The Feasts of Jehovah.

Leviticus 23.

These feasts were instituted by Jehovah, and divinely recorded on the pages of inspiration, to trace for us God's thoughts regarding the blessing of His people Israel. Although this Scripture specially contemplates the blessing of God's earthly people, we can also discern in it His way of blessing for the saints of this dispensation. Whether it be the blessing of Israel, or of the church, all is secured in the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through Jacob, in Genesis 49, the Spirit of God had already traced the tortuous history of the nation of Israel in a remarkable prophetic survey; a history that not only faithfully presented their weaknesses and failures, but which also brought to light the blessings that God had reserved for them in sovereign mercy, according to the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In this chapter we have the settled purpose of God to gather His people around Himself, that there they might enjoy His rest, the fruit of the work of His own dear Son, and find richest blessing for their deep and abiding joy.

There are five revelations in this chapter, each beginning with the words "And Jehovah spake unto Moses." In these divine unfoldings we learn how the feasts are connected in the thoughts of God. The first revelation unites the sabbath, the passover and the feast of unleavened bread; the second couples the firstfruits and the waveloaves; the remaining three revelations are for the trumpets, the day of atonement, and the feast of tabernacles.

Though grouped with the two feasts which follow, the sabbath has a distinctive place, as will be observed from the position it occupies. At the close of Lev. 23:2 are the words "These are my set feasts"; then comes the announcement of the sabbath, and afterwards, a new beginning is made with the opening words of Lev. 23:3, "These are the set feasts of Jehovah." The feasts of the passover, unleavened bread, firstfruits and wave-loaves are all held within the first six months of the Jewish year; the last three are on the seventh month. Each revelation, saving that of the day of atonement, was to be passed on to the children of Israel; the words "Speak unto the children of Israel" are omitted in this case.

The Sabbath.

(Lev. 23:1, 3.) The children of Israel were not left to decide when they should gather together in the presence of Jehovah; there were set feasts, fixed times which Jehovah appointed as holy convocations; gatherings that were consonant with the holy character of the God who had chosen Israel to be His people. Because of its recurrence each week, the sabbath constantly kept before Israel the thought of rest. Work was to be done on six days; "But on the seventh day is the sabbath of rest," when toil ceased and rest began. The word sabbath means cessation, and God was indicating in it that He had in His purpose a time when toil would for ever cease. Each sabbath brought this thought of rest before them, but the rest of each sabbath was broken, or brought to a close, by the labours of the other six days.

After the six days in which God had prepared the earth for man's abode, He rested on the seventh day from His labours. But His rest was soon broken by the entrance of sin into the world, and from that time God worked afresh, not to patch up the ruin of the first creation, but to produce a new creation, which Satan could not mar nor sin defile. With this new creation before Him, the Son of God was found as a workman in this world, saying, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). In His labours the Lord Jesus knew what weariness was, and was without a resting place for His head, labouring even on the sabbath to bring relief to the stricken sons of Israel; yea, He went into death, rejected by the nation, lying there while the High Priest and the leaders of Israel kept their sabbath.

So far as bringing Israel into the sabbath of rest was concerned, it seemed as if Christ's work had failed, even as He speaks prophetically in spirit in Isaiah 49:4, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain." God had called Israel to the land of promise, but we learn from Hebrews 3:19, that "They could not enter" into God's rest there, "Because of unbelief." Joshua brought the people into the land of Canaan, but he did not bring them into rest, else David would not have written afterwards, "Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." The divine conclusion of the matter in Hebrews 4 is, "There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God." Israel, in the Millennium, on the ground of the New Covenant, and the church in the Paradise of God, will assuredly enter into God's rest; both because of the work of the cross.

The rest for which the Father and the Son have been working is an eternal rest that shall never be disturbed, interrupted or broken. Israel's Millennial blessing will close when the heaven and earth pass away, but they will no doubt pass into the earthly side of the eternal rest on the new earth. On the heavenly side, the saints who have been called to share the divine rest of the Father's House will rest with Him in the deep joy of His love. Nothing of all that lies in the Father's counsels will remain unfulfilled; all will be secured in a new creation, where there is not a trace of the distress and sorrow caused by the entry of sin and death into the old creation. Of this new and eternal scene the Scripture says, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:4, 5). This will be the final and eternal fulfilment of what was in God's mind in relation to "The sabbath of rest."

The Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.

(Lev. 23:4-8.) We have already observed that these two feasts are grouped with the sabbath in the first divine revelation, and it is not difficult to understand the reason for this when we learn that Christ's death, which is the basis of all divine blessing for us, is typified in the passover. God very clearly brings this before us in 1st Corinthians, where it is written, "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7). Without the death of Christ, there never could have been a sabbath of rest, where God could gather those He has blessed through that same death, around Himself.

