Accompaniments of Passover - Part II: Consecration of Firstborn
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 13. We have discussed the Passover as a vital part of the history of the nation of Israel and as having a spiritual lesson for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the children of Israel left the land of Egypt, Moses was told to tell them to consider their Passover experience as very important in their religious life. They were told to observe their Passover experience with the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, and they were to observe it with the Consecration of the Firstborn. That is what we want to consider now:

Exodus 13

1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

Skip over to verse 11; the matter of the consecration is resumed:

Exodus 13

11And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,
12That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD'S.
13And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.
14And 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:
15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.
16And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.

These are the Scriptures that have to do primarily with what we refer to as the Consecration of the Firstborn. I suggest that we consider this passage from a number of different standpoints.

God's Claim to the Firstborn

First of all, I would like for us to recognize God's claim to the firstborn as it is very simply stated in this portion of the Word. Notice the last statement of verse 2:

Exodus 13

2…both of man and beast: it is mine.

“Those who are firstborn, human and in the animal kingdom, belong to Me.” That is emphasized again in verse 12:

Exodus 13

12That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD'S.

This was not an unusual claim for God to make, because from the very beginning of His relationship to man, He emphasized that the first of everything belonged to Him. The first of the harvest belonged to Him. The first of the wool that was sheared from the lamb belonged to Him. The first of the fruits that were gathered belonged to Him. The first of everything belonged to Him. That became a part of the economy of the nation of Israel, even before they were in the land of Egypt, and afterward. But now that they had been in the land of Egypt, and had been graciously delivered by the hand of God, He emphasized that the first of living things belonged to Him.

Consecration Based Upon Redemption

He based that claim–this is the thing we want to recognize very definitly–upon redemption:

Exodus 13

15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.

When the children of the Israelites would say to them, “Why do we have the Passover feast? Why do we eat the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Why is the first of every clean animal sacrificed to the LORD and the first of every unclean animal redeemed or condemned? Why is it?”, the fathers would have an answer. They would gather the children about them and say, “Many, many years ago we were in the land of Egypt; we were despairing of our lives; death had come over the entire land, and God delivered the firstborn of our household by the blood of the lamb. When He did so, He established a claim upon the firstborn of our household by right of purchase.” Children would begin to understand the purpose of consecration.

Of course these are historical facts, but the account is in the Bible because of the spiritual illustration that it should bring to our own hearts. The first thing I would like for us to notice by way of spiritual illustration is that consecration is based upon redemption. It is as impractical to expect consecration without redemption as it is to expect to have day without night. We may like to think that we can be redeemed and then live our own lives, but if we feel that way, we are walking in the direct violation of the revealed will of God.

Turn with me, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 6, and notice the illustration of consecration based upon redemption:

I Corinthians 6

19What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, [notice these words carefully] and ye are not your own?
20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your Spirit, which are God's.

Notice the statement, “…ye are not your own.” You belong to God. Someone comes along and says, “What do you mean, I'm not my own? What do you mean, I can't do as I please? What do you mean, I can't do what I want to do?” The answer is that you are bought with a price.

Set Apart for God

That is exactly what Moses was trying to convey to the children of Israel by the observance of the Consecration of the Firstborn. He was saying to them, “When you were in the land of Egypt, you were under the penalty of death. If God had not intervened, if God had not provided deliverance, certainly you would have died, but God did provide that deliverance. Therefore you owe your life to Him. For that reason,” Moses said, “the firstborn of every man and the firstborn of every animal shall be consecrated or sacrificed to the Lord.”

Go back with me, please, to Exodus, chapter 13, and notice the emphasis with which this command of the Lord is to be carried out:

Exodus 13

2Sanctify unto me all the firstborn whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

Then in verse 12:

Exodus 13

12That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD al that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD'S.

Compare the two phrases “sanctify unto me” in verse 2 and “set apart unto the Lord” in verse 12. They are talking about the same thing. When God said, “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn,” He really meant, “set apart unto me the firstborn for a specific purpose.”

