And after the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as He swore to you and your fathers,
Exodus 13:10. Cf. chapter Exodus 12:42
(1) The month in which it occurred became the beginning of months.
(2) A special ordinance as to the first-born pointed back continually to the event celebrated (vers. 11-13).
(3) The annual feast was specially devised to keep it in memory (vers. 14, etc.). Why all this?
I. REASON OF OBSERVANCE. It commemorated:
1. A great judgment. Nine plagues had passed; the members of each successive trial following one another at shorter intervals and with increasing severity. [Illustration, siege of town. Besiegers draw parallels closer and closer, each time sounding summons to surrender. Every summons disregarded; at length word given for the assault.] God laying siege to Egypt, now preparing for the assault (cf. generally Amos 4.). "Therefore, prepare to meet thy God" (Exodus 11:4). "I will go out;" the representatives stand aside that the arm of Jehovah may be recognised. Fourteenth of month; midnight. God accompanied by the angel of vengeance. Picture result - palace, dungeon, stables, fields, temples, streets. The judgment was upon Egypt and her gods.
2. A great deliverance.
(1) From death. God the judge is impartial. If Egypt has sinned, so also Israel. Three plagues shared by both, both now threatened by self-same danger. Israel, however, trusting God, may escape by obedience. Lamb chosen four days earlier. Slain that afternoon at sundown. Light of full moon shows blood streaks on lintels and doorposts of houses in Goshen; inside, people prepared for departure, feeding on lamb. Midnight: Is it imagination that rush and quiver of unseen wings? The shadow of the wings of God shelter each blood-stained door, whilst the angel of vengeance passes over, sparing those whom God protects.
(2) From slavery. Wailing throughout Egypt. Midnight message, "Go, get ye gone." At once families gather to standards of their tribes. Soon one great army, harnessed and equipped, laden with spoils of Egypt, the Israelites march forth from the land of their captivity. The time fulfilled to the day (Exodus 12:41), when their hour is come their God is ready.
3. A great exhibition of Divine power. Not a mere judgment or a mere deliverance, but judgment by a personal judge, deliverance by a personal deliverer.
(1) The Egyptians needed to learn who Jehovah was. The Israelites had not done much to make him respected; rather had brought his name into disrepute as the patron of a slavish multitude. Must cause his own name to be hallowed (cf. Ezekiel 36:20-23).
(2) Israel needed to learn that Jehovah was the deliverer - a God faithful to his promises, yet who could not endure sin. Moses and Aaron his instruments, but the victory due only to his right hand and his holy arm.
II. USE OF THE OBSERVANCE. By communicating the judgment and the deliverance, it was calculated to keep men mindful of the judge and the deliverer, and to prompt respect for his law (Exodus 13:9). Commemorations are an aid to memory, reminding of past events, and recalling associations connected with them. Mere observance as an end in itself, bondage (cf. Galatians 4:9, 10); as a means to an end, helpful and necessary. The Pharisee makes a virtue of observance; the right thing is to draw virtue from it. See what this observance taught: -
1. God is long-suffering, but the day of vengeance comes at length. The help to memory, as to what he had done, was a help to conviction as to what he might do.
2. God will not clear the guilty, yet his mercy doth endure for ever. Even with the help, how often were these truths forgotten (cf. Isaiah 106:7-13, etc.); would any have remembered them without it? Apply. Life, which forms the memory of the future, grows out of memory of the past. A good memory is a help to good living. What helps do you use to prompt memory? The marked bill, the birthday text-book, the diary - all these helpful; above all, the day, the anniversary, if we use it rightly. Commemorations are but sign-posts pointing to that which is commemorated; use them as such, follow out their indications. So, remembering past mercies, faith will be strengthened and hope sustained. - G.
All the firstborn.1. Jehovah is the beginning and end of His own ordinances. He sets them for Himself.
2. The Church must act these duties from God unto God Himself.
3. All that God requires must His people make to pass from them to Him.
4. Firstborn males of beasts God required in the law for special use to Himself (ver. 12).
5. Clean and unclean among creatures is a distinction made by God for men, not for Himself.
6. God hath a proprietary in all creatures be they never so unclean.
7. God hath ordered redemption for unclean by putting the clean in their stead.
8. Unclean unredeemed must be destroyed.
9. A price hath God set for man's redemption to gain a Church of the firstborn.
10. The law of the firstborn hath its truth and accomplishment in Christ Jesus, "the Firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:15; ver. 13).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
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