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These are My feasts.
The holy festivals
I. Commentators generally on this part of Hebrew law have remarked upon the social, political, and commercial benefits resulting to the Jewish people from these national festivals and convocations. They served to unite the nation, cemented them together as one people, and prevented the tendency to the formation of separate cliques and conflicting clans or states. These convocations also had great effect upon the internal commerce of the Hebrew people. They furnished facilities for mutual exchanges, and opened the ways of trade and business between the various sections.
II. There was also A direct religious value and forethought in the appointment of these festivals. They prescribed public consociation in worship. Man is a worshipping being. It is not only his duty, but his nature and native instinct to worship. Mere isolated worship, without association in common set services, soon dwindles, flags, degenerates, and corrupts. Neither does it ever reach that majesty and intense inspiration which comes from open congregation in the same great acts of devotion. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” And just as the multitude of these mutual sharpeners is increased, will their common devotion be deepened and augmented.
III. I propose to speak more particularly of the typical relations of these holy feasts and seasons. We have in them a system of types, chronologically arranged, to set forth the true course of time--to prefigure the whole history of redemption in its leading outlines from the commencement to the close.
1. The first was the Passover. It was a sort of perpetual commemoration of their deliverance from the oppressor and from death--a standing testimonial that their salvation was by the blood of the Lamb. It was the keynote of the Christian system sounding in the dim depths of remote antiquity. That bondage in Egypt referred to a still deeper and more degrading slavery of the spirit. That redemption was the foreshadow of a far greater deliverance. And that slain lamb and its sprinkled blood pointed to a meeker, purer, and higher Victim, whose body was broken and blood shed for us and for many for the remission of sins.
2. The next was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a sort of continuation of the Passover on the next day. The one refers to what Christ does and is to the believer, and the other refers to what the true believer does in return. The one refers to our redemption by blood and our deliverance from condemnation; the other to our repentance and consecration to a new life of obedience, separated from the leaven of unrighteousness. It is therefore plain why both were thus joined together as one. Redemption is nothing to us if it does not lead us to a purification of ourselves from the filthy ways and associations of the wicked, We can only effectually keep the gospel feast by purging out the old leaven of malice and wickedness. Seven days was this Feast of Unleavened Bread to be kept--a full period of time. We are to “serve God in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life.” Our work is not done until the week of our stay in this world ends. We must be faithful until death.
3. Joined with the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the additional service of presenting before God the first sheaf of the barley harvest. “This,” says Cumming, “was a beautiful institution, to teach the Israelites that it was not the soil, nor the raindrops, nor the sunbeams, nor the dews, nor the skill of their agriculturists, that they had to thank for their bounteous produce; but that they must rise above the sower and reaper, and see God, the Giver of the golden harvest, and make His praise the keynote to their harvest-home.” It was all this, but it had also a deeper and more beautiful meaning. The broad field, sowed with good seed, with its golden ears ripening for the harvest, is Christ’s own chosen figure of His kingdom upon earth, and the congregation of His believing children maturing for the garners of eternal life. In that field the chief sheaf is Jesus Christ Himself; for He was in all respects “made like unto His brethren.” He is the “firstfruits.” He was gathered first, and received into the treasure-house of heaven. It was the Passover time when He came to perfect ripeness. It was during these solemnities that He was “cut off.” And when the Spirit of God lifted Him from the sepulchre, and the heavens opened to receive Him, then did the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits have its truest and highest fulfilment. Until this sheaf was thus offered along with the blood of atonement there could be no harvest for us.
4. There was another harvest, and another festival service connected with its opening, fifty days later than the barley harvest. This was the wheat harvest, at which was celebrated the Feast of Weeks, otherwise called Pentecost. The Passover shows us Christ crucified; the sheaf of firstfruits shows us Christ raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven as our forerunner; and the Pentecostal feast, with its two leavened loaves, shows us Christ in the gracious influences of His Spirit wrought into the hearts and lives of those who constitute His earthly Church. This spiritual kneading took its highest and most active form on that memorable Pentecost when the disciples “were all with one accord in one place,” and the Holy Spirit came down upon them with gifts of mighty power. Three thousand souls were that day added to the Church, It was a glad and glorious day for Christianity. It was the firstfruits of wheat harvest brought with joyous thanksgiving unto God. But it was only the firstfruits--the earnest of a vast and plenteous harvest of the same kind ripening on the same fields. Thenceforward the world was to be filled with glad reapers gathering in the sheaves, and with labourers kneading the contents of those sheaves into loaves for God. Leaven there needs is in those loaves; but, presented along with the blood of the chief of the flock and herd, they still become acceptable to Him who ordained the service. There was a peculiar requirement connected with these laws for the wheat, harvest well worthy of special attention. The corners of the fields and the gleanings were to be left. This was a beautiful feature in these arrangements. It presents a good lesson, of which we ought never to lose sight. But it was also a type. Of what, I have not seen satisfactorily explained, though the application seems easy. If the wheat harvest refers to the gathering of men from sin to Christianity, and from subjects of Satan to subjects of grace, then the plain indication of this provision is that the entire world, under this present dispensation, shall not be completely converted to God. I believe that the time will come, and that it is largely and fully predicted in the Scriptures, when “all shall know the Lord from the least unto the greatest”--when there will not be a single sinner left upon the earth. But that time will not come until a new dispensation with new instrumentalities shall have been introduced.
5. The next was the Feast of Trumpets. This was held on the first day of the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, which was the same as the first month of the civil year. It was therefore a new-year festival, and at the same time the feast of introduction to the Sabbatic month. Its chief peculiarity was the continual sounding of trumpets from morning till evening. It was the grand type of the preaching of the gospel. The Feast of Trumpets was, to a great extent, a preliminary of the great Day of Atonement. We have already considered the peculiarities of this solemn day. Its leading thought is contained in its name--at-one-ment--that is, agreement, reconciliation, harmony, and peace with God. The Feast of Trumpets was a call to this at-one-ment. The gospel is an appeal to men to be reconciled to God.
6. Immediately succeeding the great solemnity on the fifteenth day of the month began another remarkable festival called tile Feast of Tabernacles. It was to commemorate the forty years of tent life which their fathers led in the wilderness, and pointed, the same as that which it commemorated, to that period of the Christian’s career which lies between his deliverance from bondage and his entrance into rest--that is, between his reconciliation to God and his final inheritance of the promises. It celebrates the state of the believer while he yet remains in this present life. This world is not our dwelling-place. We are pilgrims and strangers here, tarrying for a little season in tents and booths which we must soon vacate and leave to decay. “The earthly house of this tabernacle” must “be dissolved.” The places that know us now shall soon know us no more. “Seven days”--a full period--were the people of Israel to remain in these temporary tabernacles. And thus shall we be at the inconvenience of a tent life for the full period of our earthly stay. But it was only once in a year that Israel kept the Feast of Tabernacles. And so, when we once leave the flesh, we shall never return to it again. Our future bodies shall be glorified, celestial, spiritual bodies. It is also a precious thought connected with this subject that when the Jews left their tents at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles it was the Sabbath morning. This frail tent life is after all to be rounded off with the calm quiet of a consecrated day that has no night, and to merge into a rest that is never more to end. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Feasts of the Lord
I. Sacred life is itself a festival.
1. Divine in its origin.
2. Blissful in its quality.
3. Enriched with frequent delights.
II. The Christian year has its festivities.
1. Time is interrupted by sacred seasons.
2. Human life is refreshed by the blessings of religion.
3. A witness to what is God’s will for man.
III. Gracious seasons are appointed for the church.
1. Days of rest and gladness.
2. Special times of revival.
3. Foretaste of Heaven’s joy. (W. H. Jellie.)
The great feasts
I. Political effects. Annual gatherings of the people exhibited the numerical strength of the nation. As they went “from strength to strength,” i.e., from company to company (Psalms 84:7 marg.), on their way to Jerusalem, and saw the vast crowds flocking from all parts of the kingdom to the capital, their patriotic ardour would be fired. The unity of the nation, too, would be ensured by this fusion of the tribes. Otherwise they would be likely to constitute separate tribal states. They would carry back to the provinces glowing accounts of the wealth, power, and resources of the country.
II. Sanitary effects. They would greatly influence the health of the people. The Sabbath, necessitating weekly cleansings, and rest from work, and laws and ceremonies concerning disease (as leprosy) and purifications, deserve to be looked at in this light also. The annual purifying of the houses at Feast of Unleavened Bread; the dwelling at certain times in tents--leaving the houses to the free circulation of light and air; and the repeated journey on foot to Jerusalem, must have had a great sanitary influence. As man was the great object of creation, so his welfare--in many respects besides religion--was plainly aimed at in these regulations.
III. Social effects. Promoted friendly intercourse between travelling companions. Distributed information through the country at a time when the transmission of news was slow and imperfect. Imported into remote provincial districts a practical knowledge of all improvements in arts and sciences. Enlarged the general stock of knowledge by bringing many minds and great variety of taste together. Spread before the eyes of the nation the wonders collected in Jerusalem by the wealth and foreign alliances of Jewish kings.
IV. Moral effects. The young looking forward to, the aged looking back upon, and all talking about past or future pilgrimages to the city of the great King. Education, thus, of memory and hope and desire. Influence of this on the habits of the people. Thrift promoted to provide against expenses of the journey. The promise of bearing company held out as reward to well-conducted youth. Enlargement of knowledge, improvement of taste, advantage to health, fixing habits, etc., would all react morally on the character of the people.
V. Religious effects. These the most important. Preserved the religious faith of the nation, and religious unity among the people. Constantly reminded the people of the Divinely wrought deliverances of the past. Promoted gratitude and trust. Testified the reverence of the people for the Temple and its sacred contents. Influence of well-conducted Temple services upon the synagogues through the land. Led the mind of the nation to adore the one true and only God. (J. C. Gray.)
Seven feasts mentioned in this chapter
There were seven feasts which God commanded His people to observe every year. All these feasts are mentioned in this chapter, and should be studied together so that their relation may be seen. The first, the Sabbath, commemorated God’s rest from the work of creation, and typified the rest of God’s people in the eternal Sabbath-keeping. The second, the Passover, commemorated Israel’s redemption through the blood of the paschal lamb, prior to their exodus from bondage, and typified our redemption through Christ’s blood, previous to our exodus from the bondage of sin to the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free (Galatians 5:1). The third, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, typified the holiness of life for which they were redeemed through blood (1 Corinthians 5:7-46.5.8). The fourth, the Firstfruits, was a grateful assurance of the coming harvest, and typical of the resurrection unto life of all believers, because Christ as their firstfruits has risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23). The fifth, the Pentecost, has become universally known by being the day on which the Holy Spirit was given to the twelve in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-44.2.4), and as in the Feast of Firstfruits (type of Christ’s resurrection), the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest was waved before the Lord, so on the Day of Pentecost, the sheaf of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, typical of the gift of the Holy Spirit and prophetic of the harvest of souls gathered to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The fifth, Feast of Trumpets, typical of Israel’s ingathering for their millennial privileges, and of the call to all the world to come to the gospel feast. The sixth, the Day of Atonement, typical of Christ’s atonement. The seventh, the Feast of Tabernacles. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
God’s holy days
Here we have a general account of the holy times which God appointed (Leviticus 23:2); and it is only His appointment that can make time holy. For He is the Lord of time; and as soon as ever He had set its wheels agoing, it was He that first sanctified and blessed one day above the rest (Genesis 2:3). Man may by His appointment make a good day (Esther 9:19), but it is God’s prerogative to make a holy day; nor is anything sanctified but by the stamp of His institution. As all inherent holiness comes from His special grace, so all adherent holiness from His special appointment. Now concerning the holy times here ordained, observe--
1. They are called feasts. The Day of Atonement, which was one of them, was a fast; yet, because most of them were appointed for joy and rejoicing, they are in general called feasts. Some read it, “These are My assemblies,’ but that is coincident with convocations. I would rather read it, “These are My solemnities”; so the Word here used is translated (Isaiah 33:20), where Zion is called “the city of our solemnities.” And reading it so here the Day of Atonement was as great a solemnity as any of them.
2. They are the feasts of the Lord: “My feasts.” Observed to the honour of His name, and in obedience to His command.
3. They were proclaimed; for they were not to be observed by the priests only that attended the sanctuary, but by all the people. And this proclamation was the joyful sound which they were blessed that were within hearing of (Psalms 89:15).
4. They were to be sanctified and solemnised with holy convocations that the services of these feasts might appear the more honourable and august, and the people more unanimous in the performance of them. It was for the honour of God and His institutions, which sought not corners, and the purity of which would be best preserved by the public administration of them; it was also for the edification of the people in love that the feasts were to be observed as holy convocations. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
The solemnities appointed were--
1. Many, and returned frequently; which was intended to preserve in them a deep sense of God and religion, and to prevent their inclining to the superstitions of the heathen. God kept them fully employed in His service that they might not have time to hearken to the temptations of the idolatrous neighbourhood they lived in.
2. They were most of them times of joy and rejoicing. The weekly Sabbath is so, and all their yearly solemnities except the Day of Atonement. God would thus teach them that wisdom’s ways are pleasantness; and oblige them to His service by obliging them to be cheerful in it and to sing at their work. Seven days were days of strict rest and holy convocations: The first day, and the seventh, of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; the Day of Pentecost; the day of the Feast of Trumpets; the first day, and the eighth, of the Feast of Tabernacles; and the Day of Atonement: here were six for holy joy, and one for holy mourning. We are commanded to rejoice evermore, but not to be evermore weeping. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover.
