Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE SIN DESCRIBED.
1. Its main feature is the unlawful possession of another's property, through wrongful acquisition or detention. Force or deceit has been employed in procuring or retaining the goods. This sin may be committed in little things or great, and by communities as well as individuals.
2. Its source is avarice. The eye beholds, the heart covets, the will consents, and the hand grasps, as in the history of Achan, who robbed God (Joshua 7:21). There is thus the evil cooperation of the senses and faculties, sin in inward thought and outward act. The temporary gratification of the flesh is preferred to the durable contentment of the spirit; self is brought into hideous prominence, as if it could never be coincident with the interest of others and of God. It is classed with sins of ignorance because, though wittingly done, the covetous desire seems to blind the moral sight, and man acts as if under the constraint of a foreign power. Beware of greed! it is insidious in its approaches, and awful in its effects.
3. It is aggravated by falsehood. One sin drags another in its wake; avarice prepares the way for lying, even demands it that its designs may be achieved. What has been taken by force is often defended by perjury. The pillars of wickedness are unstable; they need each other's support, for they cannot stand alone in their own native strength. A covetous heart calls for a deceitful tongue.
II. THE REPARATION. Real happiness does not accompany sin; it is a thorny rose, a cup with nauseous elements, a nightmare sleep. Though no human eye detect the wrong, the sinner is guilty, and knows that One above will not recognize the right of might and violence, nor allow his name to be used with impunity as a shield to vice. Remorse tortures the transgressor, until he is driven to confess his crime and to make amends for it. The Law mercifully appoints a salve for the bleeding conscience.
1. Full restitution to the rightful owner. The property stolen or retained, together with an added fifth, is returned as compensation for the injury suffered. Sin is shown to be unprofitable, and no length of possession is allowed to supply a reason for inequitable retention. Lapse of time must never be supposed to bar recovery of rights. Are there no persons in our assemblies to whom this law is applicable?
2. Acknowledgment of an offense committed against God. It was "a trespass against the Lord" (verse 2), and in several respects. His commandments were broken, notably the second, third, eighth, and tenth (Exodus 20). An atonement is required, the sacrifice of a ram, the fat parts of which are burnt on the altar, and the rest eaten by the priests. The two branches of the moral law are closely connected. To violate the one is to dishonour the other. Experience attests their contiguity. Those who best regard the interests of their neighbours are the men that are jealous for the honour of God. Forget not to impress upon children the importance of asking, not only their parents' pardon, but the forgiveness of their heavenly Father when they have acted dishonestly or unkindly. Frequently the newspapers record the receipt by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of money sent because of unpaid taxes. Do the senders always remember that they have sinned against God as well as man; and implore forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ? - S.R.A.
I. AN ENUMERATION OF WRONGS. These may be distributed into two classes, viz.:
1. In matters of fraud. These may be
(1) in respect to things in custody, "that which was delivered him to keep." Under this heading may he ranged things left in pledge, the possession of which is afterwards denied. Also things borrowed and fraudulently retained.
(2) In respect to "fellowship." This may refer, in matters of partnership, to claiming for sole interest profits that should be divided, or shifting liabilities which should be jointly borne wholly to the partner's account. The Hebrew here is "putting of the hand," which the margin interprets "in dealing." Any fraud in trade would, therefore, come under this head, viz. by light weight, short measure, false balances, false samples, adulterations, misrepresentation of values, or saunterings by which an employer is robbed of his time.
(3) In respect to trusts. Executors so managing estates as to enrich themselves at the expense of their wards. Public servants manipulating accounts to pocket balances, or taking bribes to favour particular contractors to the prejudice of competitors or of the public.
(4) In respect to "the lost thing which he found." Solon's law was, "Take not up that which you laid not down." Historians relate that in England, in the days of Alfred the Great, golden bracelets might be safely hung up in the road. Whoever retains what he found when he knows who the owner is, or without using diligence to discover him, is a thief.
2. In matters of violence. Such as
(1) "A thing taken away by violence." A horrible example is furnished in the case of the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21:15, 16).
II. AGGRAVATIONS OF THE WRONGS. These are:
1. When lies are told to cover them.
(1) Some may have the hardihood stoutly to deny, in the face of witnesses to the contrary, that they came into fraudulent possession of property.
(2) It is more easily denied when there are no witnesses to attest delivery, or prove custody or trust against the holder.
(3) Lies are told in the forms of evasion, shuffling, and false colouring.
2. When oaths are taken to give countenance to the lies.
(2) But when an oath is taken to cover a wrong, God is appealed to. What a fearful outrage against the God of truth, to be thus called in to attest a lie!
(3) Whether a wrong be done before God as a "witness," which it must be if it is done at all; or whether he be "appealed" to by an oath, every trespass against man is also "a trespass against Jehovah" (see James 5:4). Trespasses cannot, therefore, be treated lightly because of the insignificance of the person wronged, when the Almighty also is concerned. In all the interest which God takes in the justice of human actions, he has the good of man at heart.
III. THE LAW OF REPARATION.
1. He shall make up the wrong to the person injured.
(1) "He shall restore it in the principal." If this cannot be done in the identical thing, then an "estimation" of its value must be taken, and payment made, viz. "in shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary" (comp. Leviticus 5:15).
(2) "He shall add the fifth part more thereto." This is a proper consideration for the inconvenience the owner may have suffered through the fraud. But if the "estimation" be, as some read it in Leviticus 5:15, "two shekels," then the restoration would be "fourfold," since the atonement money was "half a shekel." This would agree with Exodus 22:1 (comp. also 2 Samuel 12:6; Luke 19:8).
