Lev_23:23-25. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, In the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein; but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.
THE ordinances of the Mosaic law, though dark in themselves, are, for the most part, rendered luminous by the Gospel: their true meaning is opened to us by inspired expositors; and little room is left for the exercise of fancy or conjecture. This however is not universally the case: the ordinance before us is a remarkable exception to the general rule: Moses himself does not inform us on what occasion, or for what particular end it was appointed: nor do the New-Testament writers give us any explanation of the subject. But as it was one of the great annual feasts among the Jews, it must of necessity be instructive. We shall endeavour therefore to search out the meaning as well as we can; and to shew,
For what end this feast was instituted—
Some have referred it to the blowing of the trumpet on Mount Sinai: and others have supposed that it referred to all the different occasions whereon the trumpet was blown. But the former of these does not appear a proper foundation for a joyful feast; (when it made all Israel, not excepting Moses himself, to “tremble and quake:”) and the latter opinion refutes itself: for if they were used on a variety of occasions, as the summoning of the people to the tabernacle, the directing of them in their journeys, the stirring of them up against their enemies, and the proclaiming of the year of jubilee, it is reasonable to suppose, that the appointment of a feast, called the feast of trumpets, was for some special and peculiar purpose. Accordingly, though the purpose is not specified, we may form a good judgment respecting it, from the peculiar day on which it was to be observed. That which in our text is called the seventh mouth, had been always deemed the first month of the year; but when God brought his people out of Egypt, he ordered them, in remembrance of that event, to reckon their year differently, and to begin it in the spring, instead of the autumn [Note: Exo_12:2.]. Still however, in their civil and political matters, they retained the original mode of reckoning; and, except in their ecclesiastical concerns, this continued to be the first month in the year. This day then was the first day in the new year; and the feast of trumpets was to them “a memorial;” a memorial of mercies received, and of mercies promised:
Of mercies received—
[It is possible that the creation of the world, which was supposed to have been in the autumn, (when so many of the fruits are ripe,) was then particularly commemorated. But we apprehend that the mercies of the preceding year were then reviewed; and grateful acknowledgments were made to God for them. This seems to be a fit employment for the commencement of a new year; and every succeeding year must of necessity bring with it many renewed occasions for praise and thanksgiving. Even though the nation should have been visited with judgments, still those judgments are so disproportioned to men’s ill desert, and are always blended with so many mercies, that there could not fail of being always abundant reason for joy and gratitude.
The blowing of the trumpets would awaken the attention of the people to the duties of the day, and bring to their recollection some at least of those mercies, which they were now called upon to acknowledge.]
Of mercies promised—
[In this sense the term “memorial” is often used in Scripture. The stones on Aaron’s breast-plate were a “memorial,” to remind the people, that God regarded them as his peculiar care, and bore them upon his heart [Note: Exo_28:12; Exo_28:29.]. The atonement-money, which was to be paid on numbering the people, was also a “memorial” of the security which was assured to them under God’s protecting hand [Note: Exo_30:16.]. The frankincense which from week to week was put upon the shew-bread [Note: Lev_24:7.], was of a similar nature; for whilst it reminded God of his people and their necessities, it was a pledge to them that he would supply their wants. Moreover, the Psalmist, expressly referring to this feast, says, “it was ordained for a testimony [Note: Psa_81:1-5. Comp. also Num_10:9-10.].” Now when this “memorial” sounded in their ears, the various temporal mercies which they would need, would of course occur to their minds. But there were spiritual blessings, which probably came but little into the contemplation of the people, which yet were of principal importance in the sight of God, and were particularly shadowed forth on this occasion; I mean, the prosperity of Zion, and the enlargement of the Church of Christ.
That this was intended, an inspired Apostle assures us; for speaking of this very feast amongst others, he says, “Which things are a shadow of good things; but the body is of Christ [Note: Col_2:16-17.].”
The language used in reference to the Gospel, strongly confirms this truth. It is emphatically called, “the joyful sound;” and they who preach it are said, to “lift up their voice as a trumpet:” and when the fulness of time shall come for the universal establishment of Christ’s kingdom in the world, the sound of this trumpet shall be heard to the remotest corners of the earth, and all, from the least even to the greatest, shall come up to his temple. Even “Assyria and Egypt,” the most determined enemies of God’s people, shall be stirred up by it to “come and worship in the holy mount in Jerusalem [Note: Isa_27:13. Mark this passage.].”
Such a prospect was a solid ground of joy. We rejoice in the partial accomplishment of this event that has already taken place: and we look forward with joy to its full and final accomplishment.]
Let us proceed to consider—
In what manner it was to be observed—
The three great feasts, the Passover, the feast of Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles, were greater than this; because, on them, all the males were required to assemble at Jerusalem: but next to them was the feast of trumpets. It was more holy than a common Sabbath; because no servile work at all might be done on this day; whereas on common Sabbaths an exception was made for preparing their necessary provision. Moreover on this day they were to be fully occupied in offering sacrifices to God. Besides the daily sacrifices, and those appointed at the beginning of every month, there were many peculiar to this occasion: and an express order was made, that neither the daily nor monthly offerings should be superseded, but that those for this day should be presented in addition to all the others [Note: Num_29:1-6.].
Now from this feast, so peculiarly prefiguring the Gospel, and being observed with such extraordinary strictness, we may learn,
The scope and tendency of the Gospel—
[When it reaches the ears and hearts of men, it calls them from the world to serve and delight in God, and that without intermission, from the morning to the evening of their lives. Not that it forbids all servile work; on the contrary, it requires “every man to abide in the calling wherein he is called,” and to fulfil the duties of his station with assiduity: but, while it leaves our hands at liberty, it forbids that our hearts should be enslaved: they must be reserved for God, and fixed on him alone. The one occupation of our lives must be to offer to him the sacrifices of prayer and praise [Note: Heb_13:15.]: “Rejoice in the Lord always,” says the Apostle, “and again I say, Rejoice.” Every blast of the trumpet should remind us of the infinite obligations conferred upon us, and of the assurances which God has given us of final and everlasting happiness. It is not a deliverance from temporal bondage, or victory over earthly enemies, that we have to rejoice in, but in deliverance from the wrath of God, and in victory over sin and Satan, death and hell. All this, too, is given us, not by a mere exertion of God’s power, but by the death of his Son, and the influences of his Spirit. Shall not we then rejoice? Again I say, that the Gospel trumpet sounds these things in our ears continually: and therefore we should keep throughout our whole lives a feast unto the Lord.]
The duty of those who embrace it—
[We have already seen what abstraction from the world. and what devotedness to God, were required of the Jews on that day. If they then, who had only the shadow of heavenly things, were to serve God in this manner, how ought we, who enjoy the substance! Surely we should serve him without grudging, without weariness, and without distraction. If they grudged their numerous and costly sacrifices, or were weary of their long and lifeless services, or had their minds diverted from these poor and “beggarly elements,” we should not wonder at it: their very feasts, though suited to the ends for which they were appointed, were burthensome in the extreme. But ours is a spiritual service. True, it may require some sacrifices; but none that are worthy of a thought, when we consider for whom they are made. As for sin, the mortifying of that should be deemed no sacrifice at all: it is rather like the removal of a leprosy, or the healing of a wound. As for time, or interest, there is nothing to be sacrificed in relation to these, that will not be repaid an hundred-fold even in this life, and with everlasting life in the world to come. And, if we engage heartily in the Lord’s service, we shall find, that the more we are employed in it, the more delightful it will be: it is wearisome only to those who are formal and hypocritical in their duties. Doubtless “the flesh will often evince its weakness, even when the spirit is most willing:” but the more we seek to rejoice in God, the more we shall rejoice in God. Let us be on our guard against those worldly cares or pleasures that are apt to divert the mind from its proper duties. St. Paul particularly tells us, that “he would have us without carefulness;” and recommends us so to order our matters, that we may “attend upon the Lord without distraction [Note: 1Co_7:35.].” These things then are our duty: duty, do I say? they are our privilege, our highest privilege. So David thought, when he said, “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance: in thy name shall they rejoice all the day; and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted [Note: Psa_89:15-16.].”]