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Israel’s Holy Festivals
Leviticus 23:2.—Concerning the feasts of the Lord. Religion has its joy seasons, its festive aspects. Israel’s sacred feasts symbolised the festivals of the Christian soul, those holy delights which believers now realise in their life of faith and fellowship.
(a) Sacred festivals, breaking in upon the monotony of the year, and arresting society amidst its common worldly employ, confer valued benefits on humanity; they are a temporary reprieve from the clamour of secular toils, and set men free for refreshment and rest; while they also incite to some degree of religious interest and gratitude, for they witness to gracious events in God’s redeeming purposes for the world, and summon the multitudes to gladness in commemoration.
(b) Spiritual joyousness, that sacred gladness we inher it in Christ, and of which those festivals were but suggestions and scintillations, has its special and more emphatic seasons within the experience of the Christian; for although religion brings into the soul an enduring happiness and a perennial feast of love, there are times when richer enjoyment of divine fellowship and privilege delights the godly man, and his holy relationship to Christ and the Church fills him with profounder satisfaction and bliss. The sun’s light shines steadily on throughout the entire day, but there are occasional intervals when his beams burst forth in more resplendant glory.
Leviticus 23:2.—Holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Heathenism had its wild, licentious orgies; Christianity claims sanctity for all its festivities. On all pleasures and delights it inscribes “Holiness to the Lord.” Happiness must be holy. God sends gladness into the soul He redeems, and its joy must be always kept pure.
Yet, in this arrangement that the feasts should be “convocations,” emphasis is placed on the fact that our joy should be sympathetic and communicative, not isolate and selfish. Redeemed men have common reasons for happiness and praise; God would have them meet together in grateful celebration, fostering a sacred friendship, entering into each other’s joy. Sin has drawn society together in the sympathy of sorrow and degradation; religion re-unites those it blesses in the fellowship of sacred gladness.
Leviticus 23:3.—The sabbath of rest. As the oldest of all sacred festivals, and the most frequent in recurrence, God places the sabbath in the front; it brings to toil-worn lives a day of “rest,” it announces to weary souls that sacred rest which Jesus gives, it foreshadows to life’s pilgrims Zionwards the “rest which remaineth” when heaven is reached.
The sabbath rest is to be enjoyed, not in selfish ease, but as a time for meeting with God’s people in sacred assembly, “a holy convocation”, and as a season for devout social fellowship; “it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.”
Leviticus 23:5.—The Lords passover. A commemoration of grand events: spared from the angel’s stroke of death, freed from the cruelty of oppressive slavery. Redemption and emancipation—such truths are proclaimed now to man through the “sacrifice of Christ our Passover.” Christians who have experienced the deliverance, and escaped into the “glorious liberty” of faith, should celebrate with joy this work of God’s salvation; for if Israel kept holy festival in memory of the Egyptian rescue, surely we should “keep the feast” (1 Corinthians 5:7-46.5.8).
Leviticus 23:7-3.23.8.—Ye shall do no servile work; but ye shall offer an offering made by fire. They who are gathered under the merits of the Paschal Atonement are set free from “servile” toils. No more “servile work” now for the sinner, no weary efforts, no fruitless endeavours, no degrading labours; for the “offering made by fire,” the sweet incense offering of Christ, has gone up to God, and it is enough. The soul is set free from legal “work,” and now stands an observer of the meritorious offering which rises to heaven as “by fire.” Not the labours of our hands but the offering on Calvary: with that “sweet savour of Christ” God is well pleased; and sinners stand acquitted with their trust fixed on the accepted sacrifice.
Leviticus 23:10.—Bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest. The paschal offering foreshadowed the death of Christ, the “sheaf of first-fruits” His resurrection. And equally is symbolised the risen and renewed life into which all Christians emerge from their death in sin, under the quickening of God’s Spirit. Further, it predicts the final resurrection of those who “sleep in Christ.” “Christ the first-fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming.” And as our resurrection body at the last day will be “fashioned like unto his own glorious body,” so, meanwhile, should our resurrection life be graced with all the perfections of His character. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” Surely every soul called from sin to grace, raised from death unto life, should seal the outset (see Leviticus 23:14) of His spiritual career by an act of “first-fruits” consecration, which should be the pledge of an after “harvest” of devoted service to the Lord.
Leviticus 23:16.—Number fifty days, and offer a new meat offering. This was the feast of Pentecost, which opened with the presentation of the first-fruits barley sheaf, and was to be closed with the offering of a loaf made from the ingathered wheat harvest. It celebrated the completion of the harvest season. It thus testified that God had given an abundant ingathering, and had blessed His people with bread. In the Christian Church the “first-fruits” were the foretoken of harvest abundance; for Christ’s resurrection guaranteed a great ingathering of souls; and on the day of Pentecost the spiritual harvest was brought in unto the Lord. It was exactly “fifty days” after Christ arose from the dead that the Holy Ghost was given, and the bountiful ingathering of converts was secured for the church (Acts 2:0).
Leviticus 23:24.—A memorial of blowing of trumpets. It was the rallying note amid the camp and throughout Israel, making known the opening of a new era. The “Feast of Trumpets” proclaimed the arrival of “New Year’s Day,” for the civil year began on “the first day of the seventh month.” With a great outburst of joy-strains the new epoch opened. Suggestive of the new era upon which a redeemed soul enters, the Christian convert starts forth as with music and gladness upon a holy career. The trumpet notes are typical of the Gospel call, by which men are aroused to regard and seize the first opportunity presented them. It prefigures also that mighty trumpeting at the end of time, which will summon living and dead to the day of God, to which those in Christ will first respond (1 Thessalonians 4:16), but which will awaken all who sleep to a new era for universal humanity (1 Corinthians 15:51-46.15.52).
Leviticus 23:27.—A day of atonement. In chap. 16 the ritual of the great day is elaborately given; here the spirit and temper of the people is described, the whole congregation was to bow before God abased and penitential. It is well if only once every year we chasten “and afflict” our souls with humiliating thought of our sin, and bend before Jehovah with contrite hearts. Alas, there is need that we bemoan our demerit, and thus contemplate the “Atonement.” Yet how precious the fact that, while like a penitent we stand in shame for our sin, the “Day of Atonement” proclaims redeeming efficacy and grace for all who lay their hand and hope on the sacrificial Lamb.
Leviticus 23:34.—The Feast of Tabernacles. It is minutely directed in Leviticus 23:40 that they were to take “boughs of goodly trees,” affording shade and shelter and suggestive of God’s overshadowing care and covenant; “branches of palm trees,” emblematic of victory (Revelation 7:9), for they were the triumphant host of God marching onward to possess Canaan; and “willows of the brook, “symbols of plenitude and prosperity (Isaiah 44:4). This dwelling in booths seven days every year (Leviticus 23:42) would perpetuate the memory of their pilgrim career, their dependence on divine care and providence, and God’s unfailing sufficiency for them from the outset to the close of their journey to Zion. And shall not we also keep in remembrance the years in which we have been “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” through which the Lord has surely led us, never failing in the watchfulness of His providence or the sufficiency of His grace? “Thou shalt remember all the ways the Lord thy God has led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what is in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
Topic: THE SABBATH OF REST (Leviticus 23:3)
Levitical enactments, its rites and regulations, its festivals and solemnities, were all transient and Jewish. The Sabbath is not to be classified with these: it is not one of many institutes of Israel. It preceded the wilderness encampment, was anterior to the enactments of Sinai. The Sabbath dates with man’s creation, it began in Eden. It is primeval law. Its origin preceded sin.
If thus remote its origin, what of its permanency?
It was recognised through Antediluvian times. Noah kept it within the ark, sending forth his dove after seven days’ interval. Moses urges its observance, and this, not after its promulgation on Sinai, but at the outset of the encamping of the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16:23), as being an institute well understood; it had, therefore, been known to them through their Egyptian bondage. It was no novel statute, therefore, when incorporated in the decalogue on Sinai.
In Jewish history it became re-inforced with all the solemnities of the giving of the law, the Sabbath’s sanctity was inscribed on stone with the finger of God.
The line of prophets in succession urged its solemnity, and denounced its neglect and violation.
Our Lord re-asserted its authority, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27), for all men, for all ages. And now—
Sabbaths are threefold, as St. Austin says:
The first of time, or Sabbath here of days;
The second is a conscience trespass free;
The last a Sabbath of eternity.—Herrick.
I. THE WEARY LIFE OF MAN CALLS FOR THIS INTERVAL OF SABBATH REST.
1. Each individual life requires it. Toil wastes our physical fabric, the strain on nerve and brain wears away the energy of life. The rush of daily duties consumes all leisure, allows no pause for bodily rest, no repose for thought, or attention to the soul’s great concerns.
2. Family life demands it. Amid the eagerness of worldly work parents and children are scattered, each to a separate scene and diverse tasks. Yet home is a unity; family life is a blended harmony. There is need for a lull in the clamour; a truce for the rallying together of the scattered ones; that home might quietly re-construct itself, and family life be realised.
3. Moral life calls for it. A worn and spent state of body, nerve, and brain, brings with it a relaxed will, an enfeebled moral purpose. With recouped physical energy comes reaffirmed force of mind and character. A pause for bodily rest is essential for this moral resuscitation.
4. Spiritual life cries out for it. Amid the arid scenes of the world the soul droops and thirsts. It pants for the living streams And as Christ called His disciples apart to rest awhile, so does the Sabbath; giving to overtaxed lives the sacred joy of going apart with Jesus.
Enquire: Is this inflexible command of God necessary in order to conserve the Sabbath?
If man so greatly needs it, would not his need assert itself, and lead men to perpetuate the beneficent institute without a divine command?
Answer: (a) Man’s greed would lead him to deny a Sabbath to himself. His lust of gain, and clamour for success, would drive him on to ruinous absorption in earthly schemes and lucrative pursuits. “The love of money” urges on to suicidal indifference to all higher interests. He would never let a day go each week from his eager life. “Time is money”; and if a Sabbath brings no gain to his grasping hands it is a day lost.
(b) Nor would selfish men concede the Sabbath’s rest to weary toilers. Already the oppressed and overwrought workers find it difficult to arrest the encroachments of trade on the sanctities of the Lord’s Day. Heartless employers would snatch precious hours from the Sabbath, and force their servants to labour. Men would not give the holy day to their fellows if no divine law interposed to check such infringements.
Every interest, therefore, of human life, is bound up with the maintenance of the Sabbath as a day of rest. [See Addenda to chapter; SABBATH.]
II. THE SIN-WORN SPIRIT OF MAN SIGHS FOR THE CONSOLATIONS OF SABBATIC SACRED REST.
The Sabbath is but typical of the rest of faith which the gospel brings to burdened souls.
1.All trials cease when the spirit enters into the Sabbatic rest which Jesus gives. The sinner “ceases from his own works” (Hebrews 4:10). Worn with labour, and heavy laden with the burdens of conscious unrighteousness, the toiling soul comes to the Saviour (Matthew 11:28). A heavenly day, a serene Sabbatic life, dawns upon him at once, and in the restfulness of faith, trusting all to Jesus, he desists from fruitless efforts to “establish his own righteousness,” and sits down at the feet of Jesus. It is the Sabbath rest of his life begun.
2.Our daily conflicts and crosses render the Sabbath privilege a precious consolation to the believer. Resting in Jesus does not render the world a restful scene to the Christian. Nor does human life cease to know the common griefs and struggles of existence. Whereas also, the keen longings of the soul for fellowship with Christ finds few occasions for gratification amid the busy hours of the week. How welcome, therefore, to the believer is the day of rest! By “still waters” and amid “green pastures” he roams, in all the solemn delights of leisurely meditation: and his soul is “restored” (Psalms 24:0). To his troubled heart comes the solace of the “peace” which only Jesus gives (John 14:1; Leviticus 14:27). Within the sanctuary, “soothed with holy hymn and psalm,” quickened by fellowship with saints, and renewed through waiting upon God, he gains “times of refreshing” and strengthening of soul. He drinks of the brook by the way and lifts the head with freshened vigour for life’s journey. Full oft the rejoicing soul, glad in Christ, and refreshed by the Sabbath privileges, has to say,
Thou art a cooling fountain
In life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain,
We view the promised land;
A day of sweet reflection
Thou art, a day of love—
A day of resurrection
From earth to things above.
III. THE LIFE-TIRED SOUL OF MAN LONGS FOR THE SABBATH OF HEAVENLY REST.
All sabbath repose and refreshing on earth; all realisations of the rest of soul Christ gives to the believer, all sanctuary consolations enjoyed on the Lord’s day, are but foretastes and foreshadowings of heaven’s eternal peace, and joy, and love.
1. As the sabbath day dawns after the night is spent, so heaven’s sabbath follows death’s dark night.
We have to live our life’s day of duty and service to confront the responsibilities of worldly trusts and opportunities to “work while it is called day.” “This is not our rest.” But the shadows at length fall; a hush spreads over the tumult of existence; the hand slackens its hold on the instruments of labour; darkness comes gently down upon earthly scenes. But a “lively hope” fills the Christian soul; a vision of a glorious dawn sweeps across the dimming human gaze.
And a voice, while earth cares fly,
With the closing hours is blending—
“Rest is coming, rest is nigh!”
Night wraps itself around the life: the day of eternity breaks upon the spirit: Heaven’s rest is gained. And “there shall be no night there,” “neither sorrow, nor crying, neither any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: yea, from henceforth, saith the “Spirit, for they rest.”
2. As the sacred rest of faith is gained by the sinner only when he comes unto Jesus so the heavenly rest is gained only when the Christian reaches the very presence of his Lord.
“Come unto me,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest!” Blessed the experience of reaching Him now by faith: but when the soul bursts through the barrier of death and passes the gates of the heavenly city, and finds itself within the “Everlasting Arms,” leaning on Jesus’ bosom, never more to leave the radiant presence of his Lord, then, indeed, will the full rest of heaven be known.
No rough billows heave on the serene ocean of life eternal. No shadow falls on the bright sky of heaven’s bliss. No distance ever more divides the redeemed soul from the rapture of Christ’s presence. “For ever with the Lord”: and therefore there remaineth a keeping of sabbaths for the people of God
Rest, spirit free!
In the green pastures of the heavenly shore,
Where sin and sorrow can approach no more,
With all the flock, by the Good Shepherd fed,
Beside the streams of life eternal led,
For ever with thy God and Saviour blest,
Rest, sweetly rest!
Topic: THE SABBATH (Leviticus 23:3)
Placed first among the Hebrew festivals, the sabbath becomes invested with peculiar honour and importance. It claimed priority, dating back to the completion of creation, and reaching forward throughout all time, to be consummated in eternity. The institution and perpetuation of the sabbath secured time for the full observance of sacred duties; and, by its weekly advent, called attention to them. No institution of the Hebrew economy was more frequently referred to, or its observance more strictly enforced. Part of the badge that distinguished Israel from surrounding nations was cessation from worldly toil and complete consecration to sacred service one day in seven. The Hebrew Sabbath was—
I. A SACRED MEMORIAL, of the original institution of a special season for rest and undisturbed attention to divine things. It would be a perpetual reminder of the fact that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,” therefore, a constant rebuke to every form of heathenism, where the true God was ignored or unknown. Under the Christian dispensation observance of “the Lord’s Day” is a perpetual memorial of the fundamental fact of Christianity, that the Redeemer’s atoning work was completed on earth when He rose from the grave on the morning of the third day.
II. A SACRED FESTIVAL.
In it God took special delight. He demanded it as a sacrifice of time from those whose days really all belonged to Him. Though all secular work was to be discontinued, works of mercy, piety, and necessity were to be performed. The Hebrews were to gather together for divine worship and the cultivation of personal holiness. Though God did not need the rest—for He never grows weary—yet man needed it; and God rejoiced in it, as its claims were recognised, its duties discharged. It was a festival, not a fast; for man to use, not abuse; to be made a delight, not a burden; for, in sanctifying time and strength to the Lord according to His gracious will, man finds his highest and truest joy.
The transfer of the sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week has not diminished its sacredness, or relaxed its claims. It is still a feast of the Lord, to be devoted to sacred purposes. It proclaims to all the right of freedom from exacting toil, and places all upon a level as the Lord’s free men.