The details of the passover are not given here; for these we must go to Exodus 12, where we have the institution of the feast. Many precious truths are to be learned from the details of this remarkable celebration, but its introduction into this chapter is to show its place in the ways of God with His people. If the sabbath brings before us the great end that God has in view in all His ways, the passover teaches that to secure His rest God begins with the death of Christ. God's thoughts for the blessing of His own are set down in such Scriptures as these, long before the coming of Him in whom all would be fulfilled and accomplished. Indeed, He "was foreordained before the foundation of the world," to be the "Lamb without blemish and without spot," through whom redemption would be secured for God's people, so that they might be able to gather around Him in His sabbath of rest.

The day and hour for the passover were not at man's discretion; God had said, "In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, between the two evenings, is the passover of Jehovah." This was before the blessed Lord when "He said to His disciples, Ye know that after two days is the passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified." Israel's leaders, ignorant of God's ways, hating God's Son, and blinded in their unbelief, said, "Not on the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people" (Matt. 26:1-5). But God carried out His plans in spite of the chief priests, scribes and elders of the people, and at the appointed hour the holy victim was slain, and His precious blood was shed, and redemption was accomplished.

Following immediately on the passover, being inseparable from it as its complement, was the feast of unleavened bread. The holy convocation, based on the passover, took place on the first day of this feast. During the seven days unleavened bread only was to be eaten: there was to be the complete absence of the working of evil, for leaven in Scripture invariably speaks of the penetrating, diffusing and corrupting effects of different forms of evil. Poor, deluded Israel, that should have maintained such holy separation from evil, was permeated with it when the Son of God was among them, so that He had to warn His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. He also warned His own concerning the pernicious doctrines of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, speaking of them as leaven. He also described the political evil of the Herodians as "The leaven of Herod" (Matt. 16:6, 12; Mark 8:15).

Under the new covenant Israel will yet be blessed of God in the land of promise, and will be free from the corrupting influences of hypocrisy, infidelity and political ambition, which marked their leaders when the Lord was on earth. With the law written on their hearts and minds, and with the knowledge that all their sins and iniquities are remembered no more, they will gather together in true holiness in God's presence to praise and worship Him. While Israel waits for that day, it is our privilege now as Christians, having the spirit of the new covenant, to keep the feast, "Not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Each day of the week is a feast day for us, in which it is our holy and happy privilege to answer to God's mind for His saints — to be here in separation from all the evils of the flesh and the world; to be marked by godly sincerity in all our ways, truth in the inward parts giving- character to all our thoughts and actions.

God would have His people to understand that their rest and blessing were not on account of their efforts, therefore, He commanded that no servile work was to be done on the days of holy convocation, the first and last days of the feast. They were to rest before Jehovah in the knowledge that all their blessings were founded on the sacrifice of fire, which they were to present to Him on the seven days of the feast. Israel will yet learn this great truth; they will know that their every blessing depends on the sacrifice of Christ, who gave Himself for them. Christians have this precious knowledge now through God's wondrous grace, and as we read such Scriptures as these we understand the meaning of Romans 15:4, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."

The Wave-Sheaf.

(Lev. 23:9-11.) The waving of the sheaf of firstfruits belonged to the land that Jehovah was about to give to Israel; the exact day of the month is not given, as in the previous feasts, but the day of the week is carefully prescribed, "On the morrow after the sabbath." God has not left us to our own thoughts regarding what was in His mind in regard to the firstfruits, for it is written in 1 Corinthians 15:23, "Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming." Christ, out of death, is the beginning of the great harvest that God had planned, and for which He had been working from the beginning. How accurate is the antitype to the type: it was in the land that Jehovah gave to Israel that Christ rose in triumph from among the dead, and it was on the first day of the week, the "Morrow after the sabbath."

Before Jehovah was the sheaf to be waved, and for the acceptance of His people. How few on earth knew of the great event of that first "Lord's Day," but how deeply it must have stirred the hosts of heaven and hell. And how blessed for God that His beloved Son was out of death into which He had entered to secure His glory and to give effect to all His eternal counsels of love! God would have us to know that the resurrection of Christ was of the greatest import to Him, and delightful to His heart; for surely this is what we are to learn from the waving of the sheaf before Jehovah. But it was for the acceptance of God's people!

Israel's day of acceptance is not yet, but it is in prospect, even as it has been prophesied by Ezekiel, "In the mountain of the height of Israel . . . there will I accept them . . . as a sweet savour will I accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered" (Ezek. 20:40, 41). Our acceptance as Christians rests upon the same paschal sacrifice, and is in the same blessed Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from among the dead. "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:6, 7).

(Lev. 23:12, 13.) On the day of the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits, a yearling he-lamb, without blemish, was to be offered for a burnt-offering, and with it an oblation and a drink-offering. The burnt-offering brings the sacrifice of Christ before us as portraying Him who gave Himself in death for the accomplishment of God's will: "An offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Eph. 5:2). While this sacrifice was wholly for the pleasure of Jehovah, it made atonement for the offerer, and was for his acceptance (Lev. 1:4). The male usually has to do with the position of the offerer, the female with the state; so that the he-lamb would emphasise the blessedness of the place into which we have been brought through the death of Christ. Christ's perfection and holiness are depicted in the victim being without blemish; His life of beauty and freshness in the age of the lamb.

