The Passover and the Lord's Supper: Part 1

The cross is the center of the moral glory of God, the righteous foundation for the display of grace. Truly the cross is “by grace,” but the display of grace is by the cross, and grace is God’s greatest moral glory. All other revealed glories are subservient to it. There is a glory of creation; but creation, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” was only the separation of a sphere for the display of the glory of grace, There were manifestations of glory all through from creation to the cross: the glory of judgment sometimes with warning, as the deluge, and Egypt; sometimes sudden like lightning flash, as Sodom and Gomorrah; the glories of patient long-suffering and government as in Israel. But whether we look at the glory of mercy or of judgment, the cross possesses both, and in each outshines all that went before. There was no outlet in heaven, so far as we know, for such a glory as this seen in the cross of Christ. Grace came by Him when He came into the world, then grace came and was seen in all His words and works while here, yet was He straitened till the work of atonement was wrought. “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” So that not His coming into the world but the manner of His departure is the brightest and fullest display of the glory of grace and truth. The cross removed every righteous hindrance to its shining. By the cross a rebellious creation will be reconciled to God, and believers now are made the righteousness of God. It is the greatest proof of God’s love; it magnifies His truth, and exalts His majesty also.
God did not wait for the cross without giving some typical information of the grace to be revealed—only shadows, dark and partial, even illegible till the true Light shone. Now all is clear and distinct. From Abel’s lamb and onward every sacrifice previous to the cross contained the idea of life forfeited; even the burnt offerings in worship embodied the fact that man was a sinner and incurred the penalty of death. Otherwise Cain’s offering would have been accepted. There was neither blood nor death in his offering; therefore he and his offering were rejected. Also in the offerings with blood there was a foreshadowing of the atonement made by the blood of Christ. But it was only at the passover that the initiatory truth and starting-point of all God’s gracious dealings with man was set forth.
It was a question between a righteous God and a sinful man; and the first point was—If God wills not the death of the sinner, how are the demands of the Righteous Judge to be met? Mercy pleaded for the sinner’s life; but there was a preferential claim, and the Judge was inexorable and would have the uttermost farthing, before any consideration of mercy could, be entertained towards the guilty sinner. We know that the inexorability of the Judge affords the greatest proof of the infinite mercy of God. He gave the Son of His love that those who hated Him might live. And God commends His love to us (Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)) in Christ’s dying for us while yet sinners.
But it is God as Judge which is the prominent idea in the passover. Every blessing flows from it. Still on that night the word was “I will pass over:” not communion with God, but barring out judgment; God as Judge was going through the land, searching for sinners, not to save but to slay. Blood by His own appointment turns away His eye from the sinner, and the Judge passes on as if there were no sinners in the house. “When I see the blood, I will pass over.” While the blood upon the door-post prevented the entrance of judgment, other truths were typified in the house, truth beyond the intelligence of the Israelite. But God was setting forth truth for us as well as for Israel. Eating the lamb was a symbolic owning that the blood on the door-post was a substitute for their own. In some measure this is identification with the lamb; not the truth brought out after the cross, that we have with Christ died to sin and law, which goes with assurance of life (Rom. 6 and 7); but that they as sinners were deserving of death, yet were sheltered by the blood of the typical lamb. This confession of having deserved death was not to be lightly made; there must be with it a realizing the bitterness of sin, “with bitter herbs” (that is, genuine repentance, a turning to God) to be eaten with unleavened bread. No allowance or excuse for sin; can be: those who eat the roast lamb eat it with bitter herbs and under the shelter of the blood. With all this there is no assurance of life nor sense of justification. It is the moral and necessary preparation, typically, for God righteously to lead out His chosen people from the land of bondage. As there must be a divine and adequate reason why the sinner should live—the sprinkled blood, so there must be a moral preparation of the send. The divine ground of deliverance; was outside for the eye of God, the moral preparation was inside. Therefore not only the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, but they eat in haste, standing staff in hand and their feet shod. They were thus ready and fitted by grace to be led out of the land of bondage—of sin—by the mighty hand of God who had found a ransom. This moral preparation however would have been vain, had it not been for the blood sprinkled on the door-post. For if the Avenger entered, neither the bitter herbs nor the unleavened bread could save them: God is Judge first, then is Savior.
This marks the order of God’s dealings with every soul brought to Him and it is seen in the word, Repent and believe. For what is repentance if not the unfeigned judgment of self in the presence of God? The repentance which does not turn to God is like the mere remorse of Judas. He hanged himself. His real state was the terror and despair of the lost, not God-given; for when God gives repentance, He also gives faith in His mercy through Christ. Where genuine, these are never separated though distinct. But in the order of thought is repentance, then faith, and so the word—Repent and believe.
Many preach faith and put repentance in the background. No doubt the judgment of sin in our nature is far deeper after the knowledge of forgiveness; but this does not set aside repentance as faith’s first step in coming to God. Faith in the Savior is impossible unless there be a sense of condemnation. Faith (so called) if preached alone may produce joyful happiness; but there will be no deepness of earth, and what appears will soon wither away. Many sad proofs we know.
