The Feast and the Sabbath.

Besides what we have already been considering in connection with the consecration of the firstborn, the inspired history of the deliverance of the people of Israel from the land of Egypt furnishes other details as to holiness of position and of walk. We have considered what may be called the external side - that is to say, the sanctification of the person, of the whole being - of those who have been delivered by the power of God. We have now brought before us another side of the subject which is of deep importance for the conscience, and we shall see how Scripture presents the state of heart of those who are sanctified, and the manner in which God in His goodness produces this state according to His own nature, of which we are made partakers. This is absolutely necessary if there is to be true communion between Him and His redeemed. And this is what God seeks; His word is full of precious revelations connected with it. We might have thought that such communion was impossible between God and His creatures; but in His grace He shows us not only that He will have it so, but also the way in which it is to be realized and maintained. The blessed and wonderful consequence of redemption we shall find to be that God dwells in the midst of His people; that presupposes that sin is taken away righteously, so as to glorify God perfectly. We know that the precious blood of Christ is alone able to do this; but God gave many types of the one perfect sacrifice in the various offerings ordained for His people.

The blood sprinkled on the door-posts of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt must have already spoken to their consciences. It was not to deliver them from their bondage, or from the power of Pharaoh, but it showed them what was necessary to shelter them from God's judgment; for the first great point to be settled was their relationship with Him. He was come down to deliver them," and before Him and with Him they must stand.

If they entered as they were into judgment, there could be no more hope for them than for the Egyptians, for all were sinners; but God said, "When I see the blood I will pass over you."

The blood was God's provision to shelter them, "making atonement for the soul." It was His ordered way of delivering them from the judgment which fell on the Egyptians. And He would have them feel in the depths of their souls that their deliverance was wholly due to His direct intervention on their behalf.

To maintain in their hearts the constant remembrance of this, God ordained for them a solemn feast, to be kept from year to year, in the first month - the Passover on the fourteenth day - which was followed immediately by the feast of unleavened bread, which lasted for seven days. The meaning of the unleavened bread is given to us in the first epistle to the Corinthians. We will consider it presently. But for the moment let us look at another characteristic of this feast, one of the three special occasions on which all the males in Israel were ordered to appear before God. (Deut. 16:16.) It began and closed with a "holy convocation," or assembling of the people, on which days it was ordained that "no manner of work" was to be done. (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:5-8.) Now the divine thought in this rest comes out more clearly in connection with the sabbath instituted immediately after (Ex. 16), and carries us back to its origin after the work of creation was complete. (Compare Ex. 20:8-11.)

There must be rest of heart in order that communion may exist. This is even true in earthly circumstances and relationships. How much more, when it is a question of having to do with a righteous and holy God, and of drawing near to Him! The Lord said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28.) Let us then consider the place that "rest" was to have in the ordinances established of God for His redeemed people, and gather up the instruction contained in these days of "holy convocation," when all the people were to present themselves before God, and when every work of service was absolutely forbidden.

Complete rest characterized these days. Its moral importance is shown, as we have said, even more remarkably, shortly after the children of Israel left the land of Egypt. The provisions they had brought with them were then exhausted; and in the terrible desert of Sin, into which they had come, there was not the smallest resource for man; the flocks alone could find food there.

The people murmured against Moses, complaining that he had brought them into the wilderness to kill all the assembly with hunger. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass; that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily." And they did so. On the sixth day the Lord explained to them this double provision, saying, "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord; bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you, to be kept until the morning … Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none … So the people rested on the seventh day." (Ex. 16:4-30.) We find then that the "manna," the heavenly food with which God supplied His people to meet their daily need, was made subordinate to the "rest" which He ordained for them, and which surpassed every other consideration. The Lord says, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." (Mark 2:27.)

God, who was taking Israel for His peculiar people, was bringing them into relationship with Himself, according to the principles which He had established from the beginning. It is true indeed that the sabbath of rest thus instituted for man was without fruit for him; for sin, into which he had fallen, prevented his enjoyment of it. And unless God intervened in sovereign goodness, communion with Him had become an impossibility for man from that time forward; for communion is evidently based upon holiness; and so we read, "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." (Gen. 2:3; Exodus 20:11.) In order therefore to give His people the enjoyment of the forfeited sabbath, God must charge Himself with their sanctification. This is indeed just what we find (see Exodus 31:13): "Speak thou also unto the children of

Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." And this reminds us of what the prophet says to whom the word of the Lord came: "Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." (Ezek. 20:12.)

This shows us why the sabbath held such a prominent place in the institutions of the children of Israel, and why one of the ten commandments is specially devoted to the observance of this day. After the three first, which forbid the having or making any God but the Lord, or the taking of His name in vain, we come to the fourth, which runs thus: "Remember the sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the sabbath-day, and hallowed it." And elsewhere it is added: "Whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath-day, he shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17.) The sabbath was a perpetual sign between God and the children of Israel, and the rest was to be inviolable.

This rest was not a matter of choice, nor was it in any way dependant on human will. It was to be perfect, and the God of grace, who had prepared it for man, took upon himself to work out the sanctification, without which it would have been of no avail for sinful man. The sabbath was the continual remembrance of the accomplished work of the Creator, and in this fact we get the explanation of its moral character, as well as of its perfection. God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. He had ended His work, and He rested on the seventh day. God's sabbath is thus the expression of His complete satisfaction with a perfect scene, where nothing is lacking that could add to the happiness of those creatures to whom He grants the enjoyment of it all in communion with Himself.

Sin, however, in entering into the world, ruined everything, and prevented man's enjoying creation rest. But the rest in God's thought and purpose remains notwithstanding; for God has established it, and the day will come when man too will enjoy it with Him. God has shown us in the meanwhile, by His ways with the children of Israel, that the only possible ground on which man could enter into His rest in righteousness and holiness is that of accomplished redemption; and faith lays hold of this truth, and enjoys beforehand what will be realized in glory. Redemption and its consequences, according to God's purposes, have then to be maintained steadily before the soul, and this God did for Israel; first in connection with the passover, and then in a more direct way by the institution of the sabbath.*

* Observe too that the Psalms 93 - 101, which treat of the millennial reign of Christ, are introduced by the 92, of which the title is, "A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath-day."

Now all that happened to the Israelites was written for our instruction; their history abounds with figures of what ultimately concerns us. God would teach us the moral order of His ways, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6.) It is our duty to search the Scriptures, by the direction and light of the Holy Spirit, that we may lay hold of the thoughts of God in the things He has revealed. It is this moral sequence in truth that we need to lay hold of.

But we must not forget the "unleavened bread." 1 Cor. 5 gives us the full explanation of it. It is written: "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, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

The "unleavened bread" is then, first of all, an expression of what believers are before God by virtue of the work of Christ, the true paschal "Lamb," whose blood purifies from all sin. (John 1:29; 1 John 1:7.) It is said, "Ye are unleavened." That is the divine standing of the believer, the result of Christ's death; but then the conduct is to correspond in every particular with this perfect position in which God has placed us by. means of redemption. "Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth;" that is to say, let us walk before God in holiness - in a manner worthy of Him who has called us to His kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:12.) Therefore everything that is not in accordance with the truth of God must be "put away," as the Israelites, on pain of death, were to put away all leaven from their houses. God requires a perfectly holy walk.

This truth is clearly set forth in the history of the Israelites, "who were sanctified" to hear the law of God, the ten commandments, proclaimed on the top of mount Sinai; even the mountain was sanctified. (Ex. 19:10, 14, 22, 23.) The priests who approached God were sanctified in an especial manner; for God said, "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me." (Ex. 29; Lev. 8:10:3.) And the law was summed up thus: "Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy." (Ex. 22:31; Lev. 19:2, etc.) This passage is quoted and applied to Christians. (1 Peter 1 16.)

Now faith accepts this established relation with God, as we see in the song of the Israelites after their deliverance from Egypt, on the other side of the Red Sea. They say, "Who is like unto thee, O Lord? … who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? … Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation." (Ex. 15:11, 13.)

Salvation is only of God. He leads us by the work of Christ into close relationship with Himself, giving us free access into His very presence by the blood of Christ. By His love He removes every fear, that love being made known on the ground of righteousness; and He gives us a good conscience by the assurance that all our sins are forgiven on account of the sacrifice which Christ has offered. (Heb. 10:2, 19, 22; 9:26.) Christ has entered into heaven itself, having obtained "eternal redemption" for us; and there it is that the believer will enjoy fully and for ever that sabbath rest* which remains for the people of God. (Heb. 9:12, 4:9.) It will be a scene of absolute perfection and perfect happiness, where God Himself will be satisfied in every way, and will lead His people into participation with His own joy in communion with Himself. One of the operations of the Holy Spirit is to cause us to enter by faith even now into the enjoyment of these things, that our hearts may overflow with joy, and that we may have strength and courage for walking in holiness with God.

We have other things to examine in the types as to the conditions upon which communion can exist when God begins to dwell amongst men. We reserve them for another article, in which we shall consider the tabernacle and the altar. W. J. Lowe.