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CELEBRATION OF THE PASSOVER FESTIVAL, THE FEAST OF PENTECOST AND OF TABERNACLES. APPOINTMENT OF OFFICERS FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE AND PREVENTION OF IDOLATRY.
(Comp. Exodus 23:14-19; Exodus 34:18, Exodus 34:22-26; Leviticus 23:1-44. On the Passover, see Exodus 12:1-51.; Exodus 13:3-10.) The other great festivals of the Israelites, the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, are not here referred to, because on these no assembling of the whole people at the sanctuary was required, and such assembling is the point of view under which the feasts are mainly regarded here.
The Feast of the Passover.
Deuteronomy 16:1, Deuteronomy 16:2
The month of Abib (cf. Exodus 12:2; Exodus 23:15). The time is referred to as a date well known to the people. Keep the passover; make (עַשִׂיתָ) or prepare the passover. This injunction refers primarily to the preparation of the Paschal lamb for a festal meal (Numbers 9:5); but here it is used in a wider sense as referring to the whole Paschal observance, which lasted for seven days. Hence the mention of sheep (צאֹן) and oxen (בְקָר) in Deuteronomy 16:2, and the reference to the eating of unleavened bread for seven days "therewith," i.e. with the Passover. The animal for the Paschal supper was expressly prescribed to be a yearling of the sheep or of the goats (שֶׂה), and this was to be consumed at one meal; but on the other days of the festival the flesh of other animals offered in sacrifice might be eaten. The term "Passover" here, accordingly, embraces the whole of the festive meals connected with the Passover proper—what the rabbins call chagigah (Maimon; in 'Kor-ban Pesach,' c. 10. § 12; cf. 2 Chronicles 35:7, etc.).
Bread of affliction; bread such as is prepared in circumstances of trial and pressure, when there is no time or opportunity for the application of all the means required for the preparation of bread of the better sort. The Israelites had in haste and amid anxiety to prepare the Passover meal on the evening of their flight from Egypt, and so had to omit the leavening of their bread; and this usage they had to observe during the seven days of the festival in subsequent times, to remind them of the oppression the nation had suffered in Egypt, and the circumstances of difficulty and peril amidst which their deliverance had been effected.
No leavened bread; properly, no leaven (שְׂאֹר) (cf. Exodus 12:15). Not only was no leavened bread (מַחָּוז) or dough (חָמֵץ) to be used by them, leaven itself was not to be in the house.
Deuteronomy 16:5, Deuteronomy 16:6
Not in their own houses or places of abode might the Paschal lamb be slain and eaten, but only at the place, which the Lord should choose to place his Name there. On the first occasion, while the people were still in Egypt and had no sanctuary or specially holy place where Jehovah s Name was set, the Passover was eaten in their own houses; but when God should choose a place as his sanctuary, only there could the ordinance be observed.
Thou shalt roast. The verb here primarily signifies to be matured by heat for eating; hence to be ripened as by the sun's heat (Genesis 40:10; Joel 3:13; Hebrews 4:13); and to be cooked, whether by boiling, seething, or roasting. Here it is properly rendered by roast, as it was thus only that the Paschal lamb could be cooked. And go unto thy tents; return to thy place of abode; not necessarily to thy proper home (which might be far distant), but to the place where for the time thou hast thy lodging. The phrase, "thy tents," which originally came into use while as yet Israel had no settled abodes in Canaan, came afterwards to be used as a general designation of a man's home or usual place of abode (cf. 1 Samuel 13:2; 2Sa 20:1; 1 Kings 8:66, etc.).
On the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly. This is not placed in antithesis to the injunction, six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as if the Feast of Unleavened Bread (mazzoth) lasted only for six days and the seventh was to be devoted to a service of a different kind; it simply prescribes that the seventh day of the festival was to be celebrated by an assembling of the whole of those who had come to the feast; the festival was to be wound up with a day of holy convocation, in which no work was to be done (Leviticus 23:36). On all the days unleavened bread was to be eaten, and on the seventh there was besides to be a solemn assembly to the Lord (עֲצֶרֶת), called in Leviticus 23:36, "a holy convocation" (מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ).
The Feast of Weeks (cf. Exodus 23:16).
From such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn; i.e. from the commencement of the corn harvest. The seven weeks were to be counted from this terminus; and as the corn harvest began by the presentation of the sheaf of the firstfruits on the second day of the Passover, this regulation as to time coincides with that in Le Deuteronomy 23:15.
This feast was to be kept with sacrificial gifts according to the measure of the free-will offerings of their hand, i.e. voluntary offerings which they gave as the Lord had blessed them; nothing was specially prescribed, each was to give of his own free-will as the Lord had prospered him. The word translated "tribute" in the Authorized Version (מִסַּת) occurs only here, and is of doubtful signification. The LXX. render it by καθὼς, as, according to; it is identical with the Aramaic מסת sufficiency, enough, and may be understood here of the full measure according to which their offerings were to be presented. The freewill offering of thine hand, here referred to, belonged to the gifts of burnt offerings, meat offerings, drink offerings, and thank offerings which might be offered at every feast along with the sacrifices prescribed (of. Leviticus 23:38; Numbers 29:39). Of the latter no mention is made here, as the law regarding them was already sufficiently proclaimed (Numbers 28:1-31 and Numbers 29:1-40.); and in a popular address it was rather to what depended on the will of the people than to what was imperative by law, that attention had to be directed.
Rejoice before the Lord. "The expression, to rejoice before the Lord, denotes here nothing else than to honor him by sacred songs; comp. Spencer, 'De Legg. Hebrews Ritual.,' p. 881, edit. 3". In the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there; rather, shall choose, as in verse 15.
The Feast of Tabernacles, properly, Booths (cf. Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12-38). This feast was to be observed at the end of harvest, after the corn had been gathered into granaries, and the produce of the vineyard had been put through the press. Nothing is added here to the instructions already given respecting this festival; only the observance of it at the appointed sanctuary is enforced, and stress is laid on their making not only their sons and daughters and domestics, but also the Levite, the fatherless, the widow, and the stranger participators in their rejoicings. Thou shalt surely rejoice; rather, thou shalt be wholly joyous; literally, rejoicing only; Rosenm; "adnodum laetus."
Deuteronomy 16:16, Deuteronomy 16:17
(Cf. Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23.) The law is repeated here with the additional clause, "at the place which the Lord shall choose;" and the words, "not empty," are explained to mean with gifts according to the gift of their hands, according to the blessing of Jehovah their God, which he had given them.
Moses had at an earlier period appointed judges to settle disputes among the people, and had given instructions to them for the discharge of their duty (Exodus 18:1-27; Deuteronomy 1:12-18). Whilst the people were in the wilderness, united as one body and under the leadership of Moses, this arrangement was sufficient; but a more extended arrangement would be required when they came to be settled in Canaan and dispersed in towns and villages over the whole land. In prospect of this, Moses here enacts that judges and officers were to be appointed by the people in all their gates, in all their places of residence, which the Lord should give them.
