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Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

Part 10 out of 12

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therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with
the vail. 4. And thou shalt bring in the table, and set
in order the things that are to be set in order upon it;
and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the
lamps thereof. 5. And thou shalt set the altar of gold
for the incense before the ark of the testimony, and put
the hanging of the door to the tabernacle. 6. And thou
shalt set the altar of the burnt offering before the
door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.
7. And thou shalt set the laver between the tent of the
congregation and the altar, and shalt put water therein.
8. And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang
up the hanging at the court gate. 9. And thou shalt take
the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all
that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels
thereof: and it shall be holy. 10. And thou shalt anoint
the altar of the burnt offering, and all his vessels,
and sanctify the altar: and it shall be an altar most
holy. 11. And thou shalt anoint the laver and his foot,
and sanctify it. 12. And thou shalt bring Aaron and his
sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,
and wash them with water. 13. And thou shalt put upon
Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify
him; that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.
14. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with
coats: 15. And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst
anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in
the priest's office; for their anointing shall surely
be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.
16. Thus did Moses: according to all that the Lord
commanded him, so did he.'--EXODUS xl. 1-16.

The Exodus began on the night after the fourteenth day of the first
month. The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first
month; that is, one year, less a fortnight, after the Exodus. Exodus
xix. 1 shows that the march to Sinai took nearly three months; and
if to this we add the eighty days of Moses' seclusion on the
mountain, we get about six months as occupied in preparing the
materials for the Tabernacle. 'Setting it up' was a short process,
done in a day. The time specified was ample to get ready a wooden
framework of small dimensions, with some curtains and coverings of
woven stuffs. What a glad stir there would be in the camp on that
New Year's day, when the visible token of God's dwelling in its
midst first stood there! Our present purpose is simply to try to
bring out the meaning of the Tabernacle and its furniture. It was
both a symbol and a type; that is, it expressed in material form
certain great religious needs and truths; and, just because it did
so, it pointed onwards to the full expression and satisfaction of
these in Christ Jesus and His gifts. In other words, it was a
parable of the requisites for, and the blessings of, communion with

Note, then, first, the general lesson of the Tabernacle as a whole.
Its name declares its meaning, 'the tent of meeting' (Rev. Ver.). It
was the meeting-place of God with man, as the name is explained in
Exodus xxix. 42, 'where I will meet with you, to speak there unto
thee.' It is also named simply 'the dwelling'; that is, of God. It
was pitched in the midst of the camp, like the tent of the king with
his subjects clustered round him. Other nations had temples, like
the solemn structures of Egypt; but this slight, movable sanctuary
was a new thing, and spoke of the continual presence of Israel's
God, and of His loving condescension in sharing their wandering
lives, and, like them, dwelling 'within curtains.' It was a visible
representation of a spiritual fact for the then present; it was a
parable of the inmost reality of communion between man and God; and
it was, therefore, a prophecy both of the full realisation of His
presence among men, in the temple of Christ's body, and of the yet
future communion of Heaven, which is set before us by the 'great
voice ... saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men.'

The threefold division into court of the worshippers, holy place for
the priests, and holiest of all, was not peculiar to the Tabernacle.
It signifies the separation which, after all nearness, must still
exist. God is unrevealed after all revelation; afar off, however
near; shrouded in the utter darkness of the inmost shrine, and only
approached by the priestly intercessor with the blood of the
sacrifice. Like all the other arrangements of the Sanctuary, the
division of its parts declares a permanent truth, which has
impressed itself on the worship of all nations; and it reveals God's
way of meeting the need by outward rites for the then present, and
by the mediation of the great High-Priest in the time to come, whose
death rent the veil, and whose life will, one day, make the holiest
place in the heavens patent to our feet.

The enumeration of the furniture of the Tabernacle starts from the
innermost shrine, and goes outward. It was fit that it should begin
with God's special abode. The 'holy of holies' was a tiny chamber,
closed in from light, the form, dimensions, materials, and furniture
of which were all significant. It measured ten cubits, or fifteen
feet, every way, thereby expressing, in its cubical form and in the
predominance of the number ten, stability and completeness. It will
be remembered that the same cubical form is given to the heavenly
city, in the Apocalypse, for the same reason. There, in the thick
darkness, unseen by mortals except for the one approach of the high-
priest on the day of atonement, dwelt the 'glory' which made light
in the darkness, and flashed on the gold which covered all things in
the small shrine.

Our lesson does not speak of cherubim or mercy-seat, but specifies
only the ark of the testimony. This was a small chest of acacia
wood, overlaid with gold, and containing the two tables of the law,
which were called the testimony, as bearing witness to Israel of
God's will concerning their duty, and as therein bearing witness,
too, of what He is. Nor must the other part of the witness-bearing
of the law be left out of view,--that it testifies against the
transgressors of itself. The ark was the centre-point of the divine
revelation, the very throne of God; and it is profoundly significant
that its sole contents should be the tables of stone. Egyptian arks
contained symbols of their gods, degrading, bestial, and often
impure; but the true revelation was a revelation, to the moral
sense, of a Being who loves righteousness. Other faiths had their
mysteries, whispered in the inmost shrine, which shunned the light
of the outer courts; but here the revelation within the veil was the
same as that spoken on the house-tops. Our lesson does not refer to
the 'mercy seat,' which covered the ark above, and spoke the need
for, and the provision of, a means whereby the witness of the law
against the worshipper's sins should be, as it were, hid from the
face of the enthroned God. The veil which is referred to in verse 3
was that which hung between the holy of holies and the holy place.
It did not 'cover the ark,' as the Authorised Version unfortunately
renders, but 'screened' it, as the Revised Version correctly gives
it. It blazed with colour and embroidered figures of cherubim. No
doubt, the colours were symbolical; but it is fancy, rather than
interpretation, which seeks meanings beyond splendour in the blue
and purple and crimson and white which were blended in its gorgeous
folds. What is it which hangs, in ever-shifting hues, between man
and God? The veil of creation, embroidered by His own hand with
beauty and life, which are symbolised in the cherubim, the types of
the animate creation. The two divisions of the Tabernacle, thus
separated by the veil, correspond to earth and heaven; and that
application of the symbol is certainly intended, though not

We step, then, from the mystery of the inner shrine out to the
comparatively inferior sacredness of the 'holy place,' daily trodden
by the priests. Three articles stand in it: the table for the so-
called shew-bread, the great lampstand, and the golden altar of
incense. Of these, the altar was in the midst, right in the path to
the holiest place; and on the right, looking to the veil, the table
of shew-bread; while on the left was the lampstand. These three
pieces of furniture were intimately connected with each other, and
represented various aspects of the spiritual character of true
worshippers. The holy place was eminently the people's, just as the
most holy place was eminently God's. True, only the priests entered
it; but they did so on behalf of the nation. We may expect,
therefore, to find special reference to the human side of worship in
its equipments; and we do find it. Of the three articles, the altar
of incense was in idea, as in locality, the centre; and we consider
it first, though it stands last in our list, suggesting that, in
coming from the most holy place, the other two would be first
encountered. The full details of its construction and use are found
in Exodus xxx. Twice a day sweet incense was burned on it, and no
other kind of sacrifice was permitted; but once a year it was
sprinkled, by the high priest, with expiatory blood. The meaning is
obvious. The symbolism of incense as representing prayer in frequent
in Scripture, and most natural. What could more beautifully express
the upward aspirations of the soul, or the delight of God in these,
than the incense sending up its wreaths of fragrant smoke? Incense
gives no fragrance nor smoke till it is kindled; and the censer has
to be constantly swung to keep up the glow, without which there will
be no 'odour of a sweet smell.' So cold prayers are no prayers, but
are scentless, and unapt to rise. The heart must be as a coal of
fire, if the prayer is to come up before God with acceptance. Twice
a day the incense was kindled; and all day long, no doubt, it
smouldered, 'a perpetual incense before the Lord.' So, in the life
of true communion, there should be daily seasons of special
devotion, and a continual glow. The position of the altar of incense
was right in the line between the altar of burnt offering, in the
outer court, and the entrance to the holiest place; by which we are
taught that acceptable prayer follows on reconciliation by
sacrifice, and leads into 'the secret place of the Most High.' The
yearly atonement for the altar taught that evil imperfection cleaves
to all our devotion, which needs and receives the sprinkling of the
blood of the great sacrifice.

The great seven-branched candlestick, or lampstand, stood on the
right of the altar, as the priest looked to the most holy place. Its
meaning is plain. It is an emblem of the Church as recipient and
communicative of light, in all the applications of that metaphor, to
a dark world. As the sacred lamps streamed out their hospitable rays
into the desert all the night, so God's servants are lights in the
world. The lamps burned with derived light, which had to be fed as
well as kindled. So we are lighted by the touch of the great Aaron,
and His gentle hand tends the smoking wick, and nourishes it to a
flame. We need the oil of the Spirit to sustain the light. The lamp
was a clustered light, representing in its metal oneness the formal
and external unity of Israel. The New Testament unity is of a better
kind. The seven candlesticks are made one because He walks in the
midst, not because they are welded on to one stem.

Consistency of symbolism requires that the table of shew-bread
should, like the altar and the candlestick, express some phase of
true worship. Its interpretation is less obvious than that of the
other two. The name means literally 'bread of the face'; that is,
bread presented to, and ever lying before, God. There are two
explanations of the meaning. One sees in the offering only a devout
recognition of God as the author of material blessing, and a
rendering to Him of His gifts of outward nourishment. In this case,
the shew-bread would be anomalous, a literality thrust into the
midst of symbolism. The other explanation keeps up the congruity, by
taking the material bread, which is the result of God's blessing on
man's toil, as a symbol of the spiritual results of God's blessing
on man's spiritual toil, or, in other words, of practical
righteousness or good works, and conceives that these are offered to
God, by a strong metaphor, as acceptable food. It is a bold
representation, but we may quote 'I will sup with him' as proof that
it is not inadmissible; and it is not more bold than the declaration
that our obedience is 'an odour of a sweet smell.' So the three
pieces of furniture in the holy place spoke of the true Israel, when
cleansed by sacrifice and in communion with God, as instant in
prayer, continually raying out the light derived from Him, and
zealous of good works, well-pleasing to God.

We pass outwards, through another veil, and stand in the court,
which was always open to the people. There, before the door of the
Tabernacle, was the altar of burnt offering. The order of our
chapter brings us to it last, but the order of worship brought the
worshipper to it first. Its distinctive character was that on it the
blood of the slain sacrifices was offered. It was the place where
sinful men could begin to meet with God, the foundation of all the
communion of the inner sanctuary. We need not discuss mere details
of form and the like. The great lesson taught by the altar and its
place, is that reconciliation is needed, and is only possible by
sacrifice. As a symbol it taught every Israelite what his own
conscience, once awakened, endorsed, that sin must be expiated
before the sinner and God can walk in concord. As prophecy, it
assured those whose hearts were touched with longing, that God would
Himself 'provide the lamb for the burnt offering,' in some way as
yet unknown. For us it is an intended prefiguration of the great
work of Jesus Christ. 'We have an altar.' We need that altar at the
beginning of our fellowship with God, as much as Israel did. A
Christianity which does not start from the altar of burnt offering
will never get far into the holy place, nor ever reach that
innermost shrine where the soul lives and adores, silent before the
manifest God between the cherubim.

The laver, or basin, was intended for the priests' use, in washing
hands and feet before ministering at the altar or entering the
tabernacle. It teaches the necessity for purity, in order to
priestly service.

Thus these three divisions of the Tabernacle and its court set forth
the stages in the approach of the soul to God, beginning with the
reconciling sacrifice and cleansing water, advancing to closer
communion by prayer, impartation of light received, and offering of
good works to God, and so entering within the veil into secret
sweetnesses of union with God, which attains its completeness only
when we pass from the holy place on earth to the most holy in the

The remainder of the text can only be glanced at in a sentence or
two. It consists of two parts: the consecration of the Tabernacle
and its vessels by the anointing oil which, when applied to
inanimate objects, simply devoted them to sacred uses, and the
consecration of Aaron and his sons. A fuller account is given in
Leviticus viii., from which we learn that it was postponed to a
later period, and accompanied with a more elaborate ritual than that
prescribed here. That consists of three parts: washing, as
emblematic of communicated purity; robing, and anointing,--the last
act signifying, when applied to men, their endowment with so much of
the divine Spirit as fitted them for their theocratic functions.
These three things made the 'sanctifying,' or setting apart for
God's service, of Aaron and his sons. He is consecrated alone, in
order that his primacy may be clearly indicated. He is consecrated
by Moses as the higher; then the sons are consecrated with the same
ceremonial, to indicate the hereditary priesthood, and the equality
of Aaron's successors with himself. 'They truly were many priests,
because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death,' and
provision for their brief tenure of office was embodied in the
consecration of the sons by the side of the father. Their priesthood
was only 'everlasting' by continual succession of short-lived
holders of the office. But the prediction which closes the text has
had a fulfilment beyond these fleeting, shadowy priests, in Him
whose priesthood is 'everlasting' and 'throughout all generations.'
because 'He ever liveth to make intercession' (Heb. vii. 25).



'And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out
of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2. Speak
unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any
man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall
bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and
of the flock. 3. If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of
the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall
offer it of his own voluntary will, at the door of the
tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. 4. And he
shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt-offering;
and it shall be accepted for him, to make atonement for
him. 5. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord:
and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood,
and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that
is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
6. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into
his pieces. 7. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put
fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the
fire: 8. And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the
parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that
is on the fire which is upon the altar: 9. But his inwards
and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall
burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an
offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.'
--LEV. i. 1-9.

In considering the Jewish sacrificial system, it is important to
distinguish the symbolical from the typical value of the sacrifices.
The former could scarcely be quite unnoticed by the offerers; but
the latter was only gradually made plain, was probably never very
generally seen, and is a great deal clearer to us, in the light of
Christ, the Antitype, than it could ever have been before His
coming. As symbols, the sacrifices expressed great eternal truths as
to spiritual worship and communion, its hindrances, requisites,
manner, and blessings. They were God's picture-book for these
children in religious development. As types, they shadowed the work
of Jesus Christ and its results.

The value of the sacrifices in either aspect is independent of
modern questions as to their Mosaic origin; for at whatever period
the Priest's Code was promulgated, it equally bears witness to the
ruling ideas of the offerings, and, in any case, it was long before
Christ came, and therefore its prophecy of Him is as supernatural,
whether Moses or Ezra were its author. I make this remark, not as
implying that the new theory is not revolutionary, but simply as
absolving a student of the religious significance of the sacrificial
system from entering here on questions of date.

The 'burnt offering' stands first in Leviticus for several reasons.
It was derived from patriarchal times; it was offered twice daily,
besides frequently on other occasions; and in its significance it
expressed the complete consecration which should be the habitual
state of the true worshipper. Its name literally means 'that which
ascends,' and refers, no doubt, to the ascent of the transformed
substance of the sacrifice in fire and smoke, as to God. The central
idea of this sacrifice, then, as gathered from its name and
confirmed by its manner, is that of the yielding of the whole being
in self-surrender, and borne up by the flame of intense consecration
to God. Very beautiful is the variety of material which was
permitted. The poor man's pair of pigeons went up with as sweet an
odour as the rich man's young bull. God delights in the consecration
to Him of ourselves and our powers, no matter whether they be great
or small, if only the consecration be thorough, and the whole being
be wrapped in the transforming blaze.

It is worth while to try to realise the strange and to our eyes
repulsive spectacle of the burnt offering, which is veiled from us
by its sacred associations. The worshipper leads up his animal by
some rude halter, and possibly resisting, to the front of the
Tabernacle, the courts of which he dared not tread, but which was to
him the dwelling-place of God. There by the altar he stands, and,
first pressing his hand with force on the victim's head, he then,
with one swift cut, kills it, and as the warm blood spouts from the
mangled throat, the attendant priest catches it in a basin, and,
standing at the two diagonally opposite corners of the altar in
turn, dashes, with one dexterous twist, half of the contents against
each, so as to wet two sides of the altar with one throw, and the
other two with the other. The offerer then flays the reeking
carcase, tossing the gory hide to the priest as his perquisite, and
cuts up the sacrifice according to a fixed method. His part of the
work is done, and he stands by with bloody hands while the priests
arrange the pieces on the pile on the altar; and soon the odour of
burning flesh and the thick smoke hanging over the altar tell that
the rite is complete. What a scene it must have been when, as on
some great occasions, hundreds of burnt offerings were offered in
succession! The place and the attendants would look to us liker
shambles and butchers than God's house and worshippers.

Now, if we inquire into the significance of the offering, it turns on
two points--expiation and burning. The former it has in common with
other bloody sacrifices, though it presents features of its own, even
in regard to expiation. But the latter is peculiar to it, and must
therefore be taken to be its special teaching. The stages in the whole
process are five: the presentation, laying on of hands, slaughter,
sprinkling of blood, and burning of the whole carcase. The first three
are alike in this and other sacrifices, the fourth is modified here,
and the last is found here only. Each has its lesson. The offerer has
himself to bring the animal to the door of the Tabernacle, that he may
show his willing surrender of a valuable thing. As he stands there with
his offering, his thoughts would pass into the inner shrine, where God
dwelt; and he would, if he were a true worshipper, feel that while God,
on His part, already dwelt in the midst of the people, he, on the other
hand, can only enter into the enjoyment of His presence by sacrifice.
The offering was to be 'a male without blemish'; for bodily defect
symbolising moral flaw could not be tolerated in the offerings to a
holy God, who requires purity, and will not be put off with less than
a man's best, be it ox or pigeon. 'The torn and the lame and the sick,'
which Malachi charged his generation with bringing, are neither worthy
of God to receive nor of us to offer. When he pressed his hand on the
head of the sacrifice, what was the worshipper meant to think? In all
other instances where hands are laid on, some transference or
communication of gifts or qualities is implied; and it is natural to
suppose that the same meaning attaches to the act here, with such
modifications as the case requires. We find that it was done in
other bloody sacrifices, accompanied with confession. Nothing is
said of confession here; but we cannot dismiss the idea that the
offerer laid his sins on the victim by that striking act, especially
as the very next clause says 'it shall be accepted for him to make
atonement for him.' The atonement was made, as we shall see, by the
application of the blood to the altar; but the possibility of the
victim's blood atoning for the offerer depended on his having laid
his hands on its head. We may perhaps go farther than 'transference
of sins.' Might we not widen the expression, and say 'identification,'
or, to use a word which has become so worn by religious controversy
that it slips through our fingers unnoticed, 'substitution'? Did not the
offerer say in effect, by that act, 'This is I? This animal life shall
die, as I ought to die. It shall go up as a sweet savour to Jehovah,
as my being should.'

The animal invested with this representative character is next to be
slain by the offerer, not by the priest, who only performed that
part of the ritual in the case of national or public sacrifices.
That was distinctly a vicarious death; and, as inflicted by the hand
of the person represented by the animal, he thereby acknowledged
that its death was the wages of his sin, and allowed the justice of
his condemnation, while he presented this innocent life--innocent
because not that of a moral being--as his substitute. So far the
worshipper's part goes. But now, when the act of expiation is to be
symbolically represented, and, so far as outward sacrifice could, is
to be accomplished, another actor appears. The priest comes forward
as mediator between God and man, and applies the blood to the altar.
The difference between the sprinkling of the blood, in the burnt
offerings and in the other sacrifices, which had expiation for their
principal object, in some of which it was smeared on the horns of
the altar, and, in the most solemn of all, was carried into the
holiest place, and sprinkled on the mercy-seat, suggests that the
essential character of the burnt offering was not expiatory, though
expiation was the foundation on which alone the essential character
could be reared. The application of the blood was the formal act by
which atonement was made. The word rendered 'to make atonement'
means 'to cover'; and the idea conveyed is that the blood, which is
the life of the sacrifice, covers the sins of the offerer, so as to
make them powerless to dam back the love or to precipitate the wrath
of God.

With this act the expiatory portion of the ritual ends, and we may
here pause to look back for a moment on it as a whole. We have
pointed out the double bearings of the Mosaic ritual as symbolical
and as typical or prophetic. In the former aspect, the emphatic
teaching of this rite is that 'the wages of sin is death,' that
'without shedding of blood there is no remission,' that God has
appointed sacrifice as the means of entering into fellowship with
Him, and that substitution and vicarious penalty are facts in His
government. We may like or dislike these thoughts; we may call them
gross, barbarous, immoral, and the like, but, at all events, we
ought not to deny that they are ingrained in the Mosaic sacrificial
system, which becomes unmeaning elaboration of empty and often
repulsive ceremonies, if they are not recognised as its very centre.
Of course, the meaning of the sacrifices was hidden from many a
worshipper. They became opaque instead of transparent, and hid the
great truth which they were meant to reveal. All forms labour under
that disadvantage; but that they were significant in design, and
largely so to devout hearts in effect, admits of no reasonable
doubt. That which they signified was chiefly the putting away of sin
by the sacrifice of innocent life, which stood in the place of the
guilty. Of course, too, their benefit was symbolical, and the blood
of bulls and goats could never put away sin; but, under the shelter
of the outward forms, a more spiritual insight gradually grew up,
such as breathes in many a psalm, and such as, we cannot doubt,
filled the heart of many a worshipper, as he stood by the bleeding
sacrifice on which his own hands had laid the burden that had
weighed so heavy on himself. How far the prophetic aspect of the
sacrifices was discerned, is a more difficult question. But this at
least we know--that the highest level of evangelical prophecy, in
Isaiah's wonderful fifty-third chapter, is reached from this
vantage-ground. It is the flower of which these ordinances are the
root. We need not enlarge upon the prophetic aspect of the
sacrifice. The mere negative sinlessness of the victim points to the
'Lamb without blemish and without spot,' on whom, as Isaiah says, in
language dyed through and through with sacrificial references, 'the
Lord hath made to meet the iniquity of us all,' and who Himself
makes 'His soul an offering for sin.' The modern tendency to bring
down the sacrificial system to a late date surely sins against the
sacred and all-explaining law of evolution, in the name of which it
is attempted, inasmuch as it is an unheard-of thing for the earlier
stages of a religion to be less clogged with ceremonial than the
later. Psalmist and prophet first, and priest afterwards, is not the
order of development.

