Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Numbers 29". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ numbers-29.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Numbers 29". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE ROUTINE OF SACRIFICIAL OFFERINGS (Numbers 28:1-31, Numbers 29:1-40).
The Lord spake unto Moses. It is impossible to say with any assurance whether the law of offerings contained in these two chapters was really given to Moses shortly before his death, or whether it was ever given in this connected and completed form. It is obvious that the formula with which the section opens might be used with equal propriety to introduce a digest of the law on this subject compiled by Moses himself, or by some subsequent editor of his writings from a number of scattered regulations, written or oral, which had Divine authority. It is indeed quite true that this routine of sacrifice was only suitable for times of settled habitation in the promised land, and therefore there is a certain propriety in its introduction here on the eve of the entry into Canaan. But it must be remembered, on the other hand, that the same thing holds true of very much of the legislation given at Mount Sinai, and avowedly of that comprised in Numbers 15:1-41 (see Numbers 15:2), which yet appears from its position to have been given before the rebellion of Korah in the wilderness. It is indeed plain that the ritual, festal, and sacrificial system, both as elaborated in Leviticus and as supplemented in Numbers, presupposed throughout an almost immediate settlement in Canaan. It is also plain that a system so elaborate, and entailing so much care and expense, could hardly have come into regular use during the conquest, or for some time after. It cannot, therefore, be said with any special force that the present section finds its natural place here. All we can affirm is that the system itself was of Divine origin, and dated in substance from the days of Moses. In any case, therefore, it is rightly introduced with the usual formula which attests that it came from God, and came through Moses. It must be noted that a great variety of observances which were zealously followed by the Jews of later ages find no place here. Compare, e.g; the ceremonial pouring of water during the feast of tabernacles, to which allusion is made by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 12:3) and our Lord (John 7:37, John 7:38).
My offering, and my bread. Literally, "my korban, my bread." The general term korban is here restricted by the words which follow to the meat offering. "Bread" (לֶחֶם) is translated "food" in Le Numbers 3:11, Numbers 3:16 (see the note there). Sweet savour. רֵיחַ. Septuagint, εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας (see on Genesis 8:21; Le Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:2).
This is the offering made by fire. The daily offering prescribed at Exodus 29:38-42, and which had presumably never been intermitted since, is specified again here because it formed the foundation of the whole sacrificial system. Whatever else was offered was in addition to it, not in lieu of it. The sabbath and festival use of the Jews was developed out of the ferial use, and rested upon it. Hence in a connected republication of the law of offering it could not be omitted. Without spot. תְמִימִם. Septuagint, ἀνώμους. This necessary qualification had not been expressed in the original ordinance, but in respect of other sacrifices had been continually required (see on Exodus 12:5; Le Exodus 1:3; Exodus 19:2; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19).
In the holy place. בַּקֹּדֶשׁ. Septuagint, ἐν τῷ ἀγίῳ. Josephus paraphrases this by περὶ τὸν βωμόν (‘Ant.,' 3.10), and so the Targum of Onkelos; Jonathan and the Targum of Palestine render, "from the vessels of the sanctuary." The former would seem to be the real meaning of the original. There is nowhere any specific direction as to the ritual of the drink offering (see on Leviticus 23:1-44, and Numbers 15:7, Numbers 15:10), nor is it certain whether it was poured at the foot of the altar (as apparently stated in Ecclesiasticus 1:15) or poured upon the flesh of the sacrifice on the altar (as seems to be implied in Philippians 2:17). The strong wine. שֵׁכָר. Septuagint, σίκερα. The Targums render it "old wine," because the drink offering was in every other instance ordered to be made with wine (Exodus 29:40, &c.). Shecar, however, was not wine, but strong drink other than wine (such as we call "spirits"), and it is invariably used in that sense in contradistinction to wine (see on Le Numbers 10:9; Numbers 6:3, &c.). It can only be supposed that the difficulty of procuring wine in the wilderness had caused the coarser and commoner liquor to be substituted for it. It is certainly remarkable that the mention of shecar should be retained at a time when wine must have been easily obtainable, and was about to become abundant (Deuteronomy 8:8). As it would seem impossible that shecar should have been substituted for wine after the settlement in Canaan, its mention here may be accepted as evidence of the wilderness-origin of this particular ordinance. The quantity ordained (about a quart for each lamb) was very considerable.
And on the sabbath day. The special offering for the sabbath is ordered here for the first time. It does not say when the two lambs were to be slain, but in practice it was immediately after the morning sacrifice of the day.
The burnt offering of every sabbath. Literally, "the sabbath burnt offering for its sabbath."
In the beginnings of your months. The new-moon offering also is here enjoined for the first time, the festival itself having only been incidentally mentioned in Numbers 10:10. There can be no doubt that this (unlike the sabbath) was a nature-festival, observed more or less by all nations. As such it did not require to be instituted, but only to be regulated and sanctified in order that it might not lend itself to idolatry, as it did among the heathen (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19; Job 31:26, Job 31:27; Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 8:2). The new-moon feast, depending upon no calendar but that of the sky, and more clearly marked in that than any other recurring period, was certain to fix itself deeply in the social and religious habits of a simple pastoral or agricultural people. Accordingly we find it incidentally mentioned as a day of social gathering (1 Samuel 20:5), and as a day for religious instruction (2 Kings 4:23). From the latter passage, and from such passages as Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 46:1; Amos 8:5, it is evident that the feast of the new moon became to the month exactly what the sabbath was to the week—a day of rest and of worship (see also Judith 8:6).
One kid of the goats. "One hairy one (שָׂעִיר) of the she goats (עֵן)." See on Numbers 7:16. This was probably offered first in order, according to the usual analogy of such sacrifices (Exodus 29:10-14). There is no authority for supposing that this sin offering superseded the one mentioned in Numbers 15:24 sq. This was essentially part of the customary routine of sacrifice; that was essentially occasional, and proper to some unforeseen contingency. It is likely enough that the national conscience would in fact content itself with the first, but it does not in the least follow that such was the intention of the legislator.
In the fifteenth day of this month is the feast. The fourteenth day of Abib, or Nisan, the day of the passover proper, was not a feast, but a fast ending with the sacred meal of the evening. Only the ordinary daily sacrifice was offered on this day. Unleavened bread. מַחּוֹת (mattsoth). Septuagint, ἄζυμα, unleavened cakes.
