The Feasts of the Lord
“These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons” (Leviticus 23:4).
Leviticus 23 groups together the solemnities, holy convocations, joyous festivals which Jehovah calls “His feasts.”
The Sabbath, which is called a “holy convocation,” is mentioned first. It occupies a unique place both as to its institution, frequent celebration, and typical meaning. It presents to us the rest of God into which He will bring His people, the goal to which His grace leads, as presented in these feasts; it also sets before us the place of undisturbed repose from whence He works; there can be no failure or breakdown in His plans, for they have been committed to the hands of His beloved Son, and in divine power and for God’s eternal glory they will be carried out. We may defer detailed consideration of it until after our study of the other feasts, which, seven in number, were completed in seven months, and are distinguished from the Sabbath by a fresh commencement in verse 4, “These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.”
That which the first four feasts typified has already taken place, whilst the last three await their answer in a future day.
The Feasts of the Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost have an application to the Christian era; whilst the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles have a distinctly Jewish bearing.
The Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were named “pilgrimage feasts,” because every Israelite had to journey to the Temple for their celebration. They proclaim the good pleasure of God in a redeemed people, His delight in gathering them in holy nearness to Himself—they are “feasts of the Lord.”
1. The Passover
“In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover” (Leviticus 23:5).
“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The feasts of the Lord, whilst literally Jewish sacred festivals, are also emblematic of Christ’s work and God’s ways. The Passover ranks pre-eminent among these holy convocations and is the moral foundation of all that follows. Inaugurated in Egypt, celebrated in the wilderness, and perpetuated in Canaan, it tells us the work of the Lamb has met the claims of righteousness and laid a holy basis on which God can deliver His people from the power of the foe.
It marks a departure in the ways of God, is a fresh beginning, the inception of a new era. Six months of the old civil year had run their course when past time was set aside, and redemption—not creation—became the start of new relations between God and man. Hitherto God had been known as a Being almighty in power, excellent in working, and claiming the homage due to a glorious Creator. This is the introduction of a more excellent glory, the revelation of a Saviour-God. The fall of man snapped every moral link with God, it is vain to speak of the “universal fatherhood of God” and ignore this appalling fact. Those moral links dislocated by sin can be re-formed alone on the ground of redemption. All who are under the shelter of Christ’s precious blood are privileged to know that a new and eternal year has commenced for them, finding its consummation in the rest of God. They date their history from the garden of resurrection, not the garden of Eden: from a Saviour-God, not from God as known simply in nature.
The passover lamb was separated four days before it was sacrificed, prefiguring the way God patiently waited till man, fully tested, had completely broken down with law, and without law. It was not until four thousand years had run their course, and the “fullness of time” had come, that the true passover Lamb was sacrificed. Christ came in the middle—not the beginning—of this world’s history. This was the “due time” purposed of God, and shows how perfectly type and anti-type agree. It is also an additional proof of the way the Old Testament Scriptures foresaw and predicted in every minute particular the ways and thoughts of God concerning His Lamb.
Then the lamb was to be “a male of the first year”—type of One who, in the energy and perfection of that which this expression denotes, ever lived actively and devotedly to God.
It was also to be spotless and unblemished. One Man has trodden this earth whose mind and life, walk and ways, words and deeds answered to the law of God. He walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor sat in the seat of the scornful, nor stood in the Way of sinners, but His delight, day and night, was in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1). That Man was Jesus. These things had a complete fulfilment in Him. Untainted by the corrupt moral atmosphere of this world, He was Superior to evil from beginning to end. Satan found no vulnerable point of attack in Gethsemane any more than in the wilderness; from start to finish He was unblemished and spotless.
But this holy life must be given up in death, this stainless Lamb must be slain, its blood sprinkled, ere it could avail as shelter from the destroyer’s sword.
The holy life of Jesus, His perfect obedience, avails nothing as security from judgment. God said, “When I see the blood,” not when I see the lamb, “I will pass over you.”
Christ’s pathway was perfect, His life absolutely unselfish, His footsteps hear the impress of the one and only perfect Man this world has ever seen; but, if we stop short, and merely regard Him as a pattern and example, however much we may admire and eulogize Him, it avails nothing. Imitation is not salvation. Remission follows submission. Only those who have bowed to God’s dictum and put the sprinkled blood between themselves and the destroying angel are safe. The blood alone barred his entrance on that eventful night, nothing less and nothing else will avail now.
The penalty for sin is death—sin’s judgment. This judgment is set forth in the fire to which the lamb was exposed; it expresses God’s abhorrence of sin, and sets forth that to which Jesus was exposed during the gloom and solitude of Calvary.
The lamb was to be roasted whole—symbol of the complete surrender of Jesus in the entirety of His being—an altogether worthy offering. Then no part was to be left until morning. Atonement is not doing, it is done. The work is finished, nothing remains to be accomplished. The morning of resurrection is the proof that sins are gone. Christ will never die again.
Again, not a bone was to be broken; how truly this also was verified. The Roman soldiers little thought they were fulfilling Scripture, when, coming to Jesus, and seeing that “He was dead already, they brake not His legs” (John 19:33).
Thus Christ our passover was sacrificed for us. Yes, for us! He is our passover, for this was written to a Gentile assembly, not to a Jewish synagogue.
Let us briefly look at its threefold celebration. First, Israel kept the Passover in Egypt, girded and sandaled, with staff in hand, within closed doors on which the blood of the lamb had been sprinkled, on that eventful night when the destroying angel was stalking through the land.
What does this preparation for a journey mean? It tells us in unmistakable language that the death of Christ is to be our complete severance from this present world, with its bondage and its judgment, its false gods and its sensual gratifications, its leeks, garlic, and onions, its pleasures and its taskmasters. Henceforth we are to be known as pilgrims journeying to the land of promise, our faces set heavenwards.
But, secondly, the Passover’s inauguration was not only associated with security from impending judgment and deliverance from the land where that judgment fell, but was also the pledge of a rest to come. They were enjoined to perpetuate this feast when “come to the land which the Lord will give you according as He hath promised” (Ex. 12:25).
Are we not thus reminded that when in our heavenly home we shall never forget we are indebted to Christ, our passover, for the rest and happiness we enjoy, but, in company with all the redeemed in glory, shall celebrate the worth of the slain Lamb who has ransomed to God by His blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation?
Then, lastly, notice that even as feasting on the slain lamb they started, so journeying through the wilderness they were still to keep in constant remembrance that death which was the foundation of all their blessing:—
“The Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season” (Num. 9:1-2).
Nor was even one ceremonially defiled to be debarred from the privilege of this feast. A special provision was made that when he was restored he should celebrate it the following month. Does not this remind us that we are to judge ourselves, and so eat of that feast which has superseded the paschal supper? Thus, in moral fitness, we are to remember our absent Lord, by partaking of His Supper, on our journey through this world, not because a death penalty is attached to its neglect, but as a priceless privilege.
In the last place we note a distinction from all previous offerings. They were personal and individual. This is expressly connected with the “household” and the congregation or “assembly” (Ex. 12:3). It bears a family character as well as that pertaining to a collective assembly. It surely reminds us that the “assembly of God” is also the “household of God.” Its various members are bound together by family as well as ecclesiastical bonds. The members of the body of Christ are also the children of the Father; the church of the living God is composed of those whom Christ calls “My brethren.” All this is surely to have a place, and give character to our re-unions to show forth the Lord’s death till He come. Living in spirit in Canaan, with our backs on Egypt, though traversing the desert sands, we are enjoined to keep this feast by “an ordinance for ever” (Ex. 12:14).
2. Unleavened Bread
“And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread” (Leviticus 23:6).
In order to grasp the true import of this feast it is needful to bear in mind that leaven is, in Scripture, typical of moral corruption. It was strictly forbidden in the meat offering (Lev. 2:11).
Hypocrisy permeated the Pharisees, rationalism the Sadducees; the Lord bade His disciples beware of the leaven of both (Matt. 16:6). The Christians at Corinth were told to “keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8). Paul warns the Galatians that the admixture of Judaism with Christianity would operate like leaven, even a little would corrupt the whole lump (Gal. 5:9). “Leaven itself is born from corruption, and corrupts the mass with which it is mixed” (Plutarch’s Quaest. Rom., 109).
It indicates the secret spread of some evil moral influence (having penetrative and diffusive power). The original word is synonymous with that which ferments and corrupts.
A misconception has arisen in some minds through a misunderstanding of Matthew 13:33, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” This has been construed to mean that the gospel would permeate the mass of men and bring about God’s kingdom. Alas! the opposite is the truth. Evil doctrine will work insidiously until every section of Christianity is leavened, and the professing church will be spued out of Christ’s mouth. The three measures of meal, setting forth that which is professedly subject to Christ on earth, are being rapidly impregnated with corruption. One professed Christian teacher will impugn Christ’s Godhead, another detract from His spotless humanity. Evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse, dragging the world into the church, and enticing the chaste virgin espoused to Christ to unholy alliance with the world.
No, leaven is evil, always and only evil. This must be evident to any unbiased mind, for how could that which was so bad that it had to be purged out of the church at Corinth at the same time be so good that it would bring about God’s kingdom in the world?
A death penalty attached to all who ate leavened bread during this feast. It was not to be tolerated in their persons, houses, or land. “There shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters” (Ex. 13:7). “Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses” (Ex. 12:19).
This feast is the fitting moral sequence of the Passover. “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast.” It reminds us that sanctification is to follow justification; the sheltered are to be separated; the delivered and redeemed are to live holily and righteously.
“Seven days” represent the complete period of our life. During our journey through this world we are to be sedulously careful to judge all that is evil in morals and doctrine, walk and ways, whether in ourselves, our homes, or our associations. The Passover which precedes this feast speaks of Christ’s work, this, of the Holy Spirit’s. Emancipation and justification are bound up with one, sanctification and practical holiness with the other. Justification is based on the blood, and appropriated by faith; secured by Christ’s death, and assured in His resurrection. It flows from free sovereign grace apart from works. Its subjects are ungodly sinners without strength; and glory is in view, for whom God has justified them He also glorified. It is a work which cannot be added to or taken from. It is God’s act, therefore perfect and complete, a work wrought for us.
Sanctification, in the aspect in which we are here considering it, is, on the contrary, a work wrought in us; it is progressive and continuous. Christ in glory is its full measure. Until we are with Him and like Him there we shall never be fully sanctified.
The Holy Spirit is the power, and the Word of God the instrument, by which we are cleansed and sanctified. That word divides between false and true, between holy and unholy. It declares, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). Who, in the face of this statement, will claim to have reached a state of sinless perfection? It also says “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1). Who, then, will not seek to cultivate a holy walk?
The true force of the word sanctification is “set apart;” the Christian is set apart from the world to be wholly for God’s will; hence he must be separate from all not according to that will.
It is the custom among certain Jews to light a lamp, take a broom, and sweep the corners of the house daily during this feast. Let us take the light of God’s Word, and the broom of self-judgment, and deal with such leaven as is hidden with us.
But separation from evil is not the same thing as occupation with good. Not only had the house to be cleansed from leaven, but Israel were enjoined to feed on “unleavened bread,” i.e. bread of purity and sweetness.
Where do we find the answer to this? Where is this bread to be found for us Christians? it is in Jesus! He is the true food of our souls. “Unleavened bread” describes His spotless humanity here below. What holy food there is as we dwell upon that pathway so fragrant with moral excellences, and know it is the same Jesus who walked here with whom we shall spend a blissful eternity.
We may trace His holy footsteps as He weeps at the grave of Lazarus, as He takes little children in His arms, as He turns from His own sorrow to commit His mother to John’s care, or as He sits beside Sychar’s well. His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him; ours, to feed upon Him doing that will.
What can equal in purity and sweetness the person of Jesus as expressed in His words and ways? He was what He said and did; words and works were the expression of His true self.
This feast also reminds us that His life was a pathway to death, but the death of a Man who ever afforded delight to God; for, during its continuance (see Num. 28:17-25), sacrifices of a sweet savour were offered daily. Two young bullocks in all the glory of their strength—typifying the energy of the entire being of Christ, offering Himself to God. The ram of consecration, which means hands filled—reminding us of Him whose hands were hands filled with that in which God could find delight. The lambs—seven in number—perfect expression of the lowly grace of that Blessed One who was led spotless and unblemished to the slaughter. With these were presented wine, oil, and fine flour—Christ in the perfection of His humanity; the vessel of the Spirit; gladdening, like wine, the heart of God and man.
These ten sacrifices express the perfect way in which Christ fulfilled every responsibility connected with “Lo! I come to do Thy will, O God,” and gratified the Father’s heart by the way He carried out that will.
One goat for a sin offering was also slain, an incidental reminder of the love which led Him to take the guilty sinner’s place and suffer in his stead. But this is not the prominent thought in this feast: we are to take ten looks at Christ in the excellencies and perfections of His person, then one at Him as the sin-bearer, for apart from His atoning work we cannot truly feed on Him.
Ecce Homo!—Behold the Man!—pure and spotless, holy and devoted, giving up His life and drawing out the Father’s love in doing so. “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17).