The passover is the key to all God’s ways with Israel. While they were simply under the blood (i.e. from Egypt to Sinai), there is not even a reproach from God for their sins. It was only after they put themselves under law that judgment appeared. But the blood of the passover, which God had seen, was still efficacious, although its full effect as to display was hindered by law. At the second giving of the law when mercy and its provisions for the involuntary transgressor are so largely blended with the requirements of righteousness, its sheltering power is seen. And its importance as the ground of forbearance and grace is such that the law, whose full effect upon the transgressor is restrained by it, nevertheless makes room for it, and enforces its observance with a penalty. Any soul not keeping it was cut off. The Israelite whether at home or on a journey was bound to keep it. Even in some cases when ceremonially unclean one could not neglect it (see Num. 9:1010Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the Lord. (Numbers 9:10)).
In the passover as well as in all the sacrifices enjoined by law there was the constant remembrance of sins. The blood of bulls and of goats was ever unable to give a purged conscience (Heb. 10); God waited for the cross to bestow this. There was an outward purifying of the flesh; but rites could not purge the conscience nor make the comers thereunto perfect. These sacrifices were only types and in themselves nothing. Hence men, though keeping the passover, were always subject to bondage through fear of death. David speaks of the blessedness of forgiveness (Psa. 32), but its presence was not known till Christ died. It was a new thing when the Son of man came with power to forgive sins on the earth, to give its assurance by His death. This was unknown to the saints of old. Nor can we say that they more than hoped for the knowledge of forgiveness. The Passover gives hoped for security from judgment, but not the peace flowing from justification. “There is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared” (Psa. 130:44But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. (Psalm 130:4)); even this was prophetic. After the cross deeper knowledge of His love flows freely, though the fear of God be ever right.
The passover is the initiatory step for a forgiveness founded upon righteousness; it also marks the beginning of a new life. For since it is the ransom for their deliverance from judgment, they could not be left in the land where death reigned. And so God said, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year to you.” No more Egyptian slavery; henceforward they were free. The power of Egypt was virtually annulled, and the proof was given at the Red Sea which is the necessary complement of the passover. The Egyptian foe lay dead upon the shore never to be seen again. This full result of the passover was before the mind of God when He said, “This month shall be the beginning of months.” The passover was not a solitary act beginning and ending with self; doubtless the first and most important truth in the work of redemption was there signified, but necessarily followed by other truth, and a new start for the ransomed is the consequent truth here. “The first month of the year to you.”
This comprehensive word was given to Moses and Aaron (Ex. 12:11And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, (Exodus 12:1)); to the congregation the detail is given for the first observance, and afterward as a memorial. Israel was slow to enter into the meaning of the sprinkled blood, and consequently did not apprehend the beginning of new life save in a carnal way. Believers now know it in its spiritual power; for we look not at a mere type but rejoice in the knowledge of the finished work of Christ, and therefore if any man be in Him he is a new creation. Nor does a soul when first apprehended by God learn this truth; it is after deliverance is realized and consciously out of Egypt, the Red Sea passed through—death and resurrection—that this new portion is known experimentally.
The realized efficacy of the sprinkled blood was on that night limited to their condition. How could they take in all the passover foreshadowed while yet in Egypt? All then known was that the blood upon the door-post, barred the entrance of death, and preserved their first-born alone. They were not yet delivered, though they had the pledge for every one that looked beyond that night. This partial apprehension of the truth contained in the passover is indicated by “every man according to his eating shall make your count of the lamb.”
Many who are truly born of God are as to spiritual condition and intelligence yet in Egypt, having a hope not unmingled with fear that God will pass over their sins and judge mildly. Assurance and settled peace are lacking. God as Father is unknown; and there is no communion so long as they are in this Egypt condition. There is faith in the blood as interposing between themselves and judgment, but even this often disturbed by doubt. Much of the teaching of the present day does not go beyond this, for the teacher has not advanced farther. How can he lead others? Not that those in this condition have no seasons of joy, for God is very gracious and draws them with the cords of love; but a full redemption is not enjoyed and their peace is according to their eating.
This lack of intelligence and of faith cannot impair the intrinsic worth of Christ as set forth by the paschal lamb. If man failed to apprehend, it was all there before God; and a fitting type is chosen to express the holy nature and immaculate purity of the person of Christ: “A lamb without blemish, a male of the first year.” Israel afterward was reproached with offering the lame and that which was torn by beasts. God selected that which was in nature the purest as the emblem of Him who was absolutely without sin. The angel said to Mary, “That holy thing;” and Christ, whose holy human nature was but imperfectly shadowed by the innocent lamb, lived apart from sinners though among them, and from nature’s relationships (a lamb of the first year) though in truest sympathy with those whose hearts were wrung with nature’s sorrows.
Then comes the order and manner of eating the passover. But it was not enough to eat the flesh of a slain lamb: God orders how it must be eaten. “Eat not of it raw nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs and the purtenance thereof.” Fire is symbolic of the judgment of God. Christ was made sin, and as such bore the judgment of sin. Now that all is done, we know that He is more than the roast lamb. He is also the bread which came down from heaven; but first for every soul brought to God He is the lamb roast with fire. So it is not merely a slain lamb that meets the sinner’s need, but also roast with fire. “Eat not of it raw or sodden at all with water.”