In the first day, i.e; on the fifteenth (see on Exodus 12:16; Le Exodus 23:7).
Ye shall offer a sacrifice. This offering, the same for each day of Mattsoth as for the feast of the new moon, had not been prescribed before, and almost certainly not observed at the one passover kept in the wilderness (Numbers 9:5).
Ye shall offer these beside the burnt offering in the morning, i.e; in addition to, and immediately after, the usual morning sacrifice. Even when it is not expressly stated, the presumption is that all the sacrifices here treated of were cumulative. Thus the sabbath of the passover (John 19:31) would have the proper sacrifices
(1) of the day,
(2) of the sabbath,
(3) of the feast of Mattsoth, comprising two bullocks, one ram, eleven lambs, with their meat offerings and drink offerings.
In the day of the first-fruits. The feast of weeks, or day of Pentecost (Le Numbers 23:15-21).
Ye shall offer the burnt offering. The festal sacrifice here prescribed is exactly the same as for the days of Mattsoth and for the feast of the new moon. It is not the same as that prescribed for the same day in Leviticus 23:1-44, and it is difficult to determine whether it was meant to supersede the previous ordinance, or to be distinct and additional. The fact that no notice is taken of the sacrifice already ordered would seem to point to the former conclusion; but the further fact that no mention is made of the offering of wave-loaves, with which the sacrifices in Leviticus were distinctively connected, seems to show that the two lists were independent (cf. Josephus, ‘Ant.,' 3.10, 6). The fact seems to be that throughout this section no sacrifices are mentioned save such as formed a part of the system which is here for the first time elaborated.
.—In the seventh month, on the first day of the month. The month Ethanim had been already specially set apart for holy purposes beyond all other months (Le Numbers 23:23 sq.).
Ye shall offer a burnt offering. Such an offering had been commanded (Le Numbers 23:25), but not specified. It comprised one bullock less than the new moon offering, but the reason of the difference is wholly unknown, unless it were in view of the large number of bullocks required at the feast of tabernacles.
On the tenth day. The great day of atonement (Le Numbers 16:29; Numbers 23:27 sq.).
On the fifteenth day. The first day of the feast of tabernacles, which commenced at sunset on the fourteenth (Leviticus 23:35).
Ye shall offer a burnt offering. This also was ordered, but not prescribed, in Leviticus 23:1-44. As it was the feast of the ingathering, when God had crowned the year with his goodness, and filled the hearts of men with food and gladness, so it was celebrated with the greatest profusion of burnt offerings, especially of the largest and costliest kind. Thirteen young bullocks. The number of bullocks was so arranged as to be one less each day, to be seven on the seventh and last day, and to make up seventy altogether. Thus the sacred number was studiously emphasized, and the slow fading of festal joy into the ordinary gladness of a grateful life was set forth. It seems quite fanciful to trace any connection with the waning of the moon. The observance of the heavenly bodies, although sanctioned in the case of the new moon feast, was not further encouraged for obvious reasons.
On the eighth day. On the twenty-second day of Ethanim (see on Leviticus 23:36). The offering here specified returns to the smaller number ordered for the first /rod tenth days of this month. The feast of tabernacles ended with sundown on this day.
These things shall ye do, or "sacrifice." תַּעֲשׂוּ. Septuagint, ταῦτα ποιήσετε (cf. Luke 22:19). Beside your vows, and your free-will offerings. These are treated of in Le Numbers 22:18 sq.; Numbers 15:3 sq. The words which follow are dependent upon this clause. All the offerings commanded in these chapters amounted to 1071 lambs, 113 bullocks, 37 rams, 30 goats, in the lunar year, together with 112 bushels of flour, more than 370 gallons of oil, and about 340 gallons of wine, supposing that the drink offering was proportionate throughout.
Numbers 28:1-31, Numbers 29:1-40
THE PERFECT SYSTEM OF SACRIFICE
We have in this section the round of sacrifice—daily, weekly, monthly, and annual—drawn out in all its completeness and in all its symmetry. There were indeed other sacrifices ordained, such as those of the goat for Azazel and of the red heifer, which find no place here; but these were essentially (as it would seem) of an exceptional nature, and stood out against the unvarying background of the sacrificial routine here depicted. No longer left to be gathered from scattered enactments, it is here ordained as a system, pervaded and inspired by certain definite and abiding principles. That those principles were not read into a fortuitous assemblage of ancient rites by the pious ingenuity of a later and more self-conscious age, but underlay those rites from the beginning, and determined their character and mutual relation, can hardly be doubted by any one who believes the system to have been of Divine origination; and this, again, can hardly be doubted by any one who recognizes the profound congruity between the sacrificial system of Moses and the sacrificial aspect of Christianity. It is this congruity which gives a living interest, because an abiding truth, to the sacrifices of the law. They were not merely shadows to amuse the childhood of the world; they were shadows of coming realities, the most tremendous and of the profoundest moment. It is true that the inspired writers of the New Testament dwell rather on the contrast than on the correspondence between the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifices of the law; but they do so just because they took the correspondence for granted, not because they ignored it. The correspondence, in fact, was so obvious and so strong that it was necessary to emphasize the points of contrast, lest they should be overlooked. He that magnifies the substance above the shadow does not thereby deny that the shadow owes both its existence and its form to the substance. If we follow up the Pauline image of body and shadow (Colossians 2:17, where the reference is to this very round of festivals), we shall get at the truth of the matter. The relation of the shadow to the body is not one of simple resemblance, even of outline (except in one particular position), but it is one of certain correspondence. Given the position of the light, and the form of the surface on which the shadow falls, the shadow itself can be precisely determined from the outline of the body, and vice versa Now the light in our case is the twilight of the Divine revelation as it veiled its brightness to shine in part upon a darkened world; the surface on which it shone was formed by the crude religious ideas and half-barbarous morals of the chosen race—a race whose hearts were hard, and whose eyes were dim, and whose rugged nature of necessity distorted any spiritual truth which came to them. Such was the light shining upon such a surface; the body was "of Christ," i.e; was the solid and enduring fullness of his salvation; and the shadow which it threw before was the sacrifical system of the Jews. We should therefore expect from analogy to find
(1) a general and unmistakable resemblance;
(2) a failure of resemblance in parts and proportions,
a likeness mingled with distortion, as in the shadows cast upon a rugged slope by the rising sun. This is exactly what we do find, comparing the substance of the gospel with the shadows of the law. No human art could have constructed the Christian scheme from the fore-shadows which it threw, because no human skill could have allowed for the peculiarities of the Jewish dispensation. But, on the other hand, we can trace along the entire outline of the substance a correspondence to the shadow which cannot be due to chance. It is of course possible to admit the fact of this analogy, and to explain it by the assumption that Christianity itself was the creation of minds saturated with Jewish ideas, and habituated to the Jewish system of sacrifices. But if this had been the case, the correspondence had surely been more direct, and much less oblique than it is, much less subtle in parts and less unequal as a whole. It would seem as much beyond the practical powers of man to translate the types of the law into the substantial and consistent beauty of the gospel, as to reduce the irregularity and distortion of a shadow to the regular symmetry of the unseen human form. We have, therefore, in accordance with apostolic teaching, to regard the daily offerings, the sabbaths, the new moons, the sacred months and annual festivals of the Jews, as so many shadows which are of interest only as they in part resemble, and therefore in part illustrate, the body, the reality, which belongs to Christ, and so to us. Consider, therefore, with respect to this system as a whole—
I. THAT IT WAS DESIGNED TO CONSECRATE WITH BURNT OFFERINGS AND OBLATIONS THE WHOLE ROUND OF THE JEWISH CALENDAR. It formed a complete system, combining variety with regularity, under which every day by itself, every week in its seventh day, every month in its first day, every year in its seventh month and in its great festivals, was consecrated by the shedding of blood, by the acknowledgment that their lives were forfeit, by vicarious death, and by vicarious dedication of self to God. Even such is the pervading meaning and purpose of Christianity; that our whole life from end to end should be consecrated to God by the blood of Christ, offered for us on the one hand, and on the other dedicated to God by a voluntary and perfect self-surrender. As the Jewish year was hallowed by an endless round of sacrifice, so the Christian life is sanctified by a never-exhausted self-sacrifice—the self-sacrifice of Christ wrought for us on the cross, the self-sacrifice of Christ wrought in us by his Spirit.
II. THAT THE WHOLE SYSTEM RESTED UPON THE DAILY SACRIFICE, WHICH WAS NEVER OMITTED, TO WHICH ALL OTHER SACRIFICES WERE SUPERADDED. Not even the triumph of the passover or the affliction of the day of atonement affected the daily sacrifice. Even so in Christ does all religious life rest upon the hallowing of each day, as it comes and goes, by the blood of the Lamb. Whatever special observance may be given to sacred days and seasons, or reserved for times of special grace, yet such only is true religion which is daily renewed and daily practiced. And note that the daily use taking precedence of all additional observances testified even to the Jews of the underlying equality of all days as holy to the Lord. Since each day was essentially sacred, it followed that all distinctions of days were arbitrary and transitory. And this was undoubtedly what St. Paul desired to see realized in the Church of Christ (Romans 14:5, Romans 14:6; Galatians 4:10, &c.).
III. THAT UPON THE DALLY USE A SABBATIC USE WAS RAISED UP WITH EXTREME CARE; not only the seventh day of every week, hut also the seventh month of every year, being made festal and marked by special sacrifices. This was in truth arbitrary to the Jewish apprehension, although it was mystically connected with the relation between God and the world (Exodus 20:11), and historically associated with the deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15); but it served to keep the Jew in mind of, and bring him into connection with, an order of things above and beyond the labour and gain and profit and loss of this world. Even so, while the sacredness of the sabbatic number (in days or months or years) is vanished in Christ, yet the meaning' of the number, the sabbath or rest of the soul in God, the rest from sin, from self, and from sorrow, is the dominant idea which we find in Christ first and last. This is his first invitation (Matthew 11:28), and this his last promise (Revelation 3:21).
IV. THAT TO THE DAILY AND SABBATIC USE WAS ADDED THE NEW MOON FESTIVAL WITH GREAT HONOUR IN THE WAY OF SACRIFICES; and this although the festival was one of natural, and not of sacred, origin. This may have been partly from a wise caution lest superstition should usurp what religion left unoccupied, but more because the God of grace is the God of nature, and he who made the Church made the moon to rule the night. Even so it is the will of God that all natural turning-points and periods in our lives should be consecrated by religion and hallowed with the blood of Christ; for our whole body, soul, and spirit are his. Religion does not war against nature, but takes nature under her patronage. Whatever springs naturally out of our physical and social life (not being evil of itself) may be and should be connected with religious sanctions, and adorned with holy gladness as before God.
V. THAT TO THE DALLY, SABBATIC, AND NEW MOON USE WAS ADDED THE OBSERVANCE OF THE THREE FESTIVALS WHICH WERE ASSOCIATED AT ONCE WITH THE FACTS OF PAST DELIVERANCE AND OF PRESENT PLENTY. For the passover itself, which was mainly a commemoration, also marked the first beginning of the harvest; and the feast of weeks, which was essentially a harvest festival, recalled also the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. Even so in Christ, besides the other elements of religion, the sanctification of daily life, the hallowing of natural changes and outward events, the ceaseless seeking for rest in God, there must be found prominently the devout and grateful celebration of the great triumphs of redemption in the past, and of the abounding blessings of grace in the present. And note that none of these may be absent without grievous toss. The new moon feasts, which seemed so wholly secular, and would not keep time with the sabbaths of Divine obligation, were as much honoured as the days of passover. And so a religion which does not blend itself with and twine itself about the secular joys and interests of our natural life is wanting in a most important point, and is not perfect before God.
Consider again, with respect to the ordered sacrifices—
I. THAT THE DAILY OFFERING, WHICH NEVER VARIED, WAS ONE LAMB. Even so the Lamb of God is the one sacrifice, εἰς τὸ διηνεκές, by which each day is sanctified—a continual burnt offering acceptable to God.
II. THAT THE LAMB WAS OFFERED BOTH MORNING AND EVENING. Even so the Lamb of God was in a manner doubly offered: in purpose and will "from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), but in outward act only "in these last days" (Hebrews 1:2), i.e; in the morning and the evening of the world.
III. THAT WHILE OTHER SACRIFICES WERE MOSTLY CONFINED TO THE MORNING HOURS, THE DAILY LAMB WAS OFFERED AT MORN AND EVE. Even so each day of life is to be sanctified by prayer at its opening and its close—prayer which is based upon the sacrifice of Christ.
IV. THAT THE LAMB, ALBEIT THE SUBSTANCE OF THE SACRIFICE, WAS NEVER PRESENTED WITHOUT ITS ACCOMPANYING MEAT AND DRINK OFFERINGS; and these considerable in quantity and value. Even so, while we plead the sacrifice of Christ, which alone is meritorious, we must offer with it the tribute of good works, such as are the result and outcome (like the flour and oil and wine) of human toil and industry making the most of Divine gifts; "for with such sacrifices," when sanctified and sustained by the one offering, "God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). See above on Numbers 15:1-41. And note that the flour, the oil, and the wine, which made up the meat and drink offerings, may be typical of Christian labour, Christian suffering (cf. Gethsemane, the oil-press), and Christian gladness respectively (see on Psalms 4:7; Psalms 104:15; Zechariah 9:17).
V. THAT THE SPECIAL OFFERING FOR THE SABBATH MORN WAS ALSO THE SACRIFICE OF A LAMB, ONLY DOUBLED. Even so there is nothing in the devotions of the Lord's day different from those of any other day, save that we are to seek God through Christ with redoubled ardour.
VI. THAT THE NEW MOON FEAST CALLED FOR A LARGER NUMBER OF BURNT OFFERINGS THAN THE ORDINARY DAY OR THE SABBATH. Even so days of natural joy and festivity need to be more carefully and earnestly dedicated to God by supplication and by self-surrender than days of secular work or of religious rest.
VII. THAT A SIN OFFERING WAS ADDED TO THIS FEAST, AS WELL AS TO THE GREAT FEASTS OF THE SUMMER SEASON. Even so there is almost always sin in times of excitement—not only of secular excitement, but of religious excitement too. There is always occasion in them to seek forgiveness for sins of ignorance and negligence.
VIII. THAT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE AUTUMN WAS ELEVATED BY A SPECIALLY ELABORATE RITUAL ABOVE ALL OTHER FEASTS; possibly because it foreshadowed the incarnation (see on John 1:14), but probably because it marked the consummation of the year, and so was typical of the gathering together in one of all things in Christ, and of the fullness of joy in heaven (Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Revelation 14:15, compared with Revelation 15:3). Even so, whatever glories and gifts the gospel has for the present, its chiefest blessings are reserved for the end of all things.
IX. THAT THE CEREMONIAL OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES WAS ORDERED ON A SLOWLY DECREASING SCALE THROUGHOUT. Even so the law itself, like all things transitory and preparatory, was in its nature evanescent and doomed to dwindle. So again are all things ordered ,in the predestination of God, that the sabbatic number ("on the seventh day seven") may be finally fulfilled in the rest of heaven.
X. THAT IN ALL THESE SACRIFICES GOD SPAKE OF "MY OFFERING" AND "MY BREAD FOR MY SACRIFICES." Even so all cur devotions and our worship are not ours, but God's. They are his because due to him; his because of his own do we give unto him; ours only because we are privileged to render them unto him. Here is the rebuke of all pride and self-esteem in what we offer unto God. "Nemo suum offert Dec, sod quod offert, Domini est cui reddit quae sua sunt" (Origen). On the typical significance of the three feasts see on Exodus 12:1-51, and above, Exodus 9:1-35; Exodus 23:1-33; Leviticus 23:1-44; Deuteronomy 16:1-22.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
THE LESSONS OF THE DAILY BURNT OFFERING
In Numbers 29:1 and Numbers 29:2 we have a general statement respecting offerings to God, reminding us
(1) of the paramount claims of God (note repetition of "my" and "me"), and
(2) the promptness and punctuality needed in meeting those claims ("in their due season"). Then follow directions as to the most frequent of these offerings—the daily burnt offering, which suggests lessons derived from—
I. ITS CHARACTER;
II. ITS CONTINUANCE.
I. It consisted of two parts:
(1) a lamb, a bleeding sacrifice;
(2) a meat and drink offering, flour, &c; bloodless; but the whole was to be burned before God.
We see here—
1. Expiation. This we need every morning, for we awake and leave our beds sinful, and requiring an atonement that we may be able to present acceptable service during the day. And we need it every evening that daily sins may be forgiven, and that we may rest at peace with God, "clean every whir" (John 13:10).
2. Dedication. In the burnt offering, as distinguished from the trespass offering, expiation by blood-shedding is taken for granted, but the burning, as the symbol of entire surrender to God, is the culminating point. The various parts of the burnt offering may be regarded as typical of our surrender to God of all the varied powers and gifts he has bestowed. (Illustrate from Romans 12:1-21) As Christ presented himself in complete sacrifice to God, so should we (Ephesians 5:2, &c.).
II. "A continual burnt offering" (Numbers 29:3). So constant must the Christian's self-surrender be. With each morning comes the summons "Sursum corda," and the appeal, Romans 12:1. Evening brings rest from earthly toil, but no cessation from a renewed, continual dedication to God. We should desire no exemption from this continual offering of ourselves when we remember the motives to it.
1. We ourselves and all we have are God's.
2. We have enjoyed expiation through the perfect sacrifice of Christ. The law of the daily offering is urged because "ordained in Mount Sinai" (Romans 12:6). The law of Christian self-sacrifice was published by deed, and not by word, at Calvary (1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18).
3. Such sacrifice is pleasing, a sweet savour unto God "the Lord" (Romans 12:6).
4. Such acts insure Divine manifestations. See Exodus 29:38-43, which suggests that the neglect of the daily offering would interrupt communion with God.
