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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Leviticus 24

Verses 1-3

DISCOURSE: 138
THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK

Leviticus 24:1-3. And the Lord spake unto Closes, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil-olive beaten, for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. Without the veil of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the Lord continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations.

TO engage actively in the service of God is a duty that should not be delayed: nor should any expense or trouble that may be incurred, be regarded as any obstacle to the performance of our duty. The tabernacle being erected, and the sacred vessels prepared, an order was given that the appointed services should instantly commence; and the people were directed to bring such things as were necessary for the maintenance of divine worship. That part of the tabernacle which was covered in, consisted of two parts, the holy place, and the holy of holies. In the former of these, the daily services were performed: the latter was never entered but on one day in the year. The part devoted to the service of God was lighted by a candlestick with seven lamps, which were kept continually burning [Note: Doubts indeed have been entertained whether they were kept alight by day; because some passages of Scripture seem to intimate that they were not: see Exodus 30:7; 2Ch 13:11; 1Sa 3:3 but the order that they should “burn continually,” seems plain; and the occasion for it was perpetual; and, above all, Josephus, who could not but know the practice of his day, affirms that three lamps were kept burning by day, and all of them by night.]. The whole furniture of the tabernacle, no less than the tabernacle itself, was typical: some things were more illustrative of Christ and his character; and others more applicable to the Church: and some things referred to both. It is possible that the candlestick might be intended to represent Christ as “the light of the world:” but we are sure that it shadowed forth his Church; and therefore without Hesitation we shall consider it as typically representing the Church;

I.

In its privileges—

The Church was justly exhibited under that figure—
[Of what materials and form the candlestick was, we are distinctly informed [Note: Exodus 25:31-38.]. That it was designed to represent the Church, is declared by Christ himself [Note: Revelation 1:20.]. And, if we consider of what it was composed, and how it was supplied, and for what purposes it was used, we shall see a striking correspondence between the Church and that. It was formed of pure gold; in which respect it characterized the saints, who are not polished over for the purpose of glittering in the sight of men, but are really “renewed in the spirit of their minds,” and “made partakers of a divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.] ” — — — It was supplied with the purest oil; which fitly represented that “unction of the Holy One which we have received [Note: 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.],” for the enlightening of our minds, and the sanctifying of our souls — — — Its use was obvious: it was to shine in darkness, that all who were engaged in the service of their God might fulfil their duties aright; and that God might be glorified in them [Note: Revelation 1:12-13.]. Such lights are the saints to be in the midst of a dark world, that through their instrumentality others may be directed into the way of peace, and be constrained to “glorify their heavenly Father” — — —]

The priest, whose duty it was to trim the lamps, prefigured Christ—
[This is a point on which there can be no doubt, it being affirmed on the authority of Christ himself [Note: Hebrews 4:14-15.]. He is constantly employed in inspecting and trimming the lamps: there is not a saint on whom his eyes are not fixed, and whose declensions, however secret, he does not behold — — — When necessary, he interposes, by his providence or grace, to correct their dulness, and to restore them to their wonted splendour [Note: John 15:2.] — — —]

Whilst the Church was thus characterized in its privileges, it was also shadowed forth,

II.

In its duties—

The duties of the saints are,

1.

To shine—

[It is justly observed by our Lord, that “no man lights a candle, to put it under a bushel or a bed; but sets it in a candlestick, that all who are in the house may see the light.” It is not for themselves alone that the saints are endued with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, but for God, and for their fellow-creatures; for God, that his power and grace may be magnified on earth; and for their fellow-creatures, who are to be benefited by their instructions, their influence, and their example [Note: Matthew 5:14-16.] — — — Our responsibility in this respect is not sufficiently considered. But if we are stewards even of our earthly possessions, and bound to lay them out for God, much more are we “stewards of the manifold grace of God [Note: 1 Peter 4:10.],” and bound to administer freely unto others what we ourselves have freely received [Note: Matthew 10:8.] — — —]

2.

To be receiving more grace from Christ in order to their shining with yet brighter lustre—

[It is from Christ that the Holy Spirit must be derived. It is “He who has the residue of the Spirit [Note: Malachi 2:15.].” “The Father gave not the Spirit to him by measure [Note: John 3:34.],” but in all his immeasurable fulness; and “out of that fulness must we all receive, even grace for grace [Note: John 1:16.].” This is strikingly represented by the prophet Zechariah, who, speaking apparently of the civil and ecclesiastical governors of his Church, Joshua and Zerubbabel, represents Christ In reality for he is both the King and Priest of his Church) as the inexhaustible source of that golden oil, which is continually communicated by him to every lamp in his sanctuary [Note: Zechariah 4:2-4; Zechariah 4:11-14.] — — — By prayer and faith we must keep that communication open, and entreat him, that, “as he has given us life, so he would give it us more abundantly” — — —]

We would take occasion from this subject to suggest to you,
1.

An important inquiry—

[Are you Christians indeed? If this question be too indefinite, then I ask, Are you as lights shining in a dark place? Surely this matter is not difficult to determine. You may easily see Whether you are living like the world around you, or whether you are reproving others by the brightness of your example. This idea is proposed by our Lord under the figure of a “broad and a narrow way;” the one easy and much trodden, the other difficult and unfrequented; the one terminating in destruction, the other leading to everlasting life. St. Paul expresses the same in language more accommodated to our text [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.]. Judge yourselves, Brethren, in reference to this matter: and never think that you are Christians indeed, unless you have an evidence in your own souls, that, through the influences of the Holy Sprit, you are exhibiting alight, which both instructs and “condemns the world” around you.]

2.

A solemn admonition—

[If we profess ourselves to be the Lord’s people, let us consider somewhat more distinctly what we profess. As lamps in God’s sanctuary, we profess to be “of pure gold,” truly, inwardly, substantially holy, and formed altogether according to the pattern which was shewn to Moses in the mount [Note: Numbers 8:4.]. What that pattern was, we are at no loss to say: it is set before us with all possible clearness in the person of Jesus Christ. Let every one of us reflect on this, and search into our own hearts to see whether there be in us this resemblance? The inquiry before instituted is a comparison of ourselves with, others: the inquiry I now propose, is a comparison of ourselves with that great exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should examine, not whether we resemble him in those actions which he performed as a prophet, hut whether “the same mind be in us, as was in him [Note: Philippians 2:5.].” Our views, our principles, our habits, the great scope and end of our lives, these are the things that are to be inquired into, if we would have a solid evidence in our own souls that we are the Lord’s. “We must be like Him,” here as well as hereafter, “if we would be with him” for ever. He himself warns us what will be the consequence of allowing ourselves in any deviation from the path of duty [Note: Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:5.]: and therefore, if we would not have “our candlestick removed,” let us repent of every known defect, and seek to be “pure as He is pure,” and “perfect as He is perfect.”]

3.

An encouraging reflection—

[How often has our great High-Priest, when he has seen us burning dim and languishing, revived us by seasonable communications, or merciful rebukes! Truly we are living witnesses for him, that “he will not quench the smoking flax [Note: Mat 11:20 not extinguish the wick, the flame of which has been blown out.] ” — — — May we not then hope, that he will yet bear with us, and administer to us whatever, in a way of influence or correction, we may stand in need of? Surely we may look up to him with joyful confidence, and say with David, “Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness [Note: Psalms 18:28.].” Many are the storms to which we are exposed in this dreary wilderness, which threaten our extinction; but he is able to preserve us: and as he has made it our duty to “burn continually,” so he will give us “supplies of his Spirit” for that purpose: he will “keep us by his power through faith unto everlasting salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.].” “He will keep the feet of his saints; but the wicked shall be silent in darkness [Note: 1 Samuel 2:9.] ” — — —]


Verses 5-9

DISCOURSE: 139
THE SHEW-BREAD

Leviticus 24:5-9. And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth-deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows. six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.

WHEN God appointed a dwelling-place to be erected for him in the wilderness, he ordered it to be furnished with such appendages as are common in the dwellings of men. There was in the sanctuary, as St. Paul observes, a candlestick, a table, and bread, called the shew-bread [Note: Hebrews 9:2.]. But there was an infinitely higher purpose to be answered by these things, than a mere accommodation of them to the habits of men: they were typical; every one of them was typical; “they were shadows of good things to come.” The mystical import of some is much clearer than that of others. Where the writers of the New Testament have explained them, we are able to speak with confidence: but where they are silent, we must proceed in our explanation of them “with fear and trembling.” The mystery of the shew-bread is applied by some to Christ, who called himself “the true bread,” and, at the institution of his last supper, “took bread, and brake it, and said to his disciples, Take, eat, this is my body.” The New-Testament writers give us little, if any, insight into this subject: but they speak so fully and plainly on the subject of the candlestick, that we can easily by analogy trace the import of the shew-bread also. It has been shewn, that the candlestick represented the Church, and that the priests who trimmed the lamps represented Christ [Note: See the preceding Discourse.]. The same might therefore well be supposed in relation to the shew-bread: and the circumstance of the flour “being taken from all the children of Israel,” and made into “twelve cakes,” gives us sufficient reason to conclude, that those cakes did represent the twelve tribes, that is, the Church of God. Nor can we adopt a more satisfactory method of explaining the whole mystery, than that used in reference to the candlestick. Agreeably to the plan then which we pursued on the former subject, we observe, that the shew-bread shadowed forth the people of God,

I.

