"And Jehovah spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 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 their fathers' houses, a lamb for an household... Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at even. And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two sideposts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it... For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am Jehovah. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be be unto you for a memorial..." (Ex. 12:1-3,5-7,12-14).
"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 22:20).
"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" (1 Cor. 11:25).
"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, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:20-21).
The Significance of the Numbers in the Passover Account
It is around those words in Hebrews 13:20 we shall meditate for a little while, trying to draw light from the great type in Exodus. In that account of the first Passover, there are some very simple means of helping us to understand this profound and wonderful truth of the eternal covenant, and I think they are very largely represented for us by the various numbers used in that account. You, of course, will have noticed how God lights upon certain numbers and connects the various phases of the Passover with those numbers.
(a) Seven - The Seventh Day, the Seventh Month
In the first place, there is the seventh day which becomes the first. The seventh month of the civil year of Israel is made the first month of their religious year. "This (seventh) month shall be unto you the beginning of months."
Seven has a very definite and clear place in this whole matter of the Passover. As we saw in our previous meditation, there were the seven days of unleavened bread, setting forth the completeness, the finality of the setting aside of all the life of nature; that is, of the old nature, the energy of the fallen creation. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection, completeness. It is three and four. Three is the number which stands for God and four for creation, and, so far as God is concerned with the old creation, it is finished. Seven days of unleavened bread tell us quite definitely that before we can come to the ground of the eternal covenant, before we can come to the life side of things, before all that God purposes can be entered into by us, there has to be a nullifying, a putting away, a complete separation from all that is represented by leaven, which typifies the seething disturbance of the old creation, the self-element in human nature, the "I" principle. Thus the very first number here leading to the covenant is that which tells us quite positively that the ground of the eternal covenant which God makes demands that there shall have been a death to the old creation.
It is interesting to notice two deaths which took place in Egypt, the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians, and the death of a lamb: which latter meant that, although the firstborn in Israel did not actually die as the firstborn in Egypt died, in the thought of God they died. It was a death as them as well as for them. It was by the death of the lamb that they lived, and that lamb was slain between the evenings which concluded the feast of unleavened bread. There was a completeness of attitude toward something God could not accept. Israel, day after day feeding upon this tasteless, unleavened bread, was in the position of denying themselves, taking up their cross; denying, rejecting, repudiating, the cravings of the natural life. They were called upon to make that attitude complete and final throughout seven days, and this was followed by the command to kill it, in respect of the lamb.
You see the meaning; that everyone who is going to come into the eternal covenant, and all that God has bound up with that eternal covenant, is called upon to take a death attitude toward the whole life and order of the old creation, called to take God's attitude, and that is sealed in a representative death. That is what the Lord Jesus meant in His figurative language when He said, except a man were to deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Him, he could not be His disciple. Denying self is repudiating the old creation life and bringing it to the Cross. Well, you see, the first seven in relation to unleavened bread tells us what is necessary to clear the way for God, to clear the way for all that is represented in the eternal covenant.
The Thought of a Covenant Embodied in the Root-meaning of the Word
The word "seven", of course, is the Hebrew word "sheba". It is a noun. But it is derived from another word "shaba" which means to swear. This is very helpfully illustrated for us in Abraham's covenant with Abimelech recorded in Gen. 21:28-31.
"And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves? And he said, These seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that it may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well. Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them." Beersheba - the well of the oath of seven. Thus we have seven ewe lambs, an oath and a covenant.
Seven, then, sets forth the idea of a covenant, and if you look, you will find that is brought out in the Word in various connections. The covenant sign given to Abraham was circumcision which had to take place at the completion of seven days. Later, the covenant sign given to Israel through Moses was the seventh or Sabbath day, the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The sign of the covenant given to Noah was the rainbow with its seven colours. But the interesting thing is that, after the seven, you repeat the first, you go back to one in the rainbow. The sign of a covenant - seven, resolving itself again into the first. When you come to the New Testament and to the Church, the Sabbath day gives place to the first day, the seven is handed over to the one, and we read in Acts 20, "Upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread..." You have the Lord's Table on the first day, which marks the completion of the circle of seven "This is my blood of the eternal covenant". The covenant idea is carried on, then, for the Church in seven which becomes one, the seventh which becomes the first. What is the sign of the covenant for the Church? It is the Lord's Table.
