Exodus 34:23 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
THE THREE YEARLY FEASTS AT JERUSALEM
Exo 34:23-24. Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God, thrice in the year.
BESIDES the weight of evidence arising from the accomplishment of prophecy, and the working of miracles, to prove the divine origin of the Mosaic dispensation, there is a great abundance of internal evidence in the dispensation itself, that corroborates and confirms our conclusions respecting it. What impostor that ever lived would have been weak enough to put his religion to such a test as this which we have now read? No one would have done it even for a few years, whilst he himself might be at hand to execute his own plans; much less would any man transmit such an ordinance to posterity, when one single instance of failure would be sufficient to subvert his whole religion. But, not to dwell on this, we will,
Draw your attention to the institution itself—
It was, that all the males should go up to Jerusalem thrice in the year, from every quarter of the land, to keep a feast there unto the Lord. Now consider,
Of what nature this appointment was—
[It was partly political, and partly religious. As a political ordinance, it was intended to cement the people together, and to keep them united in love. Had they had no common centre of union, no appointed means of communion, the different tribes might in process of time have forgotten their relation to each other, and have sought their own separate interests, instead of acting in concert with each other for the good of the whole. But by this expedient, all who had the greatest influence among them were brought frequently into the closest fellowship with each other, and, on their return to their respective homes, diffused the same brotherly affection through the land. As a religious ordinance, it was of singular importance, not only for the preserving of the people from idolatry, (to which they were always prone,) but for the impressing of their minds with a love to vital godliness. The times appointed for their assembling at Jerusalem were at the feast of unleavened bread, to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt and from the sword of the destroying angel; at the feast of Pentecost, to commemorate no less a mercy, the giving of the law; and at the feast of tabernacles, or of in-gathering (as it was called), to commemorate their living in tents in the wilderness, and to render thanks for the fruits of the earth which they had gathered in [Note: See Deu 16:1-16.]. Thus at the returning seasons of spring, of summer, and of autumn, they were required to commemorate the mercies which had been vouchsafed to their nation, and with joy and gratitude to acknowledge their obligations to Jehovah [Note: They were ordered to rejoice before the Lord, and to make free-will offerings to him: “None were to come empty.” Mark especially, Deu 16:10; Deu 16:15-16.] — — — What a blessed tendency had such seasons to keep alive in their minds a sense of their high privileges, and to spread a savour of true religion through every family in the land!]
What care God took to guard against the objections to which it was liable—
[It would of necessity occur to all, that, by their observance of this ordinance, their land on every side would be exposed to the incursions of their enemies, who would not fail to take advantage of their absence, and to retaliate upon them the injuries they had sustained. In this view it should seem, that they would be highly criminal in leaving the women, the children, the aged, and the sick, in such a defenceless state, and that it would be more advisable to depute some from every quarter to represent the rest. But God would not be served by deputy: he commanded all to keep the feasts at the place prescribed: and, to remove all apprehensions about their property or their families, he pledged himself to protect their frontier, and so to overrule the minds of their enemies, that they should not even “desire” to invade their land at any of those seasons. They had seen how able he was to turn the minds of their enemies in Egypt, who had just before sent, yea even “thrust,” them out of the land, laden with spoil; and he engaged that, to the remotest period of their existence as a nation, he would interpose for them with equal effect, if only they would trust their concerns to him, and serve him in his appointed way.]
