CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
In this and the next chapter the laws for the ordering of the worship of the people in their sacrifices and on their great festivals, most of which had been given already, are completed and presented in regular order. During the wanderings in the wilderness the Israelites could not have carried out fully so elaborate a system of ceremonial worship. And now, with their settlement in Canaan so near, the whole law for their sacrificial worship is appropriately promulgated.
Num (comp. Exo 29:38; Exo 29:42).
Num . Strong wine. שֵׁבָד = strong drink. It is perhaps used here for יַיִן = wine.
Num . The Sabbath-offering, now first commanded.
Num . The offering at the new moons, also now first commanded. The observance of the new moon had been enjoined before (Num 10:10); but now the offerings are specified for the first time.
Num (comp. Exo 12:3-28; Exo 13:3-10; Lev 23:4-8; Num 9:1-5; and see pp. 139-143).
Num (comp. Lev 23:15-22; Deu 16:9-12).
Most of the Homiletic topics suggested by this chapter have already been dealt with in "The Preacher's Comm."; some of them in the work on Exodus, and others in our own work on this book. On the significance of the different kinds of offerings, see pp. 98, 99, 115, 116; on the Passover, see pp. 139-143; and on the relations and proportions between different kinds of offerings, see pp. 271-279.
THE MORNING AND EVENING SACRIFICES
These directions for the daily worship of the Israelites suggest—
I. Our daily need of consecration to God.
This is suggested by the burnt offering, which was designed to express the entire devotion of the offerer himself to the Lord.
1. This personal consecration was claimed by God. "My offering, and My bread for My sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour unto Me, shall ye observe to offer unto Me in their due season."
2. This personal consecration was made by man. By offering the continual burnt offering, the Israelites symbolically expressed the surrender of themselves to the service of God. Keil and Del.: "In the daily burnt offering the congregation of Israel, as a congregation of Jehovah, was to sanctify its life, body, soul, and spirit, to the Lord its God." Every morning we need to devote ourselves afresh to God, to seek His accepting and sanctifying grace, &c. "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God," &c. (Rom ).
II. Our daily need of atonement with God.
The burnt offering sometimes expressed the idea of expiation as well as consecration. Thus Dr. Outram observes: "As burnt offerings are said in the Scriptures to ‘make atonement' (Lev ; Lev 14:20; Lev 14:31) for those by whom they were offered, hence the Jews consider this class of victims as expiating certain kinds of sins." In the "continual burnt offering" "the idea of expiation was subordinate to that of consecrating surrender to the Lord," but it was present in the offering, and it suggests our continual need of the atoning efficacy of our Saviour's blood. As our daily imperfections and sins tend to produce estrangement from God, so we daily need the reconciling influences of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (a)
III. Our daily need of prayer to God.
"Of the daily burnt offerings Abarbinel says: ‘The daily burnt offerings were intended as a species of solemn supplications presented to God, that He would be pleased to remember His mercy towards Israel morning and evening, that He would increase their corn, and wine, and oil: as is evident from the meat offering and drink offering which were to accompany them.' … After the Jews were deprived of the opportunity of sacrificing, the Sanhedrim decreed, that instead of the stated sacrifices they should offer stated prayers; evidently considering the design of sacrifices and prayers as one and the same."—Outram.
Our daily necessities should lead to our daily prayers. Here are some of our daily needs—
1. Forgiveness of sin. Sins of omission or commission, sins secret or open, mark our daily life; and cause us to need daily forgiveness. (b)
2. "Grace to help." Daily we need direction in difficulties and perplexities, and strength in our weakness; both bodily and spiritual supplies are a constant necessity with us. (c)
3. Protection from dangers both to body and to soul. There are bodily perils visible and invisible, from accident and disease, &c. There are spiritual perils from corrupt social influences, from spiritual adversaries, &c. Hence our need of Divine guardianship. (d)
4. Renewal of spiritual strength. As in the body there are daily waste and exhaustion which have to be repaired by food and rest; so have we need daily of that spiritual renewal which is obtained by the exercise of prayer and other means of grace. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength," &c.
Let us every day offer to God our morning and evening sacrifice of prayer and praise. (e)
(a) See an illustration on this point, by Dr. Parker, on p. 356.
(b) For an illustration on this point, see p. 338 (c).
(c) For an illustration on this point, see p. 409 (b).
(d) It is a blessed state of heart to wait upon God continually in the spirit of humble, fervent, believing prayer. Satan well knows the value of such a spirit, and therefore tries hard to prevent its exercise. He labours to extinguish this sacred fire, kindled in the soul by the Holy Ghost. He endeavours to disturb the mind, to ride upon the wings of the imagination, and to fill the soul with an endless succession of fleeting images: this daily irruption of the enemy constitutes no small part of the Christian warfare.—Gleanings.