5. Thus complete self-surrender brings us into the fullest sympathy with God, and thus into the most perfect liberty (Psalms 119:45; John 8:36, &c.).—P.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
THE DAILY OFFERING
I. THE PROPRIETY OF THE DAILY OFFERING. All the offerings were to be made in their due season, and every day that passed over the head of the Israelite people was a due season to make offerings to Jehovah in connection with the daily manifestations of his goodness. As what might be called the ordinary and common gifts of God came day by day, so it was appropriate for Israel to make ordinary and common offerings day by day. We must remind ourselves continually of the unfailing goodness of God. Whatever the special mercies in each individual life, there are certain great common mercies for us all, always something, in acknowledging which every one can join. We know that to God the mere offering was nothing, apart from the state of mind in which it was made. God gave the form, and it was required of the people that they should fill it with the spirit of acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude. We have, indeed, no command for daily offering now, no stipulation of times and seasons; but how shall we utter the petition, "Give us this day our daily bread," unless we feel that the bread is a daily gift? This one petition implies that petition, and therefore all the constituents of prayer, must belong to our life every day. There must be the feeling that although the actual production of the bread is spread over a long time, we have to take it in daily portions; and our physical constitution is in itself the witness to the daily duty of making an offering to God in return. We can store up grain for months, for the seven years of famine if need be, but we cannot store up thus the strength of our own bodies. Man is not a hibernating animal. "Give us this day our daily bread" implies daily strength to work for it, daily power within to assimilate it when eaten. And since spiritual supplies and strength are meant to be received in like fashion, an acknowledgment of these should be a principal thing in our daily offering. Considerations drawn from the thought of God's daily gifts, both for natural life and spiritual life, should be beautifully blended in our daily approaches to him. Notice that these daily offerings were appropriately mentioned here at a time when the camp relation (Numbers 2:1-34) was about to be dissolved. Israel was soon to be distributed, not only from Dan to Beersheba, but on both sides of Jordan. Hence the daily offering would be very serviceable in helping to manifest the unity of the people, and to preserve the feeling of it. It was also especially needful to be reminded of this national duty of daily offering after the humiliating apostasy to idols while Israel abode in Shittim (Numbers 25:1-18). The only guarantee against the soul lapsing into idolatrous offerings is to be continually engaging in hearty and intelligent offerings to God.
II. IT MUST BE A MORNING AND EVENING OFFERING. To make a daily offering was not enough. Israel was not left to its own will as to the time of day for the offering. The sustaining of life is indeed going on all day long, by the secret and unfailing power of God, and the recognition of this power is always meet at any hour of day or night. But the day has its own peculiar blessings, and also the night, and they are to be made special in our thoughts, as they are made special in our experience. The dawn and the twilight bring each their own associations. In the morning we look back on the rest, the sleep, and the protection of the night, and forward into the work, the duties, the burdens, and the needs of the day. Similarly evening will have its appropriate retrospect and anticipation. That is no true thanksgiving which does not discriminate, marking the difference between thanksgivings which may be offered at any hour, and those which are peculiar to the morning and evening. The very recollection of the gradual regular changes in the time of sunrise and sunset should impart an ever-freshening sense of the faithfulness of God, and of how orderly and exact all his arrangements are.
III. THE CONSTITUENTS OF THE OFFERING. The lambs, the flour, the oil, the wine. These were parts of the actual product of Israelite industry. In presenting the lamb there was the thought that Israel had shepherded it, had watched over the little creature from the day of its birth, and taken all care to obtain the unblemished yearling for the burnt offering. All the shepherd's thoughtfulness, vigilance, and courage are represented in the offering. And mark, these, not as the qualities of one man, but of all Israel. The service of the particular man is merged in the shepherd-service of Israel as a whole. So with the offering of the flour; in it there is the work of the ploughman, the sower, the reaper, the miller. The oil is there because the labour of the olive has not failed, and the wine because men have obeyed the command, "Go work today in my vineyard." In presenting so much of the result of its work, Israel was thereby presenting part of the work itself. But these offerings were not only the result of work, they were also the sustenance of Israel, and the preparation for future work. The lambs, the flour, the oil, the wine were taken out of the present food store of Israel. The Israelites were therefore presenting part of their own life. If these things had not been taken for offerings they would soon have entered into the physical constitution of the people. The acceptability of the offering lay to a great extent in this, that it was from Israel's daily ordinary food. There would have been no propriety in making an offering from occasional luxuries. The significance of the unblemished lamb thus becomes obvious. The lamb for God was to be unblemished; but surely this was a hint that all the food of Israel was to be unblemished, as far as this could be attained. The presumption was that if Israel would only give due attention, there would be much of the unblemished and the satisfying in all the products of the soil. We are largely what we eat, and unblemished nutriment tends to produce unblemished life. The constituents of this offering further remind us of the great demand on us as Christians. It is the weighty and frequent admonition of Paul that we are to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. The offering is no longer one of dead animals, grain, &c; mere constituents of the body, and still outside of it. We are to offer the body itself, made holy and acceptable to God. We must so live then, we must so eat and drink, we must so order habit and conduct, that all the streams from the outside world which flow into us may contribute to the health, purity, and effective service of the whole man. Let everything be tested according to its ability to make us better Christians, and therefore better men. In relation to this great offering which is asked from us, let us ponder earnestly these typical offerings of ancient Israel, and set ourselves to fulfill the law connected with them. Here almost more than anywhere else let it be true of us that we are advancing
"From shadowy types to truth, from flesh to spirit,
From imposition of strict laws to free
Acceptance of large grace, from servile fear
To filial, works of law to works of faith."
Let life be an offering to God, and it will be hallowed, beautified, and glorified as it cannot otherwise be.—Y.