Judges and officers. The "officers" (shoterim, writers) associated with the judges both in the earlier arrangements and in that which was to succeed were secretaries and clerks of court, and acted also as assessors and advisers of the judges. No instruction is given as to the number of judges and officers, or as to the mode of appointing them; nor was this necessary. The former would be determined by the size and population of the place where they were appointed, and the latter would, as a matter of course, follow the method instituted by Moses in the earlier arrangement (see Deuteronomy 1:13-15; Exodus 18:21-26).
(Cf. Exodus 23:6, Exodus 23:8.) Respect persons (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17). Pervert the words [margin, matters] of the righteous; rather, the case or the cause of the righteous.
That which is altogether just; literally, justice, justice. The repetition of the word is for the sake of emphasis, as in Genesis 14:10, "pits, pits," equal to full of pits.
Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:22
In all states, the highest crime of which the judge has to take note is that of treason against the supreme Rower; and, under the theocracy, the act most distinctly treasonable was idolatry. In proceeding, therefore, to give some practical admonitions as to the things to be observed in the administration of justice, Moses begins by denouncing and forbidding this most flagrant form of iniquity.
Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees; thou shalt not plant, i.e. place or set up, an asherah of any wood. The asherah was an idol of wood in the form of a pillar, usually placed by the side of the altars of Baal. It was the symbol of Astarte, the great Canaanitish goddess, the companion and revealer of Baal. The two are usually associated in the Old Testament (cf. Judges 2:13; Jdg 6:28; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4). The rendering "grove" has been taken from the LXX. and the Vulgate; but that it is an error is evident from 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10; and Jeremiah 17:2; where the asherah is said to be under a green tree; and from the use of such words as make, set up, cause to stand, build, to denote the action of producing an asherah (cf. 1 Kings 14:15; 1Ki 16:33; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 1 Kings 14:23), none of which are appropriate to the planting of a grove. Here, indeed, the word "plant" is used, but this is only because, as the asherah was sunk in the earth that it might stand firm, it might be figuratively said to be planted, just as nails driven in are said to be planted (Ecclesiastes 12:11, where the same verb is used; comp. also Isaiah 51:16; Amos 9:15; Daniel 11:25).
Any image; any pillar, etc. The Hebrew word (מַצֵבָה, mazzebah) denotes generally any pillar or stone that is set up, whether as a memorial (Genesis 28:18), or as a sign (Exodus 24:4; Isaiah 19:19), or for purposes of utility or ornament (Jeremiah 43:13). Here, as in other passages, it is a pillar or statue set up as an object of worship (cf. 2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:26; Hosea 10:1; Micah 5:12).
The Feast of the Passover.
(For a reference to the minute points of difference, necessitated by different circumstances, between the first Passover and subsequent ones, see art. 'Passover,' in Smith's 'Bibl. Dict.;' see also the Exposition for its historical significance.) We now take for granted that all this is well understood by, and perfectly familiar to, the reader. Our purpose now is to "open up," not its historical meaning, nor even its symbolism for Israel, but its typical intent as foreshadowing gospel truths, showing how in Christ our Passover, and in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper as our Passover feast, the far-reaching significance of the offering of the Paschal lamb is most clearly seen.
I. ISRAEL'S PASSOVER HAS ITS ANTITYPE IN CHRIST. So argues the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." We cannot but feel here the wondrous condescension of our God in permitting us to look at aught so sublime as the sacrifice of his dear Son, through the means of aught so humble as the Paschal lamb. Yet it is an infinite mercy that, whatever might so help the conceptions of his children then, and whatever may so aid them now, the Great Father does not disdain to use.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Sacrificial Lamb; so John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19. He is spoken of as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," and is beheld, in the Apocalypse, "a Lamb as it had been slain." He, too, is "without blemish." He was "without sin." In him alone is the ideal of a perfect sacrifice found.
2. The Passover was to be killed without breaking a bone thereof. This was fulfilled in Christ, that men might be aided in seeing the fulfillment of the type, through the close analogy of the treatment; and because "God would permit no dishonor to be done to the body of Christ, after the atoning act was complete" (Halley).
3. The blood of the first Paschal lamb was to be sprinkled on the posts of the doors, signifying that there must be the actual acceptance and application of the atoning blood, and that through the atoning blood so applied we are saved.
4. In the first instance, the lamb was offered without the intervention of a priest. So that, though priesthood was afterwards instituted for a time for educational purposes (Galatians 3:1-29.), yet the priest was in no wise necessary to ensure men's acceptance with God.
5. The flesh was to be eaten, in token of fellowship. It was thus "the most perfect of peace offerings," symbolizing and typifying communion with God on the ground of the atoning blood. In all these respects, how very far does the Christian Antitype surpass the Jewish type? Devout hearts may and do love to linger long in meditation on a theme so touching and Divine!
II. CHRISTIANS HAVE THEM PASSOVER FEAST.
1. Where. Here we may be permitted to point out a distinction, which, though obvious enough at first mention thereof, yet is so far lost sight of in some directions, as to lead to serious error. In later times, though the lamb was slain at an altar, yet the feast thereon was at a table. So in heathen sacrifices too, the victim was slain at an altar, the sacrificial feast was at a table. Hence, analogy suggests that the spot where the Victim is slain should be called the altar, but that the sacrificial feast should be at a table. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle." The altar here meant is the cross on which the Savior died. Besides, it is only on the theory that the sacrifice is actually repeated at Holy Communion, that there can be any possible warrant for calling the Lord's table an altar. But this theory is absolutely negatived by the statements in Hebrews 10:10-14. The Victim was offered once for all on an altar, even the cross; but we partake at the Lord's table, of the sacrificial feast.
2. What is the meaning of the feast.
(1) It is a standing historical declaration of the offering of God's one Great Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. "Ye do show the Lord's death." It is declaration of the historic fact on the part of those to whom that fact is full of richest and most wondrous meaning. For it is the divinest expression of righteousness and of love that the world has ever known.
(2) This sacrificial feast is the expression also of a sublime fact on the earthward side, viz. that by virtue of the redeeming efficacy thus continuously proclaimed, there has been formed a new commonwealth of Israel, to which belongs the freedom, immunity, and honor of a kingdom of God (see Ephesians it.).
(3) It also seals a fellowship—a fellowship of redeemed souls, who have been bought with a price, and transferred from the kingdom of Satan to that of God's dear Son; in which they are raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, having here below a union of hearts which will be perfected in an unseen state. This fellowship is openly sealed by their taking of one bread and drinking one cup.
(4) It is a joint pledge of loyalty to the Church's Head and Lord; in renewing their remembrance of his love to them, they seal afresh their pledge of love and allegiance in him. Hence the Lord's Supper came to be called sacramentum, the Church's military oath of obedience to her Great Commander.
(5) It is a service of thanksgiving. Hence it came to be called the Eucharist. The Passover feast was a grateful recall of a mighty deliverance. So is the Christian feast.
(6) It is a declaration of hope and expectancy. "Ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Believers in Israel were expecting Canaan. We are waiting for the Son of God from heaven to bring us to our heavenly rest (Hebrews 4:1-16.).
3. How should the Christian feast be kept? i.e. in what spirit? (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 5:8). Three or four suggestions will embody the chief hints hereon thrown out in the written Word.