(3) And he shall "give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering." The trespass offering will not be accepted else. Job's blends had to make peace with him before their sacrifices would be accepted (Job 42:8; see also Matthew 5:23, 24).
2. He shall then "bring his trespass offering unto the Lord."
(1) "A ram that is perfect." God will accept nothing that is imperfect. Therefore we must come to him through Christ, who can invest us with his righteousness.
(2) "With thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest." This, according to Leviticus 5:15, would be of the value of two shekels.
(3) "And the priest shall make an atonement for him," etc. Reflect: What a power there is in conscience! What a costly thing is sin! How carefully should it be avoided! Let us avail ourselves of the benefits of redemption. - J.A.M.
I. THAT GOD ALLOWS US TO CONSIDER HIS GIFTS AS BELONGING TO OURSELVES. By inheritance or by labour we acquire property; a man has a right to say, concerning an object thus legally acquired, "This is mine." The possession of property is carefully guarded by the declarations of God's Word; "the commandments of the Lord" make the violation of this right a very serious sin (see text). It is well, however, to remember that human ownership is never absolute; it is subject to:
2. Our duty, in holding it, to keep in view the general good; e.g., large landowner has no right to let ground lie waste, and be covered with seed-sowing weeds.
3. Our liability, at any hour, to lay it down at God's will.
II. THAT MEN FIND VARIOUS WAYS OF DISREGARDING THIS RIGHT. Many forms of dishonesty prevail in every land; it is an inevitable excrescence of sin. Five special cases are here provided against:
1. Breach of trust, or failure to return anything borrowed; lying in "that which was delivered him to keep" (verse 2).
2. Unfairness in partnership or cooperation; "in fellowship."
3. Violent appropriation or hardship (oppression), - "a thing taken away by violence" (verse 2).
4. Fraud in trading, - "hath deceived his neighbour" (verse 2).
5. Illegal retention of something accidentally acquired, - "have found that which was lost," etc. (verse 3).
III. THAT DISHONESTY IN ANY FORM IS A SERIOUS SIN AGAINST GOD, as well as a wrong done to our neighbour. By committing any one of these offenses a soul is said to "sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord" (verse 2); "he sins therein" (verse 3); "he hath sinned, and is guilty." Evidently the taking from our neighbour "that which is his' is a high misdemeanour in the sight of God. Two of the "ten commandments" (Exodus 20) are directed against it: "Thou shalt not steal;" "Thou shalt not covet," etc. Theft, dishonesty, is a treble sin: it is a wrong to our fellow; it is an injury to ourselves (spiritual demoralization); it is an offense against God.
IV. THAT IT CALLS FOR RESTITUTION AS WELL AS SACRIFICE.
1. We must, indeed, bring our sacrifice to God. The Jew was to bring his "ram without blemish" (verse 6), and an atonement was to be made before the Lord, and his trespass was forgiven him (verse 7). We must bring the sacrifice of a contrite spirit, and plead the One Sacrifice for all sin, and we shall be forgiven.
2. But we are also bound to make restitution where that is possible. The Jew was to "restore it in the principal, and... add the fifth part more thereto" (verse 5); he was to more than make up for the injury he had done. And
(1) in order that the will of Christ concerning us in such case may be fully done (see Matthew 5:24),
(2) that our own conscience may be perfectly clear and unstained, and
(3) that our brother may have reason to be entirely satisfied with us, - let us make not only adequate but ample or even overflowing compensation for the wrong which we have done. - C.
I. SOCIAL MORALITY RESTS UPON RELIGION. Offenses against neighbours, offenses against God. No true support of society apart from faith. Follies of the modern skeptical school. Enthusiasm of humanity, atheism, development of morality out of a physical basis, - mere dreams of the intellect. Facts of history show that corrupt religion is corrupt morals; that an atheistic society is mere organized selfishness.
II. THE TRUE HEALING PRINCIPLE OF SOCIETY. The preservation of individual rights in the spirit of a common allegiance to God. We are all brethren. If one offend, let his offense be both readily acknowledged and atoned for, and readily forgiven. So long as we simply pay back, we do not heal the hurt; we must more than pay back. His restitution was of the principal and the fifth part more thereto. Such a regulation was founded on the Divine love, as the essence of the Divine Law. We must remedy wrongs in the spirit of benevolence.
II. AS TYPICAL OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST, THE DIVINE FULNESS OF REDEMPTION is set forth. The offenses of men are more than made up for. Their redeemed state is an advance upon their state of innocence. The new Law is better than the old. Christ in us is not only the crucifixion of sin and the world, but "the hope of glory." The believer will find in the blood of the atonement both a cleansing away of guilt, and a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. - R.
I. NO MAN WHO SINS CAN TELL HOW FAR HIS SIN WILL TAKE HIM. Hazael, Gehazi, Ahab, Judas, etc.; "facilis descensus Averni."
II. IT IS IN THE NATURE OF SIN TO TEMPT TO FURTHER SIN. The instances with which we are familiar are not remarkable exceptions; they are illustrations of a principle at work everywhere and always. "There's not a crime but takes its change out still in crime, when once rung on the counter of this world;" dishonesty naturally, if not necessarily, leads to lying, and lying to perjury. One sin is the germ of another, and is sure to bear fruit.