Numbers 29:9, Numbers 29:10
THE SABBATH OFFERING
I. THE LESSON ON THE SPECIAL OFFERING. Special blessings belonged to the sabbath, over and above those of the ordinary day, and it became a duty to recognize them. The sabbath offerings represented what Israel had gained by the rest of the sabbath. We make our gains not only by the food we eat and the work we do, but also by the intervals of rest in the midst of labour. Moreover, by this offering God indicated that the sabbath was to have its own appropriate occupation. Most emphatically, by precept (Exodus 20:10), and by punitive example (Numbers 15:32-36), God had commanded to Israel the cessation from ordinary work. Here he indicates that the most effectual way of providing for cessation is to find a holy work to do. We cannot be too earnest in finding such a positive use of the day of rest as will please God and promote our own spiritual advancement. Surely, in the judgment, many who have reckoned themselves Christians will be convicted of a sore misuse of the weekly opportunity. We may be very precise and even punctilious in our abstentions, but what will this avail by itself? The mind that is not earnestly and comfortably occupied with Divine things will assuredly be occupied in thinking of things that belong to the ordinary day. As it is now, instead of the Sunday casting its brightness on the week-day, the weekday too often casts its shadow on the Sunday. God is able to make the appropriate occupation of his day, if we enter on it in a right spirit, a joy all the day long. In the world, and through the week, we have to deal with all sorts of men. There is the strain, the discord, and the suspicion that must belong to all human relations in this mixed and sinful state. The week-day is the world's day, wherein we cannot get away from the world. The Lord's day ought to be what the name suggests, the day for us to feel that we have not only to do with the hard conditions of a selfish world, but with One in heaven, who is most considerate, and most able to satisfy us with all good things.
II. THE LESSON OF THE DAILY OFFERING WHICH WAS NOT TO BE OMITTED. The sabbath, in respect of God's gifts and dealings in nature, was the same as an ordinary day, and therefore had to be acknowledged as such. So far as God's operations in nature are concerned all goes on without a break, Sunday and week-day alike. The sun rises as on other days, the clouds gather and the rain falls, the rivers run, and the tides flow and ebb. It is as true, Sunday as week-day, that in God we live and move and have our being. The great difference is that while God in nature is making all to go on just as usual, man, if he be in harmony with the will of God in Christ Jesus, is resting from his toils. God needs not rest in the sense in which we need it. He rested from the exercise of his creative energy, but not because of exhaustion. We, who have to eat our bread in the sweat of our face till we return to the ground, need that regular and frequent interval of rest which he has so graciously provided. And thus, coming as we sometimes do to the close of the week, utterly spent and exhausted, ready to welcome the brief respite from toil, we have the joy of recollection, as we see God continuing on the sabbath his work in the natural world, that he is indeed the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, he who fainteth not, neither is weary. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength" (Isaiah 40:28-31).—Y.
THE OFFERING AT THE NEW MOON
Here the services rendered to man by God in nature are once again linked in with the duties of religion. As God required offerings in the morning and evening of every day, so on the day when the new moon fell there was an additional and largely increased offering. Why should such special notice be taken of this occasion?
I. THE MOON IS OUR OWN SATELLITE AND PECULIAR SERVANT. It has evidently been given for our special benefit. The sun serves us with our share, as it does the other planets that circle round it, but the moon is peculiarly ours. When, therefore, it had passed through all its phases, it was well to mark the renewal of service by a special offering. If it be said that Israel was not aware of this nice distinction between the services of the sun and moon, the distinction is nevertheless real, was known then to God, and is known now to us. The commandments of God took into consideration not only what was known at the time of their announcement, but what would be further discovered in the progress of human inquiry. We can see a propriety in this ordinance of the monthly offering, as we think of the peculiar relation which the moon alone of all the heavenly bodies sustains to our earth.
II. THE MOON IS AN EMBLEM OF APPARENT CHANGE AND YET REAL STEADFASTNESS. Thus it is an emblem of the way in which God's dealings appear often to us. The Unchanging One looks like a changing one, and it takes all our faith to be sure of his faithfulness. We talk of the waxing and the waning moon, but we know that the moon itself remains the same, that the change of appearance arises from change of position, and depends on how it catches the light of the sun. When we do see it, we see the same face always turned towards us, and mysterious as its movements are to the ignorant and the savage, they are nevertheless so regular that all can be predicted beforehand. The moon therefore is a peculiar and suggestive emblem of constancy, if we look on it aright. Juliet, indeed, in her love-sick prattle says,
O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb.
But appearance is one thing and reality is another, and we are reminded of one who found a very different emblematic value in the moon when he said, "They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations." The faithfulness of God is the same, even when his face is hidden, and when his mercy, like the waning moon, seems to diminish before our very eyes. The mysterious hindrances, sorrows, and gloomy peculiarities of our present life would be largely cleared up, if we only knew as much of the wheels within wheels of God's moral government, as we do of the wheels within wheels in the motions and relations of the heavenly bodies.
III. THE CONNECTION OF THE MOON WITH THE MONTH IS ALSO TO BE BORNE IN MIND. Spring, summer, autumn, winter, are. after all, vague terms. We mark the changing phenomena of the year far more accurately by the months than by the longer seasons. We speak of blustering March, showery April, chill October, drear December, and may we not suppose that the Israelites had somewhat of the same way of thinking with regard to their months?—each month with its own character and making its own contribution to the fullness of the year (Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 33:14; 1 Samuel 20:5; 2 Kings 4:23; Psalms 81:1-4; Psalms 89:37; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 60:20; Galatians 4:10; Revelation 22:2).—Y.
THE FEAST AT THE PASSOVER TIME
I. IT WAS A REMINDER OF HOW SERIOUSLY GOD'S GIFTS TO THE ISRAELITES HAD BEEN INTERFERED WITH. There was the gift of the day with its morning and evening, the gift of the new moon, and probably we shall not do wrong in concluding that the patriarchs understood and appreciated much of the blessing of the Sabbath. But what were these to the Israelites amid the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt? Pharaoh had taken the choice gifts of God and distorted them into agents of the most exquisite pain. Instead of having a heart for the morning and evening sacrifice, they were in a state such as Moses indicated might occur to them again in the event of disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:67). Their morning cry might justly have been, "Would God it were even!" and their evening' cry, "Would God it were morning!" In Egypt they had not materials enough for daily work, let alone holy service. Thus we have a forcible illustration of the way in which spiritual evil has embittered all God's natural gifts. In the use of them, they get turned away from his intentions so as to serve the selfish purposes of some, and cause perhaps the life-long privations and miseries of others. We must indeed be thankful for what God gives, even when it is interfered with, for the gift shows the disposition of the giver, and it is a good thing for us to be at all times assured of this. But then we must also carefully mark how much there is in human society to intercept, distort, and even as it were transmute these loving and suitable gifts of God. The very abundance of the blessings which God is disposed to bestow, should lead us to view with much alarm, with deep and abiding concern, the obstacles which lie in the way of a complete and profitable reception of the blessings.
