I. Moses is here, as a faithful steward in God’s house, teaching the children of Israel to observe all things which God had commanded him; and no doubt he gave the instructions as largely as he received them, though they are not so largely recorded. It is here added,
1. That this night, when the first-born were to be destroyed, no Israelite must stir out of doors till morning, that is, till towards morning, when they would be called to march out of Egypt, Exod. 12:22. Not but that the destroying angel could have known an Israelite from an Egyptian in the street; but God would intimate to them that their safety was owing to the blood of sprinkling; if they put themselves from under the protection of that, it was at their peril. Those whom God has marked for himself must not mingle with evil doers: see Isa. 26:20, 21. They must not go out of the doors, lest they should straggle and be out of the way when they should be summoned to depart: they must stay within, to wait for the salvation of the Lord, and it is good to do so.
2. That hereafter they should carefully teach their children the meaning of this service, Exod. 12:26, 27. Observe,
(1.) The question which the children would ask concerning this solemnity (which they would soon take notice of in the family): “What mean you by this service? What is he meaning of all this care and exactness about eating this lamb, and this unleavened bread, more than about common food? Why such a difference between this meal and other meals?” Note, [1.] It is a good thing to see children inquisitive about the things of God; it is to be hoped that those who are careful to ask for the way will find it. Christ himself, when a child, heard and asked questions, Luke 2:46. [2.] It concerns us all rightly to understand the meaning of those holy ordinances wherein we worship God, what is the nature and what the end of them, what is signified and what intended, what is the duty expected from us in them and what are the advantages to be expected by us. Every ordinance has a meaning; some ordinances, as sacraments, have not their meaning so plain and obvious as others have; therefore we are concerned to search, that we may not offer the blind for sacrifice, but may do a reasonable service. If either we are ignorant of, or mistake about, the meaning of holy ordinances, we can neither please God nor profit ourselves.
(2.) The answer which the parents were to return to this question (Exod. 12:27): You shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, that is, “By the killing and sacrificing of this lamb, we keep in remembrance the work of wonder and grace which God did for our fathers, when,” [1.] “To make way for our deliverance out of bondage, he slew the firstborn of the Egyptians, so compelling them to sign our discharge;” and, [2.] “Though there were with us, even with us, sins against the Lord our God, for which the destroying angel, when he was abroad doing execution, might justly have destroyed our first-born too, yet God graciously appointed and accepted the family-sacrifice of a lamb, instead of the first-born, as, of old, the ram instead of Isaac, and in every house where the lamb was slain the first-born were saved.” The repetition of this solemnity in the return of every year was designed, First, To look backward as a memorial, that in it they might remember what great things God had done for them and their fathers. The word pesach signifies a leap, or transition; it is a passing over; for the destroying angel passed over the houses of the Israelites, and did not destroy their first-born. When God brings utter ruin upon his people he says, I will not pass by them any more (Amos 7:8; 8:2), intimating how often he had passed by them, as now when the destroying angel passed over their houses. Note, 1. Distinguishing mercies lay under peculiar obligations. When a thousand fall at our side, and ten thousand at our right hand, and yet we are preserved, and have our lives given us for a prey, this should greatly affect us, Ps. 91:7. In war or pestilence, if the arrow of death have passed by us, passed over us, hit the next to us and just missed us, we must not say it was by chance that we were preserved but by the special providence of our God. 2. Old mercies to ourselves, or to our fathers, must not be forgotten, but be had in everlasting remembrance, that God may be praised, our faith in him encouraged, and our hearts enlarged in his service. Secondly, It was designed to look forward as an earnest of the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God in the fulness of time, instead of us and our first-born. We were obnoxious to the sword of the destroying angel, but Christ our passover was sacrificed for us, his death was our life, and thus he was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, from the foundation of the Jewish church: Moses kept the passover by faith in Christ, for Christ was the end of the law for righteousness.
II. The people received these instructions with reverence and ready obedience. 1. They bowed the head and worshipped (Exod. 12:27): they hereby signified their submission to this institution as a law, and their thankfulness for it as a favour and privilege. Note, When God gives law to us, we must give honour to him; when he speaks, we must bow our heads and worship. 2. They went away and did as they were commanded, Exod. 12:23. 613f Here was none of that discontent and murmuring among them which we read of, Exod. 5:20, 21. The plagues of Egypt had done them good, and raised their expectations of a glorious deliverance, which before they despaired of; and now they went forth to meet it in the way appointed. Note, The perfecting of God’s mercies to us must be waited for in a humble observance of his institutions.