A Suitable Sacrifice

Since there are two suggestions in our lesson–a suggestion concerning man and a suggestion concerning beast–it would be wise for us, I think, to think about the matter of consecration in relation to the two for purposes of illustration, in order that we may learn the spiritual truth that God has for us. You are familiar with what is written concerning the Consecration of the Firstborn in the Word of God. Keep in mind that beasts were divided into two classes–the clean beasts and the unclean beasts. Clean beasts were suitable for sacrifice. Notice verse 15:

Exodus 13

15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males:…

That is, “I sacrifice all the male clean beasts unto the Lord.” You may be saying, “How do you know it is clean beasts and not just beasts?” When you have time, read carefully chapter 34 of the book of Exodus, and that information will be conveyed to you. If you will glance at verse 13, you will discover a reference not to the clean beasts, but to the unclean beasts–those beasts which were not suitable for sacrifice:

Exodus 13

13And every firstling of an ass shalt thou redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.

Let us add for better understanding, “and the firstborn among thy children thou shalt redeem with a lamb.” That is what the Scripture teaches, although it is not stated specifically in this verse. The reason I am adding it is that you may have forgotten the two facts which present an astounding thing to me, and yet not so astounding when we stop to give it consideration. It is that when God compared man to something as consecrated to Himself, as amazing as it seems, He compared him not to a clean beast, but to an unclean beast. Let that soak in for a few moments. When God talked about the redemption of the human race, when God talked about the redemption of ordinary man, He compared man to animals. That in itself affronts the pride of some of us, but He did not stop there. He compared man not only to animals, but He compared man to unclean animals. That certainly is an affront to the pride that is so often with us.

Comparison of the Ass

Then something more amazing still, the unclean animal which He chose for a comparison is the ass. Did you notice what He said? If the firstborn of an ass cannot be redeemed, if there is no lamb with which to redeem it, then the individual owner must break the neck of that ass. It must be destroyed because it is unclean. That is God's law.

It would follow, by way of illustration and by way of type, that if redemption was not provided for man through a lamb, then man must be destroyed as well. We recognize that that destruction is not a reference to physical death as we think of it, but a reference to what the Bible calls the second death–the death which means separation from God for all eternity.

Turn, please, to the book of Job, that we may see an illustration or two of why the ass is such an apt illustration of the human race in need of regeneration. As you notice these things, you will be able to recognize not only the wisdom of God, but also the accuracy of the Scriptures even in its illustrations.

Notice chapter 11, verse 7:

Job 11

7Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
8It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
9The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
10If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?
11For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?
12(Notice carefully this verse) For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.
13If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
14If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.

Notice verse 12 again:

Exodus 13

12For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.

A very literal rendering of verse 12 is, “It is impossible for earthly man to be wise, because he is born like a wild ass.” So you see when we say that God has chosen the ass as an illustration of man in his unregenerated state, we are speaking quite in line with the Scriptures.

Ishmael, the Unregenerated Man

With that thought in mind, I would like for you to notice with me in the Word of God some of the things that are said about the ass from a typical standpoint. Notice why God says that if the ass is not redeemed, it must be destroyed, and why the human race, if it is not redeemed, must be destroyed also. Go back to the book of Genesis, chapter 16. This chapter is a discussion of what God had to say about Ishmael. Ishmael, you will remember, was the son of Hagar and Abraham, the adopted son of Sarah, the result of the feeble effort of Abraham and Sarah to try to do in the flesh what God wanted done in faith. Ever afterward Ishmael becomes a type of the unregenerated man. The book of Galatians is written to emphasize the difference between Ishmael, the unconverted man, and Isaac, the converted man, or Ishmael, the man of flesh, and Isaac, the man of the Spirit. With that thought in mind, notice to what God compared Ishmael:

Genesis 16

7And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

The pronoun “her” refers to Hagar, who had run away from the domicile of Sarai and Abram.

Genesis 16

8And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence comest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

Go back to verse 12 and notice the statement: “And he will be a wild man.” I do not know why the translators have used the word “man” in this verse, because in the original text the word is “ass.” Perhaps they thought, as they did often in translation, that it would be more acceptable if they used the word “man” instead of an unbecoming word, a personal afront to our spiritual pride. “He will be a wild ass”; that is what God said about Ishmael.

Keep in mind that Ishmael is a type of the unregenerated man, and then notice what God said about him: “His hand will be against every man and every man's hand will be against him. He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” An ass is known for its stubbornness, and so is the unregenerated man.

Unregenerated Man Cannot Please God

Turn with me, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 8, and notice a description of the unregenerated man which fits in very well with this first mention of the wild ass in the Scriptures.