We are to feed upon Him thus: He is the pure and unleavened bread, the one true answer to that which this feast symbolizes, for in His person is perfection; in Him, without any admixture of evil, we find holiness and truth, purity and sincerity, and every moral excellence.
The prohibition as to servile work may serve to remind us that it is not by effort or labour on our part that we can become sanctified and separated. Feeding on Jesus will produce its own effect. We are to eat as privileged guests invited to a banqueting house; and what holy fare is provided! God’s gracious provision for His own is JESUS—the “Bread of God,” “Bread of Life,” “Bread from heaven.” In life, in death, the holy perfect Man who always did those things which pleased His Father!
Oh, to be more in company with Jesus!
3. The Firstfruits
“When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth path of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete” (Leviticus 23:10-15).
This feast was indeed a joyous festival, it told, in figure, that the sunless night of death had passed, that a resurrection morning had dawned. The spirit of heaviness could be exchanged for the garment of praise, the bitter herbs for the oil of joy, the bread of affliction for fine flour, oil, and wine. We may transfer our thoughts from the sorrow connected with the Sin offering, to the sweet savour of the Burnt offering. Christ—our passover—once sacrificed for us, has endured the judgment and come out of death. He is risen, a triumphant Victor, the pledge of a mighty resurrection harvest.
Christ is not only risen but ascended.
“And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24).
The words used in the original to describe the manner of our Lord’s ascension are significant. They are translated “carried” (Luke 24:51), “taken up” (Acts 1:9 and 11). Legions of shining ones would seem to have borne Him back in triumph—conducted Him gloriously to the home from whence He came.
An angel proclaimed His first advent, announced Him as good tidings, the bringer of great joy to all people; a multitude of the heavenly host added their Amen, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Angels were the guardians of His footsteps through this world, charged with His safe keeping lest He dash His foot against a stone, they ministered to Him in the wilderness, strengthened Him in Gethsemane, and forty-eight thousand—twelve legions—would have rescued Him from death, had He so desired. Now it was their honour, as their joy, to carry Him victoriously back to heaven.
But He who was carried was also received. He who had glorified the Father on earth should now be glorified in heaven; nor should He wait until He had reached the end of His journey before He had a pledge of the welcome that awaited Him. A cloud received Him out of their sight. The word for this cloud is the same as the glory cloud on the holy mount, out of which the voice came, saying, “This is My beloved Son” (Luke 9:35). He was received in glory, as well as “into” glory (1 Tim. 3:16, N.Tr.). “In” describes the glorious accompaniments of His ascension.
In these glories He will surely return. The way He ascended is the way He will descend. We learn from His own lips how He will come back. The cloud will be there and great glory (Luke 21:27). The holy angels will be there (Mark 8:38). The Father’s glory will accompany Him (Luke 9:26). The same Jesus will come in like manner to the way He left the earth.
Who can conceive the joy of that moment when the Son of man ascended where He was before? What a feast for heaven, when for the first time Man entered the glory of God; and that Man the God of Glory! No wonder the gates were commanded to lift up their heads; the everlasting doors, to open for the King of Glory, the Lord strong and mighty, to come in. He had fought the fight alone, vanquished every foe, proved Himself the mighty Victor, and now with filled hands-spoils wrested from the enemy—He returns to the Father’s house, but not as He left it. He left that house alone, traversed the earth alone, met the enemy alone, lay in death alone, but He is alone no longer, He is the Firstborn among many brethren, the first of the firstfruits (Ex. 23:19).
The sheaf of firstfruits was representative—presented on behalf of others to be “accepted” for them. Christ’s acceptance is our acceptance; He is the heavenly Man in a heavenly scene accepted for us. He is the “Beloved;” but we stand in all the favours resting on Him. We who were dead are not only redeemed by His blood, but raised, seated, and graced in Him in the heavenlies (Eph. 1-2). This feast is not connected with the wilderness, its fulfilment was reserved for Canaan. The place of its observance is typical of the heavenly places of which we have spoken.
With this sheaf of the firstfruits there was offered the lamb, the meal, the oil, the wine—a burnt offering with its meat and drink offerings—typical of the life and death of the Lord Jesus. The meal sets forth the perfect humanity of Jesus, whilst the oil is a figure of the Holy Ghost, who guided, led, and anointed Him in life, by whom He offered Himself without spot to God, and who accompanied Him back to glory. Wine was poured out as a drink offering. How truly it sets forth that cheer to “the heart of God and man” which results from all that Christ has done!
The fulfilment of this feast proves, incidentally, the perfection of Scripture. It was to be observed on the first day, after the first Sabbath, after the Passover. Was it a mere chance, a fortuitous circumstance, that the Passover fell on Friday, the year our Lord was crucified? Was it not rather an indication that every detail was so ordered of God, that Christ rose—the true firstfruits—on the very day the firstfruits were commanded to be offered, and thus perfectly fulfilled the type? This was only possible once in seven years as time Passover fell on a different day in each year, whilst this feast was always on the same day. How perfect are God’s ways, and how fully His hand is seen in type and antitype!
4. Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks
“From the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meal offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitation two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord” (Leviticus 23:15-18).
This is the last of the four feasts which find their answer in connection with the present dispensation.
The Passover had its fulfilment amid the gloom of Calvary, when Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Consequent upon, and forming an integral part of it, was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Then the sheaf of firstfruits was presented on the morrow after the first Sabbath succeeding the Passover, its answer being Christ, as Firstborn from among the dead, firstfruits of the great resurrection harvest. This sheaf was a sheaf of acceptance for others, setting the “many brethren” in all the worth and excellence of His person before God, showing how they are “accepted in the Beloved.”
Then after seven Sabbaths the Feast of Weeks was celebrated. It is the counterpart of the wave sheaf, showing that if Christ glorified sets forth the acceptance in which we stand with God, believers are to reproduce what He is in this world: they are a meat offering, called to walk before God as He walked.
The seven weeks between the two may serve to remind us—like the two thousand cubits which separated the ark from Israel on their entrance into Canaan—of the pre-eminence of this one Sheaf—Christ—over all the rest of the harvest. We are heavenly ones, but He is the “heavenly One.” We are brethren, but He is the “Firstborn.” We are His fellows, but He is anointed with the oil of gladness above them all. We are a meat offering, but He is the meat offering par excellence.
Fine flour was in this new meat offering; oil also was there, but there was also another, hitherto unheard-of ingredient present, for it was mingled with leaven! and so it is called “new.”
We have seen that leaven typifies evil ever and always, and hitherto had been strictly prohibited in all offerings.