The typical character of the Old Testament is a subject full of instruction, and one which opens a very extensive field of investigation before the mind of the Christian student. It presents itself to our view not only in the ordinances of the Jewish people, their sacrifices and priesthood, and religious rites in general, but also in the historical parts of these lively oracles. Many of the events recorded in these sacred pages have not only an historical, but also a typical, or in other words a prophetic interest. They were, in fact, living prophecies, having each his manifest counterpart or antitype somewhere in the gospel scheme. But this observation particularly applies to the ordinances of the Ceremonial Law. These rites had, no doubt, a duty to accomplish on behalf of those who celebrated them, and subserved some moral purpose towards them who did the service. But they had also a higher object; they had all a Christian aspect, or, as the apostle to the Hebrews says, they were “the shadows of good things to come.” In the former bearing they have long since passed away, but in the latter they are still abiding. And what an important addition have we here to the prophetic evidence of Christi-unity! For these rites and ceremonies must, every one of them, be regarded as predictions of those things they typified. Every well-established type is an instance of fulfilled prophecy; and when we view them all combined we have a congeries of prophecies manifestly fulfilled, and affording an amount of accumulated evidence which must be convincing to any candid mind. In all the necessary elements of prophetic evidence the argument derived from these types is remarkably certain and facile. Their antiquity, or priority in point of time to their antitypes, is undoubted, it is admitted on all hands. They were celebrated by successive generations for centuries before those things which answered to them appeared to human observation, or could be known in any other way than by Divine revelation. Their fulfilment, also, is equally certain; we compare the antitypes with the types, and find them answer the one to the other in an immense variety of particulars. It is utterly impossible that this agreement should be the result of accident; it is so minute, and carried out into such numerous ramifications, that it exceeds even the credulity of infidelity itself to ascribe it to anything but design. Here, as in a kind of panorama, that gospel passes before us, so that we, as it were, behold with our eyes those very truths which are the source of our present and eternal peace. And this, perhaps, is one reason why these ordinances are so minutely enjoined; why we find so many, and sometimes such trifling particulars commanded. The sceptic smiles at this minuteness, and refuses to believe that God could condescend to be the author of such unimportant injunctions. The reply to this is at once suggested from the book of nature, where the Deist professes to become acquainted with his God. We bid him to consult that book which is open before his eyes, and behold the minuteness of detail which characterises all the works that meet him there. See the particularity of design and of execution which pervades its every part. Has not the same hand which restrains the billows of the mighty ocean in their proper bounds painted the tiny shells which are buried in its deep abyss? But to the believer, who recognises the gospel in these ordinances, this very minuteness with which they are prescribed constitutes their perfection. He sees in this a representation of that condescending love which has ordained every particular of that covenant of grace--“the covenant ordered in all things, and sure.” And not only so, but everything to him becomes significant; he could not part with one of them; and all together make up a perfect whole on which his faith is founded. We are to consider the feast of the Passover, instituted, as its name implies, in commemoration of that night in which the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites when He smote the first-born in the land of Egypt. In order, then, to understand aright the typical or prophetic bearing of this ordinance, we must recall to mind the transactions of that memorable night, and--
I. The land of Egypt exhibits a type of this present evil world--the world, i mean, as distinct from the church and people of God. Egypt was ripened for judgment, and was devoted to destruction. She had despised her opportunities and hardened herself against the warnings of Jehovah, and was now arrayed in hostility against God and His people. And such is the world in which we live, it is destined to destruction; and why? Because it has rejected alike the mercies and the warnings of the Lord; it has despised His counsel and will have none of His reproof. And there is one point of analogy between the case of Egypt and that of this present world which is especially deserving of attention; I mean the fact that the climax in either case is preceded by a succession of judgments. I feel persuaded, my dear brethren, that we ought to be prepared for an outpouring of Divine judgments upon the earth, the effect of which shall be, as in the case of Egypt, the hardening of “the men of the earth” against the Lord and against His anointed (Revelation 9:20-66.9.21; Luke 21:35-42.21.36).
II. But God had a people in Egypt. They were in Egypt, but they were not of it; differing in their origin, their customs, their laws, their worship, and their God. They were the people of Jehovah; His by covenant arrangement; His chosen ones, His own. And why were they chosen? Was it because of their own goodness? because they were better than the other nations? No; for they were a stiff-necked people. Why, then, were they chosen? Simply because He loved them, and took them to Himself out of all the nations of the earth. And so it is at the present time. The Lord has a people in the world, but yet not of the world. “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” But if He has loved His people, He has “made them to differ” from Egypt. As they are His by sovereign grace, so also are they His by manifest consecration to Him and separation from the world. Their origin is from above. They are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
III. But what was the means by which the Israelites were saved from the judgment of Egypt? It was the sprinkled blood (Exodus 12:12-2.12.13). And so if we escape the righteous judgment of God it can only be by the sprinkling of the blood of the Lamb--“the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Outside of Christ is wrath, in Him is perfect peace and safety. Not that this sprinkled blood is the exciting cause of God’s love unto His people. No; He needed not this inducement. God did not love the children of Israel because the blood was sprinkled on their houses; no, the blood was sprinkled there because He loved them. They misunderstand the doctrine of the atonement who represent it as appeasing a God of vengeance and stimulating Him to mercy. “God is love.”
IV. The israelites were commanded to feast upon the lamb. The lamb was to be the food of them for whom his blood was sprinkled. And what is the spiritual food supplied to the Church of God? It is the Lamb that was slain (John 6:57). If we would have spiritual strength to do the work of God we can derive it only by feeding on, that is, by habitually contemplating and confiding in the work of Jesus. A living faith in Him will appropriate Him. And when the Passover is called a feast we are reminded that those who feed on Jesus have in Him not only necessaries, but abundance; not only salvation, but peace and happiness and joy--“fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees well refined” (Isaiah 25:6). You see we are supposed to be ever feasting. And if our souls are not abundantly satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, the fault is entirely our own. The provision is made; all things are ready; everything that the hospitality of eternal love, aided by the counsels of infinite wisdom and the resources of infinite power could procure to make glad the shiner’s heart. Why do we go so heavily on our way? Why have we so little peace and joy? It is because we do not feed, as we should, upon the Lamb. We do not make Him our daily bread, and incorporate Him, by a living faith, with our souls. And mark, the whole of the paschal lamb was eaten; not one particle of it was to be left. ‘Tis thus the Saviour gives Himself altogether to be His people’s food; it is not a part, but the whole of a precious Christ that is provided for us. All the holiness of His life, all the devotedness of His death, all the efficacy of His blood, all the power of His resurrection--the dignity of His ascension--the influence of His intercession, and the glory of His coming again; everything He does--He has--He is; the whole is given unto us to feast upon; and we need it all. I must have Him all to meet the exigency of my case, the necessities of my soul.
V. But let us remark the adjuncts of this feast. They were to eat it with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs; with staves in their hands and shoes on their feet. Each particular is significant. Are they to eat it with unleavened bread? If we would have communion with Jesus it must be “in the Spirit.” The carnal mind cannot find enjoyment in Him; and if we are walking after the flesh we cannot feed on Him. We must “put it out of our houses,” so as not to follow or be led by it. Again, too, “the bitter herbs.” Oh! how significant is this! The paschal feast is not a feast of self-indulgence; it is not to gratify the carnal mind. They that feed on Jesus must deny themselves, and take up the cross and follow Him. The path He leads in is not that of self-gratification and carnal ease. If these be the objects we pursue we are not--we cannot be feeding on the Lamb (Galatians 2:20). It is impossible for the true believer to escape the taste of the “bitter herbs.” The very principles which actuate him, the motives of which he is conscious, the tastes implanted in his mind are such as to render his life in this world a scene of constant trial. There are trials peculiar to the Christian which others have not, and cannot even understand. Beloved, let us search our hearts diligently; let us examine our motives. Are we indeed sincere before God? Are we really humbled before the Cross, and has every other shadow of dependence been put away? And are we dressed, too, in the garb of pilgrims? Or rather have we the pilgrim’s heart? Or are our thoughts and affections given to the things of earth--the flesh-pots of Egypt? (J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
When ye be come into the land.
The conditions of the spiritual land-tenure
I. Man’s true relation to the land of promise.
1. In his original estate man realised his dependence upon God, and his responsibility before God for the true and righteous use of all God’s gifts. As long as man used God’s glorious gifts in obedience to God’s supreme law of love, his life was blessed with the fulness of weal: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” But in the day when the sense of responsibility to God was lost, and the commandment which embraced in itself the significance of all the other commandments was broken, the disorders and the miseries of human society arose. The spirit of individual selfishness is the power which disorganises society, which brings a blight upon the garden of God, and drives human souls out from the glory and wealth into the thorny, desolate wilderness. There is no power that can enable man to dress the garden and to keep it, but the sense of responsibility to the one supreme Lord of Life, whose name is Love. This principle is the Divinely ordained power that suffices to check the deadly evils that arise from exaggerated notions of the rights of human property. In human society gifts are unequally distributed. The gifts of genius and the external gifts of property are alike unequal. In the ownership of the riches of mind we see men endowed with vast territories of knowledge and intellectual power. It is God’s order. Gifts are not equally divided. So the land is not, and never can be, possessed in absolutely equal portions by the citizens of state. There must be the large landowners and the multitude of the poor who have but little. Where is the check that is to restrain the abuses of property? In the perpetual remembrance of the truth that the proudest landowner is but a tenant who holds from God, upon God’s conditions, in order that the land may be dressed and kept so as to promote the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number.
2. Another truth closely related to our absolute dependence upon God’s love, and the realisation of which is equally necessary to our spiritual health, is declared in this passage, viz., that the occupiers of the land of promise can only enjoy the fruits which God gives upon God’s conditions. The king upon the throne who has not a kingly heart and soul occupies a land of promise, but does not eat of its fruits. In all the professions of human activity, from the highest to the humblest, the enjoyment of the noblest fruits of the position can only be realised by those who know how to perform the duties which belong to it.. The conditions of enjoyment are imposed upon the occupiers of every land of promise. The blessed land of rest, towards which human souls are travelling through the wilderness of earthly struggles, can only produce its harvest, and pour forth its stores of milk and honey to those who shall have been made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
II. The conditions upon which the fruits of Canaan can be eaten.
1. The elevated use of the gifts of life. The man who uses God’s gifts to pamper his lusts, by feeding the low life of debased animalism, lowers the corn of the field below its original level by devoting it to the “table of devils,” as the food taken to create blood for the heart in which the basest, foulest feelings have their homes, and for the brain, out of which the thoughts that are set on fire of hell wing their flight. The drunkard, the glutton, and the unclean, degrade the fruits of the land by using them to feed the life of the tenants who dwell in the moral abyss. On the other hand, in the man who strives to live a life of high purpose, pure feeling, and noble thought, the corn is taken into the manhood and shares its elevation. It is that lofty use alone that gives man fulness of enjoyment. There is an unearthly delight in the enjoyment of God’s gifts when they are thus exalted. It is still true that God satisfies His people “with the bread of heaven. “It is still true that for those who are redeemed to the high life in Christ the Holy Spirit gives them” of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels’ food.” Do we seek elevation in Christ Jesus? Are we pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? Are we sanctifying the fields of our life by subjecting all our energies to the influence of noble aspirations and high purposes in Christ Jesus?
2. The second condition which regulates the enjoyment of the fruits of the land of promise is embodied in this command, “Ye shall offer an he-lamb without, blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the Lord.” What are the moral and spiritual truths embodied in the form of this ordinance? It gives expression to that eternal truth that man cannot enjoy the fruits of God’s promised land without innocency of life, and entire surrender of self to God. The highest joys and richest pleasures of existence cannot be experienced by the man whose heart is full of malice and wickedness. Material prosperity, houses, and lands, and gold he may have. But the joy, peace, and satisfaction which feed the inner life of an enriched, ennobled soul are forbidden to all but those who have found truth and innocency of character. The mode of the offering is also expressive of another condition. The lamb was to be offered as a burnt-offering. This form of sacrifice expresses the principle of unreserved dedication of the life to God. The life of self-sacrifice is the happy life. The heart which has given itself unreservedly to the truth and love of God, is the heart that experiences the joys of the promised land.
3. The third condition imposed upon the Israelite was expressed in the command, “The: meat-offering thereof shall be two-tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour; and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an bin.” What eternal principle is embodied in the form of this rite? It teaches us that we cannot enjoy the fruits of the promised land until we have learnt to seek the sustenance and gladness of the soul in communion with God. The flour of the meat-offering represents that spiritual bread of the soul which “strengtheneth man’s heart.” The wine of the drink-offering represents the spiritual flow of joys that “maketh glad the heart of man.” The oil is the type of the influence of the Divine Spirit by the virtue of which life-giving efficacy comes to the forms of human service.
