The Feasts of the Lord.
by William Reid
IN the 23d chapter of Leviticus, which we now invite you to read and study, we have a succinct account of the Feasts of the Lord, which afford us, in their typical aspect, a brief history of the ways of the Lord with His people on earth, from the Cross of Calvary to the millennial glory. They were seven in number.
The Sabbath, which is first mentioned, occupies a peculiar position, as at once included and excluded from the number. For the Holy Spirit begins afresh at verse 4th to specify the different feasts:—'These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons;' and then He mentions the Passover as the first.
The reason why the Sabbath is thus dealt with, is because it prefigures the end to be accomplished after the full year of the evolution of God's purposes towards His people has been fulfilled. The true Sabbath or rest of the Lord is, in its essence, the gathering together around Himself, as the great source and centre of "grace and peace," rest and blessing of all those who shall be gathered by all the other feasts, as including the means and operations by which they shall be assembled. That is the rest that remaineth to the people of God.
Man, in innocence had participation in God's rest, and after he fell, his only mode of getting the rest restored was by sacrifice; and hence we find the rest of God, the Sabbath, placed next to the Passover, that through God's Lamb, we might enjoy God's rest. To men in the flesh, a Sabbath may be enjoined, but cannot be enjoyed.
After the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt, they had the Sabbath given them as a memorial of deliverance, and the sign of God's covenant with them. It was the outward symbol of His gracious assurance—“My presence shall go with thee, and / will give thee rest." (Ex. xxxiii. 14.) When God confers any new relationship with Himself, the Sabbath is always added. (Ex. xvi. 23; xx. 10.) Now, the Son of man being "Lord also of the Sabbath-day," and having passed it in the state of death, He rose on the first day of the week showing to the Jews that, as a sign of their covenant, He had removed the seventh, and introduced the first, the Lord's day, as a sign of a rest in resurrection to all believers who are saved by grace—not of a rest as the termination of labours under the Law.
Just as in the old creation, man began his natural life in the enjoyment of God's rest —for the Sabbath was man's first day on earth after his creation—so in the new creation, we begin our spiritual life by entering at once upon God's rest in redemption accomplished. We are "begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven." (1 Pet. i. 3, 4) We who believe, have got rest through Christ's blood now; but there is also a promise left us of entering into God's rest when all our toils, sufferings, and labours in the wilderness are over. (Heb. iv.) Thus, we begin and end with rest—the rest of God which is prefigured to us by these feasts, beginning and ending with a Sabbath.
I. THE PASSOVER.
The first of these feasts, properly considered, is the Passover: "In the fourteenth day of the first month, at even, is the Lord's Passover" (v. 5). Rest is the ultimate object aimed at, and the first of the feasts mentioned is that which tells of rest in the midst of judgment and rest beyond the sphere of judgment. The prominent matter of the Passover was the lamb slain. When the Israelites were to be not only sheltered from the sword of the destroying angel, but also delivered from the terrible bondage of Egypt, a lamb was slain, and its blood sprinkled on the door-posts and lintels of their dwellings; and so the very first thing the Lord does in the Antitype, is to present Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Redeemer from wrath, and the pledge of the deliverance from Satan's power of all who have faith in His blood.
In all God's deliverances of His people, there is always, as the dark background of the picture, the incurable wickedness of His enemies, and their consequent destruction! When these very Jews took the position of "the kings of the earth" "against the Lord and against His Christ " (Acts iv. 26), then the "wrath came upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess. ii. 16), at the very time when thousands of delivered ones were screened from wrath and going forth from bondage in all the fresh and exuberant joy of saved and emancipated men, who could say with Divine intelligence, "Christ our Passover is slain for us" (1 Cor. v. 7).
Dispensationally, the Passover typified redemption by Christ, which was effected by the sacrifice of Himself at the conclusion of the ages (Heb. ix. 26), for nothing effectual was done towards laying a foundation for God's rest being enjoyed from the institution of the Sabbath, the symbol of creation-rest in Eden, until Christ abolished sin, which had marred the rest of God. It was not in the present dispensation, but at the close of the past, that Christ the Passover sacrifice was slain.
II. THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD.
This feast commenced on the evening of the Passover, and this accounts for the latter being termed in the Gospels (Matt. xxvi. 17; Mark xiv. 12), the first day of unleavened bread. And as this feast is so closely related to the Passover, it must have its place of fulfilment, as it, properly speaking, had, in the Jewish dispensation. It had its primary fulfilment in the experience of the believing Jews, mentioned in the first chapter of Acts, who, after hearing the utterances of the risen Jesus concerning the kingdom of God, and having seen Him ascend from earth to Heaven, waited for the Day of Pentecost, in accordance with their Saviour's injunction—"Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke xxiv. 49). This was typified by the tarrying of the delivered Israelites on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, within the territory of Pharaoh, and in danger of being pursued and destroyed by him.
In regard to those believing ones in the city of Jerusalem, they had separated themselves to a risen Christ; for as the sheaf of first-fruits was presented during this feast of Unleavened Bread, so this brings in the element of a risen Saviour to enhance the joy and produce separation (Luke xxiv. 52). And by His ascension from Olivet, they had been made strangers and pilgrims, but they had not consciously got the Red Sea-death and resurrection between them and their enemies. They had real joy— they did no "servile work" in their own strength, but waited for the power from on high; and they also knew what it was to feed on the slain Lamb, but they ate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as men who, though possessed of begun deliverance, were yet in danger, fear, and anxiety.
I am convinced that there are many Christians who are trusting their salvation to Christ and assembling with His Church in great attachment to Him and their brethren, who are in exactly similar circumstances to those one hundred and twenty disciples who waited in obedience to their Lord's command for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. They know Christ in resurrection, but they do not know the power of His resurrection as it was given by the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
And just as the fresh experience of a common deliverance, the fear of a common overthrow, and the possession of a common joy, kept Israel united, so we read of the disciples,—"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren" (Acts i. 14). There was no leaven there—at least none visibly working. The moral application to us is, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the feast (of Unleavened Bread) not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. v. 6-8). No leaven, no servile work, but an offering made by fire unto the Lord!
III. THE SHEAF OF FIRST-FRUITS (v. 14).
This refers to the barley-harvest, for it only was ripe at that season. This harvest the Israelites found ripe on the very week of their entering Canaan, so that ''the first employment of Israel in Canaan was preparing the type of the Saviour's resurrection, and their first religious act was their holding up that type of a risen Saviour." The Sheaf of First-Fruits is manifestly "Christ the first-fruits" (1 Cor. xv. 23), the earnest and pledge of the coming harvest of resurrection saints. "Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. xv. 20).
Christ is "risen indeed." And He has risen from the dead, leaving myriads behind Him; and so will His people, for their resurrection shall be similar to His—a resurrection from among dead ones. We shall have part in the first resurrection, which is pledged to us and sure by Christ's rising. "Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1 Cor. xv. 23).
On the morrow after the Passover Sabbath, the sheaf was to be waved—so Christ, the first-fruits, rose on that day, and was presented before the Lord by the Spirit of Holiness that raised him from the dead. When He stood at the open sepulchre in resurrection-life, the God of judgment, but now "the God of peace," accepted of the first-fruits" as the pledge and earnest of the entire harvest. Were He not risen, none of us could think of a harvest-day (ver. 14); nothing could be ours.
The passage of the Red Sea gives us entrance upon the wilderness, and we have our experience of the flesh there; but the passage into Canaan through the dried-up Jordan and tasting the harvest of the land in connection with a risen and glorified Saviour, puts us in possession of a heavenly life, and we have to maintain a heavenly warfare. It is in the power of our life in Canaan that we can pass through the wilderness, witnessing a good confession in our daily circumstances.
IV. THE FEAST OF WEEKS, OR PENTECOST (ver. 15, 16).
The paschal lamb has been slain, the sheaf of first-fruits has been waved, and now the two loaves are presented. The Passover describes the dispensation of the Law, or the Jewish; Pentecost, the dispensation of the Gospel and the feast of Tabernacles, that of the Kingdom during the millennial age. Jesus was forty days on earth and ten days in Heaven, presenting Himself in both as One who had fully poured out His blood and ended the Jewish dispensation, in which blood flowed to make atonement for sin. "Ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you 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 meat-offering unto the Lord" (15, 16).
Israel's system—its "seven Sabbaths," a complete period—had its full manifestation; and now the new meat-offering inaugurates the new or Christian dispensation. This meat-offering was to be of wheat, and not in the form of a sheaf, but of two loaves of bread, consisting of double the quantity of flour generally used for the meat-offering. There was leaven allowed also in them.
What do these loaves typify? "They typify something made out of wheat-seed. We find in John xii. 24, that Jesus is the corn of wheat; and here we will have what was produced from, that seed of wheat. The two loaves made out of the wheat-seed are His Church, which sprang from Him who died."
The formation of THE CHURCH of Christ at Pentecost, in virtue of His having ascended and shed down the Holy Ghost, is surely here prefigured. The Pentecostal Church was denoted by the two loaves, the fruit of the one Corn of Wheat that had fallen into the ground and died. Jew and Gentile are both gathered into one Church by the action of the Holy Ghost. There was leaven allowed, which indicated the presence of corruption; but it is said, "Ye shall offer with the bread, seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock and two rams,"—a very full burnt offering, "with their meat-offering and their drink-offering" (18). Thus, the perfection of the spotless Christ, as sacrificed for us, is presented to the eye of God, and not us. There was also a kid for a sin-offering, and "two lambs of the first year for a peace-offering" (19).
The Sin-offering answered for the leaven in the loaves, and the loaves were then waved over the two lambs of the peace-offering, and thus the type cried aloud in its own symbolic language, "He is our peace" (Eph. ii). "We have peace with God," notwithstanding the leaven of corruption in us, for God has answered for it in the sacrificial death of the Son of His love; "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (Rom. v. 11).
The Church is presented to God the Father in connection with all the unutterable excellency and preciousness of her ascended Lord.
We are accepted in the perfect acceptableness of Christ, whose person and sacrifice perfectly glorify God, and are the food of His people here, and will be so hereafter and evermore,
Verse 22 is difficult of interpretation. Primarily it is obviously intended to teach considerate care for the poor. But what is meant typically by their leaving patches of corn in "the corners of the field," and gleanings over the entire field for "the poor" and "the stranger"? Is it the remnant from the Jews gathered into the Church in this dispensation that is intended? or is it the Gentiles gathered into Judaism in barley-harvest (Israel's dispensation), and the Jews gathered into the Church in wheat-harvest (the Christian dispensation)? Neither, we think; but the gathering or gleaning of souls, saved by grace exceptionally, after both dispensations have run their course, after the Church has been ''caught up" to meet the Lord in the air, and when quickened Jews like John the Baptist have gone forth to preach the Gospel of the kingdom among all nations, in the brief interval between the rapture of the Church and the reign of Christ and His saints over a ransomed, subject, happy world.
V. THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS (ver. 23-25).
This seventh month had many feast and fast days in it. It was the beginning of the civil year and it commenced with the blowing of trumpets—"the joyful sound" referred to (Ps. xxxix. 15); a time of special gladness, principally because of the coming of the two great solemnities—the day of Atonement and the feast of Tabernacles, which took place in that month. This was the commencement of a month that put away all defilements and brought them afresh into acceptance and the hope of future joy and glory.
The Passover fell on the first day of the sacred year, and celebrated redemption; this fell on the first day of the civil year and was a memorial of God being their Creator. "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth my praise," also was indicative of something in the future, and in the latter day, will be to the remnant of the house of Israel a stirring of them up to assemble themselves before the Lord. It prefigures those times when, as by sound of trumpet, Israel shall again return to their own land, and recommence their civil year—their corporate life as God's earthly people. When this takes place, it will be God's solemn voice to His people, "beloved for the fathers' sakes,"—"Behold the Lamb of God!" “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him!" The trumpet sounded all day long from morning till evening; and to us the feast of Trumpets represents the voice of God in the preaching of the Gospel during this "day of salvation," proclaiming the suffering of Christ, and the glories that should follow. The feast of Trumpets is intimately associated with the next great solemnity.
VI. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (ver. 27-32).
Eight days pass after the feast of Trumpets, and then we have the day of Atonement, mourning for sin, and a Sabbath of rest. Were we taking it as an illustration, we might say it meant that those who listened to the Gospel and looked on Jesus, mourned and found redemption in His blood, while they enjoyed entire cessation from work— a Sabbath of rest for their souls.
But taking it as referring to Israel after the close of the present age, as well as in the transition period between this and the millennial age, the Lord shall pour out His Spirit on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and they shall look upon the Saviour whom they, as a nation formerly rejected and crucified, and they shall mourn for Him, and be in bitterness, and shall find in Him, a fountain opened for sin and for uncleaness (Zech. xiii. 1). When "blindness" is removed, and "the veil" taken away, then shall the glory predicted necessarily follow. They shall then celebrate the true feast of Tabernacles.
VII. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES. (ver. 39-43).
This feast was commemorative of Israel's dwelling in tents in the wilderness, with the "tabernacle of God their Saviour in the midst of them, after their deliverance from the house of bondage; and it is typical of the dwelling of their God in the midst of His people in millennial days, if not beyond them, as in Rev. xxi. 3—"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God." This feast was celebrated after the harvest "had been gathered in and also the vintage;" it thus combined in it "the joy of harvest" and "the shouting of them that tread the wine-press," with the gladness peculiar to the feast itself.
This was "the harvest home" of happy Israel, "a people blessed of the Lord," and the type of the great harvest-day, when "all Israel shall be saved," and shall be joyful in their King.
On the Transfiguration-mount, Peter spoke of making tabernacles as if to preserve the joy of the feast of Tabernacles—heaven and earth met, and Jesus in the midst! And so here, the feast runs on for seven days into the eighth day, as one truly calls it, an extraordinary day of a new week which went beyond the full time, including, I doubt not, the resurrection; that is, the participation of those who are raised in that joy. Thus, the feast of Tabernacles is the joy of the millennium, when Israel have come out of the wilderness where their sins have placed them, but to which will be added this first day of another week, the resurrection joy of those who are raised with the Lord Jesus, to which the presence of the Holy Ghost answers meanwhile.
"The Passover has had its antitype, Pentecost its also; but this day of joy is yet awaiting the coming of Him who is to be the centre and the impulse of it, the Lord Jesus, who will rejoice in the great congregation, and whose praise will begin with Jehovah in the great assembly. (Ps. xxii. 22-23.) He had already done it in the midst of the assembly of His brethren—"I will declare thy name unto My brethren" (verse 22); but now the whole race of Jacob is called to glorify Him,—("Ye seed of Jacob, glorify Him," verse 23) and all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindred of the nations shall worship before Thee, for the Kingdom is the Lord's." (Verse 27, 28.) (See also Zech. xiv. 16.)
It is remarkable that this feast was never once kept according to the directions of the Law, from the days of Joshua to the time of Nehemiah. Israel had ceased to remember that they had been strangers in the wilderness, and to look forward to more glorious times than even the reigns of David and Solomon; and it was reserved for the remnant that returned from Babylon to keep it as God had enjoined,—"and there was very great gladness" (Neh. viii. 17). How prophetic their neglect of the general neglect of the coming King and the coming glory among ourselves! "Where is the promise of His coming?" is the prevailing thought both in the professing Church and the scoffing world. But "He that shall come, will come;'' and while the heavenly Alleluia is rolling like the voice of many waters and the voice of mighty thunderings, they shall say one to another, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him, for the MARRIAGE of the LAMB is come, and His WIFE (the Church) hath made herself ready" (Rev. xix. 7). "THE RANSOMED OF THE LORD (the Jews) shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isa. xxxv. 10). "Men shall be blessed in Him; ALL NATIONS shall call Him blessed " (Ps. lxxxii. 17).
“The Bible Herald” 1876