The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty- handed.
I was trying to think of how to make this verse relevant for you. It’s important, believe it or not, and it has an amazing lesson hidden in its archaic history. But you can’t learn from it if you don’t care about it or find it valid in your life today. So, how do I convince you that these old words and strange customs affect you now?
God gave this commandment to Moses when Moses was on Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments. Boom. Validity! Is thou shalt not murder still valid today? What about thou shalt not steal? Those Ten Commandments transcend history and serve as a religious starting point for more than just followers of Christ. They are ten fantastic rules that have shaped our morality. If the verse above was given in the same dialog between God and Moses, lets assume it also has some powerful purpose.
God told Moses that He (God) wanted the first fruits of Israel’s animals and crops. Why? Those of you who haven’t studied the Bible much might look at this weird, ancient command about slitting animals throats and say, “that’s exactly why I don’t study that Book.” It seems crazy, I know, but bear with me. This is going somewhere.
First fruits were basically taxes. We Americans have the benefit of living in America where we have freedoms that most of the world doesn’t have. Because we are Americans, we pay taxes to help pay for those freedoms and the people who provide them. Our taxes are due to the authority. The authority requires our taxes and we pay them because we belong under that authority. Tada! First fruits=taxes. God asked his people, the nation of Israel to pay a tax that acknowledged and reminded them that they belonged under His protection and His authority.
So the first fruit of every animal and every crop was given to God to thank Him for providing that crop and those animals and those blessings. Today we call it our tithe. We give The Lord a tithe, 10%, of our income to thank Him for His provision and acknowledge that all we have came from him.
But there was a problem. The Israelites owned donkeys and donkeys were unclean meat. They weren’t supposed to sacrifice unclean meat to God. God doesn’t make exceptions though. His law is His law. The donkey’s first born had to be given but God didn’t approve of the sacrifice. So he made a way for the law to be fulfilled. A lamb could be given in the donkey’s place.
Charles Spurgeon puts it so eloquently: “My soul, here is a lesson for thee. That unclean animal is thyself; thou art justly the property of the Lord who made thee and preserves thee, but thou art so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept thee; and it has come to this, the Lamb of God must stand in thy stead, or thou must die eternally.”
He says, “Self, You are that ass.”
We are unclean and the law says that we must die. If a lamb wasn’t given, the newborn baby donkey was to have its neck broken. It seems heartless! A tragedy! I bet baby donkeys are crazy adorable. We’re pretty adorable in our own estimation too. We don’t see things from our holy Creator’s perspective.
We have black sin in our hearts. So much sin that we’ve been lost across a great ocean from the relationship we were originally created to have with our Creator. We can’t begin to swim that ocean on our own. The water’s are so expansive and our muscles will never be strong enough. The separation between sinful us and perfect perfect perfect God is too wide. No amount of effort or goodness on our own will get us across.
But He is so good. He didn’t leave us in this helpless state! A Lamb was provided, God’s own perfect Son, Jesus. He came to earth and lived among us and died a horrible death on the cross to meet the requirement that we never could. Then, in an incredible display of His power and authority, He came back to life three days later—conquering our sin and paying the ransom against us that we couldn’t afford.
He is The One. Your Creator. Your heart’s missing piece. Your fulfillment of every good desire you’ve ever had. Your Brother. Your Friend. Your Captain. Your Life’s Breath. Your Authority. He LOVES you! It’s ridiculous, you know. You were made of dust and cells. You are one sinner in 100 Billion. You do not begin to compare in value to the God of the universe. Him dying for you is the most nonsensical thing that anyone ever did for you.
Charles Spurgeon says any thinking man (Israelite) had to stop and consider which animal they’d rather lose. If the donkey was born a runt, or crippled from its mother’s womb, I’m sure no lamb was given for it. How much more should we consider what was given in our place. Jesus died for ax murderers. He died for child molesters. He died for the worst of the worst. He died for you no matter what sin you have on your ledger and His death will wipe the score card clean. In His own words, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, the sick do. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was LOST.”
The death of a donkey is momentary. Pain and then nothing. Donkeys don’t have souls. You have been created in God’s image. You are unique in creation because you are eternal. You have a soul that will go on and on and on after death. The Bible says there are only two states we can exist in after this: Heaven (God’s presence) and Hell (the absence of God’s presence). It is only Hell because God is not there. God is light and peace and joy and all things good in the world. Take him away and you are left with only pain and misery and great suffering.
If you won’t accept His death and His authority, you will carry on with sin in your heart. The sin will stand between you and Him on the day of your death like an uncrossable ocean. It will be too late then. It’s a choice you must make now. He’s willing to cancel your debt with the substitution of His perfect sacrifice. If you choose Him now, and bow to His loving authority, You will be saved! Heaven will meet you when your eyes close for the last time! Glory!
But if you will not… If you look to these ancient words and say, “what is that ass to me?”, then you face the fate of the lamest of donkeys. Please, accept my amazing Savior! He is so wonderful! I’m holding out a bazillion dollar prize to you! All you have to do is cash it in!
Adapted from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening for Oct. 15:
Every firstborn creature must be the Lord’s, but since the ass was unclean, it could not be presented in sacrifice. What then? Should it be allowed to go free from the universal law? By no means. God admits of no exceptions. The ass is His due, but He will not accept it; He will not abate the claim, but yet He cannot be pleased with the victim. No way of escape remained but redemption-the creature must be saved by the substitution of a lamb in its place; or if not redeemed, it must die. My soul, here is a lesson for thee. That unclean animal is thyself; thou art justly the property of the Lord who made thee and preserves thee, but thou art so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept thee; and it has come to this, the Lamb of God must stand in thy stead, or thou must die eternally. Let all the world know of thy gratitude to that spotless Lamb who has already bled for thee, and so redeemed thee from the fatal curse of the law. Must it not sometimes have been a question with the Israelite which should die, the ass or the lamb? Would not the good man pause to estimate and compare? Assuredly there was no comparison between the value of the soul of man and the life of the Lord Jesus, and yet the Lamb dies, and man the ass is spared. My soul, admire the boundless love of God to thee and others of the human race. Worms are bought with the blood of the Son of the Highest! Dust and ashes redeemed with a price far above silver and gold! What a doom had been mine had not plenteous redemption been found! The breaking of the neck of the ass was but a momentary penalty, but who shall measure the wrath to come to which no limit can be imagined? Inestimably dear is the glorious Lamb who has redeemed us from such a doom.