III. A SACRED TYPE.
The law of the sabbath, re-published in the wilderness, pointed to the time when Israel would be able fully to observe it in the land of Canaan. The peculiar sanctity and blessedness of the day may fitly be regarded as typical of the perfect rest of heaven, where all the toils and trials of time will—for those who keep His commandments—issue in the rest and recompense of eternity. In observing the sabbath, we not only obey the divine command, but we follow the divine example (Genesis 2:2-1.2.3). Thus God is pleased and man is blessed. Thus time becomes hallowed, life worth living, and heaven won. [See also preceding Homily on chap. 19 Leviticus 23:3.]—F. W.B.
Topic: SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PASSOVER (Leviticus 23:5-3.23.8)
“The first Passover was the commencement of the special privileges of the chosen nation, every subsequent Passover became a pledge of the continuance of those privileges” (Cave).
(a) The feast was RETROSPECTIVE and commemorative.
Israel’s deliverance from the destroying angel, and from Egyptian bondage, was an event unparalleled in human history. God would perpetuate the memory of so wondrous an incident as a testimony for all time that “salvation is of the Lord,” and that mightiest deliverances can be wrought for His people by our Redeemer.
Thus the Lord’s Supper, as a commemorative feast, also “shows forth the Lord’s death,” leading back our thoughts and faith to “Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us,” and the wondrous redemption wrought for an enslaved Church and a death-doomed world.
(b) The feast was PROSPECTIVE and typical.
The lamb of the paschal feast foreshadowed “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” For the lamb employed at this commemorative feast was more than a symbol of the victim whose blood was sprinkled on the doorposts in Egypt, it was a sacrifice. It meant substitution. It typically “put away sin.”
At the Lord’s Supper, Christ said to His followers, “My body is broken for you, my blood is shed for you.” And Paul adds the testimony that “our Passover is sacrificed for us.”
The Identification of the Paschal Victim with Jesus Christ:—
I. With regard to the SELECTED VICTIM.
1. Was it a lamb? Christ is often so called on account of His innocence, meekness, and resignation (Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6).
2. Was it taken from the flock? Christ was chosen from among His brethren, was one of us (Acts 3:22-44.3.23).
3. Was it a male of the first year? (Exodus 12:5). Because the “male,” being the stronger, symbolised energy and excellence; and in “its first year” was at its fullest and most perfect development; so was Christ all “comely,” in the fulness and perfection of His days.
4. Was it without blemish? Christ was altogether spotless and faultless (1 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 7:25).
II. With regard to its SACRIFICIAL OBLATION.
1. As the lamb was set apart four days before it was slain, so Christ was, during the last four days of His life, under examination, preparatory to His death (Matthew 21:1).
2. As the lamb was eventually slain, so was Christ (Revelation 5:9).
3. As its death was witnessed by the entire assembly, so was Christ publicly crucified (Luke 23:18).
4. As the time of the sacrifice was “at even” (Leviticus 23:5), so was our Saviour’s death (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-42.23.46). [Comp. Sleigh’s Aids to Reflection.]
III. With regard to the PASCHAL FEAST.
1. The eating of the passover typified that we find in Christ our life, our nourishment, and sufficiency (John 6:35; John 6:53-43.6.56).
2. The spirit in which the feast was to be partaken is indicated in the significance of the “bitter herbs,” suggesting a penitential spirit and bitter mourning, in remembrance of our sin (Zechariah 12:10).
3. The regulations for partakers of the feast are significant. Eaten “with haste,” indicates the urgency with which we should receive Christ; with “loins girded,” denotes our willingness to quit the past for a pilgrim life of faith; with “feet shod,” suggestive of rough ways to be resolutely trod; “staff in hand,” declares our defence and support.
4. The feast being eaten in companies, teaches the Christian law of union in Church fellowship, that religion may not be isolate. Christ gathers His disciples together at the feast of His Supper, and says, “Eat ye all of it, drink ye all of it.”
O wondrous emblems! setting forth His death from whom our life doth flow;
Never can finite reason sound such depths of love, such depths of woe.
Topic: THE PASSOVER (Leviticus 23:5-3.23.8)
The Exodus of Israel from Egypt, one of the most prominent landmarks in the history of the nation. The feast of the Passover was the significant memorial by which the memory of that event was perpetuated (Exodus 12:0). Not only individual, but national deliverance ought to be remembered.
I. THE HALLOWED MEMORIES IT EMBALMED.
The final plague with which Pharaoh and his people were visited led to the emancipation of Israel, and their departure from Egypt. The miraculous preservation of Israel, the destruction of the firstborn of Egypt, and the means employed to accomplish both were brought to mind when the Passover was observed as the anniversary of the solemn night of death that gave birth to the Hebrew nation.
II. THE SACRED DUTIES IT INCULCATED.
(a) Humility. Their own arm had not gotten them the victory, they had been redeemed from abject poverty and slavery. They had nothing in themselves to boast of when they remembered the hole of the pit from which they had been digged. (b) Thankfulness: seeing Jehovah had interposed in such a critical juncture for their race, He deserved their heartfelt gratitude, jubilant as the song of Moses, bright as the beautiful sea. (c) Gladness that they had escaped exacting toil, cruel oppression, bitter bondage; before them was a career of honour and blessedness, well might their hearts leap for gladness and their feet move with joyful steps. (d) Consecration. At the Exodus, Israel started on a new life. Henceforth the people were to be known as the servants of Jehovah, set apart and sanctified for His glory. They were not their own; to them His divine will would be communicated, and through them made known to the world.
In the Gospels the Passover is identified with the feast of unleavened bread, which began and closed with a Sabbath, suggesting the idea of a complete consecrated life. Only unleavened bread was to be eaten at the feast; in all our Christian service the leaven of evil is to be scrupulously avoided. Christ Our passover is sacrificed for us, let us keep the feast with humility, solemnity, thankfulness, gladness, devoutness, and consecration.
III. THE GLORIOUS EVENT IT FORESHADOWED.
About the typical character of the feast there is no room for doubt (see 1 Corinthians 5:7-46.5.8). (a) In the deliverance it affected; from slavery, degradation misery, death. (b) In the means employed for deliverance; sacrifice of appointed lamb, sprinkling of its blood, etc. (c) In the co-operation the means demanded; the people were to believe, obey, fulfil the conditions laid down. (d) All who embraced the opportunity, and adopted the means, were saved. Not one house was visited by death where the blood had been sprinkled upon the doorposts and lintel. The above considerations may all be applied to what Christ has done and is for us, and to our duty in relation to His great atonement.
Conclusion. (a) There was but one way of deliverance. (b) It was not invented or suggested by man, but by God. (c) Only practical faith availed. So in relation to the Gospel. The excellence of Christ our Passover is seen in that while many victims were slain in Egypt and they were only efficacious for a select people and one period of time, the Lamb of God by one offering atoned for the whole world and all time. Indifference, as well as unbelief in, and rejection of the world’s Redeemer, will be visited with sore punishment, for “how can we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”—F.W.B.
Topic: THE SHEAF OF THE FIRST FRUITS (Leviticus 23:10-3.23.11)
The book of nature is a fruitful study. In all God’s works He strives to fix attention on Himself. In feeding the body He would show Himself to the soul.
Harvest time nears. The early promise is fulfilled (Genesis 8:22). The firstlings of the grain are ripe. The fields of barley wave their golden heads. But shall the gatherers heedlessly reap, and thoughtless hands store the garner! No. On the altar the first sheaf must be laid.
I. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD MUST PRECEDE EVERY WORK.
The first act of harvest adores the harvest’s Lord. The first sickle cuts an offering for God.
1. Thought of God should precede all. Let morning dawn with Him. Let adoration introduce each task. Nothing is well done unless begun with God. All is disorder except the First be first.
2. The priest uplifts the sheaf on high. The first-fruits represent the entire produce of the fields. The act is a confession that all earth yields is from God, and belongs to God. Man’s toil and care may be employed, but all results are divine.
3. The offering of the sheaf is but small. He who might justly claim the harvest, takes but one sheaf. The large abundance remains for man’s supply. Thus, while a bounteous Hand fills our garners, while valleys bend with corn and clouds distil their fatness, the Giver makes His small demand. But the little God asks is an acknowledgment of His claim. He is no hard task master; but He requires that He be first in our thoughts; He then gives abundantly into our lives and hearts.
4. But in this demand He shows that all must not be consumed on self. We cannot take a sheaf to God now: but the poor need food: famished souls cry for the Word; the heathen perish for the bread of life. Such are the claims on our first fruits.
II. IN THIS HARVEST SHEAF CHRIST IS SET BEFORE THE SEEKING HEART.
1. The name of “first fruits” leads by a straight path to Him. The Spirit’s voice is very clear: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept”; “Christ the first fruits: afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23).
2. The day of offering next seals this truth. On the morning which succeeds the Paschal Sabbath the sheaf is waved. On this same dawn Jesus arose.
Following this clue, let us gaze on this type. That sheaf—
(a) Brings back thought of the seed cast into the ground. Buried in the earth: the frost imprisoned it: storms sealed its interment: but at last it rose into life: victory over death.
Thus Christ descended to the grave: life seemed extinct: the grave made fast its bars: but in vain. He came forth—the First fruit from the dead.
(b) That sheaf relates a tale of triumph. It symbolises success. Death fails to hold Him. He is “declared the Son of God with power by His resurrection.” Raise high before God, therefore, your sheaf. It is the exultation of the believer. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more”: and “because I live, ye shall live also.”
Though that sheaf is alone before God, yet it predicts and guarantees the after harvest.
III. THE HARVEST INGATHERING IS SURE TO FOLLOW THE FIRST FRUITS.
1.Already it is fulfilled in the harvest of upraised souls. Believers have been “raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
2.The rising dead as they quit their graves shall perfect the fulfilment of this sign. How changed shall they come forth! Decay will bloom into unfading youth: the mortal will be robed in immortality. “We shall be like Him!” The first sheaf predicts your resurrection.
3. A world-wide harvest, a glorious prospect is promised; when the whole mass of sanctified and ripened souls shall be reaped from earth’s fields and garnered in glory.—Based on Dean Law’s “CHRIST IS ALL.” [See Addenda to Chapter Harvest First fruits].
Topic: PENTECOST AND THE SPIRIT (Leviticus 23:15-3.23.16)
The feast of Pentecost was celebrated on the fiftieth day after that in the Passover week on which the wave sheaf was presented to the Lord, and was marked by offering to Jehovah two loaves. It was also known by the name of the “Feast of Harvest,” from its coming at the close of the wheat harvest.
It was attended by vast multitudes (comp. Acts 2:0), was “a holy convocation,” and it was a day of gladness and joy (Deuteronomy 16:14).
I. GRATITUDE EXPRESSING ITSELF IN JOYOUS DEDICATION.
I. Of themselves;
1. Of their property. For Israel not only renewed their self-consecration in worship and sacrifices laid on God’s altar, but also their possessions in the harvest reaped, as expressed by the waving of the baked loaves before Him.
(a) Pentecost thus reminded Israel of their dependance on God for the produce of their fields, as well as for higher good. God is the God of providence as well as of grace. He is supreme alike in the natural and spiritual worlds. Laws are everywhere the action of His power. “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).
(b) But God will be acknowledged in His gifts and doings. Pentecost, therefore, excited a spirit of thankfulness; it kept alive in Israel the feeling of being God’s in what they possessed as well as in what they were. Yet what belongs to Him He claims. It is not only ourselves, therefore, that we are to yield to Him, but what we have. The burnt offering must not only be laid on the altar, but the baked loaves waved before Him as alike His property.
II. SACRED ASSOCIATIONS CONNECTED WITH THE PENTECOST FESTIVAL.
1. Historic. It was commemorative on the giving of the law on Sinai. With the chronological data of Exodus 19:0 before us, it is clear that it was on the fiftieth day after the departure of Israel from Egypt, i.e., after the first Passover, that the law was given, and the national existence of the Hebrews was inaugurated. Thus God’s manifestation of Himself to Israel on Sinai, and His words to Moses, effected for His wilderness Church what His Spirit’s advent and the gift of new tongues effected for the Christian Church at Jerusalem.
2. Typical. It looked forward as well as backward. As the Passover fore-shadowed the death of Christ, so did the Pentecost the Spirit’s descent. At the Feast of Pentecost the Holy Ghost, who writes the law of God, not on tables of stone, but on “the fleshy tables of the heart,” was poured out.
III. THE HARVEST BOUNTY SUGGESTS THE FULNESS OF THE SPIRIT WHICH MARKED THE CHRISTIAN PENTECOST.
1. The endowments of the Christian Pentecost were first for the apostles, giving them qualification for their life-work, and ensuring the maintenance of their joy of faith. For “the promise of the Father” they were bidden by Christ to wait at Jerusalem. Until the Holy Ghost came upon them they were not “endowed with power,” not prepared to be “witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem and all Judea,” etc.
2. But this baptism of power is what every child of grace needs and may possess. Discipleship is not of itself sufficient for all that we are required to be in character and service. For these we want the fulness of the Spirit’s indwelling
What the Spirit was, in the fulness of His indwelling presence, to the first disciples, He is, in a very real and blessed sense, to all so possessed by Him now: “strengthened with might in the inner man,” and equipped for a life-work of witness for Christ Jesus.
The bountiful harvest shows God’s plenitude, and His joy in enriching man. Certainly He is as willing to bestow the abundance of His Spirit. We receive Him by faith, and according to the degree of such faith. The promise of the Spirit, and the bestowment, are both Christ’s, and He will never allow the desire for Him to remain unmet. He is too anxious to see us what the Spirit’s indwelling alone will make us, to delay or refuse the answer to prayer for this holy gift.
Then will come into our souls grace in increasing supplies, fulness of assurance of faith and hope, and strength added to strength. So endowed and enriched, we shall “yield ourselves unto God, and our members instruments for righteousness.” “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith” (Galatians 5:22).—Outlined from “Gospel in Leviticus,” by Jas. Fleming, D.D.
Topic: “A MEMORIAL OF BLOWING OF TRUMPETS” (Leviticus 23:23-3.23.25)
With reverberating tones of joy this blast of trumpets ushered in Israel’s civil year. At earliest dawn of the “first day of the month” the exhilarating notes sounded forth throughout the camp, or the land, of Israel. The music strains were continued all day. It was “a Sabbath,” for rest from work, for “an holy convocation,” but it was a Sabbath of praise, of music, of delight.
I. TRUMPET TONES AWAKEN ATTENTION.
Sleepers would start from their slumbers at that early blast of the trumpets. What need is there that sleepers should awake! Drowsiness is on the souls of multitudes. They dream on heedlessly, letting life glide away, and salvation lie in neglect. Thought sleeps, interest sleeps, spiritual claims and gospel realities are ignored. Eyes are closed from the “Day Dawn,” they see not that the Sun of Righteousness has arisen. “It is high time to awake out of sleep.”
Clarion notes startle drowsy souls. Providence sends out trumpet blasts. The preacher’s words may startle sleeping consciences. God’s Spirit may sound the note of arousing in the soul “Awake, O sleeper: arise and call upon thy God!”
II. This “blowing of trumpets” ANNOUNCED THE END OF A YEAR.
1. A year gone! A cause for joy, for glad trumpet tones. Yes! if the year has been spent well. Yes! if God has been known by us as a Refuge and a Faithful Friend; having kept us by His grace, and magnified His sufficiency for us. Yes! if we have escaped perils and conquered foes, and in review can cry, “O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength; now thanks be to God who always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” Yes! if our “salvation is nearer,” heaven nearer, the reward of faithful service nearer, the goal at hand.
2. A year gone! A startling fact; shrill trumpet notes should stir us to alarm. If not saved, if time has run to waste, if we have let slip from us the opportunities of grace, if we are yet in the bonds of iniquity, if still the door of our hearts is closed upon the knocking Christ, if we are without hope and without God in the world, “redeem the time.”
III. The Feast of Trumpets proclaimed A NEW YEAR OPENED.
The past is past. Opportunities unused are gone beyond recall. Penitential tears cannot bring back the misspent year. Verily God might “cut us down as cumberers of the ground.”
1. But a respite is announced. Another year opens. The Intercessor has pleaded “Let be this year also.” It is an extension of opportunity to seek the Lord, for sinners to forsake their ways, and unrighteous men their thoughts, to “flee from the wrath to come,” to haste to the “hope set before us,” to claim the salvation in Christ offered to the penitent and believing. O use the precious respite mercy gives. The trumpets sound; they tell of hope prolonged: seize the precious hour “while it is called to-day.”
2. A new era is set before Israel. Gratitude for past mercies, the memory of God’s great goodness, the experiences of redeeming and sustaining grace, incite to service, to consecration. “How much owest thou unto thy Lord? Take thy bill and write quickly.” “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Let love and thankfulness urge to more diligence, more self-sacrifice, more eagerness in use of privileges, more fervent culture of holiness. “Go up higher.” “Press to the mark.” “Repent, and do thy first works.” The trumpet sounds; it rallies the hosts of the Lord to their ranks, to the battle, to brave achievements, to victories for the King.
IV. Those trumpet blasts were A MEMORIAL OF SINAI.
When God came down on the cloud-robed peak of the mount, it was a scene of appalling splendour and solemnity. The myriad observers below trembled, “so terrible was the sight” When suddenly a weird trumpet note swelled out on the air, filling all hearts with amaze: and “the voice of the Trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder” (Exodus 19:19). This “blowing of trumpets” was “a memorial.”
1. It led them back to solemn thoughts of God. Because Jehovah was now more graciously dwelling among them in the Holy place, He was still the God of Sinai. We must not presume on His grace. How august and dreadful is He with whom we have to do. “Fear before Him, all ye saints.”
2. It recalled the law, as the basis of their covenant relationship. “Do this and live.” Such were the terms on which they stood to Jehovah. Transgress, and you die. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” But who can? Is the trumpet blast, therefore, a summons to judgment? It need not be. It declares the standard for righteousness, only to emphasize the mercy which has provided sacrifice that the sinner might propitiate and live.
V. Assuredly the trumpet is A SYMBOL OF THE GOSPEL.
“Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound” (Psalms 89:15). “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:10).
1. Christ’s voice should be heard in that “blowing of trumpets.” It sounds forth in the announcements of the gospel through the Scriptures, through all who tell the message of hope and grace. Jesus speaks to the heart affrighted by the clamour of Sinai’s awful peals. The Gospel is the silvery note sending a thrill of comfort and gladness into condemned souls. It is as “music in our ears.”
2. Christianity is a trumpet-toned herald: hastening through the heavens with the calls of grace to all mankind. “I saw an angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach” (Revelation 14:6). All who know the good news should take up the trumpet of Truth and send out the tidings over all the earth.
3. The Gospel is a joy note to the world. Not “a voice of thunder,” but of sweet melody. It brings “good tidings of great joy”; salvation to the utter-most; cleansing of all sin; a precious Saviour; an upraised cross; a “new covenant” of redemption; of an opened door in heaven for all who cleave to Jesus. Glad indeed are these trumpet tones; they calm the sinner’s fears; allure the troubled to peace, win the anxious to faith.
All around us are sad notes: O sorrow, O oppression, O anguished prayer, O dark despair. Earth is a scene of Babel discord. The air clangs with confusion.
But let the Gospel trumpet blow. Its sweet harmonies float, as did the songs of angels over Bethlehem fields, soothing unrest, heralding “peace and good will,” thrilling hearts with joy.
And still its heavenly music floats
Oe’r all this weary world.
VI. A prophetic thought is stirred by those trumpets: they foretell THE RESURRECTION SCENE.
The close of time will arrive; the great white throne will be set; the mighty angel will set his foot on the sea and another on the land, and declare that time shall be no more. And then “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). From opened graves the dead shall arise; and you with them.
Listen expectantly for that trumpet blast. At such an hour as ye think not it will sound. Sleepers were awoke when at early dawn the priests blew their trumpets on this Hebrew festival. And sleepers will awake at the judgment blast. And “all that are in their graves shall come forth.” Be ye therefore ready, so that that day should not overtake you unawares.
Fill the interval with a wise use of life. The Gospel trumpet offers you a perfect righteousness; the judgment trumpet will demand it. The Gospel trumpet bids you robe yourself in spotless garments: the judgment trump will call to condemnation those who are not “white and clean,” covered with the robe of salvation. Such will arise from death’s sleep glad “to meet the Lord in the air, and so to be for ever with the Lord.” [See Addenda to chapter “BLOWING OF TRUMPETS.”]
Topic: THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS (Leviticus 23:24-3.23.25)
The feast of trumpets is mentioned here for the first time. It was kept on the first day of Tisri, with which the civil year began. It was a time of holy rest, and communion with the Lord through an offering made by fire unto Him. The feast was kept by Israel when they took possession of Canaan, and was characterised by great joy and gladness. The feast was suggestive of—
I. THE COMPLETION OF THE WORK OF CREATION.
The earth (fitted to be the abode of man) was clad in beautiful garments; presented an aspect of great fertility and richness. The Lord pronounced it good; “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” The beginning of the civil year, when the harvest was ripe, and the air was ringing with the shouts of harvest home, would seem suggestive of the beginning of human history, which began amid scenes of plenty, as the first human pair came through the gate Beautiful.
II. THE PROMULGATION OF THE LAW FROM SINAI.
The sounding of the trumpet from morning to evening would remind Israel of the time when the sound of the trumpet called attention to the promulgation of those statutes, in the observance of which they would please Jehovah, and show to the world that they were His people. The feast would call attention to the divine voice, the trumpets would proclaim His right to be heard, the imperative duty of the listeners to hearken and obey.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF THE DEPARTED YEAR.
Israel had been spared through another year. God had been faithful to His promises, all their wants had been supplied. It became them to let their voices be heard in loud and joyful notes; the music of their hearts echoed in vocal praise.
IV. THE BOUNTY OF THE DAWNING YEAR.
As their storehouses were filled with plenty, and their presses burst forth with new wine, anxieties about the future would be allayed, provision would be abundant for man and beast. Israel would have wherewith to satisfy their physical necessities, and to offer the various sacrifices in connection with the tabernacle services. The trumpets would call to thankfulness and cheerful acknowledgment of indebtedness. However rich and abundant the oblations might be, they ought to be presented in the willing and gladsome spirit such words as these inspire, “Of thine own have we given thee; thine is all the glory.”
V. THE NEED OF WAKEFUL ALACRITY IN THE SERVICE OF JEHOVAH.
Trumpet peals rousing and stimulating; and, when blown by the priests, loud calls to hearty service. Though no servile work was to be done, yet sacred services were to be performed, solemn sacrifices offered. Israel was to awake and put on strength, enter with special enthusiasm upon the work of the Lord. External material aid may be consistently used to awaken attention and quicken devotion. Illustrative also of—
VI. THE INAUGURATION OF THE GOSPEL AGE.
At the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was given, and the first fruits of the Gospel harvest were gathered in, the apostles went forth lifting up their voices like trumpets, preaching Jesus and the resurrection. Isaiah in predicting the Gospel age said, “In that day the trumpet shall be blown”; and verily the sound of the Gospel trumpet went speedily through all the earth. John in apocalyptic vision heard the divine voice as the sound of a trumpet; and the voice of God as of a trumpet shall, in the last great day, awake the dead to judgment. Let us begin each year with a feast of trumpets, and each day with a loud call to privilege and duty, that our lives may be one continuous litany and psalm. Then when the morn of eternity dawns, and the shadows of earth flee away, we shall join in singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.—F.W.B.
Topic: THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES (Leviticus 23:33-3.23.44)
On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, five days after the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles began, and (according to additional information gathered from Numbers and Nehemiah) the sacrifices, which were many, gradually decreased in number to the eighth day. Israel was very remiss in observing the feast on entrance upon Canaan; for, from the time of Joshua to Nehemiah, it was unobserved. Obviously, the object of the feast was to keep alive the spiritual life of the nation, to perpetually renew its youth. The feast was calculated—
I. TO PERPETUATE AMONG THE PEOPLE THE MEMORY OF MIRACULOUS EVENTS CONNECTED WITH THEIR NATIONAL HISTORY.
“That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt”. Emancipation, protection, preservation, all the miraculous events connected with the exodus from Egypt and the pilgrimage through the wilderness, exhibited the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord. It would be well for Israel to be put in constant remembrance of these things. Such interpositions suggested their dignity and duty as a people, and their destiny among the nations of the earth. It is good for all peoples, in all time, to remember great national deliverers and deliverances. Surely, He should be lovingly remembered who has redeemed us from the bondage of sin and death!