(1) The Passover was to be eaten with unleavened bread. All leaven was to be put away. So are believers to keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and of truth. They are "to examine themselves," and so to eat of that bread and drink of that cup. "As the scrupulous Israelites searched with lighted candles every hidden corner and dark recess of their houses for any latent particle of leaven, so let our language be, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart,' etc." (Bush).
(2) It was to be eaten with bitter herbs, partly as in remembrance of the hard bondage and bitter sorrows of Egypt, and partly as shadowing forth the need of penitence for sin. We should mingle with our thanksgiving "penitential tears"—
"And with our joy for pardoned guilt,
Mourn that we pierced the Lord."
(3) It was to be eaten in a standing posture, as if ready to depart at a moment's warning. Even so we, as we gather round the sacramental board, are but on pilgrimage. We halt awhile to refresh us by the way, but we have, soon as our celebration-day is over, to renew our march in the desert, and to resume the toil and fight. We have not yet come to the rest and inheritance the Lord hath promised to give us.
(4) The Apostle Paul says, "Let us keep the feast, not with the leaven of malice," etc; i.e. not with any ill feeling harbored in the soul, nor with ill actions practiced in the life. For it is not only as so much evil in the individual that Paul there regards the κακία and πονηρία, but as so much pervasive leaven in the Church, that, if not cast out, will be its bane, yea, even its ruin (see 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 10:17). We should therefore cultivate always, and specially bring to the table of the Lord, a spirit of loving fellowship. So strongly did the early Christians feel this, that they were wont to ask of each other the mutual forgiveness of injuries before observing the sacred feast. And that same spirit of love, so specially incumbent then, should be the prevailing habit of soul with believers towards each other. For are not all redeemed by the same precious blood? Are not all members of one family? If our God loves us so much, in spite of our sins, as to own us as his, should not that shame us into a loving regard for each other in spite of our faults? With one Savior, one salvation, one faith, one baptism, one hope, one home, well may we strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and to cultivate, in the fellowship of believers at the table of the Lord, the same spirit which alone will pervade the higher fellowship of heaven.
The Feast of Weeks, or of Harvest.
This Feast of Weeks was not commemorative in the same sense as that of the Passover; it was connected, not with a great national epoch, but with the seasons of the year and the times of harvest. The method in which it was to be observed is stated in Leviticus 23:10, et seq. We find there, and in the various Scripture references to this festival, the following principles indicated.
1. That the Hebrews were to regard the produce of the soil as given to them by the bounty of God.
2. That they were to honor Jehovah by a public thanksgiving for his goodness.
3. That they were to yield the firstfruits to him.
4. That they were to rejoice and be glad before him, for what he was and for what he gave.
5. That they were to recognize the equality before God of master and servant. National festivals were holidays for the laborer, and times when good will and kindliness towards the "stranger, the fatherless, and widow" were to be specially manifested.
6. They were thus to recognize their national unity by showing their joint thankfulness for a common mercy. These festivals would strengthen Israel's feeling of kinship, and these united gatherings before the Lord their God would proclaim, as often as they were held, their separation unto him.
7. Though this was a harvest festival, and as such chiefly expressive of thankfulness for the bounty of God as seen in nature, yet it was not to be observed without the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the meat offering (cf. Le Leviticus 23:18-20). Other offerings were to be presented along with the offering for sin. Natural blessings are given to sinful men only under a dispensation of mercy which comes through a bleeding sacrifice.
Now all these forms have passed away. But the principles which underlay them are of eternal obligation. We trust we can see, by means of these signs, the everlasting truths signified by them. In each of the particulars named above some permanent principle is enclosed.
I. THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH ARE TO BE RECEIVED BY US AS GRANTED TO US BY THE BOUNTY OF A GRACIOUS GOD. So commonplace, or rather so well-known, a truth is this, that it is not easy for us to picture to ourselves a time when a nation needed to have it engraved on its heart and conscience by such means as these divinely appointed festivals. Still, we cannot be unconscious of forces around us being at work which, if we succumbed to them, would lead us to think of the ordinary products of the harvest-field as coming simply in due course of law, and to regard the Supreme Being as so remotely concerned in earth's fruitfulness, that it would be but a slight step to take to think of him as not concerned therein at all! But in no part of the sacred records is any such thinking warranted. Reason itself would lead us to suppose that, if one order of creation is higher than another, the lower was made to serve it; and consequently, that if man be the highest of all, that the rest is ordered to serve him. The Psalmist expressed this when he sang, "Thou hast put all things under his feet." Our Lord Jesus Christ points us to the most common blessings, even to the sun and the rain, in proof of the good will of a heavenly Father. And this is at once the philosophy and the faith of a Christian. It is the conclusion of sober sense; it is the dictum of devoutness, piety, and love. "Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
II. THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH SHOULD THEREFORE BE RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING. The doctrine that God is the benevolent Author of all our mercies is not to be a barren and unfruitful dogma. It is meant to call forth thankfulness. It is said of the heathen, "neither were they thankful." They did not know enough of God to understand what true thankfulness meant. But we do. He is revealed in Scripture as having such watchful concern for our good, that we may well feel an exuberance of thankful delight that our daily joys come to us from a fountain of love. And it behooves us to pay our God the homage of grateful hearts.
III. THIS THANKFULNESS SHOULD BE EXPRESSED PRACTICALLY. The truly loyal heart will need no reminder of this. Cela va sans dire. Jacob needed no precept to lead him to say, "Of all that thou givest me, I wilt surely give the tenth unto thee." Nor, if our hearts are as sensitive as they should be to our own unworthiness and to God's loving-kindness, shall we fail to "honor the Lord with our substance, and with the firstfruits of all our increase."
IV. OUR GRATITUDE TO GOD SHOULD TAKE THE FORM OF UNITED WORSHIP AND SONG. We may set apart special seasons for harvest festivals, or no, as circumstances dictate; but certainly the Divine provision for the temporal wants of man should find gladsome acknowledgment in the social worship of a thankful people.
V. A UNITED ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD'S KINDNESS TO US ALL SHOULD HAVE THE EFFECT OF PROMOTING KINDLINESS AMONG EACH OTHER. If God makes us glad with his loving goodness, we should make others glad with our radiant kindness (1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:11). The love streaming from heaven is revealed for the purpose of creating benevolence upon earth. The blessings that come to us, unworthy as we are, from the pure benevolence of God, should make us eager, as much as in us is, to emulate the goodness of heaven!
VI. For, lastly, NOT EVEN IN THANKFULNESS TO GOD FOR COMMON MERCIES MAY WE FORGET THEIR RELATION TO THAT DIVINE REDEMPTIVE PLAN WROUGHT OUT BY THE GREAT SON OF GOD. Israel's rejoicing was to be sanctified by a sin offering; by which we see
(1) that it is only because of God's mighty redeeming work that even the natural blessings of this earthly life are ensured to us. And
(2) that it is only through the sin offering that our thank offerings are accepted before God. All our thanksgiving services must take the form and hue thrown on them by the fact that we are guilty men, living on the mercy of a forgiving and redeeming God. God expects the acknowledgment of this on our part. It would be unrighteous of him not to ask it, and unjust and ungrateful of us not to give it. Sin is in the world; and our sin has helped to make the world what it is, as to the infusion of bitterness into it; it is only through the Divine redeeming energy of love which through and by our Lord Jesus Christ is being put forth, that the world still yields its treasures to the rebellious and ungrateful sons of men. So that with the praises for mercies so undeserved there should be a confession of sin, a turning anew unto the Lord, and a reconsecration of heart and life to him. For when we think how soon a slightly adverse action of God towards us might crush us; yea, that even the bare withholding of mercy would consume us; and when we add to that the thought of our innumerable provocations of One who cannot bear that which is evil, surely we must needs confess that there are no greater wonders than the patience, the love, the bounty of God!
The Feast of Tabernacles, or of Ingathering.
"The festival of tabernacles, as originally instituted, presents but little symbolism. Its primary design was to give expression to joy and gratitude in view of the products of the earth, every kind of which had now been gathered; and it was therefore also called the Festival of Ingathering." As the Passover commemorated the first deliverance, so the Feast of Booths would recall the wilderness life. And "nothing was more natural than to associate in thought the richness of their inheritance with the probationary trials by means of which the nation had been prepared to possess it". It is scarcely necessary here to do more than suggest the underlying principles which are presented here. They must needs have some similarity with those in the preceding Homily. Israel is taught the following truths:
1. After the corn and wine have been gathered in, and the anxieties of the year are so far over, they are then expected to look up gratefully to God as the Author of all.
2. God's mercies are to be enjoyed, in grateful and delightful repose.
3. With the gladsome rest there is to be associated a thankful memory of past guidance and help in the wilderness life.
4. In this rejoicing and thankfulness, master and servant are alike to share, as both equal in the sight of God.
5. By Israel's gladness, the sorrows of the poor, the sad, the lonely, are to be relieved, and the solitary ones are to be made conscious of a kindly care encompassing them.
6. The recognition of a reception of mercy is to be accompanied with a loving offering to God in return (Deuteronomy 16:16, Deuteronomy 16:17). According to the blessing, so is to be the tribute.
7. Thus Israel's nationality is to be thrice sealed every year, as a specifically religious one, in holy and joyful covenant with the Lord their God. Manifestly on each of these points, Israel's temporary and local forms illustrated permanent and worldwide principles, in the exposition of which the Christian teacher may well delight.
(See Homily, Deuteronomy 10:17-1, "God no respecter of persons.")
Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:22
(See Homily, Deuteronomy 5:8-10, on "The second commandment," and also Homily, Deuteronomy 13:1-18; on "Temptations to idolatry to be resisted.")
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The Passover was a sacrifice (Exodus 12:2), and was connected with sacrifices (Leviticus 23:5-8; Numbers 28:15-26); hence "flock and herd" (Deuteronomy 16:2) covering the sacrifices of the seven days' feast. It was the sacrifice which mediated the new relationship established between Jehovah and the people on the night of the Exodus. There was a fitness, at so solemn a crisis in the history of the chosen nation, in the line of demarcation between them and the Egyptians being drawn so strongly in atoning blood. Not for any righteousness of theirs, but through God's mercy, under cover of blood of atonement, was Israel—collectively a part of Egypt, and individually partakers of its guilt and corruptions—spared the stroke of judgment. The sacrifice then offered was:
1. Pacificatory. In their blood-sheltered dwellings, the Israelites enjoyed the presence of God, communion with God, peace with God. A feast of peace was held upon the flesh, as in the later peace offerings.
2. Purificatory. It sanctified the people in view of their departure from Egypt; and separation as a peculiar people to Jehovah—in view also of his peculiarly near approach to them in their deliverance.
3. Protective. As warding off the stroke of the destroying angel. Later Passovers, as the yearly presentation of the blood implied, were not only commemorations, but in some sense also perpetuations of the original one. The Passover, as observed from year to year, was—
I. A MEMORIAL. It stood as an historical monument, testifying to the reality of the events of the Exodus. In this view of it, it is of great value. No criticism of documents can impair its witness. It is a Bible outside of the Bible, confirmatory of the Bible narratives. No one has yet succeeded in showing how a festival like the Passover could have been introduced at any period later than that to which it historically refers. It has, so far as we can make out anything in history, been observed by the Jews from the very beginning of their national existence. Note to what it testifies—
1. To the fact of the Exodus.
2. That the Exodus was accomplished without warlike resistance from the Egyptians.
3. That it was looked forward to, prepared for, sacrifice offered, and a sacrificial meal eaten, in anticipation of it.
4. That the preparations for departure were hurried, yet orderly.
5. That on the night in question a judgment fell on Egypt, from which the Israelites were exempted—a circumstance which gives to the feast its name, the Passover. The festival has thus all the value of a contemporary witness, and fully corroborates the Scripture history. The Lord's Supper, in like manner, is an historical witness, not to be got rid of, testifying to acts and words of our Lord on the night of his betrayal, and furnishing clear evidence as to the light in which his death was regarded by himself.
II. A TYPE. The typological features have often been dwelt on.
1. The lamb—select, unblemished, of full age, subjected to fire, unmutilated (John 19:36), fitness of the victim to represent Christ (Isaiah 53:7).
2. The blood—atoning, need of personal application, sole shelter from death, under its shelter inviolable security (Romans 8:1).
3. The feast—the slain lamb the food of a new life (John 6:51-57); a feast of reconciliation and peace, with fellow-believers, with bitter herbs (affliction, repentance), and without leaven—memorial of haste (Deuteronomy 16:3), but also emblematic of spiritual incorruption, of the purity which is to characterize the new life (1 Corinthians 5:7-9); no part of the flesh to remain till morning (Deuteronomy 16:4), for same reason, to avoid corruption; the feast to last seven days—a week, an entire circle of time, symbolical of life-long consecration to holiness of walk.
4. The redemption—great, once for all, a redemption, by blood and by power, from wrath, from bondage. All these types are conspicuously fulfilled in Christ.
III. AN ORDINANCE.
1. The first and chief of the feasts (Deuteronomy 16:1).
2. To be observed regularly (Deuteronomy 16:1). So now the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:25).
3. At the central sanctuary (Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:5, Deuteronomy 16:6). Christians should seek to realize their unity with all saints at the Lord's table.
4. With due seriousness and solemnity (Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:6).—J.O.
I. A SACRED RECKONING. "Seven weeks shall thou number," etc. (Deuteronomy 16:9). A week of weeks, seven times seven, hence the name, "Feast of Weeks "(Deuteronomy 16:10). The count began with the offering of the sheaf of firstfruits on Nisan 16, the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:11). Till that sheaf was offered, no Israelite was permitted to eat of the new corn (Deuteronomy 16:14). With the arrival of the fiftieth day, inclusive of the second of Unleavened Bread, the labors of the harvest were presumed to be ended, and this festival ensued, at which baked loaves were presented to Jehovah (Leviticus 23:17), in token of consecration to him of the fruits of the harvest, and of dedication of the life which bread sustained. There is, intended or unintended, a beautiful symbolism in this sacred count, the divinely allotted period for the labors of the harvest, its days reckoned by heaven's calendar, the end, an "appearing before God" in the sanctuary. The harvest began with consecration (in the Passover sheaf), it ended with it (in the presentation of the wave loaves). So has the Christian his allotted work-time in the world, a sacred cycle of weeks, rounded off in God's wisdom for the work he means to be accomplished (John 9:4); work in the Christian harvest-field, a work beginning in consecration, carried on in the spirit of consecration, and the termination of which is "entrance into the joy of the Lord."