The oblation, which typifies the holy Manhood of the Lord is specially emphasised, because two tenths of fine flour are required instead of the usual one tenth (see Ex. 29:40, 41; Num. 15:4, 5). Does not this bring before us that it is the same Jesus in resurrection that was here in meekness and grace before the cross? His humanity is the same, although the conditions of life into which He has entered are entirely different. He has now a body of flesh and bones — a body of glory; a body that is not subject to the limitations of the body of flesh and blood, but it is the same Jesus, having the same nature and the same life. The fine flour of this offering speaks of that humanity, so fine in its texture, a heavenly humanity, in which every feature was perfect, and where all blended in a perfection that showed no salient feature.

Whether we think of Christ's gentleness, meekness, holiness, grace, love, faithfulness, patience, zeal for God's glory, kindness to men, or of any of His traits, not one feature of that heavenly manhood overshadowed any other feature; nor was there one feature that was proper to man missing from that holy and perfect life. Luke 1:35 is fulfilled in the mingling of the oil with the fine flour, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest overshadow thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God." He was truly a perfect Man, the son born of the virgin, yet Son of God; His holy, heavenly humanity conceived in the power of the Holy Spirit, every particle of His sinless nature characterised by the grace and perfection of the Spirit. The drink offering completed the offerings of the feast, telling of the joy for the heart of God that was brought through Him who poured out His soul unto death to secure all that lay in His will.

(Lev. 23:14.) After Jehovah had His portion — His heart's delight and joy in the presentation of the risen Christ, and of all that marked Him in life and death — the people were free to feed upon the harvest His goodness had provided for them. It is necessary for us to learn that there could not have been any blessing for us apart from the resurrection of Christ. This is the teaching of 1 Corinthians 15:17, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." All God's blessing for us has been secured through the death of Christ, and is available for us in Christ, risen out of death. In this Scripture we have particularly what God has given His saints to feed upon; the food that comes to us in the risen Christ.

The precious food that comes to us in the risen Christ may be "Green ears," Christ in the freshness and maturity of his life down here, accomplishing the will of God, and bringing before men the Father's grace. It may be "Roast corn," Christ passing through the fire of divine judgment to secure the glory of God, and the blessing of His own. We may also feed on Christ as "Bread," "The Bread of God," "The bread of life," "The living bread," upon whom God feeds, the joy and satisfaction of His heart, the One in whom He has ever found infinite delight. It is by feeding on Christ as the living bread that we have received eternal life, and the divine life that God has communicated to us in His grace is sustained by feeding upon the bread of life. What joy is brought to the heart in communion with the Father and the Son as we feed upon Him who gave Himself in death to accomplish the Father's will, and who is now risen and seated at God's right hand in Heaven.

We have already noticed that in setting apart the sabbath God announced His determinate counsel to secure a rest into which He would bring His people. The celebration of the passover recalled to Israel God's grace towards them in Egypt; t hey were sheltered by the blood of' the lamb, and they fed upon the lamb roast with fire. To us the passover speaks of "Christ our passover . . . sacrificed for us." We have found shelter from judgment through the precious blood of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, and delight to feed upon Him who died in our stead. Intimately connected with the pass-over is the feast of unleavened bread, which intimates the character of walk that should mark those who have to do with a righteous and holy God, a walk of practical holiness in separation from the evil and spirit of the world.

The waving of the sheaf of firstfruits presents a risen Christ. Israel will yet find pleasure in waving Christ before God; they will discover in a day not far distant that God has blessing for them on the ground of a new covenant, secured through the death of the Messiah they rejected, and ministered by Christ risen from among the dead. While that day awaits poor deluded Israel, those who form the church, which God has purchased with the blood of His own, have the privilege of waving the sheaf of firstfruits — presenting to God His own dear Son, whom He has raised from the dead by His mighty power, the One in whom He finds His ineffable delight.

The Wave-Loaves

(Lev. 23:15-16). This feast is called in Exodus 34:22 and elsewhere "The feast of weeks," and in the Acts "The day of Pentecost." As in the case of the previous feasts, the New Testament clearly brings out what God had in mind in calling our attention to the feast of weeks. There was the literal fulfilling of the seven sabbaths after the resurrection of Christ till the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. On this day, separated from the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits by fifty days, yet intimately connected with it, a new meat offering was to be offered to Jehovah.

(Lev. 23:17). The new oblation consisted of two wave-loaves, of two tenths of fine flour, baken with leaven. Two loaves bring in what was new in Israel. In the next chapter we read of twelve cakes of two tenths of fine flour, which represented the twelve tribes of Israel upon the table of showbread before Jehovah. Does it not therefore seem that the two loaves represent two of' the tribes of Israel? When the Lord Jesus was upon earth, the ten tribes of Israel were dispersed, and those in the land were of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Doubtless there were individuals from the other tribes, like Anna of the tribe of Asher; but the mass were of the two tribes that remained with the house of David, and from which the remnant returned to the land in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Jehovah's new meat offering was then from these two tribes when the Holy Spirit came, on the day of Pentecost.

If we realise that this chapter is especially dealing with God's ways with Israel, we shall understand that the church in its Gentile character, is not in view here. Historically, the church was composed of a remnant of these two tribes at the beginning. When the full truth of the church came out, it was seen as a divine organism, "One body . . . one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). The church has been formed in the power of God, "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles" (1 Cor. 12:13). God is not teaching the truth of the mystery in Leviticus 23; that great secret was hid in God until Christ took His seat on high at God's right hand, and the Holy Spirit came to bring us into the knowledge of God's great secrets.

The fine flour of the wave-loaves tells us that those who form the church partake of the nature of Christ; "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11). They were sanctified when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, and all who since then have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ have received the Holy Spirit. But the divine nature is received by the operation of the Spirit through the word of God: it is a new nature. The new meat offering was composed of those who were born anew, and who were set apart for God by the coming upon them of the Holy Spirit.

But the reception of a new nature does not do away with the old; we still retain it until our journey on earth is over. Therefore the two wave-loaves were to be baken with leaven. It was this mixture of leaven with the fine flour that distinguished the new meat offering from the meat offering that was normally offered to Jehovah. In Christ there was no other nature than that which was pleasing to God; it was all fine flour. But in the baking of the loaves the action of the leaven was stayed; and it is thus that Christians can be before God — the working of the flesh, the old nature, held in check in self-judgment. In the cross, by the sacrifice of Christ, God "Condemned sin in the flesh"; so that God can receive us in perfect consistency with His holiness as having dealt with sin in judgment.

When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, the cloven tongues were "Like as of fire," which surely answers to the setting aside of the flesh in those who formed the meat offering. Another matter worthy of note is that the wave loaves were to be brought out from the habitations of Israel. This is exactly what took place, for the "Firstfruits unto Jehovah" came only from Israel. It could not be disclosed at that time that they were the firstfruits of a great company, from among the Gentiles as well as from Israel, who would be companions of Christ, the love gift of the Father to the Son.

(Lev. 23:18). Along with the loaves there were presented seven he-lambs without blemish, yearlings, one young bullock, and two rams, for a burnt offering to Jehovah. Each sacrifice was to have its complementary meat offering and drink offering; the whole forming one great offering by fire, for a sweet odour, unto Jehovah. How wonderful is the church's presentation to God! It is before Him in the savour and acceptance of the rich and varied offering that speaks so preciously of Christ. One he-lamb sufficed at the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits, but the divine fulness of the seven lambs assures our poor hearts before Him of the place He has given to us in grace through His death. The young bullock was the greatest expression, so far as man was concerned, of the burnt offering, indicating that God would give us the greatest and fullest assurance of His grace in giving Christ to die to bring us nigh to Himself. Two rams are for testimony, and call our attention to the energy of devotedness and affection that caused the Lord Jesus to give Himself in sacrifice to God for our acceptance.

(Lev. 23:19). For a sin offering, one buck of the goats was to be offered. There was no sin offering with the sheaf of firstfruits, which speaks of the resurrection of Him who was the "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Of Him it is written in the Scriptures, "In Him sin is not"; but this could not be said of those typified in the wave-loaves with leaven. Although accepted before God in all the efficacy of the burnt offering, and although there had been the action of the fire, both at the cross and in the coming of the Holy Spirit, yet because sin was there, in the nature they had from Adam, and because they had sinned, there was the need of the sin offering.

The goat was often used for a sin offering, notably on the Day of Atonement, when two were brought for "The congregation of the children of Israel," one being sacrificed, to meet the claims of God, teaching propitiation; the other, the scape-goat, bearing all their sins away, and teaching the truth of substitution. It is also the sin offering for a prince in Leviticus 4; and was the "Sin offering for the people" in Leviticus 9:15. From these, and other Scriptures, it can be seen that the goat is really the sin offering for the children of Israel, and emphasises the Jewish character of this chapter.

(Lev. 23:20). "Two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings" give us God's testimony of the place of communion into which He has now brought us through Christ's death and resurrection. How great is the grace that has brought us before God where we have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and where as saints we have fellowship together in the light of the revelation of God in Jesus, whose precious blood cleanses us from all sin. Like the priests who fed upon these peace offerings, we have the privilege of feeding upon Christ, the Lamb of God, who gave Himself to bring us into this favoured place.

(Lev. 23:21). There was no convocation on the day of waving the sheaf of firstfruits; this awaited the offering of the wave-loaves. When these types were fulfilled, the resurrection was not heralded by a public gathering, although there was a private gathering: "The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews." On the day of Pentecost it was very different, the disciples "were all together in one place," and when the news of the effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit was noised abroad, "The multitude came together." On that historic day the gathering of the disciples was indeed a holy convocation.

Many notable gatherings had taken place in the long, chequered history of Israel, but there had never been one like this. There was the gathering at the foot of Sinai when "Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God," when the mount burned with fire, and when the people heard God's voice they "Intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." Then there was the great assemblage for the dedication of the temple, when the ark was brought into its rest, and when "The priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God." These were outstanding assemblies, but they are not to be compared with the day when the church was formed by the coming of the Holy Spirit, and when the Jews from many parts and the proselytes with them were all amazed, and said, "We do hear them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

The company that was formed by the coming of the Spirit bore the marks that characterise a holy convocation. It was marked by "Prayer and supplication," and sought the mind of the Lord from the Holy Scriptures (Acts 1:14, 16-21). Nor were they engaged in servile work when the Spirit came upon them. Their testimony by the Spirit directed the thoughts of Israel to Christ, risen from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God. They presented salvation in Him to the people, saying, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Salvation was not to be attained through works of law: they were to rest from their labours, and find salvation in the One whom wicked hands had crucified and slain, but whom God had raised and glorified.

(Lev. 23:22). This remarkable verse comes between Pentecost and the blowing of trumpets, between the time of the coming of the Spirit of God and the testimony for the regathering of Israel. The actual provision that God makes for the poor and the stranger is most touching, and not to be lost sight of while seeking the typical meaning of the passage. God takes care of all His creatures; the poor and the stranger that the rich would think little of, He would not have neglected. The Son of God would be found in this world, the possessor of all things, yet poor; poor that we might be rich, and when He came He preached the Gospel to the poor, as had been prophesied before of Him in the Old Testament Scripture. Yea, He was a stranger in the world His hands had made, having the stable for His birthplace; no room for His head, and called a Samaritan.

After the saints of the present period have been caught up to be forever with the Lord, (the harvest resulting from the sowing of the great Sower), and before the nation of Israel is summoned to return to the promised land, a faithful remnant will be sustained of God during that period of trouble and trial. The instruction given by the Lord Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 24 has special reference to this remnant. Such Scriptures as this, and the Psalms will be of special value to the remnant, but they will no doubt be fed and sustained by feeding on other Scriptures which may not specially refer to them, but which God can use for their help. With this "Poor of the flock" there may be individual strangers from among the Gentiles who will share in their faithfulness, and in the protection and care of God for them. Such will not be able to enter into the truth connected with the mystery of God, as saints can now, but the Spirit of God will surely feed them with what is in the corners of the field, and the gleanings of the harvest.

The sabbath, being a weekly feast, kept constantly before Israel the thought of God's rest, into which He would certainly bring His people in His own good time. To secure the purpose of God the death of Christ was necessary, and this is brought before us in the passover. Those who are sheltered by the blood of the Lamb are called upon to keep the feast of unleavened bread, to walk in this world for the will of God, apart from every form of evil. But the Christ who died is risen again as is typified in the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits, and a new meat offering is offered to God, a new company of saints who have the nature of Christ, and who were indwelt by the Spirit of God at Pentecost. These annual feasts took place in the first six months of the Jewish year: the three feasts which follow were celebrated in the seventh month.

The Blowing of Trumpets

(Lev. 23:23-25). On the first day of the seventh month there was a blowing of trumpets which celebrated in advance the regathering of the nation of Israel. This seventh month marks a fresh stage in the ways of God with His earthly people. Moses forewarned Israel of what the consequences of their unfaithfulness would be, and prophesied that Jehovah would drive them among all nations, but that in the end they would "Return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments" (Deut. 29:30:1-8).

What Moses prophesied came to pass; the ten tribes were taken captive by the king of Assyria, and within a hundred and twenty years all that were left, or nearly all of the remaining two tribes, were carried into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. After seventy years of captivity, a remnant of the two tribes, under Zerubbabel, by the decree of Cyrus king of Persia, returned to the land to rebuild the house of God. This remnant was augmented by companies which returned under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. It was to the descendants of this remnant that the Lord Jesus came. Because of their rejection of the Son of God, divine judgment overtook Jerusalem and the inhabitants of the land of Israel, and Jerusalem has until recently been under the heel of different powers.

During the present century there has been a gradual drift of Jews into Palestine, chiefly because of oppression in Russia and Germany. This latter brought tens of thousands into the land. Under the protection of the great western powers, a Jewish state has again been established in Palestine, according to the promise of the British government during the first world war. It may be this that is referred to in Isaiah 18, where Israel is viewed as "A nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!" The great power which shadows Israel with its protecting wings is beyond the countries with which Israel had to do in the days gone by; it is a maritime power "That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters . . . swift messengers " (Isa. 18:1, 2).

With such help, Israel "Lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye." This ensign, with the name Israeli upon it, has been hoisted in the holy land, and the trumpet has been sounded. But this is not the trumpet sound of the first day of the seventh month; it has not been sounded at the command of Jehovah. God's time for intervening on behalf of His ancient people has not yet come, and while they are struggling to establish themselves as a nation, Jehovah says, "I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place." Jehovah waits in patience the hour of His intervention, while the impatience of the flesh evinces itself in the unbelieving nation.

From all their labours those who have returned to the land doubtless expect a rich harvest, but God has said, "For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks and take away and cut down the branches" (Isa. 18:5). Alas! instead of receiving blessing from Jehovah, He will intervene in judgment, and "They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains . . . and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them." The Arab countries around Palestine would gladly carry out this divine judgment, and God may allow them to do so, if the Lord tarry; but if the Lord comes before that, the judgment will be carried out in the day of Jacob's trouble.

Yet the day of the fulfilment of Moses' prophecy, and of many other prophetic utterances of the Old and New Testaments concerning Israel will assuredly come, even as the Lord Jesus said while on earth, "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:31). This notable event follows the appearing of the Lord Jesus, even as we read in verse 30, "And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

It must not be supposed that all who are dispersed will be brought into blessing in the land; those who are not right in the sight of the Lord will come under judgment. Of this we read in Ezekiel 20:33-44. In verse 34 God says, "I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered." The next verse shows that they do not immediately enter the land, but are brought into the wilderness. There God pleads with them, and there He causes them "To pass under the rod," and "I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me . . . and they shall not enter into the land of Israel."

Those who are in the land before the trumpet sounds for the regathering of the dispersed, will also be sifted, even as it is prophesied in Zechariah 13:8, 9. "And it shall come to pass, that in the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein; and I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God." No doubt this judgment for the two thirds, and the refining of the third, will take place when antichrist, the second beast of Revelation 13:11-18, is reigning at Jerusalem, and when the divine judgments are being poured out upon him and those who serve him. The godly remnant, the third of this Scripture, will have suffered bitter persecution from antichrist, which the Lord will use to refine them. Some indeed will suffer martyrdom, and have part in the first resurrection, and have glory with Christ in heaven.

Before the blowing of the trumpets for the regathering of Israel there will be the trumpet call for the sleeping saints, and for those who will join them to meet Christ in the air. Two special revelations were given to the apostle Paul concerning this; the first in 1 Corinthians 15, where he says, "Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (vers. 51, 52). The other revelation is in 1 Thessalonians 4, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord . . . For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (vers. 15-17).

When the LORD spoke to Moses concerning this feast, He said, "In the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation." These three things are connected in the words of the LORD, first, a sabbath; secondly, a blowing of trumpets; thirdly, a holy convocation. We have seen, when contemplating the sabbath, that God's rest was in view: so here, God is teaching us that His rest is in view; it is just about to be introduced, and He is recalling His scattered earthly people that they might enter into that rest, and surround His dwelling place in the Millennium. How blessed for Israel to be gathered together in a holy convocation in the promised land, after the long centuries of scattering among the Gentiles!

At this feast Israel are again reminded that their blessings do not proceed from their labours, but from the sacrifice of Christ. All their efforts to establish them-selves in the land will prove abortive; disappointment and judgment will attend their toil and conflicts. If they are to have a sabbath they must learn to "Do no servile work," but to "Offer an offering made by fire to the LORD"; the work has all been done by Christ, alone upon the cross.

The Day of Atonement

Closely following on the blowing of trumpets was the day of atonement, of which there are many details in Leviticus 16. There, the divine instruction is specially for Aaron, and has to do with his approach to God on behalf of the people. Aaron could not enter the holiest at any other time of the year, and when he sprinkled the blood of the sin offering on the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat, he had to put sweet incense upon the fire which was in the censer, so that the cloud of incense covered the mercy seat where Jehovah was in the cloud of glory. Here, God is concerned with the behaviour of His people on that solemn day. Israel's attitude to Christ, and His sacrifice, on their return to the land, after being recalled by the blowing of trumpets, is foreshadowed.

This great day is referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10, where the writer notes the contrast between the figure of Christ's sacrifice, and its fulfilment in the death of Jesus. There was no approach for the people into God's presence through the blood of bulls and goats, but through the blood of Jesus we have no more conscience of sins, and are thus perfect as regards our conscience before God; we have been sanctified " Through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once," and we have "Boldness to enter into the holiest."

Three things are connected in Lev. 23:27; an holy convocation, the afflicting of their souls, and an offering made by fire unto Jehovah. On being regathered, and sifted in the government of God, Israel will afflict their souls on realising that the One who has saved them from the wrath of the nations is none other than Jesus, whom they rejected, crucified and slew. The bitterness of soul that will mark this repentant remnant of Israel is touchingly described in Zechariah 12, where it is written, "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" (Zech. 12:10).

