all the first-born.' -- Ex. xiii.2.
'All the first-born are mine; for on the day I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified unto me all the first-born in Israel: mine they shall be: I am the Lord.' -- Num. iii.13, viii.17.
'For I am the Lord your God that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.' -- Lev. xi.45.
'I have redeemed thee; thou art mine.' -- Isa. xliii.1.
At Horeb we saw how the first mention of the word holy in the history of fallen man was connected with the inauguration of a new period in the revelation of God, that of Redemption. In the passover we have the first manifestation of what Redemption is; and here the more frequent use of the word holy begins. In the feast of unleavened bread we have the symbol of the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new, to which redemption through blood is to lead. Of the seven days we read: 'In the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation;' the meeting of the redeemed people to commemorate its deliverance is a holy gathering; they meet under the covering of their Redeemer, the Holy One. As soon as the people had been redeemed from Egypt, God's very first word to them was, 'Sanctify -- make holy unto me all the first-born: it is mine.' (See Ex. xiii.2.) The word reveals how proprietorship is one of the central thoughts both in redemption and in sanctification, the link that binds them together. And though the word is here only used of the first-born, they are regarded as the type of the whole people. We know how all growth and organization commence from a centre, around which in ever-widening circles the life of the organism spreads. If holiness in the human race is to be true and real, free as that of God, it must be the result of a self-appropriating development. And so the first-born are sanctified, and afterwards the priests in their place, as the type of what the whole people is to be as God's first-born among the nations, His peculiar treasure, 'an holy nation.' This idea of proprietorship as related to redemption and sanctification comes out with especial clearness when God speaks of the exchange of the priests for the first-born (Num. iii.12, 13, viii.16, 17): 'The Levites are wholly given unto me; instead of the first-born have I taken them unto me; for all the first-born are mine; in the day that I smote every first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.'
Let us try and realize the relation existing between redemption and holiness. In Paradise we saw what God's sanctifying the seventh day was: He took possession of it, He blessed it, He rested in it and refreshed Himself. Where God enters and rests, there is holiness: the more perfectly the object is fitted for Him to enter and dwell, the more perfect the holiness. The seventh day was sanctified as the period for man's sanctification. At the very first step God took to lead him to His Holiness -- the command not to eat of the tree -- man fell. God did not give up His plan, but had now to pursue a different and slower path. After twenty-five centuries' slow but needful preparation, He now reveals Himself as the Redeemer. A people whom He had chosen and formed for Himself He gives up to oppression and slavery, that their hearts may be prepared to long for and welcome a Deliverer. In a series of mighty wonders He proves Himself the Conqueror of their enemies, and then, in the blood of the Paschal Lamb on their doors, teaches them what redemption is, not only from an unjust oppressor here on earth, but from the righteous judgment their sins had deserved. The Passover is to be to them the transition from the seen and temporal to the unseen and spiritual, revealing God not only as the Mighty but as the Holy One, freeing them not only from the house of bondage but the Destroying Angel.
And having thus redeemed them, He tells them that they are now His own. During their stay at Sinai and in the wilderness, the thought is continually pressed upon them that they are now the Lord's people, whom He has made His own by the strength of His arm, that He may make them holy for Himself, even as He is holy. The purpose of redemption is Possession, and the purpose of Possession is likeness to Him who is Redeemer and Owner, is Holiness.
In regard to this Holiness, and the way it is to be attained as the result of redemption, there is more than one lesson the sanctifying of the first-born will teach us.
First of all, we want to realize how inseparable redemption and holiness are. Neither can exist without the other. Only redemption leads to holiness. If I am seeking holiness, I must abide in the clear and full experience of being a redeemed one, and as such of being owned and possessed by God. Redemption is too often looked at from its negative side as deliverance from: its real glory is the positive element of being redeemed unto Himself. Full possession of a house means occupation: if I own a house without occupying it, it may be the home of all that is foul and evil. God has redeemed me and made me His own with the view of getting complete possession of me. He says of my soul, 'It is mine,' and seeks to have His right of ownership acknowledged and made fully manifest. That will be perfect holiness, where God has entered in and taken complete and entire possession. It is redemption gives God His right and power over me; it is redemption sets me free for God now to possess and bless: it is redemption realized and filling my soul, that will bring me the assurance and experience of all His power will work in me. In God, redemption and sanctification are one: the more redemption as a Divine reality possesses me, the closer am I linked to the Redeemer-God, the Holy One.
And just so, only holiness brings the assurance and enjoyment of redemption. If I am seeking to hold fast redemption on lower ground, I may be deceived. If I have become unwatchful or careless, I should tremble at the very idea of trusting in redemption apart from holiness as its object. To Israel God spake, 'I brought you up out of the land of Egypt: therefore ye shall be holy, for I am holy.' It is God the Redeemer who made us His own, who calls us too to be holy: let Holiness be to us the most essential, the most precious part of redemption: the yielding of ourselves to Him who has taken us as His own, and has undertaken to make us His own entirely.
