Numbers 27, 36.
A beautiful illustration of the ways of God with His people - of His readiness to meet their every need - is found in the combination of these two chapters. In the first, the daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses with a complaint. Their father had died leaving no son, and they asked, "Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us, therefore, a possession among the brethren of our father." (Num. 27:4.) Up to this time there had been no provision for such a case. The son or sons were to inherit the patrimony, but nothing had been said concerning daughters where there were no sons. Moses did not act upon his own view of the case, nor upon what others might deem fair and equitable principles, but, owning that he had of himself no wisdom, he laid the matter before the Lord. Would that we all might follow his example when we fail to discover the mind of God in any special perplexity. The Lord vouchsafed an answer immediately, saying, "The daughters of Zelophehad speak right;" and He directed Moses to "give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren," taking occasion at the same time to announce a statute of judgment for the children of Israel upon every such case that might arise.
Passing now to Numbers 36 we find that another perplexity sprang out of the settlement of this question. The chief of the families of the children of Gilead come in this instance to Moses. Their concern was for the inheritance of the tribe; for if these daughters of Zelophehad "be married," they say, "to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance;" and furthermore, they proceed to say, when the jubilee arrives, the inheritance, so taken away, will be finally added to that of the tribe into which these women had married. Once again, Moses receives directions from Jehovah, who commands that the daughters of Zelophehad shall marry "to whom they think best," only it must be to those of their own tribe; and in this way was the difficulty, both on the present occasion and for all future time, completely removed.
There are some important principles connected with these histories worthy of indication. The first is obvious; viz., that nothing in relation to the people of God can be settled by human wisdom. Every difficulty or perplexity must be laid before the Lord. The second is, that if we lack wisdom the Lord is ever ready to give, and to give liberally. Nothing that affects the welfare of His people is too trivial to bring before Him; and for us to attempt to act, unless we have His mind, is to usurp His place. Then, thirdly, observe that the Lord did not anticipate the difficulty. He knew it would arise, but He waited until His servant brought it to Him before He gave His mind in the matter; He foresaw the second question equally with the first, but He would have His people in constant dependence, and thus only gave the word for the moment - the wisdom as it was needed. In like manner, if we would be imitators of Him, we shall never seek to forestall a difficulty. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Lastly, it is beautiful to remark the ready obedience of all concerned to the word of the Lord. His word was all they craved, and obtaining it they yielded to it a willing subjection. The chief of the fathers of Gilead, the daughters of Zelophehad, and indeed the whole of Israel, obeyed the word of the Lord they had received through Moses. Truly the path of obedience is the only way of blessing!
The distinction between the "sheaf of the firstfruits" and the two wave loaves, which are also called firstfruits, is exceedingly beautiful. The former is Christ, for the priest was directed to "wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath" (the first day of the week) "the priest shall wave it." (vv. 10, 11.) Thus it is that Paul writes: "Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20) - the first sheaf to be waved before the Lord before the ingathering of the harvest. And of what a harvest is He, as the firstfruits, the pledge! Concerning Him in this character, another has written, "It" (His resurrection) "was the beginning of the true harvest - harvest gathered by power outside and beyond the natural life of the world. According to the Jewish law, nothing of the harvest could be touched before. Christ was the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. With this first of the firstfruits were offered sacrifices for a sweet savour, but not for sin. It is clear there was no need for it. It is Christ who has been offered to God, quite pure, and waved before God - placed fully before His eyes for us, as raised from the dead, the beginning of a new crop before God; man in a condition which not even innocent Adam was in, the man of God's counsels, the second man, the last Adam. Not all hanging on obedience, which might fail, and did; but, after God had been perfectly glorified in the place of sin, past death, past sin (for He died unto sin), past Satan's power, past judgment, and consequently by this, wholly out of the scene where responsible man had stood, on a totally new footing with God after His finished work, and God perfectly glorified. Such a work too as gave Him title to say, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again," and made it God's righteousness to set Him at His own right hand in glory.
Following upon this, they were to number fifty days unto the morrow after the sabbath, and offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord, composed of two wave loaves, of two tenth deals of fine flour, baleen with leaven, "the firstfruits unto the Lord." "It is no longer Christ here, but those who are His, the firstfruits of His creatures. (See James 1:18.) They are considered as being on earth, and leaven is found in them. Therefore, though offered to God, they were not burned as a sweet savour (Lev. 2:12), but with the loaves was offered a sin-offering, which answered by its efficacy to the leaven found in them. They are the saints of which Pentecost commenced the gathering."
Once more we find the expression firstfruits in the Scriptures. Of the hundred and forty-four thousand who will stand on Mount Sion with the Lamb (Rev. 14), it is said, "These were redeemed from among men, the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb." (v. 4.) These are the firstfruits of the earth, after the Church has been caught away to be with the Lord, and will be gathered from among the two tribes who will be in the land during the sway and power of antichrist. They will pass through the unequalled sorrow of those days (See Matt. 24:21, 22), and the Lord will give them a special place with Himself in the kingdom - they will follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. As the ingathering at Pentecost was the firstfruits of the church, these will be the firstfruits of the kingdom.
Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
These two scriptures, often classed together, are yet very different in their significance. The latter is plainly an exhortation: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." It is not, as the reader will observe, for every thing, but in every thing, give thanks. And there are few Christians who would not acknowledge, we will not say their obligation, but rather their privilege, to render thanksgiving to God in all their circumstances and trials. They may be passing through deep sorrows or severe sufferings, and yet, viewing these in the presence of God, they will find abundant cause for praise. Not only so, but, as the apostle here says, "it is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us." This puts the matter on another ground, revealing what is acceptable to God, and, if it may be so expressed, how grateful to Him are the thanksgivings of His people. Turning now to the former scripture, it will be as plainly seen that it is not an exhortation. Let the reader note well the context. We are bidden not to be "drunk with wine, wherein is excess," but to "be filled with the Spirit;" and then three things are indicated as the consequence. First, our hearts will be overflowing with praise, "speaking," as it is said, "to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" then we shall, besides this, be "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and, lastly, we shall be "submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God."
We are not then expected - and this is the point to be noticed - to give thanks always for all things, as a matter of subjection to the will of God, as in the case of giving thanks in everything; but the former of these two things will only flow out as fruit of being filled with the Spirit. If therefore we desire - and what believer would not desire to be in such a state? - to be giving thanks always for all things, we must first seek to be filled with the Spirit. Now it is precisely here that the difficulty meets us; for is it not true that few of us are willing to be so filled? For indeed it involves much, even the constant refusing of self, and the daily bearing of the cross - incessant watchfulness that we may not be drunk with wine, i.e., seeking to be exhilarated with any of the joys of earth; and ever bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. But He giveth more grace, and sufficient grace even for this; and surely none of us should have any lower object than this which the Word sets before us of being filled with the Spirit. What a change would be then wrought in our daily lives! and what power, too, would characterize our walk and service! Even, therefore, if we can already give thanks in everything, we should also seek grace to be in that state in which "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" would be its expression in the power of the Holy Ghost. E. D.