And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
The idea that, under the ancient Law, Israel was a peculiarly severe and gloomy nation, is essentially false. Gravity rather than light-heartedness may indeed have characterized them: they may have had much "seriousness of soul;" but they were familiar with joy, and sometimes gave themselves up to great and continued gladness of heart. It was radiant sunshine in Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles. The whole engagements of the sacred festival suggest to us -
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,