II. TO AWAKEN IN THE PEOPLE GRATEFUL JOY FOR THE COMPLETED FRUITFUL SEASONS OF THE YEAR.
This the crowning, most joyous feast of the year. What a glad picture the people would present, as they sat under their booths rejoicing with the joy of harvest, the roads and fields vocal with the sound of happy voices, and the courts of the Lord resounding with sacred praise.
Permission to indulge in such innocent pleasures taught the people that Jehovah delighted in their happiness as well as in their holiness. “God (as Cowper puts it) made the country, man the town.” The verdure of the grass, the hues and fragrance of the flowers, the abundant foliage of the trees, the luscious fruits and golden corn, remind us that God would have us experience many joys in our earthly pilgrimage, while we look forward to the Canaan of ineffable beauty and undisturbed repose. In the gospel we have provision for all our spiritual wants, rich, full, free.
III. TO ENJOIN UPON THE PEOPLE CONSTANT OBEDIENCE TO THE REVEALED COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD.
The large number of sacrifices connected with the feast, and the septennial public reading of the whole law, would train and exercise the people in obedience, revive their knowledge of the Lord and acknowledgment of His sovereignty. In later times there was the additional custom of a solemn libation of water fetched from the pool of Siloam every day at the time of morning sacrifice. The whole ceremony was characterised by great enjoyment and delight. The feast may be regarded as illustrative, if not typical, of (a) The pilgrim character of the believer’s life. Here we dwell in frail tenements, and have no continuing city. (b) The advent of the Messiah; when “God in very deed dwelt with man on the earth.” At one of the celebrations of this feast, Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” (c) The latter day glory of the Church militant. (d) The glorious state of the Church triumphant; where the redeemed are represented as waving palm branches, indicative of peace, conquest, and joy. The Feast of Tabernacles followed closely on the Day of Atonement, thus joy sprang out of sorrow. Blessedness that flows from mediation and sacrifice is incomparable joy. Let sin be atoned for and removed, holiness and happiness inevitably ensue.—F.W.B.
Topic: FESTIVAL OF TABERNACLES AND INGATHERING (Leviticus 23:33-3.23.44)
It is a mistake to suppose that the Old Testament religion was only stem and repressive. It had its side of restraint and self-denial, and thence sprang much of all that was best in the character and happiness of the people. But it had also its side of cheer and hope, indeed of festivity. Its weekly Sabbaths were intended to be days of delight; so were its New Moons. Then each season had its great festival, save winter; the spring its Passover; the summer its Pentecost; the autumn its Feast of Tabernacles. Each was a joyful feast; but the last, falling on a time of the year when all hearts would naturally be glad, was the most joyful of all.
Note some of its more instructive features.
I. IT WAS A PROTRACTED RELIGIOUS MEETING.
As a “feast unto the Lord” it began and ended with a “holy convocation,” a coming together for religious ends.
1. These were held in the central sanctuary of the nation. All male Israelites were required to attend.
2. The highly religious character of this feast appears in the unusual number of its gifts and sacrifices.
3. All the Hebrew festivals were intended to inspire patriotism, and promote the separation of Israel from other nations; to remind the people of their covenant relations to God, and bind them in loyal piety to Him.
We should value occasions for holy convocation; and use them for such religiously joyous ends.
II. IT WAS A THANKSGIVING FOR GOD’S BOUNTY IN A COMPLETE HARVEST.
It came at the end of the year, when they had “gathered in the fruit of the land” (Leviticus 23:39), and was therefore—
1. A public recognition of divine faithfulness in giving rain in due season, causing the earth to yield her increase. Hence it was called the “Feast of Ingatherings” (Exodus 23:16).
2. A feast of grateful gladness. The sixty-first Psalm, supposed to be sung at this feast, well expresses the thought supreme in devout minds. This expressed itself in—
3. A profusion of gifts and sacrifices. Multiplied and great mercies demanded the more abounding recognition. [See Addenda to chapter, HARVEST FIRST-FRUITS.]
III. IT WAS A COMMEMORATION FOR MERCIES ATTEMPERING HARDSHIPS AND DANGERS.
A part of the command ran thus: “All that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (43, 44).
In such a sight—a whole people deserting their homes, and lodging in temporary arbours, decorated with foliage and fruit-laden boughs—there was something picturesque and inspiriting But—
1. It was also an impressive memorial. Israel was again “abiding in tents according to their tribes,” as he did when Balaam looked from the heights of Moab, and said, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel,” etc.
2. The celebration commemorated all the diverse experiences of the wilderness. Not its trials alone, but its triumphs and blessings. Doubtless the materials of the booths were reminders of the different stages of their wilderness journey; the “branches of palm trees,” of the valleys and the plains; the “boughs of thick trees” of the bushy mountain heights; the “willows,” of the refreshing water brooks.
3. For all times commemoration has its uses. To fire the patriotism of a nation, it is helpful to rehearse the memories of its founders and defenders. To rekindle enthusiasm in a noble cause, it is a good thing to recall its early struggles and victories. Stimulus is often found in keeping great days in personal history.
The manner of modern times is to foster pride by celebrating human exploits; that of ancient Israel was to kindle gratitude and stir obedience by recalling the goodness of God.
IV. In every aspect this festival was AN EXPRESSION OF THE JOYFUL SIDE OF RELIGION.
A feast. The people were to “rejoice before the Lord their God” (Leviticus 23:40). Comp. also Deuteronomy 16:14-5.16.15. There was a grand illumination of the court of the Temple; an evening procession in holiday attire, and with branches of myrtle and palm and willow; and a going in mass for water, which was poured out at the foot of the altar, while there arose the chant—accompanied with glad music—“Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
It was concerning this ceremony that there sprang up the proverb: “Whosoever hath not seen the rejoicing at the drawing of this water, hath never seen rejoicing at all.”
1. This joy had its root in the sense of inward peace which comes from the pardon of sin. This feast followed close upon the Day of Atonement.
2. The joy was neither selfish nor lawless. Gifts for the poor designated it; intimating that life has no true delight that can be separated from either love or duty.
3. How false the theory that religion, if earnest, is joyless! It has indeed its restraints and obligations, its laws and duties; but this is a beneficent arrangement, giving zeal to our gladness. Between religion that knows how to be steadfast, self-denying, and heroic, and that
Mirth that after no repenting draws there can be no quarrel. They go often and well together.
V. This feast was a type of A GREATER FEAST NOW PREPARING FOR GOD’S PEOPLE.
Archbishop Trench has reminded us that “on this rests the possibility of a real and not merely arbitrary teaching by parables, that the world of nature is throughout a witness for a world of spirit, proceeding from the same hand, growing out of the same root, and constituted for that very end. All lovers of truth readily admit these mysterious harmonies, to them the things of earth are copies of things of heaven.” In this feast there is—
1. A prophecy of the latter-day rest and joy of the earthly church (Zechariah 14:16; Zechariah 14:20; and also Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 25:8). Under the abundant outpouring of God’s Spirit, closer fellowship with God and fuller bliss.
2. The heavenly feast following “the harvest which is the end of the world.” John beheld the scene: “I looked, and behold a great multitude, palms in their hand,” etc. (Revelation 7:9-66.7.10).
Evermore they shall drink of God’s river of pleasure. They shall be satisfied with delight.
What assurance have you that, when that bright day dawns, you will witness its rising beam; that when that great feast is spread, you will share in its delights!—Rev. H. M. Grant, D.D.
OUTLINES ON VERSES OF CHAPTER 23
Leviticus 23:2.—Theme: “FEASTS OF THE LORD.”
I. SACRED LIFE IS ITSELF A FESTIVAL.
1 Divine in its origin. “Feasts of the Lord.”
2. Blissful in its quality. “Feasts”
3. Enriched with frequent delights.
“Feasts;” plural, for God breaks in upon he Christain career, itself a festival, with times of refreshing and incidents of gladness giving “days of heaven on the earth.”
II. THE CHRISTIAN YEAR HAS ITS FESTIVITIES.
1. Time is interrupted by sacred seasons.
A pause in the rush and absorption of earthly affairs, that God and His doings may have attention and commemoration.
2. Human life is refreshed by the blessings of religion.
Even the godless share in the relief and rest which our holy-days, “holidays,” bring them.
3. A witness to what is God’s will for man. That all should have a joyous life even here. That heaven should make earth glad; for happiness has its spring in the Lord.
III. GRACIOUS SEASONS ARE APPOINTED FOR THE CHURCH.
God would fill His people with blessedness; so there comes to them:
1. Days of rest and gladness. The Sabbath, the anniversaries of great gospel incidents.
2. Special times of revival. For quickened life; renewed power; aroused earnestness; rekindled love; awakened prayerfulness; enlarged prosperity.
3. Foretaste of heaven’s joy. He feasts His saints with felicities at gracious seasons, and the fulness of His favour satiates their souls. In such wondrous seasons, “whether in the body or out of the body, God knoweth,” they rise into “third heavens,” they find a “feast of fat things” provided, and enter the very “banquetting house” of heaven’s bliss.
Leviticus 23:10—Theme: FIRST FRUITS SHEAF.
“Then shall ye bring a sheaf of firstfruits.”
The celebration of this feast could not take place till Israel entered Canaan; for during the pilgrimage through the wilderness there was neither sowing nor reaping, the daily descent of manna from Heaven being adequate to supply daily bread. The first sheaf presented before the Lord hallowed and guaranteed the complete harvest. It exhibited—
I. THE DEPENDENCE OF ISRAEL UPON THE LORD. The Holy Land was the Lord’s. Israel could not claim it by right of inheritance, purchase, or conquest. Being a free gift, reaping a harvest they had not sown, it was fitting the first reaped sheaf should be presented in a solemn act of worship, acknowledging that the harvest was the outcome of divine goodness and power. Israel would be as much dependent upon divine supply in Canaan as in the wilderness. Israel was to think of themselves last, God was to be owned and honoured first. Though selfishness would reverse the order, the command is, to honour the Lord with our substance, and the firstfruits of all our increase.
II. THE DELIGHT OF ISRAEL IN THE LORD. A meat offering accompanying the waving of the barley sheaf constituted the service a feast, not a fast. The fine flour, wine, and oil indicated that the feast was eucharistic, a season of social and sacred joy. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” Offerings should be presented ungrudgingly to Him who loads us with His benefits. The acceptability of offerings depend upon what and how, as well as upon what and when presented. The cheerful and loyal heart will devise liberal things.
III. THE DEDICATION OF ISRAEL, TO THE LORD. The waving sheaf would excite the people to gratitude, and symbolise their devotion to the glory of Jehovah. The thank-offering was accepted through the burnt-offering, denoting that all service must have its basis in complete self-surrender. The sheaf of first fruits, was an earnest that the whole harvest would be gathered in, and it consecrated the whole. Christ is the “First fruits of them that slept.” He rose on the day of the offering of first fruits of Jewish harvest, as an earnest that all who are one with Him, shall be safely gathered in at the harvest home of the world. All our gifts to the Lord must be preceded by complete self-consecration, through the mediation and merits of our Great High Priest.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 23:14.—Theme: SELF IN ABEYANCE. “Ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God.”
I. MAN’S SINFUL TENDENCY IS TO INTRUDE SELF BEFORE THE LORD.
1. Through impatient self-will.
2 Through a weak craving after visible enticements.
3. Through a habit of ignoring God in his life.
4. Through the infatuation which places material gains above spiritual interests.
II. SUBORDINATION OF SELF IS THE LAW OF RELIGION.
1. God is to be first in our affections.
2. Our gratitude should prompt us to quick recognition of what we owe Him.
3. Saved by Him, and enriched by His gifts, how natural that He be adored with alacrity and served with delight!
4. Christ Jesus sacrificed self for us: and has left us an example to make Him our first thought.
III. SELF-REPRESSION IS REWARDED WITH RICH BESTOWMENTS.
1. We deny ourselves but for a brief season. “Until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering.”
2. God gives us a present reward for every denial of self for His pleasure: in the approval of conscience, and the witness of His Spirit, and the happiness of a hallowed life.
3. Earthly denials and crosses for Christ’s sake and God’s service, quickly yield to the rich feasts of the heavenly world.
(a) If it become true of any in this self-indulgence, “Remember that thou in thy lifetime receiveth thy good things,” the loss will come in the future.
(b) Every subjection of self for God now is a pledge of coming bliss. For “he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.”
Leviticus 23:15.—Theme: THE FEAST OF PENTECOST; HARVEST HOME.
There were three divinely appointed harvest festivals among the Jews. The Pentecost feast followed the Passover feast, and the presentation of two loaves before the Lord was a token that the corn had been safely gathered in, and an expression of gratitude and acknowledgment of obligation to Jehovah. If Pentecost did not commemorate the giving of law from Sinai fifty days after exodus from Egypt, or typify the day when the Spirit would be given, symbolized by rushing wind and forks of flame; it certainly signified to the Hebrews:
I. THAT TEMPORAL BLESSINGS OUGHT TO BE GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Ingratitude is a besetting sin. Among the sins for which Israel was rebuked by the prophets, unthankfulness was the blackest. It led to forgetfulness of the Lord, to sensuousness and idolatry. Rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons come from God. He fills our hearts with good and gladness.
II. THAT SUCH ACKNOWLEDGMENTS OUGHT TO BE MADE WITH BECOMING SOLEMNITY.
The observance of the day as a holy convocation, the abstinence from all servile work, and the presentation of various sacrifices, would invest the feast with great solemnity. The burnt offering would remind the people of the sovereign claim of Jehovah to their complete consecration to His service; the sin offering, of their entire unworthiness of the blessings received. Their festivities were not to be marked by frivolity and levity like Bacchanalian orgies, but by sacred devotion and becoming reverence. All seasons of individual and national rejoicing should be free from sinful indulgences and in harmony with a sanctified conscience enlightened by the word of God.
III. THAT BECOMING SOLEMNITY IN SACRED WORSHIP DOES NOT EXCLUDE THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE JOY.
Such a festival would sanctify and sweeten the blessing of the year, induce the people to feel, as they sat at their daily board, that they were in God’s banquetting house, and that His banner over them was love. In remembering the poor, Israel would have the exquisite joy that benevolence brings, and exemplify Him who is good to all. The fountain of joy springs up close by the altar of sacrifice and unselfishness. Let us not allow the gifts of Providence to stagnate in the Dead Sea of selfishness, but send them forth to gladden weary hearts and desolate homes. The joy of the Lord is the joy of giving; it is more blessed to give than to receive. Love to God and man sums up the whole law, is the new commandment of the Gospel.—F. W. B.
Leviticus 23:17.—Theme: BEGINNING THE REAPING.
“They are the firstfruits.”
No sickle moved in Israel’s land before the sheaf had been brought. God’s bounteous hand must be revered before man’s taking hand may work. Such was the ordinance. This was more than due worship, it was pure delight.
There is no joy like gratitude. They most enjoy who most perceive and bless the Giver. Earthly comforts should give wings to praise.
But this holy service discharged—
I. ALACRITY PERVADES THE FIELD OF SERVICE.
With cheerful heart, animated look, and rapid step, the crowding reapers hasten forth.
1. Rich abundance meets them on all hands.
2. All is busy joy No hand is idle. Life is brisk with work.
II. TOIL WHEN HALLOWED BY GOD’S SMILE IS SWEET.
1. Labour is delight when God calls toil
2. Every willing hand finds occasion. And every religious heart will see occasion to be from God.
III. LIFE IS OUR INGATHERING DAY.
1. All about us is the harvest.
2. Every morning calls us to reap.
3 God’s blessing is on the diligent life.
4. The day is gone too quickly for loitering.
IV. EACH WORKER MAY FIND HIS OWN FIELD OF INGATHERING.
1. Ask, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” and He will show where we should go work.
2. The fields are various:
1. The Scripture field is ever ready. What have you gathered this day from the Bible page?
2. Duties are individual and always close to hand. Not a day but some finished obligation should be gathered in. An empty hand proclaims a graceless heart.
3. The world is a wide-spread scene, thick with precious souls. These call for ingathering. Here every grain is priceless.
V. THE REAPING methods and appliances ARE MANIFOLD.
1. Personal effort in the hot day of opportunity.
2. Direction and inspiration of others in Christian work.
3. Prayer for gracious hours.
VI. HARVEST SEASONS QUICKLY GO.
1. Scenes of eager toil are soon cleared. Then no more work can be done. They die around us; and are gone! How should we hasten
3. The hours of work glide past. Evening comes on. Life is rapid. Opportunity is swift winged.
Woe to the man whose life is not a reaping day. No idler enters the heavenly rest. DEAN LAW.
Leviticus 23:22.—Theme: HARVEST CLEANINGS FOR THE POOR.
Compare on Leviticus 19:9.
Leviticus 23:27.—Theme: THE GREAT DAY OF ATONEMENT.
The day of Atonement is here introduced as a Hebrew fast. It was a solemn preparation for seasons of rejoicing before the Lord at ensuing feasts. As this great day of expiation has been considered in Homilies on chap. xvi., remarks here upon it may be limited. The day was a call to—
I. REPENTANCE. “Ye shall afflict your souls.” Not simply the observance of outward rites indicative of penitence, the mortification of the body; but thorough, sincere, public acknowledgment of guilt, heartfelt sorrow for sin. The call was peremptory, for the soul was to be cut off from the people that did not truly repent. Sin was to be felt, acknowledged, mourned for, and forsaken, in order that it might be forgiven through the atonement. The same call and conditions obtain in the new dispensation. The day was also a call to—
II. RECONCILIATION. Sin excluded man from God, and necessitated restraint and restriction being imposed on the worshippers. On the day of Atonement, as the contrite Hebrews saw their representative enter the most holy place to offer incense before Jehovah, they would see that the distance had been removed, that God was pleased with, and reconciled to them, as they were reconciled to Him. The day was a Sabbath of rest in all their dwellings, so that their piety and purity were to be known in their homes as well as at the holy altar. Blessed be God, through the one offering on Calvary, all who repent towards God and exercise faith in Jesus Christ, may enter into the most holy place and enjoy Divine fellowship and peace. Thus God reconciles the world unto Himself, and repentance culminates in life—F. W. B.
V 42.—Theme: SOJOURNING IN BOOTHS.
“Ye shall dwell in booths seven days: all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths.”
It was commemorative: see Leviticus 23:43.
It was significant: of
I. CHRIST TABERNACLING IN THE FLESH.
Three facts are suggestive here of Christ’s incarnation being foreshadowed in this feast:
1. John’s use of the idea, “The Word dwelt tabernacled) among us, fall of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
2. The people’s gathering of palm branches when persuaded of His Messiahship (Matthew 21:8-40.21.9)
3. Christ chose “the great day of the feast,” of this very feast of tabernacles, to identify
Himself with one of its incidents. While the waters of Siloam were being, on that eighth day, poured on the altar steps, “Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink” (Jno Leviticus 7:37-3.7.38).
4. Yet His tabernacle life was not permanent. Booths are for pilgrims, not residents. And Jesus was here but for a season. “Yet a little while I am with you.”
II. MAN’S INSECURE TENURE ON THE EARTH.
1. A booth of boughs and palms would quickly wither: so does our frail tabernacle. What are these bodies but tents of drooping flesh?
2. It was, moreover, occupied but a few days; and we are resident in this body only a brief season. Think not to stay long here.
3. The materials of the booths were of the earth and returned to the earth: mere growths from the soil, soon to decay and go back to the soil. Even so, “dust thou art,” etc., “of the earth earthy.”
III. A CHRISTIAN’S PILGRIM CAREER.
Israel dwelt in booths through their journey from Egypt to Canaan (see Leviticus 23:43).
1. Christ’s redeemed are pressing through a wilderness. It is not their goal.
2. Rest and content are not to be sought here. A temporary accommodation is enough.
3. Earth’s discomfort gives zest to desire for the “city of habitation.” And as Israel, weary with their booth-life, craved the sure abodes of Canaan, so we “earnestly desire to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; for in this we groan, being burdened.”
4. God’s ordinance of a booth life was a pledge of the certainty of Canaan. It assured them that He desired them to journey forward to the goodly land. And He would have us “set our face Zionward.”
[See Addenda to Chapter. FRAIL HABITATIONS.]
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 23
“As if a segment of the eternal Sabbath had been inserted in the days of earth, and men wondered at their own happiness.”
Called by the Jews the ‘Day of Light,’ by the Africans ‘Ossa-day,’ the day of silence; by the Cree Indians the ‘Praying day;’ by the early Christians the ‘Queen of days.’
“How still the morning of the hallowed day! Mute is the voice of rural labour, hushed The ploughboy’s whistle and the milkmaid’s song.”—GRAYHAM.
Of a well-spent Sunday, Philip Henry used to say: “If this be not the way to heaven I know not what is.”
“O, day of rest! How beautiful and fair
How welcome to the weary and the old!
Day of the Lord! And truce to earthly care!
Day of the Lord, as all our days should be.”
“Oh, what a blessing is Sunday, interposed between the waves of worldly business like the Divine path of the Israelites through Jordan. There is nothing in which I would advise you to be more strictly conscientious than in keeping the Sabbath holy. I can truly declare that to me the Sabbath has been invaluable”—WILBERFORCE.
“I feel as if God had, in giving the Sabbath, given fifty-two Springs in every year.”
—S. T. COLERIDGE.
“Sir,” said a man addressing a minister returning from church on Sabbath morning, “did you meet a lad on the road driving a cart with instruments for harvesting in it?” “I think I did,” replied the minister, “a boy with a short memory, wasn’t he?”
“What makes you think he had a short memory, sir?” was the surprised answer.
“I think he has,” answered the minister, “and belongs to a family who have short memories.”
“What in the world makes you think so?” asked the man, greatly puzzled.
“Because,” replied the minister in a serious tone, “the Great God has proclaimed from Mount Sinai, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy;’ and that boy has forgotten all about it.”—Christian Treasury.
“Now let us repose from our care and our sorrow,
Let all that is anxious and sad pass away:
The rough cares of life lay aside till to-morrow,
And let us be tranquil and happy to-day
“Let us say to the world, should it tempt us to wander,
As Abraham said to his men on the plain:
“There’s the mountain of prayer, I am going up yonder,
And tarry you here till I seek you again.
To-day, on the mount we would seek for thy blessing:
O, Spirit of holiness meet with us there;
our hearts then will feel thine influence possessing,
The sweetness of praise, and the fervour of prayer.”—EDMERTON.
HARVEST FIRST FRUITS:
The Hindoos, when gathering in their harvest, before it is removed for the threshing floor, always put aside a part for their gods.
“Lord of the harvest! all is Thine!
The rains that fall, the suns that shine,
The seed once hidden in the ground,
The skill that makes our fruits abound!
New every year,
Thy gifts appear,
New praises from our lips shall bound!”
“BLOWING OF TRUMPETS”:
“The trumpet! the trumpet! the dead all have heard,
Lo the depths of the stone-covered charnels are stirred;
From the sea, from the land, from the south, from the north,
The vast generations of men are come forth.”
On a house near Tretsey, in Cheshire, built in 1636, of thick oak framework filled in with brick, was this inscription:—“Fleres si scires unum tua tempora mensem; ridis cum non scis si sit forsitan una dies.” [“You would weep if you knew that your life was limited to one month; yet you laugh while you know not but that it may be restricted to a day”].
“When I get settled, I’ll—”; so people are always planning; but how little they think of the uncertainty that lies in the first word “when!”—BOWES.
A father with his little son is journeying overland to California, and when at night he pitches his tent in some pleasant valley, the child is charmed with the spot, and begs his father to rear a house and remain there; and he begins to make a little fence about the tent, and digs up the wild flowers and plants them within the enclosure. But the father says, “No, my son, our home is far distant, let these things go, for to-morrow we must depart.” Now God is taking us, His children, as pilgrims and strangers homeward; but we desire to build here, and must be often overthrown before we can learn to seek “the city that hath foundation, whose Builder and Maker is God.”—H. W.BEECHER.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 23". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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