III. How are we to fulfil the conditions imposed upon souls in this passage? How can we practically qualify ourselves to eat the products of the spiritual harvest that grows in the land that, God has given to us? The three great principles here set before us are acknowledged in the life of the sincere, worthy communicants in the Church of Christ, “the meet partakers of those holy mysteries.” Whenever you approach the Lord’s table as the Church commands, you wave the energies of life on high before the Lord, and acknowledge the principle of Divine elevation by answering in obedience to her command, “Lift up your hearts,”--“We lift them up unto the Lord.” You acknowledge the eternal obligation of the Divine principle of self-devotion when, after confessing your sins and asking the absolution of Christ, you offer with fervent resolve the service of a life delivered from its blemishes by the redeeming power of the unblemished Lamb, who is the propitiation for our sins, and say, “Here we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto Thee.” You acknowledge the need of Divine sustenance, the principle of the eternal meat-offering, when you hearken to the voice of the Church saying unto you, “Feed on Him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.” If we would be qualified to enjoy all the glorious wealth of Canaan we must live the hidden sacramental life in Christ. (H. T. Edwards, M. A.)
Wave the sheaf.
The design of these festivals was two-fold: they were eucharistic or commemorative, and they were also typical or prophetic. This ordinance is not a distinct festival, but a ceremony observed during the feast of unleavened bread, as the Paschal Feast is sometimes called, from the fact that during the seven days through which it lasted the children of Israel were commanded to put away leaven out of their houses. It was observed annually with great solemnity. Certain persons were deputed by the Sanhedrin to go out into the fields and procure a sheaf of the newly-ripened corn, which was then carried into the temple preceded by oxen crowned with garlands, and other tokens of national rejoicing. There can be no doubt that this observance had a moral bearing on the people of the time. It was a solemn recognition, on the part of the whole nation, of Him who was “the Lord of the harvest,” and an appropriate ascription of praise to Him for His goodness in giving the fruits of the earth in their due season. But we are now to inquire into its typical or Christian import; and--
I. Here we have at once a clue in the day on which this ceremony was observed. It was to be waved “on the morrow after the Sabbath,” that is, of course, the Jewish Sabbath; or, in other words, it was to be presented on the first day of the week, the Lord’s day--the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, and became, as St. Paul says, in evident allusion to the ordinance, “the first-fruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). To this fundamental event, then, the offering of the wave-sheaf refers; it is a type of the resurrection of the Saviour. But there is a farther and more intimate agreement of the day. It was not only the first day of the week, but it was the first day of the same week of the Jewish ecclesiastical year as that on which the Saviour rose. When we refer to the fifteenth and sixteenth verses of this chapter we read an account of the pentecostal feast, and we find that the period of fifty days, from which it derives its name, is reckoned from this very day.
II. Let us, then, proceed to examine the suitability of this type and its application to this important subject; and--
1. The first-fruits hallowed the harvest from whence it was taken. It removed the impediment which stood opposed to its being gathered; the ceremonial impurity, if I may so say, which was attached to it previous to the waving of the sheaf before the Lord, until which time it was unlawful to make use of it. The prohibition on this head was express (Leviticus 23:14). There was, then, you perceive, an imputed uncleanness attached to the harvest before the offering of the first-fruits, but which, when the sheaf was presented, was done away; and thus it is written, “he (the priest) shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you” (Leviticus 23:11). Now this significantly exhibits the bearing of the Saviour’s resurrection upon the justification of His people. The relation that the first-fruits sustained to the harvest the same does Jesus sustain to those that believe in Him--they are the harvest in respect to Him. His resurrection was necessary in order to our justification before God. It is on this the argument of the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians depends. And thus also he writes in another place, He “was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Our justification depends on the resurrection of Jesus. You will easily understand this when you call to mind the character in which He died. He was crucified as a sinner, under the imputation of His people’s sins; God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us,” “He laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It were utterly impossible that He should be set free while any portion of the debt He undertook to pay remained undischarged. We know the issue of the trial; His work was amply sufficient to discharge the debt He had taken on Him. In the power of His own essential righteousness He burst asunder the bands of death. The law had no further claim to urge or penalty to exact; and therefore the Saviour had power and right to take His life again. And rising in the character of the accepted offering He became “the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.” He is “waved before the Lord to be accepted for us.”
2. The first-fruits was the earnest of the coming harvest. It was a pledge that the harvest would be gathered; that it had escaped all the vicissitudes of the climate and was now ripe for the sickle. And such was the resurrection of the Saviour to His people. He is “the first-fruits of them that slept.” The fact that He has risen from the dead secures to us the hope that He shall rise. The resurrection of the Saviour is the guarantee which God has given us of the resurrection of his people. Does any one feel a doubt upon this subject? Does it seem “a thing impossible that God should raise the dead?” We appeal to the fact--the historical fact, established upon evidence which no other fact can boast of, that Jesus is raised from the dead. The faith which realises this fact gives to the soul the blessed persuasion that “He who has raised up the Lord Jesus shall also raise us up by Jesus.” Jesus stands to us in the relation of our covenant Head. As by virtue of our connection with the first Adam we are subject to death, so by virtue of our connection with the second Adam we are made partakers of His life and immortality which we derive from Him.
III. The sheaf of first-fruits was a sample of the harvest. When the children of Israel looked upon it they beheld a specimen of the crop from whence it was taken and of which it was itself a part. And this reminds us of another light in which we may contemplate the resurrection of our Redeemer, as affording us a sample or specimen of our own. What was resurrection unto Jesus? It was the resuscitation of His (lead body, the same body which was laid in the grave. But in what power did He rise? Was it in the power of animal life, such as that with which our mortal bodies are animated--the life of nature--of the flesh? Oh, no, the body of Jesus when it left the grave left it not, as did that of Lazarus, still the subject of weakness and mortality. It arose in the power of immortality, in the energy of the very life of God. It arose the same, and yet another; another, because animated with another life--His own eternal, incorruptible, spiritual life. “He was put to death in the flesh and quickened by the Spirit.” Such was the resurrection unto Jesus, and such shall it be also to His people--“For we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him.” It had been but a pitiful prospect, that of resurrection, were it merely restoration to such bodies as those which we have now. But, blessed be God, such is not the hope He has set before us--it is one which is “full,” not of mortality, but “of immortality” (2 Corinthians 5:2). If humanity, in the person of the Saviour, is quickened with the life of God, it is in order that the same life may be imparted to His people. It is even now imparted to the soul. Whenever a sinner believes in Jesus, and by faith is converted to God, there is a resurrection. This faith is the result of the operation of the Spirit of the living God, working in the same manner as when, by His mighty energy, He raised the lifeless body of the Saviour from the dead (Ephesians 2:18-49.2.22). And this life shall be hereafter imparted to the body. The same Spirit which has operated on the believer’s soul and raised him from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness shalt, in the resurrection morning, descend upon the cold remains of his lifeless corpse, and shall animate it with new, with spiritual, everlasting life (Romans 8:9-45.8.11). Such, then, will be the resurrection of the dead--such is the blessed prospect which is set before the Church of Christ. That which is sown in corruption, in dishonour, in weakness, shall be raised in incorruption, in glory, in power--no longer an impediment to the soul, but the vehicle through which its immortal energies shall be consecrated to the praise and service of the Lord.
IV. When the first-fruits were offered the harvest was at hand; and not only at hand, but also expected and wished for; all thoughts in Israel were now directed to it; the wave-sheaf was the certain indication of its approach. And this reminds us of the position which we should take in regard ¢o the coming of the Lord and the resurrection morning: we should be in the attitude of expectation, of joyous expectation, of “that day.” There is something erroneous and unscriptural in our habit of thought upon this subject. We are accustomed to admit the truth of the resurrection, but we do not realise its practical importance, we do not embrace it as a motive for action; it does not exercise a practical and habitual influence upon us. And why? Because we put it at a distance from us; when we think of the subject at all we regard it as something that is to take place at some very remote period of time, before which all that is important to our eternal condition will be necessarily fixed for ever. Hence the little influence which this blessed prospect exercises on our lives. How different the manner in which it is spoken of in the Scriptures! The effect of apostolic preaching was to lead men to “look for” and “hasten unto” the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12). In fact, an important feature of Christian character, as described in the New Testament, is the expectation of the coming of the Lord to reap the harvest of the world. (J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
The wave-sheaf typical of Christ
I. WE shall endeavour to show that this sheaf of the first-fruits was a type of christ, as to the matter of it, both in respect to quality and quantity. With respect to quality it was a sheaf of barley, as to its quantity it was a single sheaf, or, however, such a quantity as only one omer of barley was taken from it and waved before the Lord by the priest. Now this being of barley, which is a mean sort of grain, may denote the mean estate of our Lord Jesus Christ in His humiliation. But this sort of grain, though mean, was used for food; so Christ, in His mean estate of humiliation, is suitable food for faith. He is held forth in the everlasting gospel as food for the faith of His people under the character of Christ crucified. So much for the quality of this sheaf of the firstfruits: it was of barley. Next, its quantity. It was but one--one sheaf that was waved--one omer, which was the tenth part of an ephah. It was as much as a man could eat in one day. Christ in many respects is but one. One with His Divine Father in nature and essence. Christ is one in His person, though He has two natures--human and Divine. This is the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Christ is but one in His office as Mediator, the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who has interposed between God and man, and made up the breach between them, who is our Peace, and by whom the way is opened for us to God. He is the one Lord, as the apostle says, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” He is the only Head of the Church whom the Father has given to be head over all things unto it--a Head of eminence to rule over and guide and protect it. A Head of influence, as the natural head is to the body from which it receives its nourishment and increases. And He is the only Husband of the Church--“Thy Maker is thine Husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name.” Thus in many respects Christ is but one, as this sheaf was. Bat then, though this sheaf was but one, it had many stalks, many ears of corn, and many grains in it. And so Christ, though He is but one in various respects, as we have seen, yet in Him there is a complication of blessings of grace. Jehovah has presented Him from all eternity in the council and covenant of grace and peace with all the blessings of grace and goodness for His people; He has put them all into His hands, and blessed them with all spiritual blessings in Him. Moreover, He has not only a complication of all blessings in Him; but as this sheaf of the firstfruits represented the whole harvest, and was a pledge and earnest of it, so Christ the Sheaf of the firstfruits represents all His people. They are all gathered together under one head in Him, and when He was crucified they were with Him; when He was buried they were with Him; when He rose again from the dead they rose again with Him; and are now sat down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And besides, as the sheaf of the firstfruits had a connection with all the rest, so He with all the people of God. It was for their sakes He suffered, died, and rose from the dead.
II. It was so with respect to what was done unto it and done with it. First it was reaped. And this was done in a very solemn and pompous manner according to the account the Jews give of it, which is this: The messengers of the Sanhedrin went out (from Jerusalem over the brook Kidron to the fields near it) on the evening of the feast, and bound the standing corn in bundles that so it might be more easily reaped, and the inhabitants of all the neighbouring villages gathered together there that it might be reaped in great pomp, and when it was dark, one said to them, “Is it sunset?” They said, “Yes.” “With this sickle shall I reap it?” They said, “Yes.” “In this basket shall I put it?” They said, “Yes.” If on a Sabbath-day he said to them, “On this Sabbath-day shall I do it?” They said, “Yes.” These questions were put and answered three times; then they reaped it, and put it into the basket, and brought it to the court. Now this reaping of the sheaf of first-fruits was an emblem of the apprehending of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Jews, or by officers which they sent to take Him. They attempted it once and again before they accomplished it. We are told in the seventh chapter of John that, “at the Feast of Tabernacles they sought to lay hold of Him; but His time was not yet come.” The very officers were dispirited, and when they were called to an account by the chief priests and Pharisees for not bringing Him they said, “Never man spake like this Man.” They could not take Him. But when the set time was come He was easily apprehended by them. And as we are told they bound the ears of corn, that they might be the more easily reaped, so they bound Christ, and brought Him to the high priest. This was done at night when it was dark. And as the sheaf was reaped by a deputation of men sent by the grand Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, so our Lord was apprehended by officers sent by chief priests and Pharisees, who were assembled together in council as the great Sanhedrin of the nation. Likewise the circumstance of the sheaf of firstfruits being reaped near the brook Kidron exactly agrees with the apprehending of Christ near that brook. When this sheaf was reaped, then it was brought to the court; so Christ, when He was first apprehended, was brought to Annas, then to Caiaphas, then to the court, where, after His arraignment and trial, He was condemned to death. This sheaf being brought to court was threshed, winnowed, dried, and parched by the fire, and ground in a mill, all which set forth in a lively manner the dolorous sufferings of our Lord. The sheaf being threshed was expressive of His being smitten by men, of His being buffeted and scourged by the order of the Roman governor by the soldiers, all in perfect agreement with the prophecy that “they should smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek”; “that He should give His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them which plucked off the hair.” This sheaf of the firstfruits as it was beaten out so it was dried and parched by the fire, which may be considered as expressive of the wrath of God which Christ endured, which is compared to fire, and by which (as it is expressed in the Psalms concerning Him) “His strength was dried up like a potsherd.” It was ground also in a mill (as was the manna, another type of Christ), which was another circumstance that pointed out the sufferings of the Redeemer, who was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. Upon the omer of flour that was taken oil and frankincense were poured, which may denote the acceptableness of Christ in His sufferings, death, and sacrifice to His Divine Father. He gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice unto God for a sweet-smelling savour. And then the waving of this by the priest before the Lord seems to denote His resurrection from the dead. It is also expressive of His connection with His people whom He represented, and whose resurrection is the pledge, earnest, and security of theirs. For as the firstfruits sanctified the rest of their harvest, represented the whole, gave a right to the ingathering of it, and insured it, so our Lord’s resurrection from the dead sanctified and secured the resurrection of His people. Because He lives they shall live also, or as sure as His dead body arouse, so sure shall theirs rise also.
