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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Exodus 12

 

 

Verses 3-11

DISCOURSE: 77

THE PASSOVER

Exodus 12:3-11. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: and if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it, according to the number of the souls: every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 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. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side-posts, and on the upper door-post of the houses wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 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. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand: and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s passover.

THE mercies promised to the Lord’s people shall be fulfilled to them in due season. Their trials may be long continued, and may increase when the time of their termination is near at hand: but God will not forget his promises, or delay the execution of them beyond the proper time. He had foretold to Abraham that his posterity should be ill treated in Egypt to a certain period; but that they should then be brought out of it with great substance. The appointed period, foretold four hundred and thirty years before, was arrived, and yet the condition of the Israelites was as distressed as ever: but at its conclusion, “even on the self-same day,” the promised deliverance was vouch-safed; and an ordinance was appointed to keep up the remembrance of it to all future generations.

From the words of our text we shall be led to notice,

I. The ordinance itself— This was,

1. Commemorative—

[The deliverance of Israel from the sword of the destroying angel, and from their bondage in Egypt, was great [Note: Deuteronomy 26:8.], and unparalleled from the foundation of the world [Note: Deuteronomy 4:34.]. And, in the commemoration of it, God appointed that in all future ages one of the junior members of each family should ask the reason of the institution, and the head of the family should relate what God had done for their nation in passing over the houses of the Israelites when he slew the Egyptians, and in bringing them out of their cruel bondage [Note: 5–27.]. To this the Apostle refers, when he speaks of the Lord’s Supper as an ordinance appointed for “the shewing forth of the Lord’s death, till he come” again at the end of the world to judgment [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:26.].]

2. Typical—

[Every the minutest particular in this ordinance seems to have been intended to typify the redemption of the world by the death of Christ. “The lamb” which was to be “under a year old,” denotes Christ, “the Lamb of God,” in a state of perfect purity [Note: This seems more suited to its tender age than the explanation generally given, of Christ being cut off in the midst of his years.]. It was to be “a male,” as being the most perfect of its kind, and “without blemish,” in order to represent the perfect manhood of Christ, who was indeed “a lamb without blemish and without spot [Note: 1 Peter 1:19.].” It was to be set apart four days before it was slain; not only to mark God’s eternal designation of Christ to be a sacrifice, but to foreshew that Christ, during the four last days of his life, (from his entrance into Jerusalem to his death,) should be examined at different tribunals, to ascertain whether there were the smallest flaw in his character; that so his bitterest enemies might all be constrained to attest his innocence, and thereby unwittingly to declare, that he was fit to be a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. The precise hour of the day wherein Jesus was to die, is thought to have been predicted by the time appointed for the slaying of the paschal lamb, which was “between the two evenings,” or soon after three o’clock in the afternoon: and it was ordered to be slain by all the congregation; to shew that all ranks and orders of men, both of Jews and Gentiles, should concur in his death. Its blood was to be sprinkled on the door-posts and lintels, to shew that the blood of Christ must be sprinkled upon our hearts and consciences, if we would not fall a prey to the destroying angel: but it was not to be sprinkled on the threshold, because the blood of Christ is not to be trodden under foot, or counted by any as an unholy thing [Note: Hebrews 10:29.]. Its flesh was to be roasted, (not to be eaten raw or boiled,) that the extremity of our Saviour’s sufferings from the fire of God’s wrath might be more fitly depicted. It was to be eaten by all; because none can ever be saved, unless they eat of Christ’s flesh, and receive him into their hearts by faith. It was to be eaten whole, and not a bone of it to be broken [Note: John 19:36.] ; probably to intimate, that we must receive Christ in all his offices and in all his benefits; and certainly to foreshew, that he should be exempt from the common fate of all who died his death, and be marked out thereby with the most undoubted evidence, as the true Messiah. And none of it was to be left till the morning, lest it should be treated contemptuously by the profane, or become an occasion of idolatry or superstition to mistaken zealots; and to guard us also against similar abuses in the supper of our Lord.]