Romans 8

5For they that are after flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

I do not like to think that some of our friends and perhaps some of our family who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior are in open rebellion against God. That is what this passage of Scripture says. This passage of Scripture says they are openly at odds with God. This passage of Scripture says that no matter how much they may be persuaded, and no matter how much they may be driven, no matter what is brought to pass in their lives, as long as they are unregenerated, they will not obey God. They simply cannot. It is their nature. Can you begin to see why the Spirit of God compares the unregenerated man with a wild ass? They have something in common. Their stubbornness is a common thing. No man willingly obeys God if he is in an unconverted state.

Helplessness of Man

Now turn, please, to the second reference to the wild ass, from a typical standpoint, in chapter 49 of the book of Genesis. These are not the only places where the ass is mentioned, but these are the only places where the ass is mentioned from a typical standpoint–that is, as an illustration of some spiritual truth. Chapter 49 of Genesis is a record of the prophecies which Jacob pronounced for his various sons:

Genesis 49

14Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens.

I wonder whether we read the Word of God as carefully as we should. Do you realize what the Spirit of God is suggesting in this verse? A contrast in the verse itself of something that is contrary to nature. Here is a strong ass which should be able to bear any burden. He should be able to carry any heavy load. But where do you find him? Couched down–that is, bending down–weighted down with these two burdens to such an extent that he cannot carry them. Here we have another picture of man. In his own estimation, in his own evaluation, man is a strong ass. There is not anything he cannot do. He is very proud of his abilities, but he is so weighted down with burdens that he is helpless beneath them.

Turn, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 7, and notice the illustration of an individual who should be strong, but who is pathetically weak:

Romans 7

15For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

Let those words sink into your thinking. What is he saying? “I don't approve of the things I am doing”; that is what he is saying. “I am not proud of them at all. As a matter of fact, I don't sanction them. I am against them, but I am doing them. And the things that I would love to do, the things that I really desire to do, I cannot do. I want to, but I cannot.” He is even more emphatic in the next statement: “The very thing I hate, I do.” Is that not pathetic? Here is a man, created in the image of God, who is utterly helpless. Look at verse 19:

Romans 7

19For the good that I would I do not [this says the same thing, but emphasizes it in a different way; the good things that I want to do, I don't do] : but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Here is a man, helpless in his own strength and in his own power. Is that not a perfect picture of what we found in relation to Issachar, a strong ass weighted down between two burdens?

Be Not Unequally Yoked

Turn, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 22, and notice a very sad statement. This would come as a surprise to a lot of people. There is no place in the plan of God for the sinner other than to be saved. Notice in verse 10, right in the midst of the regulations and rules given to the nation of Israel:

Deuteronomy 22

10Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

The ox in the Word of God is always a symbol of Christian service. The ox is always a symbol of a Christian busy for the Lord. What did we read in this verse of Scripture? You cannot hitch together an ox and an ass and be pleasing to the Lord. The ass, keep in mind, is a symbol of the unregenerated man. He is a symbol of a man who must be destroyed if he is not redeemed. It is impractical to expect the ox and the ass to serve together.

Turn, please, to Paul's second Corinthian letter. No matter how good an individual is, no matter how fine he is, if he is not born again, if he is not washed in the blood of the Lamb, if he has not been redeemed–in the words of our lesson, if he is not under the blood–you have no business associating with him in any kind of union or partnership that would bring reproach upon the name of the Lord.

I Corinthians 6

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall by my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 7

1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

I read the first verse of chapter 7 because in the original it is the last verse of chapter 6. Notice the direct and definite command: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. There are no ifs and ands about that. I never marry a couple without asking them if they both know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. If one of them says, “I do not,” then I don't marry them. You say, “Well, that does an awful lot of good; they can go right down the street and get married.” Yes, they can, but I don't have the responsibility of yoking together a believer and an unbeliever. If God's Word says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with an unbeliever,” then I have no right to do anything to aid it.

Danger of the Unequal Yoke

I, as an individual Christian, have no right to be yoked with unbelievers in a business enterprise. I am not talking about working for someone. I suppose it would be nearly impossible, especially if you were working for some large company, to make a living if you insisted that everyone in the company know the Lord. There is a great difference between working for and being an active partner with; no Christian should knowingly enter into a partnership with unbelievers, because the responsibility is such that someone will have to deny his master. Either the unbeliever will have to deny the direction of the Devil, because that is where he gets his direction, or the believer will have to deny the direction of the Lord, because that is where he gets his direction.

