You are also to observe the Feast of Harvest with the firstfruits of the produce from what you sow in the field. And observe the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather your produce from the field.
I. THE FEAST OF FREEDOM. In this connection (ver. 15) the unleavened bread is the point emphasised - to be eaten for seven days, a full week, at the commencement of the sacred year. As a reminder it suggested -
1. Past slavery. The tyrannous oppression of Egypt; hopeless condition ere God looked upon them; life but a synonym for bare existence; even sustenance depending upon the caprice of others.
2. Past deliverance. The paschal night; unleavened bread the accompaniment of the first paschal feast; food a very secondary consideration when freedom was in question.
3. Present duties. God had delivered them from slavery that they might serve him as his free people; an inner slavery worse than the outer; a purification needed in the heart even more important than that in the home. The leaven of malice and wickedness must be sought out and put away; so long as they retained that, freedom was but a nominal privilege.
II. THE FEAST OF FIRST-FRUITS. Linked on to the second day of unleavened bread. God would have his children look forward; and so he makes the first blessing a seed in which are enwrapped others. Freed by God, the people could appropriate, as his children, the promise made to children (Genesis 1:29, as modified by the fall, Genesis 3:19). The gift of food was God's gift, but their cooperation was needed for its fruition; it was to be the fruit, not the creation of their labours. Familiarity breeds forgetfulness as often as it breeds contempt. A reminder needed that human labour can, at most, work up God's raw material. [The cerealia, or corn plants, well called "a standing miracle." Apparently a cultivated grass, yet no known grass can be improved into corn by cultivation. Corn can be degraded by artificial means into a worthless perennial; as it is, it is an annual, exhausting itself in seeding, needing man's labour to its perfection and preservation.] To get his food, man is constantly reminded that he must be a fellow-worker with God.
III. THE FEAST OF INGATHERING. As the year rolls on, it exhibits more and more of God's goodness and bounty. It calls for ever fresh acknowledgment of that love which gives "liberally and upbraideth not." Freedom a great gift, the capacity to work for one's own livelihood; so, too, food, the means through which that capacity may find exercise; further, God gives all the fruits of the earth in their season, so that man through his labour may find not merely health but happiness. Naturally this was the most joyful of all the festivals - the blossoms which glorified the stem springing from the root of freedom. To rejoice in the Lord is the final outcome of that faith which enables us to realise our sonship. Conclusion. - These festivals have more than an historical interest. They teach the same truths as of old, but for Christians their meaning is intensified. Unleavened bread is associated with Calvary, freedom from the tyranny of sin (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8). Linked to this is our first-fruits festival; Christ, the first-fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20), made our food through the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. The feast of ingathering is not yet, but we may rejoice in it by anticipation (1 Peter 1:6). The final festival is described for us by St. John in the Revelation (Revelation 7:9-17). Blessed are they who, with robes washed white, shall share the joy of that feast of Ingathering. - G.
I. RELIGIOUS FEASTS ARE MEMORIALS.
The feast of harvest.I. THE INSTRUCTION IT COMMUNICATES .
1. It exhibits the wonderful power of God.
2. We have an establishment of the faithfulness and truth of God.
3. We have a manifestation of the goodness and bounty of God.
4. It displays the mercy and forbearance of God.
5. It shows us the connection between means and the end.
II. WHAT FEELINGS IT SHOULD PRODUCE. It should produce feelings —
1. Of deep humiliation.
2. Of heartfelt gratitude.
3. Our constant dependence upon God.
4. A constant desire to please Him.
III. WHAT PRACTICAL INFLUENCE THE SUBJECT SHOULD EXERT UPON US.
1. To labour for the provision suited to our souls.
2. To do good in our respective spheres and stations in life.
3. Prepare for the final harvest.Application:
1. Let us gratefully enjoy the bounties of Providence. Many are abusing, many forgetting, etc.
2. Let us be especially anxious about the blessings of eternal life.
3. Let us always act in reference to the final harvest of the world.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
1. Of God's past dealings.
2. Of our dependence on God's care.
3. Of our present condition. Pilgrims. This earth is not our rest.
II. RELIGIOUS FEASTS ARE NOT TO INTERFERE WITH THE DUTIES OF LIFE.
III. STATED RELIGIOUS FEASTS ARE HELPFUL TO A RELIGIOUS SPIRIT.
IV. RELIGIOUS FEASTS MUST PROMOTE THE SOCIAL AND BENEVOLENT INSTINCTS OF OUR NATURE.
V. THE OFFERINGS AT RELIGIOUS FEASTS must be —
2. Of the best.
(W. Burrows, B. A.)
1. We, too, want great national and religious holidays, to keep in mind great national providences.
2. We need them, moreover, as verily as the Jews, for their conservative political influence — to counteract the sectional and unsocial tendencies of our great tribal divisions. If we could come up nationally to such Pentecosts, then no living man would ever again dare breathe of discord and disunion — for chords, tender as our loves and stronger than our lives woven of religion and holy with old memories, as the memorial festivals uniting Judah and Ephraim, would bind us together and bind us to God!