The meat offering primarily sets forth Christ in the purity of His humanity, the perfect obedience which marked His earthly pathway, culminating in the supreme act of devotedness when He “humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). This was the closing scene in a life which had no motive but the will of God for all its activities.
It was composed of fine flour mingled with oil on which frankincense was poured, and from which leaven and honey were excluded.
The fine flour typifies the perfect evenness, the unruffled serenity of a Man so excellent in every way that no salient point in His character stood prominently out. Meek and lowly He truly was, but uncompromising when occasion served. The “honey” of fallen human nature never turned Him aside from the path of rectitude; the plaudits of the nation, or the patronage of the rich, never moved Him from doing the will of God—such a Man was Jesus.
Tenderly as He loved the family at Bethany, He hastened not to relieve them until He got the word from His Father. None had such pure human affections as He, but obedience to God regulated them perfectly. His only motive for action was God’s will. Leaven, with its evil workings, was foreign to His nature; tested in the desert, on the mountain top, and the pinnacle of the temple, Satan found no vulnerable point; in the garden of Gethsemane he was equally foiled.
But if there was neither leaven nor honey, there was oil. Begotten of the Holy Ghost; marked out as the beloved Son of the Father by the descent of the Spirit at His baptism: from that moment He was the vessel of testimony, led, filled, anointed for service.
All the frankincense ascended up to God. Christ was ever a sweet savour, always doing those things which pleased the Father.
This Feast of Weeks tells us that we are to be like Him, and ever seek to be agreeable to our God and Father, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, a meat offering of a sweet savour.
The fulfilment of this feast commenced on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2). A company were gathered, to whom had been imparted a new and divine nature; the wave sheaf—Christ risen—had breathed on them; henceforth they lived of His life. He had also set them in the same relationship with the Father that He enjoyed, as a Man risen from the dead.
On this seventh Lord’s day, Pentecost being fully come, the assembled disciples heard a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind; saw cloven tongues like as of fire rest on each other; felt the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, as they received the gift of the Holy Ghost sent from the Father and the Son: they were there and then indwelt, anointed, sealed; and, receiving the Spirit of adoption, became a “kind of firstfruits” of the harvest.
Thus we find two elements which were component parts of the pure meat offering. A sinless nature, incapable of evil, had been given them; this answered to the fine flour (1 John 3:9). On this the Holy Spirit had been poured; this answered to the oil.
They still, however, retained that of which leaven is a type. The old evil principle, called the flesh, remained unchanged within them, and this answers to the leaven which was incorporated with the two wave loaves: but whilst leaven was present, its active principle was arrested. These loaves had been exposed to the action of fire; they were “baken” in the oven. This did not eradicate it, but effectually prevented the working of the corrupting thing. Fire is the symbol of the judgment which fell upon Christ when He was made sin (see Rom. 8:3, margin): “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin condemned sin in the flesh.” The sin in us was condemned at the cross; there the fire did its work.
Christians are to “reckon” what was true of Christ when He died in their stead under the judgment of God, as true of them, and to view themselves as “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). Doing this, they are assured sin shall not have dominion over them (v. 14). Its active principle will be kept in subjection. Power for this comes from the Holy Ghost; walking in the Spirit, fleshly lusts shall not be fulfilled.
These wave loaves in their component parts of flour and leaven are emblematic of two natures, one as opposed to the other, as light to darkness. The Christian is a complex being; for some wise reason, God has allowed the flesh to remain with him unchanged, whilst imparting a wholly new life and nature. The old nature cannot be improved or eradicated; it is as much in an aged saint as in a youthful convert. If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves. We do not deceive God or our fellows. There it is, and there it will remain; the flesh will be flesh to the end of the chapter.
But an entirely new life is communicated. Christ is the Christian’s life, and this he will never lose; it is eternal; its characteristics are holiness and truth. Paul had this life, and lived it; Christ lived in him. We are also called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Our lives are to be fragrant with obedience and devotedness, like Enoch, walking so as to please God, our bodies yielded a living sacrifice; obeying in the spirit in which Christ obeyed, not of compulsion but of a ready mind. Thus walking, we shall answer to the character of the true meat offering.
Failing to do so, we are to judge ourselves. A Christian ought not to sin, but should he do so, there is a provision to meet it. Confessing our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and restore to a right spiritual condition. Power not to sin is in the Holy Ghost. He has taken up His abode in us permanently. There is no lust, no sinful desire He cannot overcome. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall in no way fulfil flesh’s lust” (Gal. 5:16, N.T).
Deliverance, practically, comes from looking always and ever to Christ the moment temptation besets us.
It is vain to look for improvement in the flesh; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. In it no good dwells; yet if kept in the place God has assigned to it as judged in the cross, it is no barrier to communion, for with the wave loaves were presented seven lambs, one young bullock, and two rams. These ten offerings of sweet savour, expressive of entire consecration, whole-hearted devotedness, and perfect lowliness, present that aspect of Christ’s death which affords unceasing delight to God. In all the worth and excellence of this, each individual believer and the entire church of God is ever and always seen.
The goat for a “sin offering” met the leaven in the loaves, whilst the peace offerings (v. 19) set forth communion. Evil has been judged and put out of God’s sight for ever, and we are accepted in all the preciousness of Christ to God.
But these wave loaves were also first-fruits, and this feast was one of responsive and diffusive joy. Israel, blessed fully and freely of God, responded to the goodness showered so richly upon them, by a freewill offering. They presented to God that which is a type of the great harvest which has sprung from the corn of wheat which fell into the ground and died, the much fruit from the resurrection field.
By these firstfruits they recognized God as the source of all good, and honoured Him by rendering an offering to Him first; this they did not as a servile work, but as a happy privilege. Having honoured God, and owned His primary rights and sovereign claims, they were to reflect His character to others, and be exponents of the grace shown them, remembering they were once bond-slaves. In the spirit of gratitude for the mercy which had snapped their chains, and the grace which had blessed them with the rich produce of the land from which God never withdrew His eyes, they were to be channels of blessing to an ever-widening circle. The desolate widow and the destitute orphan, the dependent Levite and the lonely stranger, were to share in the gifts of a gracious God (Deut. 16:11-12).
Surely all this has a voice for us. May we not ask: have we set God first, rendered that which is primarily and rightfully due to Him, presented our firstfruits, saying, like David, “All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee” (1 Chr. 29:14)? Have we visited the widow and fatherless in their affliction? Have we carried the gospel to the stranger? Have we ministered of our carnal things to servants of our Lord who minister to us spiritual things? Or, are we selfishly occupied with our spiritual blessings and temporal mercies, not sharing them with others? If so, we shall miss the lesson which lies upon the surface of this feast and fall below a godly Israelite in glad worship and devoted service.
