord Jesus. It is a joy to reflect upon Him as He moved in this world. There were those who had the privilege of “looking upon Jesus as He walked” and as they observed Him one said, “Behold the Lamb of God” Jn.1.36. Others, as they listened to Him, could comment “Never man spake like this man” Jn.7.46.
What grace, O Lord, and beauty shone
Around Thy steps below!
What patient love was seen in all
Thy life and death of woe!
“A male of the first year” is highly significant. Traditionally there was nothing in the firstborn for God. The first man in Scripture has been linked with that which is natural, carnal and earthly. Those in this category include Adam, Cain, Ishmael, Esau, Reuben and Saul. The Lord Jesus stood in glorious distinction from all of these and when He is spoken of as “the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” Col.1.15-17, it is not saying that He was born first as far as chronology is concerned but it is magnifying the fact that He is of a superior order in terms of glory, dignity, honour and stature. Observe that God “raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” Eph.1.20-23.
The instructions communicated from God to Moses could not have been more specific. They had to be adhered to at all times and when it comes to speaking about, or representing, the Lord Jesus, there can never be any room for inappropriate, unbecoming or unscriptural language. It is impossible to improve on the words of Scripture, which will ever guard against anything that will detract from the glory that is uniquely His. The Lord told people to “searchthe scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of Me” Jn.5.39.
Having selected the lamb on the tenth day they were to “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” Ex.12.6. It has often been suggested that the purpose of this period was to allow for the lamb to be scrutinised to ensure or demonstrate that it was truly without blemish, and in this sense would equate to the days of the Lord’s public ministry, when He fully demonstrated before the eyes of men that He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” Heb.7.26. While this may be so and there is an attractiveness about such a sentiment, an additional suggestion may be worthy of consideration. After all, the lamb had been chosen on the grounds that it was without blemish and having been selected, it was to be kept within the home situation. It would therefore appear that as the family spent those appointed days with the lamb and as they would observe its every characteristic their affections would be entwined around it, and by the time it was taken and killed that must have been one of the most heart-rending moments imaginable.
Sadly, it is easy to become cold and factual in relation to what we think of and speak about the One Who “died for us” Rom.5.8. It is searching to remember that the church at Ephesus, regardless of all its commendable qualities, was deemed to have “left [its] first love” Rev.2.4. An appreciation of all that was entailed in the giving of, and in the death of the Lord Jesus, is a great preservative from every trace of indifference, bitterness or hardness and will ensure that He receives the devotion and gratitude that rightly belong to Him. How fitting to ever remember and rejoice that God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Rom.8.32. Love to Christ is the true test of spirituality and it remains an unchanging reality that “though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” 1Cor.13.1,2.
Timing with God is all important. It has already been observed that God had foretold that His people would be in Egypt four hundred and thirty years. Their calendar would be rearranged and the month of a fresh start had been specified, and now it was decreed that the lamb was to be taken on the tenth day of that same month. Ten is a key number in Scripture. There are some linkages with the Ten Commandments, with the whole concept of tithing, and with the instructions for the tabernacle, where ten is a key number, and so on, but the main significance is that it would be on the tenth day of this month that the Lord Jesus would ride into Jerusalem exactly in accordance with the timeframe recorded in Daniel chapter 9. The exact number of years and days, calculated on the basis of prophetic years, would have rolled their course and on that precise day the King arrived “lowly, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass” Zech.9.9. This was all to be fulfilled on the same day of the same month in which the lamb was taken from the flocks. How reassuring that our God brings to fulfilment everything that He purposes and in accordance with His meticulous timing.
The lamb that was taken was to be kept until the fourteenth day of the same month and they were to “kill it at even” Ex.12.6, R.V. Again observe that the killing of the lamb was on the same day of the same month as the Lord Jesus was crucified, only hundreds of years later, that moment when Messiah was “cut off” Dan.9.26, “out of the land of the living: For the transgression of My people was He stricken” Isa.53.8. It is remarkable that in the grand timescale of eternal purpose the approach to Calvary should be described in years, weeks and days. It is even more remarkable that the Lord Himself spoke so frequently about an hour that lay before Him. Let us listen with adoring spirits and unshod feet as He prayed before He went to the cross: “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour is come; Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee’” Jn.17.1.
O wondrous hour, when Jesus, Thou,
Co-equal with the eternal God,
Beneath our sin didst deign to bow
And in our stead didst bear the rod.
While there were many lambs, the instruction was that “the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” Ex.12.6. These all pointed forward to the One Who would be introduced by John, the forerunner, as the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” Jn.1.29. The emphasis is rightly placed on the death of the lamb and its death is closely identified with the shedding of its blood, proof that a life had been taken. We observe that while this is not the first sacrifice mentioned in the Bible, whether directly or by implication, it is the first where there is a specific reference to blood. The Passover and the blood are inseparable. Safety is impossible without the shedding of the blood of an unblemished victim. It is equally true that such safety could never be enjoyed or assured without the blood being applied. The instructions about the application were clear; “ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason; and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” Ex.12.22,23.
How the Blood Was To Be Applied
Nothing is left to the imagination. The instrument to be employed was a bunch of hyssop. This was a plant which grew freely in Egypt on walls and was generally insignificant, but it was very easily obtained. It was of no real value, but without it the blood could not have been applied and as a result safety could not have been assured. All of this is an appropriate picture of faith. Although faith is not meritorious, it is the indispensable means whereby a repentant sinner comes into the blessing of salvation and the fulness of all that is associated with it. Such salvation is described as “the righteousness which is of faith” Rom.10.6, and has been brought within human reach. Those that are saved will ever be grateful that “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” Rom.10.8,9.
Where the Blood Was To Be Applied
There was no question of the blood being sprinkled across the doorway or the entrance. The blood was far too precious to be walked over or trodden upon. The natural man still has no time for or appreciation of the blood. Regardless of the attitude of man “who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace” Heb.10.29, God places infinite value upon it and it will ever be precious to Him; so too those who are saved will ever be thankful that they have been redeemed not with “corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.18,19.
Why the Blood Was To Be Applied
It is most likely that the family within the household, and in particular the firstborn, beheld the blood upon the door posts and the lintel. It is also conceivable that the eye of the Egyptians rested upon it, but it should be remembered that protection came not through their seeing it, but through God’s observation and appreciation of it. Dennett has fittingly commented, “It should be remarked, moreover, that the sprinkled blood was for the eye of God … It would save anxious ones from many weary days and nights of perplexity and anguish if this point were remembered. There is nothing beyond accepting God’s own testimony as to the value of the blood”3. That testimony is both clear and confirming, “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” Ex.12.13.
It was not enough to kill the lamb and apply its blood to the door posts and to the lintel. Having done so, the instruction was clear: they were to eat it and this was to be done within their houses “in that night” Ex.12.8. We observe the repeated references to the vital matter of eating. This was a highly significant act; they were to impart to themselves everything that the lamb represents as in New Testament language, “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him” Jn.6.56. If an individual believer dwells with and feeds upon Christ he will not only enjoy the fulness of His glory, but he will also reflect His lovely features in every manner of life.
The lamb was not to be eaten “raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire” Ex.12.9. It was to endure the full rigour of the flame and the intensity of the heat. Nothing was to come between and mitigate the full impact of the fire. In this context it is very difficult not to remember the prophetic word, “From above hath He sent fire into my bones …” Lam.1.13. With unshod feet and deep gratitude of heart it is fitting to appreciate that nothing could ever come between Him and the flame of Divine justice to minimise the impact of His sufferings.
A knowledge of the facts of “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Gal.6.14, is very commendable, but there is something profoundly more precious and deeper about His feelings. It is beyond the human mind to fully grasp what the sufferings of the cross meant to Him, but this in no way offers an excuse for not at least trying to develop, to some degree, an appreciation of all that Calvary entailed for Him.
As they partook of the lamb, roast with fire, they were to eat it with “unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs” Ex.12.8. Dennett helpfully comments, “Leaven is a type of evil, and hence the unleavened bread speaks, as on the one hand of the absence of the evil, so on the other of purity and holiness. The apostle Paul speaks of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth … Bitter herbs represent the effect of entering into the sufferings of Christ on our behalf: repentance, self-judgment in the presence of God. These two things therefore portray the state of soul in which alone we can truly feed upon the lamb roast with fire. And it is beautiful to notice how the One Who has borne the righteous judgment of God against sins now becomes the food of His people”4. Additionally the bitter herbs may have evoked memories of their bitter experiences of slavery under the tyranny of Pharaoh in Egypt.
4 Dennett, ibid.
Not a single part was to escape the intensity of the flame. Particular mention is made of “his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof” Ex.12.9. Every part was precious but these three are so expressive, in a typical way, of the glory and beauty of the One Who was promised and Who came at the exact moment in accordance with Divine purpose. F.W. Grant helpfully observes, “The head expresses the thoughts and counsels with which His walk (the legs) keeps perfect company. The inwards parts, the affections of His heart, were the motive power which impelled Him upon the path He trod. The fire tested all; it brought forth nothing but sweet savour to God, and is for the food of our true life; and for us now to appropriate”5. How precious to meditate on Him “Who knew no sin” 2Cor.5.21, “Who did no sin” 1Pet.2.22 and the One “in [Whom] is no sin” 1Jn.3.5. These present His mind, movements and motives so appropriately.
5 Grant, F. W. “Lessons from Exodus”. Believers Bookshelf, P.O. Box 261, Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
Just as every single part of the lamb was exposed to the demand of the fire, the instruction was equally clear that they should “let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire” Ex.12.10. By morning there was just a possibility of corruption and so the preciousness of the incorruptibility of the Lord Jesus is beautifully preserved in the accuracy of these details. It was impossible, even in death, for “Thine Holy One to see corruption” Ps.16.10. Furthermore, having partaken of the lamb once, there was no need to do so again; this also preserves from any suggestion that the initial experience of salvation is incomplete and that something additional is subsequently required.
In any case, by morning the journey out of Egypt would have started and it was clearly the mind of God that not a single particle of the roast lamb would be left for unredeemed Egyptians to feed upon. They knew nothing of redemption by blood, and as a result it was impossible for them to enter into the good and fulness of all that the lamb so fittingly represented. It is impossible for an unregenerate person to enjoy and discern these things. The Scriptures make it clear that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” 1Cor.2.14. The youngest and weakest child of God has a capacity to enjoy, discern, understand and feed upon things that are spiritual, whereas a highly intellectual and well-educated person without salvation and without the indwelling Holy Spirit has no such capacity.
Having observed what they were to eat, it is equally important to note how they were to eat. They were instructed to eat it as follows: “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” Ex.12.11. It is evident that, as they ate, they were ready for immediate departure; they were prepared to leave Egypt and embark on a pilgrim journey that would ultimately lead to a promised inheritance. The girding of the loins would speak clearly of readiness for service, the shoes of our sojourn and walk, and the staff of support on the pilgrim pathway. Dennett comments, “They were to eat the Passover in haste – for they knew not at what moment the summons might be given, hence they were to be ready – watching and ready, a true picture of the believer’s attitude in the world. Would that we all more entirely answered to it! Again and again are we exhorted to have our loins girded; and to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, Ephesians chapter 6, and it is necessary for us to put on the whole armour of God.”6
6 Dennett, ibid.
The first mention of the Passover is found in Ex.12.11. There it is identified as “the Lord’s passover” and according to Strong (6452) the word “Passover” means to hop or skip over, and to spare. The Lord had decreed that He would “pass through the land of Egypt this night” and would “smite all the firstborn … both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 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” Ex.12.12,13. It was a solemn night when God visited Egypt, a foreshadowing of the time when judgments will fall on the world during the days of Tribulation wrath, but how precious to observe that on that dreadful night safety was assured under the blood of the lamb obediently applied. That blood met all the claims of God; it was His appreciation of it that really mattered, and which enabled the firstborn to experience and enjoy safety from judgment. How much more precious must the blood of the Lord Jesus be in the eyes of our God! It is with gratitude and wonder that we contemplate “the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” Acts 20.28.
Immediately following the details regarding the Passover, instructions were given for the observation of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Both are closely connected and are of important typical significance and their practical relevance is highlighted by the apostle Paul when he wrote, “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” 1Cor.5.7,8. Leaven, consistently speaking of evil, is that which spreads and brings its influence to bear on the entire mass of dough. The principle is ever true that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” 1Cor.5.6. To refrain from leavened bread is symbolic of being separate from sin and this is incumbent on those who have experienced the redemptive power and shelter of the blood of the Lamb. The period of the feast is highly suggestive. It was to be observed for a full cycle of seven days, a complete time period, and this is a sharp, but appropriate reminder, that it is the Divine expectation that all the redeemed should be marked by holiness throughout the entire course of their lives. We do well to remember that “this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God” 1Thess.4.3-5. In a similar vein the Lord Jesus spoke of His own, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” Jn.17.16,17.
While it was a night of glorious redemption for the children of Israel, it was a night of severest infliction upon Egypt. Unceremoniously and as predicted “it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle” Ex.12.29. What an awakening! What a great cry “for there was not a house where there was not one dead” Ex.12.30! All of this brought about a dramatic change of attitude on the part of the Egyptians. They now longed for the departure of the children of Israel and as the exodus began, the Israelites moved out taking with them only unleavened bread, signifying that they had left Egypt behind, and were now travelling a path of separation in fellowship with the God of their redemption.
Such was the change of attitude toward the Israelites that the Egyptians readily granted their request for “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent (‘gave’ J.N.D.) to them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” Ex.12.35,36. A people that were once slaves came out of Egypt “with great substance” Gen.15.14, in fulfilment of the earlier promise to Abraham, and is a beautiful picture of how God not only redeems but bestows on those who are His the totality of His spiritual bounty. How appropriate to dwell upon “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” 2Cor.8.9.
It was the mind of God that the night of judgment for Egypt, but the night of emancipation for His people, was to “be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” Ex.12.42. The Lord made it clear to Moses and Aaron that it was ever to be remembered as “the ordinance of the passover” Ex.12.43. Not only was it to be remembered as such but it was to be most carefully guarded. No stranger was permitted to eat thereof and if a servant or a sojourner “will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it: and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof” Ex.12.48. We observe this important distinction, but also that “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’” Ex.13.1. It is one thing to note Divine demarcation, another to recognise Divine demands. Let us continually appreciate that “… ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” 1Cor.6.19,20.
Meditation upon the Passover would not be complete without noting that as the children of Israel left Egypt they were accompanied by a “mixed multitude” that “went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle” Ex.12.38. They left with the children of Israel but they were not part of them. Mixture has always been the scourge of the people of God. Detecting reality from mere profession has always been a challenge and requires spiritual discernment exercised in total dependence upon God. While human discernment is fallible, it is reassuring that “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His” 2Tim.2.19.
There was something unique and special about the institution and celebration of the first Passover. It was never celebrated in Egypt again, but the ideal was that it be kept every year thereafter. Sadly, because of failure, this was not the case. The references to the celebration of the Passover subsequent to leaving Egypt are most instructive and add to instruction already given. Space does not permit any detailed development of this particular aspect save to highlight, by way of example, that in Deuteronomy chapter 16 they were to sacrifice “the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place His name there” v.2. The additional instruction is not in relation to how it was to be kept, but now for the first time God had decreed where it was to be kept. The picture is plain, the truth is clear that the redeemed should be linked with the place ‘of the Name’. The words of the Lord Jesus are unaffected by time, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” Matt.18.20.
It was anticipated that “when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as He hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, ‘What mean ye by this service?’ that ye shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses’” Ex.12.25-27. A rising generation is entitled to have it explained to them, from the Scriptures, not only what is practised but why it is practised. The principle of Peter’s exhortation to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” 1Pet.3.15, still applies.
The Passover and the birth of the nation are very closely linked. It is a real joy to reflect on and observe all that Israel enjoyed corporately. While this is the case, we should not lose sight of the fact that every blessing God bestowed upon Israel nationally has been made good to us individually, also on the basis of “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom” Eph.1.7,8. How consoling to note that upon believing, each individual is “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” Eph.1.13,14. With the benefit of the full canon of Scripture the expressions “a lamb”, “the lamb” and “your lamb” Ex.12.3,4,5, take on a preciousness that is the cause for much joy, appreciation and endless praise.