Exodus 14:36, 43-49.
The grace of Jehovah, who made provision for Israel's wonderful redemption, provided also for the memorial of the same, and that on the same night on which the Lamb was slain (v. 14). Thus, too, the Lord, who "the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread," etc. (1 Cor. 11:23), thus instituting, in direct connection with eternal redemption, the memorial of His dying love.
The latter verses of this chapter (43-49) furnish us with Jehovah's ordinances as to the observance of the memorial; strangers and foreigners as such were excluded, that is, all who as "strangers" were not identified with the "commonwealth of Israel," or who as "foreigners" had no interest in the country for which they were bound, and to which, according to the purposes of Jehovah, they belonged. The "hired servant," one whose connection with Israel was based upon the gain of stated wages, was forbidden to partake thereof; further, no uncircumcised person was to be included in the entitled company. By purchase and circumcision the servant might take his place, while the stranger, identifying himself absolutely with the nation by circumcision, became "as one born in the land." It is thus evident that when it was a question of participating in the memorial feast, Jehovah defined, with the greatest clearness and precision, who should, and who should not partake of it. Thus too we are to understand, that the classes represented by these characters have no place, according to the word of God, at the table of the Lord. "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' (Eph. 2:19.) "Wherefore thou art no more a servant but a son." (Gal. 4:7.) "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price." (1 Cor. 7:19, 20.) "For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3.) And even though not yet clear of the "hired servant" spirit, as in the prodigal's case, the assurances of love are at hand to convince us of the full and unclouded relationship of son (Luke 15:20) according to the deep desires of a Father's heart, seeking to lead us in fullest liberty, and clothed suitably to His requirements, into the banqueting-house. In fact the memorial feast belongs alone to the already redeemed household, as verse 46 of our chapter indicates, "Thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh out of the house." It is only the household that can apprehend or appreciate its meaning, in view of the infinite depths of grace, that provided the substitutionary Lamb; for it is not possible that the memorial of a complete and known redemption, as setting forth the grace of God in the gift of the Son, could be enjoyed or delighted in by those whose hearts and consciences had not been previously bowed under the double sense of personal guilt and holy sovereign grace.
Let us notice too, "All the congregation of Israel shall keep it" (v. 47), which, taken with verse 24, "Ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy son for ever," teaches us that every redeemed one, peace being known, is called to the memorial feast, without exception; and, moreover, to the. continuance of this observance, until the moment comes when memorials shall be no more needed; for forgetfulness and indifference to redeeming grace cannot possibly invade the Father's house, though, alas! we are quite conscious of their intrusion here.
This memorial-day was further identified with a period, the whole being termed a feast, which is deserving of some special consideration. "Even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses" (v. 15); and again, "Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses" (v. 19).
Jehovah now turns to that which could alone suit His own character of Holiness, namely, the Purity of His people. It is important to observe the divine insistence upon the moment from which Jehovah's requirements commence: "Even the first day ye shall put away leaven"; as well as the specified sphere from which leaven was to be excluded, viz., "out of your houses"; and, not the least, the period during which the exclusion was to last - "from the first day until the seventh day."
Here are three cardinal injunctions of the last importance for Christian households, but bearing specially upon the heads of such, viz., responsibility as to separation from evil (typified by the exclusion of leaven) from the first moment of coming under the shelter of the blood. The zealous guarding of "your houses" from the working or introduction of evil in every form, and the unswerving continuance of a separation suited to the grace that has wrought, as well as the holiness of the One to whom we are brought. Our God would have the houses of His redeemed ones, according to His intention, earthly shelters from the corrupting influences of all that leavens without. It is further of immense importance to observe that the unleavened condition of the houses of Israel effectually secured the unleavened condition of the nation. Is this not a matter of extreme moment as a principle for these times? If the houses of the Lord's people be kept free from the working and introduction of leavening influences, the unleavened condition of the whole company is largely secured; possibly the two most subtle agencies in leavening households now are to be found in the literature of the day, and the company entertained in Christian houses. Doubtless the freshly realised sense of the goodness, grace, and delivering power of Jehovah constituted the real spring of obedience to His requirements among Israel. Thus with a true and deep sense of grace, divinely formed and enjoyed, resting upon more wonderful foundations, and fuller revelation, with natures that delight in holiness, are we not as Christians furnished with springs more deep and powerful than Israel of old?
Another point remains to be noted in this remarkable chapter, viz., the wealth of Egypt, that Israel were permitted to take with them, Jehovah had said (ch. 3:21), "When ye go ye shall not go empty." But why this strange sanction of that which afterwards contributed towards the solemn sin of the chapter 32. Upon this question chapter 25 throws considerable light. The wealth that Israel took away with them from Egypt was specially destined by God for His service in the Tabernacle. There was a legitimate use to which it was to be put; God's claim was upon the wealth that accompanied them out of the Land. The abuse of it comes out clearly in the 32nd chapter, where the golden calf preceded the dancing.
There is no doubt in this a solemn lesson for us; the mammon of unrighteousness, this world's ensnaring wealth, is to be used alone as a stewardship, to be used but not abused - upon all that the believer has the Lord's claim rests; it is Egypt's wealth which we are allowed to take, both for our own needs (in itself a part of our stewardship) and the maintenance of God's interests in the earth. Let chapters 25 and 32 speak solemnly to each one who owns in small or great degree this world's mammon, lest that solemn word should one day be heard, "How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship." (Luke 16:2.) While as Christians (not Israelites) we seek to understand that other word in verses 11, 12, "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches," etc. - distinguishing as these do the proper possessions and wealth of the Christian, viz., heavenly treasure, from that which is necessarily connected with his needs and responsibilities while in the body here, but in no sense his true and real object or possession.
Connected with the possession of "jewels of silver and jewels of gold and raiment" (v. 35) is that of "flocks and herds and very much cattle" (v. 38). Of these very specially Moses had said, "Thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God until we come hither" (ch. 10:26), thus including their property in that upon which Jehovah's claim lay; but it is solemn indeed to note that, like the gold and silver that ensnared them at the commencement of their wilderness journey, these latter were the cause and occasion of failure among at least two-and-a-half tribes, at the end of their wanderings, as recorded in Numbers 32: the hither side of Jordan that which was short of the purpose of God, which lay across the Jordan, they could plead was "a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle. . . . Let this land be given to thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan." When the purpose of God, which for us too lies on the other side of death, in the sphere and scene into which a raised Christ has been exalted, is not divinely apprehended and diligently sought, earthly possessions can only furnish plausible reasons for settling down in satisfaction on the world's side of death. Then falling short, as those tribes did, of the full purpose of blessing in the heavenly places, and the full grace that designed that blessing - the language of the heart, that rises no further than its own measured interests and possessions, is "Let this land be given to thy servants for a possession, and bring 'us not over Jordan," thus failing to reach positive blessing according to the thoughts of God, or commendation that can go further than negative recognition of being "guiltless" (Numbers 32:20-22), and conditional upon conflict. But note, conflict without possession of purposed blessing (the unhappy position of their spiritual counterpart in the present day) marks those who, like the two-and-a-half tribes, first yield to the assault of the enemy, and are carried captive into Babylon. M. C. G.