A second lesson suggested is the connection between God's and man's working in sanctification. To Moses the Lord speaks, 'Sanctify unto me all the first-born.' He afterwards says, 'I sanctified all the first-born for myself.' What God does He does to be carried out and appropriated through us. When He tells us that we are made holy in Christ Jesus, that we are His holy ones, He speaks not only of His purpose, but of what He has really done; we have been sanctified in the one offering of Christ, and in our being created anew in Him. But this work has a human side. To us comes the call to be holy, to follow after holiness, to perfect holiness. God has made us His own, and allows us to say that we are His: but He waits for us now to yield Him an enlarged entrance into the secret places of our inner being, for Him to fill it all with His fulness. Holiness is not something we bring to God or do for Him. Holiness is what there is of God in us. God has made us His own in redemption, that He might make Himself our own in sanctification. And our work in becoming holy is the bringing our whole life, and every part of it, into subjection to the rule of this holy God, putting every member and every power upon His altar.
And this teaches us the answer to the question as to the connection between the sudden and the gradual in sanctification: between its being a thing once for all complete, and yet imperfect and needing to be perfected. What God sanctifies is holy with a Divine and perfect holiness as His gift: man has to sanctify by acknowledging and maintaining and carrying out that holiness in relation to what God has made holy. God sanctified the Sabbath day: man has to sanctify it, that is, to keep it holy. God sanctified the first-born as His own: Israel had to sanctify them, to treat them and give them up to God as holy. God is holy: we are to sanctify Him in acknowledging and adoring and honouring that holiness. God has sanctified His great name, His name is Holy: we sanctify or hallow that name as we fear and trust and use it as the revelation of His Holiness. God sanctified Christ: Christ sanctified Himself, manifesting in His personal will and action perfect conformity to the Holiness with which God had made Him holy. God has sanctified us in Christ Jesus: we are to be holy by yielding ourselves to the power of that holiness, by acting it out, and manifesting it in all our life and walk. The objective Divine gift, bestowed once for all and completely, must be appropriated as a subjective personal possession; we must cleanse ourselves, perfecting holiness. Redeemed unto holiness: as the two thoughts are linked in the mind and work of God, they must be linked in our heart and life.
When Isaiah announced the second, the true redemption, it was given to him, even more clearly and fully than to Moses, to reveal the name of God as 'The Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.' The more we study this name, and hallow it, and worship God by it, the more inseparably will the words become connected, and we shall see how, as the Redeemer is the Holy One, the redeemed are holy ones too. Isaiah says of 'the way of holiness,' the 'redeemed shall walk therein.' The redemption that comes out from the Holiness of God must lead up into it too. We shall understand that to be redeemed in Christ is to be holy in Christ, and the call of our redeeming God will acquire new meaning: 'I am holy: be ye holy.'
BE YE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.
O Lord God! the Holy One of Israel and his Redeemer! I worship before Thee in deep humility. I confess with shame that I so long sought Thee more as the Redeemer than as the Holy One. I knew not that it was as the Holy One Thou hadst redeemed, that redemption was the outcome and the fruit of Thy Holiness; that a participation in Thy Holiness was its one purpose and its highest beauty. I only thought of being redeemed from bondage and death: like Israel, I understood not that without fellowship and conformity to Thyself redemption would lose its value.
Most holy God! I praise Thee for the patience with which Thou bearest with the selfishness and the slowness of Thy redeemed ones. I praise Thee for the teaching of the Spirit of Thy Holiness, leading Thy saints, and me too, to see how it is Thy Holiness, and the call to become partaker of it, that gives redemption its value; how it is for Thyself as the Holy One, to be Thine own, possessed and sanctified of Thee, that we are redeemed.
O my God! with a love and a joy and a thanksgiving that cannot be uttered, I praise Thee for Christ, who has been made unto us of Thee sanctification and redemption. In Him Thou art my Redeemer, my Holy One. In Him I am Thy redeemed, Thy holy one. O God! in speechless adoration I fall down to worship the love that passeth knowledge, that hath done this for us, and to believe that in one who is now before Thee, holy in Christ, Thou wilt fulfil all Thy glorious purposes according to the greatness of Thy power. Amen.
1. 'Redemption through His blood.' The blood we meet at the threshold of the pathway of Holiness. For it is the blood of the sacrifice which the fire of God consumed, and yet could not consume. That blood has such power of holiness in it, that we read, 'Sanctified by His own blood.' Always think of holiness, or pray for it, as one redeemed by blood. Live under the covering of the blood in its daily cleansing power.
2. It is only as we know the Holiness of God as Fire, and bow before His righteous judgment, that we can appreciate the preciousness of the blood or the reality of the redemption. As long as we only think of the love of God as goodness, we may aim at being good; faith in God who redeems will waken in us the need and the joy of being holy in Christ.
3. Have you understood the right of property God has in what He has redeemed? Have you heard a voice say, Mine. Thou art Mine. Ask God very humbly to speak it to you. Listen very gently for it.
4. The holiness of the creature has its origin in the Divine will, in the Divine election, redemption, and possession. Give yourself up to this will of God and rejoice in it.
5. As God created, so He redeemed, to sanctify. Have great faith in Him for this.
6. Let God have the entire possession and disposal of you. Holiness is His; our holiness is to let Him, the Holy One, be all.
See Note A on Holiness as Proprietorship.