"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Ex. 12:2).
"And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to Jehovah: throughout your generations ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever" (Ex. 12:14).
"Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year" (Ex. 13:10).
"Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover... And the day of unleavened bread came, on which the passover must be sacrificed... And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I shall not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves... And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:1,7,14-17,19-20).
"For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim (narrate) the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
"Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant even our Lord Jesus..." (Heb. 13:20).
I think it unnecessary to stay for long to argue or discuss so obvious a thing as the connection between the Passover and the Lord's Supper. There is little doubt that the Lord Jesus, in the upper room, brought the two together; took up the Jewish Passover, lifted it on to higher ground, invested it with the Divine thought and passed it on as something for the new order of things, that is, for the Church. In doing so, He gave spiritual meaning to all that had been set forth in type in the Jewish Passover, and the first thing which was taken up and has become a primary factor in the Church is what we may call the date question.
The Passover the Beginning of Spiritual History
"This month shall be unto you the beginning of months"; that is, history begins at that point. In the same way that the Passover became marked of the Lord for Israel as the beginning of their spiritual history, so the Lord's death marks the beginning of the history of the Church and of every one of its members. That, of course, is a simple fact which everyone will accept.
But there is something within that fact which has to be recognized. We were pointing out in our previous meditation that in Exodus 12 we begin by finding the whole world, as represented by Egypt, and by Israel in Egypt, lying under judgment; but especially by Egypt, in that the purpose of God in the world had been persistently refused and rejected. His purpose had to do with His Son, His Firstborn. It had to do with firstborn sons. They are represented by Israel in a corporate way. God's purpose was bound up with His Son personally and corporately. That purpose had been made known, and again and again, and yet again, the world had refused the purpose of God. Therefore it is brought fully and finally under the judgment of God.
Spiritual history begins by coming into line with God's purpose and, from the moment of our so coming into line with God's purpose, it is that purpose which governs and constitutes history, gives character to history. It is that purpose concerning His Son which is ever the ground upon which God is making spiritual history, and thus it is that the beginning of everything has, as its deepest meaning, a oneness with the purpose of God. That may not seem to convey very much to you, but I would stay just a moment, because, unless we grasp the fullness of the Divine thought in redemption, we are not going to make very good progress. Israel's slow, tedious progress in the wilderness was due to their failure of heart-apprehension of Divine purpose. They were all the time turning in upon themselves as to the gains and losses to themselves of this way; as to the advantages and disadvantages of having come out to the Lord; as to how it would affect or was affecting them. Thus they were all the time governed in their relationship to the Lord by the effect of things upon themselves. Today things are fairly favourable, and they are ready to go on with a bound. Tomorrow things are not so favourable, and they are all of a haste to go back with a run. According as the life affected them, so was their reaction or response. They had failed to see that this whole thing was related to God's purpose. Their blessing and gain, of course, lay in the purpose of God being realized. Beloved, it is important for you and for me to know that we are not just saved for the sake of being saved and blessed and given heaven and delivered from all sorts of troubles. We are saved unto God's eternal purpose, and we have to allow purpose, that purpose, to govern when things are not going easily or favourably, and not allow ourselves to drift away from the purpose. The beginning of history is the beginning of the realization of God's purpose. History is the history of God's purpose begun and carried on in our spiritual experience.
Redemption is Unto God
Now this purpose is bound up with the Church, designated in Hebrews 12, as we remember, "the Church of the Firstborn". This is the antitype of what we have in Exodus 4. "Israel is my son, my first-born... Let my son go that he may serve me." That is the purpose. It is bound up with the Church of the firstborn ones. Thus you come to Exodus 13, and you have the separation or consecration of the firstborn unto the Lord. On the ground of the Passover, the Passover lamb, the firstborn are separated unto God. This brings in this very definite and positive fact, that redemption is unto God Himself. You will remember a very positive word on this matter in Acts 20:28. "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." And in Rev. 5:9, "Thou... didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every... nation". Purchased unto God, redeemed unto God - the absolute proprietorship of the Lord over the redeemed. This is a thought which needs to be more deeply rooted in our consciousness. It will save us from many of the weaknesses of our Christian lives.
God Himself has shed His own Blood to purchase unto Himself a people. If God has done that, beloved, if He really has purchased us with His Blood in relation to a purpose which is infinitely precious to Him, then, given the chance, He will effect that purpose and reach His end and perfect that which concerneth us. Thus it is that the Apostle says, "The God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant... make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight". If He has His chance, He is going to reach His end in His Church. He has purchased the Church with a great price, and He is not satisfied just to have us out of Egypt, out of the world, and called by His name. He is going to give Himself right on to the end to the accomplishing of the thing which He has in His heart and which has governed Him in our redemption. We are purchased unto God. It brings a tremendous amount of help to remember that. As we go on, we are more and more deeply conscious of our utter worthlessness and the impossibility of our ever being of value. We become more and ever more conscious of what is in the way in our nature, and we despair if our eyes rest upon ourselves. Our deliverance, our way through, our hope and our assurance, lie with God. Our hope is in Him, and the foundation is this, that He purchased us with His own Blood in order to accomplish a work upon which He has set His own heart; and, given the chance, God will never be defeated. He will perfect that which concerneth us.
The book of the Revelation has this amongst its many values, that it shows us the end reached, and there the Church of the firstborn ones, the Bride, the Lamb's wife, has become conformed to the image of the Lamb and is with Him in glory. The thing is done and we see God's end reached. He purchased with an object, and if you and I give Him the chance and do not rebel as did Israel, He is going to perfect that which concerneth us, "make us perfect in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight".
Spiritual History in the Making
If we did but recognize it, if our eyes were fully opened, we should see, amongst other things, that He is doing this by deepening and strengthening in us in the inward man a revolt against ourselves. If you and I were once for all delivered from this dead body, this nature of ours in the old creation, and we had no more consciousness of it, no more trouble with it, no temptation in our flesh whatsoever, there would be no reason whatever for our remaining here on this earth, no reason at all. We ought, in the moment in which that takes place, to go to glory. Why, then, are we here? One of the greatest realities of our spiritual history is this, that, on the one side, we are more and more coming to know the depth of sin and iniquity in the old creation which is about us. It is still with us. But, on the other hand, there is in us the hatred of it, the growing revulsion against it, the deepening cry for deliverance from it, and the love for something other than it. Beloved, that is one of the chief values in our spiritual history. Of course, we would think it to be the greatest value if we could get rid of all the other at a stroke; for if you are perfect, all your longings are at an end and the goal is reached. But it is by this deepening and strengthening of a revolt against something and a reaching out for something else, that the Lord is instructing us and working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight. He is building up an inner man.
You and I must never expect, while we are here on earth, that we are going to be other than increasingly conscious of the depths of sinfulness in the old nature. The tragedy would be if ever we were to surrender to that and say it is always to triumph, and not recognize that there is a Spirit in us which is of the new creation, which is not that at all, but which is walking after God, walking after holiness, and that the strength of our loathing of that which we find in our flesh is the measure of the work of grace in us. The people who are farthest on are not those who are least conscious of sin in themselves, in their old nature, but those who have the greatest revolt against themselves. I believe that is what was in the heart of the Apostle Paul, when, so late in his life, he wrote those words to the Philippians recorded in the third chapter, that cry to "be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, but... the righteousness which is from God by faith... Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but..." Here, late in life, the consciousness of that man is that there is a long way yet to go. This intensity of going on with God, despite all this other, this is spiritual progress. It is the capacity for blushing at our failures, the capacity for being ashamed of ourselves, the sensitiveness over our own spiritual weakness and moral breakdown. That is spiritual growth, that is spiritual refinement. God is working His purpose in us, and I think we should not be wrong in saying, if we be truly of those who have really been going on with God, that so far from feeling we are most holy, we shall, with our last breath, feel most desperately the hopelessness of our old nature, and reach out most tremendously unto Him as our righteousness.
What is the point of this word? Well, God took the initiative in redemption and took the initiative with purpose, and paid the greatest price that can be paid to secure a vessel for His purpose. Then, if that is true, God will carry through His work and make a full end of it, if we will but remember that it is not a matter of the present advantage to us. It is not a question of how this in the meantime affects us. The one question is, What is God getting out of our experience? This trouble, this trial, this affliction, this adversity, this suffering today, how shall we view it? Shall we view it as Israel persistently reviewed their difficulties in the wilderness with the 'I' looming large? If we do, then it is a wilderness indeed. But if we view everything in the light of God's purpose, and apprehend that purpose by faith, then at the other side of this trial, of whatever nature it may be, we shall be seeing that the Lord has got some more territory in us, the Lord has gained something. The older we get, the longer we go on with the Lord, the more we are able, although never sufficiently able, I fear, to regard our difficult days in this way; not to murmur and exclaim, Oh, some more suffering! but rather to take the position, The Lord has something in this. Let us not look at the things which are seen. Let us believe God, that over at the other side of this we shall be saying, Yes, the Lord got something through that! He has redeemed us unto Himself, and He is working all the time unto Himself, and we believe that, when the Lord has secured the territory He would have in us, then He can lead us into His territory and give it to us.
I think those are the two sides of Israel's history. Israel never got the land until the Lord got what He wanted in them. Joshua and Caleb represented men in whom the Lord had obtained a full place, and the generation which followed that first unbelieving generation represented a people in whom the Lord had secured what He had all the time been seeking; and when the Lord has got what He is after in us, then He can lead us in to enjoy His fullnesses. Remember that we never come into the blessing until the Lord has come into His portion. Today is the day when the Lord is getting something; for us it is dark. Tomorrow, when the Lord has got what He is after, then we too have something and it is light.