II. IT WAS A REMINDER OF HOW COMPLETELY GOD HAD TAKEN THE OBSTACLES OUT OF THE WAY. The week of unleavened bread was a period for joyous commemoration of the deliverance from Egypt; and by their offerings Israel recognized that the deliverance was entirely by the act of God. Israel did nothing but walk out of the prison-door when it was opened. This was an inestimable blessing, to be a free nation, even although a nation whose territory had yet to be gained. Liberty leads to all other blessings. We cannot rejoice too much in the spiritual liberty which Christ has achieved for the children of men. We are bound to commemorate it in fitting ways; ways adequate to glorify God, and to impress us more and more with the magnitude of the blessing we have gained. As to the particular mode of commemoration, every Christian must judge for himself, as in the sight of God, with respect to the due season (Numbers 29:2). Easter has come as a matter of fact to have special associations and special value for many. They feel that they have proved the worth of the season in their own experience, and can amply justify the observing of it. Those of us who live outside the traditions, the habits of thinking, and the peculiar spirit fostered by the observance of an ecclesiastical year, can hardly claim to be competent judges of the value of such times and seasons. But mark one thing. No observance can be worth calling such unless it comment, orates an actual, personal deliverance. God not only put his strong hand on the gaoler Pharaoh, but drew forth the captive Israel. When Christ our passover was sacrificed for the children of men, he brought them into a new relation to God, one of possible reconciliation to him, and possible liberty for the whole man. How far the reconciliation and liberty shall be actual depends on our personal repentance and faith.
III. THE PARTICULAR COMMEMORATIVE VALUE OF THE UNLEAVENED BREAD. The people leaving Egypt were not allowed to finish the preparing of their bread according to their wont. They were hastened out of the land at a moment's notice. And it was not God who did this, as when the angels hastened Lot out of Sodom. The Israelites were thrust out by the Egyptians themselves. The gaoler himself was found a fellow-labourer with the liberator. Thus the unleavened bread becomes an impressive reminder of the complete rupture which God makes between his people and their spiritual enemies. As there could be no mistake about the effect which was produced in Egypt by the death of the first-born, so there can be no mistake about the efficacy of the blow which God in Christ Jesus has dealt on our great spiritual adversary. That our Saviour in his own person, and for himself, has completely conquered sin, is a fact which we cannot dwell upon too much, as full of hope for ourselves and for a sinful and miserable world.
IV. NOTE THE SEASON OF THE YEAR IN WHICH THIS FEAST WAS OBSERVED. It happened in the first month of the year, made the first month on account of this very deliverance. How devoutly would the true Israelite look upon the beginning of this month I Hail I new moon which brings near the season for celebrating the deliverance from Egypt. Who can doubt that such a soul as Simeon kept the days of unleavened bread in the very spirit of them, living as he did in those dark humiliating times, which were Egypt over again, when the land of his fathers was captive, and the temple of his God neglected by its own custodians? It is the most fitting time to recollect the sure mercies of the past when we need a renewal and perhaps an increase of them.
V. THE CONTINUAL OBLIGATION OF THE DAILY OFFERING. The bondage in Egypt embittered the gifts of God, yet even then a patient and willing soul would find something to be thankful for. And when liberty came, if right thoughts came with it, the gifts of God becoming available for use would inspire ‘special thankfulness for the mercy that had made them so. How much God's daily blessing's should be heightened and sweetened in our esteem by the larger use which we can make of them as believers in Christ! We must not under-value common, daily mercies even in the presence of God's unspeakable gift. He who is the brightness of the Father's glory casts something of that brightness on every gift of the Father's love. That is no right appreciation of God's mercy in Christ Jesus which does not lead us to a better appreciation of every other mercy. God, whose presence and power we are called to observe in the redemption of the world, would have us to see the same presence and power wherever we have faculties to see them. To go from the cross, with the meaning of it and the spirit of it filling our minds, and in such a mood to receive the common mercies of God as one by one they come to us, will fill them with a new power. Henceforth they will minister, not only to the wants of flesh and blood, but to our growth in grace and meetness for glory.—Y.
THE FEAST OF THE FIRST-FRUITS
I. A RECOGNITION OF THE ANNUAL SUPPLY OF FOOD FROM GOD. The day of the first-fruits was the day for bringing "a new meat offering unto the Lord" (Numbers 29:26). This meat offering was to consist of two wave loaves made of fine flour (Le Numbers 23:17). Hence by this an indication was given that the chief constituent of the daily meat offering would not be lacking during the following twelve months. Corn is appropriately singled out above all the fruits of the earth as furnishing the staple of man's food. Other things, even the oil and the wine, are to be counted as luxuries in comparison. The prominence here given to bread accords with our Lord's teaching, when he tells us to pray not for daily food in general, but for the daily bread. It was a good thing thus to mark in a special way the completion of the corn harvest, that which had been "sown in the field," and not to wait and merely include it when the labours of the year had been gathered in (Exodus 23:16). God's mercy in the daily bread flows out of his mercy in the annual harvest. We are called upon to behold him, year after year, filling the storehouse whence day by day he draws and distributes the daily supply. As we behold the annual harvest we can join the appreciative souls of the world in thanking God for the production of bread. And then in the daily offering we equally thank him for the distribution of what has been produced.
II. A RECOGNITION OF GOD'S EFFECTUAL BLESSING ON HUMAN INDUSTRY, How much in the way of combined effort is suggested by the sight of a tiny grain of corn! What mighty forces are represented there—heat, light, air, moisture, soil—all acting on a living germ! And not only these. That grain also represents human industry, forethought, attention, patience, all crowned with the blessing of God (1 Corinthians 3:6). And if we look upon the grain now, we see the light of modern science brought to bear upon its growth and increase in addition to all the other necessary effort. We may be quite sure that God will bless all honest: intelligent, and sedulous effort to increase the fruits of the earth. After all these centuries, man hardly yet seems to appreciate the scope of that command, "Subdue the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Man has rather learnt to replenish the earth with those who use it as a vantage ground whereon to subdue and devour one another.