III. What were the concomitants of it? What accompanied the waving the firstfruits were a burnt-offering and a meat-offering. The first of these was an eminent type of Christ, as all the burnt-offerings were. It was a lamb--a figure of Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. A lamb without blemish--a type of the immaculate Lamb of God. This was a burnt-offering, so a fit emblem of the dolorous sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then there was a meat-offering which always went along with this, which was also typical of Christ. From hence we see the great advantages we receive from Christ. He is the firstfruits, and all our fruit is from Him. And therefore many are the obligations we lay under to give thanks unto His name and not forget His benefits. We ought, through the constraints of His love, to live to Him who died for us. (John Gill, D. D.)
Lessons of the harvest
It is easy to see the significance of this rite to the Israelites. God was to be associated with everything. No phase of duty or of enjoyment; no enterprise--social, commercial, or aggressive; no festivities to celebrate triumphs over enemies, to mark national progress or prestige, or to rejoice over the reward of industry, but God was to be acknowledged, honoured, and worshipped, His blessing sought, His goodness remembered, His theocratic rule over them extolled. We have had to unlearn much that the Jew taught his posterity, and the world through them; we have outgrown much that was as sacred to the Israelitish nation as the presence of God Himself; the world has had to recast and remould its creeds of the relation of the Divine Father to His human children; but we have not outgrown either the propriety or the necessity of associating God with the government of the world and with the supply of humanity’s needs.
I. The bountiful kindness of god in supplying the wants of his creatures, Smatterings of science have a tendency to divorce God from the providential supply of the world’s wants. We too commonly think of our daily supplies as the results of physical laws. We say the earth yieldeth her increase; Nature supplieth those things that are necessary for man’s sustenance; light and heat, warmth and moisture are the great factors in the world’s bounty. Let us grant all that, but who is behind it? To me the supply of the world’s daily bread is a standing proof--not only of a self-existent and ever active Deity, but of a Divine Fatherhood--ever thinking, ever acting, ever providing for the wants of all His children.
II. The necessary connection between the divine benevolence and human effort. Whatever the Divine rule, whatever the Divine love that broods over this poor earth, making it to yield its fruits in abundance, the world without man would be a vast howling wilderness. It is God plus man that enriches the earth and makes it to bring forth abundantly. And thus it is that toil becomes dignified, that the sweat of labour is God’s crown of approval upon the human brow. Every man who is putting God’s gifts into such conditions that they become greater gifts; every man who is preparing the soil for the seed and the seed for the soil; every man who by any kind of industry is helping God to fulfil His purposes in making the earth provide for the wants of man, is a servant of God, however low and however humble the man may be. To be idle is to be outside the purpose and economy of God; to be lazy is to be out of harmony with the laws of the universe
III. The inevitable relation between the seed-time and the harvest. The man who wanted a harvest of wheat knew that to effect such a result he must sow wheat. It is God’s law that it should be so. Every harvest is the evolution of some past seed time. Human life and human destiny are evolved, not by chance, not by miracle, not by the Divine caprice, but by the law of cause and effect, of precedent and consequent. Your present is the outcome of some past; all the good that you enjoy is the harvest of your own or other’s sowing; your future will be the consequent of this present. Human conduct is the factor of human destiny; the sowing of time determines the harvest of eternity. (W. J. Hocking.)
And ye shall Count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath.
The Feast of Pentecost
We are now to consider that which was properly the second annual festival of the Jewish nation--the Feast of Pentecost. The distinctive ceremony observed upon this clay was the presentation of a new meat-offering, in the form of two wave-loaves unto the Lord. These loaves were the first-fruits of wheat harvest, and in allusion to them the feast is sometimes called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), and also “the day of first-fruits” (Numbers 18:26). The moral bearing of this ordinance upon the people was therefore similar to that of the last which we have had presented to our notice; it was a renewed acknowledgment on their part of the mercies of Jehovah, who had brought them into “that good land,” and given them the kindly fruits of the earth in their season. And accordingly we find a beautiful form of thanksgiving prescribed for this occasion, in which these mercies were briefly but eloquently celebrated (Deuteronomy 26:1-5.26.11). But we are now to examine this festival with the view of discovering its typical and prophetic import; and this also we must look for in that ordinance which characterised it, and from which, as we have seen, it derived its name, the offering of these two wave-loaves. They were designed to set forth the Church of Christ. Just as the Saviour Himself in resurrection from the dead is typified by the wave-sheaf, the first-fruits of barley harvest (“the first of the first-fruits” (Exodus 34:26), as it is called); so also the Church as partaking of His resurrection life--quickened by the Spirit in which He rose from the dead, is represented by the ordinance of the two wave-loaves. As He is “the first-fruits” with respect to His people, so they also are by union with Him constituted the first-fruits in reference to that future harvest. Let us, then, enter into detail.
I. There was something significant in the day on which this offering was to be presented. It was on the fiftieth day from that on which the wave-sheaf was offered, or as it is called in the New Testament the day of Pentecost. Now what is the importance of the day of Pentecost to us as Christians? I answer, it was the commencement of the present dispensation. This is the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian Church--of that Church not merely as distinguished from the world, but also from the Church previous to the day of Pentecost--that she is united to, yea identified with Christ in resurrection (Colossians 3:1-51.3.25; Colossians 1:2). In this new character the Holy Ghost was not given until that Jesus was glorified. As the Spirit of light and life He had been operating on the hearts of all His faithful people from the beginning of the world. But now He operates in increased power, and bestows a higher privilege; He unites the Church unto Him who is “waved” in the character of “the first-fruits,” that we in Him may also partake of the same character, and become “the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4). And thus it is written, in allusion, I believe, to this very ordinance, “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures” (James 1:23). And this brings me to consider--
II. The analogy between the ordinance before us, and the church of which it is the type. This will appear in several interesting particulars, and--
1. Is there not something significant in the bipartite character of the type? It was to consist of two loaves. And surely it is natural to suppose that it was designed to set forth something. Why should the lump be divided into two parts, and not be presented whole? In order, I would venture to suggest, to set forth the two component parts of the Christian Church--the Jews and Gentiles, both made one in Christ. This is one marked peculiarity of the present dispensation. It was the mystery hidden from ages and generations, but which is now made manifest that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body (Ephesians 3:6). There is, then, you see, a unity, and yet a diversity in the Christian Church; a unity because it is one Church; a diversity because it consists of two component parts, the Jew and the Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-49.2.18).
2. Another point of analogy, and a farther confirmation of this application of the type, will be suggested if we shall find that the Church of the present dispensation is presented in Scripture to be the first-fruits, or earnest, of future and more enlarged mercies which are yet to come. Whether we consider the converts to the gospel from among the Jews, or those from among the Gentiles, which are made during the present dispensation, we axe taught to regard them each and both together, but as “a kind of first-fruits of His creatures” (Ephesians 1:10). And first, with regard to the Jews, I would refer you to the testimony which is borne to this effect in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 11:1-45.11.5). And what is this result? Is it the conversion of the whole nation? No, as a nation, Israel is for the present rejected; but we are to expect that there will be an election from among them, “a remnant according to the election of grace”; and no more than this. But is Israel as a nation to be for ever cast away? Do God’s purposes of mercy reach no farther than the gathering of this remnant? Far otherwise the view that the apostle gives us in this chapter (Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15). Here we are expressly taught to look for a period when the mercies of God will no longer be confined to “a remnant” from among them as now, but when they shall all, in their fulness, be received again into the favour of God. So far, then, as regards the Jews; let us now see how far the same holds good as respects the Gentiles. And here I shall again confine myself to one passage. In the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, when St. James, who presided at the council, is recorded to have spoken as follows:--“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name.” Here you see is the idea entertained by the apostles of the purposes of God towards the Gentiles in the present dispensation.
3. The first-fruits were considered to be the property of God--peculiarly His, claimed by Him, and set apart for His own. And is not this also true in regard to His Church? Has He not chosen it to Himself, and made it His own in a peculiar sense above all other things? The universe belongs to Him, the beasts of the forest are His; but the Lord’s portion are His people, Judah is the lot of His inheritance, “a chosen generation, and holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9). As far as God has revealed His mind towards His creatures, we know of nothing in the whole universe so precious to Him as His Church. Angels in this respect cannot compare with us. Humanity is in Christ united to the Godhead, and therefore stands of a pinnacle far above all other created things (Ephesians 5:30). My brethren, it is not a mere salvation which we have in Jesus. Oh! no, it is much more than salvation, than deliverance, than restoration; it is identification with the Son of His love, who has come down to us to take us up to Him, that we may be “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3). But if this speaks to us of privileges it speaks also of duty. My brethren, consider what it is to be the property of God. Just as the first-fruits were by His own command set apart unto Himself, and given into the hands of His appointed priest to be waved before Him, so it is with the Church. We are His by covenant arrangement, we are given by Him unto the great High Priest--“Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me” (John 17:6). And why are we thus given unto Him? in order that He may save us? deliver us from wrath? Oh! yes, but that we may by Him be consecrated unto the service and glory of our God, that we may be His, in time and in eternity. And this brings me to observe--
4. The peculiar character of this offering. It was a wave-offering. And there is something significant in this, the wave sheaf, you remember, set forth the Saviour Himself in resurrection; and so when the Church is represented in the wave-loaves, there can be no doubt that it is intended to exhibit her in this character, as “risen together” with Him. As then the characteristic last referred to set forth the dedication of the Church to God, her consecration to His service; so this which I now speak of(is designed to remind us of the power in which we are to be thus consecrated--the power of resurrection-life. The apostle supposes the objection brought against the gospel of the grace of God which so often meet with in the present day, that it tends to antinomianism. “What, then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1), and how does he reply? “God forbid; how shall we who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Here you see the Christian is described as one that is dead to sin; and how is that? “Know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? wherefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death? that like as Christ is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Such, then, you perceive, is practical Christianity. If you want a sample of the life in which we ought to walk, you are to contemplate the risen Saviour: this is the standard which the Scriptures put before us.
5. The next particular to which I would refer is the injunction in the sixteenth verse, “They shall be baken with leaven.” There is a beautiful significance in this; the leaven, we know, is a type of the flesh--of nature--of the old man, and when it is directed that it should be mingled with this offering, it appears, at first sight, extraordinary. Why should that which is thus dedicated to God be thus defiled? There is something significant in this: there was no leaven mingled with the sheaf of corn which was waved on the second day of unleavened bread, because it was a type of Him in whom was no sin; but it is otherwise inregard to that which is designed to represent His people; they would not be perfectly exhibited if there was not this memorial. It is true that they are raised from the death of sin; but it is also true that “the old man” does still remain in them, and, by the taint and infection of the flesh, pollutes their every service, and brings them in still as miserable sinners before God. Here, then, we have an accurate view of the present character of the Church of Christ; animated, indeed, with new, with spiritual life, yet still encompassed with the infirmity, and impeded by the opposition of the flesh. And, accordingly, it is important to observe there is a sin-offering expressly enjoined to be offered with the two wave loaves (verse 19). This is a remarkable instance of that minuteness with which these types are regulated, and more particularly when it is observed that there was no sin-offering to be made when the sheaf of firstfruits was presented. Oh! beloved, do you feel the virus of the flesh? Are you conscious of its perpetual pressure? Behold, here is the provision He has made to meet your anguish (Hebrews 10:22).
6. But lastly, let us always bear in mind the view which this ordinance gives us of the Church as the firstfruits of God’s mercies towards the world at large. The infidel taunts us with the little that the gospel has accomplished, and maintains that Christianity has proved a failure; and truly if, as is supposed by some, the Scriptures held out the expectation that the gospel was to go on gradually extending, until the world was evangelised, there were some appearance of reason in the imputation. Let us ever bear in mind we have an earnest of a glorious harvest which is yet to come. As surely as the firstfruits are now waved in His presence, so surely shall the harvest be gathered into His garner. (J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
Not make clean riddance.
The benevolent provision made in our text for the poor and stranger proclaims its author: even God, whose tender mercies are over all His works, who is the Friend of the friendless, and has enjoined that even fragments are to be gathered, that nothing may be lost.
I. Let such as have fields to glean pay attention to the letter and the spirit of this injunction, together with the motive on which obedience is enforced.
1. The letter of this benevolent precept establishes the propriety of permitting persons to glean in your lands; but it does not prohibit clearing your fields of all the sheaves, and carrying them not only to a place of safety, but out of the way of temptation to the gleaners. Is not this evidently implied in the following explanatory directions of the law (Deuteronomy 24:19), where not taking away the entire crop is imputed to inadvertence, rather than intention. Neither does it forbid the judicious exercise of this permission as to the persons who may glean, as is clear from the history of Ruth. It rested with the proprietor or occupier of the land to grant or deny the privilege to certain individuals. Yet the command strictly enjoins the duty of leaving what is not thus carried for the poor and strangers, and frowns on the inhuman and selfish practice of turning cattle of any description into the fields until some reasonable time for the gleaning has been allowed to elapse. In some foreign countries the law specifies twenty-four hours after the crop has been carted, but circumstances and conscience must decide for each farmer.
2. We have, however, less to do with the letter than the spirit of this precept. Does it not breathe kindness to the poor, pity to the needy, and cherish the disposition to let fall purposely a few ears of corn rather than collect all with extreme exactitude? Right too rigid, hardens into wrong. The sentiment of this direction should transfuse itself into every part of our conduct, and pervade all our transactions with the poor.
3. The motive subjoined for your obedience: “I am the Lord your God”--God, who raiseth up one and putteth down another, who maketh the rich and the poor, who has borne with your ingratitude and rebellion, and who has, notwithstanding, given you another and an abundant crop--yes, He is your God whom you profess to obey, and whose authority you wish to regard.
4. Recollect that to obedience is the reward annexed (Deuteronomy 24:19).
II. Advice to such as are gleaners. Remember that God, who has ordained this permission, and guarded it by His command, must be honoured by you in the enjoyment.
1. Unless you are poor, you neither might nor would glean: let me then guard you against those snares which always attend poverty. It is a temptation, when afar from human notice, to defraud: “lest I be poor and steal.” Forget not the old proverb, “He that will steal a pin, will steal a greater thing.” When opportunity and importunity press, the hand that loosed the band of a sheaf will not forbear to break through the barn and steal.
2. You go into the fields to glean: then do not idle away your time, or what was intended for your good will be an injury to you.
3. Persons generally glean in numbers; then pray avoid bad company and they will soon avoid you. Like always associates with its like--lions with lions, sheep with sheep--a man may be known by the company he keeps. Choose society in your work who will do you good rather than harm; better conversation will cheer you under the heat of the sun and the toil of out-door work, to which you may perhaps not be accustomed.
4. Let me caution you also against what is too common on these occasions--immodest behaviour. Indecent language and coarse manners are disgraceful and dangerous. Use your authority to prevent your children seeing or hearing what is so wrong and easily learnt and but seldom forgotten.
5. It is mentioned to the praise of a most excellent daughter and industrious but poor female that she came home early from gleaning. Be not the last to leave the fields; late hours in every station of life are injurious; works of darkness are always suspicious, often criminal. “Many love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”
6. I wish you to notice that the Scriptures say that the stranger may glean. In some places the poor will not permit this. Are they right? Does not the same verse which permits you allow them? Moreover, perhaps your children, or remoter descendants, may be cast where they are not known, and have no settlement; and often God retributes in this life; as we have done to others He allows or disposes others to deal with us.
1. From the whole of this subject, primarily, let us learn our obligation to God for His invaluable Word--a standard of unerring rectitude, and wherein is contained every thing necessary for life and godliness.
2. We may infer that if God has condescended to regulate smaller concerns, He will not overlook greater matters. Has He thus cared for your bodies and temporal interests, and will He be less provident about your immortal spirits?
3. Let us remember that the evening of our life draweth on; when, as she who gleaned in the fields of Boaz returned to her inquiring parent and reported her success, we shall return to the dust from whence we sprang; and must say to corruption, Thou art my mother. It shall then be asked of us, Were have ye gleaned to-day? where wroughtest thou? What reply shall we make? (W. Clayton.)
A memorial of blowing of trumpets.
The Feast of Trumpets
The ordinance of the trumpets occupied a conspicuous part in the Jewish ceremonial; and when we consider the various particulars which were prescribed regarding them, and the purposes to which they were applied, we cannot but feel that they were intended to convey some instructive lesson. We have an account of their first appointment in the tenth chapter of the Book of Numbers, verses 1-10. Here the following particulars deserve to be noted:
1. That these trumpets were made at the express command of God, who also enjoined--
2. The manner in which they were to be formed--“of one piece”; and
3. The purposes to which they were to be applied, viz.
(1) For the calling of assemblies.
(2) The journeys of the camp.
(3) To sound an alarm in the time of danger.
(4) On new moons and festal occasions, when they were to be blown over the sacrifices.
In addition to the occasions here enumerated, there was also to be celebrated an anniversary of the blowing of trumpets, on the first day of the seventh month, which on this account was called the Feast of Trumpets--the third of these solemn annual festivals, which we are endeavouring to illustrate. In considering, then, this ordinance, we shall divide our observations into three heads; under the first, we shall examine its commemorative bearing; under the second, its application to the present dispensation; and under the third, its prospective or prophetic reference to things which are to come.
I. For its commemorative bearing, I would refer to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, where we have an account of the manner in which the Lord summoned the children of Israel to meet Him on Mount Sinai. Here we find the first mention of the trumpet; when God Himself appoints it as a sign by which the people should know when to approach the mount. “When the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount” (Exodus 19:13). And so we read (Exodus 19:16). And again (Exodus 19:19). This may be regarded as the source from whence the ordinance of trumpets originated. This was the voice of God calling them into covenant with Himself. Thus, then, whenever the people heard the sacred trumpets, they recognised, as it were, the voice of God. At His voice they marched or halted; at His voice they mustered to oppose their enemies; at His voice they assembled on their festal days. And we have here, doubtless, the commemorative or retrospective bearing of the feast before us. The time when it was celebrated, the new moon symbolising the commencement of the Jewish Church in the wilderness; the trumpet summoning them to “an holy convocation,” recalling the assemblage gathered around Mount Sinai; the command, “Thou shalt do no servile work therein,” commemorating their deliverance from Egyptian bondage; and finally, the injunction, “Ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord,” reminding them that the purpose for which God had made them His people, was in order that (what in Egypt they were not allowed to do) they might sacrifice unto the Lord their God. Such, I venture to suggest, is the retrospective import of this feast--such was its national application; and I am confirmed in the impression by the reference made to it in the eighty-first Psalm, where we find it mentioned in connection with the deliverance from the land of Egypt--“Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast-day” (Psalms 81:3-19.81.10).
II. We proceed, then, to examine its application to the present dispensation, which can be traced in several particulars.
1. The trumpet was, as we have seen, the voice of a covenant God, calling His people to assemble round the sacrifices; a lively emblem is this of the gospel of Jesus--the voice of “Him that speaks from heaven” (Hebrews 12:18-58.12.24). Jesus has ascended up on high, and sits upon the mount of God; and thence by the gospel-trump He sends forth His invitation, the call of His grace, to bring His people nigh. It is His voice, His call, summoning us into covenant with God. This dispensation is emphatically “the day of the blowing of trumpets--the day of holy convocation.” This is the mystery of the silver trumpets, they represent the gospel of Jesus. The command to make them, the manner in which they were to be made, and the material of which they were to be constructed, were all of God, all ordained by Him. And so with the gospel; it is all of God from beginning to end. His love suggested, and His wisdom has contrived it; and woe be to him that dares to add to, or to take from it. We must take it as He has given it; if we presume to alter, we mar and spoil it. God alone is competent to know what note will strike with effect upon the sinner’s ear, and vibrate upon the sinner’s soul. He has constructed the trumpet so as to give that sound which the heart of man requires; and that sound is grace--“the gospel of the grace of God.” But there are several other circumstances connected with this ordinance which have much significance in their application. Thus we remember--
2. That the trumpets were ordered to be sounded over the sacrifices: the victims were first slain, and then the trumpets sounded over them. And thus with the gospel trumpet; it proclaims a finished work. It re-echoes the dying cry of the Redeemer, announcing that the work is done, the price is paid, the ransom is accepted. It Aids not the sinner attempt some great thing for himself.
3. On the Feast of Trumpets no servile work was to be done, but they were to offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord (verse 25). This reminded the children of Israel of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and separation unto the service of the Lord. Does not the gospel deliver us from servile work, and consecrate us to the service of the Lord? From captivity the gospel has delivered us, for it has come with power to our hearts. But while the children of Israel were on this day to do no servile work, they were not to be without employment--they were “to offer a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord.” And thus the same gospel which makes us “free from sin,” makes us also “servants of God”; we have no more to say with servile work, we are consecrated henceforth a “royal priesthood,” to offer sacrifices unto the Lord our God.
III. But this festival also looks forward to things that are yet to come. The trumpets were to be blown on the first day of every month, and this was the seventh month, the seventh time of the sounding of the trumpets on which the feast was to be celebrated. The number seven, as we know, implying the consummation, brings us on unto “the dispensation of the fulness of times”--“the times of the restitution of all things, spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.” And accordingly, perhaps in reference to this very ordinance, we find in the Book of Revelation, that the destinies of the age are comprised in a book sealed with seven seals, and the events of this seventh seal are ushered in, successively, by the sound of seven trumpets (Revelation 10:1-66.10.7; Revelation 11:15-66.11.19). Such are the events which take place at the blowing of the seventh trumpet. The whole may be confined under three heads: The restoration of Israel--The destruction of the apostate nations, and--The glorification of His people. Then, too, shall be the day of perfect service, of perpetual service; when the promise shall be fulfilled, “His servants shall serve Him.” Oh! what an offering will then be offered--“an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance.” (J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
For it is a day of atonement.
The Day of Atonement
The seventh month was one peculiarly distinguished in the Jewish year, no less than three of the annual festivals being assigned to it. On the first day was the Feast of Trumpets, on the fifteenth the Feast of Tabernacles, and on the tenth was the Day of Atonement. We propose to consider it under two heads: first, in its application to the Jews, and second, in its application to ourselves.
I. This ordinance differs from the rest in this respect--that it does not appear to have had any commemorative, or eucharistic import; it was, indeed, a fast rather than a festival or feast; it was a solemn day of humiliation before God, national humiliation, on which the people were called to an acknowledgment of their sins, and by the sprinkling of the blood of the slain sacrifice, were reminded at once of the judgment which their sins demanded, and of the only remedy which was provided for them. It was calculated to teach a most important lesson, and leave a deep moral impression upon the national mind. But I cannot but think that this ordinance had also a prophetic bearing upon the Jewish people; that, in common with the two other festivals of the seventh month, it was designed to shadow forth the future dealings of the Lord with them, and that it will have its accomplishment in that day when they shall, as a nation, be brought to repentance for their sins, and faith in the blood of the Lamb.
II. When we come to examine more minutely into the ceremonies observed on this day, we shall find that they were typical of the gospel scheme; and indeed, they present us with one of the most remarkable types contained in the Scriptures. These ceremonies are not mentioned in the chapter before us, but in the sixteenth chapter of this book they are detailed at length. Abstracting what was personal to the high priest himself, let us consider that part which concerned the people at large; and--
1. The offerings are to be considered, and in the first instance the sin-offering. This consisted of two goats, for although only one of them was to be slain, they are evidently to be considered as one offering, and indeed are spoken of as such--“two kids of the goats for a sin-offering.” These two combined, then, represent the Saviour in death and life. Both were necessary; Jesus saves us by His life as well as by His death. A similar type to this we have in the ceremony of the cleansing of the leper, where two birds were provided, one of which was to be slain over running water, and the other, after being dipped into the water and blood, and used to sprinkle the leper, was afterwards let loose into the open field (Leviticus 14:1-3.14.32). We do not sufficiently dwell upon the life of Jesus, and yet it is this life which saves us (Romans 5:10). But that which was peculiarly characteristic of this day was--
2. The entrance of the high priest within the veil. And what a beautiful illustration have we here of the office which our Redeemer now sustains--the part which He now acts for us. Beloved, “we have a great High Priest, who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” And for what purpose is He there? On whose behalf does He officiate? Let the reply be given in the language of the Holy Ghost--“now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Oh! let the words be treasured in our hearts “for us.” Unto them belonged the sons of Aaron; unto us belongs the Son of God. If Jesus has passed into the most Holy Place, He has entered there in a public character, as the representative of His people, and every part of the ministry which He sustains in all for them. When the high priest went within the veil he had a defined work to do; he undertook no vague, uncertain commission; the object for which he went, and the results of his meditation were clearly laid down and defined. It was for the chosen people that he ministered, for them he was ordained “in things pertaining unto God”--to make reconciliation for the sins of the people was the task assigned him. And accordingly he carried the names of the twelve tribes upon his shoulders, and upon his breast. And so with our great High Priest; there is no uncertainty in his work, it is all explicitly defined, ordered, and settled by covenant arrangement. But He bears them also in His breast; it; is not merely a matter of compact, of official duty, it is a matter of affection and friendship. “He careth for” us!
3. But when the high priest passed within the veil, he entered “not without blood.” He was commanded to carry with him the blood of the sin-offering, and to dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle it before the mercy-seat (Leviticus 16:14-3.16.16). Just so, our “great High Priest,” “not by the blood of bulls and of goats, but by His own blood, He has entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). The blood of the sin-offering was commanded to be sprinkled seven times before the mercy-seat, denoting the perfection and completeness of that atonement which it typified. Beloved, we are here reminded of a most important truth, the inherent efficacy of the blood of Jesus to atone for sin.
