43. Unique to God’s People

Meditations in Exodus: 43. Unique to God’s People

Ex 12:43   The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: “No foreigner is to eat of it.

In the verses we now come to there is an important if not vital principle to be noted: the things of the Passover apply ONLY to God’s people. This may not appear important in respect of the instructions as to the feast, but when we see the wider implication and application through the New Testament, it becomes crucial.

Let’s simply note first of all, the Lord’s instruction to Moses and note its exclusivity: “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: “No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.” (v.43-45) In respect of the Passover no foreigner can partake of it, i.e. it is only for Israel, God’s people. If a slave has truly been brought into the covenant community (as seen by him being circumcised) then he may eat of it but not anyone who is temporarily with them or who is hired by them. No, this is for the covenant community only. That is important!

Then comes the way it is eaten, individually: “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones.“ (v.46) Note, one house per animal, i.e. each home must have their own sacrificial lamb and not rely upon anyone else. Each individual family must be obedient to God and show it by having their own lamb. They are to eat it within their home and not take any of it outside the home and have a picnic outside. No, in Egypt they were huddled in their own home and there they fearfully took their own lamb which was to be roasted whole, without breaking it up; this will have significance in the later application.

Then, we might say, come a reiteration of who may eat it and take part in it, how it is taken corporately: “The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.” (v.47) It is to be taken by ALL of Israel, men, women and children, all who are part of the covenant community. We can’t help repeating this because the Lord does, that is only for those who have entered into covenant with God and so any aliens or foreigners who have joined themselves to Israel must show their commitment to Israel but doing the same things as Israel: “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.” (v.48,49) If you wanted to be an Israelite and you were male you would have to be circumcised. No circumcision, no Israelite, no Passover.

And so it is summarized: “All the Israelites did just what the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the LORD brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.” (v.50,51) Note the two halves to this: Israel’s obedience and the Lord’s deliverance; one opened the way for the other.

Now to the wider application today, and of course it focuses on Jesus. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming he heralded him by declaring, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) and then later, “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:36). It could not be any clearer. This prophet-herald whose job was to prepare the people to meet their Messiah portrayed him as God’s lamb. Isaiah had prophesied, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth,” (Isa 53:7) indicating the meek and humble way the Messiah would come, but John’s emphasis on taking away the sin of the world takes us back to the picture of the Passover lamb. In his Revelation John recorded, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,” (Rev 5:6) and the onlooking assembly sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” (Rev 5:9) and in that they encapsulate the work of Christ on the Cross for it is clear this is who it is.

The lamb was slain so that the destroying angel would Pass-over the offeror and his family and they would be saved. For the Israelite their lamb was literal. Each individual family had to do it and it would only be applicable for anyone in the covenant community. In the bigger, world-encompassing picture, the Lamb is Jesus who was crucified for us, but his death acts only as a means of staying the destroying angel if we take his death for us; we believe he came and died for us, we claim his death for our own lives and we rely entirely upon his death to save us. We become the covenant community of God by our surrender to God and acceptance of His way of salvation, the death of His Lamb, Jesus Christ on the Cross, and in so doing we are saved. Saved from destruction and saved for a life in God’s presence in eternity. Hallelujah!

Picking up a point from earlier on, the lamb’s bones were not to be broken. When it came to Jesus being crucified, to make it even more obvious for those with eyes to see, his bones were not broken contrary to the usual custom (so the body could not support itself and in hanging in tension would suffocate and finish off the crucified person). See Jn 19:36.

If you have never realised that this is what it is all about when we talk of Jesus, then surrender your life to God right now and accept His Passover Lamb as the means of your life being saved from judgment and for a life with God that goes on into eternity.  Declare your belief in Jesus and his work on the Cross on your behalf and let him lead and guide your life from now on in this new covenant relationship.  My it be so.