II. A HARVEST THANKSGIVING. This was distinctly the idea of the Pentecostal festival. It was characterized:
1. By a devout recognition of the Divine bounty in the fruits of the earth.
2. By a voluntary dedication to God of part of what he had given. There was the public ceremony of the two wave loaves. But the Israelite was required in addition to keep the feast with "a tribute of a free-will offering of his hand" (Deuteronomy 16:10). The offering was to be voluntary, yet not without rule, but "according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee."
3. By a willing sharing of God's bounty with the needy (Deuteronomy 16:11). The stranger, the fatherless, the widow, were, as usual, not to be neglected. The remembrance of former bondage in Egypt was to furnish the "touch of nature" which would make this duty easy (Deuteronomy 16:12).
(1) Our gifts to God are worthless, save as they are the expression of a willing mind (2 Corinthians 8:7-16; 2 Corinthians 9:6-14).
(2) Our gifts to God ought to be proportionate to our prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:2).
(3) God's goodness to us (in harvests, in trade, in business generally) ought to be acknowledged by liberal gifts for his service.
(4) God's goodness to us (in deliverances, etc.) should open our hearts in sympathy for others.
III. A GOSPEL TYPE. The figure of the firstfruits finds an abundance of applications in the New Testament. It is employed of the Jews (Romans 11:16), sanctified in their covenant heads; of Christ, the "Firstfruits" of them that sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20-23); of first converts in a particular district (1 Corinthians 16:15); of believers generally, as "a kind of firstfruits" of the redeemed creation (James 1:18); of the 144,000 of the Apocalypse (Revelation 14:4), possibly "all the Church of Christ at any time on the earth; a limited company at any one time, capable of being numbered" (Revelation 7:1-9). A more direct relation must be traced between the presentation of the firstfruits at Pentecost and the events consequent upon the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit (Acts it.). It is surely not to be ascribed to accident that, as our Lord died on the Friday of the Passover—probably on the 14th of Nisan—so the disciples were kept waiting for the promised effusion of the Spirit till "the day of Pentecost was fully come;" and that on this day the great ingathering of three thousand took place, embracing representatives from "every nation under heaven"—a truly glorious offering of "firstfruits." May we pursue the coincidence further, and see in Christ, the solitary sheaf, raised from the dead on the same day that the first-cut sheaf was presented in the sanctuary (Nisan 16), the firstfruits of the harvest in prospect; while in the Church constituted and consecrated at Pentecost, the day of the offering of the wave loaves, we have the firstfruits of the harvest as realized. The wave loaves correspond in significance to the meat offering, and still more nearly to the showbread. Bread, as the staff of life, the nourishing principle, stands for the presentation to God of the life so nourished, involving the recognition of him as the Nourisher of it. In the possession of the believing heart by the Spirit of God, as the indwelling and abiding principle of spiritual life, we have the full realization of this thought, the fulfillment of the types of meat offering. The passage, James 1:18, suggests the deeper idea that the Church constituted at Pentecost is itself only a kind of firstfruits of redemption. It is so in relation:
1. To the latter-day effusion of the Spirit (Acts 2:17-20).
2. To creation as a whole (Romans 8:19-24).
Other two points may be noted:
1. If our dates be correct, Pentecost, like the Resurrection, fell on the first day of the week—the Spirit was given on the Lord's day.
2. As Pentecost was held by the Jews in commemoration of the giving of the Law, so God signalized it as the day of the giving of the Spirit, thus superseding the old dispensation by the new.—J.O.
The Feast of Tabernacle.
I. A FEAST OF THE INGATHERING. (Deuteronomy 16:13.) Held in the seventh month, when all the fruits of the earth had been gathered in. Thus:
1. Every stage of labor was sanctified by the recognition of God. At the Passover, when the sickle was thrust into the virgin grain; at Pentecost, when the cereal crops were harvested; and now, at the close of the agricultural year, when the season's labors had yielded to the husbandman their full results.
2. The fruits of labor were sanctified by dedication to God. The usual feasts were held, and shared with the needy (Deuteronomy 16:14), and free-will offerings (Deuteronomy 16:16, Deuteronomy 16:17) were presented to God. Bountiful giving is the appropriate return for bountiful receiving.
II. A MEMORIAL OF PAST WANDERINGS. (Leviticus 23:43.) During the seven days of the festival, the Israelites were to live in booths. This symbolized, and served to remind them of, the wandering, unsettled life of the desert. Booths were erections of simpler construction, and more in keeping with an agricultural festival, especially after the settlement in Canaan, than tents would have been. But there may have been an allusion also to actual circumstances of the journeyings, e.g. the first halt at Succoth, i.e. booths (Exodus 12:3; see Stanley). This memorial was instituted:
1. That in the midst of their prosperity they might not forget the days of their adversity (Deuteronomy 8:12-18).
2. That they might be reminded of God's gracious care of them. Booths or huts may, as Keil thinks, have been used instead of tents with reference to this idea. The booth was a shelter, a protection. So God promises to be to his Church, as he had been in the past, "a booth for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from the storm and rain" (Isaiah 4:6).
3. That their enjoyment of the goodness of the land might be enhanced by feelings of warm gratitude, awakened by the sense of contrast.
III. AN IMAGE OF PRESENT PILGRIMAGE. Though settled in Canaan, the Israelites were not to regard themselves as in possession of the final rest (Hebrews 4:7, Hebrews 4:8). The pilgrim state continued (Psalms 39:12). It does so still. We still inhabit tabernacles (2 Corinthians 5:1). Spiritual rest, the inward side of the Canaan type, is attained in Christ; but the full realization of the rest of God lies in eternity. Till heaven is reached, our state is that of pilgrims—wilderness wanderers. "The admission of this festival into Zechariah's prophecy of Messianic times (Zechariah 14:18) is undoubtedly founded on the thought that the keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles is an expression on the part of the nations of their thankfulness for the termination of their wanderings by their reception into the peaceful kingdom of Messiah" (Oehler).—J.O.
I. JUDGES OCCUPY A HIGH AND RESPONSIBLE POSITION.
1. They are necessary. They require to be set up "in all thy gates … throughout thy tribes."
2. They represent God (Deuteronomy 1:17). They are called "gods" (Psalms 82:1). They are clothed with a portion of God's authority (Romans 13:1).
3. They are set to uphold the sacred interests of justice.
4. They may, by wresting judgment, or by hasty and wrong decisions, inflict irremediable injury on the innocent.
5. The right discharge of their functions conduces in the highest degree to the stability, happiness, and material prosperity of society.
II. JUDGES ARE REQUIRED TO EXECUTE JUST JUDGMENT.
1. They are not to be swayed by private partialities—political, social, ecclesiastical.
2. They are not to make distinctions between rich and poor, i.e. "respect persons."
3. They are not to accept bribes.
4. They are, as administrators of a justice which is impersonal, to judge in every case according to absolute right.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The Passover, a memorial of deliverance.