3. Meanwhile we need such pentecostal holidays for those personal advantages which they brought to the Hebrews. They furnish that harmless relaxation so constitutionally necessary to our highest well-being. Real pleasure, as well physical as moral, is always the true law of life. True virtue is genial and joyous, walking earth in bright raiment, and with bounding footsteps. And the nervous, restless, unreposing, devouring intensity of purpose wherewith our men follow their business, is as disastrous to the nobler moral bloom and aroma of the heart, as a roaring hurricane to a garden of roses. Above all, our religious nature needs them. The true joy of the Lord is the Christian's strength. Cheerfulness is a very element of godliness.
4. This is our Pentecost — our feast of harvest. And even in its lowest aspect, as a grateful acknowledgment of God's goodness, in preserving for our use the kindly fruits of the earth, it is a fitting occasion of thankfulness. It is scarcely possible to over-estimate the importance of agriculture. It surpasses commerce and manufacture, as a cause is superior to its effects — as an inner life is of more moment than its various outward functions. Meanwhile, the reflex influences of industrial agriculture on our physical and social well-being are as well incalculable. After all, the finest products of our farm-lands are found in our farm-houses. Things better than corn and cabbages are grown on plough-ground — bone, muscle, sinew, nerve, brain, heart; these all thrive and strengthen by agriculture. The specimens of strong, hale, common-sense manhood seen at our annual fairs are a finer show than all the fat cattle and sheep, and noble horses, and the brave array of farm-fruits and implements. Agriculture purifies morals, chastens taste, deepens the religious element, develops the individual man.
5. Our thanksgiving is partly in view of the ripened fruits of the earth; but mainly in view of other and higher blessings. And in this regard as well, it is properly — a feast of harvest. In respect of all things — not merely the natural fruits of the earth, but all great human interests, political, intellectual, religious — we may be said to live in the world's great harvest time. We have reaped, and are reaping, the ripened and ripening fruits of all earth's past generations. Consider this a little.(1) First: This is true — politically. Philosophically considered, the grand end and aim of all civil progress is human freedom — the highest development and culture of the individual and free manhood. Monarchy the one-man-power, oligarchy the few-men-power, are but the successive stages of the growing life, up to the ripened product of the true democracy — the all-men power. To this end hath tendered all political progress; and beyond this there is no progress. This is the harvest of earth's long political husbandry, and we are reaping it.(2) Then passing from the political, the same thought is true in regard of the intellectual. It is a thought well worthy our pondering, on an occasion like this — that we live in the harvest-time of mind and thought! Carefully considered, the development of the "mental" follows the law of material development. "First, the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." Genius is first poetical, then practical. First, the flaunting blossom; then the substantial fruit. From the beginning, man's law of intellectual progress has been from the abstract to the practical — from ideas to facts. The practical, being the fruit of the imaginative, as the ripened corn is the fruit of the plant's inner life. In past generations, intellect has been busy in a rudimental husbandry — felling the great forests; draining the low marshes; subduing the rugged soil; scattering the seed; and watching and waiting for the increase. The old philosophy; the old civilization; the old polities, civil and ecclesiastical; the old chivalry; the old poetry — these were the thought-germs, the thought-leaves, the thought-blossoms, which have ripened, and are ripening around us into God's glorious fruit! We live in earth's prodigal and luxuriant autumn — in times when marvellous things are the rule, and mean things the exception — in an economy of prodigies, each one a seeming miracle to men's earlier comprehension, and yet all, only the ripened development of their own thought-germs. And if the law of all husbandry be "to sow in tears and reap in joy," then our thanksgiving, that we live in these eventful times, should be unto God, this day, a great feast of harvest!(3) Passing this, we observe once more, and finally, That this same law of development we have been tracing through the political and intellectual, will be found to rule in the spiritual — and in this regard should we mainly rejoice that we live in life's harvest-time.
6. In respects, then, like these, political, intellectual, religious, we live in times of unexampled blessedness. We have come up to Zion from hills purple with vintage, and valleys golden with corn, in the rapturous harvest-home of the mortal! And it becomes us to keep festival before God as the old Jew kept his Pentecost. As men, as patriots, as philanthropists, as Christians, our cup of joy mantles brightly. What more could God have done for us that He hath not done? What people can be happy before God, if we are not happy? Living here, in this nineteenth century, free men — free Christians — we seem to stand on the very mount of God, flung up in the waste of ages, for the enthronement of His great man-child! We look backward, and lo! all the past has been working together for our national and individual beatitude. Patriarchs, prophets, bards, sages, mighty men, conquerors, have all been our servants. Generation after generation, that have lived and died — great empires, that have risen and flourished, and trod imperial paths, and passed away for ever — seem to rise from their old death-dust, and march in vision before us, laying down all their accumulated thoughts, and arts, and honours — all the trophies of their mighty triumphs, in homage, at our feet! We look forward, and the eye is dazzled with the vision of the glory about to be accorded to God's kingly creature, man! when standing upon this redeemed world, he shall assert his birthright — a child of God here! an heir of God for ever! Verily, we have cause for thanksgiving. "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." Let us give, then, free course to our grateful emotions! Thankful for the present, trustful for the future, let us rejoice before God "with the joy of harvest."
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