5. The Day of Atonement (and Trumpets)
“It is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:28).
The great day of atonement has a double aspect—one manward, the other Godward. The blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat has respect to the holy claims of God, whilst the sins laid on the scapegoat set forth the substitutionary work of Christ for sinners. A bullock was slain for Aaron and his sons—figure of Christ and the church—and its blood carried into the holiest. Then one goat was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled in the holy place on behalf of the nation of Israel. Aaron’s hands were laid on the head of the other goat, and the sins and iniquities of the whole nation symbolically transferred to it. It was then sent by “a man of opportunity” into the wilderness, to a land not inhabited, teaching typically that Israel’s sins and iniquities were carried away out of God’s sight. The atoning sacrifice, at one and the same time, bore away their guilt and glorified God in every attribute of His being. We know this now, Israel will learn it in the day of their redemption.
Whilst the sacrificial blood was being carried inside, and the high priest hidden from view, the people outside were anxiously waiting, in affliction of soul, for him to come forth. Having come out of the holy place and sent away the scapegoat, the people had a visible token outside that the work inside had removed their guilt; they saw and believed. It was not until the high priest came forth and the goat was sent away that their “affliction” was at an end, their burden removed; then, not before, the silver trumpet proclaimed the Jubilee.
We Christians do not wait to see before we believe; ours is the blessedness of which our Lord spake to Thomas when He said: “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20). We pre-trust in Christ, believe the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and are sealed by the Holy Ghost until the day of redemption whilst Christ is still hidden in the heavens (see Eph. 1:13).
Israel, on the contrary, will believe when Christ comes forth from the ‘inner shrine.’ “They shall look upon Him whom they pierced;” they will say: “This is our God, we have waited for Him.”
Whilst they wait they mourn; aroused by the call of God—awakened by the silver trumpets on the first day of the month—they spend the intervening days, between the feast of the trumpets and the day of atonement, in sorrow and repentance.
It is their repentance which is specially prominent in Leviticus 23. We have no account here of what took place inside the veil, for that we must turn to chapter 16. Here is shadowed a guilty people, sitting in darkness but looking for light, sighing in bitterness, perplexed and sorrowful, cast down and disquieted, but calling upon their soul to “hope in God.”
The modern Jews term this feast the black fast, and however careless they may be as to observing the others, there are few who do not observe the day of atonement! Vain is their fasting now, for until the church is taken out of the world, and Christ appears a second time without sin unto salvation, no high priest shall appear.
What is set before us here is the burdened conscience of repentant Israel in a future day divinely awakened to their awful sin.
“Ye shall afflict your souls” (v. 27).
“Whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, I will destroy from among his people” (v. 2).
“Ye shall afflict your souls” (v. 32).
This threefold call to Israel to bow their souls in deep heart-searchings points to the day when the enormity of Israel’s sin in rejecting and crucifying Jesus their true Messiah, shall be brought home to them; then they shall indeed mourn and afflict their souls. Egypt once wailed a bitter wail over the firstborn; from the prison to the palace an anguished cry arose. Now it is Israel’s turn to weep; they are in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Like Joseph’s brethren of old they cry, “We are verily guilty;” but their sorrow is personal as well as national, individual as well as collective, for though the “land” is said to “mourn,” it is also added that it is “every family apart.”
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Had-ad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart” (Zech. 12:10-14).
The families named are typical and descriptive. David, head of the royal house, the occupant of a palace, “mourned apart.” Alone with God, in the secret of His presence, he reviewed his guilty past, and learnt the enormity of his sins as in His sight. Down he went and in deep self-abhorrence cried, “Deliver me from blood guiltless, O God!” This will be the cry of the elect remnant of the Jewish nation, as they estimate in the light of the presence of God the true nature of their sin in crucifying Jesus. “His blood be on us and our children,” they had once cried; now those children are burdened with the weight of their crime; the sorrows through which they will pass under Antichrist will wring from them those “lamentations” Jeremiah so graphically describes.
Nathan represents those raised up of God in a day of national declension to summon Israel to repentance. He was God’s messenger to David and convinced the king of his guilt, saying, “Thou art the man!” Now he is convicted himself, discovers his own sinfulness, and learns that whilst reproving others he needed reproving himself. Retreating into the privacy of his chamber, he cries with a fellow-prophet, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).
Levi was the representative of the priestly house. Once the law of truth was in his mouth and iniquity was not found in his lips; now he remembers that it was the priests’ lips which framed the most diabolical lie ever propagated. It was the priests that gave large money to the soldiers, bribing them to circulate their wicked falsehood concerning the resurrection of Jesus, saying, “Say ye His disciples came by night and stole Him away whilst we slept.”
It was the priests who plotted and planned the murder of Jesus, and suborned false witnesses in order to accomplish their purpose; it was the priests who instigated the people to choose an anarchist and crucify their Messiah. But their guilt will be brought home to their consciences, and the “family of the house of Levi apart and their wives apart,” will have the spirit of grace and supplication poured on them, and they will mourn and weep sore in the night, pour out their confession before the face of the Lord, as they remember that it was the “iniquities of the priests” which shed the blood of the just (see Lam. 4:13).
Thus potentate, prophet, and priest will individually own their sin, and repent with deep and bitter contrition.
But the people were also involved. They had joined hands with the doctors of the law, the priests and the elders, and chose Barabbas in place of Jesus. Simeon very fitly represents the common people. Jacob puts the name of Levi and Simeon together as companions in a compact of blood. His dying father had no good word for him.
“Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united” (Gen. 49:5-6).
Why? As we read the answer, let us remember these words were prophetic, an announcement of what should happen in the “last days;” their crime was this “IN THEIR ANGER THEY SLEW A MAN”!
How truly this took place at the cross when the priests secured the condemnation of Jesus, and the people ratified their act, crying, “Away with this Man, we will not have this Man to rule over us.”
It is significant that the tribe of Simeon is not included in the blessing of Moses—the man of God—they got no separate portion, but shared that of Judah in the land, and after the separation of the tribes under Rehoboam, isolated from the other nine, no more is heard of them; they were indeed “divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel,” just as all the tribes are now scattered in every country under heaven.
But where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and Simeon finds a place in those seated for blessing in Revelation 7, and gets a share in the land during the millennial age, according to Ezekiel 48:24.
Previous to this, each must have to do with God for himself, and face the matter apart from human relationships. The husband cannot repent for the wife; the priest cannot repent for the people; the king cannot repent for his subjects; nor the prophet for his hearers. David and Simeon, Nathan and Levi must repent alone—no one must come between them and God.
How truly this is God’s way today. We may band together to do wrong, and even make a general confession of that wrong, and may cry in concert with others, “Lord, have mercy on us,” but all this falls far short of the lesson taught here. True repentance, true confession of sin is intensely individual, and is only real when the soul becomes conscious, like David—“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” We trust each of our readers has thus had to do with God, and “afflicted” their souls “apart” from their fellows.
It is Christ wounded for their iniquities which produces repentance in the remnant of Israel by and by. They shall “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” they shall “wail because of Him.” They learn His sorrows were on their account, and as one after another of the ten offerings—in addition to the bullock and two goats—were placed on the brazen altar, every aspect of His cross is portrayed before their eyes (see Num. 29), producing true contrition and self-judgment. Neither we, nor they, can rightly estimate sin, except as seen at the cross. Israel will take up the language of Isaiah 53:
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon mm.”
Then they shall confess:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”
They will realize that Jesus was the true scapegoat and learn that on Him the Lord hath laid their iniquity. They will see Him as High Priest come forth and declare His sacrifice has been accepted on their behalf, and, on the ground of the new covenant, God will again gather them under His sheltering wings, and place underneath them the everlasting arms, assuring them that their sins and iniquities are remembered no more.
All this will be on the ground of sovereign grace and in answer to Christ’s intercessory prayer on the cross, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” They will learn that it is altogether apart from labour or merit on their part. Not a finger was to be lifted, not a fire lighted, not the smallest movement on the part of the people. “Ye shall afflict your souls,” and do “no work” on that day.
How truly this is the way of blessing for us, as for them. We are called upon to repent, but not to labour; to own our guilt, but not to atone for that guilt; to sit in the dust, and find out that it is when in the dust God can stoop in grace to bless us. To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Israel, having repented in dust and ashes, not only learn that their personal salvation but the enjoyment of their inheritance is wholly due to the atoning work of Christ.
On every recurrence of the seventh Sabbath of years a trumpet, loud of sound, announced on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the day of atonement, that the morning of liberty had dawned, the day of release come. The captive was freed, and each man could return to the land of his possession, the inheritance unconditionally given to Abraham.
In the faith of this Joseph had his body transferred from Egypt to Canaan. In the faith of this Jeremiah bought the field of Hanameel, and placed the evidence of the purchase in an earthen vessel, for the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, has declared that “houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (Jer. 32:15). These words shalt be literally fulfilled; Israel shall dwell safely in their land; but, in the interval between our ascension to the Father’s house, and our coming forth to reign with Christ, sorrows many and deep will befall the godly remnant under the rule of Antichrist. This will be the time of Jacob’s trouble, and of the events recorded from Revelation 4 to 19. These having been accomplished, the Lord will appear for their deliverance. His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, and they who pierced Him shall see Him, and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him. Then will come to pass the day of atonement in its application to repentant Israel, and they will afflict their souls, and thus fulfil this type in its moral bearings.
“The fifteenth day at this seventh month shalt be the feast of tabernacles for seven days . . . Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. On the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly [day of restraint—margin]; and ye shall do no servile work therein . . . In the fifteenth day at the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:34-39).
Those holy convocations, prefiguring the ways of God, reach their climax in the feast of tabernacles. Beginning with the Lamb of God they culminate in the rest of God; they tell us a rest undisturbed by sin shall be established on the unchangeable basis of righteousness. This rest has two parts—one in time, the other in eternity. The first is the rest of Israel in Canaan and the emancipation of the creature from the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8:21), when the curse now resting on this sin-stained earth will be removed. The second is after this earth has passed away, when righteousness will dwell in new heavens and a new earth. An “eighth” day—added to the seven which properly constitute this feast—indicates an eternal Sabbath to follow a temporal one.
We will first turn to scriptures as to this feast which point to glorious days of rest and joy on earth connected with Israel. Prophets announce them, the Psalmist sang of them, this feast exemplifies them.
Celebrated in the seventh month, lasting seven days, this seventh and last feast has seven different references to it in the Old Testament. It derives its name from the command in verse 42, “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths.” The Hebrew word sukkah here translated “booths” is rendered twelve times “tabernacles.” These tabernacles, formed of branches of pine, myrtle, palm, olive, and willow, were intended as a reminder of their wilderness journey. “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwelt in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (v. 43). The palm and willow mentioned in verse 40 vividly recall incidents connected with Israel’s later as well as earlier wanderings.
Once only do we read of this injunction being literally carried out, after Israel first entered Canaan. Ezra (see Neh. 8), having read our chapter in the ears of the assembled people, beheld them sally forth, gather leafy branches, and building booths on roofs, in courts and streets, dwell therein and keep the feast. Never had feast been kept since Joshua’s day as that celebrated by these returned captives. Never, we may surely say, will this feast be celebrated as in a coming day, when, their toilsome journey ended, the sandy desert passed, their harps no longer on the willows, their long captivity over, Israel recalls all the way the Lord hath led them, the “goodness” which had “guided” and at length “gathered” them to their own land.
The earliest mention of this feast is as “a feast of ingathering in the end of the year” (Ex. 23:16). It looks forward to scattered Israel restored to their own land, enjoying the fruits of the field and the vineyard, after labour and sorrow are over. The downtrodden grapes, the crushed olives, and the beaten corn tell of their sorrows as a persecuted people, and aptly represent the close of God’s dealings with them when, oppressed by Antichrist, they will reap to the full that harvest of sorrow, sown by their murder and rejection of Jesus; and pass through the darkest hour of that long night during which the governmental hand of God has been upon them.
For nineteen centuries their house has been desolate, their country devastated, their feast days marred; they wander in the desert of the nations, having no city of their own to dwell in. Their degradation is sculptured on the triumphal arch erected by Titus at Rome, in celebration of his victory over them. The table of showbread is spoiled of its loaves, the golden candlestick sheds no light, the two silver trumpets, which once sounded liberty and freedom, are silent. Despised by most, tolerated by few, mingled with every nation under the sun yet incorporated with none, Israel is under the Gentile’s heel. Thus in darkness and the shadow of death, bound in affliction, forsaken of God, hated of men, they reap the fruit of their evil ways.
But their dark night will end in a cloudless morning; their weariness and toil will be succeeded by such rest as can only be known by a happy and delivered people in a reconciled creation, purged and purified by blood with neither enemy nor evil occurrent. With gladness of heart, at home and at peace, they will celebrate the goodness of the Lord.
This will be the true jubilee. In Deuteronomy 31:10 our feast is linked with it: in the solemnity of the year of release in the “feast of tabernacles.”
