In this chapter, we have the institution of the seven annual feasts that the Lord appointed for the Israelites to observe – some of which have already been mentioned in previous chapters. However, these feasts were not to take the place of the weekly Sabbath, which is spoken of in the opening verses. The sacred observance of one day in seven was instituted long before these other feasts; in fact, it was instituted at the time of the Creation of the world, when God’s people were to withdraw from all business of the world. One day in seven ought to still be kept holy to the Lord in every private home, by every family and individual – as well as by families and individuals gathered together in holy assemblies. The observance of the Lord’s Day in our dwellings is the beauty, strength, and safety of them; it sanctifies, builds up, and glorifies our homes.
The first feast in the Jewish calendar of holy-days was the Passover, which commemorated their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The slain lamb was the primary focus of this feast that symbolized our redemption from bondage to the hard taskmasters of sin and Satan. “Behold the Lamb of God!” is still the gracious cry that first reaches the sinner’s ear and heart. The Lord meets him with the Lamb – that is, His beloved Son. And out of the death of that Lamb, eternal life flows forth to all who trust in Jesus for salvation!
The feast of unleavened bread was intended to be a continuation of the same topics upon which the people had begun to meditate on the Passover-night. Whereas the Passover represented the cause of their deliverance from the grasp of Egypt, the unleavened bread represented the effects of that deliverance. To believers in Christ, the former exhibits the way of pardon; and the other exhibits fellowship of God, as well as the holiness which follows that pardon. During this seven-day-long feast, the Jews called to mind their hasty flight from Egypt – during which, they had not even had time to let their bread dough rise. But the Lord had a reason for ordaining that the people were forced to leave Egypt before leaven was put into their dough; for hereby He taught His people that a delivered and redeemed soul must shake off its former connection with pollution.
The feast of firstfruits was observed on second day of the feast of unleavened bread. A sheaf of barley was taken as a representative of the whole harvest; and the priest waved it before the Lord, along with the sacrifice of a lamb – a reminder that even thanksgiving cannot be accepted except through the blood of our Mediator. Until this was done, the people had no right to begin their harvest for themselves. The sheaf of barley symbolizes Christ – the firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20). Being in our own human nature, He rose as our Head; and His Resurrection is the pledge and promise of our own.
During the feast of Pentecost, 50 days after the feast of firstfruits, two loaves of leavened wheat bread were offered to the Lord. But what did they represent? It does not seem that they typified Christ Himself, for then there would have been no leaven in them. Rather, they represent something made out of wheat-seed. We remember that in John 12:24, Jesus referred to Himself as the kernel of wheat; and here we have a picture of that which was produced from that seed of wheat. The two wheat loaves represent the Church, which sprang from Him Who died.
The feast of trumpets opened the seventh month of the Jews’ calendar of holy-days. The blowing of the trumpets, which represented the proclamation of the Gospel, was a summons to the people to joy and gladness as they looked forward to the great Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the month. This was the day when the high priest would bring the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant. On this day, the people were to humble themselves and deny the appetites of the flesh, as a token of their sorrow for their sins they had committed. But after the high priest had completed his work inside the Tabernacle, their souls were bathed in the refreshment of pardon and a reconciled relationship with the Lord. Thanks be to the Lord Jesus, our Great High Priest, Whose blood has made atonement for our souls – bringing us back to a state of being “at-one” with God!
The feast of tabernacles (also called the feast of ingathering, after the harvest had been completed) was observed later in the seventh month, and it was a time of great joy for all the people. During this time, they “camped out” in tabernacles or booths made of tree branches – reminding them of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness, when they had the visible presence of their God with them in the pillar of cloud and fire. Not only did this feast represent our time of temporary sojourning as believers here on earth, but it also hinted at the time when our Lord Jesus – as our Emmanuel – “tabernacled” among men in human flesh (John 1:14). It is worth noting that according to John’s Gospel, it was on the last day of this feast that “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink!” (John 7:37)
Lord, may Your Holy Spirit take the things of Jesus in this chapter and show them unto us; and may we find cause to bless You for all the sweet memorials of our Savior that we find herein. Let us discover His glorious Person and righteousness, and we shall be truly happy. We beseech You, O Lord, to be the sum and substance of all our rejoicings here on earth, until the time shall come when we shall rejoice in the complete ingathering of Your people in our heavenly home! Amen.
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