In remembrance of the destruction of the firstborn of Egypt and the deliverance of the Hebrews out of slavery, the Lord ordained that the firstborn sons of the Hebrews were to be set apart to Him. By this, it was made clear to them that their lives were preserved through the ransom of the Atonement, which the Lord Jesus would one day make for sin. In light of the fact that their lives were thus ransomed from death, they were to consider them consecrated to the service of God. Hebrew parents were not to look upon themselves as having any right in their firstborn, until they had solemnly presented them to God and ac-knowledged His rightful claim upon them. When our blessings are spared to us by special mercy, they should be applied to God’s honor; at the very least, some grateful acknowledgment and prayer of thanksgiving should be made to His name. Even the firstborn of the Hebrews’ animals were to be sacrificed to the Lord. And those which were unfit for sacrifice because they were considered ceremonially unclean were not exempt; they were to be exchanged for other animals, or else they were to be destroyed. In all of this, we see how our sinful souls are forfeited to God’s justice; and unless we are ransomed by the sacrifice of Christ, we will certainly perish.
The Lord also ordained that the remembrance of the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt was to be kept up every year, by the celebration of the Passover and the observance of the seven-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately afterward. And in the same way, we are to remember the day of Christ’s Resurrection; for on that glorious morning, we were raised up with Him out of death’s house of bondage! The Scriptures state that He rose from the dead on the first day of the week, which we observe every week as the Lord’s Day; for since His work of redemption was such a valuable deliverance, it deserves to be remembered weekly and not merely once a year.
The Hebrews were instructed to take great care to teach their children the knowledge of God. Truly, there is a lesson here for Christian parents! The Jewish little ones were to be taught the spiritual meaning of everything that they saw as their family worshiped the Lord, and are we not to do the same with our own children? Are we not to teach our sons and daughters carefully in the ways of God’s commandments, and cause them to learn His Word, and take them to His house of worship? Yes! It is our most serious duty to see that our precious little ones are taught to know their Creator and Redeemer as soon as they are old enough to learn. We cannot make our children “turn out well,” as people say; but we may look for God’s blessing on our endeavors, if we prayerfully seek His help to train them up in the way they should go. And surely no schooling from others ought to take the place of the parents’ teaching; there must be the home-example and the home-training, if we desire to see the Lord’s blessing in our children’s lives. There would be little need for Sunday schools if all fathers and mothers would attend to their own children, especially on the Lord’s Day, and try to set before them – both out of the Bible, and by their own example – how they should love God and their neighbor. In this way, the young ones will learn the blessing of Godly home-training; and they themselves, in their turn, will become the teachers of the next generation.
There were two ways to travel from Egypt to Canaan. One was only a few days’ journey; the other was much longer, and it went through the wilderness – and that was the way in which God chose to lead His people. He had good reasons for doing so; for the Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red Sea, and the Hebrews were to be humbled and proved in the wilderness. Moreover, the shorter route would have taken them through the land of the Philistines, who were powerful enemies; and the Lord did not want His people to be disheartened by being thrown into a battle with them. Thus we see how God mercifully proportions His people’s trials to their strength (1 Cor. 10:13). We may rest as-sured that His way is always the right way, although it often seems to us that it is a roundabout way.
In the closing verses of this chapter, we read how the Lord’s majestic presence went before the Hebrews in a pillar of cloud during the day, and a pillar of fire by night. When He brings His people into a wilderness, He will not leave them there; rather, He takes care to lead them through it. Surely it was a great satisfaction to Moses and the Hebrews to have these visible symbols to remind them that they were under Divine guidance. The cloudy pillar sheltered them from the scorching heat of the sun, and the fiery pillar gave them light in the darkness of night. In the same way, the Bible is a light for our feet, and a lantern for our paths, which our Savior’s love has provided for us. But the pillar of fire also stands as a picture of Christ Himself! Hear His voice as He cries, in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life!” Jesus alone – as shown in the Bible and revealed by the Holy Spirit – is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
Lord! Cause Your mercies – like those which were granted to Israel – to be so deeply impressed upon our forgetful hearts, that they may live in our constant remembrance. And while we think of Your redemption-mercies to our souls, may we not forget to teach our children and our children’s children how Your strong hand brought us out of the worse-than-Egyptian bondage of sin and death! Amen.
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illustration by Kevin Carden | Lightstock.com