In their privileges—

To elucidate this, consider what is here spoken respecting the twelve cakes;

1.

Their solemn presentation before God—

[They were consecrated to God in an orderly and solemn manner, and deposited on his table that they might be always before him. Being piled one upon another in two rows, frankincense was placed on each row, which at the appointed time was burnt “for a memorial, as an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” Here we see the Church and people of God consecrated to him according to the terms of “his everlasting covenant,” to be unto him a holy and peculiar people. As such they are esteemed by him; and “his eyes are upon them day and night for good:” and, as the frankincense was to God an odour of a sweet smell, so their persons and services shall be accepted by him — — — True it is that they are mean and worthless in themselves; yet, being “set apart for him [Note: Psalms 4:3.],” he will acknowledge them as his, and look upon them with complacency and delight.]

2.

Their periodical renewal—

[Whilst one generation of men is passing away, another arises to fill their place; and amongst them all, God will have some, who shall be objects of his peculiar regard. The change of the loaves every Sabbath-day was intended to illustrate this: arid in reference to it they were expressly called “the continual bread [Note: Numbers 4:7.].” The regard shewn by God to those who were first brought out of Egypt, shall be perpetuated to the end of time: never shall any be removed but others shall be ready to succeed; nor shall there ever be a period when God will not have a people truly and entirely consecrated to his service. Sometimes, as in the primitive ages, his saints maybe swept away by thousands at a time, so as to threaten their utter extinction: but others shall always be found ready to “be baptized for (that is, in the room of) the dead,” as soldiers instantly come forward, to fill up the ranks which the devouring sword has thinned [Note: That is most probably the true meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:29.]: nor shall the power of men or devils ever be able to extirpate the Christian name: “the Church is built upon a rock; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” — — —]

3.

Their ultimate destination—

[The loaves at the close of the week were the property of the officiating priests ; and were to be eaten by them in the holy place, as being in themselves most holy. Now we are sure that the priests who attended on the lamps, prefigured Christ: and therefore we have no doubt but that he was equally prefigured by those who attended on the bread. Here then we see, that the saints, when they have abode their appointed time an earth, are the property of Christ: to which purpose it is written in the book of Deuteronomy, “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance [Note: Deuteronomy 32:9.].” This is the high destiny of all who have given up themselves to God. Happy they are in the place which they are allowed to occupy in God’s temple below; but happier far at their removal hence, when Christ shall claim them as “his peculiar treasure,” and enjoy them for ever as “his purchased possession” — — —]

We may further contemplate the shew-bread as representing the Lord’s people,

II.

In their duties—

Well may this ordinance teach us,

1.

To consecrate ourselves entirely to God—

[Let us contemplate the state of those loaves: they were “taken from the children of Israel,” made on purpose for God, and presented to him that they might be wholly and for ever his. And what says God respecting us? “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise [Note: Isaiah 43:21.].” Yes; we should every one of us “subscribe with our hands, and say, I am the Lord’s [Note: Isaiah 44:5.].” We should “give up ourselves to him by a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten [Note: Jeremiah 50:5.].” We should consider ourselves as “separated from mankind” for this very purpose [Note: Leviticus 20:24.], that we may be “wholly sanctified unto him, in spirit, soul, and body [Note: 1 These. 5:23.].” This St. Paul declares to be “our reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” Not that we are to be inactive in the common duties of life, or to spend our days in nothing but contemplation and devotion: this would be to strain the parallel too far: but, in the spirit and habit of our minds, we are to be entirely given up to God, so that “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to his glory [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.] ” — — — the Sabbath especially should this dedication of ourselves be repeated and confirmed. We should come up to the house of God with the same mind as the priests who brought the loaves: their purpose was known and fixed; and they went into the sanctuary determined not to leave it till they had executed their high office. O that we might go to God’s house on purpose to consecrate ourselves to him afresh; and never leave our work dubious or incomplete! — — —]

2.

To be much occupied in prayer and intercession—

[The loaves were, so to speak, representatives of the tribes of Israel; and the frankincense ascended up as a memorial to God for them. Thus should we consider ourselves interested, not for ourselves only, but for all the Church of God. As for ourselves, we are commanded to “pray always,” to “pray without ceasing,” and to “offer unto God the sacrifice of praise continually, giving thanks to his name;” so, for others are we required to “make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all men.” Moreover, this duty is inculcated on all: the prophetic declaration is, that, wherever God is known, “from the rising to the setting sun, even there shall incense he offered unto his name, and a pure offering [Note: Malachi 1:11.]:” “all who make mention of the Lord,” will be thus occupied; they “will not keep silence, nor give God any rest, till he establish his Church, and make it a praise in the earth [Note: Isaiah 62:6-7.].” How prosperous would individuals and churches be, if such a spirit prevailed more amongst them! O that “God would pour out upon us more of a spirit of grace and of supplication!” We should not long remain without manifest tokens of his approbation and love — — —]

3.

To wait patiently for our removal hence—

[The loaves were left in the sanctuary till the time appointed for their removal. Thus we should “abide with God,” performing diligently the work assigned us, till he shall be pleased to dismiss our souls in peace. Our week of life at all events is wearing fast away: but, whether its close be somewhat earlier, or later, than we expect, we should say, like Job, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” If there were no future state of existence, we might wish to have our present lives terminated or protracted, according as our sorrows or joys abound: but as death will introduce us into the more immediate presence of our God, and into a more perfect union and communion with Christ, we may well be contented either to live or die. In some sense indeed we may rather “desire to depart;” yea we may be “looking for, and hasting to, the coming of the day of Christ:” but as it respects impatience or discontent, we may well tarry the Lord’s leisure, doing and suffering his holy will, till he shall take us hence, to “rest from our labours.” and to “be for ever with the Lord”— — —]


Verses 13-15

DISCOURSE: 140
THE BLASPHEMER STONED

Leviticus 24:13-15. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, Whosoever cursed his God shall bear his sin.

SPIRITUAL subjects are generally most relished by a spiritual mind: and hence it is that in some places of worship they are exclusively brought forward for public discussion; and other subjects, which might be very instructive, are entirely overlooked. We consider it as one great advantage attending a course of sermons on the Holy Scriptures, that every subject must find a place in our discourses, and at some time or other be brought under the view of our hearers. The history before us would at first sight appear so ill calculated for general edification, that we should probably never fix upon it, if left to ourselves. But, occurring as it does in our present course, we shall turn your attention to it: and we trust, that, how unpromising soever it may seem, it will be found replete with very important instruction. There are two things in it which we seem particularly called to notice; namely,

I.

The danger of ungodly connexions—

To caution us against contracting an intimacy with the ungodly, we are told, that “evil communications corrupt good manners;” and that “the companion of fools shall be destroyed.” But in the marriage union such a connexion is peculiarly dangerous, because its influence is incessant, and operative to the latest hour of our lives.

1.

It is injurious to the person himself—

[It is from a hope of drawing over their partner to the same views and sentiments with themselves, that multitudes enter into engagements, which prove fatal to their happiness through life. Whatever were the views of this Israelitish woman, she seemed to have succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation in the alliance she had formed: for, instead of being detained in Egypt by her husband, she brought him out with her. But as it was an injury, rather than a benefit, to the Church, that a mixed multitude were united to it [Note: Exo 12:38 with Numbers 11:4.], so the society of a heathen could never render an Israelite happy. Supposing that the woman had any regard for God, how could she endure to see her husband pouring contempt upon him, and bowing down to idols of wood and stone? — — — It is precisely thus when a believer amongst ourselves becomes united to an unbeliever. However suitable in other respects the union may be, it cannot possibly be productive of happiness; for, in all those things which are most important, their views, their feelings, and their conduct must be dissimilar, or rather at variance with each other. The unconverted party can have no sympathy with the converted in the various exercises of mind peculiar to the Christian state; he cannot understand them; the hopes and fears, and joys and sorrows experienced by the believer, appear foolishness in the eyes of an unbeliever; and consequently, there can be no communion between them on those subjects which are most nearly connected with their eternal welfare — — — Hence that solemn injunction to form no such alliance [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.], but to marry “only in the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:39.] ” — — —]

2.

It is injurious to their offspring—

[Doubtless a true Christian will endeavour to give a right bias to the minds of his children. But the silent and unstudied influence of the ungodly person will operate far more forcibly than the most laboured exertions of the godly. The natural bent of our affections is towards sin: and we are far more ready to justify what is wrong from the examples of others, than to follow what is right. We all know how much easier a thing it is to go with the stream than against it; or to spread contagion than to cure it. The son of this Israelitish woman, though in the midst of Israelites, did not become a worshipper of the true God, but remained to his dying hour a profane despiser of him. And in like manner it is to be expected, that, where one of the parents is ungodly, the children will follow his example, and tread in his steps — — — It is true, that the most godly parents cannot always prevail on their children to yield to their advice: but, if they have done what they could towards bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they will have the comfort of a good conscience to support them in their trials: but if a believer unites himself to an unbeliever, and his children turn out ill, he will always have himself to blame: and the children themselves will have to reproach them in the last day for having formed a connexion which afforded so bad a prospect in relation to their offspring.]
The history before us naturally leads us also to contemplate,

II.

The danger of ungodly habits—

It is manifest that the habits of this man were altogether bad—
[What was the subject of controversy between this man and the Israelite we know not; nor in what manner he blasphemed the God of heaven. But it is evident that he was under the influence of a contentious spirit, and habituated to indulge himself in disparaging the God of Israel. Moreover, his dispute with the Israelite was the very occasion of his blaspheming God. Conceiving that he was injuriously treated by the Israelite, he was not satisfied with reviling him, but must revile his religion also, and his God. This is what was wont to be done in the days of old, when the heathen blasphemed the name of God on account of David’s misconduct: and the same is done continually in the present day: men cast the blame of every evil, whether real or supposed, which they see amongst Christians, on Christianity itself. They make the Gospel answerable for all that profess it: which is just as absurd, as to condemn Christ and his Apostles, together with Christianity itself, for the treachery of Judas. Had this man been of a meek and quiet spirit, forbearing and forgiving, he would never have yielded to such a paroxysm of wrath: and, if he had cultivated the smallest regard for the Most High God, he would never have waged open war against him by his blasphemy and profaneness.]

The consequences of them proved fatal to him—
[Little did he think what would be the issue of those habits which he was so ready to indulge. The persons who heard his blasphemy, informed against him: and Moses, being as yet uninstructed by God how such iniquity was to be punished, sought direction from him: and was told that “the persons who heard him should lay their hands upon his head,” and that “all the congregation of Israel should stone him.” And from thence it was made a standing law that every similar offence should be visited with the same punishment. It was too late for the offender now to make excuses: the word was passed; the guilt was contracted; the sentence was fixed. It is thus that our evil habits also, if not repented of, will terminate, and we shall begin to bewail our misery when it is past a remedy — — — Even in this world many bring distress and ignominy both on themselves and families by their unhallowed tempers and their unbridled appetites: and in the world to come, every man, however light he may make of sin now, shall find it a burthen too heavy to be borne.]

The advice which we would suggest from this subject, is, to check evil,
1.

In ourselves—

[It is said of strife, that it is “like the letting out of water,” which having once made a breach in a bank, soon defies all endeavours to restrain it, and inundates the whole country. It is thus with sin of every kind: when it is once permitted to act, none can tell where it will stop. Impiety is generally to be found in the train of ungoverned passions: and, from “walking in the way of sinners,” it is no uncommon thing to “sit in the seat of the scornful.” Let us be aware of this, and endeavour to oppose sin in its very first rise; ever remembering, that, “if he who despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses, a much sorer punishment awaits us,” if we become the slaves and victims of any evil propensity — — —]

2.

In others—

[The people gave information of the man’s profaneness, and Moses, by God’s direction, gave orders for the whole assembly to unite in executing judgment on him. This draws a profitable line of distinction for us. The magistrate did not use any compulsory measures to make the man an Israelite; but he did interfere to prevent his God and his religion from being exposed to derision. This is the proper province of a magistrate; he must not use the power of the sword to make men religious; but he may use it to keep them from being openly profane: and it is the duty of every man to lend his aid in this matter, and to co-operate for the maintenance of external order and decorum [Note: If this were a subject taken either for an Assize Sermon, or a sermon for the suppression of vice, this idea should be enlarged upon.]. Let us then not only “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove,” and, if possible, suppress them.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Leviticus 24". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/leviticus-24.html. 1832.