‘And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage,’ etc.
The Book of Exodus introduces that new epoch in the scriptural history of sacrifices when they began to be regulated by fixed laws, to be part of a national economy.
I. The offering of the firstborn was the dedication and consecration of the whole Jewish nation.—The firstborn represented its strength, its vitality, its endurance. This act signified that its strength lay only in its dependence on God’s strength, that its vitality came from the life which is in Him, that it would endure from generation to generation, because He is the same and His years fail not.
The calling of the Israelites was the calling to confess a Redeemer of Israel, a righteous Being who had brought out their fathers from the house of bondage.
II. Moses taught the people to look upon themselves as beings surrendered and sacrificed to the God of truth, the Deliverer of men, by feeling that they held all the powers of their minds and bodies as instruments for the great work in which He is engaged. Thus they might be a nation indeed, one which would be a pattern to the nations, one which, in due time, would break the chains which bound them to visible and invisible oppressors.
III. When once we understand that we are witnesses for God. and do His work, self-sacrifice can never be an ambitious thing—a fine way to get the reputation of saints or the rewards of another world. It will be regarded as the true ground of all action; that on which all the blessed relations of life stand; that which is at the same time the only impulse to and security for the hard and rough work of the world.
Rev. F. D. Maurice.
(1) ‘The firstborn had been specially saved, and so were specially God’s. On them was branded the one brief word, “Mine.” What a lesson for us all, who have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ! We are His by right of purchase, and we must be His in choice and life, and sanctified by His own indwelling and possession. And when we have taken up this position with respect to God, we may count on His strong Hand.’
(2) ‘The first thing was to teach Israel obedience. This was done by the strict rules connected with Passover. They were taught in most appalling manner that they who obeyed to the letter were safe, but all the firstborn in Egypt not sheltered beneath the Blood were dead men. After this, all were very particular to obey orders, “they went up harnessed” (marg., “by five in a rank”), already orderly and under command.’