4. But there is something more which the high priest was commanded to do within the veil, which we must not forget to notice. He was to take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and he was to fill his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and to bring it within the veil. And then, when there, he was to sprinkle the incense upon the coals of fire before the Lord, that the smoke of the incense might ascend and cover the mercy-seat (Leviticus 16:12-3.16.13). What a beautiful type have we here of the intercession of our glorious High Priest, ascending as sweet incense perpetually before God! The fire, too, with which this incense was kindled must not be common fire, it must be taken from off the altar of burnt-offering, reminding us of the ground of the Saviour’s intercession--His consecration of Himself to do His Father’s will; His self-sacrifice upon the Cross to be consumed by the fire of Jehovah’s justice as the sinner’s Substitute. Oh! beloved, if we have not fellowship with our God in Christ, if we have not peace of mind and conscience, it is not that He has not opened unto us the bosom of His love; but it is because of our hardness of heart, and want of confidence in His mercy. We are not straitened in Him, but in ourselves.
5. But the whole of the duties of the high priest upon this solemn day were not conducted within the veil; he must come forth again to accomplish the service which awaited him outside. And the people, in the meantime, were expecting his return; “they were waiting for him to reappear and complete the work allotted to the day.” And here again we are reminded of the position which the Church of Christ should occupy in the present dispensation--waiting for the reappearing of her Lord--“looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” For as the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement were not completed inside the veil, so is it with the work of our great High Priest; His ministry in heaven will not accomplish all--there is a work outside the veil which He must come forth to do; and those who are interested in the one are interested also in the other (Hebrews 9:27-58.9.28). When the high priest came forth from the sanctuary, and appeared again unto the people, he first dispatched the scapegoat bearing all their iniquities into the wilderness, and then united with them in offering the burnt-offering unto the Lord. And such shall be the results of the second advent of our Saviour. Then shall sin be completely put away, and every trace of it removed for ever. And then, too, shall Jesus and His people unite to offer the burnt-offering unto God. Then in the midst of His redeemed He shall sum up all their pure and holy service; and, blessed and consecrated by the presence of incarnate Godhead, the untiring energies of redeemed humanity shall be for ever consuming, yet unconsumed, upon the altar of eternal love. (J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
The Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles
I. It was a protracted religious meeting.
II. It was a thanksgiving for God’s bounty in a completed harvest.
III. It was a commemoration of mercies attempering hardships and dangers.
IV. It was an expression of the joyful side of religion,
V. It was a type of a greater feast now preparing for all god’s true people. (H. M. Grout, D. D.)
The Feast of Tabernacles
The three distinguishing features of this feast were the dwelling in booths, the offerings, the festivities. The first served to vividly recall their forty years of pilgrimage; the second--a sacrifice of bullocks, rams, and lambs, with the accompanying flour and drink-offerings--was, as usual, a recognition of God’s demands and a plain, willing answer on their part to whom He had given everything; but the third--the universal hilarity and religious cheer-fulness--was its chief characteristic. Very naturally, in the time of Christ this latter purpose had been more than fulfilled. Many additions had been made by the Rabbis. Ceremonials most august then, and which gave occasion to two of His most blessed utterances--the pouring of the water from Siloam and the brilliant illumination of the Temple--were not in the Mosaic instructions. Prescriptions as to the style and workmanship of the booths; as to the kind, bearing, and disposition of the boughs; as to the order of procession and chanting of psalms, had made the feast quite a different affair from its original form. Each and all, however, were devised to impress upon both actor and beholder the happy condition and fortune of the Lord’s people.
I. The true servant is glad in reviewing God’s dealings with him. Happiness is always involved in the simple doing of the will of God, now no less than in Eden. It is awakened, too, by occasional and sober review of His guidance and care. No life has much symmetry which neglects this. Way-marks, inscribed “Remember” were set up all along the course of Israel’s journey. Their law-givers and leaders were often enjoining it. The backward look was quite as profitable as the forward to encourage and arouse. Faith would increase that no ill could betide them in the future. And the leafy bowers under which they now camped must vividly reproduce the days when such hasty coverings were all they had, and yet were ample for shelter. The fair roofs of the town were no more sufficient protection in the pilgrimage they were making upon the earth. Whether in the desert or behind lofty and massive walls of the defenced city, they should alike be heard exulting: “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand: the sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” So, as we turn aside into the frail retreat built on any housetop, in any chamber, and there calmly retrace the course along which the Lord has led us, there is the well-remembered hour when He broke the chains which held us to the world’s claims, ideas, and rewards, and bade us set forth with all we had toward the better land. What revelations of His power and compassion were given then! How did He bring us into straits, and open, as we advanced, a way from peril of which no hint had been given, and how did we vow never to doubt His wisdom more! With what strange but wholesome truths, fresh every morning, did He feed and sustain us!
II. The true servant is glad in seeing God’s present care for him. The Jew must not then fail to show his delight, whatever his station or purse. At the meal which followed the free-will offerings, the poor, the stranger, the Levite, were welcome guests. Equality of supply and fortune had for the time its graceful illustration then, as among those wearing the wedding garment, in the parable of the Christ. So may we all alike think of ourselves as having one precious inheritance and provision. Rightly it has been said: “It is a sin not to be happy,” for gloominess is a reflection upon the Christ. Our Christianity cannot hope to dominate the world till it shall have shown itself possessed of the secret of happiness. Laments and groans never won a sinner to a service which would chiefly voice itself in them. Through all the scale, from the poverty of the God-fearing Waldensian peasant to the popular, artistic life of the great composer Haydn, there have always been some whose hearts respond to his words, as the string of the piano to its kindred tone: “When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, why should I not praise Him with a cheerful spirit?”
III. The true servant is glad in beholding God’s future provisions for him. The temporary resting beneath green boughs of palm and willow and myrtle; the holiday scene in which life lost something of its pressure and sternness, did but symbolise the days when even such protection would not be needed in the country beyond the Jordan. That way lay Canaan, of which this earthly land flowing with milk and honey was but a faint type. This side the river, too, every devout soul filled with the hope of Israel found, in victories and progress already gained, the pledge of a surpassing joy and glory in the near future. Messiah might appear any hour, and with Him all that could satisfy a longing heart or nation. The unattained, if believed to be attainable, has vast power of inspiration. None can tell what great occasions may come any moment to the ready, watchful servant of God. He may be given to speak the word which shall determine whether the philosophy of the age shall be atheistic or not. Some mighty reform may be waiting his voice or deed, some striking answer to prayer, some raising of a sanctuary whence shall proceed influences to regenerate remotest peoples. The precious abiding word, the present Saviour, the enduring Church, the unfolding kingdom, are His inalienably. They grow richer, plainer, more certain. Yet, compared to the freedom and splendour of the future life, this, with all its joy and liberty, is but as a jungle, through whose tangle and heavy marsh and sudden dangers one struggles on, seeing in the distance the open spaces and lofty arches of the wood, and beyond, the fair greensward where the sunlight falls and flowers bloom and noble mansions stand--his own henceforth. So bright and dazzling was the temple of Diana, that the door-keeper always cried to them that entered: “Take heed to your eyes.” A full disclosure of all God has provided for them that love Him would quench mortal sense. Celestial organs only are fitted for celestial scenes. (De Witt S. Clark.)
The Feast of Tabernacles
I. The time and manner of its observance.
1. The time (Leviticus 23:34). Five days after the Day of Atonement.
2. The manner (Leviticus 23:35-3.23.36; Leviticus 23:40-3.23.43).
(1) The duty and privilege of assembling for Divine worship.
(2) The duty and privilege of being joyous in our recognition of God’s care.
II. Its typical meaning.
1. The reality of deliverance from sin.
2. The joy of deliverance from sin.
3. The assurance of God’s care over all whom He delivers from sin.
1. The value of memorial days,
2. The duty of gratitude.
3. The eternal blessedness of the feast of tabernacles awaiting God’s children in the land of final deliverance. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
The Feast of Tabernacle
s:--This festival derived its name from the fact that during the first seven days for which it lasted, the children of Israel went out of their habitations, and dwelt in booths or tabernacles, until the eighth day, when they returned unto their houses. It was also called the Feast of Ingathering, because it was celebrated after all the fruits of the land were gathered in, as we ;learn in the thirty-ninth verse of the chapter before us. This festival, like the rest, was partly commemorative, and partly prophetical or typical; like them we shall find that it exhibits things past, present, and to come.
I. It had a commemorative or eucharistic meaning; it was designed to celebrate the mercy of the lord in bringing the nation safely through the wilderness, and giving them possession of the promised land. The journey through the wilderness was celebrated when they went out of their habitations, and the whole nation, leaving their settled dwelling-places, dwelt in tents or tabernacles throughout the land. And the happy termination of their wanderings was also celebrated in this festival, for on the eighth day, when they returned to their habitations, they were to have “an holy convocation,” “they were to do no servile work therein,” but they were to keep “a Sabbath unto the Lord” (Leviticus 23:36; Leviticus 23:39). It was a season of national rejoicing, as the ordinance that preceded it had been one of humiliation and mourning. Such was the eucharistic bearing of this ordinance, upon which we need not farther dwell; I will only observe, that in this view of its import we can see a propriety in the season at which it was celebrated--after they had gathered in all the fruits of the earth; a suitable occasion this on which to commemorate the goodness of the Lord.
II. But I believe the Jewish application of this feast is not only retrospective, but prospective also--that it was designed to exhibit in typical representation that which we so often read of in oral predictions, their final settlement in the promised land, and complete conversion unto God. We are led to expect such a reference from the analogy of the two preceding festivals of this month--the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement-both of which refer to God’s purposes of future mercy to the Jewish nation. The Feast of Trumpets referred more particularly to their gathering together from all the countries in which they are scattered, and their restoration to the land of Israel. The Day of Atonement exhibited their conversion unto God after their restoration, when He shall “take away the stony heart, and give them hearts of flesh,” and “they shall look upon Him whom they bare pierced and mourn for Him.” And now we have the Feast of Tabernacles which crowns the whole, and represents, as I believe, their final settlement in the peaceful and happy enjoyment of the land of promise. It would appear that the Jews themselves had some idea that this festival was designed to set forth the future mercies which the nation were to receive at the hands of the promised Messiah. It was customary at the celebration of it to make the compass of the sacrifices, bearing the branches of palm-trees and ether goodly trees in their hands; and as they thus went on in joyful procession, they sang the twenty-fifth verse of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, “Save now [Hosanna], I beseech Thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity”; and on the seventh day they compassed the altar seven times, singing in like manner, and this was called the Great Hosanna.
III. But the typical import of this festival belongs not merely to the Jews; it also, in common with the rest, applies unto the church of this dispensation, both in its present character and future glory. The eighth day, which, as we have seen, shadows forth the time of Judah’s salvation, and of consequent earthly blessedness, refers also to heavenly and eternal things. It is the first day of a new week, and therefore reminds us of resurrection; and coming at the end of the complete period of seven days, it brings us to the day when “time shall be no longer”--the eternal day of resurrection glory. And to the Church this day shall commence when the kingdom of God is established in the world. Let us endeavour, then, to trace the type in the several particulars of its application; and--
1. On the first day there was a holy convocation, and the children of Israel went forth from their houses, and made them tents to dwell in. Just realise the scene; all the families of Israel leaving their houses, giving up their employments, and devoting themselves to the service of the Lord. So it is with the Church of Christ, the heir of promised glory. Beloved, the gospel calls us out from this evil world, and makes us strangers and pilgrims here. The gospel finds our intellects clogged with the filth of earthliness, our mind and thought concentrated upon the pursuits and occupations of this life--“the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things”; and it disentangles us from the meshes of worldliness; it fills them with the glorious realities of eternity. It assembles us, as it were, in holy convocation, to offer sacrifices unto the Lord. Just as the children of Israel dwelt in tabernacles during seven days, looking forward to the eighth day when they were to enter into rest, so it is with the Israel of God; the Church is a stranger here, looking forward to the day of coming rest.
2. But this was a feast of joy; when the children of Israel throughout the land were to “rejoice before the Lord” they cut down the branches of palm-trees, and of other goodly trees, and carried them throughout all their coasts, in token of triumphant joy. And so with those whom God has called “out of their habitations,” they are called to rejoice before the Lord. If the gospel has called us out from this world, it is that it may open to us springs of never-failing joy of which the world knows nothing, which it can never give, and can never take away. They do greatly err who imagine that religion cuts off all our present happiness. But mark, if we would taste the joy we must come “out of our habitations”: if we would wave the palm of triumph in the land, we must dwell as strangers there. This joy is not “as the world gives,” nor is it founded upon earthly things, and therefore if we keep the feast, it must be the Feast of Tabernacles; if we would rejoice before the Lord, it must be in the position of those who are looking forward to their rest. Observe, too, these palms are the emblems of victory--the symbols of triumphant joy. The rejoicing Christian will ever be in the attitude of the conqueror, always conflicting indeed, but not overcome in the conflict against “the devil, the world and the flesh.” The character of the Christian, as described in Scripture, is that of the victor--of one who is evermore victorious, overcoming “by the blood of the Lamb.”
3. But the great day of the feast was the eighth day, the type of rest in resurrection glory. On this day the children of Israel struck their tents, and rested again in their habitations; on this day they drew the water from Siloam, and watered therewith the sacrifices, with songs of joy; on this day the priests made the compass of the altar seven times, bearing with them the branches of palm-trees, and of other goodly trees, and singing as they went, “Hosanna in the highest.” So shall it be with the Church of Christ in that great day--the sun whereof shall never set in darkness--the everlasting day. Then “the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Then the mystery of the water which was poured upon the sacrifices shall be fulfilled., when He who is the Alpha and the Omega, shall proclaim, “It is done. I will give to him that is athirst to drink of the water of life freely.” Then He who at the Feast of Tabernacles invited sinners to come to Him and drink, shall lead His redeemed people by living fountains of waters, and make them drink of the river of His pleasures. Then, too, the symbol of the palm branches shall be accomplished in the final victory of the redeemed over Death and Hades; and they shall realise the blessed fulfilment of the promise, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” (J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
The Feast of Tabernacles
(a New Year’s sermon
I. Let us observe this season as a feast of thanksgiving. Review the mercies of the past year--of all your past life.
1. There are the common blessings, enjoyed by all, of continued life and unceasing bodily sustenance. Then we have had houses and raiment. Most have been favoured with good health, and with all the happiness of good credit and friendly intercourse. As Englishmen, we have cause for thankfulness in our civil rights and political privileges, and our present exemption from war. As Christians, we have enjoyed every advantage that could be devised for our spiritual edification and Scriptural instruction.
2. Then there are special benefits, which individuals have received in particular experiences or exigencies. One man has been singularly prospered in his business or profession, another rejoices in the advancing respectability of his children. Perhaps an additional arrow has been given to the quiver, or the feeble child has been made strong, the dissolute one has been reclaimed, or the absent one restored.
3. Then there are spiritual mercies, such as the joy of conversion, succour in temptation and trouble, triumph and progress in labours of philanthropy and love. All of these demand thanksgiving and praise.
II. Commemoration. At this season we should reflect on the short and uncertain term of our existence upon the earth. Our life below is a journey through a wilderness where we dwell not in enduring habitations, but in temporary tents. We shall one day die, and ought not to rejoice in growing older, unless we are conscious of an increasing preparation for a better world. Heaven is nearer than it was, and it behoves us to address ourselves with greater ardour and zeal to the prosecution of our pilgrimage thither.
III. The last constituent of our spiritual feast is A renewed consecration of ourselves to the service of God. This implies a deep study of God’s law. Our growth in holiness demands this effort and attention on our part, and we must not rely on the spontaneous and uncultured growth of our souls in religion. The commencement of a new year is a fitting time for reviewing our progress in Divine knowledge and adopting fresh plans for the future. (Anon.)
The Feast of Tabernacles
1. This feast was to be kept in remembrance of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness. Thus it is expounded here (Leviticus 23:43). “That your generations may know,” not only by the written history, but by this ocular tradition, that “I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths.” Thus it kept in perpetual remembrance
(1) the meanness of their beginning, and the low and desolate state out of which God advanced that people. Note--those that are comfortably fixed ought often to call to mind their former unsettled state, when they were but little in their own eyes.
(2) The mercy of God to them that when they dwelt in tabernacles, God not only set up a tabernacle for Himself among them, but with the utmost care and tenderness imaginable hung a canopy over them, even the cloud that sheltered them from the heat of the sun. God’s former mercies to us and our fathers ought to be kept in everlasting remembrance. The eighth day was the great day of this feast, because then they were returned to their own houses again; and remembered how, after they had long dwelt in tents in the wilderness, at length they came to a happy settlement in the land of promise, where they dwelt in “goodly houses.” And they would the more sensibly value and be thankful for the comforts and conveniences of their houses, when they had been seven days dwelling in booths. It is good for those that have ease and plenty sometimes to learn what it is to endure hardness.
2. It was a feast of “ingathering,” so it is called (Exodus 23:16). When they had gathered in the “fruit of their land” (Leviticus 23:39), the vintage as well as the harvest, then they were to keep this feast in thankfulness to God for all the increase of the year; and some think that the eighth day of the feast had special reference to this ground of the institution. Note--the joy of harvest ought to be improved for the furtherance of our joy in God. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof”; and therefore whatever we have the comfort of lie must have the glory of, especially when any mercy is perfected.
3. It was a typical feast. It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this feast; then He left His mansions of light above to “tabernacle among us” (John 1:14), and He dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the “Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16). For--
(1) The gospel of Christ teacheth us to “dwell in tabernacles,” to “sit loose” to this world as those that bare “here no continuing city,” but by faith and hope, and a holy contempt of present things, to go out to Christ “without the camp” (Hebrews 13:13-58.13.14).
(2) It teaches us to “rejoice before the Lord our God.” Those are the circumcision, Israelites indeed, that always “rejoice in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:3). And the more we are taken off from this world the less liable we are to the interruption of our joys. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
The Feast of Tabernacles
The use was--
1. To remember them of their estate when they had no houses, but lived in tents, or tabernacles, or booths, made with boughs; no fields, no lands, but lived in the wilderness; and so to stir up a thankfulness for their happy change.
2. To remember them of the Lord’s great works in driving out the Canaanites and giving that fruitful land unto them. Then they were a prey to all men, but now a terror to all men, wheresoever the fame of them came.
3. It served to preach unto them the doctrine afterward delivered by the apostle, to wit, that here we have no biding city, but should reckon of our houses as but of tabernacles for the time, our true hope being for houses and dwellings, and everlasting tabernacles not made with hands in heaven, &c. And may not we consider on our feast days all these things, although we have not now the same ceremonies? May not we remember our state past under superstition, cruelty, and bondage? May not we remember burnings and killings, and most hateful handlings of persecutors? May not we remember great wars and dissensions in this our native country, the fall of our friends, and the change of many houses? May not we remember great impositions and payments, and, in one word, very many miseries and calamities? Laying them to the present times, wherein we enjoy truth and liberty of conscience without either death or danger, or so much as any fear, what a change is this to a man or woman that knoweth and feeleth the blessing! Oh, that we may send up to God most thankful thoughts for it while we live! Now, again, we enjoy peace, such as no nation hath bad the like. We are not eaten up with heavy and continual payments, but we live as in heaven by comparison to former times. The Lord hath driven away the Canaanites that would have invaded and conquered had not He resisted for us and overthrown them. He hath made us a terror to our foes and a refuge or sanctuary for our friends, when erst foreign nations were lords over us. And, for the last point, we bare no more certainty of abode here than they had, but look for the same end of faith, an enduring house in heaven. (Bp. Babington.)
Keep a feast unto the Lord.
A festival kept to the Lord
From the earliest ages of which any records remain mankind have been accustomed to commemorate joyful events, and to express the joy and gratitude which such events excited, by the observance of anniversary festivals. As the all-wise God well knew how difficult it would be to wean men from the observance of such festivals, and as they were capable of being rendered subservient to His own gracious designs, He saw fit under the ancient dispensation to give them a religious character, by directing His people to observe them in commemoration of the favours which they had received from His hand, and as an expression of their gratitude for those favours. Of these Divinely appointed festivals, several are mentioned in the Levitical law, but our only concern at present is with that which is prescribed in our text--“When ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord.” What, then, we may and ought to inquire--what is it to observe this day in a right and acceptable manner? The best answer which I can give to this question is furnished by our text. It is to keep or observe it as a festival unto the Lord. To keep a festival unto God is to observe it with a view, not to please ourselves, but to please and honour Him; to regard it as a day sacred to His special service, and to spend it in contemplating and praising His perfections, recollecting and thanking Him for His favours, rejoicing before Him in His existence, His character, His govermnent, and His works, and thus giving Him the glory which is due to His name. We shall attempt--
I. To give you a view of the manner in which this festival should be observed by us, considered simply as God’s intelligent creatures; and--
II. Of the manner in which we should observe it, considered as sinful, guilty creatures, to whom his grace and mercy are. Offered through a redeemer.
I. That the first of these proposed views may be placed before you in the clearest and most interesting light, let me request you to suppose that our first parents, instead of falling as they did from their holy state, had continued in it, until they were surrounded by a numerous family like themselves, and that in these circumstances they had set apart a day to be observed as a festival to their Creator and Benefactor. It is evident that if we can conceive of the manner in which they would have observed such a day we shall learn in what manner this day ought to be observed by us, considered simply as God’s intelligent creatures. Let us suppose the morning of their appointed festival to have just dawned. No sooner do they wake to a returning consciousness of existence than a recollection of the Author, Preserver, and Sustainer of that existence, and of their numberless obligations to His goodness, rushes upon and fully possesses their minds. No sooner do their eyes open than they are raised to heaven with a look expressive, in the highest degree, of every holy, affectionate emotion. Each one perceives, with clear intuitive certainty, that he is indebted to God for everything--that God is his life, his happiness, his all. These views fill his heart with adoring gratitude--gratitude, not like ours, a comparatively cold and half-selfish emotion, but a gratitude pure, fervent and operative, which carries out the whole soul in a rapturous burst of thankfulness and renewed self-dedication to God. Though invisible to their bodily eyes, He is not so to the eye of their minds; they perceive, they feel His presence; they feel that His all-pervading, all-enfolding Spirit pervades and embraces their souls, breathing into them love, and joy, and peace unutterable, and wrapping them up, as it were, in Himself. Thus each individual apart commences the observance of their festal day, and enjoys intimate and sweet and ennobling communion with the Father of spirits in solitary devotion. But man is a social being, and the social principle which God has implanted in his nature prompts him to wish for associates in his religious pleasures and pursuits. It is proper that he should wish for them, and if possible obtain them; for when a festival is to be kept unto the Lord, when thanksgiving and praise are to be offered, two are better than one. United flames rise higher towards heaven, impart more heat, and shine with brighter lustre than while they remained separated. If private, solitary devotion be the melody of religion, united devotions constitute its harmony, and without harmony the music is not perfect and complete. Mark the feelings with which they approach and meet. Every eye sparkles with delight, every countenance beams with affection; there is but one heart and one soul among them all, and that heart and that soul is filled with holy gratitude and love, tempered by adoring admiration, reverence, and awe. Fresh excitements to the increase of these emotions are furnished by their meeting. Each one sees in his rational, immortal fellow-creatures, a nobler work of God, a brighter exhibition of his moral perfections, than the whole inanimate creation could afford. And while each one contemplates this image of God in his fellow-creatures, he is ready to exclaim, If these miniature images of God are so lovely, how infinitely worthy of love must the great original be? If there is so much to admire in the streams, what admiration does the fountain deserve? Nor is this all. In the various relations and ties which bind them together they see new proofs of all-wise benevolence, new reasons why they should love and thank Him who established these relations and formed these ties. Under the influence of these affections the yet stammering child is taught the name of its Creator and Benefactor, while to the attentive ear of those who are a little farther advanced in life the history of the creation and of all that God has done for His creatures is recounted; His commands, and their obligations to obey them, are stated; the nature and design of the festival which they are observing are explained; and they are taught to perform their humble part in its appropriate services. In these services all now join; and oh, with what perfect union of heart, with what self-annihilating humility, with what seraphic purity and fervency of affection, do they present their combined offering of thanksgiving and praise! Suffice it to say that the ear of Omniscience itself can discern no shade of difference between the language of their lips and that of their hearts unless it be this--that their hearts feel more than their lips can express. These sacred and delightful services being ended, they prepare to feast before their Benefactor; but this preparation is made, and the feast itself is participated with the same feelings which animated their devotions; for whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, they do all to the glory of God. On such an occasion they may, perhaps, place upon their board a greater variety than usual of the fruits of Paradise; but if so, it is not so much with a view to gratify their appetites as to exhibit more fully the various and ample provision which God has made for them, and thus, through the medium of their senses, to affect their hearts; for man has not yet begun to consume the bounty of Heaven upon his lusts. No; the blessing of God is implored and His presence desired as the crowning joy of their feast, without which even the fruits of Paradise would be insipid and the society of Paradise uninteresting. Thus while they feast upon the fruits of His bounty their souls feast upon the perfections which those fruits display. Thus God is seen and enjoyed in everything, and everything leads up their thoughts and affections to Him, while He sits unseen in the midst of them, shedding abroad His love through all their hearts and rejoicing with benevolent delight in the happiness which He at once imparts and witnesses. Meanwhile their conversation is such as the attending angels, who hover around, would not be ashamed to utter--nay, such as God Himself is well pleased to hear. The law of kindness is on all their lips, for the law of love is in all their hearts. If such is the manner in which innocent creatures would keep a feast unto the Lord, then such is the manner in which we should aim to keep this annual festival. We should desire and aim to exercise the same feelings, to worship God with the same sincerity, fervency, and unity of affection, and to converse and partake of His bounty in the same manner. Having shown how we ought to keep this festival, considered simply as God’s intelligent creatures, we shall now, as was proposed--
II. Attempt to show how we should keep it, considered as sinful creatures, under a dispensation of mercy. In attempting this we shall pursue the same course which has been pursued in the former part of the discourse. We will suppose that the holy and happy community, whose festival we have been contemplating, fall from their original state and become sinners like ourselves. Now suppose that these creatures, in this sinful, guilty, wretched, despairing state, are placed under a dispensation, in which the grace and mercy of God are offered them through a Redeemer, and that just such a revelation is made to them as has been made to us in the New Testament. Suppose farther, that after they are placed under the new dispensation they resolve to observe a religious festival. What would be necessary, what would be implied in their keeping it as a feast unto the Lord? I answer, the first thing necessary would evidently be a cordial reconciliation to God. Until such a reconciliation took place they could neither observe a religious festival nor perform any other religious duty in a right and acceptable manner. Indeed, they would have no disposition to do it, nor any of the feelings which it implies and demands. But reconciliation to God necessarily involves hatred of sin and self-condemnation, sorrow and shame on account of it. The exercise of faith in the Redeemer, through whom grace and mercy are offered, is also indispensably necessary to the right observance of a feast unto the Lord. And now let us suppose the community, which we have already twice contemplated, first as perfectly holy, and then as sinful, guilty, and undone, to be a third time placed before us, reconciled to God, exercising repentance and faith in Christ, and engaged in keeping a religious festival like that which we this day observe. They still feel, though in an imperfect degree, the same affection which we saw them exercise toward God in their original state; but these affections are, in a considerable degree at least, excited by different objects and variously modified by the change which has taken place in their situation. They still feel grateful to God for their existence, for their faculties, and for the various temporal blessings which surround them; but they now view all these things as blessings which they had forfeited and lost, and which had been repurchased for them by their Redeemer, and freely bestowed upon them as the gifts of His dying love. Hence they seem, as it were, to see His name on every blessing, and every blessing reminds them of Him. They still, as formerly, see and admire God’s perfections as displayed in the works of creation; but their admiration and their praises are now principally excited by the far brighter, the eclipsing display which He has made of His moral perfections, in the Cross of Christ, in the wonders of redemption. Loud above all their other praises and thanksgivings may be heard the cry, Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift! Thanks be unto God and the Lamb for redeeming level Even while observing a joyful festival, tears, the fountain of which is supplied by godly sorrow for sin, and gratitude to the Redeemer; tears, which it is delightful to shed, are seen on the same countenances which glow with love and hope, and beam with holy, humble joy in God. And when they sit down to the table of Providence, to feast upon His bounty, the exercise of these emotions is not suspended. They feel there as pardoned sinners ought to feel, and as they would wish to feel at the table of Christ, for the table of Providence is become to them His table; they remember Him there; they remember that whenever their daily food was forfeited by sin, and the curse of Heaven rested upon their basket and store, He redeemed the forfeiture, and turned the curse into a blessing. Hence they feast upon His bounty with feelings resembling those which we may suppose to have filled the bosoms of Joseph’s brethren when they ate and rejoiced before him. (E. Payson, D. D.)
