Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations…
I. Commentators generally on this part of Hebrew law have remarked upon THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND COMMERCIAL BENEFITS RESULTING TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE FROM THESE NATIONAL FESTIVALS AND CONVOCATIONS. They served to unite the nation, cemented them together as one people, and prevented the tendency to the formation of separate cliques and conflicting clans or states. These convocations also had great effect upon the internal commerce of the Hebrew people. They furnished facilities for mutual exchanges, and opened the ways of trade and business between the various sections.
II. There was also A DIRECT RELIGIOUS VALUE AND FORETHOUGHT IN THE APPOINTMENT OF THESE FESTIVALS. They prescribed public consociation in worship. Man is a worshipping being. It is not only his duty, but his nature and native instinct to worship. Mere isolated worship, without association in common set services, soon dwindles, flags, degenerates, and corrupts. Neither does it ever reach that majesty and intense inspiration which comes from open congregation in the same great acts of devotion. "As iron sharpeneth iron, so man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." And just as the multitude of these mutual sharpeners is increased, will their common devotion be deepened and augmented.
III. I propose to speak more particularly of THE TYPICAL RELATIONS OF THESE HOLY FEASTS AND SEASONS. We have in them a system of types, chronologically arranged, to set forth the true course of time — to prefigure the whole history of redemption in its leading outlines from the commencement to the close.
1. The first was the Passover. It was a sort of perpetual commemoration of their deliverance from the oppressor and from death — a standing testimonial that their salvation was by the blood of the Lamb. It was the keynote of the Christian system sounding in the dim depths of remote antiquity. That bondage in Egypt referred to a still deeper and more degrading slavery of the spirit. That redemption was the foreshadow of a far greater deliverance. And that slain lamb and its sprinkled blood pointed to a meeker, purer, and higher Victim, whose body was broken and blood shed for us and for many for the remission of sins.
2. The next was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a sort of continuation of the Passover on the next day. The one refers to what Christ does and is to the believer, and the other refers to what the true believer does in return. The one refers to our redemption by blood and our deliverance from condemnation; the other to our repentance and consecration to a new life of obedience, separated from the leaven of unrighteousness. It is therefore plain why both were thus joined together as one. Redemption is nothing to us if it does not lead us to a purification of ourselves from the filthy ways and associations of the wicked, We can only effectually keep the gospel feast by purging out the old leaven of malice and wickedness. Seven days was this Feast of Unleavened Bread to be kept — a full period of time. We are to "serve God in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life." Our work is not done until the week of our stay in this world ends. We must be faithful until death.
3. Joined with the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the additional service of presenting before God the first sheaf of the barley harvest. "This," says Cumming, "was a beautiful institution, to teach the Israelites that it was not the soil, nor the raindrops, nor the sunbeams, nor the dews, nor the skill of their agriculturists, that they had to thank for their bounteous produce; but that they must rise above the sower and reaper, and see God, the Giver of the golden harvest, and make His praise the keynote to their harvest-home." It was all this, but it had also a deeper and more beautiful meaning. The broad field, sowed with good seed, with its golden ears ripening for the harvest, is Christ's own chosen figure of His kingdom upon earth, and the congregation of His believing children maturing for the garners of eternal life. In that field the chief sheaf is Jesus Christ Himself; for He was in all respects "made like unto His brethren." He is the "firstfruits." He was gathered first, and received into the treasure-house of heaven. It was the Passover time when He came to perfect ripeness. It was during these solemnities that He was "cut off." And when the Spirit of God lifted Him from the sepulchre, and the heavens opened to receive Him, then did the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits have its truest and highest fulfilment. Until this sheaf was thus offered along with the blood of atonement there could be no harvest for us.
4. There was another harvest, and another festival service connected with its opening, fifty days later than the barley harvest. This was the wheat harvest, at which was celebrated the Feast of Weeks, otherwise called Pentecost. The Passover shows us Christ crucified; the sheaf of firstfruits shows us Christ raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven as our forerunner; and the Pentecostal feast, with its two leavened loaves, shows us Christ in the gracious influences of His Spirit wrought into the hearts and lives of those who constitute His earthly Church. This spiritual kneading took its highest and most active form on that memorable Pentecost when the disciples "were all with one accord in one place," and the Holy Spirit came down upon them with gifts of mighty power. Three thousand souls were that day added to the Church, It was a glad and glorious day for Christianity. It was the firstfruits of wheat harvest brought with joyous thanksgiving unto God. But it was only the firstfruits — the earnest of a vast and plenteous harvest of the same kind ripening on the same fields. Thenceforward the world was to be filled with glad reapers gathering in the sheaves, and with labourers kneading the contents of those sheaves into loaves for God. Leaven there needs is in those loaves; but, presented along with the blood of the chief of the flock and herd, they still become acceptable to Him who ordained the service. There was a peculiar requirement connected with these laws for the wheat, harvest well worthy of special attention. The corners of the fields and the gleanings were to be left. This was a beautiful feature in these arrangements. It presents a good lesson, of which we ought never to lose sight. But it was also a type. Of what, I have not seen satisfactorily explained, though the application seems easy. If the wheat harvest refers to the gathering of men from sin to Christianity, and from subjects of Satan to subjects of grace, then the plain indication of this provision is that the entire world, under this present dispensation, shall not be completely converted to God. I believe that the time will come, and that it is largely and fully predicted in the Scriptures, when "all shall know the Lord from the least unto the greatest" — when there will not be a single sinner left upon the earth. But that time will not come until a new dispensation with new instrumentalities shall have been introduced.
5. The next was the Feast of Trumpets. This was held on the first day of the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, which was the same as the first month of the civil year. It was therefore a new-year festival, and at the same time the feast of introduction to the Sabbatic month. Its chief peculiarity was the continual sounding of trumpets from morning till evening. It was the grand type of the preaching of the gospel. The Feast of Trumpets was, to a great extent, a preliminary of the great Day of Atonement. We have already considered the peculiarities of this solemn day. Its leading thought is contained in its name — at-one-ment — that is, agreement, reconciliation, harmony, and peace with God. The Feast of Trumpets was a call to this at-one-ment. The gospel is an appeal to men to be reconciled to God.
6. Immediately succeeding the great solemnity on the fifteenth day of the month began another remarkable festival called the Feast of Tabernacles. It was to commemorate the forty years of tent life which their fathers led in the wilderness, and pointed, the same as that which it commemorated, to that period of the Christian's career which lies between his deliverance from bondage and his entrance into rest — that is, between his reconciliation to God and his final inheritance of the promises. It celebrates the state of the believer while he yet remains in this present life. This world is not our dwelling-place. We are pilgrims and strangers here, tarrying for a little season in tents and booths which we must soon vacate and leave to decay. "The earthly house of this tabernacle" must "be dissolved." The places that know us now shall soon know us no more. "Seven days" — a full period — were the people of Israel to remain in these temporary tabernacles. And thus shall we be at the inconvenience of a tent life for the full period of our earthly stay. But it was only once in a year that Israel kept the Feast of Tabernacles. And so, when we once leave the flesh, we shall never return to it again. Our future bodies shall be glorified, celestial, spiritual bodies. It is also a precious thought connected with this subject that when the Jews left their tents at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles it was the Sabbath morning. This frail tent life is after all to be rounded off with the calm quiet of a consecrated day that has no night, and to merge into a rest that is never more to end.
(J. A. Seiss, . D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.