Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 23:1-3Genesis 2:2, 3; Exodus 16:22; Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:23-28; Revelation 1:10. In the sacrificial worship we come across what is essentially different as an offering from the sacrifice of an animal or of any palpable possession, and yet is a real sacrifice all the while - we mean that of time. The sabbath, as an offering of rest, has consequently a very high place among the Jews. As Ewald has remarked, it is the only sacrifice which finds a place among the ten commandments. No wonder he regards it as "the greatest and most prolific thought" in the Jewish religion. And here let us notice -
I. THE HIGH VALUE MAN USUALLY SETS ON HIS TIME. It is indeed said to be money. Many will make almost any other sacrifice more willingly than that of their tinge. They will give money, valuables, almost anything you like to ask, except their precious time. What a fuss made about an evening devoted to you by a busy friend, or half an evening, or sometimes half an hour! Hence, in demanding from man a proportion of his time, God asks for what man esteems highly and is loth to give. Time is regarded as so peculiarly man's own, to do what he likes in, that it becomes no light sacrifice, but rather the crown of all sacrifices, when a considerable portion of time is made over unto God.
II. THE DEMAND GOD MAKES IS IN MAN'S INTEREST, FOR IT IS FOR REST AFTER LABOUR. Six days of work, and then, saith God, one day of rest. The body needs it. Seven days' unceasing toil would soon take the heart out of all workers, and bring on premature decay. God himself has set the example. After the untold labours of the creation, after the hard work - if we may reverently use such terms of God - of the creative periods, he has entered into the long sabbath of human history. He is in the midst of it now. This is implied by the words of Jesus, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17), in their connection. And so a restful Father in heaven calls upon his toiling children upon earth to rest, as he has done, one day out of seven, and not sink through unceasing labour. So consonant is this weekly rest with the laws of our physical nature, that some, who do not see clearly the scriptural proof and obligation of a holy day, believe that it might safely be allowed to rest upon the foundation of physical need. But the needs of others, alas! constitute no sufficient sanction with selfish men. God must speak and make his demand, else men will run counter to their general welfare in their self-indulgence.
III. GOD'S REST IS TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY SOCIAL WORSHIP. Man is not to spend his seventh day in inactivity. He is not to loiter about his tent or gossip at its door all the day. There is to be "an holy convocation" (מִקְרָאאּקֹדֶשׁ). The day is to be celebrated by social worship. The people were expected to gather in their thousands to praise the Lord. Were it not for such a regulation as the sabbath, with its public services, even Judaism could not have survived. The same reason still holds for a holy sabbath. In the interests of religion it must be observed. What would become of our holy religion if a set time for its weekly observance were not generally kept? Men need these "trysting times" and "trysting places" (as מועְרֵי, in verse 2, might very properly be translated), that religion may keep its position among us. We may imagine what our land 'would be if no Lord's day were kept, if no sabbath bells summoned people to public prayer, and no preachers got their weekly opportunities. It would soon be an irreligious land, carelessness and indifference reigning throughout it in a measure infinitely greater than they do even now.
IV. THE DAY OF REST IS TO BE REGARDED AS THE LORD'S. "It is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." The Jew regarded the sabbath as "the Lord's day." It was the day of the week that God regulated, and all whose hours he claimed as his. We claim as much for "the first day of the week" under our dispensation. We ask men to lay the day as a hearty offering on God's altar. They are not doing so while they spend it as they like. It is to be a holy day, not a holiday; a holy day, and therefore to a holy soul a happy day, the day in which we can rejoice and be glad. When we can say with John, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day," we are sure to have most precious visions of the Lord's beauty and glory (cf. Revelation 1:10, etc.). It is no contention, therefore, about something Jewish, but simply about something honestly dedicated as a day to God. Those who contend against the strict observance of the Lord's day either labour under a total misapprehension about the way some people spend it, or are really bent upon devoting the day to their own purposes instead of to God's. If we are commonly honest, we shall esteem it only right to surrender as the highest offering of our religious life the seventh of our time to him who deserves it all. Man, then, says Ewald, "shall release his soul and body from all their burdens, with all the professions and pursuits of ordinary life, only in order to gather himself together again in God with greater purity and fewer disturbing elements, and renew in him the might of his own better powers. If, then, the interchange of activity and rest is already founded in the nature of all creation, and is the more beneficial and health-bringing the more regular its recurrence, so should it be found here too; yet not as when, in the night and in sleep, the body is cared for, but as when, in a joyous day of unfettered meditation, the spiritual man always finds his true rest, and thereby is indeed renewed and strengthened." - R.M.E.
I. THE OBLIGATION OF THE SABBATH.
1. It is not altogether a Mosaic institution.
(1) Its original enactment took place at the close of the creation week. The words are these (see Genesis 2:1-3).
(2) It was, therefore, an Adamic law, and was obligatory upon mankind at large more than twenty centuries before the Israelites had an existence,
(3) It was by the Israelites themselves recognized as a patriarchal law. For, in the wilderness of Sin, probably three months before they were fully constituted into a nation by receiving their own Law at Sinai, the double portion of manna which they gathered on the sixth day had respect to the sabbath to follow on the seventh (see Exodus 16:22-30).
2. It was incorporated in the Sinai code.
(1) It formed the fourth commandment of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:8-11). But even here it is introduced with the word "Remember," as a law already known to exist. The reason for its observance also is that given at the original institution.
(2) As a Levitical law, however, it has an additional reason, viz. the deliverance of the children of Israel from the cruel servitude in Egypt, where they could not enjoy the rest of the ancient institution (Deuteronomy 5:15; see also Hebrews 4:8, margin).
3. The Levitical law of the sabbath is repealed.
(1) The body is of Christ, who fulfilled the type of the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt in emancipating us from the bondage of sin.
(2) The Levitical penalty of death for the transgression of the Law is, of course, removed with the obligation of the Law itself.
4. But the Adamic law remains.
(1) As Gentiles, we were never under the Levitical Law. The institution of the Levitical sabbath, or the incorporation of the patriarchal sabbath in the Mosaic code, left us still where we were, under the Adamic law.
(2) And as the enactment of the Mosaic Law, which mainly concerned the Hebrew people and their land, left us where we were, so do we remain there after the abrogation of the Mosaic Law.
(3) But what effect has that abrogation upon the Hebrew? It leaves him where he was before the publication of his Law, viz. in common with mankind at large, still under obligation to observe and keep the sabbath of the Adamic law.
(4) This reasoning is equally good, whether we identify the sabbatic law as set out in the Decalogue with the Adamic law on the one hand, or with the Levitical on the other.
II. HOW IT SHOULD BE KEPT. It should be kept:
1. As a day of rest from business.
(1) The idea of rest is expressed in its name. It was the most obvious idea in the injunction from the beginning. God hallowed it, or separated it from the six days of the week, because on the seventh day he rested from the work of the creation.
(2) The rest of God does not imply that he was weary from his work, but that he ceased from the action of creating. This is the import of the word (וישבות). The teaching is that God so constituted his creation that his active creatures need a hebdomadal pause or rest.
(3) To ensure this to them he mercifully constituted it into a law. He foresaw that otherwise it would be refused under the influence of cupidity, avarice, tyranny, and stupidity.
2. As a day of holy convocation.
(1) Rest being secured from the toil of business, the activities of the soul have now to be turned into another course. Change really constitutes the rest of an essentially active nature. So the rest of God from creation is his work in providence and redemption. This our Lord taught us when he said, "My Father worketh hitherto," or until now (ἕως ἄρτι) (John 5:16, 17; comp. Psalm 31:19).
(2) That change which is the greatest from the activities of business is communion with God in his worship and service. This seems to have constituted the blessing of the seventh day, for on that day God visited his children in Eden. Ever since it has been the season sacred to religious services.
(3) Men must not be diverted from this noblest of pursuits by seeking their own pleasure on the sabbath day (Isaiah 58:13).
3. As a day of prophetic anticipation.
(1) Barnabas (in his Epistolae, cap. 15.) puts this subject thus: Attend, my children, to what he say 'finished in six days ' - that is to say, in six thousand years the Lord God will consummate all things, for with him the day is a thousand years, as he himself testifies, saying, 'Behold, this day shall be as a thousand years.' Therefore, children, in six days - that is, in six thousand years - all things shall be consummated. And he rested the seventh day, that is, when his Son shall come and make an end of the time of the wicked one, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun, and moon, and stars; then shall he rest gloriously in the seventh day."
(2) These views seem to be in harmony with the sacred calendar of prophecy. And Paul in particular refers to the "sabbath-keeping which remaineth for the people of God" (Hebrews 4). - J.A.M.
the sabbath. The three features of it are: the convocation; the rest from all work; the sabbath of the Lord in their dwellings.
I. THE PUBLIC WORSHIP of God is the main reason for the sabbath. "Holy convocation." Necessity that one day should be appointed. Importance of preserving that day of worship from distraction and disturbance. Influence of public worship on the general interests of religion, and therefore on the individual, community, and the world at large.
II. REST. "Ye shall do no work." The physical necessity of an interval of rest. The moral importance of giving opportunity to the higher powers of the nation for free development. The reaction of the sabbath on the working capacity, both by physical recuperation and moral strength. The difference between God's Law and t e gospel of work" preached by many. The secularist empties life of its dignity and glory, and at last sacrifices it to the Molech of this world's necessities and pleasures.
III. The sabbath of God is a SABBATH IN OUR DWELLINGS. Religion sanctifies home life and family affection. Rest in the house of God is rest in the house of man. The law of religion shields all life from injury, and cherishes the glad and happy in the midst of the laborious and troublesome. We should take care that the sabbath at home is both rest and worship, that it is not spent in idleness or even self-gratification, but, being given to God, becomes the more really our own - not by slavish regulation of the horn's, but by the spirit of worship pervading all our surroundings and employments. The sanctuary and the home open into one another. - R.
I. ITS ORIGIN IN EARLIEST HUMAN HISTORY. "The seventh day is the sabbath of rest" (see Genesis 2:2, 3).
II. THE SPECIAL OBLIGATION RESTING ON ISRAEL, AS A REDEEMED PEOPLE, TO OBSERVE IT. "The Lord thy God brought thee out thence... therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15). We, also, as those redeemed at far greater cost, may feel ourselves on this ground constrained to observe it.
III. ITS PLACE IN THE PROPHETIC TESTIMONY. It is deeply significant that the prophets, who were the rebukers of mere ritualism and the advocates of the moral and spiritual elements in religion, should have given so high a place as they did to the observance of the sabbath (see Isaiah 1:10-15, comp. with Isaiah 56:2 and Isaiah 58:13, 14).
IV. ITS CHRISTIAN ASPECT.
1. It commemorates the greatest fact in human history the resurrection of our Lord. The crowning act of redemption is more to us than the crowning act of creation.
2. Its obligation rests not on any one positive precept, but on the known will of Christ.
3. It meets the two great wants of man - his bodily and his spiritual requirements.
4. It is to be observed:
(1) in the Church, - it is to be "an holy convocation;"
(2) in the home, - "in all your dwellings." As individual souls we shall seek to honour our Lord and gain access of spiritual strength in the sanctuary; as parents we shall do our best to make the sabbath a holy, happy, welcome day to the children in our homes. - C.
Leviticus 23:4-8Exodus 12; also 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8. In addition to the weekly "offering of rest," there were emphasized offerings of a similar character at select seasons throughout the Jewish year. These were to bring to remembrance great national deliverances, or to celebrate the blessings with which Jehovah crowned the year. The first of these feasts was the Passover. It was to celebrate the deliverance preceding the Exodus. It began with a holy convocation; there was then a week of complete freedom from leaven; and then a holy convocation completed the special observances. Burnt offerings were also presented of a special character every day of the holy week. The following line of thought is suggested by this feast.
I. THE WHOLE POPULATION IN EGYPT WAS EXPOSED TO A COMMON DANGER. It is evident from the narrative that the destroying angel might justly have carried death into every house, and that it was only the special arrangement which prevented his doing so. For though a difference was made between the Egyptians and the Israelites, it had its reason and its root in God's sovereign grace. The Israelites may not have carried their enmity to God with so high a hand as the Egyptians, yet their pilgrimage demonstrated that the hostility was there. The judgment on the firstborn was consequently only a sample of what all deserved. Unless we begin with the truth that "there is no difference," for "all have sinned and come short of God's glory," we are likely to underestimate the grace which maketh us afterwards to differ. We are not, properly speaking, in a state of probation, but in a state either of condemnation or of salvation. "He that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18); "he that believeth is not condemned." When we start with the idea that we are really culprits and condemned already, we are stirred up to lay hold by faith of the deliverance. How we reach the blessed condition, "There is therefore now no condemnation," is beautifully symbolized by the Passover. For -
II. GOD'S PLAN OF DELIVERANCE WAS THROUGH THE SPRINKLING OF BLOOD. Each Israelite was directed to take a lamb and slay it, and sprinkle on the doorpost and lintel, with a hyssop branch, its blood. The destroying angel respected the sprinkled blood, and passed over the houses on which it appeared. Here was God's plan, by the sacrifice of the life of an innocent substitute to secure the remission of the sins of his people. And need I say that the Paschal lamb was one of the most beautiful types of Jesus? He, as our Passover, was "sacrificed for us' (1 Corinthians 5:7). It is through his blood we have remission. His life, laid down in payment of the penalty, secures our just release. The destroying angel passes over all who are under the shelter of Christ's blood.
III. THE PASCHAL LAMB WAS TO AFFORD LIFE AS WELL AS SECURE DELIVERANCE. Roasted with fire, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, it was to be eaten by all the delivered ones. Within the blood-protected houses they stood and partook of a wholesome meal. It entered into their physical constitution, and strengthened them to begin their journey. In the same way does Jesus Christ sustain all who trust in him. He becomes oar Life. He strengthens us for our wilderness journey. The Exodus from Egypt becomes easy through his imputed strength. And so our Lord spoke not only of eating his flesh, but even of drinking his blood (John 6:54), and so receiving his eternal life. Not more surely does vital power come to the body through the digestion of food than does spiritual power come to the soul through partaking by faith of Jesus Christ. We are not only saved from wrath through him, but sustained by his life.
IV. THE PASSOVER WAS THE DATE OF A NEW LIFE. An Exodus began with the first Passover, succeeded by a wilderness journey; and every succeeding Passover preceded a week of feasting on unleavened bread. Thus was a new and heroic life regarded as dating from the Passover. Hence the Lord changed the year at its institution, and made it the beginning of months with his people. The same is experienced by believers. Unless our salvation by Christ's blood is succeeded by pure living and the putting away of "the leaven of malice and wickedness" (1 Corinthians 5:8), we are only deceiving ourselves by supposing we are saved. Our salvation is with a view to our pilgrimage and purity. Therefore we must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread as well as celebrate the Passover. It will not do to accept of salvation as an "indulgence." God makes no arrangement for impunity in sin. The death of the Lamb shows plainly that under God's government no sin will go unpunished. To purity we are consequently called as part and parcel of a Divine salvation. - R.M.E.
Exodus 12. That the Passover was a type of Christ is evident (see 1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
I. THE LAMB TYPIFIED HIS PERSON. (John 1:36.)
1. It was taken from the flock (Exodus 12:9).
(1) As it had been one with the flock, so was Jesus one with us. His humanity was no phantom, but a reality.
(2) What an honour is conferred upon us, that the God of glory should stoop to assume our nature, to become "bone of our bone"! Let us not dishonour ourselves by sinning against such grace.
2. It was a male of the first year.
(1) This was ordered because the male is the stronger animal, and was viewed as an emblem of excellence. Christ amongst men is the most excellent; "the fairest amongst ten thousand."
(2) Hence he is distinguished as "The Son of David," as "The Seed of Abraham," as "The Son of man." David had many sons, but in comparison with him they were nowhere; so he is the Son of David, the one glorious descendant who throws all others into the shade. So with the seed of Abraham. So with the sons of Adam. In the whole race there is no one to compare with him.
3. It was without blemish.
(1) The blemishes that would disqualify a Paschal lamb were physical, and so, abstractedly considered, of little account. But these blemishes were typical of moral evils, and in this view were very important.
(2) But Christ was, in the moral sense, absolutely blemishless. He was unique. Singular, however, not in eccentricity but in transcendent goodness. As under the microscope the works of God are seen to differ essentially from those of men, appearing more variously and wonderfully beautiful as they are more nearly examined under higher powers, so the more minutely Christ is considered the more wonderful and beautiful is he seen to be.
II. ITS SACRIFICE FORESHADOWED HIS PASSION,
1. The lamb suffered vicariously.
(1) When taken from the flock the rest of the flock was spared. So was Jesus chosen that by his suffering his nation and his race might not perish (see John 11:49-53).
(2) The blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts of the houses to avert the wrath of the destroying angel. The firstborn in every house was sacrificed where no vicarious blood appeared. So are we saved from wrath by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ through faith.
(3) Those saved from destruction through the blood of the lamb were immediately led out of Egypt, and set on their way to Canaan. So those justified through the blood of Christ are delivered also from the bondage of corruption, and set on their way to heaven.
2. Remarkable circumstances claim attention.
(1) The lamb was to be "of the first year," i.e., in its prime. So was Christ in the prime of his manhood when he was offered.
(3) "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover" (verse 5). Some think that our Lord, in accordance with the usage of the Karaites, or Seriptiarii, killed and ate the Passover a day earlier than the Pharisees, and that he expired on the cross at the time when the Traditionarii wore employed in killing their Paschal lambs (see Ikenii, 'Dissert. Theolog.,' tom. 2, chapters 9, 10, 11). Be this as it may, the word in the text translated "at even" is literally between the evenings; that is, between the chronological and ecclesiastical, which would be at the "ninth hour," or three p.m. This was the very hour at which Jesus expired (Luke 23:44-46).
(4) It was ordered that no bone of the Paschal lamb should be broken. And whereas the legs of the malefactors were broken, the soldiers, seeing that Jesus was dead already, brake not his legs (see John 19:31-36). Such things could not have been ordered by chance.
III. THE FEAST CORRESPONDED TO THE CHRISTIAN EUCHARIST.
1. The latter was accommodated to the former.
(1) This is evident from the history of the institution. For the cup of the Eucharist Christ used that cup of the Passover, which was called by the Jews the "cup of blessing," and which description Paul applies to the Christian cup (1 Corinthians 10:16). For the bread of the Supper he used that of the Passover (Luke 22:15-20).
(2) So when Paul speaks of Christ as "our Passover sacrificed for us," he adds, "let us keep the feast," meaning, allusively, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and really that which replaces it in the Church.
2. Both are retrospective and anticipative.
(1) The Hebrews commemorated the type, viz. the deliverance from the destroying angel and from Egypt. The Christians commemorate the antitype, viz. the deliverance of souls from the anger of God and from the tyranny of sin.
(2) The Hebrews anticipated their entrance into Canaan. The Christians anticipate the joys of heaven; the new wine of the kingdom.
3. Both are tokens of Church communion.
(1) The Passover was not the rite initiatory into the Church of Israel. Circumcision was that rite. To this, baptism, under the gospel, corresponds, and is therefore called the circumcision of Christianity (Colossians 2:11, 12).
(2) But it was the rite continuative of such communion. Exclusion from the Passover was excommunication under the Law. So is the Eucharist the sign amongst Christians of a continued Church communion. "On the morrow after the sabbath," viz. of the Paschal week, the sheaf of the firstfruits was waved before the Lord (verses 10, 11). This was a type of Christ in his resurrection as the Firstfruits of the great harvest (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23). But when Christ died, the sabbath of the Paschal week happened upon the day in which he lay in the tomb (comp. John 19:31; Luke 6:1). Thus the morrow after this sabbath was precisely that first day of the week on which our Lord arose (Mark 16:9). How strengthening to faith are all these correspondences! - J.A.M.
I. THE SPECIAL SCENE WHICH THIS FEAST COMMEMORATED, AND THE INFLUENCE IT WAS FITTED TO EXERT. What a night in Hebrew history that night of the Lord's Passover! What false confidence in every Egyptian, what agitated hearts and trembling hopes in every Hebrew, home! With what solemn awe, and yet with what thrilling expectation, did their forefathers in the land of bondage partake of that strange meal! With what eager carefulness did they see that the saving blood-stream marked the lintels of the door which would shut in their dear ones! And what a morning on the morrow! What joyous congratulations in each Hebrew home when they all met, in life and health, on that memorable march! And what terrible consternation, what wild cries of anguish and remorse in those Egyptian houses where the angel of death had not passed by, but had struck his fearful stroke! It was the hour of Jehovah's most signal interposition; it was the hour of national redemption. They might well remember it "in all their dwellings through all their generations." This festival recalled the scene and also the deliverance to which it immediately led. And the influence on the minds of all who observed it, both parents and children, was, or surely should have been:
1. To strengthen their attachment to one another. There was danger, with the distribution into tribes, and with the Jordan cutting off two tribes and a half from the rest, that their national unity might be lost, and thus the distinctiveness for which they were called into being disappear. These common, sacred memories would help to bind them together and to keep them one.
2. To preserve their allegiance to their Divine Deliverer. These sacred recollections must excite
(1) a sense of deepest obligation;
(2) a corresponding feeling of profound gratitude for such signal mercy;
(3) a consequent renewal of their consecration of themselves to Jehovah's service; and especially
(4) a determination to live that life of purity and separateness from heathen iniquity of which the "unleavencd bread" spoke daily to their minds.
II. NATIONAL MERCIES WHICH WE HAVE RECEIVED FROM GOD AND THE INFLUENCE THESE SHOULD EXERT ON US. We are apt to celebrate the greatness of our country with too little reference in our minds to the special favours we have received from God. The separation, through geological processes, of our land from the continent; the store of treasure laid up for our use beneath the surface; the mingling of races resulting in our strong English character; the upraising of mighty and godly men (Alfred, Wickliffe, Tindale, Wesley, etc.), who have wrought great things for us; the effectual and lasting deliverance of our land from the bonds and corruptions of Rome; the security of religious freedom; the rise and growth of the missionary and, subsequently, the evangelistic spirit, etc. These things and such things as these are national mercies; which we should frequently recall, and, remembering them, we should
(1) guard against national boastfulness, as if our "right hand" had done everything;
(2) cultivate a sense of national obligation, with its accompaniment of reverent gratitude; and especially
(3) realize that we are what we are in order that we may bear witness to God's truth, and extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
III. SPECIAL INDIVIDUAL MERCIES WE HAVE RECEIVED AND THE INFLUENCE WE SHOULD GAIN FROM THEIR REMEMBRANCE. Every human life, when it has reached maturity, contains instances of special as well as ordinary loving-kindness from the hand of God. These may be
(1) recovery from dangerous illness; or
(2) extrication from financial embarrassment; or
(3) preservation of some precious life; or
(4) deliverance from forming a foolish and fatal friendship, or from the perils attending compulsory association with the wicked; or
(5) sense, suddenly or gradually imparted, of the supremacy of sacred things resulting in the acceptance of Christ as Lord and Saviour; or
(6) revival from spiritual sloth and backsliding. The remembrance of these calls for
(3) consecration. - C.
I. All true life resting on the true beginning of peace and rest in the offering up of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world.
II. All true holiness, bread without leaven, pure fruits of man's labour, offered to God, springs out of faith. Morality is an outcome of religion. Reconciliation with God is the beginning of the consecrated life.
III. The Passover, a national celebration, set forth the true strength of the national life, as the life of God in the nation. The world can be renovated only as it is regarded as a world redeemed. Christianity is the only religion adapted to be a universal message to mankind. Hence its catholicity. - R.
I. TRUE RELIGION HAS ITS FESTIVALS. The word rendered "feasts" in the text means "fixed times;" but in verse 6 "feast" is the translation of a word that signifies rejoicing, whose expression is dancing or processions. By their devotion to Jehovah, the Israelites were not to be continually shadowed in gloom, nor deprived of the legitimate mirth that attached even to heathen celebrations. Only they were to be the "feasts of the Lord," in his honour - not to the deification of Baalim or Ashtaroth. "Rejoice in the Lord" is our privilege as Christians, and to realize every privilege is also a duty. It is time that the popular idea were corrected which dissociates a profession of religion from all that savours of high enjoyment.
II. THE CHARACTERISTIC OF A FESTIVAL IS THE GATHERING TOGETHER OF GOD'S PEOPLE. "Convocation" gives the force of the original - it is "a place of calling?" Solitary joy does not constitute a feast of Jehovah. Just as some are prone to neglect private meditation, so do others slight the public communion of saints. The chief promise of the Lord's presence is granted to those "assembling" in his name. We ought to make an effort to attend all the festivals of the Church; we are called to them, and are guilty of disobedience if, without reasonable excuse, we do not respond. Numbers exert an exhilarating influence upon the mind; a large meeting is generally inspiriting to all concerned. The gatherings, sometimes held apart from the tabernacle in accordance with the injunctions of this chapter, developed into the worship of the synagogue, the model of our services upon the Lord's day.
III. HOLINESS IS THE PURPOSE, AND SHOULD BE THE RULING FEATURE, OF THESE GATHERINGS. They are termed "holy" convocations, and are thus distinguished from the wild orgies of heathendom. Neither Roundhead austereness nor Cavalier licentiousness is here designed. Especially should we aim in our modern religious meetings at edification; not indulging to excess in humour and. levity, but preserving decorum whilst rising to intelligent, godly enthusiasm. By such a time of sacred gladness we shall prove the truth of the utterance, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." The apostle intimates (1 Corinthians 11:10) that our behaviour in Church assemblies should be governed by a knowledge of the fact that the angels are spectators. Let our august visitors be treated with respect. So shall these meetings prove preparations for above, for the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, and the innumerable hosts of angels.
IV. THE FESTIVAL INVOLVES ABSTINENCE FROM SERVILE WORK. (See verse 7.) The usual occupations are renounced, and rest, not of indolence, but of spiritual activity, is enjoyed. The good that thereby results to the physical and spiritual frame can hardly be overestimated. Energy and time are not wasted, but improved. It is well that a man should not be always trammeled by the claims of business, but discern that there are other obligations it is incumbent on him to discharge. The chain that never leaves the neck will eat itself into the flesh, and liberty become impossible. If the head be continually bent towards the earth, it will become a matter of utmost difficulty to raise it to behold the heavens. To work at our worldly calling, to minister to the wants of the body, is not the only or the noblest task we are expected to perform; the soul has its rights and needs, and Jehovah his prerogatives.
V. FESTIVAL GATHERINGS ARE OF REGULAR RECURRENCE. "Which ye shall proclaim in their seasons." What is irregularly attended to is liable to be overlooked; what is anticipated can be prepared for. The weekly observance of a day of holy convocation prevents every pretext of forgetfulness and insufficient notice, and reminds us, in addition, of the flight of time. The methodical man parcels out his days; and a regard for order is evident in all the precepts of Scripture. - S.R.A.
Leviticus 23:9-14Proverbs 3:9; 1 Corinthians 15:20. The Feast of the Firstfruits began on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as the fifteenth and sixteenth verses about Pentecost imply. And curiously enough, the sheaf of the firstfruits was to be waved "on the morrow after the sabbaths" that is, on what corresponds to our present "Lord's day." Such a coincidence should not be overlooked, and was manifestly designed. If the Passover speaks of the death of Jesus, the firstfruits are surely intended to speak of his resurrection. The death of the Paschal lamb and the presentation of the firstfruits occupy the same temporal relation as the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Hence we find in this arrangement the following lessons: -
I. THE FIRSTFRUITS HALLOWED THE SUBSEQUENT HARVEST. They were a grateful acknowledgment of God's hand in the harvest, and at the same time the condition of its being properly gathered. As one writer has very properly said, "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. 'And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings' (verse 14). There was, then, you perceive, an imputed uncleanness attached to the harvest before the offering of the firstfruits, 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." Now, it is very plain from this that Christ, the Firstfruits, hallows the subsequent human harvest. The great ingathering of souls depends on the preceding Firstfruits for consecration and acceptance. Thus do we see in symbol that he was "raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25).
II. THE FIRSTFRUITS WERE THE EARNEST OF THE COMING HARVEST, Here was a sample of what was coming and was at hand. It was first ripe, but the rest was on its way. In the very same way, the resurrection of the Saviour is the earnest and pledge of that of his people. Hence Paul says, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Hence we take the risen Saviour as at once the pledge of the resurrection of his people, and the sample of what our resurrection is to be. On the pledge implied by his resurrection we need not dwell. It is clear from 1 Corinthians 15 and from other Scriptures that his resurrection is the sure guarantee of ours. The other thought involved is quite as precious. "Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our body of humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:20, 21). Just as Jesus in his post-resurrection life of forty days on earth showed marvelous superiority to the laws of nature by which these bodies of humiliation are bound, just as he was able on ministries of mercy to pass with the speed of thought from place to place, to enter through barred doors, and vanish like a vapour when he had dispensed his peace, - so do we hope to be possessed of an organ more consonant to the aspirations of our spirits, and better adapted than our present bodies can be to fulfill the purposes of God. The forty days before the ascension of our Saviour afford the insight now needed into the conditions of our future life, when we too are gathered as sheafs that are ripe into the garner above. "We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him." - R.M.E.
I. THE DIVINE FORETHOUGHT. Jehovah
(1) anticipated the religious wants of his people, and made due provision for them. "When ye be come into the land... and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring," etc. (verse 10). God has anticipated our spiritual necessities with every provision in the gospel; there will never arise any necessity for which there is not, in Christ Jesus and his salvation, an adequate supply.
(2) Anticipated their bodily necessities. He was preparing for them corn and wine and oil in the land whither they went. So God is, through all the months between seed-sowing and harvest, "preparing us corn," providing for our nourishment, and also for our enjoyment. His hand of power is ever working (John 5:17) in anticipation of our wants and wishes.
II. HUMAN PIETY IN RESPONSE. The goodness of God, shown to us through all generations, demands intelligent and devout response. We are reminded by the beautiful act of symbolism here enjoined - the presentation of the first sheaf of the harvest unto the Lord (verses 10, 11) - that our responsive piety should show itself in:
1. Conscious dependence on God, the Source of all life and strength; the waving of the firstfruits was a clear acknowledgment that the whole came from him and belonged to him.
2. Gratitude to God, the bountiful Benefactor. Undoubtedly this was to be a principal element in the institution; their hearts were to be filled with thankfulness for the harvest then about to be gathered in. There is not less gratitude due to our gracious God for giving us food as the result, in part, of our own labour, skill, intelligence, and patience; there is, in truth, immeasurably more, for it is the kindest way of doing the kindest thing; it is a way in which he has regard not only to our physical requirements, but also to our moral and spiritual well-being.
3. Fellowship with God. The meat and drink offerings (verse 13) spoke of the fellowship of the worshipper with Jehovah himself. We are, as reconciled children, to have communion with the God whom we love, to rejoice in his presence, to sit down at his table.
4. Consecration to God.
(1) The burnt offering (verse 12) pointed to the dedication of themselves to the Lord; and
(2) the strict injunction of verse 14 intimated that they were to bring to the service of Jehovah the first produce of the fertile land he had given them. This is the culmination of true piety, the
(2) bringing the first and the best we have to his holy service (Proverbs 3:9); laying ourselves and our substance on the altar of our Lord. - C.
I. The consecration of human life and its results to God.
1. As an expression of thankfulness and praise.
2. As an act of faith and hope.
II. TYPICAL view of the firstfruits.
1. Christ the Firstfruits. In the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20). Of humanity as renewed and restored to perfection.
2. The true doctrine of election, the firstfruits the pledge of the harvest. Israel separated from the world for the hope of the world.
3. Individually. Our present life consecrated is a pledge of future glory. We shall reap hereafter the full harvest of redemption. Profession and dedication. The wave offering, "before the Lord" and before his people, in the sanctuary; as a sacrifice; in the covenant. - R.
I. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD AS THE GIVER OF ALL GOOD GIFTS.
1. Here he is recognized as the God of providence, whose kind hand enriches man with the fruits of earth, causing the seed to germinate, and perfecting and ripening it with sun, air, and rain. Israel thus rebuked the folly of surrounding nations, who deified the earth as a personal goddess; and. the conceptions of the modern materialist who refuses to see in nature any trace of an overruling Deity, and of the pantheist who identifies God with his works, may be similarly reproved. And if the blessings received from Providence are to be acknowledged, surely the same argument wilt apply to all the many favours, temporal and spiritual, that stream upon us as the children of God. In fact, what have we of intellectual, physical, or propertied endowment that did not proceed from him?
2. Recognized by the congregation as a whole. Family, corporate, national religion is distinct in a sense from individual worship, and God may honour the one as such apart from the particular merits of the other. The entire body ought, however, to resemble the component units; otherwise there is felt to be an incongruity that mocks the Being whom we intend to magnify. The Americans have shown that, apart from what is called State religion, there may be hearty national recognition of God.
3. The general does not exclude the personal acknowledgment of God's goodness. In chapter Leviticus 2:14 are found regulations respecting the presentation of free-will individual firstfruit offerings. The service of the sanctuary should stimulate and not serve as a substitute for private prayer and praise. Let the congregational dedication be seconded by a personal self-surrender to the glory of God.
II. THE METHOD OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
1. An offering brought to the Lord, viz. a sheaf of barley, which is "waved" by the priest, the symbolical act indicative of surrender of property to God. By returning a portion of what was originally bestowed, God's proprietorship and man's stewardship are signified in fitting manner. Each Church and family should pay its tithe to the Lord, separating some of its members to religious work.
2. Such an offering may provide for the support of God's appointed servants. This sheaf was not consumed upon the altar, but was for the benefit of the priests. Those who by reason of exclusive devotion to the altar cannot find leisure to sow and reap, must be remembered by the people in whose behalf they labour. To assist the servants of Christ is to render help to the Master himself. Let the wealthy in the receipt of their dividends think upon the men who are their representatives in Christian effort. The division of labour must not allow one field of industry to be entirely isolated from the rest.
3. Other offerings naturally accompany the particular presentation. The one food reminds of other blessings, and so, besides the firstfruit sheaf, there are brought a burnt offering, a meat offering, and a drink offering, constituting a festal sacrifice. One gift prepares the way for another, opens the door so that a presentation of a different kind may follow. He who sets apart a portion of time for God is not likely to stop there, but will contribute money and influence likewise.
III. THE PRIORITY OF GOD'S CLAIM TO HONOUR.
1. It precedes our own enjoyment. No bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears must be tasted till Jehovah has been duly acknowledged as the bountiful Giver. The rent must be paid ere we can settle down to comfortable possession of the house. Men think they can without impropriety reverse this order, attending first to their own needs and pleasures, and then to God's requirements. In two ways they err - they dishonour their Maker, and they fail to hallow the enjoyment of their daily food and privileges by the happy consciousness that a portion has been previously dedicated to God. To acknowledge our indebtedness is to send us back rejoicing to our dwellings.
2. It is not right to wait until the whole amount of blessing has been reaped. At the very beginning of harvest this ceremony occurs, consecrating the harvest toil, ensuring the favour of God upon the remainder. Men who delay an offering until they know the exact amount of their savings, are likely to find the total less than they hoped. It is well to give in faith, seeing quite sufficient reason already to evoke a testimony of gratitude. "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." For the first convert in a place that seems teeming with promise of fruitfulness, we would at once give thanks. Ere the multitudes of happy dead can be raised and gathered into the heavenly garner, Jesus Christ is risen and become the Firstfruits of them that deep. His appearance before God as the Perfect Offering guarantees an ample blessed harvest. - S.R.A.
Leviticus 23:15-21Acts 2; also Jeremiah 2:3; Romans 11:16; and James 1:18. Having found in the firstfruits a typical reference to the resurrection of Christ, we have no difficulty on the same line in finding in the harvest festival seven weeks thereafter typical reference to the harvest of the Church Of God. Primarily it was eucharistic in character, but this does not exhaust its meaning. It was exactly fifty days after the Exodus that the Law was given on Sinai, and so Pentecost was associated from the outset with the "revival of the Church of God." What happened in the Pentecost after our Lord's last Passover was the baptism of the Holy Ghost and a revived interest in God's holy Law. Now, on turning to the directions about Pentecost, we find that "firstfruits "were again to be presented to the Lord, but, unlike the earlier firstfruits during the week of unleavened bread, these were to be prepared with leaven, and they were to be accompanied by a sin offering as well as burnt offerings and peace offerings. It is evident, therefore, that there is an element in the Pentecostal ritual which is not to be found in the previous ritual at all. If Christ is typified by the first of the firstfruits presented without leaven, his people gathered out of the nations may well be typified by the second firstfruits, the accompanying leaven indicating their sinful character, notwithstanding that they are his, and the sin offering most appropriately accompanying their typical dedication.
I. LET US OBSERVE THAT THE IDEA OF THE FIRSTFRUITS IS APPLIED TO THE LORD'S PEOPLE SEVERAL TIMES IN SCRIPTURE. Thus Jeremiah calls Israel "holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase" (Jeremiah 2:3). The same thought reappears in Paul's Epistle to the Romans, "If the firstfruits be holy, the lump is also holy" (Romans 11:16). James also speaks of the Lord's children in such terms as these: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). The harvest-field of God is the world, and those who are already gathered are the firstfruits. They are so far the consecrated element in the mighty population, and in spirit are laid upon God's altar.
II. THERE SEEMS A SIGNIFICANCE IN THE TWO LOAVES. "Why," it has been said, "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." Out of the harvest-field of the world the Lord requires two loaves to be presented, the Jews and the Gentiles, laid in their unity on his altar. Paul brings out this with great beauty in Ephesians 2:14-18, where the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Jesus Christ is pointed out.
III. AFTER ALL, THE CONSECRATION OF THE LORD'S PEOPLE IS AN IMPERFECT THING. Christ's consecration was perfect because sinless. Ours is imperfect and "mired with the trails of sin." Well may the firstfruits be baked with leaven; well may a sin offering be presented along with them. Our holiest acts could not stand alone, but need to be repented of. Atonement has to cover the holiest efforts of the Lord's people. Thus is all spiritual pride kept under, since at our very best we are "unprofitable servants."
IV. THE PENTECOSTAL OUTPOURING AFTER OUR LORD'S ASCENSION PRESENTS THE REALITY OF WHICH THE RITUAL WAS THE TYPE. In this glorious ingathering there was:
1. A penitential spirit. It was for this Peter called (Acts 2:38).
2. A worldwide imitation (Acts 2:39). The promise was to those" that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
3. A separation of many from the world, that they might consecrate themselves to God (Acts 2:41).
4. A great unity of spirit (Acts 2:44-47). It is this vivifying inspiration we all need; and may God send it soon! - R.M.E.
Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16). Let us consider -
I. THE DUTIES THEN ENJOINED UPON THE WORSHIPPERS.
1. They were to meet in holy convocation.
(1) This was intended to keep alive their interest in the service of God. Were sabbaths and public services of religion to cease, men would soon forget God.
(2) All Israel looked each other in the face. Religion is eminently social. And as these convocations were types of heavenly things, this suggested the recognitions and greetings of the future (see Hebrews 12:22, 23).
2. They were to present two wave loaves.
(1) These were composed of two tenth-deals of fine flour. They were to sanctify the wheat-harvest as the sheaf of the firstfruits sanctified the barley harvest. Hence these also are called "firstfruits" (verses 17, 20; Exodus 34:22).
(2) They were to be baken with leaven. As the unleavened bread of the Passover was a memorial of the haste with which they departed from Egypt, this was to express thankfulness to God for the blessings of ordinary food, together with their rest in Canaan.
(3) One loaf was to be eaten by the worshipper, while the other was God's. That more completely given to God was divided. One portion was burnt on the altar, while the priests took the remainder (Numbers 18:9-11). This explains the injunction that they should be waved along with the peace offerings. We learn here that our ordinary bread should be religiously eaten (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).
(4) These wave loaves constituted one of three meat offerings of the whole congregation. The first was the sheaf, or omer, of the firstfruits of the barley harvest (verses 9-14). This was the second. And the third was the twelve loaves of the shewbread (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9). Could there be here a prophetic anticipation of the order of the resurrection, viz. "Christ the Firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming; and, finally, the rest of the dead," destined to live again at the end of the millennial reign, when death shall be abolished?(comp. 1 Corinthians 15:23-26; Revelation 20).
(5) Beside the firstfruits, which were strictly national, each person had to bring his own firstfruits to the temple (see Deuteronomy 26:1-10). God would have us ever to remember that religion is personal as well as public.
3. They were to offer sacrifices.
(1) The burnt offerings appointed were seven lambs of the first year without blemish, one young bullock, and two rams, or, as elsewhere expressed, two young bullocks and one ram (comp. verse 18; Numbers 28:27). As burnt offerings were intended to expiate sins against affirmative precepts, the godly worshipper would pray during the burning, as David prayed (Psalm 19:13). The meat and drink offerings proper to burnt offerings accompanied (verse 18). These were distinct from the two tenth-deals waved to sanctify the harvest.
(2) A kid of the goats was appointed for a sin offering (verse 19). As sin offerings were to expiate sins committed in ignorance, the thoughts of the worshipper were carried forward to the Great Sin Sacrifice of Calvary.
(3) Two lambs of the first year were appointed for the peace offering. These were distinguished from those usually offered as "holy to the Lord for the priest." They were to be eaten by him before the Lord. For the meat offering which ordinarily accompanied the peace offerings, in this case the two loaves of the firstfruits were substituted (verses 19, 20).
II. THE NOTES OF TIME, WITH THEIR REASONS.
1. They counted from the putting in of the sickle.
(1) This, however, was not left to private option. That would have worked endless confusion; for it was a public, national, act. The Lord is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:40). It would have tended to will-worship. The evils of this are seen in the Romish Church. We cannot too literally abide by the letter of Divine precept.
(2) It was limited to the second day of the Passover week (verses 15, 16). From this reckoning the Jews call this Feast of Harvest (יום חמשים) the fiftieth day. For the same reason, it is in the New Testament called the Pentecost (Acts 2:1; Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8).
2. They commemorated the giving of the Law.
(1) The observance of the Passover was on the fourteenth of the first month (Exodus 12:18), having seventeen days of that month to run. To these add thirty days of the second month, and we have forty-seven days. But the Law was given on the third day after Moses came into the wilderness of Sinai, which was in the beginning of the third month (Exodus 19:1, 10, 11). These three days added bring the number up to fifty.
(2) Well might the Israelites have a festival of thanksgiving for the giving of the Law; for thereby they were honoured and blessed as no other nation had ever been (Deuteronomy 4:8).
3. They anticipated the publication of the gospel.
(1) The gospel is the Law of God, published from Zion, in contradistinction to that published from Sinai (see Isaiah 2:3). That publication took place "when the day of Pentecost was fully come."
(2) The fifty days were counted from the second day of the Passover week, on which the firstfruits of the barley harvest were presented (verses 15, 16). That "firstfruits" were a type of Christ in his resurrection. After that event he was seen of his disciples during forty days. The Pentecost followed exactly ten days after the Ascension (see Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1).
(3) Note, further, that the Holy Ghost was given on the first day of the week. The Paschal lamb was eaten on Thursday. The Friday on which our Lord was crucified was the first day of the Passover week. On the Saturday the firstfruits were offered up. Consequently, the Pentecost, which was the fiftieth day after, would fall upon the Sunday. Thenceforth this became "the Lord's day," or the Christian sabbath (see Lightfoot on Acts 2). Where gratitude is there will be goodness. Hence the injunction to care for the poor and the stranger (verse 22). This spirit of the Law is also the genius of the gospel. - J.A.M.
I. GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE HAND OF GOD. At the Feast of Pentecost two loaves, leavened, of the finest flour, the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, were waved by the priest "for a wave offering unto the Lord." The successful agriculturist is apt to say to himself, if not to others, "This is the harvest I have grown;" is disposed to congratulate himself on the excellency of his own farming. By this act of waving the presentation loaves, the Hebrew husbandman said, "I have ploughed, and sown, and weeded, and reaped, and ground, and baked, but thou, Lord, hast given the increase; thine was the sun that shone, thine the rains that full, thine the airs that blew, thine tile wondrous power that made the elements of nature work out the germination and growth and ripening of the corn: unto thy Name be the honour and the praise." Whatever may be the sphere of our activity, the character of our success, this is to be "the spirit of our mind;" we are to be ready to make grateful acknowledgment of the hand of God in all satisfying results.
II. HUMILITY. "Ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering" (verse 19). The people of God were, on all occasions, even the most joyful, to own their unworthiness, and to seek the forgiving favour of God. The sin offering must find a place even at the Pentecostal feast. When we are most "glad in the Lord," we do well to make mention of our frailty, our folly, our imperfection, and to ask that, for our Saviour's sake, it may be forgiven, and we ourselves be accepted of God.
III. SACRED JOY. With the burnt offering there was to be the accompanying "meat offering, and their drink offerings" (verse 18). And with the sin offering there were to be offered, "two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings" (verse 19). Here was a very distinct note of sacred joy. When there is harmony without, there must be songs in the soul, but these should not be without strains of sacred music which will be acceptable in the ear of God. Let the voice of joy be heard in our halls, but let us be glad "before the Lord," remembering the goodness and realizing the presence of him whose we are and whom we serve.
IV. CONSECRATION. "They shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord" (verse 18). There is no time more appropriate than the hour of increase and prosperity to renew our vows unto our God, and rededicate our whole lives to his service.
V. CHARITY. (Verse 22.) We must remember "the poor and the stranger." That is an evil and miserable prosperity, unsightly in the esteem of man and hateful in the sight of God, which seeks to wrap itself up in silken folds of selfish enjoyment; that is an honourable and admirable prosperity, blessed of God and man, which has a kindly heart and an open hand for those who are beaten in the battle, for those who are left behind in the race of life. - C.
I. THE BLENDING TOGETHER OF THE NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL LIVES. The harvest of the earthly labour, the harvest of grace.
II. INTIMATE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO FESTIVALS OF PASSOVER AND PENTECOST. The seven weeks', that is, week of weeks', interval, pointing to sacred bond between them. The fruits of righteousness are by Jesus Christ. Pentecostal grace flows from redemption as a fountain, as summer from spring, as harvest from seed-time.
III. HISTORICAL FULFILMENT of the idea of Pentecost in the outpouring of the Spirit, the ingathering of the firstfruits of the Christian Church, the beginning of the new life and new joy of the world. Christ arising and bringing forth fruit. Mingling together of the wave loaves and the bloody sacrifices, typical of the union of the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit. The sabbath in the harvest, the rest in the work, the true reward of life in the enjoyment of God. The mission of Christianity to the poor and the stranger. Universal joy. All the field brings forth blessed results for all the world. - R.
Leviticus 23:23-25Numbers 10:1-10; Exodus 19:19; Psalm 89:15. The first mention of the trumpet is in Exodus 19:13, 19, in connection with the giving of the Law. "When the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount" (Exodus 19:13). It was God's method of summoning the people to covenant privileges. It was further used for the calling of assemblies, for the beginning of journeys, for alarms, and at the new moons and festal seasons, when it was blown over the sacrifices. Those who knew the significance of the sacrifices could rejoice in the trumpet-sound which proclaimed them complete. No wonder it is said, "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound" (תְּרוּעָה; literally, "sound of a trumpet"): "they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance" (Psalm 89:15). The analogy of faith, therefore, warrants us in taking the Feast of Trumpets as symbolical of God's message of mercy to man. The gospel preached is God's trumpet, summoning men to the privileges and duties of the Christian life. This suggests -
I. THE GOOD TIDINGS ARE OF A FINISHED SACRIFICE. It is only when the sacrifice of Jesus is the foundation of the appeal that man is arrested, trumpet-like, by the gospel. The Lamb has been slain, the atonement complete, and, consequently, poor sinners are summoned to joy. It would be no such joyful message if we were summoned to establish our own righteousness instead of submitting, as now, to the righteousness of God. It is a present salvation, on the ground of the finished sacrifice of Jesus, which constitutes the fountain of the purest joy. No such joyful trumpet-tones were ever heard by human ears in other religions as God gives when he says, "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
II. THE GOSPEL TRUMPET SUMMONS US TO REST. On the Feast of Trumpets "ye shall do no servile work therein." It was a summons to sabbatic rest. And truly the gospel is a call to put off the servile spirit, the obedience which comes through fear, and to enter into God's rest. "We who believe do enter into rest." Christian experience is sabbath rest after the worry of worldly experience. We lay down our burden, and pass into Divine peace. The Saturday evening of experience is when, through grace, we put away our worldliness, our feverish anxieties, our low and selfish ideals, and the sabbath morning experience is rest in God's love and bounty.
III. THE GOSPEL TRUMPET SUMMONS US TO PERSONAL SACRIFICE. If the servile work is to be surrendered for sabbath rest, we must go forward to the duty indicated. "But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord." For this is the gospel plan - acceptance and rest on the ground of a completed sacrifice, and the personal dedication as a living sacrifice in gratitude for such unmerited favour. From the one Great Sacrifice for us we proceed gratefully to such personal sacrifice as God's honour and glory require. The love manifested in the sacrifice of Christ "constrains us to live not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). Self-righteousness is not self-sacrifice; rather is it proud bargaining for that which God offers as a gift. But, when the gift is accepted, self is in the acceptance crucified, and a life of devotion becomes self-sacrificing indeed.
IV. THE GOSPEL TRUMPET IS TO BE SUCCEEDED BY THE TRUMP OF THE RESURRECTION. All who in their graves of sin hear the voice of the Son of God, and who, through hearing, live (John 5:25), are destined to hear another joyful note from the same trumpet: "For the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life" (John 5:28, 29). This is "the voice of the archangel and the trump of God" through which the dead in Christ shall rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16). "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: (for the trumpet shall sound,) and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52). Such are the summonses which God gives to men to privilege, to peace, and at the last to everlasting felicity. The preachers who give no uncertain sound, but proclaim with trumpet-tongue the gospel, are the heralds who are preparing for the day of the Lord, with its everlasting rest and light and love! - R.M.E.
I. HEBDOMADS ARE CONSPICUOUS IN THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE LAW.
1. They appear in the week of days.
(1) The foundation of this is the Creation week. The patriarchal sabbath became incorporated into the Mosaic Law. There were other weeks of days and sabbaths. In the text there are three of these, with a sabbath on the first and another on the eighth day.
(2) Could there be in these an anticipation of the change of the sabbath from the seventh day to the first or eighth under the Christian dispensation? The sabbaths of the seventh and eighth days may point to the rest of the millennium in the first instance, and to that of the new heavens and earth in the second. In observing the Lord's day, it would be highly edifying to have these anticipations in mind.
2. They appear again in the week of months.
(1) The entire cycle of the feasts of the Lord was comprised in such a week. It commenced on the 14th day of Abib, with the Passover, instituted in commemoration of the Exodus. Then followed, in their appointed seasons, the Feast of Unleavened Bread; that of the Firstfruits; the Feast of Harvest, which is also called the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10, 16; 2 Chronicles 8:13). The series ended with the festivals of the seventh month.
(2) During the five months remaining there was no annual feast. The daily sacrifices and those of the sabbaths and moons were of course continued.
(3) The moon was a symbol of the Church, and its changes represented the mutations through which it passes in this world, but when it has fulfilled its great week of changes it wilt be perfected for ever in heaven.
3. They appear again in the week of years.
(2) Founded upon this also was a greater period of a week of weeks of years, with its year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-17). The lessons of the sabbatic and jubilee years will conic under consideration in their proper places.
II. HEBDOMADS ARE CONSPICUOUS IN THE CHRONOLOGY OF PROPHECY.
1. The days of the week are taken as prophetic.
(1) David, and. Peter from him, notes that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). Paul also mentions the sabbath-keeping of the future "which remaineth to the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). And John describes that rest as extending over a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
(2) To this agrees the tradition in the house of Elias, a teacher who lived about two hundred years before our Lord, and which is thought to have been derived from Elijah the Tishbite. It purports that this world is to endure in its imperfect state six thousand years: two thousand before the Law; two thousand under the Law; two thousand under Messiah; and then a thousand years in a state of renovation (see Mede, 536, 776, 894; also Bishop Newton's 'Disser.,' volume 3:335).
(3) The same view is no less definitely put forth by Barnabas. He makes each day of the Creation week represent a thousand years of the subsequent history of the world, and the sabbath he makes to stand for the reign of peace, or millennium of John.
2. Dispensations are measured by weeks of times.
(1) The "times of the Gentiles" are accepted to be the same as the "seven times," during which Israel was destined to be trodden down of them. Upon the year-day principle these are the double of the "time, time, and dividing of a time" of Daniel and John, during which the little horn was to wear out the saints, and represent 2520 years. The larger period commences with the literal Babylon, and the smaller with the mystical.
(2) But how can the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian dispensations be limited to six thousand years, if each is to extend over 2520? They do so by overlapping each other. Thus the patriarchal extends "from Adam to Moses" (Romans 5:13, 14), which space comprises "seven times." The Jewish then reckons from Shem the patriarch, selected as the depositary of the covenant, to Jesus. The interval from Shem to Jesus measures "seven times." The dispensation of the Gentiles, already described as the "times of the Gentiles," forms the third. It began with the rise of the ancient Babylonish power, and will end with the overthrow of the mystical Babylon.
III. HEBDOMADS ARE NOT WITHOUT FOUNDATION IN NATURE.
1. They are not very obviously marked in the heavens.
(1) The day is measured by the revolution of the earth upon its axis. The month is measured by the revolution of the moon in her orbit. The year is determined by the revolution of the earth about the sun.
(2) But where are we to find the measure of the week? The quarters of the moon do not measure it, for the month is more than four times seven days.
2. Yet they have a foundation in nature.
(1) It is now well known that changes in animals are regulated by weeks. Dr. Laycock, summing up what he had advanced on this subject in a series of remarkable papers, says, "The facts I have briefly glanced at are general facts, and cannot happen day after day in so many millions of animals of every kind from larva or ovum of a minute insect up to man at definite periods, from a mere chance or coincidence; and although temperature, food, domestication, and other modifying circumstances may and do interrupt the regularity with which the various processes I have alluded to are conducted, yet upon the whole it is, I think, impossible to come to any less general conclusion than this. That in animals changes occur every three and a half, seven, fourteen, twenty-one, or twenty-eight days, or at some definite number of weeks" (see Lancet, 1842-43).
(2) The words recorded by Moses (Genesis 1:14) guide us to the consideration of the revolution of the epacts, or differences in solar and lunar measures of time. And it is most admirable that the epacts of the times of prophetic chronology as measured by true solar and lunar years come out in weeks (see Guinness's 'Approaching End of the Age'). From this interesting subject we learn:
1. That prophecy is from God.
2. That the God of nature is the God of providence.
3. That religion should be interwoven with secular concerns. - J.A.M.
I. THE MOON WAS A SYMBOL OF THE CHURCH.
1. Its luster sets forth her beauty.
(1) Even in our Northern climate the moon is a beautiful object; but in Oriental skies she is remarkably so. Solomon compares the beauty of the bride to that of the moon (Song of Solomon 6:10).
(3) As the moon enlightens the darkness in the absence of the sun, so is the Church the light of the world in the absence of her Lord (see Matthew 5:14; John 1:4; John 9:5; Philippians 2:15). All men should be attracted to the communion of the Church by the charms of her beauty. Professors should beware how they may hinder this issue by their inconsistencies.
2. Its changes set forth her vicissitudes.
(1) The renewals of the moon will represent the dispensations through which she passes. Thus the patriarchal, which is divided into two ages, viz. that before the Flood, and that which followed. The Mosaic, which also is divided into two ages, viz. that of the tabernacle and that of the temple, the latter being more eminently the age of prophecy. The Christian dispensation likewise is distributed into two ages, viz. the present militant and suffering age, and the triumphant age of the millennium to come. Perhaps the seventh moon may then anticipate the celestial state to follow (see Isaiah 60:19, 20).
(2) The phases through which each moon pasts will represent corresponding minor changes in the Church. She too has her waxings and wanings. Sometimes she is brightened by revivals of purity and zeal, which are followed by seasons of apostasy and degeneration. Sometimes she rejoices in seasons of peace and prosperity; then suffers persecutions and reverses.
II. THE SEVENTH WAS DISTINGUISHED AMONG THE MOONS.
1. It was a high sabbath.
(1) The new moons were all observed as sabbaths. No servile work was done in any of them (see Amos 8:5). They were memorials of the believers' rest from servility to Satan.
(2) But this moon was the beginning of the civil year, and is believed to be the time of the Creation, when vegetable nature was in perfection. It gratefully commemorated the old Creation. It joyfully anticipated the new.
2. It was a holy convocation.
(1) The people assembled for worship. This is God's order. Those who neglect public worship under the pretext of "worshipping the God of nature in the fields," follow their own order.
(3) They feasted together upon the sacrifices (Numbers 28:11-15). Thus they anticipated the spiritual festivities of the gospel, and the glorious festivities of heaven.
(4) They rejoiced in the light of the moon (Psalm 81:3; Psalm 89:15, 16). If the Psalmist rejoiced in the anticipation of the light of the gospel moon, how much more should we rejoice under that light?
3. It was a memorial of blowing of trumpets.
(1) The trumpets were blown upon every moon, but on the seventh so signally that it thence became distinguished as the Feast of Trumpets. The trumpeting began at sunrise and continued till sundown. This moon not only ushered in the new month, as the others did, but also the new (civil) year.
(2) The trumpets were sounded over the sacrifices. These were in greater number. There were net only the daily sacrifices, which were never superseded, and the ordinary sacrifices of the moons, but burnt offerings, meat and drink offerings, and a sin offering, proper to this feast (Numbers 29:2-6). The sounding of the trumpets over these indicated the preaching of the gospel to be the preaching of the cross of Christ (see Isaiah 27:13).
(3) The trumpeting was in memorial. If it referred to the giving of the Law, we are reminded of the trumpet that then sounded from Sinai; and the gospel law was sounded out from Sion. If the memorial referred to the Creation, then we are reminded that the Psalmist calls the word by which God made the world, "the voice of his thunder" (Psalm 104:7). We are also reminded of the singing of the morning stars and shouting of the sons of God (Job 38:6, 7). The shouting and thundering at the Creation and at the giving of the Law and the preaching of the gospel are but the echoes of the voices and trumpeting of the Judgment of the great day. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." When the last trumpet is sounded, it will be, as on the Feast of Trumpets, at the finishing of the gathering of all the fruits of the earth. - J.A.M.
I. THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER THE LAW. When the sacred music was heard at this festival, the Jews could hardly fail to think of that august occasion, when "there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud," etc. (Exodus 19:16). They would thus realize that they were children of the Law, that they existed as a nation for the very purpose of receiving, preserving, and revealing the Law of the Lord, that they had entered into sacred covenant with Jehovah, that they had a great mission to fulfill. The trumpet was the voice of the Lord, saying to them, "Realize what you are."
II. THE PRIVILEGES WHICH WERE IMMEDIATELY BEFORE THEM. This was "New Year's Day" to them: the year was before them; it would be a year during which God would be speaking to them and they to him. Daily sacrifices would be laid on his altar. Special rites would demand peculiar devotion; one of these - the most sacred of all - was close at hand; privilege and opportunity were awaiting them, would meet them with the advancing seasons of the new year on Mileh they had entered; the trumpet of the Lord said, "Listen and obey, for God is with you." The Feast of Trumpets reminds us of -
III. THE MORE GRACIOUS ERA TO WHICH WE BELONG. There was no such overwhelming scene at the inauguration of the gospel as that at the giving of the Law. No "voice of the trumpet sounding long, and waxing louder and louder," no "thunders and lightnings." The kingdom of God "came not with observation;" "he did not strive nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets." Yet he "spake as never man spake" before, and as man will never speak again, and at the beginning of every year we may, without any trumpets sounding, hear a voice from heaven saying to us, "This is my beloved Son; hear ye him." God summons us to learn of him, and know from him
(1) how to be related to himself,
(2) the spirit in which we should act to our fellows, and
(3) the way to rule our own spirit and regulate our own life. We may also be reminded of -
IV. THE LAST DAY OF THIS DISPENSATION. The day draws on when the "trump of God" shall sound, summoning the dead to life, calling the living and the dead to judgment and award (see 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). At any hour of our life, but especially on any anniversary, when we are reminded of the passage of our probationary life and the oncoming of the day of his appearing, we may well hear the summons of God to prepare for that great day.
"Great God, what do I see and hear?
proclamation of the gospel, which is the new law of love.
I. The people of God unite together to spread the sound of the gospel in the world.
II. They rejoice in it. It is a festival - a work which is sabbatical.
III. It is immediately connected with the great Day of Atonement, and the proclamation will be no uncertain sound, but a distinct announcement of the saving truth set forth in the sacrificial death of Christ. - R.
Leviticus 23:26-32Hebrews 9:12. Into the ritual of the Day of Atonement we need not here enter, after what has been said on the subject under chapter 16. But the reference here is to the spirit of repentance which was to characterize the people on that day. It was, in fact, a call to the whole congregation to repent and be reconciled to God. As the Day of Atonement is in all respects the climax of the sacrificial worship, it may be useful here to notice the spirit which belonged to that worship and the corresponding spirit in man which it demanded.
I. THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM IS THAT OF EXCLUSION FROM THE DIVINE PRESENCE. Ever since man's fall until the vail was rent at the death of Jesus, man was deservedly kept at a distance from God. Sin is a separating power; as long as it is harboured it prevents near access to him. And even when, in the Exodus, God delivered a chosen people to bring them to himself (Exodus 19:4), they were only permitted to come up to certain barriers round about the holy mount. When, moreover, the Lord transferred his dwelling-place from the top of Sinai to the tent or tabernacle provided by his pilgrim people, he insisted on having a private apartment, railed off from vulgar gaze, and only allowed one representative man, the high priest, to draw nigh unto him once a year. He certainly sent this honoured individual forth with his blessing, to encourage the people waiting without. But the whole arrangement of the Day of Atonement was on the principle of excluding the people until such times as they might profitably have closer access. "God sent his people," says an able writer, "his blessing, to show them that he had not forgotten them. But he would not see them. Even the high priest saw but a very little of him at this annual solemn time. The cloud of fragrant incense filled the most holy place, and barred the view."
II. THERE IS NOTHING SO HUMILIATING AS THIS DENIAL OF ACCESS. On the Day of Atonement the people came to the tabernacle, and saw their select representative enjoy the privilege of drawing nigh to God all alone. Not a man of them dare venture beyond the vail. Nadab and Abihu, who seem to have done so, intoxicated by their elevation to the priesthood and perhaps also by wine, perished before the Lord. The Israelites felt at the tabernacle that they were an excluded people. This would lead to self-examination, and to repentance for the sin which excluded them. Doubtless the ritual of the great Day of Atonement would have a soothing effect upon their spirits. The blessing would fall upon their souls like balm. At the same time, they could not but feel that access to God was for them through a mediator, and that they were kept at a very humiliating distance.
III. OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST HAS GIVEN US THE REALITY OF ACCESS IN THAT HE HAS BECOME OUR FORERUNNER. This is the beautiful idea suggested by the apostle in the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:20). Christ has not entered the holiest to enjoy a privilege in solitude. He has entered it as our Forerunner, to announce our approach. This applies, not only to the everlasting felicity of heaven, but also to present devotional access to God. Through him we are permitted to draw nigh. The vail is rent; therefore we draw near with holy boldness. We are no longer an excluded people, but in the enjoyment of close communion. When the vail was rent at the death of Jesus, the ordinary priests were thereby raised to the privilege of the high priest. All had alike access to God. Hence we are to live up to our privilege as believers; for we are priests unto God, and access is our right through the rending of the vail of our Redeemer's flesh. Thus do we see the secret of penitence on the Day of Atonement, and how it is the preliminary arranged by the All-wise to communion with himself close and eternal. - R.M.E.
I. A HOLY CONVOCATION, IN WHICH THE PEOPLE WERE TO AFFLICT THEIR SOULS. Learn hence:
1. That sin must be mourned.
(1) It should be mourned in secret. There are matters which it may be proper to confess to God alone. The confession of these to others would serve no useful purpose. It might even be productive of harm.
(2) It should be publicly mourned. Where there are national sins they should be openly confessed. Sins against society should be publicly owned. The general public confession of sin is useful in calling individual sin to remembrance.
(3) Contrition for sin is indispensable. To neglect it is to incur excision (verse 29).
2. The mourning must be thorough.
(1) No secular work must be done on this day in which men were to afflict their souls. Not only were they on this day to rest from "servile work," as on the other annual feasts; the rest must be as strict as upon the weekly sabbaths. If we would have salvation, we must be in earnest. We must not suffer the claims of the world to divert us from this great business.
(2) The soul must be afflicted with fasting. The animal soul is here referred to (see chapter Leviticus 16:31; Numbers 29:7; Isaiah 58:5, 6). The spirit of a religious fast is abstinence from all kinds of sin.
3. The soul is to be afflicted because of the atonement.
(1) They were to bring an "offering by fire unto the Lord" on this day. The sin and trespass offering had respect to particular sins, but the burnt offering was for sin in the abstract. The sacrifices of this day were of the greatest importance, and eminently typified the Great Atonement of the gospel.
(2) Penitence is never perfect till we get a view of Calvary. Because he is merciful we fear God with a gracious fear. With such a fear is holiness perfected (2 Corinthians 7:1).
II. THIS HOLY CONVOCATION WAS ON THE TENTH DAY OF THE SEVENTH MONTH.
1. This was to suggest the riches of redemption.
(1) For the mystery of the number ten is wealth. So the Hebrew word for ten (עשר) is also the word for riches.
(2) Hence because of his riches of merit and wealth of blessings, viz. as the Depository of all the promises, Christ is called a Tenth (see Isaiah 6:13).
(3) When Isaiah calls Christ the Tenth, he describes the Tenth as of the nature of bread. Bread is the "staff of life," and Christ is the "Tree of life " - the Bread of immortality. Hence all the holy bread, as prefiguring Christ, was composed of tenth-deals of flour. So the meat, or bread, offering; so the firstfruits; so the shewbread; even the manna was gathered in omers, or tenths (see Exodus 16:36; see also Malachi 3:10).
2. The association of the tenth day with the seventh month also is suggestive.
(1) it suggests the perfection of riches to be associated with the mysteries of the day. This we find only in connection with the great atonement of Christ. Other wealth is poverty compared with the "riches of Christ."
(2) Note elsewhere the association of seven and ten in weeks of decades. Thus the term of human life is a week of decades, at the close of which the rich rewards of a faithful life are reaped (Psalm 90:10). But "the wicked do not live out half their days." They come short of the "durable riches." The week of decades was the term of the Babylonish captivity (Jeremiah 24:11; 29:10). And towards the close of that period the week of weeks of decades was revealed to Daniel as destined to mark the crisis of the great atonement (see Daniel 9:24).
(3) Dr. Lightfoot computes that the Feast of Expiation was the anniversary of that on which Moses came the last time down kern the mount, bringing with him the unbroken tables and the assurance of God's reconciliation to Israel, the very glory of the gospel beaming in his face. Moses in this was a similar type to the high priest on the Day of Atonement (see 2 Corinthians 3:12-18).
(4) It is stilt more remarkable that Jesus, on the anniversary of these events, actually entered the cloud of the Shechinah, and passed within the vail into the heaven of heavens (see reasoning to this conclusion in the appendix of Guinness's 'Approaching End of the Age'). These coincidences are not accidental. They are "the Lord's doing, and marvelous in our eyes." Such things as these, and in such the Holy Scriptures abound, prove them to be from God, and should encourage our faith and obedience. - J.A.M.
Leviticus 23:33-43Psalm 39:12; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11. The seventh month was a very celebrated one in the Jewish year. It was the sabbatic month, so to speak, when religious services of the most important character took place. The Feast of Trumpets introduced the month, and joyful were the anticipations of blessing. Then on the tenth day, came the great ritual of atonement, with its penitential sadness. Then came, on the fifteenth day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the rainless harvest-time the people were expected, even after their settlement in Canaan, to spend a week in booths or tents, and with boughs of goodly trees, with palm branches, and with willows of the brook to rejoice before God. Now this least was -
I. A CELEBRATION OF THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE WILDERNESS. It was "that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (verse 43). It is most important to keep a great deliverance in mind. Hence the people were enjoined once a year to become pilgrims again, as their fathers had been. We should never forget how the Lord has led his people in every age out of bondage into pilgrimage and freedom as the avenue to rest.
II. IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THE DIVINE PROVISION IN THE WILDERNESS. For it was a harvest festival, and the fruits of the earth had been gathered in before the feast began. Before them lay, so to speak, the bounties of God's providence, just as the manna lay morning by morning before their fathers. God was praised, therefore, for crowning the year with his goodness, as their fathers praised him for crowning with his goodness each day. It was consequently a eucharistic service in the highest degree.
III. IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THE STRANGER AND PILGRIM SPIRIT WHICH GOD FOSTERS IN ALL HIS PEOPLE. The voluntary leaving of their homes for a season to live in a "tented state" was a beautiful embodiment of the stranger and pilgrim spirit to which we are called. God in the wilderness dwelt as the Great Pilgrim in a tent with his pilgrim people; and year by year he enjoined his people in their generations to become literally "strangers with him" (Psalm 39:12), as their fathers had been. And the same danger threatens us, to feel at home in this world and to give up the pilgrimage. Hence the apostle's warning is ever needful: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). If the world does not seem strange to us, it is because we are not living as near as we ought to God. The more access we have to him, the greater will be our moral distance from the world.
IV. THE JOY OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES WAS ENHANCED BY THE HOME-GOING WHICH LAY BEYOND IT. The "tented state" is not intended to be permanent. Its value lies in its temporary nature. Canaan lay in sunlight beyond the wilderness, and the thought of" home" there encouraged them in their pilgrimage. The week's camping out after Canaan had been reached made them enjoy their home life all the more. In the same way, while we confess like the patriarchs to be "strangers and pilgrims upon the earth," we are seeking, and rejoicing in the prospect of yet reaching, a better country, with a city of God and permanent abodes (Hebrews 11:13-16). The pilgrimage is joyful because it is destined to end in the everlasting home. Perpetual pilgrimage no man could desire, for this would be perpetual exile from legitimate home joys. A long pilgrimage can he welcomed if it lead towards everlasting joy in the Father's house. And is there not an element of triumph associated with such a celebration as this Feast of Tabernacles? It indicates victory over worldly feeling through faith in God. No wonder, then, that palm branches and goodly boughs were waved by joyous ones before the Lord. It is into victorious joy he summons all his people as the earnest of the everlasting joy with which he is yet to crown them. - R.M.E.
I. THE REASONS OF ITS APPOINTMENT.
1. It was to assure them of God's return to dwell with them.
(1) This reason is not given in the text, but may be gathered from the history. The commission to build the tabernacle of witness, which had been suspended in consequence of their rebellion, was renewed to Moses in the mount. When he brought them these good tidings, he directed them to construct booths, for they were to abide in their present encampment until the work should be accomplished.
(2) In due time the Shechinah possessed the tabernacle. This glorious event foreshadowed the sublime mystery of the incarnation (comp. John 1:14). How wonderful is that grace of the gospel according to which believers become the shrines of Deity! (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
2. It was to remind their children that their fathers camped in the desert.
(1) The condition of Israel in the wilderness described the Christian in his journey through the world in quest of the heavenly Canaan.
(2) The dwelling in booths exhibited the changeful and. unsettled nature of earthly things (see Hebrews 11:9). This fact is obvious; yet we need to be reminded of it.
(3) The Hebrews dwelling happily in Canaan were not to forget the humble state of their fathers. Prosperity leads us to forget the day of humility; therefore this Divine institution recurring annually to counteract that tendency. In the review of the barbarity of our ancestors, we may feel more grateful to God for the blessings of civilization.
3. It was to be a yearly national harvest thanksgiving.
(1) This is here specified in the note of time, viz. "when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land" (verse 39). The vintage as well as the harvest was then gathered in (see Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:13). The goodness with which God crowns the year should ever be celebrated by us with grateful hearts.
(2) In Exodus the Feast of Tabernacles is called the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22). Thus viewed, it was an anticipation of the Resurrection. The general resurrection is that final ingathering at the end of the world's areal year, of which the resurrection of Christ was the firstfruit (1 Corinthians 15:20).
(3) This thanksgiving was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, five days after the Day of Atonement, on which the people had afflicted their souls. The joys of salvation follow upon the sorrows of repentance. The joys of the Resurrection rise out of the horrors of Calvary.
II. THE MODE OF ITS CELEBRATION.
1. It began and ended with a holy convocation.
(1) The first day, perhaps the fourteenth day of the seventh month, the eve of the feast, was kept as a sabbath from servile work. God should be served in our everyday employments; yet must there be cessation from those employments for his more especial service. Great importance is attached to social worship in Holy Scripture.
(2) The eighth day also was a sabbath. This was distinguished as" that great day of the feast" (see John 7:37). Upon it the fall round of sacrifices were offered (verse 37). On this day also the people of God returned to their houses, and so celebrated their entrance into Canaan after the toils of the wilderness, and anticipated the rest of heaven. The freedom from servile work on this day showed that at the last day all toil will terminate in the glorious rest of eternity.
(3) This was the day on which "Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst," etc. (John 7:37, 38). The occasion appears to have been that of the priest's pouring out as a libation water which he had drawn from the pool of Siloam in a golden flagon. This ceremony was not prescribed in the Law. Jesus calls off attention from human ceremonies to himself.
2. On the fifteenth day they gathered the boughs for their booths (verse 40). (l) This employment had its obvious economic use. They needed the shelter which their tabernacles afforded.
(2) But there was a religious import in what they did; and the trees were emblematical. The thick shady trees, such as the oak or beech, afforded shelter and protection, and suggested the protection and shelter of the covenant of God. The" palm" was an emblem of victory (Revelation 7:9). The "willows of the brook" represented the thriving condition of the happy (Isaiah 44:4). The olive was a symbol of peace (see Nehemiah 8:15). When Jesus proved himself to be" the Resurrection and the Life" by his miracle upon Lazarus, the people acknowledged it by the boughs of trees (John 12:13).
3. Sacrifices were offered which were reduced in number each succeeding day.
(1) (For the account of the sacrifices, see Numbers 29:12-38.)
(2) Could the reduction in the number be intended to foreshow that the typical sacrifices were destined to vanish away? Jacob seems to have anticipated this feast on his entering into Canaan (see Genesis 33:17). Anticipations of the Law, as well as of the gospel, are often seen in the history of the patriarchs. After the plague upon the enemies of Jerusalem in the last days of the Gentiles, the remnant will turn to the Lord, and keep the Feast of Tabernacles (see Zechariah 14:16). The gospel teaches us now to go out to Christ without the camp. - J.A.M.
I. THAT SORROW IS OFTEN FOLLOWED BY JOY, AND THAT SACRED SORROW IS THE SOURCE OF PUREST JOY. It is significant that this Feast of Tabernacles came only five days after the Day of Atonement, the day on which they were commanded to "afflict their souls" (see verses 27, 34). How often does a very small interval divide joy and. sorrow! so checkered are the scenes of our mortal life, that no man in brightest circumstances can ensure to himself five days' prosperity, and that no man under the darkest cloud need despair of seeing the sun break speedily and. shine serenely on his path. And when sorrow is hallowed by reflection, submission, prayer, there is laid the foundation of purest joy. The happiness which is born of submission to the will of God is something which "satisfies and sanctifies the mind." It is a joy that lasts.
II. THAT PROSPERITY DOES WELL SOMETIMES TO TURN A BACKWARD LOOK ON THE ADVERSITY IT HAS LEFT BEHIND. (Verses 40, 42, 43.) It was well for Israel, dwelling in strong and comfortable houses, to spend one week in the year in the "booths," which took them back in thought to the tents of the wilderness. When God gives either to a man or to a nation to rise out of obscurity and hardship into prominence and comfort, to pass from spiritual destitution to a state of abounding privilege and opportunity, nothing is more desirable than that he (or it) should occasionally revert to the old days of toil or want, and have his (its) heart filled with thankfulness to him who plants our feet upon the rock, who lifts us up to the high place of prosperity and power.
III. THAT HAPPINESS IS SAFE ONLY WHEN IT IS SANCTIFIED. The Hebrew nation was to "rejoice before the Lord seven days" (verse 40). The heart of the people was to be filled with overflowing gladness, but it was to be poured out "before the Lord '" so it was safe and salutary. Happiness, success, attaining the height of our hopes, - this is very apt to run into
(1) unrestrained mirth, or
(2) proud complacency of spirit, or
(3) unchristian selfishness.
So it becomes a curse to him who should be blessed. Let us take care to "rejoice before the Lord," to turn joy into gratitude, to go with our gladness into the sanctuary of the Lord, to consecrate our substance to his service, to consult his will in the way in which we shall use our power or our opportunity; then will our increase and. elevation, of whatever kind it he, prove a blessing, and not a bane to ourselves anti to our neighbours.
IV. THAT EARTHLY JOY IS THE JOY OF HAPPY PILGRIMAGE. Our earthly house is but a tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1); it is to be soon taken down and to give place to a "house in the heavens." We are, as the Hebrew nation, dwelling in booths. This is but a transitory condition; we must not think and act as if it were our "continuing city." Such joy as pilgrims have, who are ever looking forward to a blessedness to come, we may permit ourselves. But alas! for him who "has his reward" here, and looks for none hereafter, whose only heritage is in the "world that passeth away." Well is it for him whose holy happiness is a preparation for, and an anticipation of, the blessedness which is beyond, which abides and abounds for ever. - C.
Nehemiah 8:17; Zechariah 14:16).
I. PRAISE FOR ACCOMPLISHED REDEMPTION AND THE BOUNTEOUS GIFTS OF PROVIDENCE. Reminiscences of the wilderness life. Fact that Israel neglected the feast from Joshua to Nehemiah, even in the time of great national prosperity in Solomon's reign, very instructive, pointing to ingratitude and unbelief. The religious life and the natural life blended. The joy of praise binding families together, and so nations and the world.
II. The symbolical meaning of the feast - THE GLORY OF ISRAEL AND THE ULTIMATE RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS. The prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 14:16) not to be taken literally, otherwise its significance is narrowed; but as a spiritual anticipation of the enlargement of the true Church until it shall embrace the world. The gospel invites men to rejoice in the Lord.
III. The feast on earth - A FORETASTE OF THE HIGHER LIFE OF HEAVEN. Dwelling in booths - temporary, frail, withering, yet by their nature, as pleasant places of shadow, pointing to the rest that remains for the people of God. The wilderness life leads on to the life of Canaan; the earthly festival to the heavenly; the frail tabernacle to the "city of habitations," "having foundations," etc. - R.
I. THIS WAS THE MOST JOYOUS OF THE FESTIVALS. "Ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God."
1. See God's delight in the happiness of his people. He loves to witness their rejoicing. Religion was never intended to be synonymous with gloom or moroseness.
2. This was the crowning festival of the year, and therefore ought to be its climax of joy. For the child of God better days are ever in store; he need never pine for the past to return; each festival shall surpass the preceding. Jesus keeps the best wine till the last; not so with the world's pleasures.
3. It took place five days after the solemn Day of Atonement, when the national sin was purged, and Israel's communion with its God re-established. To empress sin and obtain pardon is the fitting preparation for gladness of heart. No man who has not experienced the feeling of relief from the burden of guilt and the emotion caused by restoration to his heavenly Father's favour, knows the meaning of real joy. Compared with this the delights of sense and. intellect are flavourless.
4. Joy reaches its highest expression in the presence of God. "Rejoice before the Lord," even the holy righteous God who searches the heart and tries the reins. We may without pride know that we have done what was right, and that the Being of beings approves our conduct and graces the festival with the light of his countenance. There is none of the secret misgiving that attends sinful banquets, where the laugh is hollow and the gaiety forced, from a conviction that conscience is being silenced and moral law violated. Cf. the rejoicing of the people, and the terror of Adonijah and his guests (1 Kings 1:40, 49). David danced for glee before the Lord when the sacred ark was brought into the city of David. "Rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for thy king cometh unto thee." We would fain have the children glad when it is said, "Let us go unto the house of the Lord."
II. THIS WAS A FESTIVAL OF GRATITUDE FOR RECENT BLESSINGS.
1. Another name for it was the Feast of Ingathering. All the produce of the ground had been garnered, the Lord had blessed them in all their increase - corn, oil, and wine; daily food and luxuries abounded; the booths were constructed of fruit trees and leafy palms. God's bounteous bestowment was acknowledged. Spiritual and temporal mercies had enriched the people and evoked manifestations of thanksgiving. So visibly dependent is man upon God for the germinating and maturing of the grain and fruit, that a harvest thanksgiving seems peculiarly appropriate, and again at the storing of the harvest, when the work for the year is practically ended, a festival is of evident fitness. The compassions of the Lord, "new every morning," furnish ample matter for devout meditation and praise.
2. This feature of the festival was a reason why all should share in it, not only the wealthy, high-born Israelites, but the strangers, the fatherless, the widow, and the poor (Deuteronomy 16:14). God allows his sun to shine and rain to descend upon all, and he expects those who receive his lavish gifts to invite others to participate in the enjoyment thereof. Anticipating our Lord's directions to summon to a feast the poor and maimed and blind, the Israelites were accustomed to "send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared." Selfish exclusion was thus prevented, and universal rejoicing made possible.
3. An offering to God from each was essential. "They shall not appear before the Lord empty; every man shall give as he is able" (Deuteronomy 16:17). Speech and sentiment without deeds are rightly deemed insincere. It is true of all converts from heathendom that when they give of their substance to God we may infer that they have first given him their hearts. The priests and Levites were in part supported by these national free-will presentations. If we esteem the Master, we shall treat his servants well for his sake.
III. THIS WAS A COMMEMORATION OF FORMER BLESSINGS. During seven days the Israelites dwelt in booths made of green boughs to remind them of the days when they sojourned in the wilderness (verse 43).
1. Previous experience may well be remembered. If it pass into oblivion, its lessons have not been graven on the mind, and our state has not proved the discipline it was designed to be. Stand, O believer, upon the mount of present station, and survey the path with all its windings by which you have ascended to this lofty summit. Much a review will be profitable in the extreme, it will produce deepened humility and thankfulness. Keil says, "the recollection of privation and want can never be an occasion of joy." Surely he forgets the Latin Nine, "haec olim meminisse juvabit." Contrast ever heightens joy, a danger successfully surmounted is one of the most pleasing of memories.
2. The exhibition of God's protecting grace and love demands particular recollection. Not the might and resources of the Israelites, but the watchful, provident care of Jehovah, had led them safely through the desert. He had been to them "a booth for a shadow in the daytime from the beat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain" (Isaiah 4:6). The honour of God was concerned in having a permanent; memorial of Israel's stay in the wilderness, and this institution was adapted to preserve the continued confidence of the people in him and consequent freedom from boastful self-assertion. In many ways, "the joy of the Lord is our strength."
3. The deliverances wrought for our forefathers in olden days should excite gratitude to God in our breasts. Can we recall unmoved the triumphs of the early Christians, or the heroism which God's Spirit enabled martyred Protestants to evince? The wonders of our age become the heirlooms of the ages that follow.
CONCLUSION. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ commemorated in the Lord's Supper was the Passover of the Church; the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost marked the era of the Church's Feast of Weeks; the Feast of Tabernacles yet waits its due counterpart, when the elect shall be gathered into the kingdom from every land, to celebrate the cessation of earthly toil, to exult in the complete removal of sinful stain, and to enter upon the undimmed, undying gladness of the eternal sabbath. Not one of God's people shall be missing through illness or distance of abode, and a retrospect of the pilgrimage of earth shall enhance the bliss of heaven. - S.R.A.