Door Posts of the Pentateuch
D. J. Williams, Penygraig
2 The Door Post of Service, Exod. 21. 1-6
We need to set the theme of our second 'Door Post' meditation in context. Exodus 20 sets before us one of the most momentous events in Israel's history, probably in the history of the world. The Law, better known as The Ten Commandments, covers the behaviour of human beings both Godward and manward; in them we have the application of the commandments to the life of the people in the peculiar circumstances of their history. These are dealt with in chapters 21-23.
They open with THE LAW OF SERVITUDE, 21. 1-11. This gave instructions regarding the duties of masters and servants, and in particular Hebrew servants, v. 2. Here we see the Divine regard for the integrity and honour of home and family life, and, in accord with the fifth commandment, God took steps to safeguard what He had ordained.
The Hebrew Servant is first and foremost a type of Christ. We shall look at him in this way, at the same time observing the many lessons applicable to our service for the Lord.
The very first view we are given of this servant is as he stands before us as one who is perfectly free, for after six years of service 'the Hebrew.. . servant shall go out free for nothing1, v. 2. He owes no-one anything. He is no longer under any obligation to serve. As such he pictures God's beloved Son who, prior to His coming into the world, was the One who was obeyed, rather than the One who obeyed. All heaven served Him. The Lord in His heavenly glory, Master of every created intelligent being, was under no obligation to serve. Let us ever remember that He is 'the Lord from heaven', 1 Cor. 15. 47. God sent none other than the greatest Person of heaven.
Notice too, that the Hebrew servant VOLUNTARILY PLEDGED HIMSELF TO PERPETUAL SERVICE, v. 5. He said, 'I will not go out free'. He chose to become something he never was before. He chose a pathway that he had never trodden before and from which there would be no turning back. His choice was irrevocable. He made a clear commitment to a life of perpetual service. So too, did the Lord Jesus.
In Philippians, speaking of selfless service, Paul says of the Lord Jesus, 'who being in the form of God . . took upon him the form of a servant', literally 'a bond servant', 2. 6-7. He was not an actor playing a role for a season. He actually became a servant, and that in totality.
We must not limit the sphere and the scope of His service to earth and time. His service stretches on into the day of His glory. He will never cease to be the true Servant, He served His own here on earth, and He will forever do so, Mark 10. 45; John 13. 4ff; Luke 12. 37; 22. 27.
Why was this way of servitude chosen? THE SERVANT WAS MOTIVATED BY A LOVE THAT WAS THREE-FOLD, v. 5. We shall consider each expression of love again in relation to Christ.
1. 'I love my Master'. This comes first. How exact and careful is the Holy Spirit even in these Old Testament pictures. As the Lord approached the cross, where He would fully demonstrate His obedience of love to His Father, Phil 2. 8, He spoke to the disciples in the upper-room and said 'that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise let us go hence', John 14. 31. In this verse the Lord states a fact: 'I love the Father'. Then He gives the proof of that love, 'Arise let us go hence', and He went out to die. Love to His Father was always the controlling motive of the life of the perfect Servant. That love sought only the glory of the Father, both in what He did and in the things He refrained from doing. He gave Himself unreservedly in love to do the Father's will. O that such love would mark our service.
2. 'I love my wife'. From this Old Testament picture we readily recognize the Lord's love for His church. Paul reminds us that 'Christ . . . loved the church', Eph. 5. 25, and emphasises the nature of this love when he wrote 'He gave himself up for it' (R.V.). Christ's own love for His church took Him to Calvary. He gave Himself unselfishly in love that it might be a glorious church.
Some appreciation of the Divine love for church is seen in the words of Acts 20. 28. The apostle refers to the local church at Ephesus, as 'the church . .. which he hath purchased with his own blood', literally 'the blood of his own (Son'). An understanding of the Lord's estimate of the church will motivate us in our service in the 'churches of the saints' and help us to love them. They are of infinite worth to Him, and how we treat them will reflect something of our appreciation of the death of Christ.
3. 'I love my children'. The individual believer is the object of Christ's love. God loved the world, John 3. 16. Christ loved the church, Eph 5. 25. But the most amazing, stupendous truth is that He loved me. How wonderful it is to know that 'the Son of God. . loved me and gave himself for me', Gal. 2. 20. He gave Himself sacrificially. The Saviour's love for individuals is frequently evidenced in His life down here on earth, as for example, in the words, 'Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus', John 11. 5. His love is timeless in its duration and matchless in its quality, for it is not only expressed 'unto the end', but unto 'the uttermost', 13. 1. It was the quality of His love that made Him so patient with His own in their many failures. That same love moved Him to seek out the one who grievously sinned against Him and to win him back as they sat together at 'a fire of coals', 21. 15-18. Only love could have achieved such a conversion. He still loves His own 'unto the end' and, as then, seeks the good of each one of them.
The submissive Hebrew servant was to 'be brought to the . . . door post', v. 6. This is full of meaning in its application to the Perfect Servant, and also to us who seek to emulate His ways.
Several lessons are clearly seen here. The first significant thing is in the words, 'his master shall bore his ear through with an aul'.
1) . The judges did not do it. The MASTER did it. Why? The intention and the action of the servant in this ceremony was that of yielding himself totally, completely and unreservedly, in obedient service to his master. The master gladly accepted the devotedness of the servant to his will. It had been voluntary, not forced, and was based on the constraint of love, not the necessity of duty.
2) . BORING THE EAR. By boring the ear through to the door-post the servant became bodily surrendered. He was in effect signifying that his body, that is, his life was henceforth handed over to obey the will of another. That is the meaning of the words, 'he shall serve him forever1.
3) . The DOOR POST would signify that the area of his service was in the sphere of the master's house. The servant belonged to HIM and to no other. The door-post was for the entrance of the family, and so speaks of the personal limitations of his responsibility. This was also the point in Exodus 12. The shed blood was for the first-born of that household only. There is little doubt that here in type we are given a glimpse of the Lord. He is viewed as 4). the DEVOTED SERVANT, ever bringing pleasure to the heart of His Father as He moved on earth in service. See Him as He speaks to His mother, 'wist ye not that I must be about my FATHER'S business', Luke 2. 49. Listen to Him referring to the temple as 'my FATHER'S house', John 2. 16. These things tell us of those interests that prompted His every movement and objective throughout His earthly service.
Taking this theme a little further we find its MEANING. There is a very close link between Exodus 21. 6, concerning the Hebrew servant, and Psalm 40. 6-8, which is unquestionably 'Messianic'. Whatever the experience of David, we clearly see here the truth of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus, 'Mine ears hast thou opened'. The Hebrew word for 'opened' is karah. It is translated eleven times 'digged,' once 'opened', and once 'pierced'. Here in Psalm 40 it seems to have the last meaning and endorses the link with the Hebrew servant of Exodus 21, the truth of obeying, or rendering obedience to instructions given. It is through the ear that instructions and commandments are received. Only when he hears can the servant respond in obedience.
In this Old Testament historical setting we might paraphrase David's words, 'Thou hast not required ceremonial oblations and offerings but obedience . . . and hast pierced my ears as a sign that I will hear and obey for ever'. Perhaps David had in mind the incident of Saul's disobedience in the face of specific divine instruction given to him, 1 Samuel 15. 22-23.
For centuries the Spirit of God watched over this precious verse 6 of Psalm 40, guarding it until the day that the inspired writer to the Hebrews quoted the Greek version of the Psalm, and sanctioned the change from 'mine ear hast thou opened', to 'a body has thou prepared me'. We note too, this same writer, led by the Holy Spirit, makes these words to be the actual spoken words of the Son to the Father upon His coming into the world, 'wherefore when he cometh into the world he saith', Heb. 10. 5-7. It is as if there is a conversation between the Son and the Father, the Son declaring that His sole purpose in being here on earth was to do the Father's will, cf. v. 7. There is perfect sense and logic in the change made here, for one cannot have an ear unless one has a body. In His infinite wisdom the Spirit of God made Hebrews 10. 5 an amplification of Psalm 40. 6.
The Incarnation was the essential prerequisite to the Lord's path of perfect obedience. He became the bondservant - He entered a sphere where He could obey and He took a body in which it was possible for Him to obey. When the Lord Jesus Christ took humanity He became something He never was before - a man. It is a manhood He will possess eternally; it will not and cannot be relinquished.
The manhood of Christ will eternally witness to His undeviating devotion to do His Father's will, and the scars of Calvary to His selfless obedience 'unto death', Phil. 2. 8.
In our meditation on this theme we have in the main considered 'The Perfect Servant'.
Its MESSAGE for us is that we too should be characterized by a devotion to do the Father's will. The performing of the ritual of piercing the ear of the Hebrew servant would unquestionably leave a 'scar', the tangible proof of bis servitude. Everyone who looked upon him would see and know he was not his own. He was a marked man, a bondservant who was living in perpetual service, and out of love to his master and others, found pleasure in service. So too, should the world around see in us 'a life' completely yielded to the Lord. We should be living only for Him whom we profess to love, and finding our greatest pleasure in His service.
One has said 'when the ear of the believer is pierced, God gets the whole body'. How true. God places great emphasis on the 'body'. In a body Adam sinned - in a body Christ died for sin - in a body He rose from the dead -in a body He ascended to the throne - in a body He will come again. The appeal of the apostle is: 'I beseech you . . present your bodies a living sacrifice', Rom. 12. 1. When our bodies are yielded we will have no difficulty with the exhortation 'glorify God in your body', 1 Cor. 6. 20.
When Saul of Tarsus fell before the risen Lord and said 'lord, what wilt thou have me to do', Acts 9. 6, he went to the door post and surrendered his life to his new Master. He lived to prove the reality of the words of the Hebrew slave, 'I love my master - I love my wife - I love my children'.
1 My glorious victor, Prince Divine,
Clasp these surrendered hands in Thine;
At length my will is all Thine own,
Glad vassal of a Saviour's throne.
2 My Master, lead me to Thy door;
Pierce this now willing ear once more;
Thy bonds are freedom; let me stay
With thee, to toil, endure, obey.
3 Yes, ear and hand, and thought and will,
Use all in Thy dear slavery still!
Self's weary liberties I cast
Beneath Thy feet; there keep them fast.
4 Tread them still down; and then I know,
These hands shall with Thy gifts o'erflow;
And pierced ears shall hear the tone
Which tells me Thou and I are one.