A wise man was once asked a difficult question. He had been gazing at some ancient structure which had long since fallen into ruins. And as he stood by those ruined walls overgrown with ivy, he was asked the question: “What is it which soonest grows old?” What is it which is most quickly forgotten, and is the soonest out of date? The answer was summed up in one simple word--it was gratitude. That which soonest grows old is thankfulness. Now there is a great deal of truth in that answer, for we are all of us so ready to forget the giver as soon as we have received the gift. And this spirit of unthank-fulness for every-day mercies is no recent thing. It has always been so. It was just the same when our Lord was upon earth. You will all remember the story of the ten lepers: only one returned to give thanks. Or look again, at the example of the Israelites in the wilderness. See God’s constant care for them. On every page of their history we read, not of thankfulness--but of murmuring and discontent. It was to these same Israelites that the words of the text were spoken. We have just gathered in the fruits of the land, and to-day we are keeping--in a bright and hearty Thanksgiving Service--a feast unto the Lord. Let us now look a little more closely into this subject of Thanksgiving. As we keep our feast to-day, let us look at some of the things for which we ought to be grateful, and then see how we can show our thankfulness in our daily life. In our general thanksgiving prayer, we thank God at every service for our creation. That is the first thing to be thankful f-or. God created us in His own image, and sent us into this world to live for His glory. Every one of us--even in the quiet round of every-day duties--can do something, if we try, to leave the world better than we found it. From first to last--in all its varied employments and in all its Christian duties--life is a work for God. What a charm of sacredness is thus thrown over the most menial duty or the most trifling occupation! Let us remember “whose we are and whom we serve” in our every-day life. Your lot may be very humble--the circle in which you move may be very small--the work that you may be able to do very trifling, but still it is God’s work. Let your lot be ever so humble, still it can be a noble one, if you are only true to yourself and your God. A noble life needs no adornment of wealth or position. Look, for example, at that life which closed amid loneliness and desertion within the embattled citadel of Khartoum. One little sentence written by that simple-hearted soldier--whose allegiance to his Queen was only equalled by his devotion to Christ--gives the key-note of his life. Speaking of Egypt, he said, “It is God’s work and not mine--if I fail, it is His will--if I succeed, it is His work.” And then there are other reasons for thankfulness in our preservation and all the blessings of this life, but above all, for the gift of Jesus Christ. This is the highest cause for thanksgiving, for what would earth have been without a Saviour? And as we thank God to-day for the late harvest, which is to provide us with our daily bread, let us also thank Him for the gift of His dear Son--the Bread of Life, which has come down from heaven--for the salvation and strength of our immortal souls. When we care very much for any one, how anxious we are to show our love by doing what we know will please them! And it should be just the same in our love for God. We should always be anxious to do what will please Him. But now, let us see how we may best show our gratitude for all that God sends us. The Prayer-Book tells us of two ways in which our thankfulness may be shown, “not only with our lips, but in our lives.” The first way, then, to acknowledge God as the Giver of all good things, is by giving actual thanks. By words of gratitude in our prayers and by songs of praise and thanksgiving, such as we have joined in to-day. We have seen others called aside and laid upon a sick-bed, and God in His mercy has given us health and strength. But we are to render thanks, not only with our lips but in our lives. Thankfulness can be shown by a proper enjoyment of God’s gifts. We are not to lay them by in a miserly manner. If God blesses us with the good things of this life, we are not to be selfish and think only of ourselves. In taking a proper enjoyment of things, we can also try to do good to others. But the highest of all gratitude is for us to realise that we are God’s stewards. Let us give of our substance to any who are worse off than ourselves, ministering especially to those who, through sickness or adversity, are in need of our help. “To do good and to distribute, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Philip Neale.)
Ye shall dwell in booths seven days.--
Sojourning 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, full 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” (John 7:37-43.7.38).
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,” &c., “of the earth earthy.”
III. A Christian’s pilgrim career. Israel dwelt in booths through their journey from Egypt to Canaan (see verse 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 Zion-ward.” (W. H. Jellie.)
Dwelling in booths
I. The text reminds us of conditions of life very like this dwelling in booths.
1. A feeble body, answering its purpose many years, is like dwelling in booths. Every birthday from the first anniversary has seemed as though it must be the last; but they will be gathered to their graves fall of years, as a shock of corn fully ripe. The cedar has fallen, but the fir-tree stands; the flower of the grass has withered, but some of the most tender blades survive. Verily, looking at the frailty of the body, God makes some of us to dwell in booths.
2. Providing by slender means all that is really needful for a large family is like dwelling in booths.
3. A morbidly sensitive spirit kept sound is like dwelling in booths. To the border-line of madness many come who are not permitted to cross.
4. A nature prone to gross evil and kept from the power of temptation is like dwelling in booths.
5. A church preserved in peace and unity, with the elements of evil within it and evil influences around it, is another example of God making to dwell in booths. While human nature is what it is, you cannot have association of any kind without the elements of mischief and the seeds of dissolution. Where there is continuance and unity and peace in a religious community, we have another illustration of God making to dwell in booths.
6. To have lived in a day of small things, and gradually to have come into a day of great things, is to have been made to dwell in booths. The once contracted business now extensive, the once limited profession now a wide and broad practice, and the once tiny house now a large establishment, are illustrations.
II. The text exhibits god as sufficient for us in the most necessitous and dangerous circumstances.
1. God hath in Himself all that is necessary for the working out of His will. He is not a cistern which may be broken, but He is an everlasting fountain. Whatever life, knowledge, wisdom, or power are needful or desirable, are in Himself.
2. God uses agents and instruments, but is not dependent upon any of the agents and instruments which He employs. His connection with all such does not bind or embarrass Him. It is nothing with Him to help, whether with many or with few, or with them that have no power.
3. God is conscious of His sufficiency. He thinks of Himself as sufficient, and feels to be sufficient. God had no more care of Israel when they dwelt in booths than when they abode in fenced cities. He had no misgiving about bringing the children of Israel through.
4. There is but one thing which prevents our fully experiencing the sufficiency of God, and that is sin--wilful and persistent sin. This shortcuts the arm of God, and this closes His ear.
III. The text points out a duty of remembrance which we are all liable to neglect. This direction has chief reference not to the generation which actually dwelt in the booths, but to successive generations, and to these after they had become tenants of the cities of the Holy Land. Now if we are to keep in remembrance God’s goodness to our ancestors, how much more should we keep in mind God’s mercy to ourselves! There is a point here, however, which we may not overlook. God’s mercy to a family in previous generations places the present members of that family under obligation. The same remark will apply to a nation and to a church--to any community or association. (S. Martin, D. D.)
Moses declared . . . the feasts of the Lord.--
“And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.” What a change in his great ministry! Never was man charged with the delivering of so many disciplinary and legal words. It is time that he had something to say with easier music in it, conveying a pleasanter appeal to the imagination and the whole attention of Israel. It was a new mission. The lips of Moses must have grown hard in the delivery of hard speeches. It was his business always to deliver law, to recall to duty, to suppress revolution, to command and overawe the people whose fortunes he humanly led. What wonder if the people dreaded his appearance? That appearance might have been equal to a new Sinai, a new Decalogue--a harder speech of law and duty and servitude. It was a pleasant thing for Moses, too, this change in the tone of his ministry; he is now speaking of feasts, of festivals--times of solemn rejoicing--yea, some of the very feasts which were instituted were designated by names the roots of which signified to dance and be glad with great joy. An awful fate for any man to be merely the legal prophet of his age! A most burdensome mission always to be called upon to rebuke and chastise, to suppress, and to put men down to their proper level, and call them up to their proper obedience I Thus the Lord varies the ministry of His servants. He says, There will be no utterance of new law to-day, but this very day shall be a day of feasting and music and dancing; He will have a home in the wilderness--a glad, warm, happy home: all troublesome memories shall be dismissed and one overmastering joy shall rule this festal day. That is the speech He has been longing to make; but we would not let Him. He never wanted to make any other speech; we ourselves forced the hard terms from His reluctant lips. A complete ministry is terrible and gracious. It is terrible by the necessities of the case. Consider the nature with which the ministry of heaven has to deal: “there is none righteous, no not one”; we have turned aside from the right way, and are far from the centres of light and rest and peace; sometimes nothing will reach us but fear, terror, awful denunciation of anger, and judgment. But the ministry is also gentle: there is no gentleness like it. The true ministry of Christ is marked by surpassing and ineffable grace: its eyes are full of tears; its great trumpet-tones are broken down by greater sobs; it pities the weak; it speaks a word of hope to the fallen; it tells the farthest off that there is time for him to get home before the nightfall, or if he be overtaken with the darkness the light will be in the house he has abandoned; it pleads with men; it beseeches men to be reconciled to God; it writes its promises in syllables of stars; it punctuates its speech with fragrant flowers; it breaks down into the omnipotence of weakness by clinging to the sinner when all men have abandoned Him in despair. We must establish a whole ministry. The mountain must have two sides: the side where the darkness lingers; the side where the light plays and dances in many a symbolism. This is human life. The two sides must go together. When the ministry thunders its law, it must be upheld; when it breaks down in tears over the Jerusalem that has rejected it, it must be regarded as the very heart of God. Notice the time when the feasts were spoken of. Let us regard the very position of the text as instructive. We have now read up to it; beginning with the bondage in Egypt, dwelling tearfully and sympathetically upon that pagan servitude, watching the children of Israel led forth by a mighty hand, we have noted the discipline which afflicted them educationally; by this time we have become familiar with their hardships, now it is a welcome relief to the reader to come upon festival, dancing, joy, delight--one touch of heaven in a very wilderness of desolation. This is the day we have longed for. There was a hope hidden in our hearts that, by and by, golden gates would swing back upon happy places and offer us the liberty of heaven. We have come to that Sabbatic time; now we are in times of jubilee and Sabbath, release, pardon, rapture, praising God all the time, having found a temple without a roof, a sanctuary without a wall, an infinite liberty vast as the Being which it adores. Notice whose feasts they were, and how joy is ennobled by solemnity. “And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.” They were not fools’ revels; they were not inventions even of Moses and Aaron; they were as certainly Divine creations as were the stars that glittered above. Is “feasts” not a word too frivolous to associate with the name of the Lord? No. If we are to judge by analogy, No. The God of flowers may be the God of feasts. We know the flowers are His; we know that no Solomon has ever arrayed himself in equal beauty; He who made those flowers must have made a feast somewhere--a feast of reason, a feast for the soul, a luxury for the inner taste, an appeal to the larger appetency. He who made the birds may surely be the God of the soul’s music. The birds sing so blithely, without one touch of vanity; so purely, so independently, without pedantry, without sign or hint of human education; the God who set their little throats in tune may surely be the God of all pure music--the mother’s broad laugh over her little one, the father’s tender voice in the presence of distress and need; and He who made the birds’ throat may have put it into the mind of man to make the trumpet, and the cornet, and the flute, and the harp, and the sacbut, and the psaltery; they may be His judging by the happy analogies of nature. He who made summer, may have made heaven! There is but a step between them. (J. Parker. D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 23". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent