Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 92 Chronicles 5:13, 14; Ezra 6:10-22; Acts 1, 2. We have now before us the hopeful fashion in which Aaron and his sons entered upon their work. The consecration being completed on the eighth day, Moses directed them to take for themselves a sin offering and a burnt offering, and to receive at the hands of the people similar offerings, and, in addition, a bullock and a ram for peace offerings, with the usual accompaniment of a meat offering, and to expect a sign from the Lord at the conclusion of the service. "Today," said he, "the Lord will appear unto you." A penitent yet consecrated priesthood, acting on behalf of a penitent and consecrated people, are warranted in expecting a sign from God himself. The first priestly service is thus filled with hope, and the hope was realized at the end of it. The following lessons are plainly taught by this passage -
I. THE ONE INDISPENSABLE PRELIMINARY TO EXALTATION FROM GOD IS HUMILIATION BEFORE HIM. Both priests and people must bring their sin offering and appear in penitential mood. Unless we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we need not expect to be exalted (Matthew 23:12; 1 Peter 5:6). Hence the Law of the Divine dealings has been to "hide pride from man" (Job 33:17). It is only when we have pride eliminated that we have room for blessing.
II. CONSCIOUS DEDICATION TO GOD IS AN EARNEST OF BLESSING ON ITS WAY. The priests and people both bring their burnt offerings as well as their sin offerings. They realize how reasonable it is to dedicate themselves to the Lord, who has been so merciful in his dealings with them. It was the same with Solomon and his associates at the dedication of the temple. It was the same with the disciples previous to the Pentecostal baptism. It was consecrated men and women who expected special blessing. And it is the same stilt; self emptied, self-dedicated sinners are being qualified for special blessing.
III. THE UNION OF NUMBERS IN DESIRE AND IN HOPE IS ALSO A SIGN OF A COMING BLESSING. The people assembled in their thousands before the tabernacle, and the priests cooperated with them in their offices. One heart and hope animated the host. We see the same unity at the dedication of Solomon's temple. "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound," etc. (2 Chronicles 5:13). We see the same unity before Pentecost. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14). Such a union of numbers in desire and in hope should be encouraged continually. It need not be disregarded. It is a sign surely that blessing is on its way when such happy union of heart and hope takes place.
IV. GOD'S RIGHTS MUST BE CAREFULLY REGARDED IF HIS SPECIAL BLESSING IS TO BE OBTAINED. The priests were directed to lay the best portions on the altar, to pay thus their due to God, before the blessing is vouchsafed. This element is sometimes overlooked. People make "systematic beneficence" depend upon special blessing, instead of preceding it. But it is manifest, from Malachi 3:10, that God asks for proof, in the payment of Divine dues, of people's desire for special blessing. It is idle to expect great blessing from above if men wrong God as they do. His proportion of our substance can be calculated in cool blood and. paid conscientiously, without waiting for a baptism in order to do so, and if we are prepared to exhibit our sense of obligation to God in this real way, we may hope for a very special baptism.
V. BENEDICTION MAY BE PRONOUNCED WITH CONFIDENCE IN THE LIGHT OF PROMISED BLESSING. At the conclusion of the ritual, Aaron proceeded to bless the people. His benediction preceded the Divine manifestation. It was pronounced in full view of the promise. It was, as we shall soon see, amply redeemed. And does not this fact throw light upon all benedictions? They are not blessings conveyed through the person pronouncing them, but blessings guaranteed, so to speak, to proceed from God himself on the ground of his own promise. It is the faithful Promiser the people are to look to, not his officer in pronouncing the benediction.
VI. GOD WAS PLEASED TO MANIFEST HIMSELF AS CONSUMING FIRE UPON HIS ALTAR. What God gave was additional fire to the sacred deposit already so carefully preserved. An intense flame rose up from the altar, having first issued from the tabernacle; and all the people rejoiced because of it. "When all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces." God is a consuming fire in the way of acceptance, just as well as in the way of wrath. The psalmist gives us clear evidence of this in his prayer, "Remember all thy offerings, and accept ('reduce to ashes,' יְדַשְּׁנֶה) thy burnt sacrifice" (Psalm 20:3). The case of Elijah at Carmel goes to demonstrate the same thing (1 Kings 18:24, 36). And when we reach the history of Pentecost, with the Spirit as "tongues of fire" settling down on the disciples, we can have no doubt as to the significance of the manifestation (Acts 2). "God is light," and along with light there is heat and sublimation. He interposes no screen to prevent the heat-rays from reaching men's hearts. They become fervent in spirit, and thus serve the Lord (Romans 12:11). It is this visitation we all need - God accepting us as "living sacrifices," and enabling us most ardently to serve him. May none of us experience the consuming fire of the Divine wrath, but that of the Divine love and mercy! - R.M.E.
I. ON THIS DAY THE CONSECRATIONS WERE COMPLETED.
1. The eighth is a day signalized by sanctity.
(1) All children were, according to the Law, in the uncleanness of their birth until the eighth day. Then they received circumcision, and thenceforward were recognized as holy, having the seal of the covenant or purification of God upon them (Leviticus 12:2, 3).
(2) The young of beasts, in like manner, were ceremonially unclean before their eighth day. They were therefore unfit to be offered as sacrifices. But on the eighth day and thenceforward that unfitness ceased; they were accounted clean (Leviticus 22:27).
(3) Persons unclean through leprosy, or through any issue, or a Nazarite in case of accidental defilement by the dead, all had to abide seven days in uncleanness. The eighth day, in all such cases, was memorable as that upon which they were accounted clean (Leviticus 14:8-10; Leviticus 15:13, 14; Numbers 6:9, 10).
(4) So here, the tabernacle, the altar, all the vessels of the ministry, together with the priests, were seven days in the process of purification, and on the eighth day the purity of all became established (comp. Ezekiel 43:26, 27).
2. These things point to gospel times.
(1) The pollutions of the birth refer to original sin. This, in the case of the children, is so obvious as to need no comment. The reason of the law of uncleanness in relation to the young of animals is that in the Levitical system they were made representatives of human beings.
(2) The pollutions of adults would stand for sins committed "after the similitude of Adam's transgression."
(3) All were "purged with blood," the blood of circumcision or that of animal sacrifices, which anticipated that precious blood of Christ by which we are redeemed from "all sin."
3. But what has this to do with the "eighth day"?
(1) The eighth day remarkably characterizes the gospel. Since in the week there are seven days, the "eighth" day and the "first" are obviously the same. Now, it was on the "first day of the week" that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:1). On the first day he seems to have several times appeared to his disciples during the forty days of his sojourn on the earth after his resurrection. On the first day he ascended into heaven, if we take the "forty days" to be clear days. The memorable day of Pentecost is calculated to have fallen upon the first day of the week. The early Christians kept the first day sacredly, as the seventh had been by the Jews (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). This was called "the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10), just as our Eucharist is called "the Lord's Supper," because he instituted it.
(2) But why should the eighth day have been chosen dins to characterize the gospel? This question may be better answered as we proceed to notice -
II. THAT ON THIS DAY THE LORD WAS TO APPEAR. (Verse 4.)
1. This promise had an immediate fulfillment. The Shechinah that had been in the thick darkness of the most holy place, shined forth in brightness upon the people (verse 23).
2. It had a fuller accomplishment in the gospel.
(2) The Shechinah also appeared after our Lord's ascension, viz. in the wonders of the memorable day of Pentecost.
3. The crowning manifestation is reserved to the great day,
(1) Then Jesus will be revealed "without sin." He will not then appear amid circumstances of humiliation, as in his first advent.
(2) He will be revealed "in all his glory."
(a) "His own," Messiah's, glory.
(b) That of "his Father," as "the God of glory."
(c) "With the glory of his holy angels," who attend the "King of glory" as his retinue.
4. This will be the glory of the eighth day.
(1) The six days of the creation week are supposed by Barnabas to represent six chiliads, or periods of a thousand years, during which the world is to be in toil and sorrow. The sabbath at the end of these represents the thousand years of John (Revelation 20:6), distinguished as "the Millennium." The Rabbi Elias and other authorities are cited in favour of this view; and it is countenanced by the course of the fulfillment of prophecy.
(2) At the close of this age is the final judgment, which introduces a still more glorious state, described as "a new heaven and a new earth" (see Revelation 21 and 22). This, then, is the eighth day. As the Millennium (Revelation 20) is the fulfillment of the Jewish sabbath, so is the superior blessedness to follow the fulfillment of the Christian (Hebrews 4:6-9, margin). Then will everything in earth and heaven be consecrated.
III. THEN WILL THE VALUE OF THE GREAT SACRIFICE APPEAR.
1. As averting the evils of sin.
(1) Who, without the purification of the gospel, can encounter the brightness of that Epiphany (Malachi 3:2)?
2. As procuring ineffable bliss.
(1) The consecration of the eighth day resulted from the ceremonies of the days preceding. So will the purity of the heavenly state rise out of the tragedies and horrors of Calvary.
(2) The summoning of the sacrifices on the eighth day was, amongst other things, to witness this. All were summoned, viz. sin, burnt, peace, and bread offerings. In the blessings of the gospel we have all that was foreshadowed by Levitical oblations of every kind.
(3) The song of Moses and of the Lamb will swell the rapture of heaven. - J.A.M.
"The Lord, before whom I stand." But it is also true that God would have us place ourselves consciously and in company before him; that we should gather together at his house and worship in "his holy temple." We gain thoughts on this subject from our text, viz. -
I. GOD'S CALL TO HIS OWN PRESENCE. (Verses 5, 6.) It was at the Lord's own command that "all the congregation drew near and stood before" him. The entire scene was due to explicit Divine direction. It is God himself who calls us to his presence. We may venture to ask why he does so, and to answer by suggesting:
1. That it is a part of his Divine satisfaction in us to receive our united homage and thanksgiving; and
2. That he knows that public worship is best suited to impress our minds and strengthen our souls in heavenly wisdom. But we are certain that it is his will, for whatever reasons. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together," etc. (Hebrews 10:25; see Acts 2:42). The presentation of ourselves before God should be measured thus:
(1) multiplied by
(a) our sense of God's pleasure with our worship;
(b) our need of spiritual refreshment and elevation;
(c) usefulness to others by way of encouragement in piety.
(2) Limited by home duties and the other claims of our outer life.
II. THE HUMAN INSTRUMENT IN THIS SACRED SUMMONS. (Verses 1, 3.) Here we have a double human instrumentality: Moses called Aaron, etc. (verse 1), and Aaron was instructed to take on himself the duty of summoning the children of Israel to bring their sacrifices before the Lord (verse 3). God continually speaks to us through man. Some men are his spokesmen in an especial sense and in a large degree; all of us are to be listeners to those who speak in his name. Those who speak for him are to be faithful and earnest in summoning his people to "stand before the Lord." Does the prophet ask, "What shall I cry?" Surely, one answer of the heavenly voice is, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Isaiah 40:6; Psalm 95:6; see Psalm 100:2, 3, 4).
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH WE SHOULD RESPOND. We should come before the Lord:
1. In a spirit of humility. Aaron himself was to take a sin offering (verse 2), and this after all the sacrifices described in the preceding chapter. The people also were to present a sin offering (verse 3). Though we may be in a state of reconciliation with God, we have need of the spirit of penitence at all times, and, when we draw near to the throne of grace, should ask that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ may cover our offenses and shortcomings.
2. In a spirit of consecration. Aaron was to take a ram for a burnt offering (verse 2); the people a calf and a lamb for the same kind of sacrifice (verse 3). They were - as we are - to be ready to consecrate themselves unto the Lord, to offer themselves in spiritual sacrifice on his altar. We are to go up to God's house ready to renew our vows unto him.
3. In a spirit of gratitude and joy. The children of Israel were not to omit the meat offering or the peace offering (verse 4). We are to take with us before God a heart full of thanksgiving for his bounty; also of social, sacred joy. We are to rejoice together before him.
4. In a spirit of devout expectation. The Hebrew worshippers were to look for the manifestation of Jehovah: "Today the Lord will appear unto you" (verse 4). We, too, are to expect that God will be with us; that he will draw nigh unto us when we draw nigh unto him (James 4:8); that Christ our Lord will "manifest himself unto us," will "come unto us, and make his abode with us" (John 14:21-23). - C.
"And Aaron lifted up his hand towards the people," etc. (verses 22-24). The main facts described are:
1. The joint blessing of the mediator of the Law and the high priest on the people, the solemn conclusion of the consecration and inauguration.
2. The glory of the Lord appearing unto all the people.
3. The fire from before the Lord consuming the burnt offering and the fat.
4. The whole people beholding the sign, accepting it as from God, and. rejoicing in it with adoring homage.
I. MAN BLESSED IN GOD.
1. Religion as revealed and set forth in the mediation of law and sacrifice, the only true element of fellowship between the creature and Creator. Natural religion a spurious substitute and insufficient. Moses and Aaron both typical of him in whom God invites us to receive the fullness of grace.
2. The blessings pronounced and published. In the promises of Scripture, in the history of redemption, in the individual experience of believers. Godliness hath the promise of both worlds in the best sense. Old and new covenants really one.
II. DIVINE GLORY MANIFESTED in response to man's faithfulness.
1. Look for it, especially in connection with the sanctuary. After crest confession and universal seeking of God's favour. An outpoured grace in revived religion, in manifest success in spiritual service, in the fellowship of priests and people with one another, in the providential signs of Divine interposition for the Church's extension.
2. Unto all the people. The blessing of religion is for the multitude, for the nation, for the world. Yet those who would see the glory must come around the center of its manifestation in the holy place. We can see the glory of the Lord in creation, in providence, in the written Word, only as we are taught by the Spirit and recognize the true order of the Divine kingdom, which places the throne of righteousness, the mercy-seat, in the midst, and makes the glory to radiate from that,
III. RELIGIOUS JOY AND PRAISE stirred up by signs of grace.
1. Heartfelt and outspoken.
2. Uniting all in common exaltation.
3. Deeply humble and adoring.
4. Not dependent on external miracle,
but finding occasion in every proof of fire from heaven, in the Church and in the world. - R.
I. A REPRESENTATIVE SCENE IN THE HISTORY OF MAN. The most eminent civilian in the nation says to the most eminent ecclesiastic, "Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering,... and make an atonement for thyself, and for thy people." Under every sky, in every age, we have the sad, solemn facts of which these words are the expression.
1. Man conscious of sin, saying, "I ought" and "I ought not," knowing in his heart that he has done that which should have been left undone, and has omitted to do that which he should have done; with the language of conscious guilt upon his lips.
2. Man seeking reconciliation with an offended God, feeling and owning that, in addition to other duties, and even above all other considerations, he must seek and find a way by which God, by which the Supreme Power, may be conciliated.
3. Man seeking restoration by sacrifice; practically acknowledging that death is due to sin, dramatically appealing to the offended Power to accept the life of the slain animal instead of his own; "making atonement" for sin. The priest at the altar is a picture which all nations have presented - a picture of humanity conscious of its guilt seeking mercy and restoration, hoping to attain it by a substitutionary sacrifice. The want deep and wide; how shall it be met? It was met, in the first instance, by the ritual under the Law, by -
II. GOD'S TEMPORARY PROVISION. "The Lord commanded" Moses to say to Aaron, "Go unto the altar," etc. This act of religious service was done by Divine direction. Elsewhere men were blindly groping after him, and endeavouring to find a way of approach and reconciliation. Here, in the wilderness of Sinai, was a people, the nucleus of a nation, which "knew what it worshipped" (John 4:22), which was taught of God himself. The Hebrew nation had been divinely instructed, and by its sacrifices declared:
1. That God had included all under sin, both priest and people, "for thyself and for the people."
2. That sin was deserving of death.
3. That a sin offering would be accepted by the merciful and righteous One.
4. That only a separated and holy man might approach the altar in sacrifice.
5. That the sin offering, having been presented and accepted, by the Holy One, all who would might, in sacred symbolism (the burnt offering), consecrate themselves to the service of a gracious God. But we must look further to -
III. THE DIVINE INTENTION WHICH LAY BEHIND. "This commandment of the Lord" was not final. It was adequate for the purpose. It was good for a time, for a dispensation; but it did not meet the wants of the race. Nor did it realize "the eternal purpose which he purposed" (Ephesians 3:11), nor exhaust the possibilities of the Divine wisdom and grace. "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). God would manifest his power and love in a far mightier way than this.
1. The altar should give place to the cross.
2. The victim from the herd and flock to the Lamb of God himself.
3. The fallible, changing priesthood to the holy, ever-living Savior.
4. The many offerings continually repeated to the "one Sacrifice for sins for ever" (Hebrews 10:12).
1. With the pagan and the Jew, we share the common human consciousness of sin and need.
2. With the Jew, in distinction from the pagan, we have a divinely sanctioned method of approach and reconciliation.
3. With immeasurable advantage over Jew and pagan, we all have access at all times through the one Mediator, and can plead at every hour the one all-sufficient Sacrifice for sin. flow great and high the privilege! How serious and solemn the responsibility! - C.
I. THE OFFERINGS.
1. Aaron's offering for himself.
(1) The Jews say this was intended to make atonement for his sin in connection with the golden calf. Possibly this may have been so; for we have no record elsewhere of any formal atonement for that offense. Aaron, doubtless, had many offenses to atone for. The sacrifice of Christ is not only for sins, but also for sin.
(2) Aaron's own hands slew this victim. What a graphic confession of sin was this! What an unequivocal acknowledgment of his deserving to die! Our confession of sin before God should be with deep conviction and reality.
(3) He put the blood upon the horns of the altar. These were fronting the vail, behind which was the ark of the covenant and the glory of the Lord. This putting of the blood with the finger before the face of God was, as it were, pointing it out to him, calling his attention to it. So should the faith of the sinner point out to God's mercy the blood of the cross which satisfies his justice.
(4) Aaron's sons served with him at the altar. They brought the blood to have it sprinkled. This was the confession of their part in the guilt of their father. Guilt is hereditary and relatively distributive (see Numbers 16:32, 33; Joshua 7:24, 25). It was also an expression of their faith in the blood of the common Redeemer.
(5) This offering of Aaron for his own sin before he could offer for the people suggests the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, and therefore the necessity of the priesthood of the gospel (see Hebrews 5:3; Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 9:7-14).
2. The offerings for the people.
(1) Aaron himself slew also these victims (verses 15, 16). This he did as the representative of the people. Individuals were directed to slay their own victims (comp. Leviticus 1:5, 11; Leviticus 3:4, 8, 13). But these were for the congregation.
(2) The sons of Aaron helped him here also. They "presented unto him the blood, which he sprinkled upon the altar round about." They also brought the fat of the inwards to him (verses 18-20). This was suggestive of the nature of the Levitical priesthood, which was destined to pass from hand to hand. The comparison here is favourable to the priesthood of Christ, which is "unchangeable" (Hebrews 7:23-25).
(3) The breast and shoulder were waved and heaved, and afterwards came to the lot of Aaron and his sons. Here we are taught that it is God's order that "they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (see 1 Corinthians 9:13, 14; Matthew 10:10).
II. THE BLESSING.
1. The blessing from the altar (verse 22).
(1) As Aaron, standing upon the altar, pronounced his first blessing upon the people, this shows the Source from whence all blessing springs. Even in heaven, the Great Sacrifice of the altar of Calvary will be the burden of the song of the redeemed (Revelation 5:9-14).
(2) In blessing, Aaron acted as the type of Christ, who, while he moved about upon this earth, which was the altar of his sacrifice, dispensed blessings in a thousand forms. Witness
(a) the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.
(b) The miracles of beneficence.
(c) His official benedictions.
(3) As Aaron, standing upon the altar, lifted up his bands, blessed the people, and then went into the holy place, so Jesus, standing on the Mount of Olives, after lifting up his hands and blessing his disciples, ascended into the holy place of the heavens (comp. Luke 24:50, 51).
2. The blessing from the holy place.
(1) Coming forth from the holy place, Aaron again blessed the people. The words of the benediction are given in Numbers 6:23-27. Between these and those of the apostolic benediction, which sets forth the genius of the gospel, there is remarkable correspondence (see 2 Corinthians 13:14).
(2) In response to this second benediction, "the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people." We are here reminded how Jesus, before ascending into heaven, encouraged his disciples "not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father," and how, "when the day of Pentecost was fully come," that promise was verified.
(3) "And there came a fire cut from before the Lord," etc. (verse 24). This was the emblem of the Holy Spirit, whose baptism, like fire, searches into substances, while water can only wash the surfaces (Matthew 3:11, 12). So in the baptism on the day of Pentecost, tongues of flame sat on the disciples (Acts 2:3).
(4) The consuming of the fat of the inwards on the altar by the sacred fire foreshowed how the body of our sins is destroyed in the sacrifice of Christ, who, "through the Eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God" (Hebrews 9:14). It also describes the manner in which the wicked will be treated who persist in their rebellion against God (Psalm 37:20). Those whose sins are not consumed in the fires of love will themselves be consumed in the fires of wrath. - J.A.M.
I. THE SAD ASSUMPTION - UNIVERSAL GUILT. Some truths are rather assumed than enunciated in Scripture: this is one. Not that it is not stated (Romans 3:9, 23; Galatians 3:22, etc.). But it is more often taken for granted. Thus in this scene. Aaron and his sons present sin offerings for themselves. It is assumed that there are not only "sinners of the Gentiles" needing mercy, but that the "holy nation" itself, the priestly family itself, nay, the high priest himself, is numbered among the sinful. This accords with our experience.
1. A large proportion of men are notoriously, presumptuously guilty; their lives proclaim aloud that they are transgressors against God.
2. Of the rest, a very large proportion are confessedly guilty; they allow freely that they have sinned by omission and commission.
3. The rest are evidently mistaken concerning themselves. If not apparent to human eye, it is obvious to the Divine that their lives are faulty and their souls stained. There is not one exception in the whole camp, in the entire congregation, in the nation, in the race. All have sinned, and need atonement.
II. THE FIRST DEEP NEED OF THE SOUL - DIVINE MERCY. The first sacrifice presented by Aaron for himself was "the calf of the sin offering" (verse 8); the first for the people was "the goat which was the sin offering" (verse 15). Man can do nothing in God's service till he is pardoned and accepted. "Forgiveness of sins" is the first great need of the soul, as it is the first great gift of the gospel (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 26:18, etc.). "There is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared" (Psalm 130:4). There would be no "fear," no reverence, no worship, no service of the Holy One, if forgiveness of sin were not attainable at once. That is the starting-point and. condition of human devotion.
III. THE ATTENDANT SPIRITUAL STEP - SELF-SURRENDER. When Aaron had presented the sin offering for himself, he had not concluded his oblation; "he slew the burnt offering" also (verse 12). So with "the people's offering" (verses 15, 16). The significance of this second sacrifice was that the worshipper consecrated himself on the altar (to the service) of Jehovah. A perfect picture of sacred and abiding truth. We cannot go in humility and penitence, seeking mercy through Christ Jesus, without offering ourselves to him who has bought us with the price or' his own blood. The soul longing for reconciliation with God offers itself freely in holy service unto him, lays itself on his altar, a "whole burnt offering unto the Lord." A living faith in Christ implies the eager taking of everything from him, and the cheerful giving of everything to him.
IV. THE CERTAIN ISSUE - A BLESSED SPIRITUAL ESTATE. A "meat offering" and "peace offerings" (verses 17, 18) came after the other two. Sin forgiven, self-surrendered, - then comes a sense of reconciliation, grateful acknowledgment of God's kindness, a holy joy in him (Romans 5:1, 11). The assurance in the heart of Divine forgiveness, and the consequent surpassing peace and elevated joy, may not immediately fellow. In the Divine life, the peace offering does not always come directly after the burnt offering. But it will come; it does come; and then, "oh, the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven!" etc. (literal translation, Psalm 32:1). "Seek, and ye shall find" (Matthew 7:7). - C.
imposing act of piety, one which our imagination easily presents to our minds, and which affects us as profoundly interesting. The high priest, after solemnly and with holy awe offering the sacrifices of himself and the people, comes forth from the Divine presence, and with hands lifted up to heaven, utters, amid intense silence, the sacred words, "The Lord bless thee and keep thee," etc. (Numbers 6:23-26). It was a scene fitted to subdue and sanctify the heart. It was also a beautiful act of piety. There is an admirable conformity to what is fitting and. excellent in the nature of things, that the man who had gone with the people's burden of sin into the presence of God, and who had there sought and found for the people the Divine mercy, should, as he came from the holy place, bring to the people the blessing of the Most High. It was also an instinctive act of piety. It teaches us -
I. THAT HE WHO WOULD BLESS HIS RACE MUST FIRST BE RIGHT WITH GOD. Aaron could not have ventured on the holy invocation, if he himself had not been in the conscious enjoyment of the Divine favour. We must not expect to render any substantial religious service to our generation, if we have not ourselves returned unto our Father, and been reconciled unto him through Christ. Without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better, and "he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than" any one who stands without.
II. THAT THE NEARER A MAN IS TO GOD THE MORE EFFECTUAL IS HIS HOLY INVOCATION. It was directly after offering sacrifice, and in close connection with that act, immediately after standing at the altar of Jehovah, that Aaron "lifted up his hand and blessed the people." It is not the official in the kingdom of Christ - all we are brethren - but it is the man who "walks with God," who "stands before God" continually, who "abides in Christ," who is "beloved of the Lord," - it is he whose word of holy, earnest invocation will most avail to bless.
III. THAT THERE ARE MANY UNKNOWN BENEFACTORS OF OUR RACE WHO BRING DOWN THE BLESSING OF GOD UPON US. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of" - by interceding prayer, by the earnest, believing invocation of the holy. Who shall say what essential service some have rendered who have quietly and secretly brought down the blessing from on high? Perhaps the uplifting of holy hands in the silent chamber may have done more to end the great campaign which is lasting through the centuries, than some notable and noisy lives men talk much of.
IV. THAT THOSE WHO HAVE INTERCEDING KINDRED SHOULD REALIZE THEIR SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY. They are the subjects not only of direct human influence, but of those Divine influences which are thus drawn down from above.
V. THAT CHRIST ALONE CAN CONFER THE PEACE WE NEED. "The Lord... give thee peace," uttered the Hebrew priest (Numbers 6:26). "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," said the Lord from heaven (John 14:27). Aaron's was a human invocation; Christ's was a Divine bestowal. Aaron might hopefully invoke; Christ positively confers. "In him is life," and all that makes life precious in the sight of God; it is in his right hand to bestow fullness of life on us. Let us be attracted to him, be attached to his service, abide in him, walk with him, and he will "lay his hand upon us," and bless us with all those heavenly blessings which reside in him and are in his power to impart. - C.
I. THE FORM ASSUMED BY THE GLORY OF THE LORD.
1. A brightness manifest to all the people. Compare this passage with Numbers 16:42, and the conclusion is natural that there was a brilliant illumination of the cloud that ordinarily rested upon the tabernacle. Therein Jehovah was ever visible, but now revealed in such wondrous guise that his glory was patent to the dullest eye. Deity no longer concealed but expressed. When Jesus Christ came as the Word, the evangelist declares, "We beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father." The face is the noblest part of the body, the dial-plate of character, the index of the soul; hence in the face of Jesus Christ we behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The gospel dispensation "exceeds in glory" (2 Corinthians 3:9), for it is the "ministration of the Spirit," the "ministration of the righteousness" of God. The answer to the request of Moses was contained in the assurance that all the goodness of God should pass before him; and when there is an outpouring of the Spirit, so that many turn to the Saviour and rejoice in the mercy and loving-kindness of God who will have all men to be saved, then is the glory of the Lord revealed and all flesh see it together.
2. A mighty energy, as flaming fire, attesting the acceptance of the sacrifices. These were suddenly consumed, showing that the power of God can accomplish at once what at other times requires a long period under the operation of customary laws. There is not merely attractive brilliancy in God, there is majestic might which may be used for or against us, according to our obedience or disobedience. When tongues of fire sat upon the disciples at Pentecost, their whole being - body, soul, and spirit, mind, affection, and will - seemed immediately permeated with the Spirit of Christ, and they spoke with boldness and witnessed with great power, so that thousands were added to the Church. Let God appear, and men shall be saved, not in units, but in multitudes. Who can tell what shall be the result of Christ's appearing in glory? This we know, that the offerings upon the altar, the Christians dedicated to his service, shall be transformed into his likeness, the imitation not gradual as in ordinary seasons, but instantaneous.
3. The unusual glory proceeding from the ordinary manifestation. The fire "came out from before the Lord." It was not a different power, therefore, but the usual Shechinah fire exhibited to all in wondrous operation. The truths that evoke such feeling and lead to such holy action in times of refreshing and revival, are those which have been previously insisted on, only now accompanied with potency, the breath of the Spirit kindling the embers into a glow, and causing the heat so to radiate as to affect large circles of humanity. The arm of the Lord, always present, is revealed; its might, perceived by the few, is shown to the many.
II. THE TIME AT WHICH THE GLORY OF GOD APPEARS.
1. We may expect it at eventful stages in the history of his Church. Here at the establishment of the order of priesthood, to sanction it, to express approval of the men appointed, and to complete their consecration. The altar fire and all its future offerings were thus hallowed. When some principle of the Divine government is to be vindicated, or some messenger honoured in the sight of the people, or a new departure made in the accomplishment of his purposes, then may we anticipate displays of supernatural beauty and force.
2. When, his instructions have been respected, his commands faithfully observed. There had been seven days of watching, and the eighth day was marked by confession of sin and dedicatory sacrifices. God was honoured, and evinced his delight thereat. Sanctification precedes the manifestation of Divine power (Joshua 3:5; chapter Joshua 9:4).
3. When it has been prophesied by his servants. This was a fulfillment of Moses' prediction, and may incite us to study Scripture and value its prophetic statements. It is remarkable how the way has been ever prepared for "mighty works" by previous announcement, as if to fit men to appreciate the miracles and to recognize them as coming from God. The herald proclaims the advent of the king.
4. When his servants have drawn nigh to his presence, and invoked a blessing upon the people. Prayer is the fleeting breath that proves of such marvelous efficacy in securing tokens of God's favour. Would we see the glory of God in the sanctuary? then let us try to approach the very throne of Deity. To be led in supplication into the holiest of all is to "bring all heaven before our eyes." Jesus, our Prophet-Priest, ascended as he was blessing the disciples; the fruits of his invocation were quickly seen at Pentecost, and they continue to enrich and. gladden the Church.
III. THE EFFECT IT PRODUCES,
1. Enthusiasm. The people "shouted" for joy and thanksgiving, they gave utterance to their admiration and excitement. That Jehovah should condescend thus to visit his children, that the Infinite One should so openly reveal himself! The coldest are warmed into emotion, the hardest surfaces yield, the sternest natures cannot repress exclamations of astonishment when they perceive the signs of a presence more than mortal.
2. Reverence. "They fell on their faces," to worship. Awe filled their minds and prostrated their bodies. Never should excitement lead to forgetfulness of the respect due to God. And if it be otherwise, there is reason to suspect the genuineness of the professedly Divine exhibition of approval. We may fear lest the fire has been begotten not of heaven but of earth.
CONCLUSION. Will any refuse to behold in Christ "the brightness of the Father's glory"? Here "all" the people saw the glory. Age, sex, or rank no hindrance. There may be a difference in the apprehension of the significance of the spectacle, but it should awaken gratitude and veneration in every breast. - S.R.A.
I. ITS CONSISTENCY WITH OTHER DIVINE MANIFESTATIONS. God so revealed his presence when he did visibly appear to man, that there should be no delusion in the matter. None could, none did, mistake the "glory of the Lord" for the Lord himself (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 24:16, 17; Exodus 33:9; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38; Isaiah 6:1).
II. ITS THREEFOLD SIGNIFICANCE. It plainly intimated:
1. God's presence in the midst of the camp.
2. His acceptance of their sacrifice and his pleasure in his people.
3. His approval of the Aaronic appointment, and of the way in which his service had been conducted.
This emphatically, for the time chosen was the first day on which the high priest had served at his altar.
III. ITS IMMEDIATE EFFECT ON THE MIND OF THE MULTITUDE. When "all the people saw," they were incited to
(1) rapturous delight: "they shouted;" and
(2) reverential prostration: they "fell on their faces."
At such a vision reverence and joy mingled within them, and stirred their souls to intense spiritual emotion. A visible appearance, acting strongly on the soul through the senses, produces an immediate and powerful present effect. How deep it will descend, and how long it will last, depends on the sincerity, spirituality, fullness of the meditation, prayer, resolution, which follows the awe-inspiring spectacle. Far more depends on the wisdom with which the next hour (day) is spent, than on the excitements of the moment.
IV. ITS CHRISTIAN COUNTERPART. There is in the Christian dispensation:
1. The temporary miraculous element. Here we have, as the counterpart, the "cloven tongues like as of fire" (Acts 2:3).
2. That which is more important is the permanent supernatural element. Here we have the Divine illumination, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Not the "glory of the Lord" visible to the eye, but the grace of God apprehended by the understanding mind; not the outward appearance, but the inward influence and indwelling; not the symbol of the Divine presence outside the tabernacle, but the very Spirit of the living God within the temple of the human body (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). When we go up to the house of the Lord to "behold the beauty of the Lord," to "see his glory... in the sanctuary" (Psalm 27 and 63), we go up to behold no visible grandeurs, but to do that which is better far for all spiritual well-being:
(1) to realize his nearness to us;
(2) to learn and welcome his truth;
(3) to pour out our hearts before him in adoration, praise, and prayer;
(4) to open our souls to receive his indwelling, sanctifying Spirit. - C.