Some other particulars worthy of observation will occur, while we consider,

II. The manner of its celebration—

In this also was the ordinance both commemorative and typical. The bitter herbs and unleavened bread were intended to keep up a remembrance of the bitter sorrows which they endured, and the bread of affliction which they ate, in Egypt [Note: Deuteronomy 16:4.] ; and their standing, with their loins girt, and shoes on their feet, and staves in their hands, denoted the haste with which they were driven out of the land, as it were, by the Egyptians themselves. As types, these things declared in what manner we should feed upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that it is possible enough to strain types and metaphors too far: but in interpreting the import of the paschal sacrifice, though in some smaller matters we may not be able to speak with certainty, the great outlines are drawn by an inspired Apostle; who says, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.].” Taking him then for our guide, we say that we may learn even from the manner in which the passover was celebrated, how we are to feast upon the Lamb of God that has been slain for us. We are to do it,

1. With humble penitence—

[The bitter herbs reminded the Israelites of the misery they had endured: but we must further reflect upon the guilt we hare contracted. Their bondage was the effect of force and constraint; ours has been altogether voluntary; and therefore has involved us in the deepest guilt — — — When we eat of Christ’s flesh, we must recollect that his sufferings were the punishment of our iniquities; and we must “look on him whom we have pierced, and mourn; yea, we must mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son [Note: Zechariah 12:10.].” And the more assured we are of our deliverance from wrath through him, the more must we abhor ourselves for all our iniquities, and for all our abominations [Note: Ezekiel 16:63.] — — —]

2. With unfeigned sincerity—

[This is expressly declared by the Apostle to have been intended by the unleavened bread [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.]. Sin is a leaven, the smallest portion of which will leaven and defile our whole souls. It must therefore be purged out with all possible care and diligence. If we retain knowingly and wilfully the smallest measure of it, we have nothing to expect but an everlasting separation from God and his people — — — Let us then search and try our own hearts; and beg of God also to “search and try us, to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting” — — — We must be “Israelites indeed and without guile,” if we would enjoy the full benefits of the body and blood of Christ.]

3. With active zeal—

[We are in a strange land, wherein “we have no continuing city; but we seek one to come, even a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” We are not to take up our rest in this world, but, as pilgrims, with our loins girt, our shoes on our feet, and our staff in our hand, to be always ready to proceed on our journey to the heavenly Canaan. In this state and habit of mind we should feed upon Christ from day to day; commemorating the redemption he has wrought out for us, and receiving from him renewed strength for our journey — — — This weanedness from every thing in this world, and readiness to depart out of it at any moment that our Lord shall call us, constitutes the perfection of a Christian’s character, and the summit of his felicity — — —]

Application—

[Whether we be Israelites feeding on the Paschal Lamb, or Egyptians lying on our beds in thoughtless security, let us remember, that the hour is fast approaching, when God will put a difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Let the one rejoice in the safety which they enjoy under the blood sprinkled on their hearts; and let the other tremble at their impending danger from the sword of the destroying angel: and let all endeavour to realize the unavailing cries of God’s enemies, and the joyful exultations of his redeemed people. O terrible judgment! O glorious deliverance! May God keep us all from hardening our own hearts, and stir us up to an immediate compliance with the directions given us in the Gospel!]


Verses 21-23

DISCOURSE: 78

DELIVERANCE OF THE ISRAELITES FROM THE DESTROYING ANGEL

Exodus 12:21-23. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out, and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the bas on; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians: 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 office of a Minister is to declare to the people what he himself has received from God to deliver to them [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:3.]. Nothing should be added by him; nothing should be withheld [Note: Acts 20:27.]. The direction given to Moses, “See thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount [Note: Hebrews 8:5.],” is that to which all the servants of God should be conformed in all their ministrations. In this consists fidelity. “If we add any thing to the word of God, the plagues contained in it shall be added unto us: if we take away from it, our names shall be taken out of the book of life [Note: Revelation 22:18-19.].” It is spoken to the honour of Moses, that “he was faithful in all his house:” and we find invariably, that the messages which he delivered to the people, and the ordinances which he established among them, accorded with the commission which he himself had received from God. In the words before us, he delivers to them a message of terror and of mercy: he informs them of the judgment about to be inflicted on the Egyptian first-born; and of the means which God in his mercy had appointed for exempting them from the general calamity.

We propose to consider.

I. The means prescribed—

God might have preserved his people without any particular means; as he did when he sent forth an angel to destroy almost the whole Assyrian army. But he intended this deliverance as a type of a far greater deliverance, which he should afterwards effect through the incarnation and death of his own Son; and therefore he appointed certain observances which should lead their minds to that great event—

1. They must kill the paschal lamb—

[Though the passover differed from all other sacrifices, inasmuch as no part of it was burnt upon the altar, yet it is expressly called a sacrifice [Note: Deuteronomy 16:4.] ; and it was ordered to be represented under that character to all succeeding generations [Note: 6, 27.]: and St. Paul himself speaks of it as prefiguring, in that particular view, the death of Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7.].

Here then it is most instructive to us, as it teaches us, that, without a sacrifice offered unto God for us, we cannot obtain favour in his sight, or escape the judgments which our sins have merited. We do not presume to say, absolutely, what God might, or might not, have done; because we know nothing of God except as he is pleased to reveal himself to us: but, as far as the revelation he has given us enables us to judge, we are persuaded that a vicarious sacrifice was necessary; and that, without such a sacrifice, God could not have been “just, and at the same time the justifier” of sinful man [Note: Romans 3:25-26.] — — —]

2. They must sprinkle its blood—

[The destroying angel might have been instructed to discern between the Israelites and the Egyptians without any external sign upon the walls: but God ordered that the blood of the lamb should be sprinkled on the lintel, and side-posts of the doors, in order to shew us yet further, that the blood of Christ must be sprinkled on our souls. The blood of the lamb did not save the Israelites by being shed, but by being sprinkled: and, in the same manner, it is not the blood of Christ as shed on Calvary, but as sprinkled on the soul, that saves us from the wrath to come. Hence the Scripture so often speaks of our being “come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel [Note: Hebrews 12:24 and 1 Peter 1:2.].” We must, as it were, dip the hyssop in the blood, and by faith apply it to our own hearts and consciences, or else we can have no benefit from it, no interest in it — — —]

3. They must abide in their houses—

[This was appointed, that they might know to what alone they owed their safety, namely, to the blood sprinkled on their houses. If, presuming upon their descent from Abraham, or upon their having killed the passover, any of them had ventured abroad before the morning, they would, in all probability, have perished, as Lot’s wife did after her departure from Sodom, or as Shimei afterwards did by going without the walls of Jerusalem [Note: 1 Kings 2:41-46.]. The injunction given to them, teaches us, that we must “abide in Christ [Note: John 15:4-7. N.B. Five times in four verses is this truth repeated.] ;” and that, to venture for one moment from under the shadow of his wings, will involve us in the most imminent danger, if not in utter ruin. We have no protection from the pursuer of blood any longer than we continue within the walls of the city of refuge [Note: Numbers 35:26-28.] — — —]

Let us now take a view of,

II. The deliverance vouchsafed—

The deliverance itself was truly wonderful—

[Throughout all the land of Egypt, the first-born of every person, from the king on his throne to the captive in the dungeon, was slain by an invisible agent. By whatever means the various families were awakened, whether by any sudden impression on their minds, or by the groans of their first-born smitten by the destroying angel, there was at the same hour throughout all the kingdom a cry of lamentation and of terror; of lamentation for their deceased relatives, and of terror on their own account, lest a similar judgment should be inflicted on them also. What dreadful consternation must have prevailed, the instant that the extent of this calamity was seen; when every one, going for relief and comfort to his neighbour, saw him also overwhelmed with similar anguish! But though the first-born of men and cattle was destroyed amongst all the Gentiles, not one, either of men or cattle, suffered amongst the Israelites. How must the whole Jewish nation be struck with wonder at this astonishing display of God’s mercy towards them!

But a greater deliverance than this was shadowed forth. There is a day coming when God will put a more awful difference between his friends and enemies; when his enemies, without exception, shall be smitten with the second death, and his friends be exalted to eternal glory and felicity. What terror will be seen in that day! what weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth among the objects of his displeasure! and what exultation and triumph amongst those who shall be the monuments of his distinguishing favour! That deliverance will be indeed wonderful; and eternity will be too short to explore the unsearchable riches of grace and love contained in it.]

The manner in which it was effected also deserves particular attention—

[There was not one agent only in this transaction, but two: a destroying angel, that went forth to execute judgment indiscriminately on one in every house; and God, who attended him, as it were, to intercept his stroke, and ward off the blow wherever the blood was sprinkled on the houses. This is clearly intimated in the text; and it is as clearly referred to by the Prophet Isaiah, who combines this image with that of a bird darting between her offspring and the bird of prey, in order to protect them from their voracious enemy [Note: Isaiah 31:5.]. Indeed the very name given to the ordinance which was appointed to commemorate this event, was taken from the circumstance of God’s leaping forward, and thus obliging the angel to pass over every house where the blood appeared.

In reflecting on this, we take comfort from the thought, that, whoever may menace the Lord’s people, God himself is their protector; and that, “while he is for them, none can be effectually against them.” If all the angels in heaven, yea and all the devils in hell too, were employed to execute vengeance on the earth, we need not fear; since God is omniscient to discern, and almighty to protect, the least and meanest of his believing people.]

We may learn from hence,

1. The use and excellence of faith—

[It was “by faith that Moses kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them [Note: Hebrews 11:28.].” It is by faith also, and by faith alone, that we can obtain an interest in the Lord Jesus. In what other way can we present to God his sacrifice? In what other way can we sprinkle our hearts with his atoning blood? In what other way can we “abide in him till the morning” of the resurrection? This is not done by repentance, or love, or any other grace, but by faith only. Other graces are good, and necessary in their place; but it is faith only that apprehends Christ, and obtains for us all the benefits of his passion. Let us then “believe in him,” and “live upon him,” and “dwell in him,” as our sure and only deliverer from the wrath to come.]

2. The importance of inquiring into our state before God—

[The generality go to their rest as securely as the Egyptians did, unawed by the threatenings of Almighty God, and unconscious of the danger to which they were exposed. But how many wake in eternity, and find their error when it is too late! Let me then entreat you to inquire whether you have ever dreaded the stroke of God’s avenging arm? whether you have been made sensible that God has appointed one way, and one way only, for your escape? whether you have regarded “Christ as your passover that has been sacrificed for you?” whether you have fed upon him, with the bitter herbs of penitence and contrition? Have you dipped the hyssop, as it were, in his blood, and sprinkled your souls with it? And do you feel that it would be at the peril of your souls, if you were to venture for one moment from your place of refuge? Make these inquiries; and be not satisfied till you are assured, on scriptural grounds, that you are out of the reach of the destroying angel. Till then, adopt the prayer of David; “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”]


Verse 41-42

DISCOURSE: 76

REDEMPTION CELEBRATED

Exodus 12:41-42. It came to pass at the end of four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord, for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.

THE Lord, for wise and gracious reasons, often delays the execution of his promises; till we, in our impatience, are almost ready to think he has forgotten them. But, however long he may appear to neglect us, “he is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness [Note: 2 Peter 3:9.].” He has fixed a time, beyond which there shall be no delay [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.]: and at the appointed hour he will shew himself “mighty to save.”

To Abraham and his seed God promised to give the land of Canaan. But behold, no less than four hundred and thirty years were ordained of him to pass, and a great portion of that time in extreme suffering, before his seed were permitted to see the long-wished-for period. But at the time fixed from the beginning in the divine counsels, “even the self-same day it came to pass,” that all the hosts of Israel were brought forth out of Egypt; and God’s promises to them were fulfilled.

In like manner it was promised to Adam that “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.” But four thousand years were suffered to elapse before that promised Seed was sent into the world. “When, however, the fulness of time was come, God sent him, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons [Note: Galatians 4:4-5.].” In effecting this great work, the Messiah was to die [Note: Hebrews 2:14-15.]. But “he was not to see corruption [Note: Psalms 16:10.].” On the third day he was to rise again [Note: Matthew 12:40.]. To prevent this, every expedient was resorted to, that human ingenuity could contrive. But at the appointed moment the Saviour rose; and thus completed the deliverance of a ruined world.

These two events are referred to in the text; the one, historically; the other, typically.

To these events I will first call your attention—

Great was the deliverance of Israel from Egypt—

[Sore, beyond conception, was the bondage of the children of Israel; insomuch that “God himself was grieved at it.” But, through the judgments executed on their oppressors, Pharaoh was at last prevailed on to dismiss them. The last great judgment that was inflicted on their enemies was the destruction of their first-born throughout all the land of Egypt; from which the Israelites were protected by the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled on their dwellings. This was altogether a wonderful deliverance, such as never had been vouchsafed to any other nation under heaven [Note: Deuteronomy 4:32-34.].

