Numbers 3:1
Lessons may be drawn from the dates and the order of these two annual solemnities, viz.,

(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).

2. A thanksgiving for harvest blessings ("feast of ingathering," Exodus 23:16). We too may "keep the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:8) of the Christian life as -

(1) A grateful commemoration of the low estate out of which God called us. (Illustrate from Deuteronomy 26:1-11; cf. Psalm 40:1-3; Ephesians 2:4-7.)

(2) A joyous feast of ingathering of spiritual harvest, of blessings for ourselves and others through the atonement of Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 7-13; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

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.







The priests which were anointed.
In vers. 1-4 we have —

I. AN INCIDENTAL ILLUSTRATION OF THE EXALTED PERSONAL CHARACTER AND THE DIVINE MISSION OF MOSES.

II. AN INTIMATION THAT THE DUTIES OF THE MINISTERS OF RELIGION DEMAND FOR THEIR FAITHFUL DISCHARGE THEIR ENTIRE CONSECRATION THERETO.

III. AN EXAMPLE OF WICKED SONS DESCENDING FROM A GODLY PARENT.

IV. AN EXAMPLE OF THE WIDEST DIFFERENCE OF CHARACTER AND DESTINY IN CHILDREN OF THE SAME PARENTS. Our subject utters earnest counsels —

1. To the children of godly parents. Trust not in the character and prayers of your parents for salvation. These are of priceless value, yet they will not avail to your salvation apart from your own faith and obedience. (See Ezekiel 18.)

2. To parents. Be diligent and faithful in the discharge of your duty to your children.

(1)Let your own life be right, and so set them a good example.

(2)Give them wise religious instruction and training.

(3)Commend them often and earnestly to God in prayer.

(4)Afford them encouragement in every manifestation of pious feeling and conduct.

(W. Jones.)

The dedication of the Levites—
Vers. 5-10.

I. THE OFFICES OF THE CHURCH ARE DIVINELY INSTITUTED.

II. THERE ARE DIFFERENT RANKS IN THE OFFICES OF THE CHURCH AS INSTITUTED BY GOD.

III. THE LOWLIEST LABOUR IN THE SERVICE OF GOD IS SACRED AND BLESSED.

IV. GOD ALSO APPOINTS THE PERSONS TO FILL THE VARIOUS OFFICES IN HIS CHURCH.

V. INTRUSION INTO SACRED PLACES AND DUTIES AWAKENED THE STERN DISPLEASURE OF THE LORD.Conclusion:

1. Encouragement to those who are called of God to Christian work. He who has called you to your work will sustain you in it, make it efficient by His blessing, and confer upon you rich rewards.

2. Admonition as to our estimate of the ministers of the Lord. They "are ambassadors for Christ." God Himself speaks through them to men.

(W. Jones.)

From vers. 11-13, we learn —

I. GOD'S CLAIMS UPON MAN'S SERVICE ARE INCONTESTABLE. Upon what are they grounded?

1. Upon what He is in Himself.

2. Upon what He does for man.

II. THERE IS A CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE GIFTS AND THE CLAIMS OF GOD. His demands are proportioned to His bestowments.

1. This is righteous.

2. This is beneficent.

III. THE DIVINE ARRANGEMENTS ARE EVER MARKED BY INFINITE WISDOM AND KINDNESS.

(W. Jones.)

I. GOD GAVE THE BEST HE HAD TO EFFECT OUR SALVATION.

II. THE SON GAVE HIMSELF. Let us sacrifice ourselves to God as He sacrificed His Son for us.

1. Thus only can we attain to a high ideal in religion. Be the best possible Christian: be not content with mediocrity: aim high.

2. This is the best way to be useful. The power of Christianity is in the fact of Christ giving Himself. Our influence for good is in proportion to our selfsacrifice.

3. This is the way to enjoy religion. The more we give of self to God, the more will He give of Himself to us. Let all think of what God has done for them, and consider what returns they have made to Him.

(David Lloyd.)

We see in this place, how Moses immediately after the numbering of the people, that meddled not with the ministry of the word, or killing of the sacrifices, or serving in the tabernacle, or carrying of the ark, or teaching of the people, handleth in the next place the fashion of the ministry. For let there be never so great order or good policy in the commonwealth, yet if the care of the ministry be neglected, all is to little purpose. We see from hence the goodly order that God observeth in this great army. He establisheth among them most carefully the holy ministry to the end they might be instructed in the Word. Hereby we learn that among all nations and people under the heavens, the ministry of the Word ought to be planted and established, to guide them in the ways of godliness.

1. A certain and settled ministry is an evident token that God hath a church and a people to be begotten by the immortal seed of the Word.

2. Without the light of the Word the people remain in darkness and cannot see: they grope at noonday, and know not what they do — as it was in Egypt when the plague of palpable darkness was sent among them (Exodus 10:23).

3. The necessity of a ministry is so evident that all the Gentiles had their priests and prophets that attended on their profane and superstitious altars, and it was their first care to establish a religion, such as it was, among them. If it were thus among them who saw darkly, and were without the true light of the Scripture, much more ought we to learn it, that have been taught better things, and have the sure word of the prophets to guide us.

4. Such is our frailty, that notwithstanding we live under a settled ministry, and have given our names to the faith, yet we are ready to start back again. For as the body is prone to pine away without supply of daily food, so are our souls ready to perish, being destitute of the heavenly manna of the Word of God.Uses:

1. There is offered unto us this truth arising from the doctrine itself, that the preaching of the Word by the minister, and the hearing of it by the people, is no ceremony nor a matter of indifferency, such as may either be done or left undone at our own discretion, but it is such a part of the public service of God as ought not to be neglected without great sin.

2. It serveth to reprove divers abuses.(1) Such as think and spare not to say that the ministry is a vain and superfluous thing, and that the ministers are men that may very well be spared, as if they were a sixth finger upon the hand, or a sixth toe upon the foot; that is bringing a burden rather than a benefit. For as they account the Sabbath the loss of one day in a week, so they account the maintenance of the ministry the loss of their goods. These have learned another language than the tongue of Canaan. They do not the works that beseem Christians, and they cannot speak as beseemeth those that profess the fear of God, if so be they do profess so much. Is it a needless thing to have the light of the sun in the firmament, without which all things are covered with darkness, and nothing can have life and quickening? But the sun is not more necessary to be in the world than the light of the Word in the Church to give life and light unto them that sit in darkness (Matthew 4:16). Is it needless to have labourers to reap down our corn in time of harvest? To have meat brought unto us and provided for us when we are hungry, or drink when we are thirsty?(2) The vain conceit of their hearts, who having learned the principles of religion and some grounds of knowledge, proceed no further, as if they had no more use of the Word, whereas there is matter of instruction always to be learned out of the Word for all persons. When we have eaten one kind of meat one day, we eat the next day as hungrily of it as we did before.(3) They that extol to the skies the kingdoms and commonwealths of the heathen as the only prosperous, flourishing, and happy nations, which indeed excelled in outward glory and thereby dazzled the eyes of many, yet indeed were no better than assemblies of men destitute of religion, and consequently of salvation. Their peace and prosperity, their wealth and dignity, were all carnal and momentary, rising out of the earth, and sinking down into the earth again; their praise also is of men. It is the maintenance of true religion that maketh a people truly happy, and the means of spreading abroad true religion is the ministry of the Word. There is no way to know it and to practise it but by this.

3. Must the ministry be established among all people under heaven? Then let every one of us be careful for our parts to plant it among us, and to bring it home to the places of our abode.

4. Let the ministers be careful to discharge their calling, and to teach the people in season and out of season. They must be lights of the world, and as savoury salt to season them with wholesome doctrine.

5. Let the people carefully attend to the ministry of the Word, where it is settled and planted, with a good conscience, as to God's holy ordinance vouchsafed unto them. Let them bring attention in hearing, diligence in marking, and obedience in practising. Let them not use any delays to shift off the performance of this duty.

(W. Attersoll.)

In the artist's studio a fleck of paint lies upon the palette. It is so much colour and nothing more; till, taken up by the brush of the master and laid upon the canvas, it becomes a rosy flush on beauty's cheek, or a lustrous cloud in a golden sunset. So has many a mean and common life been touched by the Master's hand to higher uses; so has many an humble believer been caught up from the poverty of his earthly lot to be a glorious spirit before the throne of the "Eternal Light."

Christian World.
If we agree that the Christian ministry is a vocation for the teaching, in various forms, of Christian righteousness, the question next comes, What is meant by a "call" to it? Is this anything different from that inward impulse to a specific form of work which arises in a man from a consciousness of special gifts in that direction? In that sense a man may be said to be called to the work of a musician or artist. The parents of Mozart, when they found their son, at the age of seven, playing before the crowned heads of Europe, need have been in no doubt as to his life work. It was revealed in his gifts more plainly than it could have been by a voice from heaven. And when, on the other hand, Mozart's own son, once asked whether he loved music, replied by flinging down some coins on the table and exclaiming, "That's the only music I care for," it was equally evident that whatever he came into the world to do, it was not to follow in the steps of his father. Vocation here undoubtedly is in a line with fitness. The tools are for him who can use them.

(Christian World.)

It is said of vapours, that rising out of the earth, the heavens return them again in pure water, much clearer, and more refined than they received them; or as it is said of the earth, that receiving the sea-water and puddle-water, it gives it better than it received it in the springs and fountains, for it strains the water and purifies it, that whereas when it came into the bowels of the earth it was muddy, salt, and brinish, it returns pure, clear, and fresh, as out of the well-head waters are well known to come. Thus, if men would but give up their heart's desire, and the strength of their affections unto God, He would not only give them back again, but withal much better than when He received them, their affections should be more pure, their thoughts and all the faculties of soul and body should be renewed, cleansed, beautified, and put into a far better condition than formerly they were.

(J. Spencer.)

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