Yet there are those who make the incarnation of Christ of all importance rather than His death. But Christ came to die, to be—sin-bearer, and as such to glorify God: how can His life or His coming into the world be the turning-point, and not His death? Can such teachers have ever realized their condition as lost and under condemnation? Surely the words “sin” and “atonement” are to them without meaning. They would feed upon an unslain lamb. Christ in this world and not dying would only make man more guilty and hopelessly under condemnation and the law. It is the sentimentality of nature and nothing more to talk about the incarnation and life of Christ apart from the object for which He became incarnate. His life is truly the pattern, the model of holy living, obedience, and self-abnegation; but not to man until he has been under the sprinkled blood, and has “redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” To die as an offering for sin was His purpose: otherwise there would have been no incarnation. Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him, said our Lord with His death in view.
The preciousness of the worth of Christ is indicated by the command to burn all that remained of the lamb uneaten. On that night each fed upon it “according to his eating.” There was much more than any Israelite could then apprehend, for it was a whole Christ there typified. Was that to be vain which man in Egypt could not understand? Nay—gather up the fragments that nothing be lost. What remained until the morning was returned to God who knew its priceless worth. That lamb was God’s feast, and what man could not eat went up to Him in fire. But “burnt with fire” tells too of the unsparing judgment of God; the whole lamb was roast with fire and all that remained was burnt in the morning. All that Christ was was offered to God, for nothing less than a whole Christ could bear all God’s judgment.
Next comes the ordinance of the passover as a memorial. God is looking to the future; as each year rolled on, this self-same day was to be observed as a memorial of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It is called a feast to the Lord. Why is mention only made of unleavened bread for the seven days that follow? God was looking onward and beyond Israel to the church when the Israelitish branches of the olive-tree of testimony would be broken off. There is rest from the exercises represented by bitter herbs for a soul that has intelligence and faith in the already finished work of Christ. He bore our sins and judgment; this purges the conscience and there is no room for bitter herbs. And a purged conscience is so much the greater reason why we should purge ourselves from all the contamination of leaven. Our whole life here below, typified by the seven days, is characterized by unleavened bread. In Lev. 23 where wer have the feasts of the Lord, the seven days of unleavened bread are called a feast, and distinctly separated from the fourteenth day at even when the passover is eaten. From the fifteenth to the twenty-first day inclusive is the feast of unleavened bread, during which all servile work is forgotten. Ex. 12 prohibits leaven under the penalty of death. It is in keeping with the righteousness of God, that God’s wrath is also revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Lev. 23:4-84These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. 5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover. 6And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 8But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. (Leviticus 23:4‑8), though after Israel had broken the law which they promised to obey, yet as being a feast to the Lord, omits the failure of man and its consequences. It is the Lord’s passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even, and on the fifteenth the seven days’ feast of unleavened bread begins.
It is to this scripture that Paul refers in 1 Cor. 5:7, 87Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7‑8). For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast. The feast here is not the Lord’s Supper, but the life-long feast of unleavened bread which begins when consciously under the shelter of the sprinkled blood, and continues to the end: the old leaven, and the leaven of malice and wickedness, all put away, and, in place thereof, the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. This clear reference of the apostle to Lev. 23 makes abundantly plain that God had the church in view and not a mere ordinance for Israel. The church was always in the mind of God and has its own peculiar part in the ordinances given to Israel. Separation from evil is our feast of unleavened bread and the true memorial of Christ our passover sacrificed for us. In Israel the memorial of the passover was to be observed in all their generations after the manner of its institution. This which is for Israel alone is separated from that which has its present fulfillment in the church. Accordingly in Ex. 12 where the memorial is given (and in spirit to be observed by every saint of whatever dispensation) and Israel’s manner of observing it, the former is in the words of God to Moses and the latter in the words of Moses to the people. And it is according to the wisdom of God that he who was the mediator of the old covenant should be God’s mouthpiece to Israel; as also when the church and its special privileges are in view, we have the words direct from God Himself.
Israel must keep the anniversary of their deliverance in the same way as they did eat the passover in Egypt, with loins girded, feet shod, staff in hand, and in haste. “And it shall come to pass when your children shall say to you, What mean you by this service, that ye shall say, It is the Lord’s passover.” It was truly an unwonted way of keeping a feast, standing and eating in haste. No wonder if the children should ask the meaning. But it was God’s way of bringing vividly to their remembrance their previous bondage and His most marvelous way of delivering. Type too of a far greater deliverance, it was fitting to have a perpetual memorial; which the Red Sea had not, although it was there that power was openly displayed. The nations heard of the signal judgment upon Pharaoh and his host; but did they hear of blood sprinkled upon the door-post, of the way in which a sin-judging God interposed to save His people from judgment? The blood on the door-post is the foundation of all; the passover is God’s feast, its memorial is forever.
(To be continued, D.V.)