The institution of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-51.) was preliminary to their deliverance from Egypt, just as the Lord's Supper was preliminary to the death of Jesus Christ, which it was designed subsequently to commemorate. On the first occasion it was a sacrifice presented at home, as was most proper. But when the central altar was set up in Palestine, it became the center of the Passover festival, and to it the Jews in their multitudes repaired. This secured a national assembly under very solemn circumstances, and was an important element in sustaining the national spirit.
I. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SOUL FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN SHOULD BE HELD IN PERPETUAL REMEMBRANCE. The Passover was the yearly celebration of national redemption. By it the Jews were annually reminded that they were a redeemed people. Gratitude to God would be elicited, and that self-denial and abstinence from evil which the unleavened bread typified. And it is evident that a similar memorial is contemplated in the New Testament dispensation. The Lord's Supper coming regularly round is intended to recall the deliverance from sin and guilt which we believe God has wrought for us, and to foster that holiness of walk which should characterize the redeemed of the Lord.
II. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SOUL HAS BEEN THROUGH SACRIFICE. The Passover taught this, if it taught anything. Egypt had to part with her firstborn before God's firstborn, Israel, could be redeemed (Exodus 13:15). This was evidently the idea—the firstborn of Egypt must die to ensure the liberty of the firstborn of God (Exodus 4:22, Exodus 4:23). This was the spirit of the Mosaic commission, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn."
But if the involuntary sacrifice of the Egyptian firstborn be primarily referred to in the Passover, it unquestionably refers secondarily and typically to the great voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through which our souls are redeemed. Hence Paul speaks of" Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Just as the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel that the destroying angel might spare the inmates, so the blood of Christ is sprinkled on our hearts and consciences, and our safety from condemnation becomes assured.
III. THE UNITY OF THE SACRIFICE THAT REDEEMS US WAS STRIKINGLY ILLUSTRATED AT THE PASSOVER. None of the flesh was to remain until the morning, all was to be eaten or burnt with fire. The sacrifice was to be a finished unity, not a protracted feast, which might through delay become corrupt. So with the sacrifice of which it is the type. Jesus Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). He was not allowed to see any corruption (Acts 13:37). The unity of the sacrifice—the once for all—was thus strikingly brought out.
Upon this our assurance of acceptance rests. We have now no doubt that the satisfaction is complete. "It is finished," said Jesus triumphantly on the tree. It is surely a matter of great moment and thankfulness to have our case disposed of at once, without uncertain delays, without any possible appeals. God is satisfied, and we are justified and free.
IV. SALVATION BY SACRIFICE IS WITH A VIEW TO HOLY LIVING. The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the Passover. Leaven was the type of self-indulgence and sin. The unleavened bread indicated how hastily they had to flee out of Egypt, and how little consideration for self there could be in their flight. Paul interprets the reference for us when he says, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). The feast of unleavened bread symbolized, therefore, the life of holy living which succeeds our salvation. Self-righteousness reverses this Divine order. It insists on the holy living meriting the salvation; but God gives the salvation gratuitously, and respects the holy living as a matter of gratitude. We should not make the way more difficult than God has done.—R.M.E.
Pentecost, the Feast of Firstfruits.
Fifty days after the Passover, or a week of weeks, came the second great national festival, when offerings were presented unto God of the firstfruits of the harvest, and a people already blessed recorded their thankfulness. It was also made a celebration of the giving of the Law from Sinai, which took place, according to calculation, exactly fifty days after the Passover. In consequence of this twofold reference to the harvest and to the giving of the Law, this Pentecostal festival acquired more popularity than was to be expected. In fact, from Acts 2:1-47; it seems to have drawn Jews and proselytes from all lands. These two references suggest a moral and a typical lesson respectively from the feast.
I. IT WAS THE EXPRESSION OF HARVEST THANKSGIVING. Here we have its moral meaning. It was an acknowledgment that God is the Author of the harvest, and should have the firstfruits. We never shall prosper unless we are grateful to the bountiful Giver. And the joy of harvest will be all the deeper when it is entertained before God. In harvest homes there should be the religious element continually. If God be forgotten, it is sheer and base ingratitude.
II. IT WAS TYPICAL OF THE PENTECOST OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. The Jews celebrated on this festival the giving of the Law, and the blessings attending it. An interesting parallel may be traced between the Pentecost at Sinai and the Pentecost at Jerusalem.
1. The Jews celebrated the giving of the Law, while we celebrate the proclamation at Pentecost of the gospel. We have here a parallel and also a contrast. The gospel is the Law magnified and delivered as love.
2. The Jews received the Law as the rule of life after their deliverance through the Paschal sacrifice, as we receive the message of love on the foundation of Christ our Passover sacrificed fifty days before.
3. There were wonderful works attending both the Pentecosts: the fearful thunderings and lightnings at Sinai, and the rushing mighty wind and fire in the upper room at Jerusalem; the sound of the trumpet at Sinai, the sound of the gospel in many languages at Jerusalem.
4. There were important effects following both Pentecosts: thus the fear of the Israelites at Sinai, and the conviction of sin at Jerusalem; the separation and ceremonial at Sinai, Moses being constituted mediator, and the fellowship resulting at Jerusalem, when the three thousand were added unto the Church.
III. SYSTEMATIC BENEFICENCE WAS FOSTERED BY THE FESTIVAL. In giving to God "according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee," servants, Levites, strangers, and the widow and fatherless are sure to be considered. This was the case too after Pentecost. The Christian commune was tried, which was a mighty though unsuccessful effort of beneficence. This law of beneficence must be obeyed by all Christian men.—R.M.E.
The Feast of Tabernacles-life a tented state.
This was the third great festival, and it was after all the harvest and vintage had been gathered home. It was celebrated in the seventh month, from the fifteenth day to the twenty-second. It is also noticeable that it began five days after the great Day of Atonement, which was on the tenth day of this same seventh month. Sin pardoned, and the harvest saved, these were surely twin blessings at which poor sinners might well rejoice.
I. THE FESTIVAL WAS TO REMIND THE ISRAELITES OF THE PILGRIMAGE IN THE WILDERNESS. Their settling in Canaan was not to blot out the memory of their previous pilgrimage, and how they dwelt with God in tents. The same danger threatens God's children still. This world gets so settled and home-like that we forget the pilgrimage which life is meant by God to be. We need the exhortation of Peter, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
II. THE FESTIVAL WAS TO BE A JOYOUS ONE. It would be joyous on three accounts:
(1) because of the ingathered harvest;
(2) because of the complete atonement so recently past;
(3) because of the time of year, the glorious October of Palestine.
Hence the festival would be virtually a tenting out in the pleasantest time of the year, with minds delivered from all anxiety and fear.
And this is to indicate the high-water mark of Christian experience. We are living below our privileges if we are not rejoicing in God's providential goodness, and in his atoning grace, and in his beautiful world. "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
III. THE FESTIVAL FOSTERED HOPE. For if life as it now is should be regarded as a pilgrimage, an unsettled state, then each time we are reminded of this we learn to look for a better condition and more permanent abode. If I am reminded that I dwell in a tent of flesh, easily taken down, I learn to hope for the building of God, the "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens' (2 Corinthians 5:1).
"A while on earth we roam
In these frail houses which are not our home,
Journeying towards a refuge that is sure,—
A rest secure.
"For in our Father's house
A mansion fair he has prepared for us;
And only till his voice shall call us hence
We dwell in tents."
IV. THE FESTIVAL FOSTERED FORETHOUGHT AND THRIFT. It had all the wholesome effect on them which an annual picnic has upon working people. They look forward to it and make preparation for it. Now, these festivals at the center of the national worship were to be joyful and liberal times. They were not to appear empty-handed before the Lord. They were to be able to give at his altar and be hospitable as they had opportunity. Hence the festival cultivated thrifty habits in order to be openhanded when the glad day came. So should religion make us all!—R.M.E.
We have here the election of judges or magistrates laid down as a duty. In the election they are to secure impartial and incorruptible men. A bribe is not to be thought of by the judges—nor are they to respect persons. And here let us notice—
I. THAT ALL JUDGMENT AMONG MEN IS THE FORESHADOWING OF A DIVINE JUDGMENT AT THE LAST. We live under a moral Governor who has not yet delivered final judgment upon his creatures. That final review of life is naturally expected from the imperfect justice of the world. Men in their judgments can at best only approximate to what will be the Divine decision.
II. GOD DEMANDS IMPARTIAL JUDGES FROM HIS PEOPLE BECAUSE HE IS THE IMPARTIAL JUDGE HIMSELF. The impartiality of God's administration will be vindicated at last. All seeming violations of the principle will be exhibited in their true light. For instance, God's plan of salvation is the very essence of impartiality, since it proposes to save men without regard to any personal consideration, as a matter of free grace alone. Whosoever takes exception to this is taking exception to the Divine impartiality.
Again, in providence we shall doubtless find that, by a series of compensations and of drawbacks, each person's lot in life is impartially and graciously ordered. The "favorites of fortune" find some drop of bitterness in their cup, and the sweetness is more apparent than real.
III. MEN NEED NOT TRY TO BRIBE GOD, HOWEVER THEY MAY SUCCEED WITH MEN. For although this may seem a strong way of putting it, it is nevertheless the attempt that sinners thoughtlessly make. For instance, when an anxious soul thinks that a certain amount of conviction of sin, a certain amount of penitence, a certain amount of frames and feelings, will secure acceptance and peace, he is proposing to bribe God. It is as if an insane person tried to corrupt a judge on the bench by the present of a bundle of rags—"all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." God will take no bribe. He will accept no man's person. Unless we give up the idea of personal claim and personal fitness for his reception of us, we cannot be accepted.
IV. WE MAY EXPECT AN IMPARTIAL JUDGMENT AT THE LAST. It is Jesus who is to sit on the throne when the appeal cases from the injustice of earth to the justice of heaven are heard. He knows our cases so thoroughly that he cannot, as he would not, err. All wrongs shall then be righted; all unfair advantage taken shall then be condemned. "Behold, the judge standeth at the door"' Let us see to it that we learn of him impartiality, and men shall regard us as truly Godlike in our dealings with them!—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
The Passover a memorial and a prophecy.
In a singular and a miraculous manner, the national existence of the Hebrews had commenced. God had signally interposed as their Champion, in a way altogether unparalleled. Without question, it was an event pregnant with vast issues to the history of mankind. Every opportunity was afforded Pharaoh to escape from destruction. The host of God, composed of natural forces and invisible powers, enclosed him gradually within narrower and narrower bounds, until the king himself was captured and destroyed. This was a conspicuous step in the development of the redemptive scheme. In that night of destruction the elect nation was born.
I. EMANCIPATION OF NATIONAL LIFE FROM BONDAGE IS A FIT SUBJECT FOR YEARLY COMMEMORATION. It is God's will that such commemoration should be observed, and be observed in a most religious spirit. The effect of such commemoration upon the minds of the people would be most beneficial. The nation is but a collection of units; and as every unit had shared in the boon, so every unit should partake in the acknowledgment. It is a sin when we forget our participation in national blessings. Our pious example will be a benign stimulus to others.
II. GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION SHOULD PERPETUATE ALL THE METHODS AND INCIDENTS OF THE DIVINE DELIVERANCE.
1. Life had to be sacrificed in order to obtain that redemption. It was, in the most proper sense, a redemption. They had belonged to God; a usurper had despoiled God of his right; hence, the people had to be "bought back." Natural agencies had been employed to soften Pharaoh's heart; but in vain. Nothing short of the death of the firstborn sufficed to procure deliverance. Therefore the commemoration of the event fitly included the sacrifice of the lamb.
2. The release had been with haste. This incident was deserving of commemoration. So urgent was Pharaoh's desire that they should depart, that they had not time to bake their daily ration of bread; hence the yearly commemoration was to be with "bread unleavened." Bodily appetites must be forgotten when the golden moment of emancipation dawns.
3. The sense of obligation should be deep and abiding. On this account, the commemoration was appointed to extend over seven days. Gladness was to be tempered with self-denial and pain.
III. GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION TAKES THE FORM OF DEEDS AND SELF-SACRIFICES. The gratitude that contents itself with words is cheap and shallow. God delights to hear the language of deeds. This is the real language of the heart. It feels the pain of restraint and disappointment, if it may not bring some visible expression of its love or perform some service for its friend. In the case of the Hebrews, long journeys had to be undertaken, lambs had to be slain, much time had to be devoted to the sacred festival. Yet all this was performed with radiant gladness.
IV. THE COMMEMORATION OF THE PASSOVER WAS TO BE OBSERVED UNDER THE SOLEMN SANCTIONS OF RELIGION. Under the theocratic government, every public act was baptized at the fountain of religion. Religion was not simply a particular department of the State: it was a spirit of heaven that ennobled and beautified every public deed. The Paschal lamb might not be slain anywhere, it must be slain at the temple gate. It was an offering made to God, and God at once returned it, with added blessing to the offerer. Thus, year by year, they professed that their emancipation was a gift from God, that national life and earthly home and prospective hope came from the goodness of God.
V. NATIONAL EMANCIPATION WAS A PROPHECY OF THE WORLD'S REDEMPTION. A man is a type of a nation; a nation is a type of the world. What God has done for a nation, he is prepared to do (if need be) for the race. We too are under bondage, in the grasp of a mightier tyrant than Pharaoh. "Christ our Passover is for us slain." From all on whom is the effectual mark of Messiah's blood, doom is removed. "They shall never perish." Their destiny is the heavenly Canaan—the new Jerusalem. We too have our Paschal feast—the Eucharist. As the deliverance of the earthly Israel was complete, "not a hoof was left behind," so Christ Jesus shall eventually be Victor over all his foes. Redemption of the true Israel is in progress.—D.
The Feasts of Weeks and of Tabernacles.
For the moral improvement of the Hebrews, it was desirable to keep alive among them the recollection of their early history. Prior to the invention of printing, and when written records would be scarce, memory and affection and conscience were impressed by the annual festivals. The Passover commemorated the national birth; the Feast of Tabernacles commemorated the tent life of the desert. The joys of harvest and of vintage were things unknown in the wilderness.