(e) This morning and evening sacrifice should direct us how and when to worship God; we must remember Him in the morning and in the evening; He must be in our thoughts first and last; we must begin the day and end the day with Him. Let Him be in our first meditations, when we awake out of sleep. If the heart and thoughts be well settled in the morning, they are like to be better ordered and disposed all the day after. This made the prophet say, "My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning," &c. (Psa ; and Psa 22:2; Psa 55:17; Psa 119:55; Psa 119:62; Psa 119:164; Dan 6:10). Then are the faculties of the soul most fresh and cheerful, then are the senses comforted and refreshed, because of the night's rest, and therefore best able to perform any duty to God or man. Again, the morning is a time wherein the world, and the business of this life, have not yet forestalled and possessed our hearts and affections, and therefore we are then the most fit to perform any special or spiritual duty required of us. Lastly, it is the first part of the day, and therefore the most worthy to be consecrated to God, after we have newly tasted His great mercy in the night past, which He might have made everlasting darkness unto us, and never raised us up again. Moreover, as the greatest part neglect this time, so do they also at evening; they forget what blessings they have received, what dangers they have escaped, what temptations they have resisted, what wants they have obtained, what decays they have supplied and repaired, for which they should give Him thanks; and, lastly, what sins they have committed for which He might justly destroy them. They remember not to cast themselves upon His protection; they consider not that He might make their bed their grave, and never bring them to see the light and the sun again.—W. Attersoll.
They know little of their own wants and emptiness, who are not much in prayer; and they know little of the greatness and goodness of God. who are not much in praise. The humble Christian hath a heart, in some measure framed to both. He hath within him the best schoolmaster, who teaches him how to pray, and how to praise, and makes him delight in the exercise of them both.—Gleanings.
THE OFFERINGS OF THE SABBATH AND OF THE NEW MOONS OR SEASONS OF SPECIAL RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE
In addition to the two lambs, which were to be offered daily for "a continual burnt offering," on the Sabbath-day two lambs, with their meat offering and their drink offering, were to be offered as "the burnt offering of every Sabbath." And at the beginning of every month two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs, with their meat offerings and drink offerings, were to be sacrificed as a burnt offering, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering, beside the continual burnt offering.
Moreover, during the Sabbath all temporal and bodily labours were suspended. And at the new moon they rested from their secular occupations (Amo ); they feasted (1Sa 20:5); they blew the trumpets (Num 10:10); and heard from the prophets the word of God (2Ki 4:23).
What was the reason of these observances? Why were they instituted? We suggest, because that in addition to the ordinary daily discharge of religious duties, man needs seasons more especially for religious exercises and occupations. (a) This need will appear if we consider—
I. The tendency of material and temporal things to engross our attention and regard.
The things of this life and of this world,—present, visible, and tangible—very generally receive much more than their meed of thought and concern and effort. The temptation to worldliness is perhaps more continuous and more subtle than to any other evil. Hence we need seasons which call our mind and heart to spiritual and eternal things. (b)
II. The supreme importance of spiritual things.
Our Lord taught that the soul of man is of more value to him than the whole world. "What is a man profited if he gain?" &c. (Mat ). The immense worth of the soul may be gathered from its nature, its capacities and powers, and its duration. If it be engrossed in worldly things it is degraded, and will be ruined, lost. It needs to be occupied in the pursuit of truth, holiness, love, beneficence, for in this pursuit it finds its true development and blessedness. And these high things are the real, the permanent, and the priceless things. Hence the importance of those seasons which call the mind and heart to the contemplation and cultivation of these things.
III. That spiritual engagements and exercises are indispensable to the healthy existence and activity of the spiritual in man.
In human nature, until it is renewed by the Holy Spirit, the spiritual elements are not vital and vigorous. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," &c. "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal." Even after a man "is born of the Spirit," he must exercise his spiritual powers, must "walk in the spirit," or their vitality will decline. Activity is an essential condition of spiritual health and progress. The spiritual life needs culture, training, and action. For these reasons we argue the importance of special times and seasons for religious engagements and exercises.
