Popery having brought various innovations into the Church, and overspread the Christian world with darkness and superstition, some few, who plainly perceived the pernicious tendency of such errors, determined to show the light of the Gospel in its real purity, and to disperse those clouds which artful priests had raised about it, in order to blind the people, and obscure its real brightness.
The principal among these was Berengarius, who, about the year 1000, boldly preached Gospel truths, according to their primitive purity. Many, from conviction, assented to his doctrine, and were, on that account, called Berengarians. To Berengarius succeeded Peer Bruis, who preached at Toulouse, under the protection of an earl, named Hildephonsus; and the whole tenets of the reformers, with the reasons of their separation from the Church of Rome, were published in a book written by Bruis, under the title of “Antichrist.”
By the year of Christ 1140, the number of the reformed was very great, and the probability of its increasing alarmed the pope, who wrote to several princes to banish them from their dominions, and employed many learned men to write against their doctrines.
In A.D. 1147, because of Henry of Toulouse, deemed their most eminent preacher, they were called Henericians; and as they would not admit of any proofs relative to religion, but what could be deduced from the Scriptures themselves, the popish party gave them the name of apostolics. At length, Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a native of Lyons, eminent for his piety and learning, became a strenuous opposer of popery; and from him, the reformed, at that time, received the appellation of Waldenses or Waldoys.
Pope Alexander III being informed by the bishop of Lyons of these transactions, excommunicated Waldo and his adherents, and commanded the bishop to exterminate them, if possible, from the face of the earth; hence began the papal persecutions against the Waldenses.
The proceedings of Waldo and the reformed occasioned the first rise of the inquisitors; for Pope Innocent III authorized certain monks as inquisitors, to inquire for, and deliver over, the reformed to the secular power. The process was short, as an accusation was deemed adequate to guilt, and a candid trial was never granted to the accused.
The pope, finding that these cruel means had not the intended effect, sent several learned monks to preach among the Waldenses, and to endeavour to argue them out of their opinions. Among these monks was one Dominic, who appeared extremely zealous in the cause of popery. This Dominic instituted an order, which, from him, was called the order of Dominican friars; and the members of this order have ever since been the principal inquisitors in the various inquisitions in the world. The power of the inquisitors was unlimited; they proceeded against whom they pleased, without any consideration of age, sex, or rank. Let the accusers be ever so infamous, the accusation was deemed valid; and even anonymous pieces of information, sent by letter, were thought sufficient evidence. To be rich was a crime equal to heresy; therefore many who had money were accused of heresy, or of being favorers of heretics, that they might be obliged to pay for their opinions. The dearest friends or nearest kindred could not, without danger, serve anyone who was imprisoned on account of religion. To convey to those who were confined, a little straw, or give them a cup of water, was called favouring of the heretics, and they were prosecuted accordingly. No lawyer dared to plead for his own brother, and their malice even extended beyond the grave; hence the bones of many were dug up and burnt, as examples to the living. If a man on his deathbed was accused of being a follower of Waldo, his estates were confiscated, and the heir to them defrauded of his inheritance; and some were sent to the Holy Land, while the Dominicans took possession of their houses and properties, and, when the owners returned, would often pretend not to know them. These persecutions were continued for several centuries under different popes and other great dignitaries of the Catholic Church.
Since time immemorial words and symbols have been hijacked, abused and misused. For instance, the word gay used to mean happy, alas, that is no longer the case. Words are important, but so too are symbols and especially biblical ones. Take the rainbow for example. “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:13-17). And in the apocalypse, we are told a rainbow adorns the throne of God, “and around the throne was a rainbow” (Revelation 4:3). God’s rainbow is connected to his covenant of grace.
WHEN IS A RAINBOW NOT A RAINBOW? When it’s an LGBTQ flag. The rainbow symbol appears, however, to have been hijacked. By the LGBTQ movement. LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer, and is used to designate the sexual or gender identities of a particular community. The symbol of this community is referred to as the rainbow flag. Now, if I presented you with an American flag, and especially if you were a native of that country, that had only forty-nine stars on it would you say that it was still an American flag? I didn’t think so. Now some Christians talk about taking the rainbow back from the LGBTQ community, but they have no need to worry, the symbol of LGBTQ is something short of the real deal, it doesn’t depict the rainbow at all. The LGBTQ symbol has only six colours, God’s rainbow has seven colours. Now words and symbols are important as stated but so too are numbers, especially so when it comes to the Bible’s apocalyptic literature as we shall see in due course.
THE SIX-FOLD LGBTQ FLAG SYMBOLISES DEVIANCE: The number six in biblical apocalyptic language is the number for man without God, fallen man (Romans 3:23). It’s the number of man having deviated from the path of God, gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Man is born a deviant (and not just sexually) and remains alienated from God and his covenant until he is regenerated (John 3:5), and brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13).
The six-fold flag symbolises incompleteness, the number of completeness being seven. The incompleteness is of course man “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). It depicts all that man seeks to build in this world, the kingdom of man without God. This also is a deviance, for God did not make man for man’s sake but for God and to glorify and enjoy God forever. Man without God will never be complete.
The number six tripled, i.e., 666, that infamous number over which believer and unbeliever often ponder the meaning of, is simply the completeness of fallen man’s apostasy. When will the end be the question is often asked? When the cup of mankind’s iniquity is full. When sinful men can no longer think up ways of sinning against their Maker when man’s apostasy is complete the sword of justice will fall in all the fullness of God’s furious wrath.
Further, the six-fold flag identifies with the Beast (Revelation 13:1). Instead of identifying with God and his covenant people they stand beneath another banner. To fly a flag has to do with identification. If I fly an American flag or British flag from my house top, I am identifying myself with either of those countries. If I fly the six-fold LGBTQ from my house top who am I identifying with? The Beast, the Antichrist, Satan’s end-time agent on earth. As opposed to identifying with God in Christ I would be choosing to identify myself with the deceitful, deviant character of Satan himself. For he is the arch-deviant.
Further, the number of seals, six in all, in the apocalypse depict the completeness of judgment upon an apostate, deviant humanity. So although the six-fold flag of the LGBTQ community trumpets their own agenda of sexual deviance, whether they are aware of it or not, and I think it not accidental, their six-fold symbol signifies something much much deeper. An entrenched wicked deviation and rebellion against Almighty God that will be faced with the fury of God’s justice.
GOD’S SEVEN-FOLD RAINBOW: First, it harks back to a time of severe judgment on a then apostate world. The judgment of the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. It is to be noted that the Lord Jesus Christ himself warns us that as it was back then, in Noah’s day, so it would be when returned, “just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). So when we see God’s rainbow during or following a shower of rain it is a poignant reminder that God once judged humanity’s wickedness, and will do so again.
It is also a reminder to us that God is in control of all events that take place in his created world. There are no accidents. There is not a sparrow falls to the ground without Divine permission (Matthew 10:29). God’s holy displeasure is being revealed today in many circumstances that are brushed aside as just being natural. His wrath is being revealed (Romans 1:18). Where? In major incidents storms, earthquakes etc., but also in human affairs and behaviour, all such as God gives men and women over to as a consequence of their suppression of the truth in unrighteousness.
For each and every judgment recorded in Scripture, whether major or minor, it is a foretaste of the big one to come. The final judgment at the end of the age. When the cup of iniquity is filled up. Then it will be seen by all creation that God was right and man’s deviant way was wrong. God’s judgment will be vindicated, he will be seen to be absolutely just and justified in judging his deviant creatures.
GOD’S SEVEN-FOLD RAINBOW HERALDS GRACE: “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:15). The rainbow that God has installed in his creation is a declaration of his covenant of grace, that he is conciliatory, when he sees the rainbow he will remember his covenant affirmed with Noah.
The seven-fold colours of God’s rainbow are significant also. The number seven in biblical apocalyptic numerics signifies completeness in terms of God’s covenantal dealings with his elect. In God’s covenant of grace, everything is provided for his believing children. If I might put it like this, when God calls a person into a covenant relationship with himself, he throws a package into his lap. It contains all the gifts needed, regeneration, repentance, faith, justification, sanctification and glorification, a complete package. It takes him from his deviant life and restores him to God in Christ. It’s a complete salvation.
God’s rainbow appears as though it reaches down from heaven. For this is the origin of grace and mercy, it is from God. Man’s religion is a religion of works, man seeking to reach up to God by his own efforts. God in his covenant grace reaches down to man in his Son Jesus accomplishing what man cannot do for himself.
Lastly, God’s rainbow appears as though it unites heaven and earth. This is, of course, God’s purpose in redemption, “through Christ to reconcile all things to himself” (Colossians 1:20). All this will be the completed, the finished article, and all accomplished by the blood of the cross. Heaven and earth will be as one.
So you see, don’t you. The symbol is important, very much. And it is important that the symbol is the correct one, God’s seven-coloured rainbow is God’s symbol. Not the six-coloured filthy rag of the LGBTQ community, the symbol of man’s deviance from God, sexually and every which other way, totally debased.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves,because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them” (Romans 1:24-32).
So God’s rainbow is a reminder to all flesh of man’s deceit and its consequent judgment. But also the alluring symbol and call of grace to be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus. It is designed as all the works of God are, to lead men to repentance through the unchangeable riches of his grace, causing men to be reborn, renewed, restored from the path of deviance, and from the filthy rags of his own righteousness to the glory of God.
The history of redemption is often called a drama. This here is the original soundtrack. The first three verses are about God and his glory. The next verses, four to twelve are about what he has done. The king’s very own words condemn him (v9). He was God-defiant, self-centred, note the repetition of the word ‘I’ in verse nine. He was the one who ended up destroyed, everlastingly. And so God’s people sing triumphantly of the divine perfection in his administration of justice. Take note will you, that it was God’s work, he drowned them in the sea (v4-5). It wasn’t natural causes as some liberal scholars would have us believe. Neither was it human causes, it was a divine act of judgment. But before you accuse God of being harsh remember this was a man who was spoken to by God, who saw the mighty, miraculous works of God. This was the man who was responsible for the harsh, oppressive, unjust treatment of the Hebrews. This was the man commanded the Hebrew children to be drowned, was it not fitting that God should drown him? A pretty fair transaction don’t you think? In Egypt, the natural order was deified. They worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, the river Nile, the entirety of creation but not the Creator. It was the natural order that became Pharaoh’s death. The nation that embraces false religion is a nation facing death. This was a ruler and nation that stood in defiance of God (v6-9). The majesty of God was violated. The original language here expresses that of a demolition job, God brought down the entire structure of the nation of Egypt. There was nothing but dust and rubble left. God had pledged to his people freedom and the promised land. Pharaoh in his defiance dared to say no. We must understand how black this sin is, it is a great evil. Every sin is, but to stand in deliberate, conscious defiance of the Almighty when he is clearly speaking to you and demonstrating his mighty power, is to invite serious trouble, very serious trouble. This Pharaoh did, and this Pharaoh got.
The wrath of God against the ungodly is a constant state of mind, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). It’s not a case of God getting uptight, flying into a rage and lashing out. That’s how we sinners operate. No, it is a constant, even attitude of holy displeasure that hangs over the ungodly. The only thing that will remove that wrath is the all atoning blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ (John 1:29), nothing else. This holy displeasure was displayed here in the Red Sea in this act of justice upon the Egyptian forces, and the same wrath hangs over natural born sinners today. This is an act of divine vengeance, retributive justice (v10-12. And we, as Christians, ought not to be making excuses for God’s justice nor denying it. Lest he deny us (Matthew 10:33). The evil is displayed as strong, but God simply blew upon it (v10). This should be a great comfort to the believer, especially in times of much evil. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). For many Christians in our day, their God is way too small, their Jesus is too nice. Believe me, he is good, always, but he is not always nice. And our God is strong, mighty, almighty to deliver his people in the day of evil, and he will deliver. He is majestic (v11). His holiness is an awesome concept, “and one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3-5)! For those who believe in his Son, have experienced his lovingkindness, who love him, his character inspires awe, fear i.e., deep respect, worship, and trust. Worship him, the Triune God today, fall down before him, love and adore him!
The Warrior’s Praying – (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verse 18)
There are some who would liken this matter of prayer to an add-on rather than a piece of the armour of God. “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). However, I would ask how is the armour to be out on but by prayer. Each and every piece of the armour needs to be put on prayerfully in order for it to be effective. It is the way to bring heaven to our souls, to fetch the grace we need to fight the good fight of faith. The apostle seems to link three things together here, the word of God, the Spirit God, and the Spirit’s constraint to pray at all times. The Spirit’s influence is needed for freedom of utterance (v19). For clarity and liberty of mind and speech to make the gospel known (v19). Prayer is the first response in this warfare. When faced with the threat of opposition Daniel simply carried on as was his custom, “when Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10). This should be the norm for our churches and individual Christians at all times, if for no other reason than that we are on a war footing all the time. Prayer ought to be the heart and life of the Christian church. The need is not for movements, for para-church organisations for mission or anything else. The raising of such societies is usually and indication that the church herself is not doing what she ought to be doing, praying.
Remember what it is we are dealing with here, an enemy, the devil called Satan. “That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12). We are constantly warring against his evil schemes and so need to be “praying at all times” (v18). Perhaps we need more often to examine our commitment to the life and work of our local fellowship? That surely is where this battle is won or lost, especially the prayer meeting. As one renowned preacher put it, “the prayer meeting is the engine room of the church.” Not special movements or occasions, but regularly, habitually, “praying at all times” (v18). The word “always” (v18) is sometimes misunderstood. It means just this, regularly, habitually. There are times when we need to be listening to sermons. Or concentrating on doing our jobs. Sometimes we can be over-busy to the point where prayer gets pushed out altogether. I recall a Minister once who on visiting a fellow Minister’s home. The Minister’s wife said to the visitor that her husband had something to confess. Expecting to hear of yet another case of adultery, the visiting Minister was surprised to hear his host tell him, he hadn’t prayed in over a year. And yet he was the Minister of a large church? You see you can do church, the preaching, you can build up a congregation with natural gifts. If it is not done in dependence upon Christ, what is it worth? “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The “praying always” (v18) means living a life that keeps walking with God, sensitive to his counsel. It is being engaged in a natural relationship talking to God about everything.
The Confirmed Redemption – (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)
The regulations and rituals may seem strange to us but for Israel, they confirmed the start of salvation’s journey, they were important. They were constant reminders of God’s grace, power, and deliverance from Egypt’s bondage. The costly dedication of the firstborn would remind them that they were God’s by sovereign right. They, like we ourselves today, needed constant reminders of God’s grace. We are so wont to forget. The ass was to be destroyed if not redeemed (v13). Israel would have faced the same fate if they had not been redeemed by the slain lamb’s blood. The ass was an unclean animal, stupid, intractable. So you have two pictures there. The latter the donkey’s a picture of mankind in sin, unclean, stupid, intractable, full of his own pride and conceit (Job 11:12). And fit only for destruction, eternal destruction. If it were not for the Lamb’s blood, the real one, the one to whom the Passover lamb pointed, Jesus, God’s lamb (John 1:29). If it were not for God’s sovereign, free grace in Jesus we’d be fit only for our necks to be broken (v13). The regulations and rituals pointed to and confirmed that the redemption price had been paid. They were no longer in slavery, they had been bought back, delivered by a strong, a mighty hand (v14). The rituals would serve as a reminder of the praise and thanks that they owed to God for their deliverance. To praise him for his matchless grace and redemption, that their deliverance was all due to God and nothing of themselves. We too are reminded of the same in the Lord’s ordinances today. It is needful lest we slip into a self-righteous and Pharisaical mindset. This is ever a danger. Remember Jesus’s illustration? Two men, two attitudes. The Pharisee, he wasn’t like other men, he didn’t do the dirty, he wasn’t in the place of a sinner in need of a Saviour. The other, undone, guilty, corrupt before God. Beloved, however far on the redemptions road we are, whether we have just left Egypt or it was long ago, we are still undone, guilty, corrupt sinners before God. In need constantly of his grace. All thought and Pharisaical pretence of merit must be abandoned. Our only merit before God are the merits of the Son of God. His blood and his righteousness. And that’s how it will be through all eternity.
They would serve as a confirmation of their freedom also, in spite of Pharaoh’s efforts to keep them in bondage (v15-16). Their redemption had become a reality, they had entered into a new found freedom from the fears of the past. Theirs to enjoy in the assurance of faith, in Christ (1John 4:18). But there was and is still a danger in the regulations and the rituals, the frontlets too (v16). The latter became a badge of spiritual pride and superiority amongst the Pharisees later on. Throughout the Old Testament history, Israel falsely comforted themselves with these externals. If they had them all was well with them and God, or so they thought. As long as they had the temple, the prophets, the law, the sacrifices, the rituals, the frontlets we’re okay. But they were not. God was sick and tired of their religious practices (Isaiah 1). We can get into the same mindset today. I read my Bible (and of course the superior version), I go to church, I attend the prayer meeting. All good and proper things in themselves. But they are all external. The question is how is it with your heart. Is it still hot with love for God and for your neighbour? Do the means of grace still have and effect upon your heart? And do our hearts move us to serve God in whatever way he has called to us, out of heart love for God? Do we have a concern for the lost? Are we engaged either physically or prayerfully as we are able to reach out to lost souls for Christ? If our hearts are not right all the externals mean nothing at all. God still wants your heart.
The Devil’s Designs – (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)
With the shield of faith, you are equipped to deal with, to quench each and every flaming dart the devil throws at you. Not just some, all of them. You do well to remember also that in the noise and heat of the battle, no matter how fierce it becomes you are never out of the sight of the commander in Chief. And he is not just watching you but praying for you unceasingly (Luke 22:31-32). He is dynamically present with you at all times. To utilise the shield of faith is to believe that with all your heart. One of the attacks of the enemy is to get you to not believe that. To believe because he is attacking you that God has left you, doesn’t care. But this is not true, even if you do not feel it. It is the objective truth of God’s written word, he had it written in case you would forget. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). And, “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:31-34). The devilish insinuation that God is not with you is a fierce lie from the very pit of hell. And, especially so when you are in trouble of your own making when you have sinned, blundered, failed in some way. He will more than suggest that God has now cast you off. No, this is where your shield comes in, must be employed. In faith you affirm, shout it out from the rooftops if needs be, God is good! God is loving! God is caring! God is compassionate! And his call is always that you turn to him in faith and find refuge in him from the storm whatever the cause of it may be.
The thing we so often forget that God is ever seeking us. Back in the garden of Eden, it was God who went seeking our parents. They were frightened, terrified, in hiding, but he still wanted them and went in search of them in love. So tell me who is it that makes you feel rejected, useless, finished, or casts us into depression? Yes, the devil, the enemy of your soul. The one who hates your Saviour and hates you because you love him. Some of his flaming darts are slow-burners they’re not all fierce blazers. The devil’s design is to cause long-term dis-ease. But however long, in faith, we pray, we wait on the Lord, he will come, he will deliver. This dis-ease, is designed to cause dis-peace. You’ve lost the sense of peace, but remember losing the sense of something and losing the thing itself is two different things. But you flay yourself in rebuke, in shame, in agony. But this is not from God, this is not how he deals with his children. If something is wrong he may tell us firmly, but he show us, to correct us, “and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:15). He will by his grace enable you to put it right. Be at peace child of God, for his thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace, “for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). But Satan doesn’t like peace, he is the disturber of such and that’s why you and I need the shield of faith. This is why we need to go on as we started, in faith, believing. The enemy would have you to believe he is strong, he is not. But God is, and he is our strength and our lives are hidden in him, they are untouchable (Colossians 3:3). When we begin to grasp what God has provided for us this provision of his complete armour we begin to understand what king David meant when he spoke of God providing a table of refreshment in the presence of his enemies. He has so provided for us also.
For now, the narrative is suspended and consequences and responsibilities that come as a result of their redemption. God acts in grace and then establishes his rightful claims up our beings. This is the doctrine of redemption. The exodus clearly teaches us the theology of salvation. And brings to us today the appreciation we ought to both feel and express as a result of our own salvation. The consecrating of the firstborn was already a practice amongst the patriarchs. But it is redemption that gives it a historical motivation, a rationale for it. The firstborn is to set apart, for the Lord. We are in total a consecrated people, simply because we have been liberated by the Lord (12:51). And now Israel begin their momentous journey towards the promised land. Why the consecration of the firstborn? For the firstborn whether man or beast is alive but only as a result of the Passover lamb slain in their places. They are debtors (v1-3), as we today are to grace. God has ordained our freedom, he has appointed and provided us with a substitute, the One the Passover pointed to, Jesus. Therefore we are reminded that we are not our own (1Corinthians 6:19). The firstborn is a symbol of all Isreal, the spiritual, the Israel of God. We all of us owe our existence to God, our identity to God. And so we are indebted to live for God, to please him in all of our lives. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1Peter 2:9-10). When we survey the cross as the hymn writer suggests we are reminded that once we were enslaved to sin. We were captives, under oppression and bondage but just like as with Israel of old, God acted, he delivered us, set us free. So we are his, all we are and have is his.
Now a liberated Israel is bound for glory (v4-5), the land of promise. The journey has begun. But they are not left to their devices or to find their own way there. They are to be accompanied each step of the way. But it is a beginning, it is not the end. And we too constantly need to be reminded of this. We have begun and God has promised to finish the job (Philippians 1:6). Alas, it so easy to settle down where we are, in the wilderness, the world. To get anchored to it, fall in love with it, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1John 2:15-17). We are pilgrims just passing through, this is not our home (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our focus ought to be on eternal things, not the things of this world, to stand upon the promise of God (v5), to bring us to the journey’s end. We make plain where we are at by the way we live, the things we value most, the spiritual exercises we engage in, or don’t. There is always the danger of hypocrisy (v6-10). Our children can smell hypocrisy ten miles away, they know what motivates us, our lives (v8). What is the driving force in your life today, not just the word of God in your mouth (v9), but burning in your heart and motivating you in appreciation for redeeming grace, to live for God first. The wearing of the word of God on the Pharisees became more and more enlarged in order to draw attention to their spirituality. Instead of God’s grace and goodness adorning and beautifying their hearts and lives for all to see.