These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.…
This chapter has been termed, from its contents, the Calendar of Feasts. Underneath much that has been abolished by the gospel, we can trace principles and truths of permanent application, invested with interest for the Christian as well as the Jewish Church. Surface views are of little worth; if not misleading, they are at best transitory in nature.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.