The Full Thought Underlying "Seven"
But what is this seventh, what does it mean? Well, we know quite well that the first mention of anything in the Word of God is always the key to that thing throughout. God rested on the seventh day: wherefore God hallowed the seventh day. On that day God entered into His rest in respect of the creation. All things were created, and the creation being to God's satisfaction as He viewed it and said, "It is very good", God entered into His rest on the seventh day and hallowed it because He was satisfied. Carrying that over to the New Testament, you find that, for the Church, God's seven or Sabbath day is the Passover: and what is this Passover? Is it not that God has perfected a new creation in Christ Jesus and is satisfied with His Son? All His works are perfect in Christ, who says, in our language, "It is finished!" as He hands back His spirit to the Father. But oh, that English language of ours always lacks something! When the Lord Jesus cried that great cry on the Cross, translated in our versions "It is finished" He cried this word, "Tetelestai!" which was the formula used by the examining priest of the lamb for the Passover. When he found no fault in it, he said, "Tetelestai!" It is perfect! What the Lord Jesus did was to hand back to the Father a life unblemished, unspotted. He was presented to God as a Lamb without spot; and without blemish after all the testing. "It is perfect" He said, not finished. Yes, finished in a certain sense, but the true meaning is, "It is perfect". The work is perfect and flawless, the life is perfect and flawless. The whole is rounded off in perfection. The Father is satisfied. That is His new creation in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus is the embodiment of the new creation which satisfies God when the old creation has gone wrong, and God enters into His rest.
Man's Blessing and Acceptance Founded in God's Satisfaction in Christ
Now note: Adam's first day on this earth was a Sabbath day. God created man on the sixth day, and the first complete day that man had was the Sabbath, and that Sabbath day becomes the first day for man. Carried over to the New Testament, where God finishes and perfects His work as in the Lord Jesus, and enters into His rest, that is God's Sabbath, and we begin. That is our first day - God's rest. I am not going to stop to apply that now. It always carries such a message for our hearts if we will listen to it, that we begin in something that is already perfect. This is the ground of the everlasting covenant. To grasp the significance of that is to see what the eternal covenant is, to come right in on a perfect ground and beginning. That is not how we regard ourselves or how we feel about it, but that is God's place for us. The fact is, beloved, that in Jesus Christ you and I will never be more perfect than we are now or in the day when we believed. Those perfections may be wrought into us progressively, but, so far as the ground of our acceptance is concerned, we are "accepted in the Beloved," and He wholly satisfies the Father; the Father has come to rest in Him. The work is perfect. Our acceptance is always on the ground of God's end reached. Till that is settled, we have no steadying thing when God begins to work in us. Let me stay with that a moment.
If, when God begins to deal with us in discipline and chastening, in training and moulding and formation, we begin at any moment to say, This is all because I am so bad, and the Lord has to do something with me in order that I may be acceptable, you have given your ground away. You will never be more acceptable, however much the Lord does in you. You have been accepted, not on the ground of what you are, however bad or good that may be, but on the ground of the Beloved: accepted in the beloved One. We sing - and I wish we would lay it to heart more and more - that His perfections are the measure of our own by faith. That is where we start. Blessed be God, that is the ground of confidence, and when the Lord begins to take us in hand and we begin to feel what wretched creatures we are, that never implies for a single moment that we are not accepted. The import of the eternal covenant is here in the first place, that we are accepted on the ground of God's satisfaction with His Son. If we were accepted on our own ground, where we stand in ourselves, there would be no eternal covenant, no ground of security at all. It would be a matter of how we might be tomorrow. But no, it is not a matter of how we are or shall be; the ground is settled in Christ. Thereafter God is only getting to work to make good in us what is true in His Son, but it does not change the ground. Do not let us give our ground away. The basis of the eternal covenant, is seven. God has finished His work for us: so God begins in us where He finished in Christ. Seven - the covenant: and the seventh month becomes the first, and likewise the seventh day.
(b) Ten - The Tenth Day
Then the Lord takes another number, and He says, "In the tenth day of the month... every man a lamb". That is a very interesting number. It comes up quite frequently in Scripture and always in one connection. You have the ten commandments. In Matthew 25 you have the ten virgins. In Luke 19 you have the ten pounds, and wherever you find this number coming up, you will find it connected with the fullness of human responsibility. Ten commandments - the fullness of man's responsibility to God. Ten virgins - they are all responsible, that is the point. That is so often missed when men are dealing with the parable of the ten virgins. The point is responsibility. It is the number that gives the character to the parable. These are responsible people. The ten pounds - it is a question of responsibility, trust.