Many of these seasons of special religious observance have passed away, the end for which they were instituted having been accomplished. But the Lord's day, the successor in a certain sense of the Jewish Sabbath, with its duties and privileges, remains as a priceless boon to mankind. Never were its physical rest and its spiritual associations and occupations more needed than in this age. Let us prize the day; let us use it wisely and well. "Every day," says Trapp, "should be a Sabbath to the saints, in regard of ceasing to do evil, learning to do well; but on the seventh-day-Sabbath our devotions should be doubled. The whole Sabbath should be spent in God's service. Psalms 92, titled, ‘A Psalm for the Sabbath,' mentions morning and evening performances (Num ). Variety of duties may very well take up the whole day with delights. Besides, God gives us six whole days. Now, to sell by one measure and buy by another, is the way to a curse." (c)
(a) A man who does not pray usually, is but a hypocrite when he pretends to pray especially. Who would care to live in a miser's house who starved you all the year round, except that now and then on a feast day he fed you daintily? We must not be miserly in prayer, neglecting it regularly, and only abounding in it on particular occasions, when ostentation rather than sincerity may influence us. But even he who keeps a bounteous table, sometimes spreads a more luxurious feast than at other times; and even so must we, if we habitually live near to God, select our extraordinary seasons in which the soul shall have her fill of fellowship.—C. H. Spurgeon.
(b) The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers—
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
For another illustration on this topic, see p. 426 (c).
(c) I certainly do feel by experience the eternal obligation, because of the eternal necessity, of the Sabbath. The soul withers without it; it thrives in proportion to the fidelity of its observance. Nay, I even believe the stern rigour of the Puritan Sabbath had a grand effect upon the soul. Fancy a man thrown in upon himself, with no permitted music, nor relaxation, nor literature, nor secular conversation—nothing but his Bible, his own soul, and God's silence! What hearts of iron this system must have made. How different from our stuffed-arm-chair religion and "gospel of comfort"! as if to be made comfortable were the great end of religion. I am persuaded, however, that the Sabbath must rest not on an enactment, but on the necessities of human nature. It is necessary, not because it is commanded; but it is commanded because it is necessary. If the Bible says, "Eat the herb of the field," self-sustenance does not become a duty in consequence of the enactment, but the enactment is only a statement of the law of human nature. And so with the Sabbath.—F. W. Robertson, M.A., "Life and Letters."
On pp 285, 286, will be found other extracts illustrative of this topic.
THE FIRST SACRAMENT OF THE YEAR
"And In the beginnings of your months ye shall offer a burnt offering unto the Lord."
It is always advantageous to look back upon the Gospel of the Old Testament, as well as upon the Gospel of the New. Good to light our torch at their fire; good amidst the meridian effulgence of the Gospel to look back upon the early twilight of the Law—since all tends to heighten our sense of present privilege and of present obligation. Our text enables us to do this.
We may well apply the language of our text to the first Sacrament of the year.
I. That approach to God through a sacrifice of His own appointing has always been the privilege of His devoted people.
Four of these sacrifices are here described: daily (Num ); weekly (Num 28:9-10); monthly (Num 28:11-15); yearly at Passover (Num 28:16-25), and at Pentecost (Num 28:26-31). Concerning each observe—
1. The authority by which it was prescribed. "Command the children of Israel" (Num ). It was not left to option. This is His commandment. Nothing was to be done on Moses's authority: everything was in God's name. So of Christ. "Whom God hath set forth," &c. (Rom 3:25). "Him hath God exalted," &c. (Act 5:31). Whatever is done in God's service must be done by His direction; for God's Church and instituted religion are more precious than all the world beside.
2. The peculiar interest which God took in them. "My offering, My bread for My sacrifices, a sweet savour unto Me." The wine was to be "poured unto the Lord." God sets a high value upon all the means and offices which bring the soul near to Himself; and we should do so too.
3. The typical end and design of all was by these various means to prepare for the coming of Christ, and to conduct the soul to Him.
"The precious blood of Christ"—precious in the sight of God for its infinite value; precious to the conscience of the convinced sinner for its purifying virtue; precious to the accepted believer for its blessings; precious to all around the throne, who are there alone through its virtue.
II. That there are some seasons in which the mind is aroused to a special contemplation of the great atonement.
"The beginnings of your months." We may fitly apply this to the beginning of the year. God marks the flight of time. "God requireth that which is past." And it quite accords with our feeling that the Sabbaths of the year should commence with a service expressly directing us to the Cross of Christ.
1. Look back upon the sins and shortcomings of the year past; and let this be a motive to a more full and direct application "to the blood of sprinkling." "In those sacrifices there is a remembrance again of sins every year." Look upon the sins of your holy duties, of your religious acts, of your sacramental services. It was not in vain that the sacrifice was doubled on the Sabbath.
2. Look forward to the duties, trials, and enjoyments of the coming year; and then see the influence of pardon and acceptance, softening the one, and heightening the other.
III. That in all our religious engagements we must have an immediate respect to the presence and glory of Him whom we approach.
"Ye shall offer a burnt-offering unto the Lord." We have something to do with man; but everything to do with God. "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Think of this—
1. To give solemnity to your spirit. "God is greatly to be feared," &c. (Psa ). "Put off thy shoes," &c. (Exo 3:5).
2. To give confidence to your faith. "Let us draw near in full assurance of faith" (Heb ). "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering" (Jas 1:6).
