Lev_23:15-17. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave-loaves, of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the first-fruits unto the Lord.
THERE is no blessing which is not enhanced by a sense of reconciliation and acceptance with God. An ungodly man has his very provisions cursed to him [Note: Deu_28:16-19.] ; whilst to the righteous “God hath given all things richly to enjoy.” Indeed, it is to present, no less than to future, happiness, that God calls his people. He bids us weep, it is true; but he no-where bids us to be always mourning: on the contrary, he commands us to “rejoice in him always, yea, to “rejoice evermore:” and assures us, that, though our “weeping may endure for a night, joy shall come in the morning.” We have this beautifully exemplified in the appointments under the law. One day in the year was appointed for national humiliation, namely, the day of atonement, wherein all were commanded to afflict their souls: but the very next day, and the whole week following it, was appointed for a feast [Note:, 6.] ; by which appointment it was clearly intimated, that they who had obtained reconciliation with God through the atonement of Christ, had reason to rejoice throughout the whole remainder of their lives.
The week succeeding the Passover was called “the feast of unleavened bread:” on the first day of which they were to present to God a sheaf of newly reaped barley; and, fifty days after that, two loaves of wheaten bread; both of them being the first-fruits, the one of the barley harvest, and the other of the wheat. Hence these two periods were called the feasts of “first fruits:” and the appointment of them may be considered in a three-fold view; as,
[The day on which the sheaf of barley was to be presented unto God, was that on which they had come out of Egypt: and it was to be kept in commemoration of that event; that, when they were enjoying the peaceful fruits of industry, they might call to mind the labour and travail they had endured in the land of their captivity.
The fiftieth day after that, was the day on which the law of God had been delivered to them from Mount Sinai. This was no less a mercy than the former: for whilst by the former they were rescued from bondage to men, by the latter they were brought into the service of God [Note: The two are spoken of precisely in this way, as equalled by each other, but by nothing else. Deu_4:32-35.].
Both of these events were to be remembered on the days thus set apart [Note: Deu_16:9; Deu_16:12.], in order that He who had done such great things for their bodies and their souls, might have the glory due unto his name.
And here we cannot but observe, how beneficial it is to the Church to have particular times set apart for the special remembrance of the various wonders of redemption. If indeed the observance of such institutions were required of us as necessary to salvation, or inculcated as contributing to work out for us a justifying righteousness, or represented as superseding the necessity of a more frequent remembrance of them, or enjoined, as Jeroboam’s was, in opposition to the commands of God [Note: 1Ki_12:33.], we should be ready to join with those who reprobate such appointments. But experience proves, that the appointment of seasons for the distinct consideration of particular subjects, has been productive of the greatest good; and that the more solemnly those seasons are devoted to the special purposes for which they are set apart, the more will humility, and every Christian grace, flourish in the soul. And, if the annual remembrance of an earthly deliverance was pleasing and acceptable to God, there can be no reasonable doubt, but that the annual commemoration of infinitely richer mercies (provided only that we guard against self-righteousness and superstition) must be pleasing to him also.]
But these feasts derived a still greater importance from being,
[Two of the greatest events which ever happened from the foundation of the world, and which are the source and warrant of all our hopes, occurred on the days appointed for these feasts, and were typically prefigured by them.
On the former of those days, that I mean on which the Israelites came out of their graves in Egypt, (which was the first-fruits of their deliverance, as the wave-sheaf was of the barley harvest,) Christ rose from the dead, and rose, not as an individual, but “as the first-fruits of them that slept [Note: 1Co_15:20.] ;” and has thereby assured to us the resurrection of all his people to a life of immortality and glory [Note: 1Co_15:21-23.].
On the latter of those clays, namely, the fiftieth day, on which the law was given, (which, like the first-fruits of the wheat harvest, was the pledge and earnest of those mercies which they were afterwards to enjoy under the immediate government of God,) on that day, I say, the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Apostles [Note: Act_2:1. “Pentecost” means the fiftieth day; for which, it is evident, the communication of this blessing was reserved: and it was communicated when that day “was fully come.”], who then “received the first-fruits of the Spirit [Note: Rom_8:23.].” As on that day God had proclaimed his law, so on that day he promulged his Gospel; and gathered to himself three thousand souls, who were the first-fruits of that glorious harvest [Note: Rev_14:4.], which shall in due time be reaped, when “all shall know the Lord from the least even to the greatest,” and “all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ.”
In these views the feasts of which we are speaking become exceedingly important. It is true, they were but shadows, and very obscure shadows too: but to us who have the substance, and on whom “the true light shineth,” they are worthy of most attentive consideration; as being the first rude drafts or models of that glorious edifice which we inhabit.]
But these feasts are of further use to us, as,
[There is not any thing which we are more interested to know than our obligations to God, and our consequent duty towards him: yet these are clearly and strongly represented to us in the ordinances before us.
Behold our obligations to God. In each of these feasts the first-fruits were “waved” before God [Note: 1, 17], in token that every earthly blessing was derived from him. This was done in the name of the whole congregation; so that, whatever diligence or skill any had used in the cultivation of their land, they did not arrogate any thing to themselves, but gave glory to Him “from whom alone proceeds every good and perfect gift.” Happy would it be for us, if we also learned this lesson, so as to have our minds duly impressed with the goodness of our God! — — —].
Corresponding with our obligations to God is our duty towards him. If we have received every thing from him, it is our bounden duty to devote every thing to him, and improve every thing for the honour of his name. And, as at the former of these feasts they offered only one sheaf, and one lamb, but at the latter they presented two loaves, and seven lambs [Note: 2, 18.], so, in proportion as God has multiplied his mercies towards us, we also should enlarge our exercises of gratitude, liberality, and devotion.
Shall these sentiments be thought an undue refinement on the subject before us? They are the very sentiments which God himself suggests in reference to these very institutions. We are expressly told in this view to honour him with all that we have, and all that we are. Have we property? “We must “honour the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase:” and, lest that should be thought likely to impoverish us, and it should be deemed advisable rather to gather in our harvest first, and then give him out of our abundance, he particularly guards us against any such covetous and distrustful thoughts, and tells us that a believing and thankful dedication of our first-fruits is the most likely way to ensure to ourselves an abundant harvest [Note: Pro_3:9-10.]. Alas! how melancholy it is that, when we are receiving so many harvests at God’s hands, not a few of us are found to grudge him even a sheaf!
But it is not our property only that we should devote to God: we should give him our whole selves. We are told that “God hath set apart him that is godly for himself [Note: Psa_4:3.],” exactly as he did the first-fruits of old, of which it would have been sacrilege to rob him: and every one that professes a hope in Christ is called upon to consider himself in that very view, namely, “as a kind of first-fruits of his creatures [Note: Jam_1:18.].” Yes, Beloved, “we are not our own; we are redeemed, and bought with a price: and therefore are bound to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his [Note: 1Co_6:19-20.].”
Only let these instructions be impressed upon our minds, and exemplified in our lives, and then we shall make the best possible improvement of these typical institutions. Yea, whether we contemplate the types or the things typified, the improvement of them must be the same. From the resurrection of Christ we must learn to rise again to newness of life; and from the outpouring of the Spirit we must learn to cherish and obey his sanctifying operations. Thus will both Law and Gospel be transcribed into our lives, and God be glorified in all his dispensations.]