The remaining part of the ritual was, as we have pointed out,
peculiar to the burnt offering. In it alone the whole of the
sacrifice was consumed on the altar, with the exceptions of the
skin, which was given to the priest, and of the contents of the
intestines. Hence it was sometimes called 'a whole burnt offering.'
The meaning of this provision may be apprehended if we note that the
word rendered 'burn,' in verse 9, is not that which simply implies
destruction by fire, but is a peculiar word, reserved for
sacrificial burnings, and meaning 'to cause to ascend in smoke or
vapour.' The gross flesh was, as it were, refined into vapour and
odour, and went up to God as 'a sweet savour.' It expressed,
therefore, the transformation of the sinful human nature of the
worshipper, by the refining power of the fire of God, into something
more ethereal and kindred with the heaven to which it rose. Or, to
put the thought in plainer words, on the basis of expiation, the
glad surrender of the whole being is possible and will ensue; and
when a man yields himself in joyful self-surrender to the God who
has forgiven his sins, then the fire of the divine Spirit is shed
abroad in his heart, and kindles a flame which lays hold on all the
gross, earthly elements of his being, and changes them into fire,
kindred with itself, which aspires, in ruddy tongues of upward-
leaping light, to the God to whom the heart has been surrendered,
and to whom the whole being tends.

This is the purpose of expiation; this is the summit of all
religion. One man has realised to the full, in his life, what the
burnt offering taught as the goal for all worshippers. Jesus has
lived in the constant exercise of perfect self-surrender, and in the
constant unmeasured possession of 'the Spirit of burning,' with
which He has come to baptize us all. If we look to Him as our
expiation, we should also find in Him the power to yield ourselves
'living sacrifices,' and draw from Him the sacred and refining fire,
which shall transform our grossness into His likeness, and make even
us 'acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.'


'And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of
them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense
thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which
He commanded them not. 2. And there went out fire from
the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the
Lord. 3. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that
the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them
that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be
glorified. And Aaron held his peace. 4. And Moses called
Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of
Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren
from before the sanctuary out of the camp. 5. So they went
near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as
Moses had said. 6. And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto
Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons. Uncover not your
heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest
wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren,
the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the
Lord hath kindled. 7. And ye shall not go out from the
door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die:
for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they
did according to the word of Moses. 8. And the Lord
spake unto Aaron, saying, 9. Do not drink wine nor strong
drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the
tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be
a statute for ever throughout your generations; 10. And
that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and
between unclean and clean; 11. And that ye may teach the
children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath
spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.'--LEV. x. 1-11.

This solemn story of sin and punishment is connected with the
preceding chapter by a simple 'and.' Probably, therefore, Nadab and
Abihu 'offered strange fire,' immediately after the fire from
Jehovah had consumed the appointed sacrifice. Their sin was
aggravated by the time of its being committed. But a week had passed
since the consecration of their father and themselves as priests.
The first sacrifices had just been offered, and here, in the very
blossoming time, came a vile canker. If such licence in setting
aside the prescriptions of the newly established sacrificial order
asserted itself then, to what lengths might it not run when the
first impression of sanctity and of God's commandment had been worn
by time and custom? The sin was further aggravated by the sinners
being priests, who were doubly obliged to punctilious adherence to
the instituted ritual. If they set the example of contempt, would
not the people better (or, rather, worsen) their instruction?

Unquestionably, their punishment was awfully severe. But we shall
entirely misconceive their sin if we judge it by our standards. We
are not dependent on forms as Israel was, but the spiritual religion
of Christianity was only made possible by the externalism of the
older system. The sweet kernel would not have softened and become
juicy without the shelter of the hard shell. Scaffolding is needed
to erect a building; and he is not a wise man who either despises or
would keep permanently standing the scaffold poles.

We draw a broad distinction between positive commandments and moral
or religious obligations. But in the Mosaic legislation that
distinction does not exist. There, all precepts are God's uttered
will, and all disobedience is rebellion against Him. Nor could it be
otherwise at the stage of development which Israel had reached.

What, then, was the crime of these two rash sons of Aaron? That
involves two questions: What did they do? and What was the sin of
doing it? The former question may be answered in various ways.
Certainly the designation of 'strange fire' seems best explained by
the usual supposition that it means fire not taken from the altar.
The other explanations, which make the sin to have been offering at
an unauthorised time, or offering incense not compounded according
to the prescription, give an unnatural meaning to the phrase. It was
the 'fire' which was wrong,--that is, it was 'fire which they had
kindled,' caught up from some common culinary hearth, or created by
themselves in some way.

What was their sin in thus offering it? Plainly, the narrative
points to the essence of the crime in calling it 'fire which He had
not commanded.' So this was their crime, that they were tampering
with the appointed order which but a week before they had been
consecrated to conserve and administer; that they were thus
thrusting in self-will and personal caprice, as of equal authority
with the divine commandment; that they were arrogating the right to
cut and carve God's appointments, as the whim or excitement of the
moment dictated; and that they were doing their best to obliterate
the distinction on the preservation of which religion, morality, and
the national existence depended; namely, the distinction between
holy and common, clean and unclean. To plough that distinction deep
into the national consciousness was no small part of the purpose of
the law; and here were two of its appointed witnesses disregarding
it, and flying in its face. The flash of holy fire consuming the
sacrifices had scarcely faded off their eyeballs when they thus

They have had many successors, not only in Israel, while a ritual
demanding punctilious conformity lasted, but in Christendom since.
Alas! our censers are often flaming with 'strange fire.' How much
so-called Christian worship glows with self-will or with partisan
zeal! When we seek to worship God for what we can get, when we rush
into His presence with hot, eager desires which we have not
subordinated to His will, we are burning 'strange fire which He has
not commanded.' The only fire which should kindle the incense in our
censers, and send it up to heaven in fragrant wreaths, is fire
caught from the altar of sacrifice. God must kindle the flame in our
hearts if we are to render these else cold hearts to Him.

'The prayers I bring will then be sweet indeed
If Thou the Spirit give, by which I pray.'

The swift, terrible punishment does indeed bear marks of the
severity of that earlier stage of revelation. But it was not
disproportioned to the offence, and it was not the cruelty of a
martinet who avenged ceremonial lapses with penalties which should
have been kept for moral offences. The surface of the sin was
ceremonial impropriety: the heart of it was flouting Jehovah and His
law. It was better that two men should die, and the whole nation
perish not, as it would have done if their example had been
followed. It is mercy to trample out the first sparks beside a

There is a very striking parallel between verse 2 and the last verse
of the preceding chapter. In both the same expression is used,
'There came forth fire from before the Lord, and consumed' (the word
rendered _devoured_ in verse 2 is the same in Hebrew as _consumed_). So,
then, the same divine fire, which had graciously signified God's
acceptance of the appointed sacrifice, now flashed out with lightning-like
power of destruction, and killed the two rebel priests. There is dormant
potency of destruction in the God who reveals Himself as gracious. The
'wrath of the Lamb' is as real as His gentleness. The Gospel is 'the
savour of life unto life' and 'of death unto death.'

Moses' word to the stunned father is of a piece with the severity of
the whole incident. No voice of condolence or sympathy comes from
him. The brother is swallowed up in the lawgiver. He puts into words
the meaning of the terrible stroke, and expects Aaron to acquiesce,
though his heart bleeds. What was his interpretation? He saw in it
God's purpose to be 'sanctified in them that come nigh Him.' The
priests were these. Nadab and Abihu had been consecrated for the
purpose of enforcing the truth of God's holiness. They had done the
very opposite, by breaking down the distinction between sacred and

But their nearness to God brought with it not only corresponding
obligations, but corresponding criminality and penalty, if these
obligations were not discharged. If God is not 'sanctified'
_by_ His servants, He will sanctify Himself _on_ them. If His people
do not set forth His infinite separation from all evil and elevation
above all creatures, He will proclaim these truths in lightning that
kills and thunder that roars. It is a universal law which Moses sternly
spoke to Aaron instead of comfort, bidding him recognise the necessity
of the fearful blow to his paternal heart. 'You only have I known of all
the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your

The prohibition to Aaron and his sons to show signs of mourning is
as stern as the rest of the story, and serves to insist upon the
true point of view from which to regard it. For the official
representatives of the divine order of worship to mourn the deaths
of its assailants would have seemed to indicate their murmuring at
God's judgments, and might have led them to participate in the sin
while they lamented its punishment. It is hard to mourn and not to
repine. Affection blinds to the ill-desert of its objects. Nadab's
and Abihu's stark corpses lying in the forecourt of the sanctuary,
and Aaron's dry eyes and undisturbed attire, proclaim the same
truths,--the gravity of the dead men's sin, and the righteous
judgment of God. But the people might sorrow, for _their_
mourning would help to imprint on them more deeply the lessons of
the dread event.

While the victims' cousins carried their bodies to their graves in
the sand, their father and brothers had to remain in the Tabernacle,
because 'the anointing oil of Jehovah is upon you.' That oil, as the
symbol of the Spirit, separates those on whom it is poured from all
contact with death, from participation in sin, from the weight of
sorrow. What have immortality, righteousness, joy in the Holy Ghost,
to do with these dark shadows? Those whom God has called to His
immediate service must hold themselves apart from earthly passions,
and must control natural affection, if indulging it imperils their
clear witness to God's righteous will.

The prohibition (verses 8-11) of wine and strong drink during the
discharge of the priestly functions seems to suggest that Nadab and
Abihu had committed their sin while in some degree intoxicated. Be
that as it may, the prohibition is rested upon the necessity of
preserving, in all its depth and breadth, the distinction between
common and holy which Nadab and Abihu had broken down. That
distinction was to be very present to the priest in his work, and
how could he have the clearness of mind, the collectedness and
composure, the sense of the sanctity of his office, and
ministrations which it requires and gives, if he was under the
influence of strong drink?

