And the LORD said to Moses,
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.
When ye be come into the land.I. MAN'S TRUE RELATION TO THE LAND OF PROMISE.
1. In his original estate man realised his dependence upon God, and his responsibility before God for the true and righteous use of all God's gifts. As long as man used God's glorious gifts in obedience to God's supreme law of love, his life was blessed with the fulness of weal: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat." But in the day when the sense of responsibility to God was lost, and the commandment which embraced in itself the significance of all the other commandments was broken, the .disorders and the miseries of human society arose. The spirit of individual selfishness is the power which disorganises society, which brings a blight upon the garden of God, and drives human souls out from the glory and wealth into the thorny, desolate wilderness. There is no power that can enable man to dress the garden and to keep it, but the sense of responsibility to the one supreme Lord of Life, whose name is Love. This principle is the Divinely ordained power that suffices to check the deadly evils that arise from exaggerated notions of the rights of human property. In human society gifts are unequally distributed. The gifts of genius and the external gifts of property are alike unequal. In the ownership of the riches of mind we see men endowed with vast territories of knowledge and intellectual power. It is God's order. Gifts are not equally divided. So the land is not, and never can be, possessed in absolutely equal portions by the citizens of state. There must be the large landowners and the multitude of the poor who have but little. Where is the check that is to restrain the abuses of property? In the perpetual remembrance of the truth that the proudest landowner is but a tenant who holds from God, upon God's conditions, in order that the land may be dressed and kept so as to promote the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number.
2. Another truth closely related to our absolute dependence upon God's love, and the realisation of which is equally necessary to our spiritual health, is declared in this passage, viz., that the occupiers of the land of promise can only enjoy the fruits which God gives upon God's conditions. The king upon the throne who has not a kingly heart and soul occupies a land of promise, but does not eat of its fruits. In all the professions of human activity, from the highest to the humblest, the enjoyment of the noblest fruits of the position can only be realised by those who know how to perform the duties which belong to it.. The conditions of enjoyment are imposed upon the occupiers of every land of promise. The blessed land of rest, towards which human souls are travelling through the wilderness of earthly struggles, can only produce its harvest, and pour forth its stores of milk and honey to those who shall have been made "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
II. THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH THE FRUITS OF CANAAN CAN BE EATEN.
1. The elevated use of the gifts of life. The man who uses God's gifts to pamper his lusts, by feeding the low life of debased animalism, lowers the corn of the field below its original level by devoting it to the "table of devils," as the food taken to create blood for the heart in which the basest, foulest feelings have their homes, and for the brain, out of which the thoughts that are set on fire of hell wing their flight. The drunkard, the glutton, and the unclean, degrade the fruits of the land by using them to feed the life of the tenants who dwell in the moral abyss. On the other hand, in the man who strives to live a life of high purpose, pure feeling, and noble thought, the corn is taken into the manhood and shares its elevation. It is that lofty use alone that gives man fulness of enjoyment. There is an unearthly delight in the enjoyment of God's gifts when they are thus exalted. It is still true that God satisfies His people "with the bread of heaven. "It is still true that for those who are redeemed to the high life in Christ the Holy Spirit gives them" of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels' food." Do we seek elevation in Christ Jesus? Are we pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? Are we sanctifying the fields of our life by subjecting all our energies to the influence of noble aspirations and high purposes in Christ Jesus?
2. The second condition which regulates the enjoyment of the fruits of the land of promise is embodied in this command, "Ye shall offer
. . . an he-lamb without, blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the Lord." What are the moral and spiritual truths embodied in the form of this ordinance? It gives expression to that eternal truth that man cannot enjoy the fruits of God's promised land with. out innocency of life, and entire surrender of self to God. The highest joys and richest pleasures of existence cannot be experienced by the man whose heart is full of malice and wickedness. Material prosperity, houses, and lands, and gold he may have. But the joy, peace, and satisfaction which feed the inner life of an enriched, ennobled soul are forbidden to all but those who have found truth and innocency of character. The mode of the offering is also expressive of another condition. The lamb was to be offered as a burnt-offering. This form of sacrifice expresses the principle of unreserved dedication of the life to God. The life of self-sacrifice is the happy life. The heart which has given itself unreservedly to the truth and love of God, is the heart that experiences the joys of the promised land.
3. The third condition imposed upon the Israelite was expressed in the command, "The: meat-offering thereof shall be two-tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour; and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an bin." What eternal principle is embodied in the form of this rite? It teaches us that we cannot enjoy the fruits of the promised land until we have learnt to seek the sustenance and gladness of the soul in communion with God. The flour of the meat-offering represents that spiritual bread of the soul which "strengtheneth man's heart." The wine of the drink-offering represents the spiritual flow of joys that "maketh glad the heart of man." The oil is the type of the influence of the Divine Spirit by the virtue of which life-giving efficacy comes to the forms of human service.
III. How ARE WE TO FULFIL THE CONDITIONS IMPOSED UPON SOULS IN THIS PASSAGE? HOW can we practically qualify ourselves to eat the products of the spiritual harvest that grows in the land that, God has given to us? The three great principles here set before us are acknowledged in the life of the sincere, worthy communicants in the Church of Christ, "the meet partakers of those holy mysteries." Whenever you approach the Lord's table as the Church commands, you wave the energies of life on high before the Lord, and acknowledge the principle of Divine elevation by answering in obedience to her command, "Lift up your hearts," — "We lift them up unto the Lord." You acknowledge the eternal obligation of the Divine principle of self-devotion when, after confessing your sins and asking the absolution of Christ, you offer with fervent resolve the service of a life delivered from its blemishes by the redeeming power of the unblemished Lamb, who is the propitiation for our sins, and say, "Here we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto Thee." You acknowledge the need of Divine sustenance, the principle of the eternal meat-offering, when you hearken to the voice of the Church saying unto you, "Feed on Him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving." If we would be qualified to enjoy all the glorious wealth of Canaan we must live the hidden sacramental life in Christ.
(H. T. Edwards, M. A.)
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