by Thomas H. Matthews, Brazil
When, as a young believer, it was explained to the writer that the great purpose of the Bible was to set forth the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the statement sealed itself as solid truth on the mind and heart. Succeeding years have served only to deepen this conviction. Of course, this presentation of the Lord Jesus is against the background of fallen man who is also seen in Scripture in all his sin and need and whom the “Second Man” has proved abundantly able to save.
The above statement of truth could very well be amplified by the inclusion in it of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. The extensive presentation of the Lord’s death in Scripture has appealed to the writer as being somewhat like a masterpiece of art, which in contradistinction to the acclaimed work of a Rembrandt or a Da Vinci, is nothing short of perfection.
The first ‘touches’ of the Divine Artist’s ‘brush’ tell of a Herculean struggle and a guaranteed victory: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” Gen.3.15. At the cross the serpent bruised the heel of the Lord Jesus, Who being the seed of the woman in His humanity, bruised the serpent’s head in unquestioned victory. The prophecy, read in the light of the full revelation of Scripture, tells of the liberation of the captives of sin and Satan and their induction into “a kingdom which cannot be moved” Heb.12.28. Every aspect of God’s stupendous purpose hung on the tremendous battle waged at the cross, the victorious outcome of which was never in doubt, even for a moment. The death of Christ can be traced throughout Scripture. The Divine Artist continues His work until the final ‘touches of His brush’ describe to us a “loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down …’” Rev.12.10. Shortly the archenemy is cast into the bottomless pit and at last into the lake of fire forever and ever. The Artist has not failed to give appropriate pre-eminence to the Executor of it all, namely the Lamb “in the midst of the throne”: the “Lamb as it had been slain” Rev.5.6. Of course, this ‘Masterpiece of Divine Art’ is not produced on canvas, but on the sacred pages of Scripture for the benefit of those whose eyes have been anointed with “eye salve” that they may see, Rev.3.18.
In the light of the full revelation of Scripture we can perceive aspects of the death of Christ in the salvation that brought the saved through judgment in the ark. Further disclosures are to be found in the unilateral blood covenant which the Lord God made with Abram in Genesis chapter 15, when the Lord Himself passed through the divided pieces. How suggestive to the Christian reader is the virtual giving up of an “only Isaac” in Genesis chapter 22, especially with the promise, “God will provide” 22.8,14. The words of Rom.8.32: “He that spared not His own Son …”, come readily to mind. Moving through the book of Genesis with the eye trained to look for previews of the death of Christ, the reader ponders not only the case just mentioned, Abraham and his son, virtually offered up, but also Jacob and his son, Joseph, rejected, sold and considered dead, but appearing again to bring deliverance to his own. In the Joseph story, we see in type the “two men” of the Bible. Joseph has the characteristics of “the second Man … the Lord from heaven”, while his brothers show the traits of the “first man Adam” 1Cor.15.45,47. Approaching the remaining books of the Pentateuch, what a wealth of detail can be grasped in relation to the great subject! Then there are the Psalms and the Prophets with their precious quota. At last the reader comes to the Gospels and the Deliverer appears in perfect display of His unquestionable competence for that work which He alone could accomplish.
- Come now, and view that manger,
- The Lord of Glory see,
- A houseless, homeless Stranger,
- In this poor world, for thee.
- Midst sin, and all corruption,
- Where hatred did abound,
- Thy path of true perfection,
- Was light on all around.
- I pause – for, in Thy vision,
- The day is hastening now,
- When, for our lost condition,
- Thy holy Head shall bow;
- When deep to deep still calling,
- The waters reach Thy soul,
- And, death and wrath appalling,
- Their waves shall o’er Thee roll.
- Then, finished all, in meekness
- Thou to Thy Father’s hand,
- Perfect Thy strength in weakness,
- Thy spirit dost commend.
- O Lord! The wondrous story
- My inmost soul doth move;
- I ponder o’er Thy glory
- Thy lonely path of love.
- (J.N. Darby)
Following His glorious resurrection, the book of the Acts records the testimony borne “in its own times.”1 The epistles unfold the deep meaning of the cross and the story is “closed in glory on yon shore”2 in the book of the Revelation.
- 1 See 1Tim. 2.6 (Newberry Margin)
2 Bennett, Henry. Hymn No. 604 in the “Gospel Hymn Book”. Belfast Book & Bible House, 1996.
- 3 Scroggie, W. Graham, “The Unfolding Drama of Redemption”. Kregel Classics, 1995
An initial mark of the deep significance of the events of this chapter is seen in the adoption of a new calendar. The seventh month becomes the first month, named Abib or Nisan. The events since the birth of Moses (chapter 2) have occupied 80 years. This one New Year will occupy the remaining part of the book.
Here is a new beginning of great importance and presenting a clear type of the death of Christ; it marks His death as the great epoch-making event of Scripture. Saved souls will unite to testify that it was through His death that a unique new beginning was brought about in their lives.
- At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light,
- And the burden of my heart rolled away.
- It was there by faith I received my sight,
- And now I am happy all the day.
- (Albert Midlane)
THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN FOR THE PASSOVER PROVIDE A FOREVIEW OF ASPECTS OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST NOT PREVIOUSLY REVEALED
As stated above, in determining the date for the slaying of the passover lamb, the date of the death of the Antitype was indicated. Thus, with 1500 years still to pass, the 14th day of the month Nisan was fixed as the time of the death of the Lord Jesus. No doubt in Divine purpose it was all foreknown from eternity, but God chose to make it known at the first passover. Therefore, it is evident that in the institution of this historic event God was clearly providing fore-gleams of the “lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” 1Pet.1.19,20.
Judging by the question which Isaac addressed to his father on the way to Moriah in Gen.22.7, it is clear that Abraham had the custom of offering lambs. Nevertheless, the lamb for sacrifice takes on a new dimension in Exodus chapter 12. From hence we are on a direct route to the “Lamb of God” Jn.1.29. Submissiveness is evidently the leading thought in the figure of the lamb. Isa.53.7 confirms this: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb. So He openeth not His mouth.” A similar thought is seen in Isa.50.6, where the Lord Himself prophetically states: “I gave My back to the smiters, And My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting.” On this verse J.M. Riddle has written: “His exact words should be carefully noted: not ‘I was smitten’, but ‘I gave My back to the smiters’. He deliberately put Himself in a position where it was possible for men to scourge Him. In fact He was actually in command of these very circumstances” Matt.26.53,54.4
- 4 Riddle, J. M. “Isaiah – What the Bible Teaches.” John Ritchie Ltd, 2005.
“Your lamb shall be without blemish“ (complete or perfect, Newberry margin) Ex.12.5. The word is used of Noah in Gen.6.9 and of what Abraham was instructed to be in Gen.17.1, but it has never been used of an animal sacrifice until now. It is true that Abel brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” Gen.4.4, and Abraham selected a “ram caught in a thicket by his horns” Gen.22.13. Having been caught by its horns, its body would likely have been “without blemish,” but now in Exodus chapter 12 the perfection of that which would be offered for sinners becomes statutory. Thus, we have early and precious glimpses of the “lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.19.
After the killing of the lamb, its blood was to be struck on the two side posts and the upper doorposts of the houses. Now, for the first time, the concept of the sacrificial shedding of blood comes clearly before us. That which may well have been inferred in the book of Genesis is now clearly declared. The theme of blood-shedding is greatly developed in the book of Leviticus. The thoughtful believer resorts again to 1Pet.1.18,19 where he is said to be “redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ”. The much-used term “shedding of blood” has, in Scripture, the concept of a life given in sacrifice. It rises to its highest point with the shedding of the “precious blood of Christ”. This is the only time that blood is described as “precious”, thus laying emphasis on the infinitely high price that was paid for our redemption.
The Eating of the Lamb
“And thus shall ye eat it …” Ex.12.11. The lamb, which brings deliverance, being assimilated into the body provides the strength for leaving Egypt. R.C. Chapman’s sublime hymn amplifies the thought:
- The cords that bound my heart to earth
- Are loosed by Jesus’ hand:
- Before His cross I now am left
- A stranger in the land.
However, it would seem that while this explanation may be viable, it is not the main point. The eating was part of a sacrificial meal, really a ceremonial act as proved by the stipulation that nothing should remain until the morning. The act of eating signified the full and heartfelt acceptance of the Divinely-provided sacrifice. This brings the thought of true faith before us. A well-known hymn says: “Faith is a very little thing” and that is true in a sense and we may also say, very simple, but the wise hymn-writer had much more to say:
- Faith is a very simple thing,
- Though little understood;
- It frees the soul from death’s dread sting
- By resting in the blood:
- It looks not on the things around,
- Nor on the things within;
- It takes its flight to things above,
- Beyond the sphere of sin.
- It sees upon the throne of God
- A victim that was slain;
- It rests its all on His shed blood,5
- And says “I’m born again:”
- Faith is not what we feel or see:
- It is a simple trust
- In what the God of love has said
- Of Jesus as the “Just”.
- (Author unknown)
- 5 While Scripture does not exactly speak of “resting in the blood” unless it be in Rom.3.25, the author’s thought is clear.
Faith, then, is a whole-hearted acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The heart is won forever; the soul is saved and satisfied.
The Eating of All
The instructions given for the eating may be seen to further magnify the death of the Lord Jesus: “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof” Ex.12.9. To this we append v.46 “… neither shall ye break a bone thereof.” The sacrifice being eaten in its completeness, and without mutilation, points to its perfect adequacy, a sacrifice in which nothing was lacking and to which nothing can be added. By a careful Divine intervention, the body of the Lord Jesus was preserved before and after death from broken bones or mutilation. All this indicated not only the preciousness, but also the completeness of that redemption which He provided by His death.
The Bitter Herbs
“And they shall eat the flesh … with bitter herbs” Ex.12.8. There is a total absence of manifestations of levity and lightness that so often marked mere feasting. Rather, there was all the seriousness and solemnity which the “bitter herbs” would suggest. To become God’s redeemed people and, ideally, to step out into a life of holiness, was momentous indeed and must be taken seriously. Levity or lightness can have no place in the methods used to bring men and women to faith in Christ.
Eating with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, their staff in their hand and in haste, seems to be enjoined because of the urgency of their departure. It appears that this custom, like the sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts, was discontinued afterwards.
The Lord’s Passover
“It is the LORD’S passover” Ex.12.11. Newberry’s margin indicates that the origin of the word “Passover” suggests, leaping or passing over. This “passing over” is explained by some etymologists as like the “merciful passing over of a destructive power”. Others suggest that its use here means, “not to pass over” per se, but rather to defend or protect. This would give the sense that the Lord would protectively cover the houses of the Israelites and thus not suffer the Destroyer to enter6. What is abundantly clear is, that for the house sheltered by the blood, there was no condemnation! How like New Testament truth is all this! Here in Exodus chapter 12, 1500 years before the death of Christ, the Spirit of God provides clear types of that complete provision which God had in view for man’s salvation! Only infinite Wisdom could do this. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” Rom.11.33.
- 6 Harris, R. Laird, Archer, L. Gleason Jr., Waltke, Bruce K. “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament”. Moody Publishers, 1980.
“And when I see the blood, I will pass over you” Ex.12.13. Here for the first time, the word of the Lord is heard confirming the efficacy of the sacrifice. What brings settled peace to the pardoned sinner? It can only be the Person and finished work of Christ and what God says. Matt.11.28 is an example of the Divine confirmation: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. The promise is sure so that the sinner can say, “I come believing”. The value of the Word and the dependability of the Person are again brought together in Jn.5.24: “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
The Unleavened Bread
This passover leads to a new life. No sacrifice made earlier has had such significance so clearly illustrated. It was eaten with unleavened bread. Observe what happened on that night: Ex.12.34: “And the people took their dough before it was leavened …”. The leaven was left behind! It served to illustrate to the children of Israel that, in a moral sense, much needed to be left behind in Egypt. Ex.12.15 states clearly that a seven-day feast was to be joined to the passover feast. This is “the feast of unleavened bread”. The close connection between the two feasts indicates that the Lord expected an immediate change in His people. It is still essential to see an immediate change in the person who has been redeemed. 1Cor.5.7,8 makes the application very clear to the New Testament believer: “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” For the New Testament believer, what corresponds to “the feast of unleavened bread”, described in v.8 as “keeping the feast”? It is the believer’s whole life, right through until the Lord calls him home. The sins and evil habits that marked him in the past ought now to be over and gone forever.
The language of Exodus chapter 12, with reference to the unleavened bread, is taken up in the New Testament and used in connection with:
- The Leaven of the Pharisees, Lk.12.1: hypocrisy
- The Leaven of the Sadducees, Matt.16.6: disbelief
- The Leaven of Herod, Mk.8.15; the mind of the flesh: (Rom. 8.6, Newberry margin)
- The Leaven of malice and wickedness, 1Cor.5.8
- The Leaven of evil doctrine, Matt.13.33; Gal. 5.9.
In Num.3.13 the Lord declares “All the firstborn are Mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto Me all the firstborn in Israel.” Thus the Lord made His claim on the one whom He saved from judgment. A simple application can be made. The Lord has a very definite claim on all whom He saves, whether it be the firstborn in Israel or the present day believer: “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.
Perhaps another principle is being taught. The deliverance of the firstborn very definitely involved the deliverance of “the house” i.e. the family, from a fearful catastrophe. Thus the sanctification of the firstborn may well have been the Lord’s way of saying to the nation now so wonderfully delivered: “I claim the firstborn because from henceforth I want you to know that I must have first place in your lives.” The New Testament states the matter clearly for us: Matt.6.33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew is the Gospel in which the Lord is presented as King, hence the appropriateness of this verse, for the King and His kingdom must have first place in the lives of those who belong to Him.
The Manna – Exodus 16
That the manna is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, is made clear by His own words in Jn.6.32,33: “Verily, verily I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” In the development of His theme the Lord draws attention to His death in v.51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” There seems to be nothing in the reading of the details of the manna in Exodus chapter 16 to suggest that it speaks of the death of Christ, but by the Lord’s words just cited, it becomes clear that what was implicit in the type, becomes explicit in the Lord’s explanation. In replying to the question: “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” v.52, the Lord still has the manna before Him and makes a yet more precise reference to His death in the words “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day …” Jn.6.53,54. A careful reading of the chapter makes it clear that the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood is wholly figurative language and has for its background the partaking of the manna of old. It corresponds with what is stated in v.29, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent” and also v.35, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” V.40 continues in the same strain: “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” So then, the concept of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood is seen to be belief in Him. It must be understood that these figures of speech in the latter part of John chapter 6, have a clear and important message for all. To really believe on the Lord Jesus Christ involves the assimilation of His Person. It is a full acceptance of Him as Lord and Saviour and, it may be added, an irreversible acceptance. The result of it all, though put simply, is profound: “He … dwelleth in Me, and I in Him” v.56.
The Mercy Seat – Exodus 25.17-22
Crude language might stoop to call the mercy seat the “lid” of the ark, but it is never so called in the Word of God. Indeed, it is treated almost as a separate vessel with nearly as many verses given to its description as to the ark itself. When at last the mercy seat was put “above upon the ark” with the testimony within the ark, the Lord’s promise would be fulfilled: “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee …” Ex.25.22. Thus, it is clear that the ark and mercy seat together comprise Jehovah’s throne, Ps. 99.1.
When we read in Rom.3.25 that it is the Lord Jesus “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (or mercy seat; Newberry margin) through faith in His blood,” our inquiry as to the significance of the mercy seat quickly moves to Calvary. Looking a little closer at the description we observe some important details:
“Two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof” v.17. It corresponded exactly to the dimensions of the ark. Thus, it is very suggestive of the finished work of Christ, which corresponded fully and in every detail to the claims of the throne of God.
It is a safe presumption that the mercy seat was placed on the ark in such a way that it was secured in position by the “golden crown” v.11. Thoughts of the enduring character and everlasting stability of the cross-work of Christ are surely brought before us:
- I hear the Words of love,
- I gaze upon the blood,
- I see the mighty sacrifice
- And I have peace with God.
- ‘Tis everlasting peace,
- Sure as Jehovah’s name;
- Tis stable as His steadfast throne-
- For evermore the same.
- (Horatius Bonar)
It was constructed of “pure gold” v.17. The gold tells of a work essentially Divine and infinitely precious to God.
The picture is yet further enhanced when Lev.16.14 is taken into account: “And he (Aaron) shall take of the blood of the bullock, and shall sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward, and before the mercy seat … seven times.” From the day of atonement the present-day believer moves in thought to another day of unparalleled glory when “Christ being come a high priest of good things to come … by His own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” Heb.9.11,12. The blood-sprinkled mercy seat seems to complete the picture of the finished work of Christ.
The Two Cherubim of Gold (of glory – Heb.9.5)
The two cherubim of gold which seem to be an integral part of the mercy seat, impart to it and to the whole scene an air of majesty and glory. What thoughts they suggest as to Calvary! We are assured that the mighty Victor of Golgotha has, through His measureless accomplishments upon the cross, covered the throne of God with everlasting glory and filled the entire heavenly scene with a fragrance unique to, and issuing from, His perfect work.
- Hark! those bursts of acclamation!
- Hark! those loud triumphant chords!
- Jesus takes the highest station,
- O! what joy the sight affords!
- Crown Him! Crown Him!
- King of kings, and Lord of lords.
- (Thomas Kelly)
The Altar – Exodus 27.1
The altar of shittim wood sets forth aspects of the death of Christ that are not so apparent in the mercy seat.
“And he put the altar of burnt offering by the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation” Ex.40.29.
Any person approaching the altar when a bullock was being slain and prepared for sacrificing on it, would not have been impressed with any “grandeur”, but rather with the horrors of it all. The thoughtful Israelite might well have renewed thoughts about the seriousness of sin and its grievous nature. Similar thoughts must occur to the believer as the reverently-told story of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus is presented in the Gospels. Matthew tells us that they crucified Him … they parted His garments … they watched Him there … they set up over His head His accusation … they reviled Him, Matt.27.35-39. He states with due solemnity: “Now there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice … ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’” vv.45,46. The deep sentiments begotten by this record find suitable expression in the words of the hymn:
- Ye who think of sin but lightly,
- Nor suppose the evil great,
- Here may view its nature rightly,
- Here its guilt may estimate.
- Mark the sacrifice appointed!
- See Who bears the awful load!
- ‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
- Son of man, and Son of God.
- (Thomas Kelly)
“Five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits” Ex.27.1.
The immense size of the altar is impressive. It will comport an immense sacrifice. Heb.1.1-3 presents something of the “immensity” of the real sacrifice for sin: “… His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
How serious sin must have been when its remission demanded such a Sacrifice! In the ministry of the Word over 40 years ago, the writer heard the late Mr. Fred Cundick say that all the other vessels would have fitted into the altar, and then came the cryptic comment: “The cross comprehends all God’s blessings to man”!
Not only did the altar measure five by five cubits, but also all the five main offerings were associated with it. One type of sacrifice alone is not sufficient to set forth the adequate provision of the death of the Lord Jesus. The various aspects of the five offerings are combined and rise to their highest point in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus upon the cross. A brief comment may suffice: In the burnt offering we enjoy acceptance before God; in the peace offering we enjoy communion with God; in the sin offering we enjoy forgiveness. In the sacrifice of Christ we have it all. The words of Heb.10.14 seem fitting, “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
We have only touched the surface of what this great book of Exodus presents relative to the death of Christ in typical form. The obvious inadequacy of all our study makes us long more and more for that day when at last:
- We’ll sing of such subjects alone;
- None other our tongues shall employ,
- Till fully His love becomes known,
- In yonder bright regions of joy.
- (Thomas Kelly)