Now here, the point of the tenth day is this, that man has been tested up to the hilt under every condition and has broken down. He has been faced with responsibility to God and has been found wanting. So again there are ten plagues in Egypt, typifying the fullness of human responsibility, and the end of a people proved and found wanting is marked with judgment.
The old dispensation up to Christ covered some four thousand years, which is forty centuries. It is ten times four, typifying the creation under a dispensation of responsibility, and the whole creation is seen broken down and unable to face up to its responsibilities: and so the Lamb comes in. That is why there is judgment here. The ten commandments may be summed up in two words, "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not". Connected with them always are the features of responsibility, failure, judgment.
Well, what is the hope? Man has been tried under every condition. He was tried in Eden under the most favourable conditions. He broke down. God has tested man under all kinds of conditions through the ages, and in every one man has failed. What hope is there? What hope for God if man is like that? Man is incorrigible!
There is the hope of God's eternal covenant, hope of a glorious destiny for man, who through many, many centuries has proved there is no hope in himself. A Lamb is brought in and that Lamb takes responsibility: the responsibility for what? Ah, that Lamb takes responsibility for God's righteousness. Under every condition God must have righteousness. He is requiring righteousness in man, and unless God can find righteousness in man, then man is a judged and doomed creature. Man has proved all the way along that he cannot satisfy God in the matter of righteousness, and yet he is held responsible, he is a responsible creature. That is why we have a conscience. That is why the whole creation has a conscience, uninstructed in many realms it is true, and darkened and twisted, but a conscience. Back of the most degraded, there is ever this sense, though it be but dim, of standing in relation to a supreme Object which demands his worship. That is conscience in its faintest form: and what is this thing that makes him act so strangely? From the poor, darkened heathen in all his ignorance to the enlightened and mature man of the old army in the last war who I heard brokenly ejaculating something that came back to him from the dim past, after his transport had been torpedoed and while he was floundering in the water awaiting rescue. Somewhere he had heard and in that moment brokenly said, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child"! What brought that back in that moment? It is this sense of responsibility to God that must somehow be met, or man is lost, this sense of an awaiting doom unless in some way he can get through to God. He may not know anything about God, but he senses in himself that God is.
Man is responsible, and he knows it. That is the whole argument of the early chapters of the letter to the Romans that, although man may not know anything about the nature of God, in his conscience he knows that there is such a being as God, and the invisible things of God are shown in the things that are seen. God has His testimony within and without.
Well now, man is responsible, that is the point, and responsible for righteousness, and that sense of responsibility for righteousness makes him do all sorts of strange things under given circumstances. But how can man satisfy God? Oh, it is an awful thing to think that there has come into being a system of religion which is based on the thought of man being able to satisfy God's righteousness by works, by payments, by tithes and dues and penances. It is a fearful thing to substitute the works of a fallen creation for the righteousness of God in Christ! No, man cannot! he cannot.
But this Lamb without spot and without blemish takes the responsibility for the whole matter of righteousness, and when John sees Him he cries, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world". On the brink of the Jordan, where John would have restrained Him from going down into the waters, that Lamb of God turns to him and says, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness". Then John suffered Him. His baptism was a type of His death to satisfy God in the matter of righteousness. How? The offering to God of an unblemished and incorruptible life. God is satisfied. If God can find a Man who can be the representative of all men, and that Man is sinless, then God has His ground of hope and assurance for the realization of His purpose: and that is the Man, Christ Jesus.
There is the other side. This Lamb of God takes responsibility for man's unrighteousness, man's sin, and bears it away. Man has to answer to God for his sin and here is One who says, I will answer for him: "Who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24). He "was delivered up for our trespasses" (Rom. 4:25). Well, that is simple but beautiful Gospel. Never are we tired of listening to that Gospel.
Ten, you see, is the number of responsibility, full responsibility, and the Lamb comes in on the tenth day to take responsibility for man in his failure and for God in His requirements. We put faith in the Lamb and our sins are remitted. This is the Blood of the new covenant which is shed for the remission of sins, and the Lamb answers for us to God in His demand for perfect righteousness.
(c) Fourteen - The Fourteenth Day
The Lamb comes in on the tenth day, but it was not slain on the tenth day. It was kept up to the fourteenth day. A new factor is introduced and we have already mentioned it. It is examined by the expert, it is passed and sealed, but who knows but that it might yet develop some fault. It must be kept under strict observation for these next four days. That brings God's Lamb into view from the day in which He was proclaimed by John, the Lamb of God, to the day in which He was offered, slain. It was a period in which He was being observed. Do you realize, beloved, that during those three and a half years the whole universe had its eyes focussed upon that Lamb. He was the centre of universal interest and attention. Heaven was looking down. Hell was looking on, and hell was intensely interested and intensely active. Men were looking on, and He was put to the utmost test, under the severest scrutiny. Hell was active to produce some blemish upon Him and men were trying to trip Him up and find some occasion of fault in Him: and all heaven was watching the issue of every trial. At the end of that period of observation, He could say, "Which of you accuseth me of sin?" He could challenge hell and He could say of His life to heaven, "It is perfect". On the fourteenth day, He is slain: but that is after He has been sealed of God, marked off as His Lamb; tested by hell, watched by men, He offers Himself without spot to God. That is the testimony of God's Word: "offered himself without spot unto God." That is the ground of the eternal covenant. Now we are getting to the point.
The Gift of God in the Eternal Covenant
What is the great factor of the eternal covenant? You see, a covenant is an undertaking, a committal. A covenant means that the one who makes that covenant is saying, I am prepared to do something! I am going to do something! I make this covenant-deed, and in it I give, I bequeath, I promise...! What is this great thing that God is covenanting to do? What is it that God is giving in the eternal covenant in the Blood of His Son? It is life, eternal life, given in the Blood of His Son, secured unto us in that Blood, and that is why the Apostle puts it in this way, "The God of peace, who brought again from the dead... through (or in) the blood of an eternal covenant..." That Blood speaks of the destruction of death and the bringing of life and incorruptibility to light. That Blood speaks of an incorruptible and deathless life over which death has no power; and therefore, because peace has been made by the Blood of His Cross, God must bring back the great Shepherd from the dead. It was not possible that He should be holden of the pangs of death. That which is incorruptible cannot see corruption. That which is deathless, because incorruptible, cannot be holden of death. The Blood of the eternal covenant speaks of an incorruptible, deathless and death-nullifying life: and God has put that into the covenant, and said, This is what I will to you! This is what I bequeath to you through the death of My Son! This is your inheritance, this is your birthright, this is the great gift of God, because of the Blood of His Son! Life, incorruptible life, deathless life: and therefore it is an eternal covenant.
You and I, beloved, if we have taken our place on the ground of the covenant in His Blood by faith, if we have recognized and received what God has done by the death of His Son, we have received this eternal life, and that is the guarantee of everything. Thus the Apostle goes on, "Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight". You see, here are all the elements of His Son. Is His Son made perfect? then over against that we have "...make you perfect". Has His Son fully done the will of God, satisfied the Father and given Him all His good pleasure? Then by the life of His Son in us will God cause us also "to do His will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight". This life has brought us on the ground of the Lord Jesus and it has secured the work of God in us to conform us to His Son. It is on the basis of that life, and that life is the principle, the power, the basis upon which God does His work in us. The operation of that life in us by the Holy Spirit is going to bring us to the very place where the Lamb is now.
That is why the whole of spiritual progress, spiritual history, is one of a life and death conflict. It always resolves itself into that, whatever may be the form of the trial, the nature of the experience. The enemy's object is to touch us with death, spiritual death; to wrap us around with death and bring us down under the weight and power of spiritual death. The Lord's object in allowing it all is to teach us how to live by His life, to overcome by His life. It all resolves itself into a matter of the battle for life. But, blessed be God, we have the life which has already overcome. The very life of the Lamb who overcame is in us, the potentiality of His victory is in our hearts now. All that we have to do is to learn how to live by the power that worketh in us, the power of His resurrection life. So the covenant is the covenant which is life for evermore. It is the ground of every hope, every prospect, every possibility for God and for ourselves, and these are the things which go to make the covenant. The Lamb has taken the responsibility for us and for God. The Lamb has been tested and proved, tried in all points and has been victorious. The Lamb, as proved and perfected through suffering, is in the throne, and He has given His very life in terms of precious Blood to those who believe, and that life coming into us, if we will but live by it, learn to live and to overcome by it, that life will bring us back to its own source in Him, that we also shall sit with Him in His throne as He has overcome and is set down with His Father in His throne.
"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, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."