SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PASSOVER
"The kindness and love of God our
Saviour towards man appeared." Titus 3:4
THE Bible is the story of redemption. Its opening chapters are a preface which tells how God made man in His own image; how man fell by sin; how iniquity abounded until there was no remedy; how the judgment of the Flood prepared the way for a new departure; how man again apostatized; and how God then took up a favoured people, a "first-born" to serve as His agent and witness upon earth. The rest of the Old Testament is the history, not of the human race, but of "Abraham and his seed." Its deeper spiritual teaching relates to the true "Seed," the true "First-born," the Lord Jesus Christ.
Genesis closes by telling how the favoured people came to be sojourners in Egypt. As we open the Book of Exodus we find that, from being the honoured guests of Pharaoh, they had become slaves, oppressed by hard and cruel bondage.
Their struggles for freedom only served to rivet their fetters. To work out their destiny was impossible until they had been delivered from Egyptian slavery; and deliverance was impossible save by the power of God. But before they could be redeemed by power, they must needs be redeemed by blood.
The key-picture of our redemption story is perfect even in details. Being in Egypt, they came under Egypts doom; for in the types the first-born represented the family, and the Divine decree was that "all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die." There was no exemption for Israel. But a "way of salvation" was proclaimed. The paschal lamb was to be killed for every house, and its blood sprinkled upon the door. Here was the Gospel message which Moses brought from their Jehovah God" 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 into your houses to smite you." (Exodus 12:23)
The blood of "slain beasts" could never take away sin, or change a sinners condition or destiny. But it could foreshadow the death of Christ, the great Passover of our redemption. And the meaning of "blood" is death applied. Therefore it is that, in the Divine accuracy which marks the language of Scripture, redemption is by "blood." It is only for those who by faith become one with Christ in His death.
We learn from the typology of Exodus, and from the express teaching of the New Testament, that the Passover was but the first step in the full redemption of the people. But it was the foundation of all the rest, and therefore it is well to pause here, and to mark its significance. But why, it may be asked, should we study Exodus, when the New Testament lies open before us? The ready answer is, that never in the history of Christendom was the typology of the Pentateuch more needed than today. So utter is the blindness, so deep the apostasy, of the present hour, that on every hand popular leaders of religious thought are commending, as the outcome of a new enlightenment, a Gospel that betrays ignorance of "the first principles of the oracles of God" - the very A B C of the Divine revelation to mankind.
In this theology sin is but a defect, inevitable in the progress of the race toward the perfection which is mans natural destiny. The underside of the tapestry, of course, looks blurred and foul. And "evil is only the underside of good." But all will come right in the end. The doctrines of original sin and vicarious sacrifice belong to the childhood of the race, and ill these days of ours it is time to break with the nursery.
We may well exclaim, in the words of Bonars "Hymn for the Last Days": -
"Evil is now our good,
And error is our truth!"
Written half a century ago, these words were almost prophetic. No less so are words that follow: -
"The cross is growing old,
And the great Sepulcher
Is but a Hebrew tomb;
The Christ has died in vain."
"The Christ of ages past
Is now the Christ no more;
Altar and fire are gone,
The Victim but a dream."
We have come to such a pass that the most elementary truths of Scripture need to be restated - mans utter ruin and hopelessness, consequent upon the spiritual depravity that is his heritage from the Fall; and his need of "redemption by blood" - salvation through the death of Christ. And we need not only to have Scriptural truth, but to have truth Scripturally expressed. The present day revolt against orthodox doctrines is due in part to the manner in which those doctrines have been formulated. One great school of theology has taken its stand upon the sin-offering, and, ignoring the redemption sacrifices, it unduly limits the scope and efficacy of the work of Christ. Another school bases its Gospel on the teaching of the Passover, and ignores all that follows. As already indicated, the sin-offering, in its various aspects, was only for a redeemed people; and it was by the Passover that they obtained redemption. And further, as we shall find in the sequel, the full revelation of grace in the New Testament transcends all that the types can teach us.
But let us begin at the beginning, and trace the successive steps indicated in the key-pictures of the Pentateuch. No one must suppose, of course, that the blessings prefigured by the types come to the believer in a chronological sequence, or that they are separated by intervals of time. But in the key-pictures these stages are clearly distinguished, in order that our minds may dwell upon them, and that thus we may learn in all its fullness what the redemption of Christ has won for us.
We all know the story, do we not? Well, we think we do - how God passed through the land in judgment, and how when He came to the bloodsprinkled door He passed it over, instead of entering in to slay the firstborn. But what if we should find that this is not at all what the record teaches?
In dealing with a dead language, etymology may sometimes afford a clue to the meaning of a word, but the only safe and certain guide to its meaning is its use.
This verb, pasach, which occurs three times in Exodus 12:(verses 13, 23, and 27), is used in three other passages of Scripture, namely, 2 Samuel 4:4; 1 Kings 18:21 and 26; and Isaiah 31:5. A careful study of these passages will confirm a first impression that the meaning usually given to the word is really foreign to it.
In 2 Samuel 4:4 it is translated, "became lame," a rendering which its use in 1 Kings 18:26 may serve to explain. We there read that the prophets of Baal leaped about their altar. Their action was not, as has been grotesquely suggested, "a religious dance"; it betokened the physical paroxysms of demon-possessed men. Having worked themselves into a state of religious frenzy, they leaped up and down, round the altar.
The meaning of the word in the twenty-first verse may seem wholly apart from both these uses; but it is not so. "How long halt ye between two opinions?" The word "halt" is here used, not in the sense of stopping dead, like a soldier at the word of command, but of hesitating to take the decisive step to the one side or the other. If the verb pasach meant to "pass over," it would express precisely what the prophet called upon the people to do, and what they ought to have done, but would not do. But a careful study of its use in the passages cited - going lame, halting, leaping - will show that the essential thought is the kind of action implied in each case, and that the thought of passing away is foreign to it The action of a bird in fluttering over its nest would exactly illustrate it.
And now, with the help of the clue thus gained, the last of these passages will shed a flood of new light upon the Exodus story. "As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts protect Jerusalem; He will protect and deliver it. He will pass over and preserve it." (Isaiah 31:5) How does another bird - the word is in the feminine - protect her nest. Is it by passing over it in the sense of passing it bye. Deuteronomy 32:11 describes the eagle "fluttering over her young." Though the word here used is different, the thought is identical. As a bird protects her nest, so does God preserve his people. He "rideth upon the heavens for their help"; He hides them under the shadow of His wings, "the wings of the Almighty." (Psalm 17:8; cf. Ps 36:7; 13 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4) And thus it was that He preserved them on that awful night when the destroyer was abroad in the land of Egypt.
What is done by Gods command, He is said to do Himself. Hence the language of verse 23, "The Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians." But the words that follow make it clear that it was not the Lord Himself who executed the judgment - words indeed could not be clearer, "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." The highest thought suggested by the conventional reading of the passage, is that He spared them; the truth is that He stood on guard, as it were, at every blood-sprinkled door. He became their Saviour. Nothing short of this is the meaning of the Passover. The faith of His people in the old time might well put to shame the half faith of so many of His people in these days of the fuller light of the Christian revelation. They learned to sing, "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is any strength and my song; He also is become my salvation." (Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 12:2)
The Divine religion of Judaism was marked by festivals based on sacrifice - joy in the presence of God, based on atonement for sin. And so is it in Christianity. Hence the exhortation, "For our Passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ, wherefore let us keep festival!" (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 (R. V., marg.) And this should be realized in every Christian life. Festival-keeping speaks of joy, and joy is the very atmosphere of Christianity. Not the gaiety of fools, which any passing sorrow kills; but joy so firmly based on eternal realities, that passing storms of sorrow, let them be never so fierce, cannot quench it. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" is one of the paradoxes of the Christian life.
Go To Chapter Three
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