The end of that deliverance rendered it yet more glorious; because they were now consecrated to the Lord as “a special people above all people upon the face of the earth:” and they were led forth under the immediate guidance and protection of God himself, to “a land flowing with milk and honey,” “a land that was the glory of all lands.”

This was a redemption which might well be remembered by them, in all future ages, with wonder, and gratitude, and praise.]

But infinitely greater is the deliverance that has been vouchsafed to us—

From how much sorer bondage are we rescued, even from the bonds of sin and Satan, death and hell! — — — And how much more wonderful is the means of our preservation, even the blood of God’s only dear Son, once shed on Calvary, and now sprinkled on our souls! — — — To how much higher a state too are we raised, not nominally, but really, the sons of God, and the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven! — — — What shall we say of this? It surpasses the utmost conception both of men and angels: and has a height and depth, and length and breadth, that is utterly incomprehensible.]

Let me next commend to your special observance this [Note: Preached on Easter Day.] day, on which these great events are commemorated—

They deserve well to be commemorated by the whole human race—

[The deliverance from Egypt will be a standing memorial of God’s power and grace to the very end of time. But what shall we say of the redemption which that event typified? Should not that be held in remembrance by us? Should not that be annually commemorated with the devoutest acknowledgments? Verily, “it is a day much to be observed unto the Lord,” even unto the latest generations.

And here I cannot but regret that the stated remembrance of these wonderful events is by a great multitude of religious professors utterly disregarded. Under an idea of avoiding Popish superstition, many have run to an opposite extreme, and cast off the very semblance of gratitude, and put from them the most effectual means of exciting it in the soul. That such memorials may degenerate into form, I readily acknowledge; but that they may be subservient to the greatest spiritual elevation, I have no doubt: and I cannot but lament, that, through a licentious zeal for what they call liberty, many deprive themselves of most invaluable blessings. To us of the Established Church, I thank God, these privileges are preserved: and I would recommend to every one of you a conscientious and devout improvement of them. Nor can I doubt, but that as the memorial of our Lord’s death continued to us in the Sacramental Supper is found a blessing, so will the stated remembrance of our Lord’s birth, and death, and resurrection, on the days on which they are commemorated, prove a blessing to all who will consecrate the time to a special consideration of those stupendous mercies.]

The way in which they should be observed may be learned from the history before us—

[The Israelites, to their latest generations, were on that day to eat of the paschal lamb, and to renew their dedication of themselves to him as his peculiar people. And in this way should we employ this holy day.

Let us this day keep a feast unto the Lord [Note: 4.]. Let us eat of the Paschal Lamb, and feed on that adorable Saviour who shed his blood for us, to redeem our souls from death — — — But let us “eat it with the bitter herbs” of penitential sorrow, and “with the unleavened bread” of sincerity and truth [Note: with Deuteronomy 16:1-4.]. Nor is this a suggestion of man; but of the Lord himself, who has given us this very command [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.]. Mark well, I pray you, these peculiar circumstances, which alone will ensure a favourable acceptance of your services before God: for without deep penitence and guileless sincerity your services will be only an abomination to the Lord — — —

Let us also dedicate ourselves to him as his peculiar people [Note: Exodus 13:2 with Numbers 8:17.]. We are not our own: we are bought with a price: we should therefore glorify our God with our bodies, and our spirits, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.]. Remember how entirely the people of Israel were now separated from the world, and how completely they were made dependent on their God. Remember too, that they had but one object in view, namely, the attainment of the promised land. Thus in spirit should we be: in spirit, I say; because we have offices to perform, which preclude a possibility of entire separation from the world. But if, whilst we fulfil the duties of our respective stations in the world, we attain in heart what the external situation of Israel was designed to represent, we shall do well. This should from henceforth be our one labour. Behold them, and God himself at their head—he theirs, and they his! So let us consecrate ourselves this day to him, that “we may be his people, and he our God, for ever and ever.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 12:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/exodus-12.html. 1832.


Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 21st, 2017
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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