III. IT IS A PART OF THE PENALTY OF SIN THAT IT SHOULD DO SO. We sometimes think that sin carries no penalty; so it seemed to the Psalmist (Psalm 73), but he was wrong, as he owned (verse 15). It not only ends disastrously ("then understood I their end"), but it results in certain, immediate, spiritual injury. On the day in which the forbidden fruit is eaten, we do die, - in the soul.
IV. THIS FACT OF THE DIFFUSIVENESS OF SIN HELPS TO EXPLAIN THE EXCEEDING EVIL OF IT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. It may well be accounted "an evil and bitter thing," a thing which he "hates," which he "abhors," etc. These considerations furnish
(1) a very strong reason for repentance, etc; and
(2) an equally strong inducement for the cultivation of holiness in the heart and life of the good. - C.
I. THE LAW OF THE BURNT OFFERING AS TO THE SACRIFICE. And we observe:
1. That the offering was ever upon the altar.
(1) The evening sacrifice was "burning upon the altar all night unto the morning." For the particular reference here is to the tally sacrifice of a lamb for the whole congregation.
(2) This was then followed by the corresponding morning sacrifice. This, together with the occasional sacrifices which were offered throughout the day, would keep the altar fully occupied until the evening.
(3) Thus there was kept up a constant "remembrance of sins" day by day, the year round, and "year by year continually." For the repetition of the sacrifices showed that "they could never take away sins." These could only be removed "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once" (see Hebrews 10:1-10).
2. That the fire was kept ever burning.
(1) This was not common fire, but came forth from God (see Leviticus 9:23, 24). It was an emblem of the Holy Spirit; and sometimes represented his wrath, sometimes his love (Isaiah 4:4; Malachi 3:2, 3; Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3, 4; Hebrews 10:26, 27; Hebrews 12:29).
(2) God commanded that it should "not be put out." He will consume with the fire of his wrath those who quench the fire of his love. Even if we be not always offering sacrifices, love must be kept always burning in the heart (1 Thessalonians 5:19; 2 Timothy 1:6).
(3) The priests were instructed how they should keep it alive. They were to put on wood. On this to lay the burnt offering. So the Great Sacrifice was laid on the wood of the cross, when the fires of God's wrath entered into his very soul. The fat of the peace offerings was placed on the burnt offering. So the fire was maintained (see Isaiah 31:9). The fire was kept ever burning, to show that God's wrath could never be quenched until the blood of Christ should quench it.
II. THE LAW OF THE BURNT OFFERING AS TO THE PRIEST.
1. "Aaron and his sons" together are addressed. Verse 9.
(1) The high priest of the Law was undoubtedly a type of the "Great High Priest of our profession." When Aaron, the high priest, is here mentioned with his sons, the priests, the suggestion is that in his absence they acted as his representatives in connection with the burnt offering. So here they also may be viewed as types of Christ.
(2) The sons of Aaron, in their character of ordinary priests, represent Christians. In what they did, therefore, there may have been a two- fold typical meaning.
2. They attended the altar in their holy garments.
(1) These were composed of white linen. "His linen garment, and his linen breeches" (Exodus 28:40-43). They symbolized purity and righteousness (Psalm 132:9; Revelation 3:4; Revelation 7:13, 14; Revelation 19:8).
(2) As types of Christ in offering up his own sacrifice of himself to God, they would shadow forth his righteousness. As typifying Christians, they would foreshow how we must be clothed with the "robe of righteousness and garment of salvation" through Christ's merits, before our spiritual sacrifices can be accepted.
(3) Even when the priest took up the ashes from the consuming burnt offering to put them beside the altar, he wore his holy garments. This was proper, for the fire was still consuming the sacrifice. But,
3. He changed his garments to carry the ashes outside.
(1) He had to carry them forth without the camp. Was not Calvary this place of ashes (comp. chapter Leviticus 4:12; Hebrews 13:11, 12)?
(2) But they were to be laid in a "clean place." The tomb of Joseph was such a place. It had not been polluted by the touch of a dead body (see John 19:41, 42). Nor did the ashes of the world's Great Burnt Offering pollute it. They were holy. Because he was the "Holy One" of God, his body "could not see corruption" (Acts 2:31).
(3) The holy raiment was laid aside when this service was performed, to show that now, as far as the work of sacrifice was concerned, that was "finished" when Jesus expired upon the cross. Let us rejoice in an "eternal redemption," in an "everlasting salvation." - J.A.M.
I. THAT HOLINESS BECOMES THE HOUSE OF GOD. It seems generally agreed that the linen garments, in which the priests were to be robed when engaged in sacrificial acts (verse 10), signified the purity of heart which should characterize the worshipper of God (see Exodus 28:42; Ezekiel 44:19). Certainly it is only the "pure in heart" who can hope to "see God," either by faith here or in beatific vision hereafter (see Psalm 93:5).
II. THAT THERE IS NO DRUDGERY IN THE SERVICE OF GOD. Very homely and humble details of sacred work were to be done by the officiating priest. He was to be very careful as to the clothes he wore, changing them at regulated times (verses 10, 11); he was to "take up the ashes... and put them beside the altar" (verse 10), and to "carry forth the ashes without the camp," etc. (verse 11). These acts were mean enough in themselves. Elsewhere they would have been accounted menial, but in so sacred a service as the direct worship of Jehovah they acquired sanctity, and even dignity. They were solemn ceremonies, reverently performed. The slightest engagement in the worship of God deserves to be esteemed sacred (Psalm 84:10). Any humble deed done or simple word spoken,
(1) as in the presence of the observing and approving Master, or
(2) consciously and designedly for the glory of his name, or
(3) as unto one for whom he died and whom he loves (Matthew 10:40-42),
rises to high rank in the esteem of Heaven. The cheerful, loving service of a Divine Redeemer does not contain one act of drudgery; it is all upon the high level of holy, happy, elevating service.
III. THAT THERE MUST BE CONSTANCY IN OUR CONSECRATION TO GOD. "The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out" (verse 13). As soon as the victim was slain and his shed blood was sprinkled on the altar, there was forgiveness and acceptance, and the burning of the whole animal by the heaven-kindled fire indicated the accepted consecration of the offerer. When, therefore, the priest was instructed to keep the fire perpetually burning on the altar, it signified God's readiness to receive the perpetual devotion of the Israelites themselves to him and to his service. To us the most instructive lesson it conveys is that we must keep steadily and unfailingly burning the fire of consecration in our hearts; - that must "never go out."
1. The passions of youth must not be permitted to extinguish it.
2. Nor the toils and anxieties of our prime.
3. Nor the mysterious and perplexing troubles that, like whelming billows (Psalm 42:7), go over us.
4. Nor the distressing doubts which the enemies of the faith raise within us.
5. Nor the comforts and indulgences of prosperous periods in our life. It must be diligently and devoutly fed by
(1) earnest thought - meditation;
(2) regular worship with the people of God;
(3) steadfast Christian work; and
(4) the private believing prayer which finds such utterance as this, "O thou who earnest from above!" etc. - C.
I. THE PERPETUITY OF RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION.
1. As springing out of the relation between man and God, as underlying the whole of human existence. "In him we live, and move, and have our being."
2. The all-embracing love of God. The fire came originally from him, and must be kept up to betoken his ceaseless care of his creatures.
3. The positive expression of religious feeling can never be dispensed with, should be maintained in uninterrupted order.
II. The maintenance of worship is A DUTY WHICH IS DEVOLVED UPON CONSECRATED PERSONS, and their official position, in an especial manner. Vain to expect that the tire will not go out, unless appointed persons attend to it. Mere individualism is abuse of liberty, and ends in irreligious disorder and extinction of the fire of God's house. Priestcraft is no argument against a special ministry in the Church. All must help to maintain the fire, but some must take the command as addressed to them in a special manner. They must separate themselves to the work, both by appropriate manner of life and recognition of special duties. Religion is not only in temples, but if the fire goes out there, it will go out everywhere. - R.
Leviticus 6:8-30Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19. We have here sundry sacrificial laws enabling us the better to understand the details of the preceding sacrifices; but the cardinal idea in them all, as we shall now see, is that which heads this homily, "Quench not the Spirit." And -
I. THE FIRE OF THE BURNT OFFERING WAS TO BE CAREFULLY PRESERVED, SO THAT IT SHOULD NEVER GO OUT. This necessitated a regular removal of the ashes to the clean place selected for their reception without the camp. These ashes represented what would not ascend in the fire, and were a fitting symbol of the dross and corruption which attaches to all human services. Everything which would prevent the fire from burning was to be removed. Now, we have already seen that the fire of the altar symbolizes the Holy Spirit. It is what came from God in the first instance, and what renders the sacrifice acceptable. Hence the lesson about the perpetuation of the altar-fire is to remove everything which would hinder or would quench the free action of the Spirit within us. The purer we try to be, the freer will the movements of the Holy Ghost be within us. On the other hand, negligence in life must interrupt the spiritual action. Let us diligently use every means, like the priest laying on the wood and clearing away the ashes from the altar, and the Holy Spirit as a fire within us will make us ardent and enthusiastic in the Divine life.
II. NEW OBEDIENCE OUGHT TO BE AS HOLY IN OUR EYES AS ATONEMENT. This principle is symbolized for us in the details about the meat offering (verses 14-18). For the priests are not only to burn carefully the due proportion upon the altar, but also to prepare the remainder for themselves without leaven, and to regard it as a "holy of holies" (קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים), like the sin offering and the trespass offering. If, then, we saw reason to regard the meat offering as emphasizing the idea of consecrated life-work, this direction to the priests about regarding the meat offering as just as holy as the sin offering or trespass offering, embodies the idea that "new obedience" should be as holy in our eyes as "atonement." Now, there is no principle more likely to please the Holy Spirit, to foster his indwelling, and to maintain his reign. The whole Christian life is elevated in tone when this ideal is comprehended. The perfection of our Saviour's atonement and righteousness is to be the model of our lives.
III. A CLASS IS NEEDFUL WHOSE SELF-DENYING LIVES ARE ABOVE SUSPICION. This seems taught by the arrangement that the meat offering of the priests must be wholly burnt (verses 19-23). The life-work is to be all consecrated, all a dedicated thing. Never are the officers of God to be "off duty," "out of season" as well as "in season" should they serve God. Now, the self-denial of a class of men, if realized, goes far to secure the continuance and blessing of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of self-denial - this is the most important evidence of his work - and the demonstration of this to men is a concomitant of his abiding. It need hardly be observed - it is so evident - that Jesus, our Great High Priest, realized self-denial in all its fullness. He could say, as none other can, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34). Every portion of our Lord's life-work was laid upon the altar, permeated with the oil of the Spirit, and enveloped in the incense of prayer. It is for priestly believers to follow in his steps.
