T. H. Reynolds.
Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 1.
It is very blessed when the soul, delivered from its own fears and anxieties, is free to apprehend the unfoldings of the thoughts of God Himself, by the Spirit, in the Word. To be occupied with the good pleasure of His will is an immense gain, because thus we can learn in some little measure, through grace, to answer to His mind concerning us. What a difference it must have produced in the heart of a godly Israelite, whether he regarded the times of assembling before the Lord mentioned in Leviticus 23 as feasts of Jehovah, or whether they sank in his estimation to his own level, and so were regarded merely as feasts of the Jews (John 5:1, John 6:4, John 7:2); whether they were moments which told of the delight of their God in gathering His people round Himself in connection with the special dealings of His own grace with them, as the prodigal found himself in the joy of the father's house, or whether, like the elder son, their own joy, characterized by the self within, and a kid to make merry with their friends, had possession of their hearts. We may well pause to ask ourselves whether we apprehend these outgoings of the heart of our God, made known to us in Him who came to us in a manger that He might be with its in humiliation, who spoke of them in the parables of Luke 15, who gathered the repentant remnant of Israel around Himself, and drew publicans and sinners by the attractions of His grace, who as the lifted up Son of man now draws all men to Him, and who is waiting to gather us together to Himself in the clouds according to His own word - "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
These times which Jehovah called "my feasts" moments which foreshadowed the fuller revelation made to us in such words as "let us eat and be merry" - were seven. They were holy convocations, holy seasons of the calling together of the people of God; but of these there were three which held the principal place, while the others may be regarded more as accessories to them. They were the passover, the feast of weeks or Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles. At these three feasts the people were convoked and assembled before Jehovah on certain known grounds. With respect to Israel, the passover, with its accompanying feast of unleavened bread, told of their redemption from Egypt on the ground of the blood which sheltered them from judgment. (Ex. 12:42, Ex. 13:9, 16; Deut. 16:1-3.) Pentecost, with the previous waving of the sheaf of first-fruits, spoke altogether of a new ground of assembling, of God's harvest time begun after the corn of wheat had fallen into the ground and died; while the feast of tabernacles was a feast of ingathering consequent on the trumpet summons on the first day of the seventh month, followed by the solemn day of affliction and atonement on the tenth.
While we have noticed that the first and leading thought in these feasts is that the Lord called the people around Himself in the delight of His own heart, yet on their part these times were to be characterized, secondly, by an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Details of these offerings are given in Num. 28, 29. They were thus seasons of approach to God in holy solemnity when they were before Him on special grounds, but in all the value of the sweet savour of the appointed offerings. Thirdly, in Deut. 16 we are further told in connection with these three feasts of the state of heart and conduct which befitted them in the worship on these occasions. Let us note then these three points which we may not disregard, though one may be more prominently before us at any given moment than another; viz., the varied grounds on which it pleases God to gather a people around Himself. This we have in our present chapter; then that part in their worship which is specially for the Lord. "My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour" (a savour of rest; marg., compare Zeph. 3:17) "unto me." This is mentioned here, but fully developed in Num. 28, 29; and lastly, the worship as it affected their own souls in connection with the special ground on which they were gathered before the Lord in each feast. At the passover they were to turn in the morning and go unto their tents; then they were to eat the bread of affliction for seven days. At Pentecost they came with a tribute of a freewill-offering of their hand according as the Lord had blessed them, and to rejoice before the Lord; and at the feast of tabernacles they were to rejoice in their feast, because they were blessed in their increase, and in all the work of their hands. What is figured by the passover eternally abides as the first ground on which God could gather a people around Himself. The passage of the Red Sea was the power, the means by which He brought them to Himself on the ground of the sheltering blood of the passover Lamb. There was no memorial feast kept of the passage of the sea. They themselves as a delivered people were the memorial of that. It was the passover which was celebrated as a night much to be remembered with its feast of unleavened bread. There could have been no succeeding ground on which to be gathered apart from the redemption by blood figured in the passover. The Pentecostal ground of gathering, and the subsequent convocation of the great congregation when they will "joy before thee as in the joy of harvest," are as added stories to the foundation work of redemption by the blood of the cross.
It must also be remembered that these are "seasons" (Lev. 23:4), and therefore connected with the ways of God, and not with His eternal counsels, though these may be shared, as they certainly will, by those gathered on Pentecostal ground. Still the point before us in this chapter is the development in the ways of God of the successive grounds of convocation; for they reach from the first redemption out of Egypt to the full gathering of the peoples to Shiloh in millennial days, though Israel will then have a joy peculiarly their own, when their long wilderness - history of sorrow shall have closed in a sabbath of rest.
We need not ask on which of these grounds God has gathered the saints at this time; for surely we know well that the day of Pentecost has fully come, while Israel's repentance and subsequent rest and joy are still future. But we may well ask ourselves whether we apprehend this Pentecostal ground on which God is now gathering, according to the desires of His own heart.
We have already noticed that the waving of the sheaf of first-fruits was a prelude to the feast of weeks, and that it was the beginning of God's harvest time in the land of promise; nor could any of the fruits of the land be enjoyed until it and its accompanying offering had been presented. It is evident that we are altogether on new ground here. In the passover feast they were gathered on the ground of redemption, but that could take place in the wilderness. (Num. 9.) The waving too of the Levites (Num. 8:11, margin), as a wave-offering before the Lord by Aaron for service, was on the same ground. (vv. 16, 17.) But in the wave sheaf, man is presented to God, not for service in a worldly sanctuary, but in a wholly new way, as an offering to God in resurrection. The sheaf was waved on the morrow after the sabbath, even as "Christ, the first-fruits," rose from the dead on the morning following the sabbath - the morning of the week's first day. The Pentecostal ground of convocation must accordingly be resurrection ground. God's gathering a people round Himself in the present time is based upon the wondrous truth, that He who was and is always the object of eternal favour, in grace knew the hiding of God's face and tasted death, that, having thus gone into the place of distance which was ours, He might bring us in the power of resurrection into that wondrous place of nearness and acceptance in which He now is as the blessed risen Man, with His God and Father. Aaron therefore had to "wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you," or more correctly, "for your acceptance." We have thus a new place of acceptance in resurrection brought in, and on the ground of this the assembling at Pentecost takes place, for the fifty days were reckoned from the waving of the sheaf. The new meat-offering then presented is said (Num. 28:26) to be brought "in the day of the first-fruits." It is called new, because no such meat-offering had before been presented to God. A meat-offering with leaven in it had never before been offered. The Levites had indeed been waved before the Lord and given to Aaron and his sons for service; but that was not on resurrection ground, nor was it exactly the presentation of man to God, but of his service based on redemption. But now that it is the day of the first-fruits, and the wave sheaf has been offered for our acceptance - the day of Pentecost being fully come - this new ground of God's gathering around Himself is disclosed, and men having sin in them are shown to be accepted in Christ's acceptance by the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them. When the tabernacle of boards and curtains was set up, the glory of the Lord filled and took possession of it. Now men assembled on the ground of resurrection are taken possession of and sealed by the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:2-4.) Thus God has a new meat-offering for Himself and His people gathered round Him as "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" (James 1:18), according to His own counsel. The loaves baken with leaven are "first-fruits unto the Lord." Will the reader note this? These are firstfruits of His creatures - loaves, the first-fruit produce of His land. The blessed Lord even when on earth was "the Son of Man who is in heaven;" and as the first man is out of the earth made of dust, so the second Man is out of heaven. But further, as is the heavenly One, so are the heavenly ones - these first-fruits of His creatures, though there be leaven in them, are of the same order as the wave sheaf, they are the produce of His land.
We have remarked that, besides each feast having a special ground on which the people were assembled, in this case the waving of the two loaves each had also its accompanying worship. With the wave sheaf there was simply a burnt-offering to the Lord with its meat-offering and drink-offering, but though the loaves are of the same order, yet, leaven being present, a sin-offering was needed, because the soul can only enjoy this blessed position of acceptance truly as it enters into the fact that sin - my sin, for I am a sinner - has been dealt with by God in the person of Jesus. Here also there are peace-offerings, not with the wave sheaf, where the worshipper is occupied with what Christ is to God as an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour. At Pentecost there is the joy of communion; we taste in spirit of the joy that can say, "Let us eat and be merry." This joy is more fully developed in Deut. 16. They were to keep the feast with a tribute of a freewill-offering of their hand which they were to give "according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee." This connects the saints of this Pentecostal period with Eph. 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." As the soul enters into these blessings so it rejoices before the Lord, and renders the worship of a willing heart. If the Israelite's blessings were supplied from "a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills," the saint now can say of the heavenly city of God, "All my springs are in thee." The Spirit of God is come to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us. "All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you."
Who shall to me that joy
Of saint-thronged courts declare?
What eternal springs are there! They are ours, though we taste them so feebly. Yes, they are ours - though we were bondmen in Egypt. As we remember this, do we not say that it is all "to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved"? This contrast between being bondmen in Egypt and the blessings enjoyed in the land is vividly portrayed in Eph. 2:1-4: "And you . . . dead in trespasses and sins. But God, who is rich in mercy . . . hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ." It was a marvel of grace that, consequent on the death of Christ, a thief could go from the depth of human degradation to be "with me in paradise;" but now in resurrection we are brought into the acceptance in which Christ is before God. One more contrast may serve to show what the present favour is in which the saints stand in this Pentecostal period. Ere Israel can enjoy the blessing which is peculiarly theirs, and which is figured by the feast of tabernacles, they will have to pass through that character of the day of atonement which is spoken of in Lev. 23 - a special moment of affliction of soul. It is doubtless more or less true in the history of every awakened soul; but we are now speaking of its dispensational import. It will be the moment spoken of in Zech. 12 - "And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him;" when they will mourn "every family apart, and their wives apart;" when "whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people."
Here we have the effect of looking on Him whom they have pierced. It is the result of their rejection of grace. Contrast this with the moment when He, who knew the forsaking of God and those unutterable depths of anguish consequent thereon, was heard from the horns of the unicorns. (Ps. 22:21.) At once He says, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee." This is not the same as the whole land mourning. Consequently, when, on the evening of the first day of the week, He stood in the midst of the disciples, and spake peace to them, and then as the pierced One showed to them His hands and His side, we read, "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." This is the special grace and joy of the Pentecostal time, the blessing of those who have not seen, and yet have believed. No doubt, as we have said, the individual passes through more or less of affliction of soul ere it reads its title to peace in the blood of the Lamb, and it should be so. But the dispensational grace of this period has its own character, and according to its own riches reveals the favour into which He who suffered could bring those whom He calls His brethren with Himself after He had been heard from the horns of the unicorns.
This feast then is indeed a holy convocation to us, a day of worship as the Lord hath blessed us, and of rejoicing before Him. Israel will wait for their moment of blessing until the harvest is gathered in, and the vintage trodden. It is our privilege to keep this Pentecostal era with the joy of a worship which Christ Himself leads, as in grace He gives us to enter into the sense of being blessed in the springing wells of eternal life, the heavenly things brought to us by the Holy Ghost sent down by an exalted and glorified Christ. T. H. Reynolds.