I. MATERIAL BLESSINGS AFFORD PREGNANT REASONS FOR RELIGIOUS JOY, A frequent effect upon the mind of some large influx of wealth is to produce a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. The very event which ought, most of all, to lead men's thoughts up to God, leads to self-gratulation and self-trust. Now present need is met. We have stores of abundance. We can say to ourselves, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." Therefore we must counteract this tendency. In very kindness to men's souls, God ordained this festival. He would have us to look from the gift to the Giver. It is his will that we should rejoice abundantly, but that our joy should be religious joy—a joy consecrated at the temple gate.
II. THE FESTIVE SEASONS ARE FIXED ACCORDING TO A RELIGIOUS MEASUREMENT. (Deuteronomy 16:9.) The year is a measurement of time fixed by a natural cycle. So also is the month, so also the day. But there is nothing in nature that marks the commencement and the close of the week. This is a measurement specially ordained of God. The visible universe is not the whole of existence. Another voice breaks upon the ear, softer than the music of nature, and more full of authority than the voice of Caesar—a voice which makes a new boundary in time, and bids us to count our days by sevens.
III. RECEIVING SHOULD PROMPT US TO A PROPORTIONATE GIVING. (Deuteronomy 16:10.) The gift to be brought to the temple is not specified. It might be a gift of corn, or of fruit, or of wine, or of money. The form of the gift was left to the option of the husbandman; but some tribute was required, and the amount must be proportionate to the abundance of his crops. If plain and imperative law could make the Jews generous-hearted, God did his utmost to cultivate in them this excellence. Avarice was scouted by Divine Law.
IV. RELIGIOUS JOY SHOULD BE DIFFUSIVE. This giving to God was to be an act of gladness. It was not allowed to be with grudging or with gloom (Deuteronomy 16:11). God had no personal need for these material presents. They were expended at once in new blessing and joy. Not only was the household to share in the festive gladness, in the banquet and the song; but the servant, the stranger, the poor Levite, the widow, and the orphan also. God's copious goodness in the harvest was designed to enlarge all narrow affections, and to thaw, in streams of kindness, all frozen sympathies. At such a season, they were reminded that they were not proprietors of anything, but put in offices of trust as the stewards of God.
V. A SENSE OF OBLIGATION SHOULD INSPIRE OBEDIENCE. (Deuteronomy 16:12.) The hour of prosperity is the hour of reflection. By the law of associated ideas, the contrast is suggested. The mind, free from the pressure of care, retraces the past. We think of the "rock whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit whence we were digged." The recollection of our lowly origin—the dust of the ground—ought to affect us tenderly; and our sense of devout obligation should stimulate new and larger obedience. If I owe so much to God, what can I otherwise do than keep his commandments with mind and heart and soul? Complete obedience is a dictate of earliest intelligence.—D.
The administration of justice.
True religion is related to true morality as the parent is related to the child. God cares as much that right dispositions should prevail between man and man as between man and God. By an eternal decree, religion and morality have been conjoined, and no man can put them asunder. He that loves God will love his brother also.
I. THE ADMINISTRATION OF SOCIAL JUSTICE IS ENTRUSTED TO IMPERFECT MEN. The laws of the Jews were framed in heaven, and were conveyed to men by the mediation of angels, but the administration and execution of these laws were imposed on men selected from among themselves. What men cannot do God will do for them; what men can do for themselves, God requires them to accomplish. This administration of Divine Law by men was a magnificent training for higher once. In the best sense, God desires that men "should be as gods." By handling the affairs of justice, they would best grow in the understanding of the Divine government.
II. EVERY TOWN WAS A TYPE OF THE WHOLE KINGDOM. Magistrates were to be appointed in every community, who should be kings in their sphere of jurisdiction. Such magistrates were the people's choice, and thus they were initiated into the art of self-government. Justice well administered in every town would secure the order and well-being of the nation. The burden of governing the whole nation would thus be reduced to a thousand infinitesimal burdens—each one easily to be borne. Duty well done in every individual sphere would make the world happy and prosperous.
III. THE SACRED INTERESTS OF JUSTICE OUTWEIGH ALL PERSONAL CONSIDERATIONS. Gifts from friends are not to be despised; but if they have the feeblest tendency to weaken our sense of right or to bring discredit on public justice, they must be declined. If a man accepts the office of a ruler, he must be prepared to forego many private advantages and pleasures. He is the steward of public interests—the servant of justice. He is no longer his own master. Personal friendships must be forgotten in the judicial court. No regard must be had to any other interest save the interest of righteousness. One thing the magistrate must do, and one only; he must be the mouthpiece of eternal righteousness. He may err, but he must be honest. Simple integrity of purpose is the chief qualification to rule. He who candidly desires to do right will be guided by an unerring hand.
IV. THE CAUSE OF PUBLIC JUSTICE IS SERVED BY PUBLICITY. The administration of justice was to be in the gate—in the place of public concourse. From the free conflict of public opinion sparks of truth will be elicited. So weak and vacillating is ofttimes human purpose, that the blaze of mortal eyes is needed to keep that purpose steadfast. This mode of administering justice had also a deterrent influence on the immature and the vile; it educated the public conscience.
V. JUSTICE HONESTLY ADMINISTERED SECURES NATIONAL PROSPERITY. It is the lesson of universal history that official injustice loosens all the bonds of society, and brings a kingdom into utter ruin. Men will patiently tolerate many abuses of power, but the public abuse of justice quickly brings deadly retribution. On the other hand, an honest and prompt administration of righteous law is the seed of order, content, and mutual confidence. It gives a sense of security; it fosters patriotism; it develops courage; it brings the smile and benediction of God.—D.
Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:22
The pathways to temptation to be shunned.
A rash and hare-brained pilot may venture as near as he can to a sunken reef, but a wise captain will prefer plenty of sea-room. It is no proof of wisdom to tamper with temptation. One cannot handle pitch without being defiled.
I. GOD WISHES TO IMPART TO MEN HIS OWN FEELING TOWARDS IDOLATRY. (Deuteronomy 16:22.) To be like God is the summit of every good man's ambition. This is God's intention also. But the attainment can only gradually be made. We must have God's thoughts rooted in us; we must cultivate similar feelings; we must cherish similar purposes or we cannot be like him in character. Idolatry corrupts the soul and generates death. To know and worship God leads up to richest life.
II. EXTERNAL AIDS TO IDOLATRY MUST BE CAREFULLY AVOIDED. A stone which is a stumbling-block to a child has no peril for a strong man; for the sake of the young and the weak, the stone should be taken out of the way. It is wise and noble to abstain from self-indulgences which will imperil the piety of others. A shady grove would be pleasant enough for worshippers in the scorching climate of the East; nevertheless, if it shall tend in the least measure to lure the ignorant into idolatry, we will forego the pleasure. This is Godlike, to deny self in order to bless others. If umbrageous groves make my weak brother to offend, I will endure the noontide heat so long as life shall last. Our mental tastes, our love of the beautiful, our desire for pleasure,—all must give way to honest endeavor for the moral elevation of the race.
III. GOD'S FATHERLY KINDNESS IS EXPRESSED IN THESE PLAIN PRECEPTS. We might reach these wise maxims as reasonable deductions from moral principles; yet they come to us clothed with irresistible authority, when they appear as the revealed will of God, A twofold light blends to point out the path of human conduct, viz. the light of conscience and the light of Scripture; yet these twin rays emanate from the selfsame sun.—D.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25