Gleanings In Exodus
by A. W. Pink
15. The Passover
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 (Rom. 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 Pet. 2:4). The elect are "children of wrath even as others" (Eph. 2:3). God made no exception of His own blessed Son: when He was "made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21)—He spared Him not (Rom. 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" (Ex. 34:7): sentence of death was passed upon them (Ex. 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" (Rom. 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" (Isa. 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 pascal lamb! It was in the blood of the Lamb that mercy and truth met together and righteousness and peace kissed each other (Ps. 85:10).
The whole value of the blood of the pascal 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 Cor. 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 to-day 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 Geneses 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" (Lev. 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 (Ex. 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 Cor. 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 pascal 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 pascal 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" (Ex. 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 Tim. 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" (Num. 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" (Num. 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", (Heb. 9:26). And again, "This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down on the right hand of God (Heb. 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" (Heb. 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" (Ps. 27:6). Said another, "I will sacrifice unto Thee with a voice of thanksgiving"(Jon. 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 Cor. 5:7). The pascal 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 (Ex. 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" (Heb. 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" (Rom. 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.
"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. 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). When the executioner of God’s judgment saw the blood upon the houses of the Israelites, he entered not, and why? Because death had already done its work there! The innocent had died in the place of the guilty. And thus justice was satisfied. To punish twice for the same crime would be unjust. To exact payment twice for the same debt is unlawful: Even so those within the blood-sprinkled house were secure. Blessed, blessed truth is this. It is not merely God’s mercy but His righteousness which is now on the side of His people. Justice itself demands the acquittal of every believer in Christ. Herein lies the glory of the Gospel. Said the apostle Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16). And why was he not "ashamed" of the Gospel? Hear his next words, "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith".
"And when I see the blood I will pass over you". God’s eye was not upon the house, but on the blood. It might have been a lofty house, a strong house, a beautiful house; this made no difference; if there was no blood there judgment entered and did its deadly work. Its height, its strength, its magnificence availed nothing, if the blood was lacking. On the other hand, the house might be a miserable hovel, falling to pieces with age and decay; but no matter; if blood was upon its door, those within were perfectly safe.
Nor was God’s eye upon those within the house. They might be lineal descendants of Abraham, they might have been circumcised on the eighth day, and in their outward life they might be walking blamelessly so far as the Law was concerned. But it was neither their genealogy, nor their ceremonial observances, nor their works, which secured deliverance from God’s judgments. It was their personal application of the shed blood, and of that alone.
"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" (v. 13). To the mind of the natural man this was consummate folly. What difference will it make, proud reason might ask, if blood be smeared upon the door? Ah I "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him (1 Cor. 2:14). Supremely true is this in connection with God’s way of salvation—"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God... But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:18, 23). It is faith, not reasoning, which God requires; and it was faith which rendered the Passover-sacrifice effective; "Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them" (Heb. 11:28).
"To realize what this faith must have been, we have to go back to ‘that night’, and note the special circumstances, which can alone explain the meaning of the words ‘by faith’. God’s judgments had been poured out on Egypt and its king, and its people. A crisis had arrived; for, after nine plagues had been sent, Pharaoh and the Egyptians still remained obdurate. Indeed, Moses had been threatened with death if he ever came again into Pharaoh’s presence (Ex. 10:28,29). On the other hand, the Hebrews were in more evil case than ever and Moses, who was to have delivered them, had not made good his promises.
"It was at such a moment that Moses heard from God what he was to do. To sense and sight it must have seemed most inadequate, and quite unlikely to accomplish the desired result. Why should this last plague be expected to accomplish what the nine had failed to do with all their accumulating terrors? Why should the mere sprinkling of the blood have such a marvelous effect? And if they were indeed to leave Egypt ‘that same night’ why should the People be burdened with all those minute ceremonial observances at the moment when they ought to be making preparation for their departure? Nothing but ‘faith’ could be of any avail here. Everything was opposed to human understanding and human reasoning.
"With all the consciousness of ill-success upon him, nothing but unfeigned faith in the living God and what he had heard from Him, could have enabled Moses to go to the people and rehearse all the intricacies of the Pascal observances, and tell them to exercise the greatest care in the selection of a lamb on the tenth day of the month, to be slain on the fourteenth day, and eaten with (to them) an unmeaning ceremony. It called for no ordinary confidence in what Moses had heard from God to enable him to go to his brethren who, in their deep distress, must have been ill-disposed to listen; for, hitherto, his efforts had only increased the hatred of their oppressors, and their own miseries as bondmen. It would to human sight be a difficult if not impossible task to persuade the people, and convince them of the absolute necessity of complying with all the minute details of the observance of the Passover ordinance.
"But this is just where faith came in. This was just the field on which it could obtain its greatest victory. Hence we read that, "through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood" (Heb. 11:28), and thus every difficulty was overcome, and the Exodus accomplished. All was based on ‘the hearing of faith’. The words of Jehovah produced the faith, and were at once the cause and effect of all the blessing" (Dr. Bullinger)
"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, when I smite the land of Egypt" (v. 13). In connection with this it is deeply important that we should distinguish between two things; the foundation of security and the proof basis of peace. That which provided a safe refuge from judgment was the death of the lamb and sprinkling of the blood. That which offered a stay to the heart was the promise of Him who cannot lie. So many err on this second point. They want to make their experience, their feelings, something within themselves, the basis of their assurance. This is a favorite device of Satan, to turn the eye downwards upon ourselves. The Holy Spirit ever directs the eye away front ourselves to God and His Word.
Let us suppose a case. Here are two households on that Passover night. At the head of the one is an unbelieving father who has refused to heed the Divine warning and avail himself of the Divine provision. Early that evening his firstborn says, "Father I am very uneasy. Moses has declared that at midnight an Angel is to visit this land and slay all the firstborn, except in those houses which are protected by the blood of a lamb". To still the fears of his son, the father lies, and assures him that there is no cause for alarm seeing that he has killed the lamb and applied its blood to the door. Hearing this, the son is at rest, all fear is gone, and in its place he is filled with peace. But it is a false peace!
In the second home the situation is reversed. At the head of this house is a God-fearing man. He has heard Jehovah’s warning message through Moses, and hearing, has believed and acted accordingly; the lamb has been slain, its blood placed upon the lintel and posts of the door. That evening the firstborn says, "Father, I feel very uneasy. An Angel is to smite all the firstborn to-night and how shall I escape?" His father answers, "Son, your alarm is groundless; yea, it is dishonoring to God. The Lord has said, ‘when I see the blood, I will pass over you’". "But", continues the son, "while I know that you have killed the lamb and applied its blood, I cannot be but terrified. Even now I hear the cries of terror and anguish going up from the houses of the Egyptians. O that morning would come! I shall not feel safe ‘till then". But his fears were groundless.
Now observe. In the first case supposed above we have a man full of happy feelings, yet he perished. In the second case, we have one full of fears yet was he preserved. Examine the ground of each. The oldest son in the first house was happy because he made the word of man the ground of his peace. The oldest son in the second house was miserable because he failed to rest on the sure Word of God. Here, then, are two distinct things. Security is by the applied blood of the Lamb. Assurance and peace are to be found by resting on the Word of God. The ground of both is outside of ourselves. Feelings have nothing to do with either. Deliverance from judgment is by the Finished Work of Christ, and by that alone. Nothing else will avail. Religious experiences, ordinances, self-sacrifice, Church-membership, works of mercy, cultivation of character, avail nothing. The first thing for me, as a poor lost sinner, to make sure of is, Am I relying upon what Christ did for sinners? Am I personally trusting in His shed blood? If I am not, if instead. under the eloquence and moving appeals of some evangelist, I have decided to turn over a new leaf, and endeavor to live a better life, and I have "gone forward" and taken the preacher’s hand, and if he has told me that I am now saved and ready to "join the church," and doing so I feel happy and contented—my peace is a false one, and I shall end in the Lake of Fire, unless God in His grace disillusions me.
On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit has shown me my lost condition, my deep need of the Savior, and if I have cast myself upon Christ as a drowning man clutches at a floating spar; if I have really believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), and received Him as my own personal Savior (John 1:12), and yet, nevertheless, I am still lacking in assurance of my acceptance by God, and have no settled peace of heart; it is because I am failing to rest in simple faith on the written Word. GOD SAYS, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved". That is enough. That is the Word of Him who cannot lie. Nothing more is needed. "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" (John 5:24). Never mind about your feelings; do not stop to examine your repentance to see if it be deep enough. It is CHRIST that saves; not your tears, or prayers, or resolutions. If you have received Christ, then you are saved. Saved now, saved forever.—"For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are set apart" (Heb. 10:14). How may you know that you are saved? In the same way that the firstborn Israelite could know that he was secure from the avenging Angel—by the Word of God. "When I see the blood I will pass over you". God is saying the same to-day. If you are under the blood, then you are eternally secure. Neither the Law, nor the Devil, can harm you. "It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" (Rom. 8:33, 34). Receive Christ for salvation. Rest on God’s Word for assurance and peace!
Nor are we to be occupied with our faith, any more than with our feelings. It is not the act of faith which (instrumentally) saves us, but the TRUTH itself, which faith lays hold of. If no blood had been placed on the door, no believing it was there would have delivered from the avenger. On the other hand, if the blood had been placed on the door, and those within doubted its efficacy, peace would have been destroyed but not their security. It is faith in God’s promise which brings assurance. For salvation, faith is simply the hand that receives the gift. For assurance, faith is "setting to our seal that God is true" (John 3:33). And this is simply receiving "His testimony".
In this paper we have only sought to develop that which is central and vital in connection with our salvation and peace. In our next we shall, God willing, take up some of the many interesting details of Exodus 12. May the Lord be pleased to use what we have written to establish His own.