22. Wrong Methods

Meditations in Colossians 2: 22:  Wrong Methods

Col 2:23    Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence

As we come to the end of the second chapter Paul drives his final nails into the coffin of human spirituality or human salvation, that brought about by our own endeavours. Again to catch the full flow of the logic of what is being said we need to go back to the previous verses. Earlier he denounced following rules: Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?” (v.20,21) and he had gone on to say that such rules were doomed to disappear: “These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.” (v.22). It was these ‘rules’ that were “based on human commands” that he now refers to when he says, “such regulations”.

There is a temptation, I suspect, in many to feel these are words of warning against Gnostic malpractices and which therefore have little relevance to life today. I don’t think such a view could be more wrong. We live in a world where excessive provision of material blessing – especially in the West where choice of food is amazing – has actually caused much concern for health and wellbeing which in turn has resulted in an abundance of approaches towards dieting and other fitness regimes. A considerable number of people are concerned about their weight or their shape and perhaps greater numbers are concerned at following self-help manuals or the guidance of mentors or trainers to keep their lives in shape generally.

At the time of writing this meditation (mid 2015)  the trend towards pleasure through materialism is showing signs of collapse, as increasingly in the media there is a recognition that pleasure or satisfaction gained through collecting or owning ‘things’ is short lived. The signs are that people are moving away to seek meaning or pleasure or excitement through ‘experiences’ whether it be sky diving, going on cruises, taking drugs  or a multitude of other experience-creating activities.  So here we have these two streams – self-help and looking for ‘experiences’ – which although very much being twenty-first century manifestations of misguided mankind’s search for meaning and purpose, very much echo the lives and experiences of those following the Gnostic trail in the first century.

So let’s look again at our verse above. All of these approaches of following rules – or someone else’s self-discipline regime – “indeed have an appearance of wisdom.” How eagerly people scan these things today in the weekend papers. The eastern outlook on ‘mindfulness’ has become one of the more recent fads to sweep the Western world taking in both believers and non-believers, for both individual and corporate business  development. Each new thing creates an interest because past things have failed and just maybe this latest thing will provide the wisdom we need.

Note again the things Paul identifies in the Gnostic way that is also common today. First he speaks of “their self-imposed worship.”  Worship is simply highly esteeming something over everything else and when he says it is ‘self imposed’ he means it is brought about by the false teachers and does not flow naturally out of a genuine encounter with God.  If we ascribe to any regime, method or discipline honour that exalts it as ‘the answer’, we are in deception, for nothing and no one is worthy of our worship except God Himself.

Second he speaks of “their false humility,” which simply speaks of their appearance – they look good. You watch these people and initially their regime gives them a buzz and for a while they look good; it seems to work. Look again in two years and you will probably find them trying something else. The present is a false appearance.

Then third, he speaks of “their harsh treatment of the body,” and how people today are subject to fitness regimes which are really hard work. Yes, the motivation of the Gnostics was to do with thinking that the material or physical was bad, whereas today the workout is to improve personal health and appearance, but ultimately both have false foundations.

Paul concludes with a damning condemnation: “but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”  For the Gnostics they beat themselves up because material things were evil, but actually their assessment was false and they often soon gave way to falling back to sensual pleasures. How often today does the person who struggles for months on a really harsh diet eventually give way and fall back into bad eating habits. The thing is that without the proper motivation, all these things are doomed to failure.

We so often hear of people “comfort eating”, meaning they eat to make themselves good because they have such poor self-esteem. When you really come to know you are loved by God and have a place in His plans for the world, you no longer need to use food (or even a fitness regime) to feel good. You feel good because you are loved and you know it! All of these things we have been considering can be summarized as self-help, and people do them because they do not go to the true source of all real help – Christ.

All of the things Paul has been speaking about in the later half of this chapter are substitutes for a genuine relationship with the living God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Observing special days, following rituals, trying to follow self-disciplinary rules, all of these things are substitutes that DO NOT WORK. That is the lesson of this chapter. Make Christ THE focus of your life, enter into a real relationship with him via his Holy Spirit, and you will know a sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. May it be so!