IV. THE CONSECRATING POWER OF THE ATONING SACRIFICE SHOULD BE KEPT CONSTANTLY IN VIEW. In the remaining verses (verses 24-30), we have brought before us the intense holiness of the sin offering. It is to be regarded as a "holy of holies" (קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים). In ordinary cases the priest, is. to. eat. that which, remains, after God's share has been offered on the altar, to sustain him in his atoning duties, and to sustain also his sense of consecration. In the more important cases, such as are referred to in Leviticus 4:1-21, the remainder of the animal was to be carried out to the clean place outside the camp, and burned there in the place of the ashes. Moreover, every person and thing which touched the flesh was thereby consecrated, So intensely holy was the atoning sacrifice, that it pervaded with its sanctifying power everything in contact with it. That this is typical is clear. A similar but much more real consecration attaches to the atoning sacrifice of Christ. And this great truth must be kept in view if we would preserve the Spirit within us. To separate consecration from the atoning work of Jesus must ever be grieving to the Spirit, whose chief mission is to take of the things of Christ and show them unto men (John 16:14, 15). We have thus discovered in these miscellaneous laws what course we should follow, if the Spirit is not to be quenched within us but is to abide. We must diligently use the appointed means, we must have the highest possible ideal of a consecrated life, and we must give all honour to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. In such circumstances we shall retain, in large and abiding measure, the Holy Spirit within us. - R.M.E.
Exodus 27:1-8. Let us advance in thought, and behold the flames and curling smoke, and hear the lessons the fire preaches.
I. Consider it as THE FULFILMENT OF AN ORDINANCE. From his relationship to God, man is bound to obey him, and this same relationship causes that the majority of God's utterances to man are in the nature of commands, such commands, however, containing virtual promises. And those are most honoured who have most commands. The priests occupied the highest posts in the estimation of the people, simply because they were entirely devoted to the behests of the Almighty. To lay sticks in order upon the altar and set fire to them, was in itself a humble occupation, but the fact that it was performed for the glory of God elevated its character in the eyes of all. Menial duties are ennobled when discharged as unto the Lord. The fire was an emblem of worship, of praise, and supplication, ascending to the Most High from his faithful people. That it was perpetual indicated God's desire to be worshipped, not with fitful enthusiasm, but with steady regularity. There were times when the fuel was renewed, just as men may have their seasons of devotion at morning and at night, on the Lord's day and on a certain week-day, but there must be always a flame of service to testify to the obedience and affection of the people. The fire was kept alight by successive generations in their turn. To no one age is it exclusively given to sound the praises and do the will of the Eternal. When one servant falls asleep, having done the will of God, his younger comrade must step into his place and continue the work. Even the materials so soon to be consumed must be deposited upon the altar in an orderly manner. It is said by the rabbins that care was taken in selecting the sticks, no rotten ones being allowed. Whatever is done for God must be done to the best of our ability.
II. Consider it as THE ENJOYMENT OF A PRIVILEGE. Once the fire was consecrated by the approach thereto of the glorious fire from God's presence instantly consuming the sacrifice (Leviticus 9:24). The flames became henceforth a token of God's acceptance of the offerings of his servants, and his consequent reconciliation and favour. If any Israelite doubted the reality of Jehovah's existence or his willingness to bless the nation, a glance at the fire was sufficient to dismiss all doubt, and to inspire his breast with a consciousness of blessing. The perpetual fire symbolized God's unchangeable protection of his people. Through the hours of daylight and through the watches of the night the flames ascended on high; they knew no cessation; they spoke of him who "never slumbers nor sleeps," upon whose brightness no darkening shadow ever rests. This altar-fire consumed the various offerings presented. It kindled other fires - from it the burning coals for the golden altar of incense were taken; it was the fire-foundation on which the sacrifices were laid, and by which they were consecrated. It is the loving sacrifice of Christ that generates holy lives in his followers. By his ascension the fire of the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church, kindling sparks of hallowed emotion, and making the thoughts and words and acts of Christians an ever-brightening blaze of sacred service. - S.R.A.
I. THE LAW OF THE BREAD OFFERING OF THE PEOPLE, In this case:
1. A memorial of it was burnt upon the altar.
(1) The memorial represented the whole. The bulk consisted of at least an omer, or about three of our quarts, of fine flour, of which a handful was taken for the memorial. There was with the omer of flour, a log, or little more than a half pint, of oil, of which a fitting quantity was added to the handful of flour. The memorial was completed by the addition of all the frankincense. As the name of a thing stands for the thing, so did the memorial stand for the whole offering; it was like a quit rent, a discharge for all demands on the estate.
(2) It was burnt upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the Lord. It could not be that to him in a physical sense; this expression must be morally interpreted.
(b) It was placed on the altar of burnt offerings, and mingled among the sacrifices offered, to make atonement for sin, and so, coming up as it were "through Jesus Christ" in whom the Father is ever well pleased, it becomes "acceptable" (1 Peter 2:5).
2. The remainder was eaten by Aaron and his sons.
(1) Aaron ate of it, who was the type of Christ; and his sons also, who were types of Christians. So Jesus and his disciples together ate the Passover (Luke 22:15). And he gave to his disciples the bread and wine of his Eucharist.
(2) The bread offering, was to be eaten without leaven. This substance was regarded as an emblem of evil dispositions, malice, wickedness, insincerity (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). These must be absent from those who feast with Jesus.
(3) It was to be eaten in the holy place. This holy place was not the innermost court, which was a type of "heaven itself" (Hebrews 9:24). It is explained to be the "court of the tabernacle of the congregation," which was a figure of the Church in its earthly aspect - the kingdom of heaven upon earth. Those who elect to worship God outside his Church, are not following out his instructions.
(4) The males only must eat of it. The daughters of the priests were permitted to eat of the "holy things," such as might be carried out of the court, such as the tithes and firstfruits, and the shoulder and breast of the peace offerings. But of the "most holy things" eaten in the sanctuary they may not eat. It was the Seed of the woman who is most holy, not the woman herself; the son, not the daughter, therefore, was holy unto God. Now that most holy Seed has come, the distinction between male and female is abolished (Galatians 3:28).
(5) The priest must not eat it unless he be clean. "Every one that toucheth it shall be holy" (verse 18). To eat and drink unworthily of the Christian Eucharist is a serious thing (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-34).
II. THE LAW OF THE BREAD OFFERING OF THE PRIESTS. In this case:
1. The whole was offered upon the altar.
(1) Here was no "memorial," as in the offering of the people. The omer of fine flour was all burnt upon the altar (verse 23). "Had the priests been permitted to live on their own offerings, as they did on those of the people, it would have been as if they had offered nothing, as they would have taken again to themselves what they appeared to give unto the Lord" (A. Clarke).
(2) It was offered in two portions: half in the morning, and the complement at night (verse 20). And as it is called a "meat offering perpetual," it is generally understood that the high priest repeated this offering daily throughout his pontificate.
(3) This he appears to have done not for himself only, but on behalf of the priesthood in general. This seems expressed in the words, "This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the Lord in the day when he is anointed," etc. (verse 20). Here "they" offer it; but afterwards we read, "And the priest of his sons that is anointed in his stead," viz. as high priest at his demise, "shall offer it" (verse 22). Taken together, these passages show that the high priest offered it for the priesthood in general.
2. None of it was to be eaten by the priests.
(1) It appears to have been of the nature of the sin offering; for there is no frankincense offered with it. This was the case with the poor man's sin offering (see Leviticus 5:11). In sin there is nothing grateful to God.
(2) By his eating of the sin offerings, the typical transfer of the sins of the people to the priest was signified (see chapter Leviticus 10:17). It would not be proper, therefore, for him to eat the sin offering in which he was personally concerned. He must rather see his sin transferred to the altar, and there consumed along with the lamb of the daily sacrifice. So may we see our sins consumed. - J.A.M.
1 John 1:3). In Divine and human fellowship under the gospel, there is -
I. FEASTING TOGETHER. The truest Christian counterpart of the sacred service described in the text is found in the Lord's Supper, There we, who arc all "priests unto God" (Revelation 1:6; 1 Peter 2:5, 9), meet at the table of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:21), and eat and drink in his presence, rejoicing in his redeeming love, renewing before him our vows.
II. SPEAKING ONE TO ANOTHER.
1. God to man in
(1) the pages of revelation;
(2) the words of those whom his Spirit prompts to remind us of his will or to explain it;
(3) the direct communications of his Spirit,
2. Man to God in
(1) the accents of praise;
(2) the breath of supplication.
III. REJOICING IN ONE ANOTHER.
IV. WORKING TOGETHER. We are "workers together with him" (2 Corinthians 6:1); "labourers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9). While God is working in us and through us, he is also working with us; united with us in working out the reconciliation and regeneration of the world. - C.
I. THE MINISTRY OF RELIGION SHOULD BE FULFILLED IN THE SPIRIT OF THANKFUL DEVOTION.
1. The best of the Church should be consecrated to its highest positions.
2. Their service should be rendered as a delight.
3. Their religious earnestness and cheerfulness should be cultivated by fellowship and brotherhood.
4. They should be closely united with the people, not separated from them by spiritual pride and a misanthropic asceticism.
II. HOLINESS THE IMPERATIVE REQUIREMENT OF GOD'S MINISTERS. Not mere ceremonial holiness.
1. Holiness of character and life.
2. Holiness in the service of the sanctuary - purity of worship, singleness of heart, orderliness and decency, with simplicity and manifest sincerity.
III. THE SANCTIFYING INFLUENCE OF A TRUE AND PURE WORSHIP EXTENDS THROUGH SOCIETY. Every one holy by contact with the holy.
1. The persuasive effect of a real and well-sustained religious service. The common mistake is to suppose that morality leads of itself to religion or may be substituted for it.
2. The true order of life is set before us here in the Law of Moses: the nearer to God, the holier; the more closely connected with the worship of God, the more separated from and defended against the impurities of the world.
3. The reaction of the holy life on the sanctuary. The revival of religion must be a reciprocal action of the Church on the ministry, and of the ministry on the Church. - R.
Exodus 29. We may gather from it -
I. THAT ENTRANCE ON SACRED WORK SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED WITH SPECIAL SOLEMNITIES. The commencement of any ministry may well be attended with such observances as shall impress upon the mind the sanctity and. weight of the obligations which are incurred. It. THAT THE ACCEPTANCE OF SACRED OBLIGATIONS SHOULD BE REGARDED AS A TIME FOR THANKFULNESS AS WELL AS SERIOUSNESS OF SPIRIT. The priest was to bring a "meat offering" - fine flour and oil (verses 20, 21) - the token of gratitude for God's bountiful provision. There are, in truth, few things for which we have such reason to be thankful to God as for his providential guidance to that post for which we are fitted, at which we can usefully expend our powers; more particularly if this be one in close connection with his service.
III. THAT THOSE WHO HOLD SACRED OFFICES ARE, WITH ALL THE PEOPLE OF GOD, STEWARDS OF THEIR SECULAR POSSESSIONS. The priest, as well as the layman in Israel, was to bring his meat offering. He, too, was indebted to the Divine Sovereign for all temporal blessings, and should make suitable acknowledgment of his debt. Those who now serve in sacred things, in the gospel of the Saviour, are men who receive and hold secular as well as spiritual treasures, and they, too, have their obligations, which they must not disregard.
IV. THAT WHAT WE GIVE TO GOD AND HIS CAUSE SHOULD BE GIVEN ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT THOUGHT OF RETURN. The people gave their offerings, part being burnt and the rest being the portion of the priests; but every "meat offering for the priest was to be wholly burnt: it was not to be eaten" (verse 23). The priests were not to take back again for their own use that which they had presented to God. What they offered was to be given wholly, utterly, with no thought of receiving it again. When we give to our brother, we do best when we are "hoping for nothing again" (Luke 6:35). When we give to God, either in worship or in contribution to his cause and kingdom, we do best when we are filled with a sense of his immeasurable goodness to us, and with a desire to do something to his praise. We should feel that
(1) it is a high honour to be allowed to give anything to him, and that
(2) the utmost we can give is a poor tribute indeed when presented to him who gave himself for us. - C.
Leviticus 6:19-23Leviticus 6:19-23. The high priest's offering in the day when he is anointed - a perpetual meat offering; offered not during the days of the anointing, but when it was completed, and it was wholly burnt. Fine flour baked as an oil-cake; not a bleeding sacrifice, therefore, but only a thank offering, to denote that expiation was always made, and the high priest offered the fruits of sanctification. This may be viewed -
I. Is ITS TYPICAL APPLICATION TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
1. His entire consecration to his mediatorial office.
2. His personal perfection as needing no expiation, offering only the fine flour of his unspotted humanity, mingled with the oil of the Spirit of God, and with the fire of actual human experience applied to it.
3. His acceptance by the Father on our behalf; "wholly burnt."
II. IN ITS LESSER APPLICATION TO THE MINISTRY OF THE SANCTUARY.
1. The true ordination not a mere human rite, but a Divine acceptance of personal consecration. "I have chosen you," said Jesus, "and ordained you."
2. The minister of God should offer his fine flour, his highest gifts - his intellect, culture, sifted knowledge, prepared thought, he should put nothing which he himself has not toiled to make worthy on the altar.
3. With all we present, the oil of grace must be mingled, and it must be prepared by actual fire of experience. No man can teach and minister spiritual blessings to others who is not himself practically acquainted with the truth.
4. "Every meat offering for the priest shall be wholly burnt: it shall not be eaten." No ministry can be divinely blessed which is not fulfilled in the spirit of single-hearted, self-consuming devotion. We must hate our life for Christ's sake, and take up his cross, if we are to follow him. - R.
I. As IT RESPECTS THE BLEEDING. The particulars under this head are:
1. The place: "Where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed."
(1) In the account of the sin offering (chapter 4), the place is implied rather than specified; but the position of the altar is described in the account of the burnt offering. It stood "at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation," and the burnt offering was killed "on the side of the altar northward" (Leviticus 1:3, 5, 11). Accordingly, Jesus "suffered without the gate," and Calvary was northward of Jerusalem. The evangelical teaching is that a sinner has access to God only through Christ, who declares himself to be the "Door" and the "Way" (John 10:9; John 14:6).
(2) The association here of the sin offering with the burnt offering is significant. The burnt offering expressed adoration, and was offered for sin generally. The sin offering was more specific. Confession of sin should be particular, and faith individual, fully to realize the benefits of the common salvation (1 Timothy 4:10). Let no man trust vaguely to the provisions of mercy. Let the sinner see in the death of Christ the very image of himself, with all his iniquities and abominations, suffering and satisfying the claims of Divine justice.
2. The presence: "Before the Lord" (verse 25).
(1) This means more than being in the presence of One who is omnipresent. There was a manifestation of a special presence of Jehovah in the glory behind the vail. In a special sense Jesus promises to be present where two or three are met in his name.
(2) This presence of God was at once judicial and merciful. The throne of his glory was a propitiatory, but he was there armed with fire to smite with destruction any who dared to set him at defiance (Psalm 97:2, 3; Psalm 89:1-4).
3. The reason: "It is most holy" (verse 25). What?
(1) Not the sin laid on the sacrifice. Sin seen in the sacrifice is exceeding sinful. That which could cause the Son of God his agonies is horrible and abominable in the extreme.
(2) Not the sin, but its condemnation in the sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ, by which sin is removed out of the sight of God, is indeed "most holy." Had Jesus not been "most holy," he could never have accomplished this miracle of grace and mercy.
(3) The blood of the sin offering, if sprinkled upon any garment, must be washed out within the sanctuary. And if the blood of the type must not be treated as a common thing, much more must we reverence that blood which cleanseth from all sin.
II. As IT RESPECTS THE EATING.
1. It was to be eaten by the priest. "The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it."
(1) By this ceremony the "sin" (חטאת, chattath) became, in a sense, assimilated in the body of the priest (see Leviticus 10:17; Hosea 4:8). This represented the manner in which Christ, becoming incarnate among us, appeared "in the likeness of men," and "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:6-8).
(2) The converse of this is in the Eucharist, in which we symbolically partake of the pure body of Christ. As he became assimilated to our likeness that he might expiate sin by the sacrifice of himself, so we now become assimilated to his pure nature that we may inherit the rewards of his righteousness. There is a mystical incarnation of Christ in his believing people (Ephesians 3:16-19).
2. It was to be eaten in the holy place (verse 26).
(1) Observe, not in the most holy place; that place within the vail in which the Shechinah abode between the cherubim. That was the type of the heaven of heavens, where the" angels do always behold the face of God" (Matthew 18:10). No sin could enter there (Isaiah 35:8-10; Isaiah 60:20-22; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:14, 15).
(2) But "in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation," the type of the Church in its earthly aspect, which is entered by way of the laver of washing and the altar of sacrifice. It is while we remain in this world that we can avail ourselves of the provisions of mercy.
3. But certain sin offerings must not be eaten.
(1) The priests were forbidden to eat of those whose blood was brought into the tabernacle to reconcile withal (verse 30; see also chapter Leviticus 4:5, 6, 16, 17).
(2) In this the gospel is superior to the Law. Jesus has carried his blood into the holy place of the true temple, to reconcile withal (Hebrews 9:11, 12). Yet we may eat of his altar (Hebrews 13:10-12).
(3) Those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat of our altar, because the tabernacle law forbids them; therefore to avail themselves of the gospel they must renounce the Law (see Galatians 5:3, 4). And their case is fearful who now attempt to make atonement for themselves, for they "shall be burnt in the fire" (verse 30). Such is the peril of those who trust to works of supererogation or to anything but Christ. - J.A.M.
I. THE NECESSITY OF ATONEMENT.
1. As prescribed by God, coming forth from his infinite holiness.
2. As connected with mediation, not in atonement dependent upon the chance merit of man, but the gracious promise of God's free and sovereign mercy.
3. As set forth in the flesh and blood of the victim, clearly indicating a substitutionary merit.
II. THE TYPICAL FULFILMENT OF THE SIN OFFERING IN JESUS CHRIST, at once the High Priest and the Victim.
1. Most holy in his person and his blood.
2. Connected with the burnt offering, as presented in the same place. The cross was a whole offering in the fire of suffering, in the consuming righteousness of the Divine Law.
3. Imparting the holiness to him who shall touch it. Healing virtue from Christ; sanctification from the cross.
4. The very vessels are sanctified. So the Spirit of Christ cleanses the world. The diffusion of the Christian doctrine and life lifts up all that belongs to human existence into a higher sphere. - R.
I. WHAT IS OFFERED UNTO GOD ACQUIRES THEREBY A SACRED CHARACTER. It is set apart, belongs to him henceforth. He accepts the gift, and his holiness is imparted to all his possessions. His people are holy, and so are his house and his statutes. Christ, having dedicated himself to the Father, could declare "I sanctify myself." It is no light matter for a man to take upon himself allegiance to a holy God, to "vow to be his, yea, his alone." God himself must sanctify us wholly, that body, soul, and spirit may be preserved blameless. Some article of furniture that is owned by a celebrated monarch is invested with importance by that fact, and numbers view it with eager interest. The servant wearing his famous master's livery is regarded with attention. Surely, then, those are worth our notice who are consecrated to the service of the King of kings, vessels meet for his use.
II. HOLINESS TENDS TO COMMUNICATE ITSELF TO ALL THAT IS BROUGHT INTO CONTACT WITH IT. Whoever touches the sin offering shall be holy. Like leaven, the sacredness spreads. The prospect of the world's improvement lies in the hope of its permeation by Christian principle. By touching the Saviour, the sick were healed, and by placing the hand of faith now upon Christ's bleeding body, the sinner is sanctified in the sight of God. That holiness extends is recognized in the apostle's declaration, that "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife." Continual contact with sacred rites and offerings renewed the holiness of the priests. So let us seek to draw near unto our God by the Living Way, having our hearts sprinkled and bodies washed.
III. In spite of this consecrating power, WHAT IS HOLY MUST NOT BE THOUGHTLESSLY PLACED IN PROPINQUITY WITH WHAT IS DEFILING. Let blood from the offering stain the garment, and it must be cleansed "in the holy place," not carried without into the region of things common and unclean. If the flesh was boiled in an earthen vessel, the fat might penetrate through the porous surface, so that no after rinsing or scouring would remove it, as in the case of copper ("brazen") vessels. The earthen pot must consequently be broken, to prevent all risk of any portion of a sin offering being contaminated by touching subsequent food. Learn from this not to profane what is dedicated to God. Our Lord's words to Mary after his resurrection are significant: "Touch me not." The precept of Paul was, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" We must not cast pearls before swine. Let us not commingle sordid motives and methods with the worship of the sanctuary. Jests founded upon the Word of God are to be shunned. Previous prayer will not sanction worldly entertainments and amusements. In many directions the regulations of Leviticus may be remembered with advantage to-day. - S.R.A.
I. FROM THE GOD-MAN TO HUMAN NATURE. Man is far more to Got and to the spiritual universe now that the "Word was made flesh," that "himself" was "partaker of flesh and blood." In Jesus Christ the Divine touched the human, and henceforth the human is holy.
II. FROM THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MEN. Poverty, shame, sorrow, tears, the grave, - are not these other than they were, sacred things, since he "had not where to lay his head;" since the crown of thorns rested on that sacred head; since the Man of sorrows bore his burden; since "Jesus wept;" since they "laid him in a sepulcher"?
III. FROM THE SERVICE TO THE SANCTUARY. "This is none other than the house of God."
IV. FROM THE FUNCTION TO THE MINISTER. "Esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake."
V. FROM THE SPIRIT TO THE BODY. The exceeding preciousness of the human spirit imparts a sanctity to the body which is its residence and organ.
VI. FROM THE TRUTH TO THE WORD. We must deal reverently with the words in which the eternal truth of God is uttered. - C.