We indeed have nothing to do with the institution before us: nor do we much admire the formal custom (which seems to have arisen from it) of attending at the Lord’s supper on the three great festivals of our Church, while we live in the neglect of that ordinance all the year besides. Nevertheless the institution is far from being uninteresting to us; as will be seen, while we,
Suggest some observations founded upon it—
Much might we speak respecting the providence of God, who so miraculously wrought upon the minds of their enemies, that no infidel could ever adduce one single instance wherein this promise failed. We might speak also respecting the happiness of true religion; and draw a parallel between the Jews assembling for their solemn feasts, and Christians universally uniting in the same grateful acknowledgments and heavenly joys. But there are two observations, to which, as arising clearly out of the subject, and as being of singular importance, we would limit your attention:—
The service of God is of paramount obligation—
[We have seen what strong objections might have been made to the ordinance before us, which yet was required punctually to be observed. And we know that carnal reason has much to suggest in opposition to the commands of God, much that is founded in fact and in the experience of mankind: ‘If I serve my God according to the requisitions of his word, I shall be forced to deny myself many things that are pleasing to flesh and blood: I shall also be singular, and shall expose myself to the derision and contempt of those who are hostile to true religion: my very friends may turn against me; and I may suffer materially in my temporal interests.’ All this, and more than this, is very true: but it affords no reason whatever for disobeying the commands of God. The Jews would doubtless on many occasions have preferred their domestic ease and comfort, or the occupations in which they were engaged, to the fatigue and trouble of a long expensive journey. But the command was positive: and so is ours; it admits of no excuses: we are expressly required to “deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily, and to follow Christ:” and it is on these terms only that we can be his disciples. If called to “forsake father and mother, and houses and lands, for the Gospel’s sake,” we must forsake, yea and “hate them all,” if they stand in competition with Christ, or would draw us from our allegiance to him. We must not love even life itself in comparison of him, but cheerfully sacrifice it at any time, and in any way that our fidelity to him may require. “It is not necessary that I should live,” said a great general, “but it is necessary that I should proceed.” Thus must the Christian say, ‘Tell me not of difficulties, or dangers: it is not necessary that I should be rich, or honoured, or even that I should live; but it is necessary that I should obey my God: a heated furnace, or a den of lions, is nothing to me; duty is all. If I die for conscience sake, I rejoice that I am counted worthy to suffer in so good a cause.’ This was the mind of Paul: “None of these things move me,” says he, “neither count I my life dear unto me:” “I am readV not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Lord’s sake.” O that we might be like him; men of piety, men of principle, men of firmness and decision!]
They who serve the Lord shall be saved by him—
[The trust which the Jews at those stated seasons reposed in God was never disappointed. Nor shall ours be, though all the hosts both of men and devils were confederate against us. The challenge is justly given us, “Who ever trusted in the Lord, and was confounded?” There is a great fault amongst religious people in relation to this: many are distressing themselves with doubts and fears, ‘Shall I persevere to the end? shall I be saved at last?’ A holy caution is doubtless very becoming in every state; but not a slavish fear. Our concern should be to serve God: it is his concern, if I may so speak, to save us. Even from temporal trials he can, and will, protect us, as far as is for our good [Note: See a most striking illustration of this truth in Act 18:9-18. To allay Paul’s fears, God promised to protect him in a city proverbially abandoned. He preached there eighteen months unmolested. At last a violent assault was made upon him by all the Jews in the city: but the judge would take no cognizance of their complaints, and drove them away from his judgment-seat. The Greeks, who had joined with the Jews, being irritated by this conduct, laid hold on Sosthenes, whom they conceived to be a friend of Paul’s, and beat him in the very presence of the judge: but Paul, on whose account the clamour was raised, escaped unhurt, and continued in the city a good while longer without any injury whatever; and at last departed from it in peace. So faithful are the promises of God!] — — — As for spiritual and eternal evils, he will assuredly protect us from them. “Who is he that shall harm us, if we be followers of that which is good?” Satan, it is true, will never for a moment relinquish his desire to assault us: that roaring lion will never intermit his wish to devour: but God will be as “a wall of fire round about us,” and “his grace shall be at all times sufficient for us:” “nor shall any temptation take us beyond what we are able to bear, or without a way to escape from it.” “Know ye then, Brethren, in whom ye have believed; that he is able to keep that which you have committed to him.” Know that, if only your eyes were opened, you might at this moment see horses of fire and chariots of fire all around you, and an host of angels encamped around you for your protection. Invade not any longer the province of your God. Leave to him the care of preserving you; and confine your solicitude to the serving and honouring of him. This is your duty; it is also your privilege: the direction of God himself is this; “Commit your souls to him in well-doing as into the hands of a faithful Creator.” Be assured that he will not fail you; and that “He who hath promised, is able also to perform.”]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.