3. To give earnestness and simplicity to your prayers.
IV. That we are looking forward to a world in which no repetition of these sacrifices and no renewal of these instructions will be required.
THE OFFERINGS OF THE FEAST OF PASSOVER
The institution and observation of the Passover have received full consideration in "The Hom. Comm." on Exodus 12 and Exo . The subject has also been briefly treated on pp. 139-143 of this work. It does not seem desirable to take up the subject again. On the significance of the various offerings, see pp. 98, 99, 115, 116.
THE FEAST OF PENTECOST OR, MAN'S CELEBRATION OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN HARVEST
This festival was called "the feast of harvest" (Exo ), "the feast of weeks" (Deu 16:10), and the feast of Pentecost, because it was observed fifty days after the Passover (Lev 23:11; Lev 23:15-16). The most important passages of Scripture relating to it, in addition to the text, are Lev 23:15-22, and Deu 16:9-12.
Jewish writers in modern times generally regard this festival as the commemoration of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai; but we do not find this taught in the Scriptures. Moreover, we shall not attempt here to indicate all the homiletic suggestions of this feast, but simply those connected with our subject, Man's celebration of the goodness of God in harvest.
I. The goodness of God to man calls for religious celebration from man.
By Divine command one day is here set apart for joyful acknowledgment of the goodness of God in the grain-harvest. The celebration was to be marked by—
1. Rest from worldly labours. "Ye shall do no servile work" (comp. Exo ).
2. Assembling for religious service. "Ye shall have an holy convocation." In the days of the Apostles, as we learn from Act ; Act 2:5-11, many Jews came from foreign countries to celebrate this feast.
3. Rejoicing in the blessing of God upon their labours. "The Lord thy God hath blessed thee: and him shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God" (Deu ). It was a joyous occasion. "They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest." Joyous worship honours God, and is acceptable to Him. God's goodness to us should be gratefully and gladly celebrated by us. (a)
"O bless the Lord, my soul,
Nor let His mercies lie
Forgotten in unthankfulness,
And without praises die."—Watts.
II. The goodness of God to man calls for confession of man's sin to God.
At this harvest festival a sin offering was to be made to God. "One kid of the goats, to make an atonement for you." But now that Jesus Christ hath made "His soul an offering for sin," we have no need to bring a "kid to make an atonement." Yet the principles involved in the offering remain.
1. God's goodness should deepen our impression of our sin. It should remind us of our unworthiness, and ill-desert. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."
2. The deeper impression of our sin should lead us to exercise increased faith in the Great Sacrifice for sin. "If the blood of bulls and of goats," &c. (Heb ). (b)
III. The goodness of God to man calls for the thanksgiving of man to God.
Pentecost was a festival of thanks for the harvest. Such a festival involved—
1. Acknowledgment of dependence upon God. It is He who giveth "us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." (c)
2. Expression of gratitude to God. The "new meat-offering unto the Lord" (Num ), the two wave loaves of leavened bread of fine flour (Lev 23:17), and the "two sheep of a year old for a sacrifice of peace-offerings" (Lev 23:19), were all designed to express the thankful homage of the people to God. The blessings of God to us should lead us heartily to enquire, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" (d)
IV. The goodness of God to man calls for the consecration of man to God.
"Ye shall offer the burnt-offering for a sweet savour unto the Lord; two young bullocks," &c. (Num ; Num 28:31). The principal meaning of the burnt-offering was the self-dedication of the offerer. Two observations are suggested—
1. Man's consecration to God should be complete. The burnt-offering was completely consumed on the altar to the honour of God. So man should dedicate himself unreservedly to God. And the blessings bestowed by God on man should impel him to do so. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God," &c. (Rom ). (e)
2. Man's complete consecration to God is acceptable to Him. "Ye shall offer the burnt-offering for a sweet savour unto the Lord" (see pp. 272, 273).
V. The goodness of God to man calls for goodness from man to his fellowman.
At the harvest festival God called man to liberality and hospitality; to show kindness to the poor, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Lev ; Deu 16:11). The kindness of God to us should constrain us to show kindness to each other, especially to the poor, &c. "Freely ye have received, freely give." (f)
(a) An extract illustrative of this point will be found on p. 118 (c).
(b) For illustrations on this point, see pp. 356, 359.
(c) This topic is illustrated on p. 276 (b) and (c).
(d) And this topic is illustrated on p. 276 (a).
(e) Self-consecration is illustrated on pp. 93 (a) and (b), 101 (b) and (c), 117 (b), and 344 (c).
(f) Illustrations on this point appear on pp. 117 (a), and 343 (a) and (b).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Numbers 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany