And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering…
We are now to consider that which was properly the second annual festival of the Jewish nation — the Feast of Pentecost. The distinctive ceremony observed upon this clay was the presentation of a new meat-offering, in the form of two wave-loaves unto the Lord. These loaves were the first-fruits of wheat harvest, and in allusion to them the feast is sometimes called "the Feast of Harvest" (Exodus 23:16), and also "the day of first-fruits" (Numbers 18:26). The moral bearing of this ordinance upon the people was therefore similar to that of the last which we have had presented to our notice; it was a renewed acknowledgment on their part of the mercies of Jehovah, who had brought them into "that good land," and given them the kindly fruits of the earth in their season. And accordingly we find a beautiful form of thanksgiving prescribed for this occasion, in which these mercies were briefly but eloquently celebrated (Deuteronomy 26:1-11). But we are now to examine this festival with the view of discovering its typical and prophetic import; and this also we must look for in that ordinance which characterised it, and from which, as we have seen, it derived its name, the offering of these two wave-loaves. They were designed to set forth the Church of Christ. Just as the Saviour Himself in resurrection from the dead is typified by the wave-sheaf, the first-fruits of barley harvest ("the first of the first-fruits" (Exodus 34:26), as it is called); so also the Church as partaking of His resurrection life — quickened by the Spirit in which He rose from the dead, is represented by the ordinance of the two wave-loaves. As He is "the first-fruits" with respect to His people, so they also are by union with Him constituted the first-fruits in reference to that future harvest. Let us, then, enter into detail.
I. THERE WAS SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT IN THE DAY ON WHICH THIS OFFERING WAS TO BE PRESENTED. It was on the fiftieth day from that on which the wave-sheaf was offered, or as it is called in the New Testament the day of Pentecost. Now what is the importance of the day of Pentecost to us as Christians? I answer, it was the commencement of the present dispensation. This is the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian Church — of that Church not merely as distinguished from the world, but also from the Church previous to the day of Pentecost — that she is united to, yea identified with Christ in resurrection (Colossians 3; Colossians 1:2). In this new character the Holy Ghost was not given until that Jesus was glorified. As the Spirit of light and life He had been operating on the hearts of all His faithful people from the beginning of the world. But now He operates in increased power, and bestows a higher privilege; He unites the Church unto Him who is "waved" in the character of "the first-fruits," that we in Him may also partake of the same character, and become "the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4). And thus it is written, in allusion, I believe, to this very ordinance, "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" (James 1:28). And this brings me to consider —
II. THE ANALOGY BETWEEN THE ORDINANCE BEFORE US, AND THE CHURCH OF WHICH IT IS THE TYPE. This will appear in several interesting particulars, and —
1. Is there not something significant in the bipartite character of the type? It was to consist of two loaves. And surely it is natural to suppose that it was designed to set forth something. Why should the lump be divided into two parts, and not be presented whole? In order, I would venture to suggest, to set forth the two component parts of the Christian Church — the Jews and Gentiles, both made one in Christ. This is one marked peculiarity of the present dispensation. It was the mystery hidden from ages and generations, but which is now made manifest that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body (Ephesians 3:6). There is, then, you see, a unity, and yet a diversity in the Christian Church; a unity because it is one Church; a diversity because it consists of two component parts, the Jew and the Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-18).
2. Another point of analogy, and a farther confirmation of this application of the type, will be suggested if we shall find that the Church of the present dispensation is presented in Scripture to be the first-fruits, or earnest, of future and more enlarged mercies which are yet to come. Whether we consider the converts to the gospel from among the Jews, or those from among the Gentiles, which are made during the present dispensation, we axe taught to regard them each and both together, but as "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" (Ephesians 1:10). And first, with regard to the Jews, I would refer you to the testimony which is borne to this effect in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 11:1-5). And what is this result? Is it the conversion of the whole nation? No, as a nation, Israel is for the present rejected; but we are to expect that there will be an election from among them, "a remnant according to the election of grace"; and no more than this. But is Israel as a nation to be for ever cast away? Do God's purposes of mercy reach no farther than the gathering of this remnant? Far otherwise the view that the apostle gives us in this chapter (Romans 11:12, 15). Here we are expressly taught to look for a period when the mercies of God will no longer be confined to "a remnant" from among them as now, but when they shall all, in their fulness, be received again into the favour of God. So far, then, as regards the Jews; let us now see how far the same holds good as respects the Gentiles. And here I shall again confine myself to one passage. In the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, when St. James, who presided at the council, is recorded to have spoken as follows: — "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name." Here you see is the idea entertained by the apostles of the purposes of God towards the Gentiles in the present dispensation.
3. The first-fruits were considered to be the property of God — peculiarly His, claimed by Him, and set apart for His own. And is not this also true in regard to His Church? Has He not chosen it to Himself, and made it His own in a peculiar sense above all other things? The universe belongs to Him, the beasts of the forest are His; but the Lord's portion are His people, Judah is the lot of His inheritance, "a chosen generation, and holy nation, a peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9). As far as God has revealed His mind towards His creatures, we know of nothing in the whole universe so precious to Him as His Church. Angels in this respect cannot compare with us. Humanity is in Christ united to the Godhead, and therefore stands of a pinnacle far above all other created things (Ephesians 5:30). My brethren, it is not a mere salvation which we have in Jesus. Oh! no, it is much more than salvation, than deliverance, than restoration; it is identification with the Son of His love, who has come down to us to take us up to Him, that we may be "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:3). But if this speaks to us of privileges it speaks also of duty. My brethren, consider what it is to be the property of God. Just as the first-fruits were by His own command set apart unto Himself, and given into the hands of His appointed priest to be waved before Him, so it is with the Church. We are His by covenant arrangement, we are given by Him unto the great High Priest — "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me" (John 17:6). And why are we thus given unto Him? in order that He may save us? deliver us from wrath? Oh! yes, but that we may by Him be consecrated unto the service and glory of our God, that we may be His, in time and in eternity. And this brings me to observe —
4. The peculiar character of this offering. It was a wave-offering. And there is something significant in this, the wave sheaf, you remember, set forth the Saviour Himself in resurrection; and so when the Church is represented in the wave-loaves, there can be no doubt that it is intended to exhibit her in this character, as "risen together" with Him. As then the characteristic last referred to set forth the dedication of the Church to God, her consecration to His service; so this which I now speak of(is designed to remind us of the power in which we are to be thus consecrated — the power of resurrection-life. The apostle supposes the objection brought against the gospel of the grace of God which so often meet with in the present day, that it tends to antinomianism. "What, then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Romans 6:1), and how does he reply? "God forbid; how shall we who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Here you see the Christian is described as one that is dead to sin; and how is that? "Know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? wherefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death? that like as Christ is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Such, then, you perceive, is practical Christianity. If you want a sample of the life in which we ought to walk, you are to contemplate the risen Saviour: this is the standard which the Scriptures put before us.
5. The next particular to which I would refer is the injunction in the sixteenth verse, "They shall be baken with leaven." There is a beautiful significance in this; the leaven, we know, is a type of the flesh — of nature — of the old man, and when it is directed that it should be mingled with this offering, it appears, at first sight, extraordinary. Why should that which is thus dedicated to God be thus defiled? There is something significant in this: there was no leaven mingled with the sheaf of corn which was waved on the second day of unleavened bread, because it was a type of Him in whom was no sin; but it is otherwise inregard to that which is designed to represent His people; they would not be perfectly exhibited if there was not this memorial. It is true that they are raised from the death of sin; but it is also true that "the old man" does still remain in them, and, by the taint and infection of the flesh, pollutes their every service, and brings them in still as miserable sinners before God. Here, then, we have an accurate view of the present character of the Church of Christ; animated, indeed, with new, with spiritual life, yet still encompassed with the infirmity, and impeded by the opposition of the flesh. And, accordingly, it is important to observe there is a sin-offering expressly enjoined to be offered with the two wave loaves (ver. 19). This is a remarkable instance of that minuteness with which these types are regulated, and more particularly when it is observed that there was no sin-offering to be made when the sheaf of firstfruits was presented. Oh! beloved, do you feel the virus of the flesh? Are you conscious of its perpetual pressure? Behold, here is the provision He has made to meet your anguish (Hebrews 10:22).
6. But lastly, let us always bear in mind the view which this ordinance gives us of the Church as the firstfruits of God's mercies towards the world at large. The infidel taunts us with the little that the gospel has accomplished, and maintains that Christianity has proved a failure; and truly if, as is supposed by some, the Scriptures held out the expectation that the gospel was to go on gradually extending, until the world was evangelised, there were some appearance of reason in the imputation. Let us ever bear in mind we have an earnest of a glorious harvest which is yet to come. As surely as the firstfruits are now waved in His presence, so surely shall the harvest be gathered into His garner.
(J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: