God's Certain Justice

Text Numbers 31:1-24 Time 28/04/13 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

On Friday at our children's club, during the question time, one of the girls asked why there was so much fighting in the Bible. We had been talking about Saul and his battle with the Ammonites. Here again years before Saul, in Numbers 31, we read of a battle, this time against the Midianites. Why are there so many battles in the Old Testament? There are various reasons for the fact. One is that in order for Messiah to come God was creating a nation for himself, a nation that would live in a certain land at a certain time. Few nations are founded without some form of fighting at some point. There is also the fact that many in the nations in that part of the world were godless and corrupt and had so trespassed on God's goodwill that they became ripe for destruction and it was the people of God who God appointed to be his instruments of justice against them.
Certainly in this chapter what happens is that God determines to bring justice on the Midianites and he determines to do that through his people under Moses. Indeed this was to be one of Moses' last significant acts of leadership. He did not lead the army into battle but he directed operations behind the lines.
What the chapter reminds us of is the sure justice of God. Here it is against one people at one time. It reminds us, however, that one day all the nations of all time will be brought before him to be judged and justice will be done. Such a thought is encouraging in one way. We know what terrible crimes have been committed by different nations down the years. Think of things like the crimes of the Nazi regime under Hitler, the wiping out of the aboriginals in Australia, the Armenian genocide of the twenties, etc, etc, quite apart from all the individual injustices people have suffered. All those injustices will be dealt with. On the other hand, there is something fear inducing about such a thought. What about me? Will I be able to stand on that great day?
It is good to think about God's justice then and we see it presented to us here in this chapter. The chapter really follows on from Chapter 25 where we read about how
While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods.
It becomes clear that not only Moabite women but Midianite ones too were involved. At the end of Chapter 25 we read these words
The LORD said to Moses, Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. They treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the Peor incident involving their sister Kozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed when the plague came as a result of that incident.
Chapter 31 is where we see Israel obeying that call. This act of vengeance and judgement comes in three or four parts and it is good to look at each and think about God's justice and judgement, especially his final judgement. So let's think about fours things
1. Consider mobilisation for judgement
First we read in verses 1-5 that
The LORD said to Moses, Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people. (He will die). So Moses said to the people, Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the LORD's vengeance on them. Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel. So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel.
It is called vengeance. It is the Lord's vengeance. We are told in the New Testament not to take vengeance but to leave room for God's wrath. He will avenge. What has to happen first here is that people need to be selected for the battle. Israel had been given a strategy for doing this, where the numbers would be whittled down by asking various questions such as whether anyone was afraid to fight and excluding newly marrieds and others. Finally, the number was down to 1000 from each tribe. These men were then mustered or deployed. These numbers are no doubt deliberately small in order that all the glory might be the Lord's.
Writing to the Corinthians in one place Paul reminds them that they will judge angels. The suggestion seems to be that in some way believers are going to be involved in the judgement. We do not know exactly how but we will be involved. In order for that happen we first have to be selected as believers and then when Jesus comes again we will actually have to be deployed for the task.
So, if you like, the mobilisation for judgement has begun. We never think about it like this but each time a person is converted so another person is recruited to God's army, an army that seeks to win people to Christ on earth and that in heaven will judge the angels and others.
2. Consider the judgement itself
Next, in verses 6-10, we read how
Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signalling.
We do not know exactly what Phinehas, the hero of Chapter 25, took out to the field but it all suggested that this was very much a holy war.
They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man. Presumably this means every man in the battle. We read later of the Midianites and so either this was only one branch of the tribe or not all of them went out to battle. Among their victims were Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba - the five kings of Midian. Interestingly, we read that They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. He was the one who sought to curse Israel and unable to do that recommended the more subtle strategy of enticing the men into the beds of the women of Moab and Midian.
We read that
The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps.
Here we learn that sin will be punished. It had begun with the people of God in Chapter 25 and now it extends to all. Here it is all very decisive and universal. So it will be when the judgement day comes. No-one will escape at that time. Unlike here absolutely no-one will be spared. Judgement will come on all at the hands of God's people. What a warning to those who remain in unbelief.
3. Consider amassing the plunder after judgement
The two other things we read about in the chapter are the plunder and the purification.
In verses 11-17 we read that
They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals, and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan across from Jericho. Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the officers of the army - the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds - who returned from the battle. Have you allowed all the women to live? he asked them. They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
It may sound rather harsh but it is only following what is set out in Deuteronomy 20. The virgins are spared because, unlike Balaam and the Midianite women, they are innocent of seducing Israel. God is utterly fair.
This is how it will be at the judgement then. The wicked will certainly be judged and the righteous will plunder them. What blessings will be ours in that day. All the earth's riches will be ours. The meek will inherit the earth.
4. Consider undergoing purification after judgement
The final thing here is in 19-24
Anyone who has killed someone or touched someone who was killed must stay outside the camp seven days. On the third and seventh days you must purify yourselves and your captives. Purify every garment as well as everything made of leather, goat hair or wood. Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, This is what is required by the law that the LORD gave Moses: Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water. On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean. Then you may come into the camp.
Both in Numbers and in Leviticus careful rituals are prescribed for cleansing after a battle. Both the soldiers and their captives had to be cleansed. No doubt it all taught Israel that they were not perfect themselves but in need of cleansing also. The plunder had to be cleansed too. When God comes to judge this world everything will literally pass through the ire and only what is holy will survive. In 1 Corinthians 3:13, 14 Paul says of preachers
If anyone builds on this foundation Christ using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work.
So even the judges will be cleansed and indeed all that is spared then.
We should think often of the judgement. It will be here sooner than we realise. What a day it will be. Then justice will be done, God's justice, a justice that is prefigured here in Numbers 31.
There is an oft quoted statement about God's justice by Thomas Guthrie. He says
Slow goes the hand of justice, like the shadow on the sundial; ever moving, yet slowly creeping on, with a motion all but imperceptible. Still stand in awe. The hand of justice has not stopped, although imperceptible it steadily advances; by and by it reaches the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth hour. And now the bell strikes. Then unless you have fled to Christ, the blow which was so slow to fall, shall descend over the head of impenitence with accumulated force.”
Perhaps I can finish by reading to you these sobering words from Revelation 19
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants. And again they shouted: Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever. The 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: Amen, Hallelujah! Then a voice came from the throne, saying: Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small! Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people.) Then the angel said to me, Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! And he added, These are the true words of God. …
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small. Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.


Commitment to God - caution and zeal

Text Numbers 30 Time 21/04/13 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
One of the things that sometimes happens in this building is that people publicly express a commitment to God by making promises. That's what happens when a new minister is inducted. He promises to serve the congregation. It's what happens too when a person is baptised or joins the church, even though it is not always spelled out. That person is promising to follow Christ faithfully or to be a faithful member of the church. Of course, we also have weddings here where bride and groom make promises to each other of lifelong commitment.
Promises and vows go together well with making a commitment and can be a real help to that end. The 1689 Baptist Confession has a helpful chapter on vows and oaths. It begins
1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth; and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.
2. The Name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence, therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name or to swear at all by any other thing is sinful and to be abhorred; yet as in matter of weight and moment for confirmation of truth and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the Word of God. So a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters ought to be taken.
4. An Oath is to be taken in the plain, and common sense of the words; without equivocation, or mental reservation.
This is something that comes out well in Numbers 30, where Moses is instructed first to urge people to keep their oaths but then to point out that in certain situations a vow or oath is not binding, which is something the confession also goes on to deal with. Also note how the final verse of the chapter points out these regulations the Lord gave Moses concern relationships between a man and his wife, and between a father and his young daughter still living in his house. This is not the only chapter about vows in the Bible (Leviticus 27 is another) but it follows on appropriately from chapters dealing with making sacrifices. A vow might often involve a vow to make a sacrifice.
There are three chief things to learn from this brief chapter then.
1. See the importance of heartfelt commitment in serving the Lord
Under the Old Testament Law vows and oaths were very much part of the way of life. They are less so now, although they play their part. The call to love God with all your heart and soul and mind continues, however, and so it is still basically true that when a man makes a vow to the Lord (a positive promise to do something) or takes an oath to bind himself by a pledge, (a negative promise not to do something) he must not break his word but must do everything he said. Have you said you will follow the Lord? Then follow the Lord. Have you said you will do some particular thing – such a serving as a pastor or a deacon, giving a certain amount of money or doing a certain thing – then do it.
One nineteenth century writer wrote like this
If I had promised you an acorn next first of October, and all the oaks in England had been blighted, it would become my duty to send to Spain for one, but not for the value of the acorn. Did you ever hear of Ruy Diazel Campeador, who, in order to arm his men for a campaign against the Moors, had borrowed money upon some chests of stones, which the Jews of Burgos who lent it, imagined to be plate? He redeemed the pledge and when his generals, on seeing the chest opened wondered at his doing so, (honesty does not seem to have been the Spaniard forte in those days) he said “Do you not know that there was in those chests a treasure far more precious than anything you can see? They contained el oro de mi verdad the gold of my truth.” Far more than meets the eye is implied in the keeping or the not keeping of a trifling rubric it is not the thing itself but it is the compromise of principle - it is the difference between truth and falsehood - between honesty and dishonesty.”
People make and break promises lightly today. Commitment and loyalty are a rare thing. Marriage is an obvious example. I saw an article only the other day expressing amazement at how common adultery is in our society. This is not how it ought to be.
2. Recognise that rash vows or promises must be avoided
The bulk of the chapter is taken up with examples of where a vow is made but it should not be kept. No doubt this is because it was rash and should not have been made. It is not only women who make rash commitment, of course. Jephthah famously made a rash promise to sacrifice the first creature he saw on returning home from battle if he was successful and ended up killing his only daughter. Herod is another example with his rash promise to give his step daughter anything she should choose up to half the kingdom – never guessing she would say the head of John the Baptist.
The first example here is where a woman still living at home makes vow or takes an oath (3-5). In such a case when (4) her father hears about her vow or pledge if he says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she bound herself will stand. But (5) if her father forbids her when he hears about it, presumably because he sees it is a rash promise none of her vows or the pledges by which she bound herself will stand; the Lord will release her because her father has forbidden her.
The second example (6-8) is with regard to a woman who marries after making a rash promise, probably a betrothed woman. Here there is an explicit reference to a rash promise by which she binds herself. The principle is the same though – if
her husband hears about it but says nothing to her, then her vows or the pledges by which she bound herself will stand. But if her husband forbids her when he hears about it, he nullifies the vow that binds her or the rash promise by which she binds herself, and the Lord will release her.
The third example is a married woman (10-12). Once again it is the same – if
her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she bound herself will stand. But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the Lord will release her.
One other thing is added in verses 13-15. It is a sort of statute of limitations, although no exact time scale is given. It says that
Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself. But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he is responsible for her guilt.’
Verse 9 makes clear that
Any vow or obligation taken by a widow or divorced woman will be binding on her.
So if a woman wanted to make a promise – to make a sacrifice, to give money or make some other commitment – then she was free to do it if she was a widow or divorced but otherwise she was subject to the direction of her father or husband. The laws were in place in order to discourage people taking advantage of anyone tempted to make a rash promise.
Of course, it is not only women who make rash promises men can make them just as easily.
Here is a warning then, first of all, against rash promises. The 1689 Confession includes these words on the subject.
3. Whosoever taketh an oath warranted by the Word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knoweth to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns. ...
5. A vow which is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all religious care and faithfulness; but popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
At this time there was a particular concern about those who had made monastic vows and whether they could break them. They can be broken, the confession suggests, because they are rash and unbiblical. Of course, far better would have been not to have made them in the first place. The same can be said for some vows made today - not to marry or not to drink alcohol, for example. A wise person will be very careful before he makes a vow, making sure that it is in line with the Bible and allowing for change where necessary.
I remember reading a story from the days when Communism was till going strong in Eastern Europe and persecuting Christians there. People from western Europe would often take Bibles to the east even though they were officially banned. One man told how he and his friend were in the Czech Republic or somewhere when their car got stuck in the mud. They were in real trouble but some locals kindly helped them out by pushing the car. They were then ushered into a tavern of some sort and pints of beer were served. The one man had actually taken a vow not to drink alcohol and so he was in a spot. Should he keep his vow, which would involve trying to explain why he was not going to drink or should he forget the vow and drink up out of politeness. I think he made the right decision when he decided to drink up but he might have been wisest not to make a vow. You can avoid alcohol without taking a vow. Similarly you can remain single without vowing to remain so. Vows are best avoided but in certain situations they are okay as long as you remember to keep them.
3. Observe the patriarchal nature of biblical order
The other thing here is the emphasis on relationships between a man and his wife, and between a father and his young daughter still living in his house. There is clearly a patriarchal structure here in which fathers have a certain authority over their daughters and husbands over their wives. Some women object to such an order and say that it should not be like that. Clearly the system is open to abuse but that is no reason to abandon it. When a girl is growing up she may feel that she wants to vow to give money away or to live in a certain way but if her father objects then she will have to revise her plans. Something similar pertains where a woman is married and her husband is still living. This is the biblical order both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
You see from this passage that the purpose of this is not to limit a woman but to protect her. Verse 15 speaks about the woman's husband being responsible for her guilt. Of course, these ideas are lost on many who want to destroy the whole biblical idea of a family completely. This is why we have people pushing things such as gay marriage, anti-smacking legislation and even the championing of women's rights to some extent. The biblical pattern of children obeying their parents, of women submitting to their husbands is the right way and the only safe way. The more we see it honoured the better.
Here is a reminder of the duty of parents to care fro their children and husbands to love their wives. Do not forget your responsibilities.
So make a heartfelt commitment to God. In some instances a vow is appropriate but take care what you promise to do. You must keep your promises. Women, you have some protection in the care of a father or husband but not in every case.

Lessons from Israel's feasts in the seventh month

Text Numbers 29 Time 07/04/13 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church     
We are looking at the Book of Numbers and we looked last week at Numbers 28. That chapter begins to enumerate the various sacrifices that Israel was to observe at this time. It is a sort of calendar of events. You get the calendar in various forms in Exodus (twice), Leviticus and Deuteronomy and here in Numbers. It begins (28:1, 2)
The Lord said to Moses, Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me. Chapter 29 ends In addition to what you vow and your freewill offerings, offer these to the LORD at your appointed festivals: your burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings and fellowship offerings. Moses told the Israelites all that the LORD commanded him.
Now as we said last time for us such chapters are a little tedious and it's difficult to know what to do with them. When you come to certain places in the New Testament it is pretty obvious how to respond but many parts of the Bible aren't like that. There are often things you need to know not that you need to obey. A lot of knowledge is like that. You may remember me saying that it's one of the things that makes school frustrating for some. Some children have a pragmatic approach. “Is it in the exam, miss?” is their only question. If it is, they just learn it. For others that is not enough. The Battle of Waterloo was in 1805 – yes but what has that got to do with me today? Today we are going to be looking at Snell's Second Law – but why do I need to know about that?
When we come to a chapter like this we can feel a bit like that. So we started last time by asking why we need to know about this. It's not something you need to know in order to become a Christian. However, it is not useless. It can do at least two things for you if you bother to spend some time on it.
1. It will make you thankful that you do not have to know this today. The instructions found here no longer have to be followed as far as the letter is concerned. The sacrificial system was quite demanding. There were sacrifices to be made on a daily, weekly, monthly and an annual basis. All that has gone and we should be thankful that it has gone and that we no longer have to follow such a demanding ritual.
We should have the same attitude to a chapter like this as we might have when we see an old school exercise book or examination paper. Have you ever had that feeling? You see something like that and you look back and you remember how strange it all was when you started on it – learning to read, learning your times tables, the first class you took in French or Physics or Food Tech or what ever it was – and (if you have been successful in it) you think to yourself, I'm glad I haven't got to go through all that again.
So let's be thankful that we live today when all we have to do is to put our faith in Christ. There is no daily, weekly, monthly or annual sacrifice to be made. The only sacrifice needed has been made once and for all by Jesus Christ. It is enough and if we trust in him then all is well.
2. It will give you an insight into what Christ has done and into how to live as a Christian
The second thing such chapters do is to give you some insight into what Christ did on the cross as all these sacrifices were designed to point forward to what he was going to do in what was then the future. Further, although strictly speaking sacrifices have come to an end and the feasts no longer need to be kept, nevertheless there is a sense in which sacrifices are still to be made. It helps with that too.
We then went on to consider how Chapter 28 helps us to learn to live our Christian lives day by day, week by week, month by month and relying both on the death of Jesus Christ, pour Passover Lamb, on the cross and the Holy Spirit who was poured out on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection.
Now in Chapter 29 we come on to what was to happen in the seventh month. This is the equivalent to our September and October. In the Jewish calendar this was a busy month with at least three things happening and in each case sacrifice required at the Temple in line with these feasts.
So we say
1. Consider the sacrifices at the Feast of Trumpets and learn how to start a year
We read that On the first day of the seventh month they were to hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is called a day for you to sound the trumpets. Trumpets would be sounded at the start of each month but this was the start of a new year. Along with the usual offerings of the day and month (6) there was to be As an aroma pleasing to the LORD, ... a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With this there was to be the usual grain offering (3, 4). They were also to Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you.
This day marked the beginning of the civil new year in Israel. As you know in our culture January 1 is the first day of the new year but there are other new years too. The academic year begins in September and the legal year in October. Yesterday was the first day of the financial year. As individuals when our birthdays come around we mark the completion of another year and the beginning of another new one. It is the same with anniversaries such as wedding anniversaries or church anniversaries.
Now the feast of trumpets gives us an insight into how to mark such passages of time.
It was a time for sacred assembly and sacrifices. This day was to be a holy Sabbath of rest and there were to be special sacrifices. Now, of course, that is a very Old Testament form but it is right that we also worship God in a special way at such times and take opportunity to reflect and consider, giving thanks fir the past and praying about the future.
There was to be a sin offering, a reminder that there ought to be confession of sin on such occasions. There were also offerings that spoke of thankfulness and the burnt offering which always reminds us of the command to be living sacrifices in God's service.
Every year that passes however we record it is a reminder of God's mercies and of how little time there is left to serve him. It struck me the other day, I will be 54 next birthday. That leaves only 16 years until I am 70 – if I live that long. Time is going fast.
2. Consider the sacrifices for the Day of Atonement and learn to confess your sins
Then in that first month on the tenth day they were again to hold a sacred assembly. They were told You must deny yourselves and do no work. It was to be a Sabbath then and a day of fasting. The full day is described in Leviticus 16 but along with all that is described there about the scapegoat and so on they were to Present as an aroma pleasing to the LORD a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. This with the grain offerings and (11) one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the sin offering for atonement and the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.
One day in the year then (Yom Kippur or the Day of atonement) was to be set aside for thinking about their sins. It was a time for humbling themselves before God because of their sins. The fasting was a reminder of the need to put to death their sins. There was only one day of fasting in the calendar and even then the sick and children were exempt. Under the gospel there is no set day for fasting, although fasting can be of some use. However, every day we are to fast from sin and deny ourselves, of course.
The offerings here speak again of thankfulness and commitment to God again. The whole is a reminder again of the need for sacrifice to take away sin. Of course, the Day of Atonement went on year after year and still goes on though now without sacrifice. The continuation of the sacrifices showed that no complete atonement had been made. When Christ came and made the sacrifice of atonement that he made he did it once for all. “Full atonement can it be? Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” How we should praise God that all our sins are removed through his expiation and propitiation before God turning away God's wrath that stood against us.
3. Consider the feast of Tabernacles and learn
Nothing is said again of the feast itself but the sacrifices are set out. This is the feast of booths or Succoth when they were to make tents open to the sky and live in them for a week. It was a reminder of their days in the desert after they left Egypt. It was also something of a harvest festival coming at that time of the year. It was a feast marked by joy and thanksgiving.
They are told (12) On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Celebrate a festival to the LORD for seven days.
Far more offerings were required for this festival than any other – 14 rams, 98 lambs and 70 bulls.
The feature of offering 13 bulls, then 12, then 11 down to the eighth day is interesting too. Some of the older commentators suggest that the Jews were being taught that the old dispensation would slowly wind down until there was one great sacrifice at the end.
In John 7:37, 38 we read that On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John adds By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
This was probably an allusion to the practice at that time in the Feast of Tabernacles of the priest taking a jug full of water from the Pool of Siloam and pouting it out as he said (from Isaiah 12:3) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Last week we made the point that with the references to Passover and Pentecost we were being reminded of the centrality of Christ's death on the cross and of the pouring out of the Spirit. You have the same reminder here in the Day of atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. We must never forget Jesus Christ and him crucified as the atonement for sin nor the Holy Spirit who we all need poured out upon us.
In Romans 8:3, 4 Paul says that
what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Christ has been made a sin offering and we live according to the Spirit. May it be so.