Nothing has more power to blur the sharpness of moral and religious
insight than even a small amount of alcohol. God must be worshipped
with clear brain and naturally beating heart. Not the fumes of wine,
in which there lurks almost necessarily the tendency to 'excess,'
but the being 'filled with the Spirit' supplies the only legitimate
stimulus to devotion. Besides the personal reason for abstinence,
there was another,--namely, that only so could the priests teach the
people 'the statutes' of Jehovah. Lips stained from the wine-cup
would not be fit to speak holy words. Words spoken by such would
carry no power.

God's servants can never impress on the sluggish conscience of
society their solemn messages from God, unless they are
conspicuously free from self-indulgence, and show by their example
the gulf, wide as between heaven and hell, which parts cleanness
from uncleanness. Our lives must witness to the eternal distinction
between good and evil, if we are to draw men to 'abhor that which is
evil, and cleave to that which is good.'


'And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2. This shall be
the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He
shall be brought unto the priest: 3. And the priest
shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall
look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed
in the leper; 4. Then shall the priest command to take
for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean,
and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: 5. And the
priest shall command that one of the birds be killed
in an earthen vessel over running water: 6. As for the
living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar-wood, and
the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the
living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over
the running water: 7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that
is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall
pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose
into the open field.'--LEV. xiv. 1-7.

The whole treatment of leprosy is parabolic. Leprosy itself is a
'parable of death.' The horrible loathsomeness, the contagiousness,
the non-curableness, etc. So the man was shut out from camp and from
sanctuary. There was a double process in the cleansing rite,
restoring to each.

I. Sketch the ceremonial. Two birds, one slain over a vessel of
water so that its blood drained in. Then the living bird was to be
dipped into this water and blood, along with cedar, scarlet, and
hyssop, and the man sprinkled seven times and the living bird set

II. The significance. This elaborate symbolism was partly
intelligible even then. Two birds, like the two goats on the
Atonement Day. Did both in some sense symbolise the man? The first
one was not exactly a sacrifice. Its death points to the physical
death which was the end of the disease, but also in some sense its
death symbolised the death by which cleansing was secured.

_(a)_ The purifying water is made by blood added to it, i.e.
cleansing by sacrifice.

'By water and by blood.'

_(b)_ The sevenfold sprinkling. The cedar, symbol of
incorruptibility; the scarlet, of full vital energy; the hyssop, of
purifying. So the thought was suggested of the communication of
cleansing, full health and incorruption, undecaying strength; all
physical contrasts to leprosy sevenfold.

_(c)_ The free, glad activity. The freed bird. The restored


'And the Lord spake unto Moses after the death of the
two sons of Aaron when they offered before the Lord,
and died; 2. And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto
Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into
the holy place within the vail before the mercy-seat,
which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear
in the cloud upon the mercy-seat. 3. Thus shall Aaron
come into the holy place; with a young bullock for a sin
offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. 4. He shall
put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen
breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen
girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired:
these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his
flesh in water, and so put them on. 5. And he shall take
of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids
of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt
offering. 6. And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the
sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement
for himself, and for his house. 7. And he shall take the
two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door
of the tabernacle of the congregation. 8. And Aaron
shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the
Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9. And Aaron
shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and
offer him for a sin offering: 10. But the goat, on which
the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented
alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with Him,
and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
11. And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering
which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for
himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock
of the sin offering which is for himself. 12. And he
shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from
off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of
sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:
13. And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the
Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the
mercy-seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:
14. And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and
sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy-seat eastward;
and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood
with his finger seven times. 15. Then shall he kill the
goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and
bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood
as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it
upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat. 16. And
he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because
of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because
of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall
he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that
remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
17. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the
congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in
the holy place, until he come out, and have made an
atonement for himself, and for his household, and for
all the congregation of Israel. 18. And he shall go out
unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an
atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the
bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon
the horns of the altar round about. 19. And he shall
sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven
times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness
of the children of Israel.'--LEV. xvi. 1-19.

The Talmudical treatise on the ritual of the day of atonement is
entitled 'Yoma,' _the_ day, which sufficiently expresses its
importance in the series of sacrificial observances. It was the
confession of the incompleteness of them all, a ceremonial
proclamation that ceremonies do not avail to take away sin; and it
was also a declaration that the true end of worship is not reached
till the worshipper has free access to the holy place of the Most
High. Thus the prophetic element is the very life-breath of this
supreme institution of the old covenant, which therein acknowledges
its own defects, and feeds the hopes of a future better thing. We do
not here consider the singular part of the ritual of the Day of
Atonement which is concerned with the treatment of the so-called
'scapegoat' but confine ourselves to the consideration of that part
of it which was observed in the Tabernacle and was intended to
expiate the sins of the priesthood and of the people. The chapter
connects the rites of the Day of Atonement with the tragic death of
the sons of Aaron, which witnessed to the sanctity of the inner
shrine, as not to be trodden but with the appointed offerings by the
appointed priest; and so makes the whole a divinely given
instruction as to the means by which, and the objects for which,
Aaron may enter within the veil.

I. In verses 3-10 we have the preliminaries of the sacrifices and a
summary of the rites. First, Aaron was to bathe, and then to robe
himself in pure white. The dress is in singular contrast to the
splendour of his usual official costume, in which he stood before
men as representing God, and evidently signifies the purity which
alone fits for entrance into the awful presence. Thus vested, he
brings the whole of the animals to be sacrificed to the altar,--namely,
for himself and his order, a bullock and a ram; for the people, two
goats and a ram. The goats are then taken by him to the door of the
tent,--and it is to be observed that they are spoken of as both
constituting one sin offering (v. 5). They therefore both belong to
the Lord, and are, in some important sense, one, as was recognised by
the later Rabbinical prescription that they should be alike in colour,
size, and value. The appeal to the lot was an appeal to God to decide
the parts they were respectively to sustain in a transaction which,
in both parts, was really one. The consideration of the meaning of
the ritual for the one which was led away may be postponed for the
present. The preliminaries end with the casting of the lots, and in
later times, with tying the ominous red fillet on the head of the dumb
creature for which so weird a fate was in store.

II. The first part of the ritual proper (vs. 11-14) is the expiation
for the sins of Aaron and the priesthood, and his entrance into the
most holy place. The bullock was slain in the usual manner of the
sin offering, but its blood was destined for a more solemn use. The
white-robed priest took a censer of burning embers from the altar
before the tent-door, and two hands full of incense, and, thus
laden, passed into the Tabernacle. How the silent crowd in the outer
court would watch the last flutter of the white robe as it was lost
in the gloom within! He passed through the holy place, which, on
every day but this, was the limit of his approach; but, on this one
day, he lifted the curtain, and entered the dark chamber, where the
glory flashed from the golden walls and rested above the ark. Would
not his heart beat faster as he laid his hand on the heavy veil, and
caught the first gleam of the calm light from the Shechinah? As soon
as he entered, he was to cast the incense into the censer, that the
fragrant cloud might cover the mercy-seat. Incense is the symbol of
prayer, and that curling cloud is a picture of the truth that the
purest of men, even the anointed priest, robed in white, who has
offered sacrifices daily all the year round, and today has anxiously
obeyed all the commands of ceremonial cleanliness, can yet only draw
near to God as a suppliant, not entering there as having a right of
access, but beseeching entrance as undeserved mercy. The incense did
not cover 'the glory' that Aaron might not gaze upon it, but it
covered him that Jehovah might not look on his sin. It would appear
that, between verse 13 and verse 14, Aaron's leaving the most holy
place to bring the blood of the sacrifice must be understood. If so,
we can fancy the long-drawn sigh of relief with which the waiting
worshippers saw him return, and carry back into the shrine the
expiating blood. The 'most holy place' would still be filled and its
atmosphere thick with the incense fumes when he returned to perform
the solemn expiation for himself and the whole priestly order. Once
the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, and seven times,
apparently, on the ground in front of it. The former act was
intended, as seems probable, to make atonement for the sins of the
priesthood; the latter, to cleanse the sanctuary from the ideal
defilements arising from their defective and sinful ministrations.

This completed the part of the ceremonial which belonged immediately
to Aaron and the priests. It carries important lessons. Could there
be a more striking exhibition of their imperfect realisation of the
idea of the priestly office? Observe the anomaly inherent in the
very necessity of the case. Aaron was dressed in the white robes
emblematic of purity; he had partaken in the benefit of, and had
himself offered, sacrifices all the year round. So far as ritual
could go, he was pure, and yet so stained with sin that he dared not
enter into the divine presence without that double safeguard of the
incense and the blood. The priest who cleanses others is himself
unclean, and he and his fellows have tainted the sanctuary by the
very services which were meant to atone and to purify. That solemn
ritual is intended to teach priest and people alike, that every
priest 'taken from among men' fails in his office, and pollutes the
temple instead of purifying the worshipper. But the office was God's
appointment, and therefore would not always be filled by men too
small and sinful for its requirements. There must somewhere and
somewhen be a priest who will be one indeed, fulfilling the divine
ideal of the functions, and answering the deep human longings which
have expressed themselves in all lands, for one, pure with no
ceremonial but a real purity, to bring us to God and God to us, to
offer sacrifice which shall need no after atonement to expiate its
defects, and to stand without incense or blood of sprinkling for
himself in the presence of God for us. The imperfections of the
human holders of the Old Testament offices, whether priest, prophet,
or king, were no less prophecies than their positive qualifications
were. Therefore, when we see Aaron passing into the holy place, we
see the dim shadow of Christ, who 'needeth not to make atonement'
for His own sins, and is our priest 'for ever.'

III. The ritual for the atonement of the sins of the people follows.
The two goats had been, during all this time, standing at the door
of the Tabernacle. We have already pointed out that they are to be
considered as one sacrifice. There are two of them, for the same
reason, as has been often remarked, as there were two birds in the
ritual of cleansing the leper; namely, because one animal could not
represent the two parts of the one whole truth which they are meant
to set forth. The one was sacrificed as a sin offering, and the
other led away into a solitary land. Here we consider the meaning of
the former only, which presents no difficulty. It is a sin offering
for the people, exactly corresponding to that just offered for the
priests. The same use is made of the blood, which is once sprinkled
by Aaron on the mercy-seat and seven times on the ground before it,
as in the former case. It is not, however, all employed there, but
part of it is carried out into the other divisions of the
Tabernacle; and first, the holy place, which the priests daily
entered and which is called in verse 16 'the tent of meeting,' and
next, the altar of burnt offering in the outer court, are in like
manner sprinkled seven times with the blood, to 'hallow' them 'from
the uncleanness of the children of Israel' (verse 19). The teaching
of this rite, in its bearing upon the people, is similar to that of
the previous priestly expiation. The insufficiency of sacrificial
cleansing is set forth by this annual atonement for sins which had
all been already atoned for. The defects of a ritual worship are
proclaimed by the ritual which cleanses the holy places from the
uncleanness contracted by them from the worshippers. If the altar,
the seat of expiation, itself needed expiation, how imperfect its
worth must be! If the cleansing fountain is foul, how shall it be
cleansed, or how shall it cleanse the offerers? The bearing of the
blood of expiation into the most holy place, where no Israelite ever
entered, save the high priest, taught that the true expiation could
only be effected by one who should pass into the presence of God,
and leave the door wide open for all to enter. For surely the
distance between the worshippers and the mercy-seat was a confession
of imperfection; and the entrance there of the representative of the
sinful people was the holding out of a dim hope that in some
fashion, yet unknown, the veil would be rent, and true communion be
possible for the humble soul. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us
where we are to look for the realities of which these ceremonies
were the foreshadowings. The veil was rent at the crucifixion.
Christ has gone into 'the secret place of the Most High,' and if we
love Him, our hearts have gone with Him, and our lives are 'hid with
Him, in God.'


'And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities
unto a land not inhabited....'-LEV. xvi. 22.

The import of the remarkable treatment of this goat does not depend
on the interpretation of the obscure phrase rendered in the
Authorised Version 'for the scapegoat.' Leaving that out of sight
for the moment, we observe that the two animals were one sacrifice,
and that the transaction with the living one was the completion of
that with the slain. The sins of the congregation, which had been
already expiated by the sacrifice, were laid by the high priest on
the head of the goat, which was then sent away into the wilderness
that he might 'bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not
inhabited' (v. 22). Nothing depends on the fate of the goat, though,
in after times, it was forced over a precipice and so killed. The
carrying away of expiated sin, and not the destruction of unexpiated
sinners, is the meaning of the impressive rite, and, had it been
possible, the same goat that was sacrificed would have been sent
into the desert. As that could not be done, an ideal unity was
established between the two: the one sacrificed represented the fact
of expiation, the one driven away represented the consequences of
expiation in the complete removal of sin. The expiation was made
'within the veil'; but a visible token of its completeness was given
to help feeble faith, in the blessed mystery of the unseen
propitiation. What was divided in the symbol between the twin goats
is all done by the one Sacrifice, who has entered into the holiest
of all, at once Priest and Sacrifice, and with His own blood made
expiation for sin, and has likewise carried away the sin of the
world into a land of forgetfulness, whence it never can return.

The clear meaning of the rite is thus obtained, whatever be the
force of the difficult phrase already referred to. 'Scapegoat' is
certainly wrong. But it may be questioned whether the Revised
Version is right in retaining the Hebrew word untranslated, and, by
putting a capital letter to it, marking it as a proper name ('for
Azazel'). The word occurs only here, so that we have no help from
other passages. It seems to come from a root meaning 'to drive
away,' and those who take it to be a proper name, generally suppose
it to refer to some malignant spirit, or to Satan, and interpret it
as meaning 'a fiend whom one drives away,' or, sometimes, 'who
drives away.' The vindication of such an interpretation is supposed
to lie in the necessity of finding a complete antithesis in the
phrase to the 'for Jehovah' of the previous clause in verse 8. But
it is surely sacrificing a good deal to rhetorical propriety to drag
in an idea so foreign to the Pentateuch, and so opposed to the plain
fact, that both goats were one sin offering (v. 5), in order to get
a pedantically correct antithesis. In the absence of any guidance
from usage, certainty as to the meaning of the word is unattainable.
But there seems no reason, other than that of the said antithesis,
against taking it to mean removal or dismissal, rather than 'a
remover.' The Septuagint translates it in both ways: as a person in
verse 8, and as 'sending away' in verse 10. If the latter meaning be
adopted, then the word just defines the same purpose as is given
more at length in verse 22, namely, the carrying away of the sins of
the congregation. The logical imperfection of the opposition in
verse 8 would then be simply enough solved by the fact that while
both goats were 'for the Lord,' one was destined to be actually
offered in sacrifice, and the other to be 'for dismissal.' The
incomplete contrast testifies to the substantial unity of the two,
and needs no introduction, into the most sacred rite of the old
covenant, of a ceremony which looks liker demon-worship than a
parable of the great expiation for a world's sins.

The question for us is, What spiritual ideas are contained in this
Levitical symbolism? There is signified, surely, the condition of
approach to God. Remember how the Israelites had impressed on their
minds the awful sanctity of 'within the veil.' The inmost shrine was
trodden once a year only by the high priest, and only after anxious
lustrations and when clothed in pure garments, he entered 'with
sacrifice and incense lest he die.' This ritual was for a gross and
untutored age, but the men of that age were essentially like
ourselves, and we have the same sins and spiritual necessities as
they had.

The two goats are regarded as _one_ sacrifice. They are a 'sin
offering.' Hence, to show how unimportant and non-essential is the
distinction between them, the 'lot' is employed; also, while the one
is being slain, the other stands before the 'door of the
Tabernacle.' This shows that both are parts of one whole, and it is
only from the impossibility of presenting both halves of the truth
to be symbolised in one that two are taken. The one which is slain
represents the sacrifice for sin. The other represents the effects
of that sacrifice. It is never heard of more. 'The Lamb of God
taketh away the sins of the world.' 'As far as the east is from the
west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.'

I. The perfect removal of all sin is thus symbolised.

Notice (1) the vivid consciousness of sin which marked Judaism.

Was it exaggerated or right?

The same consciousness is part of all of us, but how overlaid! how

That consciousness once awakened has in it these elements--a bitter
sense of sin as mine, involving guilt; despair as to whether I can
ever overcome it; and fearful thoughts of my relation to God which
conscience itself brings.

(2) The futility of all attempts to remove these fears.

False religions have next to nothing to say about forgiveness.
Sacrifices and lustrations they have, but no assurance of
absolution. Systems of philosophy and morals have nothing to say but
that the universe goes crashing on, and if you have broken its laws
you must suffer. That is all, or only the poor cheer of 'Well! you
have fallen, get up and go on again!' So men often drug themselves
into forgetfulness. They turn away from the unwelcome subject, and
forget it at the price of all moral earnestness and often of all
happiness; a lethargic sleep or a gaiety, as little real as that of
the Girondins singing in their prison the night before being led out
to the guillotine.

It is only God's authoritative revelation that can ensure the cure,
only He can assure us of pardon, and of the removal of all barriers
between ourselves and His love. Only His word can ensure, and His
power can effect, the removal of the consequences of our sins. Only
His word can ensure, and His power effect, the removal of the power
of evil on our characters.

(3) Still the question, Can guilt ever be cancelled? often assumes a
fearful significance. Doubtless much seems to say that it cannot be.

_(a)_ The irrevocableness of the past.

_(b)_ The rigid law of consequences in this world.

_(c)_ The indissoluble unity of an individual life and moral
nature, confirmed by the experience of failure in all attempts at
reformation of self.

_(d)_ The consciousness of disturbed relations with God, and
the prophecy of judgment. All this that ancient symbol suggested.
The picture of the goat going away, and away, and away, a lessening
speck on the horizon, and never heard of more is the divine symbol
of the great fact that there is full, free, everlasting forgiveness,
and on God's part, utter forgetfulness. 'Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be white as snow.' 'I will remember them no more
at all for ever.'

II. The bearing away of sin is indissolubly connected with
sacrifice. Two goats were provided, of which one was offered for a
sin offering, indicating that sacrifice came first; then the removal
of sin was symbolised by the sending away of the second goat. There
is an evident reference to this sequence in the words 'without
shedding of blood there is no remission.' The two goats represent
Christ's work; the one in its essence, the other in its effect.

The one teaches that sacrifice is a necessary condition of pardon.
Forgiveness was not given because the offerer confessed his guilt or
because 'God was merciful,' but because the goat had been slain as a
sin offering. There is deep spiritual truth for us in this
symbolism. We do not need to enter on the philosophy of atonement,
but simply to rest on the fact--that the only authority on which we
can be sure of forgiveness at all indissolubly associates the two
things, sacrifice and pardon. We have no reason to believe in
forgiveness except from the Bible record and assurance.

Was the Mosaic ritual a divinely appointed thing? If so, its
testimony is conclusive. But even if it were only the embodiment of
human aspirations and wants, it would be a strong evidence of the
necessity of some such thing as forgiveness.

The shallow dream that God's forgiveness can be extended without a
sacrifice having been offered does not exalt but detracts from the
divine character. It invariably leads to an emasculated abhorrence
of evil, and detracts from the holiness of God, as well as
introduces low thoughts of the greatness of forgiveness and of the
infinite love of God.

III. The bearing away of sin is associated with man's laying of his
sins on the sacrifice appointed by God.

We have seen that the two goats must be regarded as together making
one whole. The one which was slain made 'atonement ... because of
the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their
transgressions, even all their sins,' but that expiation was not
actually effective till Aaron had 'laid his hands on the head of the
live goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children
of Israel, ... and put them on the head of the live goat, and sent
him away into the wilderness.' The sacrifice of the slain goat did
not accomplish the pardon or removal of the people's sins, but made
it possible that their sins should be pardoned and removed.

Then the method by which that possibility is realised is the laying
hands on the scapegoat and confessing the sins upon it. The sins
which are actually forgiven, by virtue of the atonement made for all
sins, are those which it bears away to the wilderness.

This answers, point for point, to repentance and faith. By these the
possibility is turned into an actuality for as many as believe on

Christ has died for sin. Christ has made atonement by which all sin
may be forgiven; whether any shall actually be forgiven depends on
something else. It is conceivable that though Christ died, no sin
might be pardoned, if no man believed. His blood would not, even
then, have been shed in vain, for the purpose of it would have been
fully effected in providing a way by which any and all sin could be
forgiven. So that the whole question whether any man's sin is
pardoned turns on this, Has he laid his hand on Christ? Faith is
only a condition of forgiveness, not a cause, or in itself a power.
There was no healing in the mere laying of the hand on the head of
the goat.

It was not faith which was the reason for forgiveness, but God's
love which had provided the sacrifice.

God's will is not a bare will to pardon, nor a bare will to pardon
for Christ's sake, but for Christ's sake to pardon them who believe.
'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.'
'Dost thou believe on the Son of God?' 'Through this Man is preached
the remission of sins.'


'And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 34. Speak unto
the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of
this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for
seven days unto the Lord. 35. On the first day shall be
an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
36. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire
unto the Lord; on the eighth day shall be an holy
convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made
by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye
shall do no servile work therein. 37. These are the
feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy
convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the
Lord, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice,
and drink offerings, every thing upon his day: 38. Beside
the sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and
beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill
offerings, which ye give unto the Lord. 39. Also in the
fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered
in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto
the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath,
and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. 40. And ye
shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly
trees, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick
trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice
before the Lord your God seven days. 41. And ye shall
keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year.
It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye
shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42. Ye shall
dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born
shall dwell in booths: 43. That your generations may
know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in
booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God. 44. And Moses declared unto
the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.'
--LEV. xxiii. 33-44.

These directions for the observance of the great festival at the
close of harvest are singularly arranged. Verses 33-36 give part of
the instructions for the Feast, verses 37 and 38 interrupt these
with a summary of the contents of the chapter, and verses 39 to the
end pick up the broken thread, and finish the regulations for the
feast. Naturally, this apparent afterthought has been pointed out as
clear evidence of diversity of authorship. But a reasonable
explanation may be given on the hypothesis of the unity of the
section, by observing that verses 33-36 deal only with the
sacrificial side of the feast, as worship proper, and thus come into
line with the previous part of the chapter, which is occupied with
an enumeration of the annual 'feasts of the Lord' (v. 4). It was
natural, therefore, that, when the list had been completed by the
sacrificial prescriptions for the last of the series, the close of
the catalogue should be marked, in verses 37, 38, and that then the
other parts of the observances connected with this feast, which are
not sacrificial, nor, properly speaking, worship, should be added.
There is no need to invoke the supposition of two authors, and a
subsequent stitching together, in order to explain the arrangement.
The unity is all the more probable because, otherwise, the first
half would give the name of the feast as that of 'tabernacles,' and
would not contain a word to account for the name.

We need not, then, include the separating wedge, in verses 37, 38,
in our present consideration. The ritual of the feast is broadly
divided by it, and we may consider the two portions separately. The
first half prescribes the duration of the feast as seven days (the
perfect number), with an eighth, which is named, like the first, 'an
holy convocation,' on which no work was to be done, but is also
called 'a solemn assembly,' or rather, as the Revised Version reads,
in margin, 'a closing festival,' inasmuch as it closed, not only
that particular feast, but the whole series for the year. The
observances enjoined, then, are the public assembly on the first and
eighth days, with cessation from labour, and a daily offering. We
learn more about the offering from Numbers xxix. 12 _et seq._,
which appoints a very peculiar arrangement. On each day there was to
be, as on other feast days, one goat for a sin offering; but the
number of rams and lambs for the burnt offering was doubled, and,
during the seven days of the feast, seventy bullocks were offered,
arranged in a singular diminishing scale,--thirteen on the first
day, and falling off by one a day till the seventh day, when seven
were sacrificed. The eighth day was marked as no part of the feast
proper, by the number of sacrifices offered on it, dropping to one
bullock, one ram, and seven lambs. No satisfactory account of this
regulation has been suggested. It may possibly have meant no more
than to mark the first day as the chief, and to let the worshippers
down gradually from the extraordinary to the ordinary.

The other half of the regulations deals with the more domestic
aspect of the festival. Observe, as significant of the different
point of view taken in it, that the first and eighth days are there
described, not as 'holy convocations,' but as 'sabbaths,' or, as the
Revised Version gives it better, 'a solemn rest.' Observe, also,
that these verses connect the feast with the ingathering of the
harvest, as does Exodus xxiii. 16. It is quite possible that Moses
grafted the more commemorative aspect of the feast on an older
'harvest home'; but that is purely conjectural, however confidently
affirmed as certain. To tumble down cartloads of quotations about
all sorts of nations that ran up booths and feasted in them at
vintage-time does not help us much. The 'joy of harvest' was
unquestionably blended with the joy of remembered national
deliverance, but that the latter idea was superadded to the former
at a later time is, to say the least, not proven. Would it matter
very much if it were? Three kinds of trees are specified from which
'the fruit,' that is branches with fruit on them, if the tree bore
fruit, were to be taken: palms, 'thick trees,' that is thick
foliaged, which could give leafy shade, and willows of the brook,
which the Rabbis say were used for binding the others together.
Verse 40 does not tell what is to be done with these branches, but
the later usage was to carry some of them in the hand as well as to
use them for booths. The keynote of the whole feast is struck in
verse 40: 'Ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God.' The leafy
spoils come into view here as tokens of jubilation, which certainly
suggests their being borne in the hand; but they were also meant to
be used in building the booths in which the whole nation was to live
during the seven days, in commemoration of God's having made them
'dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.'
This is all that is enjoined by Moses. Later additions to the
ceremonial do not concern us here, however interesting some of these
are. The true intention of the feast is best learned from the
original simple form. What, then, was its intention? It was the
commemoration of the wilderness life as the ground of rejoicing
'before the Lord.' But we must not forget that, according to
Leviticus, it was appointed while the wilderness life was still
present, and so was not to be observed then. Was it, then, a dead
letter, or had the appointment a message of joy even to the weary
wanderers who lived in the veritable booths, which after generations
were to make a feast of mimicking? How firm the confidence of
entering the land must have been, which promulgated such a law! It
would tend to hearten the fainting courage of the pilgrims. A
divinely guaranteed future is as certain as the past, and the
wanderers whom He guides may be sure of coming to the settled home.
All words which He speaks beforehand concerning that rest and the
joyful worship there are pledges that it shall one day be theirs.
The present use of the prospective law was to feed faith and hearten
hope; and, when Canaan was reached, its use was to feed memory and
brighten godly gladness.

The feast of tabernacles was the consecration of joy. Other
religions have had their festivals, in which wild tumult and foul
orgies have debased the worshippers to the level of their gods. How
different the pure gladness of this feast 'before the Lord'! No
coarse and sensuous delights of passion could live before the 'pure
eyes and perfect witness' of God. In His 'presence' must be purity
as well as 'fullness of joy.' If this festival teaches us, on the
one hand, that they wofully misapprehend the spirit of godliness who
do not find it full of gladsomeness, it teaches us no less, on the
other, that they wofully misapprehend the spirit of joy, who look
for it anywhere but 'before the Lord.' The ritual of the feast
commanded gladness. Joy is a duty to God's children. There were
mourners in Israel each year, as the feast came round, who would
rather have shrunk into a corner, and let the bright stream of
merriment flow past them; but they, too, had to open their heavy
hearts, and to feel that, in spite of their private sorrows, they
had a share in the national blessings. No grief should unfit us for
feeling thankful joy for the great common gift of 'a common
salvation.' The sources of religious joy, open to all Christians,
are deeper than the fountains of individual sorrow, deep as life
though these sometimes seem.

The wilderness life came into view in the feast as a wandering life
of privation and change. The booths reminded of frail and shifting
dwellings, and so made the contrast with present settled homes the
sweeter. They were built, not of such miserable scrub as grew in the
desert, and could scarcely throw shade enough to screen a lizard,
but of the well-foliaged branches of trees grown by the rivers of
water, and so indicated present abundance. The remembrance of
privations and trials past, of which the meaning is understood, and
the happy results in some degree possessed, is joy. Prosperous men
like to talk of their early struggles and poverty. This feast
teaches that such remembrance ought always to trace the better
present to God, and that memory of conquered sorrows and trials is
wholesome only when it is devout, and that the joy of present ease
is bracing, not when it is self-sufficient, but when it is thankful.
The past, rightly looked at, will yield for us all materials for a
feast of tabernacles; and it is rightly looked at only when it is
all seen as God's work, and as tending to settled peace and
abundance. Therefore the regulations end with that emphatic seal of
all His commands, to impress which on our hearts is the purpose of
all His dealings with us as with Israel, 'I am the Lord your God.'

III. We may note our Lord's allusions to the feast. There are
probably two, both referring to later additions to the ceremonies.
One is in John vii. 37. We learn from the Talmud that on each of the
seven days (and according to one Rabbi on the eighth also) a priest
went down to Siloam and drew water in a golden pitcher, which he
brought back amid the blare of trumpets to the altar, and poured
into a silver basin while the joyous worshippers chanted the 'Great
Hallel' (Psa. cxiii.-cxviii.), and thrice waved their palm branches
as they sang. We may venture to suppose that this had been done for
the last time; that the shout of song had scarcely died away when a
stir in the crowd was seen, and a Galilean peasant stood forth, and
there, before the priests with their empty vessels, and the hushed
multitude, lifted up His voice, so as to be heard by all, and cried,
saying: 'If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.' What
increased force is given to the extraordinary self-assertion of such
words, if we picture this as the occasion of their utterance!
Leviticus gives no preeminence to any one day, but John's
expression, 'that great day of the feast,' may well have been
warranted by later developments.

The other allusion is less certain, though it is probable. It is
found in the saying at John viii. 12: 'I am the Light of the world,'
etc. The Talmud gives a detailed account of the illuminations
accompanying the feast. Four great golden lamps were set up in the
court, each tended by four young priests. 'There was not a court in
Jerusalem that was not lit up by the lights of the water-drawing.'
Bands of grave men with flashing torches danced before the people,
while Levites 'accompanied them with harps, psalteries, cymbals, and
numberless musical instruments,' and another band of Levites
standing on the fifteen steps which led to the women's court,
chanted the fifteen so-called 'songs of degrees,' and yet others
marched through the courts blowing their trumpets as they went. It
must have been a wild scene, dangerously approximating to the
excitement of heathen nocturnal festivals, and our Lord may well
have sought to divert the spectators to higher thoughts. But the
existence of the allusion is doubtful.

We have one more allusion to the feast, considered as a prophecy of
the true rest and joy in the true Canaan. The same John, who has
preserved Christ's references, gives one of his own in Revelation
vii. 9, when he shows us the great multitude out of every nation
'with palms in their hands.' These are not the Gentile emblems of
victory, as they are often taken to be. There are no heathen emblems
in the Apocalypse, but all moved within the circle of Jewish types
and figures. So we are to think of that crowd of 'happy palmers' as
joyously celebrating the true feast of tabernacles in the settled
home above, and remembering, with eyes made clear by heaven, the
struggles and fleeting sorrows of the wilderness. The emblem sets
forth heaven as a festal assembly, as the ingathering of the results
of the toils of earth, as settled life after weary pilgrimage, as
glad retrospect of the meaning and triumphant possession of the
issues of God's patient guidance and wise discipline. Here we dwell
in 'the earthly house of this tabernacle'; there, in a 'building of
God ... eternal.' Here we are agitated by change, and wearied by the
long road; there, changeless but increasing joy will be ours, and
the backward look of thankful wonder will enhance the sweetness of
the blessed present, and confirm the calm and sure hope of an ever-
growing glory stretching shoreless and bright before us.


'The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is
Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me.'
--LEV. xxv. 23.

The singular institution of the Jubilee year had more than one
purpose. As a social and economical arrangement it tended to prevent
the extremes of wealth and poverty. Every fiftieth year the land was
to revert to its original owners, the lineal descendants of those
who had 'come in with the conqueror,' Joshua. Debts were to be
remitted, slaves emancipated, and so the mountains of wealth and the
valleys of poverty were to be somewhat levelled, and the nation
carried back to its original framework of a simple agricultural
community of small owners, each 'sitting under his own vine and fig-
tree' and, like Naboth, sturdily holding the paternal acres.

As a ceremonial institution it was the completion of the law of the
Sabbath. The seventh day proclaimed the need for weekly rest from
labour, and as was the sabbath in the week, so was the seventh year
among the years--a time of quiet, when the land lay fallow and much
of the ordinary labour was suspended. Nor were these all; when seven
weeks of years had passed, came the great Jubilee year, charged with
the same blessed message of Rest, and doubtless showing dimly to
many wearied and tearful eyes some gleams of a better repose beyond.

Besides these purposes, it was appointed to enforce, and to make the
whole fabric of the national wealth consciously rest upon, this
thought contained in our text. The reason why the land was not to
pass out of the hauls of the representatives of those to whom God
had originally given it, was that He had not really given it to them
at all. It was not theirs to sell--they had only a beneficiary
occupation. While they held it, it was still His, and neither they,
nor any one to whom they might sell the use of it for a time, were
anything more than tenants at will. The land was His, and they were
only like a band of wanderers, squatting for a while by permission
of the owner, on his estate. Their camp-fires were here today, but
to-morrow they would be gone. They were 'strangers and sojourners.'
That may sound sad, but all the sadness goes when we read on--'with
Me.' They are God's guests, so though they do not own a foot of
soil, they need not fear want.

All this is as true for us. We can have no better New Year's
thoughts than those which were taught by the blast of the silver
trumpets that proclaimed liberty to the slaves, and restored to the
landless pauper his alienated heritage.

I. Here is the lesson of God's proprietorship and our stewardship.

'The land is Mine' was of course true in a special sense of the
territory which God gave by promise and miracle, which was kept by
obedience, and lost by rebellion. But it is as really true about our
possessions, and that not only because of our transient stay here.
It would be as true if we were to live in this world for ever. It
will be as true in heaven. Length of time makes no difference in
this tenure. Undisturbed possession for ever so long does not
constitute ownership here. God is possessor of all, by virtue of His
very nature, by His creation and preservation of us and of all
things. So that when we talk about 'mine' and 'thine,' we are only
speaking a half truth. There is a great sovereign 'His' behind both.
So then let us take that thought with us for use, as we pass into
another year. What lessons does it give?

It should nurture constant thankfulness. To-day looking back over
whatever dark, dreary, sunless days, we all have bright ones too.
Does any thought of God as the Fountain of all our joys and goods
rise in our souls? Have we learned to associate a divine hand and a
Father's will with them? Do we congratulate ourselves on our own
cleverness, tact, and skill, saying, 'mine hand hath done it,' or do
we hug ourselves on our own good fortune, and burn incense to chance
and 'circumstances'?--or, sadder still, are we generously grateful
to every human friend that helps us, and unthankful only to God--or
does the glad thought come, to gild the finest gold of our
possessions with new brilliance and worth, and to paint and perfume
the whitest lily of our joys with new delightsomeness, 'All things
come of Thee'; 'Thou makest us drink of the river of Thy pleasures'?
Blessed are they who, by the magic glass of a thankful heart, see
all things in God, and God in all things. To them life is tenfold
brighter, as a light plunged in oxygen flames more intensely than in
common air. The darkest night is filled with light, and the
loneliest place blazes with angel faces, and the stoniest pillar is
soft, to him who sees everywhere the ladder that knits earth with
heaven, and to whom all His blessings are as the messengers that
descend by it on errands of mercy, whose long shining ranks lead up
the eye and the heart to the loving God from whom they come.

Here too is the ground for constant thankful submission. 'The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away.' We have no right to murmur,
however we may regret, if the Landowner takes back a bit of the land
which He has let us occupy. It was the condition of our occupation
that He should be at liberty to do so whenever He saw that it would
be best for us. He does not give us our little patches for His
advantage, but for ours, nor does He take them away at His own whim,
but 'for our profit.' We get more than full value for all the work
and capital we have expended, and His only reason for ever
disturbing us is that we may be driven to claim a better inheritance
in Himself than we can find even in the best of His gifts. So He
sometimes gives, that we may be led by our possessions to think
lovingly of Him; and He sometimes takes, that we may be led, in the
hour of emptiness and loss, to recognise whose hand it was that
pulled up the props round which our poor tendrils clung. But the
opposite actions have the same purpose, and like the up-and-down
stroke of a piston, or the contrary motion of two cogged wheels that
play into each other, are meant to impel us in one direction, even
to the heart of God who is our home. A landowner stops up a private
road one day in a year, in order to assert his right, and to remind
the neighbourhood that he could stop it altogether if he liked. So
God reminds us by our losses and sorrows, of what we are so apt to
forget, and what it is such a joy to us to remember--His possession
of them all. Blessed be God! He teaches us in that fashion far
seldomer than in the other. Let joy teach us the lesson, and we
shall the less need 'the sternest' teacher 'and the best,' even
sorrow. Better to learn it by gladness than by tears; better to see
it written in 'laughing flowers' than in desolate gardens and
killing frost.

So, too, there should be a constant sense of responsibility in the
use of all which we have. All is His, and He has given all to us,
for a purpose. So, plainly, we are but stewards, or trustees, and
are bound to employ everything, not according to our own inclination
or notion of what is right, but according to what, in the exercise
of our best and most impartial judgment, we believe to be the
owner's will. Trusteeship means that we take directions as to the
employment of the property from its owner. It means too that we
employ it not for our own satisfaction and well-being alone, though
that is included, and is a part of His purpose who 'delights in the
prosperity of His servants.' Thoughts of others, thoughts of the
owner's claims, and of bringing back to Him all that He has given to
us, increased by our diligence, must be uppermost in our minds, if
we are to live nobly or happily here. 'It is required in stewards
that a man be found faithful.' And this applies to all we have in
mind, body, and estate. A thoughtful expenditure and use of all His
gifts, on principles drawn from our knowledge of His will, and for
objects not terminating with self, is the duty that corresponds to
the great fact of God's ownership of all. If we use His gifts to
minister to our own vanity or frivolity, or love of ease, or
display; if an 'intolerable deal' of all we have is used for
ourselves, and a poor ha'porth' for others; if our gifts are
grudging; if we possess without sense of responsibility, and enjoy
without thankfulness, and lose with murmuring; if our hearts are
more set on material prosperity than on love and peace, knowledge
and purity, noble lives and a Father God; if higher desires and
hopes are dying out as we 'get on' in the world, and religious
occupations which used to be pleasant are stale; then for all our
outward Christianity the stern old woe applies, 'Your riches are
corrupted, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you,' and
we need the shrill note of the trumpet of Jubilee to be blown in our
ears, 'The land is Mine.'

II. We have the teaching of the transiency of our stay here.

'Ye are strangers and sojourners'--pilgrims who make a brief halt in
a foreign country. The image has in it an allusion to the nomad life
of Abraham and his son and grandson, as well as to the desert-
wanderings of the people, and suggests the thought, 'You are
homeless wanderers, not having where to lay your heads, as truly
when you have been settled for generations on your ancestral lands,
as when you plodded wearily in the wilderness.' It is a universal
truth, ever acknowledged and forgotten, wholesome though sometimes
sad to feel, and preached to even frivolous natures by the change in
our calendar which a New Year brings.

How vividly this word of our text brings out the contrast between
the permanence of the external world and our brief stay in it!

In Israel there would be few vineyards or olive-grounds held by the
same man at two, and none at three, successive jubilees. The hoary
twisted olives yielded their black berries, say, to Simeon, the son
of Joseph, to-day, as they did fifty years ago to Joseph, the son of
Reuben, and as they will do fifty years hence to Judas, the son of
Simeon. So is it with us all. There is nothing more pathetic than
the thought of how generations come and go, and empires rise and
fall, while the scene on which they play their brief parts remains
the same.

'The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea.'

to-day as they did more than two millenniums ago, only the grass was
for a while a little ranker on the plain. Olivet lifts the same
outline against the pale morning twilight as when David went up its
slope a weeping exile. The pebble that we kick out of our path had
thousands of years of existence ere we were born, and may lie there
unaltered to all appearance for centuries after we are dead. 'One
generation cometh and another goeth, but the earth abideth for

And how much more lasting our possessions are than their possessors!
Where are the strong hands that clutched the rude weapons that lie
now quietly ticketed in our museums? How dim and dark the bright
brave eyes that once flashed through the bars of these helmets,
hanging just a little rusted, over the tombs in Westminster Abbey!
Other men will live in our houses, read our books, own our mills,
use our furniture, preach in our pulpits, sit in our pews: we are
but lodgers in this abiding nature, 'like a wayfaring man that
turneth aside to tarry for a night,' and to-morrow morning vacates
his rooms for a new arrival, and goes away unregretted and is
forgotten in an hour.

The constant change and progression of life are enforced, too, in
this metaphor.

The old threadbare emblem of a journey which is implied in the text
suggests how, moment by moment, we hurry on and how everything is
slipping past us, as fields and towns do to a traveller in a train.
Only our journey is smooth and noiseless, like the old-fashioned
canal boat travelling, where, if you shut your eyes, you could not
tell that you were moving. We glide on and never know it, and so
gradually and silently is the scene 'changed by still degrees,' that
it is only now and then that men have any vivid consciousness that
the 'fashion of this world is' ever 'in the act of passing,' like
the canvas of a panorama ever winding and unwinding on its twin
rollers with slow, equable motion. It needs an effort of attention
and will to discern the movement, and it is worth while to make the
effort, for that clear and poignant sense of the constant flux and
mutation of all things around us, and of the ebbing away of our own
lives, is fundamental to all elevation of thought, to all nobleness
of deed, to all worthy conception of duty and of joy. Everything
that is, stands poised, like Fortune, on a rolling ball. The solid
earth is a movable sphere, for ever spinning on its axis and rushing
on its path among the stars. Ever some star is sinking in mist, or
dipping below the horizon; ever new constellations are climbing to
the zenith. A long, patient discipline is needed to keep fresh in
our hearts the sense of this transiency. Let us set ourselves
consciously to deepen our convictions of it, and amidst all the
illusions of these solid-seeming shows of things, keep firm hold of
the assurance that they are but fleeting shadows that sweep across
the solemn mountain's side, and that only God and the doing of His
will lasts. So shall our life pierce down with its seeking roots to
the abiding ground of all Being, and, looking to the 'things that
are eternal,' we shall be able to make what is but for a moment
contribute to the everlasting ennobling of our character and
enrichment of our life yonder.

Surely these words, too, tell of the true home.

'Ye are strangers'--because your native land is elsewhere. It is not
merely the physical facts of death and change that make us strangers
here, but the direction of our desires, and the true affinities of
our nature. If by these we belong to heaven and God, then here we
shall feel that we have not where to lay our heads, and shall 'dwell
in tabernacles' because 'we look for the city.'

What a contrast between the perishable tents of the wilderness and
the rock-built mansions of that city. And how short this phase of
being must look when seen from above! You remember how long a year,
a week, seemed to you when a child--what do the first ten years of
your life look to you now? What must the earthly life of Abel, the
first who died, look to him even now, when he contrasts its short
twenty or thirty years with the thousands since? and, after
thousands and thousands more, how it will dwindle! So to us, if we
reach that safe shore, and look back upon the sea that brought us
thither, as it stretches to the horizon, miles of billows once so
terrible will seem shrunken to a line of white foam.

Cherish, then, constant consciousness of that solemn eternity, and
let your eyes be ever directed to it, like a man who sees some great
flush of light on the horizon, and is ever turning from his work to
look. Use the transient as preparation for the eternal, the fleeting
days as those which determine the undying 'Day' and its character.
Keep your cares and interests in the present rigidly limited to
necessary things. Why should travellers burden themselves? The less
luggage, the easier marching. The accommodation and equipment in the
desert do not matter much. The wise man will say, 'Oh, it will do. I
shall soon be home.' 'Ye are strangers and sojourners.'

III. We have here also the teaching of trust.

Some of us think that such thoughts as the preceding are sad. Why
should they be so? They need not be. Our text adds a little word
which takes all the sadness out of them. 'With Me'; that gives the
true notion of our earthly life. We are strangers indeed, passing
through a country which is not ours, but whilst we are sojourners,
we are 'sojourners' with the king of the land. In the antique
hospitable times, the chief of the tribe would take the travellers
to his own tent, and charge himself with their safety and comfort.
So we are God's guests on our travels. He will take care of us. The
visitor has no need to trouble himself about the housekeeping, he
may safely leave that with the master of the house. If the king has
taken us in charge, we may be quite sure that no harm will come to
us in his country. So for ourselves and for those we love, and for
all the wide interests of church and world, there are peace and
strength in the thought that we are the guests of God here,
'strangers and sojourners with _Him_.' Will He invite us to His
table and let us hunger? Will He call us to be His guests, and then,
like some traitorous Arab sheikh, break the laws of hospitality and
harm His too-confiding guests? Impossible for evermore. So we are
safe, and our bread shall be given us, for we are sojourners with

True, we are strangers, and in our constant movement we lose many of
the companions of our march, and the track of the caravan may be
traced by the graves on either side. But, since we are 'with Him,'
we have companionship even when most solitary, and even in a strange
land shall not be lonely. Seek then to cultivate as a joy and
strength that consciousness that the Lord of all the land is ever
with you, Whoever goes, He abides. Whatever rushes past us like a
phantasmagoria, He passes not. Whatever and whoever change, He
changes never. Where thou goest, He will go. He will be 'thy shield
at thy right hand,' and thy 'keeper from all evil.' So, looking
forward to the unknown days of another New Year, we may be of good

So will it be while we live; and if this year we should die--well,
the King of this land, where we are strangers, is the King of the
other land beyond the sea, where we are at home. So we shall only be
the nearer to Him for the change. Death the separator shall but
unite us to the King, whose presence indeed fills this subject-
province of His empire with all its good, but who dwells in more
resplendent 'beauty,' and is felt in greater nearness in the other
'land that is very far off.' Whether here or there, we may have God
with us, if we will. With Him for our Host and companion, let us
peacefully go on our road, while the life of strangers and
sojourners shall last. It will bring us to the fatherland where we
shall be at home with the King, and find in Him our 'sure dwelling,
and quiet resting-place, and peaceful habitation for ever.'


'For they are My servants, which I brought forth out
of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as bondmen.'
--LEV. xxv. 42.

This is the basis of the Mosaic legislation as to slavery. It did
not suppress but regulated that accursed system. Certainly Hebrew
slavery was a very different thing from that of other nations. In
the first place, no Jew was to be a slave. To that broad principle
there were exceptions, such as the case of the man who voluntarily
gave himself up to his creditor. But even he was not to be treated
as a slave, but as a 'hired servant,' and at the jubilee was to be
set free. There were also other regulations of various kinds in
other circumstances on which we do not need to dwell. The slaves of
alien blood were owned and used, but under great mitigations and

Of course we have here an instance of the incompleteness of the
Mosaic law,--or rather we may more truly say of its completeness,
regard being had to the state of the world at the time. All social
change hangs together. Institutions cannot be altered at a blow,
without altering the stage of civilisation, of which they are the
expression. 'Raw haste' is 'half-sister to delay.' What is good and
necessary for one era is out of place in another. So God works
slowly, and lets bad things die out, by changing the atmosphere in
which they flourish.

All servitude to men was an infraction of God's rights over Israel.
God was the Israelites' 'Master'; they were His 'slaves.' He was so,
because He had 'broken the bands of their yoke, and set them free.'
There is, then, here--

I. The ground of God's rights. 'I brought you forth.'

II. Our servitude because of our redemption. 'Ye are My servants.'

III. Our consequent freedom from all other masters. 'Ye shall not be
sold as bondmen.'


'After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of
his brethren may redeem him.'--LEV. xxv. 48.

There are several of the institutions and precepts of the Mosaic
legislation which, though not prophetic, nor typical, have yet
remarkable correspondences with lofty Christian truth. They may be
used as symbols, if only we remember that we are diverting them from
their original purpose.

How singularly these words lend themselves to the statement of the
very central truths of Christianity--a slavery which is not
necessarily perpetual and a redemption effected by a kinsman!

That institution of the 'Goel' is of a very remarkable kind, and
throws great light on Christian verities. I wish, in dealing with
it, to guard against any idea that it was meant to be prophetic or

I. The kinsman redeemer under the old law.

The strength of the family tie in the Israelitish polity was great.
The family was the unit--hence there were certain duties devolving
on the nearest male relative. These, so far as we are at present
concerned, were three.

_(a)_ The redemption of a slave. The Mosaic legislation about
slavery was very remarkable. It did not nominally prohibit it, but
it fenced it round and modified it, so as to make it another thing.

Israelites were allowed to hold Gentile slaves, but under careful
restrictions. Israelites were allowed to sell themselves as slaves.
If the sale was to Israelites, the slavery was ended in six years or
at the jubilee, whichever period came first--unless the slave had
his ear bored to the doorpost to intimate his contentment in service
(Exod. xxi. 5,6). This is not slavery in our sense of the word, but
only a six years' engagement. If sold to a heathen in Israel, then
the Goel had to redeem him; and the reason for this was that all
Israelites belonged to God.

_(b)_ The redemption of an inheritance.

This was the task of the kinsman-goel. The land belonged to the
tribe. Pauperism was thus kept off. There could be no 'submerged
tenth.' The theocratic reason was, 'the land shall not be sold at
all for ever for it is Mine!'

_(c)_ The avenging of murder. Blood feuds were thus checked,
though not abolished. The remarkable institution of 'cities of
refuge' gave opportunity for deliberate investigation into each
case. If wilful murder was proved, the murderer was given up to the
Goel for retribution; if death had been by misadventure, the slayer
was kept in the city of refuge till the high-priest's decease.

This is the germ of the figure of the Redeemer-Kinsman in later
Scripture. Notice how higher ideas began to gather round the office.
The prophets felt that in some way God was their 'Goel.' In Isaiah
the application of the name to Him is frequent and, we might almost
say, habitual. So in Psalm xlix. 7, 'None can be Goel to his
brother'; verse 15, 'God will be Goel to my soul from the power of
the grave.'

Job xix. 25, 'I know that my Goel liveth....'

II. Our Kinsman-Redeemer.

The New Testament metaphor of 'Redemption' or buying back with a
ransom is distinctly drawn from the Hebrew Goel's office.

Christ is the Kinsman. The brotherhood of Christ with us was
voluntarily assumed, and was for the purpose of redeeming His

He is the Kinsman-Redeemer from slavery,--a slavery which is
voluntary. The soul is self-delivered to evil and sin; but blessed
be God! this slavery is terminable. The kinship of Christ was
needful for our redemption. 'It behoved Him to be made like unto His
brethren.' He thus gave His life a 'ransom' for many. Note the
objective value of His atonement, and its subjective power as
setting us free.

He is the Kinsman-Redeemer of our inheritance. God is the
inheritance here. The manhood of Jesus brings God back to us for
our--(1) Knowledge; (2) Love; (3) Possession. Heaven is our
inheritance hereafter. His manhood secures it for us. 'I go to
prepare a place for you.' 'An inheritance incorruptible.' 'The
redemption of the purchased possession.'

The Kinsman-Avenger of blood. It is only in a modified sense that we
can transfer this part of the Goel's office to Jesus. The old
Kinsman-Avenger of blood avenged it by shedding the shedder's blood
in retribution. But that was not the kind of vindication (for Goel
means also Vindicator) for which Job looked when he used the
expression. Resurrection to the vision of God was to come to him 'at
the last,' by the standing of his Goel on the earth, and that was to
be the true avenging of his death, and his vindication. The great
murderer Death is to die, and his victims are to be wrested from
him, and their death be proved to be the means of their fuller life.
'Precious shall their blood be in His sight,' and when their slayer
is slain they will live for ever, partakers of their Kinsman-
Redeemer's glory, because they had been partakers of His death, and
His blood had been precious in their sight. Let us cling to our
Kinsman-Redeemer in all our life that He may give us freedom and an
inheritance among His brethren, and, closing our eyes in death, we
may commend our spirits to the 'Angel that redeemed us from all
evil,' and be sure that He will 'redeem' our 'souls from the power
of the grave.'


'Ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because
of the new.'
LEV. xxvi. 10.

This is one of the blessings promised to obedience. No doubt it,
like the other elements of that 'prosperity' which 'is the blessing
of the Old Testament,' presupposes a supernatural order of things,
in which material well-being was connected with moral good far more
closely and certainly than we see to be the case. But the spirit and
heart of the promise remain, however the form of it may have passed
away. It is a picturesque way of saying that the harvest shall be
more than enough for the people's wants. All through the winter, and
the spring, and the ripening summer, their granaries shall yield
supplies. There will be no season of scarcity such as often occurs
in countries whose communications are imperfect, just before
harvest, when the last year's crop is exhausted, and it is hard to
get anything to live on till this year's is ready. But when the new
wheat comes in they will have still much of the old, and will have
to 'bring it forth' to empty their barns, to make room for the fresh
supplies which the blessing of God has sent before they were needed.
The same idea of superabundant yield from the fields is given under
another form in a previous verse of this chapter (ver. 5): 'Your
threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach
unto the sowing time, and ye shall eat your bread to the full':
which reminds one of the striking prophecy of Amos: 'Behold, the
days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the
reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed.' So rapid
the growth, and so large the fruitfulness, that the gatherer shall
follow close on the heels of the sower, and will not have
accomplished his task before it is again time to sow. The prophet
clearly has in his mind the old promise of the law, and applies it
to higher matters, even to the fields white to harvest, where 'he
that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together.' In the same
way we may take these words, and gather from them better promises
and larger thoughts than they originally carried.

There is in them a promise as to the fullness of the divine gifts,
which has a far wider reach and nobler application than to the
harvests and granaries of old Palestine.

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