The Mixed Multitude
“And a mixed multitude went up also with them”
The great multitude that left Egypt (well over one and half million people) was comprised not only of Israelites but also of foreign slaves and Egyptians; a great diversity of races, cultures and motives. There were no doubt sincere followers of God in every one of these nationalities* for the promise of the Passover was to all: “when I see the blood I will pass over”. The blood was the reason for the pardon; not the nationality of the people inside the house. Even here we see glimpses of the New Covenant promise which is based upon faith and not natural birth. This mixed multitude were called the children of Israel. The wilderness was the crucible where many offending elements of the throng would be judged and purified (1 Corinthians 10:1-6).
Historically within the purposes of God mixture is a common malady. Within the hearts of all exists various motives for following after God. There are those who join themselves to the multitude for the blessings rather than out of a pure love for God. After the Sermon on the Mount a great multitude followed Him enthralled by the pure words of grace and wisdom which He spoke.
“When he was come down from the mountain,
great multitudes followed him”
Later we read that multitudes followed Him because He fed them.
“Ye seek me…because ye did eat of the loaves,
and were filled”
Jesus began to speak of deeper things; truths which were no longer pleasant and soft but offensive to the natural mind and the religious culture.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,
and drink his blood, ye have no life in you”
The multitudes began to shrink and many fell away. The way was becoming narrow and the gate unpopular. Many of His “disciples” began to murmur.
“Many therefore of his disciples,
when they had heard this, said,
This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
So too in our day the multitudes enjoy the broad way focusing only on the elementary things of God. Discipleship, dying to self, the pursuit of true righteousness and holiness are forsaken for the golden calf of the masses. In our day the masses are the proof of a successful church or ministry and often the truth is crucified at the hands of those who want the approval and esteem of men. Nevertheless, there are those whose hearts are set upon following Him. It is to the disciple that His sayings become costly and His way becomes narrow. The self-life must be left behind to move forward in the mystery of His Way. It is the hard sayings of Jesus that cause many to stumble.
“From that time many of his disciples went back,
and walked no more with him”
In our day we have many places where people can congregate to ease their conscience and pacify their convicted soul. They can hear His words without having to follow Him and call Him Lord without obeying. It is a new “gospel” that claims one simply has to believe and heaven is assured and God is pleased. A relieved conscience and a no-cost gospel are nothing more than a religious sedative for a lukewarm environment.
“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people;
Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers have devoured his strength,
and he knoweth it not…”
Even so God calls out to us to draw near in truth and in purity of heart; to leave the crowds and the broad paths. There is a refuge and consolation to be found there. Even the weak, the downtrodden and the lonely are made strong in the way of our God. The Great Shepherd Himself will lead us through the labyrinth of compromise and mixture into truth, righteousness and holiness.
“A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction.
Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness,
it is no better than the faith of devils,
and perhaps it is not even so good as that.
A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit”
* Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite; one example of several non-Israelites. For his faithfulness to God, Caleb was given an inheritance of the Tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:13).