Much of the communion between the Lord and the people of Israel was kept up by the observance of the three yearly feasts which are described in this chapter – the Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Passover was to be observed in the month of Abib (around March or April), in remembrance of the night of the Lord’s wonderful deliverance of His people from Egyptian slavery. In this chapter, the Israelites were taught that they must sacrifice the Passover lamb at the place where the Lord would choose to be worshiped. By thus forbidding them to offer the lamb in the comfort of their own homes, away from the observation of the priests; the Lord ensured that they would not introduce foolish inventions, which He had not appointed, into this celebration. After the day of Passover, the people were to remain in the place of the Lord’s sanctuary for another seven days, in order to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which began immediately after Passover).
The Feast of Passover is one of the best pictures of Jesus that are found in the Old Testament. Paul makes mention of Christ, our Passover, being sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7); for He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) Who was slain (Rev. 5:8, 9) in order to redeem us by His blood from the sins that we were in slavery and bondage to – just as the Israelites were in slavery to the Egyptians. The Israelites were told to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorways of their homes, in order to be spared from the Lord’s destroying angel on that memorable night that the Egyptians’ firstborn perished; and in the same way, we find our safety and protection from the “destroying angel” of the Lord’s just judgment, by being covered “under the blood” of Christ, our Passover Lamb. He has already been sacrificed for us; and therefore, having participated in the blessed fruits of that sacrifice on our behalf, let us now keep the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” by living in holiness – free from the leaven of hypocrisy toward God and of malice toward our brethren, and with the unleavened bread of sincerity and love!
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first sheaf from the current crop of barley was harvested with great ceremony; and it was offered to the Lord as the firstfruits of the people’s crops. Fifty days after that offering of the firstfruits, the Israelites were to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, where they were to bring a freewill-offering to the Lord. Since this feast was a grateful acknowledgement of the goodness of God to them in the preservation of their crops until harvest-time, their offering was to be proportionate to the degree in which God had blessed each individual. This feast was to be carried on with great rejoicing for their blessings from the Lord. (And yes, it was on the Day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the twelve Apostles in Jerusalem, in Acts 2.)
In the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, the Israelites were to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. Numbers 29:12-38 provided detailed directions concerning all the sacrifices that the priests and Levites were to carry out during this feast. But this chapter focuses on the spiritual part of the service that the people were to concentrate on – holy joy before the Lord! This was greatly pleasing to God, and this entire feast was to be a picture of the perpetual duty of living life in the joy of the Gospel that brings us salvation! If those who were under the Law were required to rejoice before God, then how much more ought we – who are under the grace of the Gospel – make it our duty to rejoice in the Lord always? And when we rejoice in God ourselves, we should do all that we can to assist others to rejoice in Him also, by comforting the mourners and supplying those who are in need – just as the Israelites were to ensure that even the widows, fatherless, and foreigners would have reason to rejoice in the Lord with them during this time. We may be sure that all who make God their joy, may rejoice in hope – for He is faithful that has made promises to us!
Care was to be taken for the proper administration of justice among the Lord’s people. Controversies were to be resolved, the injured were to be righted, and the injurious were to be punished. When the Israelites came to the land of Canaan, they were to have judges and magistrates who sat in the gates of their cities and administered this justice. These magistrates were here given a command to adhere to the principles of justice, without having respect of persons. In addition, they were not to allow themselves to be bribed into injustice by receiving gifts that might be offered to them.
Great care was also to be taken to prevent any of the people from following the idolatrous customs of the heathen. For example, they were here told that they must not plant a grove or even a single tree near the Lord’s altar; for one of the traditions of the idolatrous heathen was to make their places of worship among groves of trees. Neither were God’s people permitted to set up any statue, image, or pillar to His honor; for nothing contradicts the Lord more, or tends to corrupt the minds of men more, than using an image to represent and worship that God Who is an almighty and eternal Spirit, and is present everywhere. Let us not forget to pray for grace to be kept from our natural tendencies to set up idols – under one form or another – in our own hearts!
Lord, we pray for grace to always remember the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ, our Passover; and we beseech Your Spirit to come down and revive our drooping and languishing hearts by the soul-strengthening communications of Your love! Amen.
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