It was in Jerusalem that the Lord Jesus was condemned, and without its gate He was crucified. Therefore Jerusalem is prominent in the days of repentance, as is also the house of David, for it was in David's city, and prominently by the tribe of Judah that Christ was rejected. At this time also will be the fulfilling of verse 6 of the next chapter, And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

Mourning, which begins with the house of David, and with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, will extend to those around, for "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" (vers. 12-14). This individual and deep repentance is the fruit of God's own work in the hearts of His people, of His pouring upon them the spirit of grace and supplications.

The families of the king, the prophet, the priest and the common people are all involved in this solemn matter, every family, and every individual. When King David slew Uriah the Hittite by the hand of the children of Ammon, "The LORD sent Nathan unto David," to lay the matter on his conscience; but the house of Nathan cannot point the accusing finger now to the house of David and say as Nathan said, "Thou art the man." The feelings expressed by David in Psalm 51, after Nathan had brought home to him his guilt, will be those of the house of Nathan and the house of David. They will be able to say, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation . . . for Thou desirest not sacrifice . . . the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

This was not the first time that Levi and Simeon had been united in guilt, for in Genesis 49, Israel had said, "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; for in their anger they slew a man." What had marked them at the beginning, comes out in the end. It is not that the house of Simeon was actually united with Judah and Benjamin in the rejection of Christ, but all Israel was represented in these two tribes, and Shimei, or Simeon, who, along with Levi, "Slew a man," is brought forward as the representative of the common people. All were involved in the guilt of Christ's rejection, even as Jehovah held Israel as guilty when Achan had "Taken of the accursed thing." The words of Jehovah were, "Israel hath sinned" (Joshua 7).

There is a solemn warning in Lev. 23:29, "For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." This seems to refer to the ungodly in the land of Israel, the followers of antichrist, of whom we have already spoken, those of whom Zechariah writes, "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die." God will not have among His people in that day any who have not truly repented.

Another solemn warning comes in Lev. 23:30, "And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people." In Lev. 23:28 Jehovah commanded, "Ye shall do no work in that same day," so that those who did work were rebels, disobeying the command of God. It may be that this verse contemplates, or embraces, those spoken of in Ezekiel 20; "I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me." God will not tolerate self-will among His people; such will not enter into His rest.

In considering this chapter, we can readily perceive that God is giving an outline of His ways with Israel, His ancient people, even if some of the great events foretold in these feasts also indicate God's way of blessing for the Christian. The feasts of the seventh month make this very plain, for the blowing of trumpets and the day of atonement are very evidently concerned with the re-gathering of Israel for blessing, and their repentance before God before actually entering into all that God has secured for them through the blood of Jesus.

Yet in these same feasts have we not the way of blessing for the sinner today? Without doubt there is the application of the blowing of trumpets in the sounding out of the Gospel of the grace of God. This good news tells that Jesus has died, "Not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:52). Having heard the word of the Gospel, blessing is received through repentance and faith, even as Paul declared, "Testifying both to Jews and Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).

The Feast of Tabernacles

The three last feasts are all close together, and the events they signify will follow in quick succession. After Israel are regathered, and publicly repent for their rejection of their Messiah, the blessing of God immediately pours upon them. This closing feast, like the feast of unleavened bread, occupies a whole week. The seven days of unleavened bread signify the whole course of the Christian's lifetime in this world (1 Cor. 5:8); the seven days of the feast of tabernacles signify the whole millennial period of blessing for Israel.

On the first day of the feast was a holy convocation, for Israel will be gathered around Jehovah's dwelling to celebrate in gladness His ways of mercy and grace; no servile work was to be done, for God's people will assuredly know in that day that all their blessing depends upon the goodness of God and not upon their own efforts. Under the bondage of the law of Sinai, Israel had been endeavouring to obtain blessing on the principle of works, only to bring upon themselves divine judgment, because of their failure and sins; now, under the New Covenant, God is not demanding from them, but pours out His blessing freely through the work of Christ upon the cross.

Each day of the feast brought before God's people the solemn and blessed fact that all the blessing connected with the feast of tabernacles rested on the sacrifice of Christ. We learn from Lev. 23:37 what "An offering by fire to Jehovah" is. First there is the burnt offering, which tells of the acceptance before God of His saints in all the fragrance and efficacy of Christ's death. Then there is the oblation, which engages us before God with the perfections of His Son, manifested in His holy life on earth. "A sacrifice," is doubtless a peace offering, in which the saints commune with God about His Son, who glorified Him in death, and brought them nigh in righteousness and peace. The offering by fire is completed with "Drink offerings," which, being in the plural, magnify the joy that comes through the work of the cross.

The eighth day is ever a new beginning; that of Leviticus 9:1 is evidently the introduction of the millennium; but here, is it not the beginning of a day that is truly new, when even millennial blessing will pass, and make way for blessing that is eternal? In Lev. 23:39 we read. "On the first day there shall be rest, and on the eighth day there shall be rest." At the beginning of the chapter, God indicated that He had set His heart upon a "Sabbath of rest"; now, at the close, His rest is found, where His people can rest with Him, first, in the millennium, and finally in the eternal state.

Having completed the outline of this final feast, the Spirit of God sums the matter up by saying, "These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD" (verse 37). This is the third time in the chapter that our attention is drawn to the fact that the feasts are holy convocations (see also verses 2 and 4), in addition to the remarks concerning them when the feasts are detailed (see verses 3, 7, 8, 21, 24, 27, 35 and 36). How essential it is for the saints to observe the important place their gatherings have in the thoughts of God. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews realised this when he wrote, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

Further instruction regarding the feast of tabernacles is given in the closing verses of the chapter. In verse 39 it is connected with the ingathering of the fruit of the land. What a day will that be when, regathered to their own promised land, Israel will enjoy God's bountiful provision, feeding on the produce of a land from which the curse has been removed, and resting before God in the knowledge of His goodness.

But Israel are not only to rest; they are to rejoice before the LORD during the whole period of the feast, that is for the whole Millennial age. Their joy is connected with the trees with which they celebrate the feast, and with which they doubtless made their booths in which to dwell.

Their dwellings were to be made of goodly or beautiful trees. It was thus that God ever beheld the abodes of His people, for Balaam, beholding them with "The vision of the Almighty," was compelled to say, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" (Numbers 24:4, 5). The fragrance and beauty that marked the dwellings of God's people of old in this gladsome feast will assuredly characterize them in the coming day. And should not the assemblies of God have the same features now? What moral beauty should mark the comings together of the saints! Such gatherings are not for the display of the flesh or anything that belongs to the natural man, but for the setting forth of the beautiful traits of Christ.

Palm branches are specially named, and this tree is connected with righteousness in Scripture, for we read in Jeremiah 10:5, "They are upright as the palm tree," and in Psalm 92:12, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree." During the reign of Christ on earth, righteousness will prevail; it will not only be manifest in all the dwellings of Israel, but will pervade the whole kingdom of the Son of Man. The world is not marked by righteousness today; but righteousness is to mark the people of God in all their ways, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). If righteousness is not found in the assembly today, where else on earth will it be found? Every judgment that is formed and pronounced, and every action, should bear the upright feature of the palm tree. The walls and doors of Solomon's temple were carved with palm trees, and these will also be carved in the temple of the coming day, as recorded in Ezekiel 40 and 41

The boughs of thick or leafy trees formed part of the tabernacles of Israel. Thickness portrays strength, and leafy trees afford shade and comfort. Our strength comes from God, we are to be "Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power" (Col. 1:11). Moral strength comes through communion with God, by feeding upon Christ through His word. The assembly should be a place where saints find shelter and comfort; where they are made strong in divine grace, the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Although the Israelites in captivity hung their harps on the willows, this tree does not necessarily speak of sorrow, for in Isaiah 44 we read, "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine off-spring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses" (Isa. 44:3, 4). Here the willow is taken to symbolize prosperity that comes from God's blessing. What blessing will come to God's earthly people in the days foretold in this chapter, and in the passage quoted from Isaiah! And should not the blessing of God be found in the church now? Indeed, the assembly is the place where the blessings and privileges of God's providing are known and enjoyed as no-where else.

The feast of tabernacles was pre-eminently a time of rejoicing, but the only time we actually read of its celebration in the Old Testament is in Ezra 3:4, after the remnant had returned from captivity. There was no true joy for those held in bondage under the law; but under the New Covenant Israel will truly rejoice when restored to their land, and dwelling securely before Jehovah in rest and peace.

In the New Testament, it is recorded, "Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand " (John 7:2). Because of the low moral state of the people, the feast had lost its character as a feast of Jehovah, and had degenerated into a feast of the Jews. How could there be real joy in the hearts of those who sought the life of the Son of God, and called Him a devil? Yet in the midst of such a scene, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

Those who believe in the Son of God receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, of which He speaks in this Scripture, and by the Spirit can enter into deeper joys than ever Israel will know on earth. Of this joy we read in John 15, where the Lord Jesus says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

Although the feast of tabernacles looks on to the joys of the coming day, Israel were to remember, while dwelling in their booths, all that God had done for them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. In the midst of their joy they were to consider the beginning of God's ways with them; how He had brought them from under the bondage of Egypt, and given them rest before Him, not in the stable dwellings of the land, but as strangers, passing on to the place where they should rest with Him in abiding joy. And is it not thus with us? In Ephesians ii, after speaking of the exceeding riches of God's grace, which will soon be displayed in those He has quickened, and made to sit down together in Christ in the heavenly places, it is written "Wherefore remember." We are not to forget the beginning of God's dealings with us while enjoying the fruits of His grace.
Wm. C. Reid.