"Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall 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." (Exodus 12:5,6)
Doubtless to set forth God's great mercy in saving lost and ruined man; and wherever we look in the Scriptures, and whatever we may read of truth that is of a good and pure nature, we may always conclude that it is leading us up to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Epistle to the Colossians it is said, that in Christ Jesus there is no distinction of nations or people, neither Jew nor Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all. If He is all and in all to the people of God, He must be the Eternal Jehovah. This could never have been said of any one but the Lord Himself. Our natural life is His, we are His by creation; and if we are His children by grace, He is all our salvation, all our desire, all our hope of Heaven, all our joy here, all our redemption, and all we need. Therefore, when we read the Scriptures, we may ask the Lord to show us that this is the way to Christ, that the Scriptures may lead our minds up to Him, as if the Lord had said: The people are so uncomfortable through sin, and so distressed about it, that I will cause all the words and lines in the sacred word, to lead them up to My Son for peace, safety and comfort.
First. We have the Divine appointment for this passover--"a lamb."
Secondly. It is said, "Your lamb." God did not say, "It is Mine," though it was His; and we see in this how He transfers it to the people here.
Thirdly. We notice the slaying and the enjoyment of this passover lamb. Happy is the man or woman who are thus acquainted with Christ as the Lamb of God; and upon whom they feed daily and hourly. There is no other food for the soul, there is nothing else satisfying. This or that may look feasible, and the other may appear as if it will give us much pleasure, but in all these things there will be something to annoy or distress us. There is no rose but the Rose of Sharon that is without a thorn. Everything short of Christ will give us pain. We bless God if we know what it is to feed on this Passover Lamb.
It was the night of God's great deliverance for the children of Israel, when he delivered them from their long Egyptian bondage. 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 to you." Before this their year began in Nisan: about the beginning of September. The Lord altered their ecclesiastical year to about March or April: because that was the time when the passover was partaken of, and they were delivered. That, He said, is the beginning of all your spiritual enjoyment, all pointing to Christ, all showing that Christ brought about the spring of the year, and all heavenly blessings. It was the beginning of the month Abib when Christ died, the day after the passover. So it is springtime to the soul when it finds Christ. Have you found Him? We have long talked about Him, as if He is someone, somewhere, as if there is such a Being, but happy is the person who is acquainted with Him, knows His voice, as the man of God said to Saul of Tarsus when he went to him at the command of God, that he should see that Just One, and hear His voice. So the people of God become acquainted with the Saviour. What a wonderful mercy; what comfort it brings to the heart, when we are made acquainted with Christ as our Friend! If you know Him, use Him well, for he that hath a Friend must show himself friendly; and there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) Be sure if you find Christ to love Him, bless Him, and obey Him from day to day. Do not dictate to Him as to your circumstances, or anything else. He must be the great Prophet, the great Teacher, not you; and perhaps if we do so, He may withdraw His sweet presence from us. Let us see how we can manage without Him. You have not seen Him lately, you have not enjoyed His presence of late; there was something wrong on your part that caused Him to withdraw. Just like the Church in the Canticles, when He called to her, she began to make all sorts of vain excuses; she was not ready to receive Him, "I have put off my coat," she said, "It is night, let me rest; a little more sleep; I have washed my feet, how can I defile them." When she rose to open to Him did she find Him? No! He resented that; not by cutting her off, but by withdrawing from her, till her soul agony came on, and she found no rest until she had found Him. Songs 5:3-6)
The people were to take up the lamb on the tenth day of the month, and keep it until the fourteenth day, then slay it, roast it, and partake of it. On the tenth day of the month Nisan, Christ went to Jerusalem; He was not compelled to go there, there were four days before the time when He should die on the cross; everything was carried out and fulfilled by Him to the very letter. No one could compel Him to die. His was a voluntary, though a painful and agonizing death. He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us unto God. (Titus 2:14) The Lord said He would smite all the firstborn of Egypt that night and their gods. Now sometimes the word gods in the Scriptures is made use of to set forth princes and rulers, and it is said in verse 13: "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." And again: "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."
We turn to the eighteenth chapter of Exodus. Jethro is talking to Moses, and at the tenth verse it is said: "Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now, I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them." Yes, not only the princes of the power of the land, but the cattle and the gods all fell before the mighty power of the Lord: and when Jesus is very precious to us we have no idols, have we?
"Nothing but Jesus I esteem,
My soul is then sincere;
And everything that's dear to Him,
To me is also dear."
May He appear for us today, and if there is anything displeasing to Him in our conduct or our desires, may it all die before His gracious and heavenly presence.
God's appointment was a lamb, and this was prophesied of in the days of the prophets in Old Testament Scriptures until John came, and Christ came to be baptised of him; and John said to the people, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) This is the one appointed; this is the Son of God. Christ had been prefigured for hundreds of years, but John said, "This is the Lamb of God." Oh how sweet and precious; the Lord has provided in His Son a Lamb for the redemption of the lost, for the deliverance of sinners from worse than Egyptian bondage. Did Christ in any way attempt to flee from those that sought to kill Him? He gave Himself up willingly, He, who with a word caused all His enemies to fall to the ground, could have consumed them all by His word if it had been His pleasure; but He loved sinners, He loved His people; He would rather die than that they should; He would rather bear their sins and iniquities and put them away by the sacrifice of Himself. I have sometimes thought with pleasure that if Jesus died for me, if He has engaged to conduct me to Heaven, it is all His concern. May we be enabled to think like that: that He is our Saviour, that He has engaged on our behalf, and therefore it is not with us, much as we wish to be right and to get to heaven, yet our arrival there is with Him. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us; we must refer all our affairs to Him if we would have peace; it is when we try with all our might to manage for ourselves that our troubles arise, but the moment you can leave all in His hand, it is more beautiful than I can express; then all our end, then we feel that everything is right. If you have not done so yet, take everything to Jesus, "Casting all your care upon him." If you are in trouble, say, "Thou Lord knowest my trouble, undertake for me." King Hezekiah had no prayer but that, and the Lord did undertake for him directly. The prophet went back with a message that astonished him and the king too, no doubt. "The Lord hath heard thy prayer, He hath seen thy tears, He will add to thy days fifteen years." The Lord loves to astonish us with His goodness; He overcomes us sometimes with it; we wonder at His love, and adore Him for His mercy. It is far beyond our understanding that He should deal with us in such a gracious and wonderful way. You expected great trouble and it did not come, or if it did come you could leave it all with the Lord. If you had perplexed your mind with it months ago, you would be perplexed now. The Lord has so ordered it, that we are obliged to take it all to Jesus; He will manage for us, and in us, guide us right and bring us through. We do not want anything more than that, it is quite sufficient.
This Lamb, how spotless, innocent and pure He stood, amidst all the sins and transgressions of men! When He was ridiculed; when they did everything to annoy Him, did He resent it? No! He was God's Lamb, and He was appointed to die for the worst of sinners. His invitation is, "Come unto me and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Some one may have been troubled about this, he has been thinking "I have sinned too much, there is that one great sin that is such a burden on my conscience." But you see how the Lord put it. "I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) The Scriptures become delightful and beautiful to the people of God. This sweet Lamb, this precious Jesus, He attended to every case of trouble brought before Him when He was here below, no matter what it was. The widow woman who lost her son; Jesus restored him to life and to his mother. Lazarus was dead; Jesus raised him from the dead. However trying, and however opposed to all human power and thought, when they came to Christ about it He always undertook their case. Just as He does now, so then, He went to the people more frequently when in trouble than they came to Him. "Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24) How sweet and precious. This is our privilege.
The lamb was to be of the first year. Just so with Christ. He died in all His spotless purity and in the prime of life. At thirty years of age the Levites and priests were called to their work, and at thirty years of age Christ went to His work, just fitted to our state, just the One to save lost and ruined man; a Saviour and a Great One. We read of some who came to Him who had been notorious sinners, but they all found pardon! I have never read of any who went to Christ for pardon and peace, who went truly and sincerely, but that they found it.
How innocent, pure and perfect this Lamb of God was--without spot, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. Just such a Saviour as sinners need. God's appointed Lamb died on Calvary, that we might hope for mercy through Him. In the Revelations John saw the vision of the scroll or book that no one dared to open, and the inquiry in heaven was, Who is worthy to take this book and break open its seals? And all heaven and earth were still. And John said "He wept much," it was all concerning the church of God. And one of the elders said "Weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book. And John saw a Lamb as it had been slain. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne." So they sang there, and so we sing here, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honour and power and blessing." (Rev. 5:1-12)
Secondly --"Your lamb."
Christ was God's Lamb, as John the Baptist said. But see how He was given to us: the Father has given us His Christ; and how the Lord Jesus Christ has made Himself over to us. Is He ours? He must be "your Lamb." He is the great gift of Heaven. It is a sweet mercy when we can accept and claim Him as our own. If you find peace in your bosom today, you may bless God for the gift of Christ.
"My Christ He is the heaven of heavens,
My Christ what shall I call;
My Christ is first, my Christ is last,
My Christ is ALL in ALL!"
Fellow sinner, is He your Saviour? We shall never sufficiently bless the Lord for this royal gift of Heaven. Christ is always dear to us, but we do not always live in the enjoyment of it. You may have a dear friend who is absent, that you have not seen for a long time, but you always speak of him as a dear friend although he is away, and you would like him to visit you. Just so it is with Jesus. If He withdraws Himself from us, if He hides His face sometimes, we may still claim Him as our Saviour and our Friend. The Lord has made over His Son to every believer, to claim Him, and call Him his own. Christ claims the believer as His own, and believers claim Him as their own, and speak of Him as such. "My beloved is mine," (Song of Solomon 2:16) saith the Church, and the Apostle said, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." Walk just as you received Him when first you felt your need of Him, when He was revealed in the Bible and the preached word to you, when God gave you faith to accept Him; loving Him, blessing Him for this great gift. When we receive Him by faith, He is ours. These Scriptures cling about the heart and comfort it. Perhaps some poor child of God in great tribulation is saying, "Is Christ my Saviour? I dare not say He is mine." Is He acceptable to you? Is He just such an One as you need? Because there is this great difference. When in our unregenerate state we do not want Him, we do not feel our need of Him, we do not desire Him, we do not care or think about such a blessing as this; we want to enjoy ourselves in the world. Now, Christ is our only desire, and no one ever truly desired Him, and wished Christ to be their Saviour, but that Christ was and is their Saviour. He is yours if you really want Him.
After all your care and anxiety about it, you will find ultimately that He is "your lamb," and your Christ. You cannot be comfortable without Him; you cannot be satisfied without the enjoyment of Him; it is the Lord Himself who creates those feelings in the breast, that give us the desire to know Him, and the knowledge of His ways; that makes us feel we can give up all for Jesus, that we can leave all for Him; and, therefore, we must not find fault with Him if He sometimes tries us. Perhaps He takes away some loved one from us, but He only took what He gave. Sometimes we can say, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21) Christ belongs to every believer. He is a whole and perfect Saviour set forth by this Lamb without blemish in the text. Precious Jesus! Sometimes we can adore and bless and praise Thy holy name: I wish we could always; but the little worries of life come along, and we forget that He said, "Thou shalt not be forgotten of me." Israel at one time forgot their resting place, but Jesus is the Refuge of our souls, and we accept Him as God's great Gift.
"I'm rich to all the intents of bliss
If Thou O! God art mine."
This has made many persons sing on their sick beds; in the depths of trouble many sing, who before felt the heart almost breaking with grief; it made them rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of their salvation. If we accept Him, and feel He is ours, and live upon His fullness, that is our privilege. He will be as good as His word, He will always stand by them that thus accept Him, He will never leave nor forsake them, he will manage all their ways, and all their affairs, from the beginning to the end; and will sometimes come in such a sweet overpowering way, that we can but bless His name. Sometimes when the Lord visits us unexpectedly it overcomes us, and filled with holy wonder and adoration, we say, "Who is a God like unto thee?" Like Jacob when he said, "Surely the Lord was in this place and I knew it not." He is yours Christian. Perhaps the Lord is leading you in a mysterious way of providence; but do not give up this, hold it fast: that Christ is your Saviour, your Lord, and that you are His. "Hold fast that thou hast, let no man take thy crown." May we be enabled to believe through all the trials of life, that He is ours.
Thirdly: We notice that this lamb was to be slain (soon after three o'clock in the afternoon.) It is said "the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it." What! Did the Church have some part in killing the Saviour? Peter told them on the day of Pentecost, "Whom ye by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2:23) And they said, "What must we do to be saved?" And he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 16:30,31) Believe on Him whom they had crucified, and find salvation? Come, fellow sinner, see how cheering the word of God is.
Then the people were to partake of the lamb until midnight; they were to become pilgrims or travelers, they were to eat it with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hands. So the Christian is ready for the journey; his loins are girded with truth, and he has the staff of God's truth in his hand to lean heavily upon: it was his father's staff, his grandfather's, it belonged to all the Church of God from the beginning; the staff that the enemy does not like, that will support you, and with which you may drive all your foes: a glorious staff.
The passover was observed year by year, down to the time of Christ's coming, when it was all fulfilled in Him. So Christians have the same food, the same privileges from year to year, from generation to generation. Many Christians who have feasted on Christ are now in glory; He was their comfort, and He is ours, and will be to the end of the journey.
Then the blood was to be sprinkled on the side posts and upper door posts (not the threshold.) "He that despised Mose's law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the son of God, and hath accounted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:29) Christians cannot do that; the precious blood of Christ is our protection; here we are safe; the destroying angel, when he came and looked at the doorposts, saw the blood and passed away. The children of Israel were inside partaking of the passover. There was a cry throughout all the land of Egypt, for there was not a house in which there was not one dead. Hark! How the cattle moan, they are dying too; the gods of the Egyptians are cast down; if there were molten gods, they were melted, and if they were wooden, they were dashed to pieces by the power of God. The Egyptians had worshipped the Nile for many years, but that river was turned into blood. How strange it all was. Our God is a God of gods, the Lord of lords, the Supreme Head of all. Never forget this. Let your best profession be sprinkled with the blood; in all our movements and ways may we remember the blood by which we are redeemed; do not be ashamed of that. The scarlet line was a token of safety to Rahab--if she had not put it out, she would have fallen with the rest.
What liberty and joy the passover brought to the children of Israel. They might have said, "We have mourned under Egyptian bondage ever since we were born, we have grown to manhood and have families, and never knew what liberty was; now it is all liberty, the old bonds are broken, the chains dashed asunder, everything that bound us down in cruelty and hard labor is all laid in the dust; it is the first day of the year to us, the acceptable year of the Lord." Oh! How precious is the Christian life. Would that we all knew it. I would that we could all realize it, how beautiful it would be. But, Christian, we know something of it, we have left Egypt through the blood of the Lamb, through the Pascha or Passover as we call it (because the Lord passed over the Israelites when He slew the Egyptians;) now we enjoy liberty, we are free from condemnation, free from guilty fear, free from Satan's bonds; we are on our way to the heavenly City, the heavenly Jerusalem; where the preacher even, unworthy as he is, hopes and expects to meet many of you, to bless and praise the Lord for ever and ever. Amen.