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"If the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls" (Ex. 12:4).
The Paschal lamb was God's special type of Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." The lamb selected for the Hebrew passover was kept apart until the fourth day so that all might have an opportunity of inspecting his perfect blamelessness; and then it was slain and its blood sprinkled upon the door posts, and the flesh eaten by the household. So Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was set apart and manifested to all the people for three and a half years, that all might see that He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Then in the fourth year He too was slain for the sins of men, and His life became the Living Bread of all the household of faith.
Jesus, The Lamb of God
God's most precious gift to us lost and sinful men was the Lamb of God. As we realize the curse of sin -- and each of us has sometimes felt the dreadfulness of a sense of guilt and condemnation -- and then look upon the sprinkled blood and hear God say, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you," we must feel that among all precious things there is nothing like "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:19). And as we realize our weakness and step out on our pilgrim path through the desert of life, it is even more precious to feed upon His very life and echo back His own gracious word, "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55). The old redemption song may have lost its charm for an age of higher criticism and self-sufficient humanitarianism, but for us the sweetest note in earth and heaven shall ever be
Dear, dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed Church of God,
Be saved to sin no more.
It was one of the provisions of the Passover Law that no man could eat his passover alone. It was a fellowship and family sacrifice. Together the household sat down and looked up at the door post dripping with the sprinkled blood, with a sense of infinite safety, and then together partook of the flesh of the lamb. So the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can never be an object of selfishness or a monopoly of the few. Men can monopolize many earthly honors and treasures, but the blood of Jesus Christ belongs to all our sinful race.
No doubt the household suggests the family. From the beginning God has included the home circle in the covenant of redemption. He recognizes the tender and sacred ties that bind us to our loved ones, and the promise is to us and to our children, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and they house" (Acts 16:31). One of the sweetest joys we have is the joy of praying for the salvation of our homes and thanking God for children in the household of faith. And one of the saddest shadows that has rested upon our hearts has been to think of the blighted homes and lost lambs of the heathen world where the Gospel has never been known. If ever you have had to part at the graveside with a beloved child, saved perhaps from great sin in answer to your prayers through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, I am sure your heart has gone up to heaven with a thrill of joy and thankfulness even greater than for you own salvation, and you have blessed His holy name for the arms that could reach out where yours could not have reached and could rescue from the gulf of sin and hell and carry through suffering and death that life which was dearer than you own. Thank God for the Lamb that is sufficient for our households as well as ourselves.
But the household has a wider meaning. It takes in the whole household of faith and the whole family of God. The blood of Jesus Christ has redeemed His church and is the bond that binds it into a greater family. The apostle, speaking of the relation of the church to the redemption of Christ, uses this language: "The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). And again we read, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:25-27). In this sense the Lamb is for the whole household of faith, and we together share the redemption and a grateful song, "unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever" (Rev. 1:6).
But there is a wider circle than this. In this ancient appointment of the passover, God seemed to have been looking down the ages and to have anticipated the selfishness and bigotry of His earthly people, Israel, and of the spiritual church which should succeed to her privileges. The striking language of verse four, "If the household be too little for the lamb," was evidently meant to remind Israel that while the Lamb of God primarily came to be their Redeemer, His message of grace was not limited to them, but He was also to be "a light to lighten the Gentiles" as well as "the glory of (his) people Israel." The household of Israel was too little for the Lamb of God. Even if they had accepted Him as their Messiah, they would have been led out in a larger ministry to the Gentile world for which He had also died. For us too there is the same significant hint that God will not permit us to monopolize His grace or keep His blood bought salvation for ourselves alone. Christ is too much for what we call Christendom, and He bids us share His precious blood and His victorious life with our neighbor and our race.
The largeness of the Lamb of God, the scope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the boundless length and breadth of divine love, the universality of the message of salvation, the right of every sinful man to hear and accept the mercy of God, this is the glorious thought that this ancient text suggests. The Bible is full of this glorious theme. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The mercy of heaven is big enough to take in all our sinful race. The blood of Christ is rich enough to cover the guilt of every child of Adam. The Gospel is broad enough to take in whosoever will. The life of Jesus Christ is full enough to save and sanctify and keep all the myriads of our race, if they will but accept it. The heaven that He has provided is vast enough for all earth's lost generations. And the Divine plan is grand enough to take in every kindred and tribe and tongue, all earth's countless inhabitants. There may be limitations in the receiving of God's grace on our part through the ignorance, willfulness, or indifference of sinful men, but there is no limitation to the sufficiency of Christ's redemption and the universal and all embracing fullness of the Gospel of salvation.
Sharing the Lamb
What does all this mean for us as redeemed men and women? Surely this, that we have no right to claim the purchase of the Savior's blood for ourselves alone, and that we are guilty of selfishness, dishonesty and base ingratitude if we can be content to be saved without having done everything in our power to give to our fellowmen an equal opportunity of eternal life. Have we understood this? Have we lived it? Is it the spirit and purpose of our whole conduct, or are we guilty of the crime of hoarding the Gospel and keeping to ourselves that great salvation which was committed to us as a sacred trust?
But who is the neighbor with whom we are to share God's Lamb? He is spoken of here as the one that is over against us, the one that is in closest contact with us. Surely, that means that God brings people into touch with us in order that we may be stewards of His grace to them. The people in your family, the servant in your household, your fellow travelers, the partners of your social and business life -- these are among the neighbors to whom you owe a spiritual responsibility. Have you met it according to your utmost ability and can you truly say, "I am pure from the blood of all men"?
But that is the narrowest circle. What about that larger world of lost men and women that God has also brought into touch with His church? Is there not a responsibility which a modern writer has well called "the white man's burden," but which means far more than Kipling ever dreamt? How marvelously God has brought over against us as Christian nations the peoples of heathen lands as our great wards. Look at the millions of Indian tribes scattered over this western hemisphere, still in paganism and many of them in barbarism. Surely, they are over against us in the most providential way. We have taken their country from them. We have driven them from their heritage. What have we given them in return?
Look at the two hundred millions of Africa. God has placed in our country eight or ten millions of their children as hostages for this mighty race. God has given Christian nations a mighty trusteeship by virtue of their colonial possessions, their commercial interests and their social connections and ties in that great continent. Look at the millions of the West Indies and the Philippines. Surely God has brought them over against us in His providence and created for us an inexorable responsibility, not only to give them the citizenship of earth, but of heaven also. Look at the Hindu people. Great Britain was in the providence of God the guardian of their liberties, and her Christian people should surely be the stewards of God's richer blessings of life and salvation to these benighted and yet most gifted people. And what shall we say of China? It confronts us on the shore of the great Pacific Ocean as our nearest and mightiest neighbor. Its people have come to us hostages for their nation. Its commerce is attracting our enterprise. Surely, its awful spiritual need and immense possibilities for God and humanity constitute a responsibility and a call which no language can adequately express. These are our neighbors in the most providential, practical and present tense way. We have given them our literature. We have given them our commerce. We have given them our civilization. We have taught them to surpass us in the arts of peace and war. Have we given them the Lamb of God, the Gospel of Christ. the chief heritage of blessing that has come to us, the opportunity of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord? Oh, what splendid disciples these mighty nations offer for new triumphs of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ! What it has done for us may be duplicated and multiplied a thousand times among these teeming millions. Our household is too small a theater for all the purposes which God has intended through these new communities and nations.
There came a time in the history of apostolic missions when God pushed out His servants into the continent of Europe, because it was to be the theater for the coming centuries of the world's greatest events. So in later centuries God has still further pushed on the course of empire. Think of the immense issues that have followed the discovery of America and the opening up of this continent to modern civilization. But if God could accomplish so much with a hundred million in the land in a single century, how much more can He accomplish through the Gospel with the millions in the vaster continent of Asia, who are just awaking to all the possibilities of life, progress and intellectual and spiritual power. It was the Reformation and the light of spiritual life that gave to modern Europe, and later to America, its intellectual and political revival. And it is the Gospel that will kindle the Orient and lift the intellects of China, India and Japan to a plane much higher than ours, as ours is higher than the life of the dark ages of medieval Europe. A morning is dawning, a day is breaking over earth, a time of great and glorious things of which we dimly dream. Let us rise to the might purpose of God, to the larger meaning of our times and to the glorious trust of setting free these mighty forces, by the salvation of Jesus Christ, until it shall reach the magnificent ideal of the thought of God and the divine plan of this lost age of time.
How shall we share our Lamb with our neighbor? First, let us recognize that God has saved us that we may save others. We are stewards, trustees of the Gospel.
Next, let us use every practical opportunity to bring Christ into the lives of the people over against us in our own homes, in our social relations, in our businesses, in all the opportunities of life.
Again, let us become possessed with the full realization of the extent of God's love to men and the purpose of His grace for the race. Let us dwell upon this till our hearts become stirred and enlarged by it, and we know and share the heart of God toward lost and perishing sinners everywhere.
Then also, let us make the work of missions in some definite way the supreme business of our lives. Let us recognize it as the great trust of the Christian church today. Let us in every possible way impress upon men and women this thought of the church's responsibility for the heather world. Let us circulate the light and educate the public opinion of our age along this line by conversation, by testimony, by literature, and by promotion in every way, every means by which God's people shall be brought to a profounder interest in this great work of our generation. Then let us identify ourselves with some definite plan of action. Let us give systematically. Let us be in touch with the work through its Boards, its missionaries, its literature, its plan. Let us count it our work and as much as in us lies do our best to strengthen and extend it. And above all else let it be the supreme object of our prayers. Prayer will set our own hearts on fire with missionary enthusiasm. And then prayer will kindle the same flame in other hearts and will bring actual forces and influences to work in every part of the world. It will lead men and women to give themselves to it. It will bring means from the most unexpected sources. It will send down the power of God upon the missionary field and lead to revivals, conversions, open doors and harvests of blessings in every land.
And finally, let us embrace such definite opportunities as God shall give to us for a direct personal work in this great cause. Some of us will give our children, some of us will give ourselves, and some of us, if we cannot go, will become responsible for those who can and thus in person or by substitute will have an actual part in telling the story of salvation and spreading the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth.