Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. CONSIDER THE INCREASE IN THE OFFERINGS DURING THIS MONTH. There was the customary morning and evening offering for every day; the customary offering at the beginning of the month; and an additional offering, as if to signify that it was the beginning of a more than ordinary month. There would also be the appointed offerings on the sabbaths of the month. The tenth day of the month brought the great day of atonement, when there was to be much affliction of soul because of sin. Then, to crown all, there were the eight days of the feast of tabernacles, when an unusual quantity of offerings were presented. We may therefore consider the seventh month as being, conspicuously, a month devoted in Israel to the service of God.
II. CONSIDER THE LESSONS WE ARE TAUGHT BY THIS MONTH OF SPECIAL SERVICE.
1. Note that it was at the season of the year when the fruits were all gathered in. "The feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field" (Exodus 23:16). There was thus a time of leisure - not the commanded leisure of the sabbath, but the natural leisure of the man who has finished his year's work. There is an interval between gathering the fruits of one year and preparing for the fruits of the next. What is to be done with this time? The answer is, Man's leisure must be used for God. Let there be a month largely occupied with special national approach to God. And, depend upon it, something similar is expected from us. There is nothing in which the lot of men is less equal than in the amount of leisure time which they have at their disposal. One man has to labour long hours and hardly finds a holiday all the year round, while another has abundant leisure. What an awful responsibility for the rich and selfish triflers who lounge away their lives in a world where so much may be done for the miserable and the needy! How he spends his leisure is one of the great tests of a man. Where his heart is, there he will go, when for a few hours he is slipped out of harness. If we are God's at all, all our time is God's. If our hearts are right with him, our greatest joy will be in our religion, and we shall hail, we shall grasp, every opportunity of increasing our knowledge of God, of the Scriptures, and of how to render that service to Christ which is so plainly expected from us. The spirit in which an Israelite entered on this festal month would be a great test of him altogether.
2. If God requires a service out of the common, he will furnish sufficient opportunity for it. God did not institute these services simply to fill up a leisure month. They had to be rendered at some time or other, and he selected a season when all the details of them could be most conveniently carried out. If God requires any service from us, we may be sure that be will make the duty of that service clear to conscience. It is not allowed to any of us to say, "I have no time for this service, no opportunity for it, therefore I cannot do it." The method of God is to put a service clearly before us, and then tell us to trust him for the making of a way. He will not allow us to plead want of time and opportunity, any more than he allowed Moses to plead want of ability (Exodus 4:11, 12). Here is the reason why faithful and obedient spirits have been so successful. God has said "Go," and they have gone, when there seemed no way more than a single step ahead. Wherever God finds a real believer he makes a way for him, like that royal road to which the Baptist referred (Luke 3:4, 5). We see here how the events of the ecclesiastical year are gathered and arranged. When the Israelites first received these commandments to make offerings, receiving them as they did at different times, they may have said to themselves, "How can we possibly get through so much?" But here they are all put in order, and it is seen that there is a time for everything, and that everything can be done in its time. The lesser service prepares for the greater. God does well continually to ask his servants for more, because he is ever making them able to give more.
3. The day of temporal fullness is the day of spiritual danger. It is not only that the time of leisure is the time of temptation; there is a peculiar temptation in the leisure because it follows on worldly success. In such circumstances men are tempted to think of their own industry and skill more than of the needful blessing of God. Not without reason did the great day of atonement stand in this month. Everything is good which will force upon a man, in the midst of his worldly prosperity, a sense of the presence and claims of God. When Israel had a good harvest, the time of leisure that followed would be a time of great anxiety to many as to how they might most profitably dispose of the harvest. It is oftentimes the rich man who is in danger of having the least leisure; when his riches lie in capital, the use of which he must watch continually. - Y.
(1) the day of atonement, on the tenth day of the seventh month;
(2) the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth day of the same month.
I. God's order is first an atonement; secondly, a festival. The expiation of the nation's sins on the most solemn day of the year was God's preparation for the most joyous season of the year (cf. Leviticus 25:9 - the trumpet of Jubilee was sounded on the day of atonement). The world's great atonement must precede the world's feast of tabernacles. The feast of tabernacles was -
1. A commemoration of the nation's low estate during its life in the wilderness. The booths ordered probably lest they should, in their prosperity, forget the lowliness of their past condition (Deuteronomy 8:2-18).
II. The knowledge of personal reconciliation with God prepares for the joys of life. Each Israelite who was penitently confiding in God's mercy could appropriate the blessings of the day of atonement (cf. Romans 5:1, 11; Galatians 2:20). (Illustrate from 2 Chronicles 29:27.) An accepted sacrifice brings songs to the offerer's lips. Humiliation precedes exaltation in Christ (Philippians 2:7-11) and in Christians (Luke 1:52; John 16:20; James 4:10). Those who "sow in tears" of genuine humiliation and "afflicting of the soul" on the tenth day shall "reap in joy" on the fifteenth. Many seek to reverse this order; e.g., Isaiah 22:12, 13.
III. Days of rejoicing are yet to be days of sacrifice. More sacrifices were offered at the feast of tabernacles than at either of the other great festivals. So the joys of life and the greater joys of salvation are to be the occasion of the more entire dedication of ourselves to God, and of cheerful service to others (Nehemiah 8:9-12; Hebrews 13:10-16). - P.