III. To a Christian the feast of the first-fruits must ever bring to mind THE ALL-IMPORTANT EVENT WHICH HAPPENED AT THE FIRST PENTECOST AFTER THE ASCENSION or CHRIST. There was doubtless some weighty reason for choosing the time when the day of Pentecost was fully come as the time when the disciples were to be all filled with the Holy Ghost. There was a close connection, we know, between the Passover feast and the Pentecost feast. A complete week of weeks, a perfect period, intervened between that day of the Passover feast when a sheaf of the harvest firstfruits was waved before the Lord (Leviticus 23:1-44), and the day of Pentecost, when the full meat offering was presented. Thus in this interval the harvest was gathered in, and then by the Pentecostal service it was signified that in the strength of the food which he had gathered man could go on for another year. And as God chose the Passover season, when the great deliverance from Egypt was celebrated, for that death and resurrection of Christ whereby he delivers his people from guilt, and spiritual bondage, and helplessness, so he chose Pentecost for the entrance of that Holy Spirit who makes the deliverance to be followed by such unspeakable positive consequences. The risen Saviour gives liberty to those who believe in him, and then he gives the Holy Spirit, that the right of liberty may not be a barren gift. What is even a free man without daily food? What advantage is it to a man if you liberate him from prison merely to turn him into a sandy desert? The forgiven sinner with his awakened spirit and new needs has the evident fullness of God's Spirit to which he may continually apply himself. God availed himself of the place which Pentecost naturally held in the minds of the disciples to teach them a great lesson. Hebrew Christians were not likely to give up their old times and seasons, and so the Passover feast was still further glorified by the recollection of Jesus dying for them, and the Pentecost feast by the recollection of how the Spirit had been poured upon all flesh. It is very certain that we do not sufficiently appreciate the practical significance of that memorable Pentecost. It ought to stand in our minds side by side with that other memorable day when the Word that became flesh first breathed at Bethlehem the air of this sin-tainted world. Is it not a matter of the greatest significance that after Pentecost the Holy Spirit of God was among men as he was not before? What a blessing, and yet what a responsibility, to feel that thus and then he came, and, as he came, still remains!—Y.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
Numbers 29:7, Numbers 29:12
A SOLEMN FAST AND A JOYOUS FEAST
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. Le Numbers 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. Psalms 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, Ephesians 1:7-13; 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, Romans 5:11; 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, Isaiah 22:13.
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.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
THE OFFERINGS OF THE SEVENTH MONTH
I. CONSIDER THE INCREASE IN THE OFFERINGS DURING THIS MONTH. There was the customary morning and evening offering for every day; the customary offering at the beginning of the month; and an additional offering, as if to signify that it was the beginning of a more than ordinary month. There would also be the appointed offerings on the sabbaths of the month. The tenth day of the month brought the great day of atonement, when there was to be much affliction of soul because of sin. Then, to crown all, there were the eight days of the feast of tabernacles, when an unusual quantity of offerings were presented. We may therefore consider the seventh month as being, conspicuously, a month devoted in Israel to the service of God.
II. CONSIDER THE LESSONS WE ARE TAUGHT BY THIS MONTH OF SPECIAL SERVICE.
1. Note that it was at the season of the year when the fruits were all gathered in. "The feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field" (Exodus 23:16). There was thus a time of leisure—not the commanded leisure of the sabbath, but the natural leisure of the man who has finished his year's work. There is an interval between gathering the fruits of one year and preparing for the fruits of the next. What is to be done with this time? The answer is, Man's leisure must be used for God. Let there be a month largely occupied with special national approach to God. And, depend upon it, something similar is expected from us. There is nothing in which the lot of men is less equal than in the amount of leisure time which they have at their disposal. One man has to labour long hours and hardly finds a holiday all the year round, while another has abundant leisure. What an awful responsibility for the rich and selfish triflers who lounge away their lives in a world where so much may be done for the miserable and the needy! How he spends his leisure is one of the great tests of a man. Where his heart is, there he will go, when for a few hours he is slipped out of harness. If we are God's at all, all our time is God's. If our hearts are right with him, our greatest joy will be in our religion, and we shall hail, we shall grasp, every opportunity of increasing our knowledge of God, of the Scriptures, and of how to render that service to Christ which is so plainly expected from us. The spirit in which an Israelite entered on this festal month would be a great test of him altogether.
2. If God requires a service out of the common, he will furnish sufficient opportunity for it. God did not institute these services simply to fill up a leisure month. They had to be rendered at some time or other, and he selected a season when all the details of them could be most conveniently carried out. If God requires any service from us, we may be sure that be will make the duty of that service clear to conscience. It is not allowed to any of us to say, "I have no time for this service, no opportunity for it, therefore I cannot do it." The method of God is to put a service clearly before us, and then tell us to trust him for the making of a way. He will not allow us to plead want of time and opportunity, any more than he allowed Moses to plead want of ability (Exodus 4:11, Exodus 4:12). Here is the reason why faithful and obedient spirits have been so successful. God has said "Go," and they have gone, when there seemed no way more than a single step ahead. Wherever God finds a real believer he makes a way for him, like that royal road to which the Baptist referred (Luke 3:4, Luke 3:5). We see here how the events of the ecclesiastical year are gathered and arranged. When the Israelites first received these commandments to make offerings, receiving them as they did at different times, they may have said to themselves, "How can we possibly get through so much?" But here they are all put in order, and it is seen that there is a time for everything, and that everything can be done in its time. The lesser service prepares for the greater. God does well continually to ask his servants for more, because he is ever making them able to give more.
3. The day of temporal fullness is the day of spiritual danger. It is not only that the time of leisure is the time of temptation; there is a peculiar temptation in the leisure because it follows on worldly success. In such circumstances men are tempted to think of their own industry and skill more than of the needful blessing of God. Not without reason did the great day of atonement stand in this month. Everything is good which will force upon a man, in the midst of his worldly prosperity, a sense of the presence and claims of God. When Israel had a good harvest, the time of leisure that followed would be a time of great anxiety to many as to how they might most profitably dispose of the harvest. It is oftentimes the rich man who is in danger of having the least leisure; when his riches lie in capital, the use of which he must watch continually.—Y.