It is not very flattering for us as Christians, but we may as well recognize, because it is a fact, that more times than not we deny our direction from the Lord rather than the unsaved person's denying the direction of the Devil.

Turn, please, to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 22, for the last reference we have in the Word concerning the ass as an illustration of the unregenerated man. I wanted you to see these references so that you can see for yourself that the illustration is an apt one:

Jeremiah 22

18Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or ah, sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or Ah his glory!
19He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

In the Hebrew economy the ass was such an unclean animal that when it died it could not be buried within the gates of Zion. It could not be buried within the gates of the Holy City. This is the climax of the representation of the unsaved, because we recognize that if an individual dies without the Lord Jesus Christ, if he dies without the lamb's having shed His blood for his redemption, he cannot enter into the new Jerusalem. He cannot enter into the place which we commonly refer to as Heaven, for no unredeemed people enter into that blessed place.

Consecration is an Obligation

Go back, please, to the book of Exodus with me now, to chapter 13:

Exodus 13

13And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck (destroy it, for destruction awaits him who has not been redeemed. By the same principle) and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem [with a lamb] .

Redemption is necessary. We are talking about consecration, and we have spent nearly all our time showing the need of redemption. Why? Because there can be no consecration without redemption. If one is redeemed–this is what I want you to get–then consecration is obligatory.

We fall into the habit of thinking that it is enough for some people to be saved, while a few of God's choice Christians are consecrated. There are a few of God's choice Christians who go deeper with the Lord than other people do. I think that our manner of expression has given impetus to that feeling, and I am as guilty as anyone else. For example, we speak about “full time Christian service,” and we leave the impression with people that some Christians should spend all their time in the service of the Lord, and other Christians should spend just a part of their time in the service of the Lord. Of course we know what we mean by that, but actually those terms are unscriptural and misleading. Every child of God should be wholly consecrated to the Lord.

A Living Sacrifice

In our text we noticed two things. Animals were redeemed and sacrificed. Human beings are redeemed–notice carefully what I am saying–and become living sacrifices. There is a tremendous difference. Turn, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 12, and see how the Apostle Paul illustrates this Old Testatment text, because he is talking about this very same thing:

Romans 12

1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

What did I say is the basis for all consecration? Redemption, did I not? Notice the very first thing Paul said in verse 1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God…” That phrase, “the mercies of God,” covers the wonderful plan of redemption that is described in the first eight chapters of the book of Romans. Those wonderful chapters describe the sacrifice of a lamb for man in the terms of our text.

On the basis of that sacrifice, what does Paul say? “I beseech you.” that word “beseech” means “I beg of you, please.” It is not a command. Paul commands some things, but he begs here: “I beg of you, please, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed…” Notice the word “acceptable.” Notice the word “holy.” Notice the words “not conformed.” All of those words clarify the word “sanctified.”

Your Reasonable Service

Then notice, in the last part of verse 1, a simple statement of what I have been trying to emphasize to you: “which is your reasonable service”–not unusual service, not special service. I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say, but I want to say it so we can emphasize this truth. It thrills our hearts, we all get so excited and are so grateful, if some young man or woman offers himself or herself for full-time Christian service as a missionary or a preacher. We get really thrilled over that, don't we? It is really thrilling. But it should not be unusual. It should not be something exceptional. It should not be something that gets us all excited. We ought to be concerned if it does not happen, because God's Word says it is the reasonable thing, the usual thing, the normal thing, not the unusual or the abnormal.

Proving the Will of God

Notice in the last part of verse 2 that the moment the setting apart is done, God begins work that makes the sacrifice acceptable:

Exodus 13

2…But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

How many people there are today casting about to know the will of God! How many people there are today in a dilemma as to what God has for them. They don't know. Once again, don't misunderstand me. It is not always true, but a great many times the reason people do not know the will of God is that they have never taken the first step that is basic in knowing the will of God. They have never presented their bodies to the Lord as a living sacrifice.

This passage of Scripture says that when you have done that, the Holy Spirit begins a work within you–the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. I am convinced that many people today who are wondering whether they should go to the mission field or should preach or should do something else, will never find out until they first present their bodies to the Lord without any strings attached. Then they will know.

That is exactly what Moses told the Israelites they would have to settle, mind you, before they ever got out of the land of Egypt: “God has redeemed you. You are going on a journey. But there are two things that are necessary if this journey is to be effective. One of them is separation, typified by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The other is consecration, typified by the Consecration of the Firstborn.”


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