From the notes of addresses given in the Ebenezer Hall, Woodbrook, Port of Spain,
— the 5th to the 8th of June 1960.
Reprinted from The Caribbean Courier by permission.
“Concerning the set feasts of Jehovah, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are my set feasts”.
(Lev. 23. 2, R.V.).
New Testament references provide abundant proof of the typical significance of the Old. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the' Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15. 4). Furthermore, incidental experiences in the history of the children of Israel, are used in a typical way by the Holy Spirit while instructing us in the ways of God. A recent translation of 1 Cor. 10. 11. makes this clear: “Now these things befell them by way of a figure—as an example and warning (to us); they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax—their consummation and concluding period.”
Such statements encourage diligent study and assure us of much spiritual enrichment. The 23rd chapter of Leviticus abounds with untold wealth for the soul.
The sequence of the seven Feasts spread over the Jewish year, is an unfolding of the dealings of God with men upon the ground of redemption, until the “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3. 21).
The following is a brief summary of the significance of each Feast, which will be of value as the studies continue :—
The Feast of the Passover is typical of Redemption by Blood.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread has in view the Sanctification of the redeemed.
The Feast of Firstfruits presents Christ in Resurrection and as the firstfruits of them that slept.
The Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) sets forth in type the truth revealed and historically fulfilled, in Acts 2.
The Feast of Trumpets would carry us onward to the coming of the Lord, and our gathering together unto Him, and also to the regathering of the nation of Israel.
The Day of Atonement will have its spiritual fulfilment in the personal return of the Son of Man. The remnant of Israel will then “look upon Him, whom they pierced” and will appreciate the meaning of Calvary.
The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the millennial age and also suggests the merging of time into the eternal state.
While Leviticus 23 gives to us the Feasts in detail, we find them grouped together in Deut. 16. 16 : “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles : and they shall not appear before the Lord empty.” In this passage the emphasis is upon the gathering together. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is inclusive of the Passover and Firstfruits; they are comprehended in Passover week. Fifty days afterward was the Feast of Weeks; the final gathering of the year was in the seventh month, when the three remaining festivals were observed.
Before passing to a more detailed consideration of each Feast, certain practical lessons need to be learned, and in order to grasp these, it is necessary to distinguish betwixt the “Set Feast” and the ordinary banquet or social gathering.
The word used has been carefully selected by the Holy Spirit and suggests a Feast by Divine appointment. Associated with it are the words—“Holy convocation”, that is, an assembling together of a redeemed people in the fear of the Lord, at the same time, having regard to His will and holiness.
Such gatherings were in the divinely appointed place. It was necessary to recognise this. It was not the place chosen by the people but by the Lord. “Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee : but at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name in” (Deut. 16. 2).
“The church of your choice” is a popular slogan to-day, but this has no warrant in the Holy Scriptures. The centre of gathering is a Divinely chosen one. It is not a particular doctrine, neither is it the name of a prominent servant of God, but the Lord Himself.
“Gather My saints together unto Me” (Psalm 50. 5) is a verse little understood at the present hour, but the truth remains, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18. 20).
At the coming of the Lord, our gathering together will be unto Him (see 2 Thess. 2. 1), and in the day of His power, the representatives of the nations will go up to Jerusalem year by year to the appointed Feast (Zech. 14. 16-19), but the reason for their assembling will be that “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48. 35).
While rejoicing in the truth of the divinely appointed centre, “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works : not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10. 24, 25).
Furthermore, to each was given the privilege and opportunity of offering unto the Lord. This carried with it a corresponding responsibility. It was a serious thing to appear before the Lord empty; is it not equally so to-day? ‘‘They shall not appear before the Lord empty; every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee” (Deut. 16. 16, 17).
Prior to assembling before the Lord in fellowship with His people, there should be on the part of each one, self examination and heart preparation. The wise men, whose purpose was worship, seeing Him, opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (see Matt. 2. 11).
The supper provided Mary with her opportunity, and she was not unprepared. “Then took Mary a pound of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12. 3).
Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, we are given similar opportunities, but are we prepared? or are we presuming to appear before the Lord empty? “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13. 15).
Yet again, another truth is discernible here. The offering already referred to was in relationship to the gift received of the Lord. The giving of our substance to the Lord is viewed as a grace in 2 Cor. 8—“See that ye abound in this grace also.” “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity : for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9. 7). Our material offerings reveal the measure of our devotion to the Lord, and let us not be unmindful of the fact that the Lord still sitteth over against the treasury, and is acquainted with what is placed therein (Mark 12. 41).
Each should be exercised with regard to the stewardship of material things. “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thy increase : so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst with new wine” (Prov. 3. 9, 10).
The redeemed are privileged to give willingly and work heartily as unto the Lord. If in the heart there is an appreciation of the deliverance wrought, then the response will be as great as in the day of Moses. “They spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp saying, I et neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary, so the people were restrained from giving” (Ex. 36. 5, 6).
. If the Lord’s people only realised their privilege in this matter, there would be abundant provision for the furtherance of the gospel; having brought in all the tithes into the storehouse, spiritual blessing would be poured out so bountifully, there would not be room enough to contain it.
The final observation is for the encouragement of all prepared to do the Lord’s will, whatever the seeming cost or present inconvenience. While the men of Israel assembled at Jerusalem the watchful eye of God was upon their homes, their wives, their little ones and their land. By reason of His overruling, none desired their land during their absence (See Exodus 34. 23, 24). This principle is carried forward and emphasised in the words of the Lord Jesus—“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6. 33).
In faithfulness to the Lord, and His Word, let each of us go on in the path of His will, having fervent desire to please Him in all things.
Having introduced the subject and suggested practical lessons associated with it, we shall proceed, if the Lord will, to consider each Feast in detail.
It has been well said that abnormal conditions prepare the way for the introduction of God’s emergency men. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh of the tribe of Judah, was no exception to this rule in Israel’s history, coming to the fore with Joshua the son of Nun when God’s ancient people rebelled on the threshold of the inheritance. “Despising the good land” has its counterpart in the Christian age; so many of God’s saints now having a great reluctance to go in for the spiritual inheritance God has prepared. The glowing reports of present-day searchers of the land seem to be no more acceptable to many than the words of Joshua and Caleb in a past day when they said, “The land which we passed through to search is an exceeding good land ... a land which floweth with milk and honey.” On one hand, the severity of God’s judgment on His ancient people for despising the land of promise should bring out a strong warning in these present days, and on the other, His words of praise for His two faithful servants of old, should provide the strongest encouragement to believe His Word and follow in the path of faith.
Of Caleb, the Spirit of God has something very special to say, which He does not say of anyone else in Scripture in the same way. Five times over it is recorded, “Caleb wholly followed the Lord”, and once this is stated in a different way by the Lord Himself, “Caleb had another spirit with him and hath followed Me fully.” Caleb’s name means “Wholehearted”, and such he always was in following the Lord God of Israel. Against tremendous odds he held fast to the word of promise and earned for himself the commendation of Heaven and a special place in the inheritance for himself and his family. Surely it is not too much to suggest that even now, the smile of the Lord’s approval on a faithful witness and stand for Him is worth much more than being one of the popular throng who live and walk before Him to His displeasure.
Let us take first of all a panoramic view of Caleb’s life. The first to commend him was the Lord Himself (Num. 14. 24). How good it is to have the smile of the Lord’s approval from the very beginning! “My servant Caleb, he had another spirit with him.” Of Joseph it was said that he was a man in whom was die Spirit of God.
Joshua, too, had the testimony that in him was the Spirit. But here we have a different expression, “He had another spirit with him.” Surely this description, “another spirit, was meant to make it clear that Caleb had not a spirit of rebellion, or a spirit of unbelief, but rather a spirit of obedience and trust. He was a man whose heart was set on the inheritance, the Old Testament counterpart of the New Testament believer whose heart is fixed on glory and whose steps are ordered in this present life as already in possession of heavenly realities. Everything to Caleb outside the land of promise was merely a means to an end; every circumstance, but a stepping stone towards the goal of his life. He valued the inheritance more than any other person or thing, and it was to him a great magnetic force which drew him on. Would that every believer of the present age felt the same drawing power in the things of God. This world could do with seeing Calebs of a modem school heaven-bent with heavenly characteristics in all their ways.
The second person to commend Caleb for his faithful following was Moses, the first man in Scripture to be called “A man of God”. As recorded in Num. 32. 12, when Moses spoke of Caleb’s faithful following he put him in harness with Joshua and stated that they “Wholly followed the Lord their God.” What a lovely picture is here! A revered servant of God putting two accredited brethren together in a yoke which was a bond of harmony from beginning to end. Who would not like to be in such goodly company in any time of crisis? Surely every young man would want such a commendation from the lips of such a giant as Moses! And yet we must remember that the words of Moses were not gratuitous; Caleb and Joshua earned them. Unearned commendations are hollow words; mere gloss for the pride of man. Let us all seek to avoid giving or receiving praise which is not altogether a true assessment of our ministry for God.
Again Moses speaks. Deut. 1 brings forward a new generation for instruction. All those over twenty years who had rebelled had died, or were about to die, in the wilderness. A new generation had arisen and they must learn before entering the land. But instruction came not by word of mouth only; Moses had his man ready and of Caleb he said again, pointing him out, “He wholly followed the Lord his God.” It is no wonder we read such words in the New Testament, “Whose faith follow, considering the issue of their lives.” The rejection by a new generation of the faithful ministry of God’s saints of a past day is a grievous sin, and young ones would do well to ask God, as Elisha asked Elijah, for a double portion of the spirit: one portion to maintain the ministry of the past and one to provide the ministry for the present.
How fitting is the next reference! Caleb himself speaks and in Joshua 14 we have his words addressed to Joshua, “I wholly followed the Lord my God.” Here is a special lesson for all believers. There is no boasting or presumption in this statement. Rather does it reflect the personal enjoyment of one who was in the good of his own ministry. Caleb had no grudge against the God of Israel. He did not find obedience to God’s will irksome or burdensome. He enjoyed it and so we have it recorded as coming from his own lips that he wholly, indeed willingly, followed the Lord his God. No one would deny that Caleb was consecrated to following the Lord and his personal testimony to his pleasure in doing so was simply an acknowledgement of what was already known by others all around. The lesson here must surely be that others will note how much believers personally enjoy, and are conformed to, their own service for God.
Finally Joshua speaks. Caleb’s companion in the search could not withhold his commendation. He knew what Caleb’s faithfulness had cost him because he too had come that very way. So, having the knowledge of experience, and having been commended himself by Moses for his faithful following, he gladly gave his blessing. It was the right hand of fellowship from one stalwart to another, and yet how full of humility on Joshua’s part. He did not remind Caleb that they both had wholly followed, but in the spirit of the New Testament injunction of each considering the other greater than himself, he granted Caleb’s request because “He wholly followed the Lord God of Israel”.
Every seaman knows the value of an anchor, especially an anchor that he can depend upon in an emergency. One of the major disasters at sea recently was indirectly caused by an anchor that failed to hold.
THE NORTH CARR LIGHTSHIP, warning sentinel of treacherous rocks at the approaches to the Firth of Forth, dragged her anchors at the height of a storm. Although emergency anchors were cast out, they too failed to hold.
In imminent danger of being driven on to the rocks from which she so faithfully had warned off shipping, she sent out a distress signal which was answered by the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat. But the attempt to reach the stricken Lightship was in vain, for the raging sea cast the Lifeboat back on the beach with the loss of her valiant crew.
How important and necessary a dependable anchor is to seamen!
In the Bible, in Hebrews 6. 19, we read of an anchor, an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, even JESUS . . Jesus, who came to Bethlehem as a Babe, who lived in Nazareth as a Boy, who trod Galilee’s shores as a Man, and died on a Cross of shame outside Jerusalem’s walls; Jesus, who now exalted in Resurrection Power and Glory, is spoken of as the One upon whom our hope should be set, “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul.”
The seaman casts his anchor but he cannot be sure that it will hold. The soul that trusts the Lord Jesus as Saviour has a hope which cannot fail—“an anchor—both sure and STEADFAST.”
What is your hope, dear reader? If it is set on anything but Jesus, if you are trusting in anything but His finished work to save you, then your anchor will fail in the hour of crisis. Storms are coming, severe storms, for God will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17. 31), and these will test the reliability of your anchor.
Christ is the proved anchor. Trust in Him. His death on the Cross is the answer to God for sin, His Resurrection the evidence that God is satisfied (Romans 4. 25). Now in Heaven, a living, exalted Saviour waits for you to trust Him. By doing so, you will have a hope, both sure and steadfast. By refusing to do so, you expose yourself to more grave danger, with more tragic results, than any failing anchor could cause a seaman, for it will be eternal.
“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife;
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
“Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
When the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail,
While your anchor holds within the vail.”
Fellow-traveller to Eternity, how will you do “in the swelling of Jordan”? (Jeremiah 12. 5).
The modern world has to some extent fired professing Christianity in seeking unity—though possibly from different motives. The United Nations Organization with its various branches seeks to arrive at mutual understanding and happy terms of relationship between its fellow-members. Similarly there has been an attempt among certain elements of the Church in the world to form a united front in Christian testimony. Though many differences exist between them, they invite help and co-operation. Here is a genuine attempt to provide the solution to a problem which has been a heartache to many godly Christians—the divided Church. It offers a serious challenge which should be given careful consideration by every Christian, from the individual and collective aspects of the problem involved.
A broad-minded approach to this problem is of paramount importance if our conclusion is to be at all valid. This implies the contemplation of the subject from all angles, the appreciation of the merits of everyone else’s point of view, and then the formation of a sound personal judgment from the evidence produced. Broad-mindedness is not synonymous with tolerance. I may appreciate another man’s point of view, and have a certain amount of sympathy towards him since he holds it, but if the evidence given causes me to form the opposite judgment, I can never accept his view as right, nor consider him to be right in holding it.
In applying broad-mindedness to Christian life, it is essential for us to accept God’s Word in its entirety as the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Human opinion is only valid insofar as it is compatible with the whole of Scripture teaching. In handling a problem, we must consider every aspect of it in God’s Word. We cannot in these things argue “after the manner of men”, logical and reasonable as these arguments may appear by themselves. We are God’s creation and His servants. We cannot dare to assume ourselves superior in intelligence to Him, we must be conformed to His commands.
Taking the Lord’s command in Matthew 28, verses 18-20, as the broadest basis of Christian faith and practice, we are told to go “into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. Here is a threefold command : to preach the Gospel, so that men and women will not merely come to know Christ as Saviour, but become His disciples and seek to follow Him : to baptize; and to teach to observe all things commanded. Wittingly to swerve in any way and under any circumstances from obeying this command to the letter constitutes deliberate disobedience.
I suggest that this command provides the true basis for unity in the Church, and the only basis from which we can view the problem of unity. It provides us with oneness of purpose and with a sole authority. In effect, it is an elaboration of the statement in Ephesians 4, verse 5—“one Lord”— for our unity must inevitably arise from our acceptance of the Lordship of Christ and our complete obedience to all His commands. As Paul reminds Timothy: “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. Hence the authority from which we can learn God’s will for us is Scripture : the principles guiding all our individual and corporate life are clearly seen in its pages.
The individual seeking to practise this obedience to his Lord will seek out a company of believers of like mind and join himself to them so that he may function properly in the church local. This oneness of desire carefully and conscientiously to obey the Lord provides the ground of fellowship of a true local church.
Similarly, the individual, or the church local as a body, in contemplating fellowship with other gatherings, will seek out and have fellowship with such companies of believers as meet on similar principles. The fellowship enjoyed between them, the teaching from Scripture shared from time to time, should assist them in the constant re-orientation towards Christ which is necessary for every believer if his life is to be conformable to Christ. Hereby the unity of the Church can be achieved and maintained—individuals working in perfect harmony with each other, all on the one common ground of truth : that Christ is Head of the body, which is the Church.
Nineteen-Sixty-Three now lies behind us. It was a year of record-breaking, of sensational achievements in many fields of endeavour, and of world-shaking events which followed each other in rapid and almost bewildering succession. These events were notable not only because of their immediate impact upon society, but also because of the trends in different spheres which they revealed—trends which seem clearly to indicate the approaching end of this age of slighted grace.
As for 1964, there is no solid ground for believing that it will witness any reversal of these significant trends. Its first big ecclesiastical news featured “the Church of Rome riding on the crest of another great wave of publicity and propaganda, as the Pope left the Vatican and became the first pope to visit the Holy Land”. Perhaps no earthly monarch reigns in such pomp and splendour, and certainly no royal prince receives such enthusiastic homage, as does this religious usurper—this pretended follower of “the meek and lowly Jesus.” Throughout this visit Cardinals and Archbishops were in attendance upon him. King Hussein of Jordan met and greeted him at Amman Airport. A guard of honour and a salute of twenty one guns welcomed his arrival, and some hundreds of triumphant arches, ornamented with the papal colours, decorated his route to Jerusalem. Never before has Rome’s prestige been so high. It is no surprise, therefore, that many leaders of the large Protestant denominations, having rejected the true light of Divine revelation—the Bible— are captivated by the worldly splendour of this blasphemous, satanic, and soul-destroying system and long increasingly for reunion with it. “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6. 23). Hence, let all who are “of the day” beware of the Romeward trend, and of the much lauded ecumenical movement also, which under the auspices of the World Council of Churches is making such rapid advances. Christendom to-day is heading straight for open, unabashed apostasy, and Rev. 17, which so graphically depicts its fearful end, will shortly be fulfilled. Against this and other forms of apostasy, we have sought over the years repeatedly to warn our readers.
Of all the record-breaking in 1963, what interests us most is the phenomenal growth of the world’s population. In the twelve months it has increased by 65,000,000, and now stands at the unique and staggering figure of 3,250,000,000. What a challenge to our hearts!
“Far, far away in heathen darkness dwelling,
Millions of souls for ever may be lost”
With this appalling need before our eyes, and the season of rescue so uncertain and at best so short, this surely is no time for day-dreaming or complacency. Yet, alas, how purposeless, prayerless, and passionless our hearts are! How few really care! “All seek their own”. “One distressing feature of 1963”, says the Editor of “Harvest Fields”, the Irish Missionary Magazine, “relates to the number of workers leaving Ireland for service abroad”. Recent figures are: Nine in 1960, Nine in 1961, Five in 1962, and none in 1963. Here is another trend, and a very disappointing one at .that. With the Editor we ask, “Will this tragic trend be reversed this year?” We shall see. May the Almighty Spirit jolt us out of our cruel indifference and so intensify our love for dying men that we shall feel the Divine urge as did F. W. H. Myers when he cried,
“With a swift rush the intolerable craving Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call,
Oh, to save these, to perish for their saving,
Die for their life, be offered for them all.”
Then the tragic trend will be reversed. What about it, young men? The call rings out as of old, “Who will go?” Who will answer, “Here am I, send me”? WILL YOU?
Wishing every reader the Lord’s richest and fullest blessing as we face what, if we but knew it, may be the year of the Church’s glorious Rapture, I close this annual note with warm love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The past year has demonstrated the abounding grace of our faithful God. We confess to having had our trials, but we praise God for every time we freshly prove His Word to be true, “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4. 6, R.V.). Our readers are aware, on the 23rd August last, our dear brother and fellow-helper, Mr. C. H. McCalister entered into the Presence of his Lord. We miss him greatly. His wise counsel was valuable. His willingness to help at all times was most encouraging. Our heavy loss casts us increasingly upon our gracious Lord, Whose guidance and help we feel we need more than ever. But we also can record our joy in receiving very many tributes of appreciation of the magazine by the Lord’s dear people, and the many requests for copies from new readers have been most encouraging. For all this we thank God.
Earlier issues have intimated our desire at all times to avoid waste in producing this magazine. For this reason we appreciate the return of unwanted copies. Such, when returned, enable us to supply requests for back numbers. If, at any time, more copies are being received than required, please inform us promptly and we shall amend. When an increase is required, advise us of the precise quantity and it will afford us pleasure to meet such requests. New readers can be assured their requests will be welcome at any time of the year, but, where possible, please endeavour to obtain copies through the assembly parcel. This saves labour and postage. To save time for our brother Mr. Bunting, please forward new orders, orders for back numbers and extra copies, cancellations and changes of address to me. Name and address in BLOCK LETTERS, please.
We trust all our readers will appreciate we have a duty, as stewards before the Lord, to avoid waste in any form. This magazine is produced solely by the freewill offerings of the Lord’s people, and all monies received are expended exclusively in the publishing and posting. No contributor of any paper appearing in our pages receives any monetary reward.
We thank all those who have continued to remember us in their prayers. We take the opportunity again to express our sincere appreciation of the practical fellowship with us of the Lord’s dear people. We thank our good God for the exercise of heart shown by so many, individually, and through assemblies, who by their gifts have enabled us to meet the increasing costs of publication.
May the Lord be pleased richly to bless to His saints the further copies we propose in His will, to issue during another year.