“Judah is now in captivity and affliction, because of great servitude,” but this feast bespeaks fetters broken, chains snapped, slaves liberated, oppression at an end; oliveyards and vineyards, harvest fields and pasture lands, possessed once more by their rightful owners. They will be the Lord’s freedmen, both purchased and redeemed; pardoned and forgiven; their debts cancelled, their liabilities discharged.
Not only will the foreign yoke be removed, but family strifes will end in a feast of fraternal love. Israel alone of all the nations is bound together by ties of kindred, they are a family as well as a nation, a household as well as a people. Alas! they have sadly fallen out by the way. Ephraim has envied Judah, and Judah has vexed Ephraim. But all this will end. Emancipated slaves will enjoy with their masters community of goods, the unsown land will produce food for all, thus fulfilling the promise of Messiah to supply her poor with bread. There will be no complaining in their streets, for a commonwealth, truly worthy of its name, shall exist in Israel.
That which reforms, elevating environments, art, music, science, and education are now signally failing to produce will then be a perfect reality.
By an inward, spiritual work bringing about unselfish mutual love.
Every Israelite who shall keep this feast in its glorious millennial accomplishment will be “born again,” and with purified affections will love his brethren as himself. He will act toward others as God has graciously acted toward him. Five hundred pence debtors as are the Jews, God has said, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Heb. 8:12). The law will then be written in their hearts.
Turning to Nehemiah 8 we see Ezra carrying out Deuteronomy 31:7, “Thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.” Elevated above the people, he not only reads, but the listeners are caused to enter into its true sense and meaning, are made to understand the words declared to them. Picture that vast company of worshippers, with uplifted hands, bowed heads, and attentive ears, and you have Israel portrayed celebrating this feast in a coming day, when the Lord shall put His laws into their mind and write them in their heart. Then there shall be no need to teach every one his neighbour, and every one his brother, for all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest. Purified from their uncleanness, a new heart and a new spirit within them, they will be morally fitted to walk in God’s statutes, and keep His judgments. Their stony hearts exchanged for those of flesh, they will love the Lord with all their hearts and their neighbour as themselves (see Heb. 8:10-13; Ezek. 36:25-33).
The first mention of this feast reminds us that scattered Israel will be gathered, the last declares they will then be a holy nation, the very bells of the horses will be engraven with HOLINESS TO THE LORD (see Zech. 14). Every pot in Jerusalem shall witness that happiness cannot be divorced from holiness, nor peace from righteousness. Day after day a pure offering will ascend, sacrifices far outnumbering those offered at all the other feasts will be slain, and as bullocks, rams, and lambs are laid on the brazen altar, Christ, in the excellence of His work, shall detain the eye and engage the heart. Nor shall the goat for a sin-offering be lacking as a reminder that all blessing has for its foundation the Sinless One made sin.
Need we add, these sacrifices will be commemorative, much as we drink wine and break bread, showing forth the death of the Lord, and thus recall Him?
But we must turn to the celebration of this feast when Solomon dedicated the temple, in order to view its glorious accomplishment. It will be truly inaugurated when Christ—the true Solomon—takes to Himself His great power and reigns (see 1 Kings 8:2, 6). Then the nation will be not only a holy nation but a kingdom of priests, with Christ as High Priest. He will bless the people as the true Melchisedec, and unite in His person kingly dignities and priestly functions. After having descended from heaven in royal state, in the glory of His Father, accompanied by the holy angels, He will first remove from His kingdom all things that offend, consign the beast and the false prophet to the lake of fire, bind Satan in the pit, then take His rightful place in the temple and on the throne, and unite the civil and religious in Israel, for this feast is in the month Ethanim, the last of the religious and the first of the civil year.
Behold Solomon with his face turned to the people as be blesses The whole congregation of Israel. View him royally apparelled, surrounded by white-robed Levites; gaze upon those sacrifices which could not be numbered for multitude; listen to that burst of melody as a hundred and twenty priests send forth one sound of praise from the silver trumpets, whilst Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthan, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, fill the air with music, and a mighty paean bursts from the assembled host! As their glad thanksgivings unitedly ascend, the glory of the Lord descends, the temple is filled, and the days of glory on earth begin: and in Solomon you see, in type, Christ blessing Israel out of Mount Zion!
Israel’s restored tribes, purchased by blood, redeemed by power, and at rest in their promised inheritance, walking in holiness and righteousness, with the law written on their heart, will celebrate their millennial tabernacle feast under Messiah their Prince. They will be the earthly centre of blessing; but we should dimly grasp the full significance of this feast were we to confine it to Israel. The last chapter of Zechariah links up the heathen nations also therewith.
“It shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).
Leviticus 23:22 intimates that the Gentiles are to participate in the bounties of that day; the “poor and the stranger” to have the gleanings of the harvest. The beneficent rays of the Sun of Righteousness shall irradiate the dark lands of the heathen as well as the fair land of Israel. Romans 15:9 to 12 tells us they shall rejoice with Abraham’s seed, and glorify God for mercy, praise the Lord, laud the glorious King who shall reign over the Gentiles. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea; men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed.
The brute creation shall also participate in the blessings of that day. Century after century they have groaned and suffered, involved in the ruin and misery of fallen man; but when the second Man—the Lord out of heaven—is revealed as the true Head over all things, “sheep and oxen, yea . . . the beasts of the field” (Ps. 8:7), put under His feet, then their groans shall be hushed. The wild beasts shall lose their ferocity, lion and lamb, wolf and ox feed and repose together.
The material universe itself will then be reconciled. “All things”—not all persons—“whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:20), will be purged and purified in virtue of the blood of the Lamb. Sin has fouled and corrupted the dwelling-place of man, as well as the man who dwells there, but the sacrificial work of Christ extends in its effect to things inanimate, and the effect will be “the restitution of all things.” The trees of the wood shall rejoice, the wilderness blossom as the rose. The curse removed, instead of the thorn shall be the fir, instead of the brier, the myrtle; this earth shall witness the cleansing typified by the sprinkling of the tabernacle and its vessels. The heavenly things are not clean in God’s sight, the earthly things are soiled by sin, but the virtues of the blood which cleanses will in that day be extended to creation itself.
Human life will lengthen out as the days of a tree. Jerusalem will be the metropolis of the earth; its temple the centre of worship, its throne marked by righteousness, its princes administering justice to the oppressed and the needy. The hungry will be fed, the poor sheltered. Blessing will be poured forth like a river, widening as it flows; trees, with fadeless leaves and fruit ever new and never failing, lining its banks.
Weary men and women shall at length find refreshment and rest. The roar of battle over, swords turned into ploughshares; the nations blessed, the groans of creation hushed—what a scene of blessing this earth will witness for a thousand years!
How will it all be brought about? Carlyle used to say, “What the world wants is a man!” Men have echoed that cry, but have forgotten there is a Man competent to resolve every problem. He has been raised up already, and “behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him!” The Man is appointed and the day is fixed for His advent. He will shortly appear in excellent majesty, invested with supreme authority, gloriously attended by myriads of saints—heaven’s white-robed armies and angelic hosts swelling His train. Uniting the glories of Solomon with the greatness of Melchisedec, He will sit a priest on His throne.
His first act will be swift, certain destruction on Antichrist and the gathered nations under his banner. His next, on those who have heard but not obeyed the gospel. Those among the highly favoured nations which make up Christendom, and which are left behind when Christ catches up the saints, are doomed to eternal exclusion from His presence and the glorious manifestation of His power (Rev. 20; 2 Thess. 2).
The whole world will then be ruled by an absolute Monarch. The once lowly Jesus, “Son of Man,” shall declare in that day who is the “only Potentate.” The once despised Nazarene shalt remove from His kingdom all things that offend; the nail-pierced hand shall grasp the rod of iron, nor shall the sceptre be laid aside until every opposer is vanquished, every foe under His feet, even death itself conquered and consigned to the lake of fire.
Rendered powerless, no more to blot the universe of God with corruption, death is doomed—“O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hos. 13:14). At the beginning of Christ’s kingdom the arch-deceiver will be bound, Israel gathered, Gentiles blessed, creation relieved, the world suffused with unparalleled blessing, and at the end, death destroyed!
But this is connected with the “manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Who are these sons of God? To answer this question, we must leave the region of type and shadow, and travel into the fuller revelation of the New Testament. There we learn that all believers are “sons of God.” Their glorious destiny is to share in the heavenly and earthly dominions of the “Firstborn of every creature.” It is the declared purpose of God that they shall reign with Christ; these “many sons” now being conducted to glory are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.
During the millennium they are viewed under the figure of a glorious city—a holy, heavenly Jerusalem. Descending out of heaven from God, this city is presented as divine in origin, heavenly in character, righteous and holy in nature; its golden street transparent as glass, showing there is nothing to conceal; every part radiant with divine glory as a jasper stone. Men gazing upwards will see those perfections which once shone in the breastplate now sparkling in ever-varying glories in its foundations. As they gaze they will admire Christ, for it is His beauty that adorns every part of that city of pearly gates and perfect purity. Lighted directly from the only source of light—God and the Lamb—it will shed its radiance, which knows no night, on Jerusalem below, the earthly city of the great King. Her light will then have come, and at evening time it shall be light.
Willing kings bring their homage, the Gentiles, their glory and honour. From pole to pole the heavens rule, and the heavenly kingdom is the acknowledged source of all blessing. Its river and tree will refresh and feed its celestial inhabitants, and from it blessing and healing go forth to the nations.
These two cities represent the double glory of Christ. The earthly one is emblematic of righteous rule. Every nation not subject to it must perish, and those nations neglecting to keep the feast of the tabernacles shall be tormented with drought and judged with the plague (see Zech. 14:18). The iron rod will break every rebellious arm, and judgment shall overtake the law-breaker who sets aside the edicts of the earthly Zion. Righteousness will reign there.
On the other hand, the heavenly city will be the exponent of grace. The happy ministry of those who serve in that day will be to diffuse healing and blessing, comfort and succour, wherever needed. Angelic ministers—the present servants of God in connection with man—will then give place to the glorified inhabitants of the heavenly city, and one will be sent here, another there, on some gracious service. They will be ministers of, and invested with, the “powers of the world to come.” Christ, in grace, displayed in them, whilst Christ, in His dignities as King of kings and Lord of lords, will be seen in Israel; and thus for a thousand years heaven and earth will be united, and our feast consummated in its application to Jew, Gentile, and the church of God.
But our chapter (after six times naming seven days as the duration of this feast) twice speaks of an added day—“AN EIGHTH.” This is said to be a “great day.” It is a type of a new period, an eternal day, an unbroken Sabbath, heavenly and enduring, the real rest of God when every disturbing element is removed for ever. Solomon dismissed Israel on the “eighth day,” and Christ will dismiss a rest possible of disturbance to introduce an abiding at the end of the millennium.
Every advantage that unfallen Adam had as to environment man will have during the millennium. He will live where the law of love to God and his neighbour is carried out, where equity reigns, righteousness rules, and will be blessed with all creature good.
With what result? The end of earth’s best day will prove that man in the best outward circumstances cannot hold blessing or fulfil responsibility apart from new birth and the sovereign grace of God. During the “world to come,” the long-looked-for “age of Messiah,” the earth that was decimated by judgment at its commencement will be re-peopled. Satan, loosed out of his prison at its close, will act upon many of those born during this time—natural men, not those born again—and will gather them from all quarters in open rebellion against the earthly Jerusalem, the seat of Christ’s royal authority. It will be his last act—swift, certain judgment will overtake him; both he and his followers will be consigned to the lake of fire.
The earth will melt with fervent heat, the heavens pass away with a great noise, the dead be judged, and the day of the Lord close—as it began—with judgment.
This proves the “world to come” is not a perfect rest; its seven days will give place to the day when God shall be all in all. In the new heavens and new earth righteousness shall dwell and the true rest of God begin—a rest undisturbed evermore. It is to this time our “eighth day” points. Eight is the well-known figure of resurrection, the one Sabbath which shall never be disturbed. Man’s first sin disturbed God’s rest; that long millennial Sabbath will also be disturbed; but God shall surely establish in a resurrection world a rest nevermore to be disturbed. Nothing follows this eighth day.
Gradually the bullocks offered during the seven days had decreased in number from thirteen to seven, indicating appreciation of Christ decreasing on the part of man; but, in that new world, the excellence of His person and the perfections of His work shall call forth ever-increasing adoration. Unceasing praise will be His during that one eternal day.
Then no tear to dim the eye, no pain to rack the frame, no death to break the links, no sorrow and no crying, for the former things are passed away.
This is the glorious “eighth day” to which we look forward. Then indeed will be the true feast of tabernacles, for the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and God shall rest, and the saints shall rest, and Christ shall rest. Enemies conquered, sin confined where it never can break out, Satan in his eternal abode of misery, every disturbing element gone, then shall we truly adore the matchless ways of God, and be the subjects of “kindness” never ending (Eph. 2:7).
We may well exclaim as we contemplate it:
“Lord, haste that day of cloudless ray,
That prospect bright, unfailing.”
Thus our feasts end. What an unfolding they are of God’s ways! How they tell us that “known unto the Lord are all His works from the beginning.” We know not which most to admire—the wisdom that devised them, the love which carries them out, or the grace which confides them to us!