"Speak to the Israelites and say, 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Feast of Tabernacles to the LORD begins, and it continues for seven days.
Leviticus 23:33-43Psalm 39:12; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11. The seventh month was a very celebrated one in the Jewish year. It was the sabbatic month, so to speak, when religious services of the most important character took place. The Feast of Trumpets introduced the month, and joyful were the anticipations of blessing. Then on the tenth day, came the great ritual of atonement, with its penitential sadness. Then came, on the fifteenth day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the rainless harvest-time the people were expected, even after their settlement in Canaan, to spend a week in booths or tents, and with boughs of goodly trees, with palm branches, and with willows of the brook to rejoice before God. Now this least was -
I. A CELEBRATION OF THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE WILDERNESS. It was "that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (verse 43). It is most important to keep a great deliverance in mind. Hence the people were enjoined once a year to become pilgrims again, as their fathers had been. We should never forget how the Lord has led his people in every age out of bondage into pilgrimage and freedom as the avenue to rest.
II. IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THE DIVINE PROVISION IN THE WILDERNESS. For it was a harvest festival, and the fruits of the earth had been gathered in before the feast began. Before them lay, so to speak, the bounties of God's providence, just as the manna lay morning by morning before their fathers. God was praised, therefore, for crowning the year with his goodness, as their fathers praised him for crowning with his goodness each day. It was consequently a eucharistic service in the highest degree.
III. IT WAS A CELEBRATION OF THE STRANGER AND PILGRIM SPIRIT WHICH GOD FOSTERS IN ALL HIS PEOPLE. The voluntary leaving of their homes for a season to live in a "tented state" was a beautiful embodiment of the stranger and pilgrim spirit to which we are called. God in the wilderness dwelt as the Great Pilgrim in a tent with his pilgrim people; and year by year he enjoined his people in their generations to become literally "strangers with him" (Psalm 39:12), as their fathers had been. And the same danger threatens us, to feel at home in this world and to give up the pilgrimage. Hence the apostle's warning is ever needful: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). If the world does not seem strange to us, it is because we are not living as near as we ought to God. The more access we have to him, the greater will be our moral distance from the world.
IV. THE JOY OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES WAS ENHANCED BY THE HOME-GOING WHICH LAY BEYOND IT. The "tented state" is not intended to be permanent. Its value lies in its temporary nature. Canaan lay in sunlight beyond the wilderness, and the thought of" home" there encouraged them in their pilgrimage. The week's camping out after Canaan had been reached made them enjoy their home life all the more. In the same way, while we confess like the patriarchs to be "strangers and pilgrims upon the earth," we are seeking, and rejoicing in the prospect of yet reaching, a better country, with a city of God and permanent abodes (Hebrews 11:13-16). The pilgrimage is joyful because it is destined to end in the everlasting home. Perpetual pilgrimage no man could desire, for this would be perpetual exile from legitimate home joys. A long pilgrimage can he welcomed if it lead towards everlasting joy in the Father's house. And is there not an element of triumph associated with such a celebration as this Feast of Tabernacles? It indicates victory over worldly feeling through faith in God. No wonder, then, that palm branches and goodly boughs were waved by joyous ones before the Lord. It is into victorious joy he summons all his people as the earnest of the everlasting joy with which he is yet to crown them. - R.M.E.
I. THE TIME AND MANNER OF ITS OBSERVANCE.
The Feast of Tabernacles.I. IT WAS A PROTRACTED RELIGIOUS MEETING.
II. IT WAS A THANKSGIVING FOR GOD'S BOUNTY IN A COMPLETED HARVEST.
III. IT WAS A COMMEMORATION OF MERCIES ATTEMPERING HARDSHIPS AND DANGERS.
IV. IT WAS AN EXPRESSION OF THE JOYFUL SIDE OF RELIGION,
V. IT WAS A TYPE OF A GREATER FEAST NOW PREPARING FOR ALL GOD'S TRUE PEOPLE.
(H. M. Grout, D. D.)
I. THE TRUE SERVANT IS GLAD IN REVIEWING GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIM. Happiness is always involved in the simple doing of the will of God, now no less than in Eden. It is awakened, too, by occasional and sober review of His guidance and care. No life has much symmetry which neglects this. Way-marks, inscribed "Remember" were set up all along the course of Israel's journey. Their law-givers and leaders were often enjoining it. The backward look was quite as profitable as the forward to encourage and arouse. Faith would increase that no ill could betide them in the future. And the leafy bowers under which they now camped must vividly reproduce the days when such hasty coverings were all they had, and yet were ample for shelter. The fair roofs of the town were no more sufficient protection in the pilgrimage they were making upon the earth. Whether in the desert or behind lofty and massive walls of the defenced city, they should alike be heard exulting: "The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand: the sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night." So, as we turn aside into the frail retreat built on any housetop, in any chamber, and there calmly retrace the course along which the Lord has led us, there is the well-remembered hour when He broke the chains which held us to the world's claims, ideas, and rewards, and bade us set forth with all we had toward the better land. What revelations of His power and compassion were given then! How did He bring us into straits, and open, as we advanced, a way from peril of which no hint had been given, and how did we vow never to doubt His wisdom more! With what strange but wholesome truths, fresh every morning, did He feed and sustain us!
II. THE TRUE SERVANT IS GLAD IN SEEING GOD'S PRESENT CARE FOR HIM. The Jew must not then fail to show his delight, whatever his station or purse. At the meal which followed the free-will offerings, the poor, the stranger, the Levite, were welcome guests. Equality of supply and fortune had for the time its graceful illustration then, as among those wearing the wedding garment, in the parable of the Christ. So may we all alike think of ourselves as having one precious inheritance and provision. Rightly it has been said: "It is a sin not to be happy," for gloominess is a reflection upon the Christ. Our Christianity cannot hope to dominate the world till it shall have shown itself possessed of the secret of happiness. Laments and groans never won a sinner to a service which would chiefly voice itself in them. Through all the scale, from the poverty of the God-fearing Waldensian peasant to the popular, artistic life of the great composer Haydn, there have always been some whose hearts respond to his words, as the string of the piano to its kindred tone: "When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, why should I not praise Him with a cheerful spirit?"
III. THE TRUE SERVANT IS GLAD IN BEHOLDING GOD'S FUTURE PROVISIONS FOR HIM. The temporary resting beneath green boughs of palm and willow and myrtle; the holiday scene in which life lost something of its pressure and sternness, did but symbolise the days when even such protection would not be needed in the country beyond the Jordan. That way lay Canaan, of which this earthly land flowing with milk and honey was but a faint type. This side the river, too, every devout soul filled with the hope of Israel found, in victories and progress already gained, the pledge of a surpassing joy and glory in the near future. Messiah might appear any hour, and with Him all that could satisfy a longing heart or nation. The unattained, if believed to be attainable, has vast power of inspiration. None can tell what great occasions may come any moment to the ready, watchful servant of God. He may be given to speak the word which shall determine whether the philosophy of the age shall be atheistic or not. Some mighty reform may be waiting his voice or deed, some striking answer to prayer, some raising of a sanctuary whence shall proceed influences to regenerate remotest peoples. The precious abiding word, the present Saviour, the enduring Church, the unfolding kingdom, are His inalienably. They grow richer, plainer, more certain. Yet, compared to the freedom and splendour of the future life, this, with all its joy and liberty, is but as a jungle, through whose tangle and heavy marsh and sudden dangers one struggles on, seeing in the distance the open spaces and lofty arches of the wood, and beyond, the fair greensward where the sunlight falls and flowers bloom and noble mansions stand — his own henceforth. So bright and dazzling was the temple of Diana, that the door-keeper always cried to them that entered: "Take heed to your eyes." A full disclosure of all God has provided for them that love Him would quench mortal sense. Celestial organs only are fitted for celestial scenes.
(De Witt S. Clark.)
1. The time (ver. 34). Five days after the Day of Atonement.
2. The manner (vers. 35, 36, 40-43).
(1) (2) II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING. 1. The reality of deliverance from sin. 2. The joy of deliverance from sin. 3. The assurance of God's care over all whom He delivers from sin.Lessons: 1. The value of memorial days, 2. The duty of gratitude. 3. The eternal blessedness of the feast of tabernacles awaiting God's children in the land of final deliverance. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
(2) II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING. 1. The reality of deliverance from sin. 2. The joy of deliverance from sin. 3. The assurance of God's care over all whom He delivers from sin.Lessons: 1. The value of memorial days, 2. The duty of gratitude. 3. The eternal blessedness of the feast of tabernacles awaiting God's children in the land of final deliverance. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
II. ITS TYPICAL MEANING.
1. The reality of deliverance from sin.
2. The joy of deliverance from sin.
3. The assurance of God's care over all whom He delivers from sin.Lessons:
1. The value of memorial days,
2. The duty of gratitude.
3. The eternal blessedness of the feast of tabernacles awaiting God's children in the land of final deliverance.
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
I. IT HAD A COMMEMORATIVE OR EUCHARISTIC MEANING; IT WAS DESIGNED TO CELEBRATE THE MERCY OF THE LORD IN BRINGING THE NATION SAFELY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS, AND GIVING THEM POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND. The journey through the wilderness was celebrated when they went out of their habitations, and the whole nation, leaving their settled dwelling-places, dwelt in tents or tabernacles throughout the land. And the happy termination of their wanderings was also celebrated in this festival, for on the eighth day, when they returned to their habitations, they were to have "an holy convocation," "they were to do no servile work therein," but they were to keep "a Sabbath unto the Lord" (vers. 36, 39). It was a season of national rejoicing, as the ordinance that preceded it had been one of humiliation and mourning. Such was the eucharistic bearing of this ordinance, upon which we need not farther dwell; I will only observe, that in this view of its import we can see a propriety in the season at which it was celebrated — after they had gathered in all the fruits of the earth; a suitable occasion this on which to commemorate the goodness of the Lord.
II. But I believe the Jewish application of this feast is not only retrospective, BUT PROSPECTIVE ALSO — THAT IT WAS DESIGNED TO EXHIBIT IN TYPICAL REPRESENTATION THAT WHICH WE SO OFTEN READ OF IN ORAL PREDICTIONS, THEIR FINAL SETTLEMENT IN THE PROMISED LAND, AND COMPLETE CONVERSION UNTO GOD. We are led to expect such a reference from the analogy of the two preceding festivals of this month — the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement-both of which refer to God's purposes of future mercy to the Jewish nation. The Feast of Trumpets referred more particularly to their gathering together from all the countries in which they are scattered, and their restoration to the land of Israel. The Day of Atonement exhibited their conversion unto God after their restoration, when He shall "take away the stony heart, and give them hearts of flesh," and "they shall look upon Him whom they bare pierced and mourn for Him." And now we have the Feast of Tabernacles which crowns the whole, and represents, as I believe, their final settlement in the peaceful and happy enjoyment of the land of promise. It would appear that the Jews themselves had some idea that this festival was designed to set forth the future mercies which the nation were to receive at the hands of the promised Messiah. It was customary at the celebration of it to make the compass of the sacrifices, bearing the branches of palm-trees and ether goodly trees in their hands; and as they thus went on in joyful procession, they sang the twenty-fifth verse of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, "Save now [Hosanna], I beseech Thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity"; and on the seventh day they compassed the altar seven times, singing in like manner, and this was called the Great Hosanna.
III. But the typical import of this festival belongs not merely to the Jews; it also, in common with the rest, APPLIES UNTO THE CHURCH OF THIS DISPENSATION, BOTH IN ITS PRESENT CHARACTER AND FUTURE GLORY. The eighth day, which, as we have seen, shadows forth the time of Judah's salvation, and of consequent earthly blessedness, refers also to heavenly and eternal things. It is the first day of a new week, and therefore reminds us of resurrection; and coming at the end of the complete period of seven days, it brings us to the day when "time shall be no longer" — the eternal day of resurrection glory. And to the Church this day shall commence when the kingdom of God is established in the world. Let us endeavour, then, to trace the type in the several particulars of its application; and —
1. On the first day there was a holy convocation, and the children of Israel went forth from their houses, and made them tents to dwell in. Just realise the scene; all the families of Israel leaving their houses, giving up their employments, and devoting themselves to the service of the Lord. So it is with the Church of Christ, the heir of promised glory. Beloved, the gospel calls us out from this evil world, and makes us strangers and pilgrims here. The gospel finds our intellects clogged with the filth of earthliness, our mind and thought concentrated upon the pursuits and occupations of this life — "the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things"; and it disentangles us from the meshes of worldliness; it fills them with the glorious realities of eternity. It assembles us, as it were, in holy convocation, to offer sacrifices unto the Lord. Just as the children of Israel dwelt in tabernacles during seven days, looking forward to the eighth day when they were to enter into rest, so it is with the Israel of God; the Church is a stranger here, looking forward to the day of coming rest.
2. But this was a feast of joy; when the children of Israel throughout the land were to "rejoice before the Lord" they cut down the branches of palm-trees, and of other goodly trees, and carried them throughout all their coasts, in token of triumphant joy. And so with those whom God has called "out of their habitations," they are called to rejoice before the Lord. If the gospel has called us out from this world, it is that it may open to us springs of never-failing joy of which the world knows nothing, which it can never give, and can never take away. They do greatly err who imagine that religion cuts off all our present happiness. But mark, if we would taste the joy we must come "out of our habitations": if we would wave the palm of triumph in the land, we must dwell as strangers there. This joy is not "as the world gives," nor is it founded upon earthly things, and therefore if we keep the feast, it must be the Feast of Tabernacles; if we would rejoice before the Lord, it must be in the position of those who are looking forward to their rest. Observe, too, these palms are the emblems of victory — the symbols of triumphant joy. The rejoicing Christian will ever be in the attitude of the conqueror, always conflicting indeed, but not overcome in the conflict against "the devil, the world and the flesh." The character of the Christian, as described in Scripture, is that of the victor — of one who is evermore victorious, overcoming "by the blood of the Lamb."
3. But the great day of the feast was the eighth day, the type of rest in resurrection glory. On this day the children of Israel struck their tents, and rested again in their habitations; on this day they drew the water from Siloam, and watered therewith the sacrifices, with songs of joy; on this day the priests made the compass of the altar seven times, bearing with them the branches of palm-trees, and of other goodly trees, and singing as they went, "Hosanna in the highest." So shall it be with the Church of Christ in that great day — the sun whereof shall never set in darkness — the everlasting day. Then "the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." Then the mystery of the water which was poured upon the sacrifices shall be fulfilled., when He who is the Alpha and the Omega, shall proclaim, "It is done. I will give to him that is athirst to drink of the water of life freely." Then He who at the Feast of Tabernacles invited sinners to come to Him and drink, shall lead His redeemed people by living fountains of waters, and make them drink of the river of His pleasures. Then, too, the symbol of the palm branches shall be accomplished in the final victory of the redeemed over Death and Hades; and they shall realise the blessed fulfilment of the promise, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things."
(J. B. Lowe, . B. A.)I. LET US OBSERVE THIS SEASON AS A FEAST OF THANKSGIVING. Review the mercies of the past year — of all your past life.
1. There are the common blessings, enjoyed by all, of continued life and unceasing bodily sustenance. Then we have had houses and raiment. Most have been favoured with good health, and with all the happiness of good credit and friendly intercourse. As Englishmen, we have cause for thankfulness in our civil rights and political privileges, and our present exemption from war. As Christians, we have enjoyed every advantage that could be devised for our spiritual edification and Scriptural instruction.
2. Then there are special benefits, which individuals have received in particular experiences or exigencies. One man has been singularly prospered in his business or profession, another rejoices in the advancing respectability of his children. Perhaps an additional arrow has been given to the quiver, or the feeble child has been made strong, the dissolute one has been reclaimed, or the absent one restored.
3. Then there are spiritual mercies, such as the joy of conversion, succour in temptation and trouble, triumph and progress in labours of philanthropy and love. All of these demand thanksgiving and praise.
II. COMMEMORATION. At this season we should reflect on the short and uncertain term of our existence upon the earth. Our life below is a journey through a wilderness where we dwell not in enduring habitations, but in temporary tents. We shall one day die, and ought not to rejoice in growing older, unless we are conscious of an increasing preparation for a better world. Heaven is nearer than it was, and it behoves us to address ourselves with greater ardour and zeal to the prosecution of our pilgrimage thither.
III. The last constituent of our spiritual feast is A RENEWED CONSECRATION OF OURSELVES TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. This implies a deep study of God's law. Our growth in holiness demands this effort and attention on our part, and we must not rely on the spontaneous and uncultured growth of our souls in religion. The commencement of a new year is a fitting time for reviewing our progress in Divine knowledge and adopting fresh plans for the future.
(Anon.)1. This feast was to be kept in remembrance of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness. Thus it is expounded here (ver. 43). "That your gone. rations may know," not only by the written history, but by this ocular tradition, that "I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths." Thus it kept in perpetual remembrance(1) the meanness of their beginning, and the low and desolate state out of which God advanced that people. Note — those that are comfortably fixed ought often to call to mind their former unsettled state, when they were but little in their own eyes.(2) The mercy of God to them that when they dwelt in tabernacles, God not only set up a tabernacle for Himself among them, but with the utmost care and tenderness imaginable hung a canopy over them, even the cloud that sheltered them from the heat of the sun. God's former mercies to us and our fathers ought to be kept in everlasting remembrance. The eighth day was the great day of this feast, because then they were returned to their own houses again; and remembered how, after they had long dwelt in tents in the wilderness, at length they came to a happy settlement in the land of promise, where they dwelt in "goodly houses." And they would the more sensibly value and be thankful for the comforts and conveniences of their houses, when they had been seven days dwelling in booths. It is good for those that have ease and plenty sometimes to learn what it is to endure hardness.
2. It was a feast of "ingathering," so it is called (Exodus 23. 16). When they had gathered in the "fruit of their land" (ver. 39), the vintage as well as the harvest, then they were to keep this feast in thankfulness to God for all the increase of the year; and some think that the eighth day of the feast had special reference to this ground of the institution. Note — the joy of harvest ought to be improved for the furtherance of our joy in God. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof"; and therefore whatever we have the comfort of lie must have the glory of, especially when any mercy is perfected.
3. It was a typical feast. It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this feast; then He left His mansions of light above to "tabernacle among us" (John 1:14), and He dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the "Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16). For —(1) The gospel of Christ teacheth us to "dwell in tabernacles," to "sit loose" to this world as those that bare "here no continuing city," but by faith and hope, and a holy contempt of present things, to go out to Christ "without the camp" (Hebrews 13:13, 14).(2) It teaches us to "rejoice before the Lord our God." Those are the circumcision, Israelites indeed, that always "rejoice in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:3). And the more we are taken off from this world the less liable we are to the interruption of our joys.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
1. To remember them of their estate when they had no houses, but lived in tents, or tabernacles, or booths, made with boughs; no fields, no lands, but lived in the wilderness; and so to stir up a thankfulness for their happy change.
2. To remember them of the Lord's great works in driving out the Canaanites and giving that fruitful land unto them. Then they were a prey to all men, but now a terror to all men, wheresoever the fame of them came.
3. It served to preach unto them the doctrine afterward delivered by the apostle, to wit, that here we have no biding city, but should reckon of our houses as but of tabernacles for the time, our true hope being for houses and dwellings, and everlasting tabernacles not made with hands in heaven, &c. And may not we consider on our feast days all these things, although we have not now the same ceremonies? May not we remember our state past under superstition, cruelty, and bondage? May not we remember burnings and killings, and most hateful handlings of persecutors? May not we remember great wars and dissensions in this our native country, the fall of our friends, and the change of many houses? May not we remember great impositions and payments, and, in one word, very many miseries and calamities? Laying them to the present times, wherein we enjoy truth and liberty of conscience without either death or danger, or so much as any fear, what a change is this to a man or woman that knoweth and feeleth the blessing! Oh, that we may send up to God most thankful thoughts for it while we live! Now, again, we enjoy peace, such as no nation hath bad the like. We are not eaten up with heavy and continual payments, but we live as in heaven by comparison to former times. The Lord hath driven away the Canaanites that would have invaded and conquered had not He resisted for us and overthrown them. He hath made us a terror to our foes and a refuge or sanctuary for our friends, when erst foreign nations were lords over us. And, for the last point, we bare no more certainty of abode here than they had, but look for the same end of faith, an enduring house in heaven.
Keep a feast. unto the Lord.
I. To give you a view of the manner in which this festival should be observed by us, CONSIDERED SIMPLY AS GOD'S INTELLIGENT CREATURES; and —
II. Of the manner in which we should observe it, considered AS SINFUL, GUILTY CREATURES, TO WHOM HIS GRACE AND MERCY ARE. OFFERED THROUGH A REDEEMER.
I. That the first of these proposed views may be placed before you in the clearest and most interesting light, let me request you to suppose that our first parents, instead of falling as they did from their holy state, had continued in it, until they were surrounded by a numerous family like themselves, and that in these circumstances they had set apart a day to be observed as a festival to their Creator and Benefactor. It is evident that if we can conceive of the manner in which they would have observed such a day we shall learn in what manner this day ought to be observed by us, considered simply as God's intelligent creatures. Let us suppose the morning of their appointed festival to have just dawned. No sooner do they wake to a returning consciousness of existence than a recollection of the Author, Preserver, and Sustainer of that existence, and of their numberless obligations to His goodness, rushes upon and fully possesses their minds. No sooner do their eyes open than they are raised to heaven with a look expressive, in the highest degree, of every holy, affectionate emotion. Each one perceives, with clear intuitive certainty, that he is indebted to God for everything — that God is his life, his happiness, his all. These views fill his heart with adoring gratitude — gratitude, not like ours, a comparatively cold and half-selfish emotion, but a gratitude pure, fervent and operative, which carries out the whole soul in a rapturous burst of thankfulness and renewed self-dedication to God. Though invisible to their bodily eyes, He is not so to the eye of their minds; they perceive, they feel His presence; they feel that His all-pervading, all-enfolding Spirit pervades and embraces their souls, breathing into them love, and joy, and peace unutterable, and wrapping them up, as it were, in Himself. Thus each individual apart commences the observance of their festal day, and enjoys intimate and sweet and ennobling communion with the Father of spirits in solitary devotion. But man is a social being, and the social principle which God has implanted in his nature prompts him to wish for associates in his religious pleasures and pursuits. It is proper that he should wish for them, and if possible obtain them; for when a festival is to be kept unto the Lord, when thanksgiving and praise are to be offered, two are better than one. United flames rise higher towards heaven, impart more heat, and shine with brighter lustre than while they remained separated. If private, solitary devotion be the melody of religion, united devotions constitute its harmony, and without harmony the music is not perfect and complete. Mark the feelings with which they approach and meet. Every eye sparkles with delight, every countenance beams with affection; there is but one heart and one soul among them all, and that heart and that soul is filled with holy gratitude and love, tempered by adoring admiration, reverence, and awe. Fresh excitements to the increase of these emotions are furnished by their meeting. Each one sees in his rational, immortal fellow-creatures, a nobler work of God, a brighter exhibition of his moral perfections, than the whole inanimate creation could afford. And while each one contemplates this image of God in his fellow-creatures, he is ready to exclaim, If these miniature images of God are so lovely, how infinitely worthy of love must the great original be? If there is so much to admire in the streams, what admiration does the fountain deserve? Nor is this all. In the various relations and ties which bind them together they see new proofs of all-wise benevolence, new reasons why they should love and thank Him who established these relations and formed these ties. Under the influence of these affections the yet stammering child is taught the name of its Creator and Benefactor, while to the attentive ear of those who are a little farther advanced in life the history of the creation and of all that God has done for His creatures is recounted; His commands, and their obligations to obey them, are stated; the nature and design of the festival which they are observing are explained; and they are taught to perform their humble part in its appropriate services. In these services all now join; and oh, with what perfect union of heart, with what self-annihilating humility, with what seraphic purity and fervency of affection, do they present their combined offering of thanksgiving and praise! Suffice it to say that the ear of Omniscience itself can discern no shade of difference between the language of their lips and that of their hearts unless it be this — that their hearts feel more than their lips can express. These sacred and delightful services being ended, they prepare to feast before their Benefactor; but this preparation is made, and the feast itself is participated with the same feelings which animated their devotions; for whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do, they do all to the glory of God. On such an occasion they may, perhaps, place upon their board a greater variety than usual of the fruits of Paradise; but if so, it is not so much with a view to gratify their appetites as to exhibit more fully the various and ample provision which God has made for them, and thus, through the medium of their senses, to affect their hearts; for man has not yet begun to consume the bounty of Heaven upon his lusts. No; the blessing of God is implored and His presence desired as the crowning joy of their feast, without which even the fruits of Paradise would be insipid and the society of Paradise uninteresting. Thus while they feast upon the fruits of His bounty their souls feast upon the perfections which those fruits display. Thus God is seen and enjoyed in everything, and everything leads up their thoughts and affections to Him, while He sits unseen in the midst of them, shedding abroad His love through all their hearts and rejoicing with benevolent delight in the happiness which He at once imparts and witnesses. Meanwhile their conversation is such as the attending angels, who hover around, would not be ashamed to utter — nay, such as God Himself is well pleased to hear. The law of kindness is on all their lips, for the law of love is in all their hearts. If such is the manner in which innocent creatures would keep a feast unto the Lord, then such is the manner in which we should aim to keep this annual festival. We should desire and aim to exercise the same feelings, to worship God with the same sincerity, fervency, and unity of affection, and to converse and partake of His bounty in the same manner. Having shown how we ought to keep this festival, considered simply as God's intelligent creatures, we shall now, as was proposed —
II. ATTEMPT TO SHOW HOW WE SHOULD KEEP IT, CONSIDERED AS SINFUL CREATURES, UNDER A DISPENSATION OF MERCY. In attempting this we shall pursue the same course which has been pursued in the former part of the discourse. We will suppose that the holy and happy community, whose festival we have been contemplating, fall from their original state and become sinners like ourselves. Now suppose that these creatures, in this sinful, guilty, wretched, despairing state, are placed under a dispensation, in which the grace and mercy of God are offered them through a Redeemer, and that just such a revelation is made to them as has been made to us in the New Testament. Suppose farther, that after they are placed under the new dispensation they resolve to observe a religious festival. What would be necessary, what would be implied in their keeping it as a feast unto the Lord? I answer, the first thing necessary would evidently be a cordial reconciliation to God. Until such a reconciliation took place they could neither observe a religious festival nor perform any other religious duty in a right and acceptable manner. Indeed, they would have no disposition to do it, nor any of the feelings which it implies and demands. But reconciliation to God necessarily involves hatred of sin and self-condemnation, sorrow and shame on account of it. The exercise of faith in the Redeemer, through whom grace and mercy are offered, is also indispensably necessary to the right observance of a feast unto the Lord. And now let us suppose the community, which we have already twice contemplated, first as perfectly holy, and then as sinful, guilty, and undone, to be a third time placed before us, reconciled to God, exercising repentance and faith in Christ, and engaged in keeping a religious festival like that which we this day observe. They still feel, though in an imperfect degree, the same affection which we saw them exercise toward God in their original state; but these affections are, in a considerable degree at least, excited by different objects and variously modified by the change which has taken place in their situation. They still feel grateful to God for their existence, for their faculties, and for the various temporal blessings which surround them; but they now view all these things as blessings which they had forfeited and lost, and which had been repurchased for them by their Redeemer, and freely bestowed upon them as the gifts of His dying love. Hence they seem, as it were, to see His name on every blessing, and every blessing reminds them of Him. They still, as formerly, see and admire God's perfections as displayed in the works of creation; but their admiration and their praises are now principally excited by the far brighter, the eclipsing display which He has made of His moral perfections, in the Cross of Christ, in the wonders of redemption. Loud above all their other praises and thanksgivings may be heard the cry, Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift! Thanks be unto God and the Lamb for redeeming level Even while observing a joyful festival, tears, the fountain of which is supplied by godly sorrow for sin, and gratitude to the Redeemer; tears, which it is delightful to shed, are seen on the same countenances which glow with love and hope, and beam with holy, humble joy in God. And when they sit down to the table of Providence, to feast upon His bounty, the exercise of these emotions is not suspended. They feel there as pardoned sinners ought to feel, and as they would wish to feel at the table of Christ, for the table of Providence is become to them His table; they remember Him there; they remember that whenever their daily food was forfeited by sin, and the curse of Heaven rested upon their basket and store, He redeemed the forfeiture, and turned the curse into a blessing. Hence they feast upon His bounty with feelings resembling those which we may suppose to have filled the bosoms of Joseph's brethren when they ate and rejoiced before him.
(E. Payson, D. D.)— A wise man was once asked a difficult question. He had been gazing at some ancient structure which had long since fallen into ruins. And as he stood by those ruined walls overgrown with ivy, he was asked the question: "What is it which soonest grows old?" What is it which is most quickly forgotten, and is the soonest out of date? The answer was summed up in one simple word — it was gratitude. That which soonest grows old is thankfulness. Now there is a great deal of truth in that answer, for we are all of us so ready to forget the giver as soon as we have received the gift. And this spirit of unthank-fulness for every-day mercies is no recent thing. It has always been so. It was just the same when our Lord was upon earth. You will all remember the story of the ten lepers: only one returned to give thanks. Or look again, at the example of the Israelites in the wilderness. See God's constant care for them. On every page of their history we read, not of thankfulness — but of murmuring and discontent. It was to these same Israelites that the words of the text were spoken. We have just gathered in the fruits of the land, and to-day we are keeping — in a bright and hearty Thanksgiving Service — a feast unto the Lord. Let us now look a little more closely into this subject of Thanksgiving. As we keep our feast to-day, let us look at some of the things for which we ought to be grateful, and then see how we can show our thankfulness in our daily life. In our general thanksgiving prayer, we thank God at every service for our creation. That is the first thing to be thankful f-or. God created us in His own image, and sent us into this world to live for His glory. Every one of us — even in the quiet round of every-day duties — can do something, if we try, to leave the world better than we found it. From first to last — in all its varied employments and in all its Christian duties — life is a work for God. What a charm of sacredness is thus thrown over the most menial duty or the most trifling occupation! Let us remember "whose we are and whom we serve" in our every-day life. Your lot may be very humble — the circle in which you move may be very small — the work that you may be able to do very trifling, but still it is God's work. Let your lot be ever so humble, still it can be a noble one, if you are only true to yourself and your God. A noble life needs no adornment of wealth or position. Look, for example, at that life which closed amid loneliness and desertion within the embattled citadel of Khartoum. One little sentence written by that simple-hearted soldier — whose allegiance to his Queen was only equalled by his devotion to Christ — gives the key-note of his life. Speaking of Egypt, he said, "It is God's work and not mine — if I fail, it is His will — if I succeed, it is His work." And then there are other reasons for thankfulness in our preservation and all the blessings of this life, but above all, for the gift of Jesus Christ. This is the highest cause for thanksgiving, for what would earth have been without a Saviour? And as we thank God to-day for the late harvest, which is to provide us with our daily bread, let us also thank Him for the gift of His dear Son — the Bread of Life, which has come down from heaven — for the salvation and strength of our immortal souls. When we care very much for any one, how anxious we are to show our love by doing what we know will please them! And it should be just the same in our love for God. We should always be anxious to do what will please Him. But now, let us see how we may best show our gratitude for all that God sends us. The Prayer-Book tells us of two ways in which our thankfulness may be shown, "not only with our lips, but in our lives." The first way, then, to acknowledge God as the Giver of all good things, is by giving actual thanks. By words of gratitude in our prayers and by songs of praise and thanksgiving, such as we have joined in to-day. We have seen others called aside and laid upon a sick-bed, and God in His mercy has given us health and strength. But we are to render thanks, not only with our lips but in our lives. Thankfulness can be shown by a proper enjoyment of God's gifts. We are not to lay them by in a miserly manner. If God blesses us with the good things of this life, we are not to be selfish and think only of ourselves. In taking a proper enjoyment of things, we can also try to do good to others. But the highest of all gratitude is for us to realise that we are God's stewards. Let us give of our substance to any who are worse off than ourselves, ministering especially to those who, through sickness or adversity, are in need of our help. "To do good and to distribute, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
Ye shall dwell in booths seven days
I. CHRIST TABERNACLING IN THE FLESH. Three facts are suggestive here of Christ's incarnation being foreshadowed in this feast.
1. John's use of the idea, "The Word dwelt (tabernacled) among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
2. The people's gathering of palm branches when persuaded of His Messiahship (Matthew 21:8, 9).
3. Christ chose "the great day of the feast," of this very Feast of Tabernacles, to identify Himself with one of its incidents. While the waters of Siloam were being, on that eighth day, poured on the altar steps, "Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink" (John 7:37, 38).
4. Yet His tabernacle life was not permanent. Booths are for pilgrims, not residents. And Jesus was here but for a season. "Yet a little while I am with you."
II. MAN'S INSECURE TENURE ON THE EARTH.
1. A booth of boughs and palms would quickly wither; so does our frail tabernacle. What are these bodies but tents of drooping flesh?
2. It was, moreover, occupied but a few days; and we are resident in this body only a brief season. Think not to stay long here.
3. The materials of the booths were of the earth and returned to the earth: mere growths from the soil, soon to decay and go back to the soil. Even so, "dust thou art," &c., "of the earth earthy."
III. A CHRISTIAN'S PILGRIM CAREER. Israel dwelt in booths through their journey from Egypt to Canaan (see ver. 43).
1. Christ's redeemed are pressing through a wilderness. It is not their goal.
2. Rest and content are not to be sought here. A temporary accommodation is enough.
3. Earth's discomfort gives zest to desire for the "city of habitation." And as Israel, weary with their booth life, craved the sure abodes of Canaan, so we "earnestly desire to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; for in this we groan, being burdened."
4. God's ordinance of a booth life was a pledge of the certainty of Canaan. It assured them that He desired them to journey forward to the goodly land. And He would have us "set our face Zion-ward."
(W. H. Jellie.)I. THE TEXT REMINDS US OF CONDITIONS OF LIFE VERY LIKE THIS DWELLING IN BOOTHS.
1. A feeble body, answering its purpose many years, is like dwelling in booths. Every birthday from the first anniversary has seemed as though it must be the last; but they will be gathered to their graves fall of years, as a shock of corn fully ripe. The cedar has fallen, but the fir-tree stands; the flower of the grass has withered, but some of the most tender blades survive. Verily, looking at the frailty of the body, God makes some of us to dwell in booths.
2. Providing by slender means all that is really needful for a large family is like dwelling in booths.
3. A morbidly sensitive spirit kept sound is like dwelling in booths. To the border-line of madness many come who are not permitted to cross.
4. A nature prone to gross evil and kept from the power of temptation is like dwelling in booths.
5. A church preserved in peace and unity, with the elements of evil within it and evil influences around it, is another example of God making to dwell in booths. While human nature is what it is, you cannot have association of any kind without the elements of mischief and the seeds of dissolution. Where there is continuance and unity and peace in a religious community, we have another illustration of God making to dwell in booths.
6. To have lived in a day of small things, and gradually to have come into a day of great things, is to have been made to dwell in booths. The once contracted business now extensive, the once limited profession now a wide and broad practice, and the once tiny house now a large establishment, are illustrations.
II. THE TEXT EXHIBITS GOD AS SUFFICIENT FOR US IN THE MOST NECESSITOUS AND DANGEROUS CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. God hath in Himself all that is necessary for the working out of His will. He is not a cistern which may be broken, but He is an everlasting fountain. Whatever life, knowledge, wisdom, or power are needful or desirable, are in Himself.
2. God uses agents and instruments, but is not dependent upon any of the agents and instruments which He employs. His connection with all such does not bind or embarrass Him. It is nothing with Him to help, whether with many or with few, or with them that have no power.
3. God is conscious of His sufficiency. He thinks of Himself as sufficient, and feels to be sufficient. God had no more care of Israel when they dwelt in booths than when they abode in fenced cities. He had no misgiving about bringing the children of Israel through.
4. There is but one thing which prevents our fully experiencing the sufficiency of God, and that is sin — wilful and persistent sin. This shortcuts the arm of God, and this closes His ear.
III. THE TEXT POINTS OUT A DUTY OF REMEMBRANCE WHICH WE ARE ALL LIABLE TO NEGLECT. This direction has chief reference not to the generation which actually dwelt in the booths, but to successive generations, and to these after they had become tenants of the cities of the Holy Land. Now if we are to keep in remembrance God's goodness to our ancestors, how much more should we keep in mind God's mercy to ourselves! There is a point here, however, which we may not overlook. God's mercy to a family in previous generations places the present members of that family under obligation. The same remark will apply to a nation and to a church — to any community or association.
(S. Martin, D. D.)
Moses declared... the feasts of the Lord.
(J. Parker. D. D.).
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