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  • CHARLES SPURGEON'S WRITINGS -
    XIII. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT AND THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.


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    Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

    And ye shall do no work in that same day, etc. — (Leviticus 23:27-40.)

    THESE two festivals were both exceedingly instructive. Take either of them and you shall find them full of the richest meaning. Without any extravagance of spiritual ideas, or endeavoring to find teaching in every single detail, there is very much to be learnt from each of these; and, perhaps, the greatest lesson of all is this — that the Day of Atonement comes first with its sorrow for sin, and then the Feast of Tabernacles comes afterwards with its sacred joys and devout exhilaration. We shall have to speak of each of these as we go on.

    And, first, let us speak awhile on the Day of Atonement — the Day of Atonement attended with soul affliction; and then afterwards the Feast of Tabernacles attended with its exceeding great joy.

    I. First, then, the Day of Atonement. The object was to set forth to all Israel that sin was a great evil, that God could not endure it, and that it must be put away. Once a year there must be a great demonstration of the putting away of sin before God. The first thing to be done on that occasion was that there should be brought a sacrifice, and a sacrifice by blood, for of all truths the most important for us to learn is that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. There never was a sin pardoned in this world by God apart from atonement by blood, and there never will be. Heaven and earth may pass away, but this rule shall always stand — “Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” God is merciful, but then He is also just, and unless His justice can be satisfied His mercy cannot exercise its function. It is of the nature of God that all His characteristics should be full-orbed and all-perfect. We know with regard to men that often one of their virtues will eclipse the rest.

    No man can be in character perfectly balanced; there is always something in excess. We have known many a man whose straightforwardness has overcome his courtesy and tenderness, and many another man whose tenderness has been exhibited at the expense of his honesty and of his love of the right. To have all the parts of one’s character balanced would be, of course, to be perfect; and that is what God is, and He would never allow one of His attributes to be glorified at the expense of another. God has devised a way in which He can be merciful without the violation of His justice, and that way is simply wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.

    Jesus bears the penalty due for sin. Mercy steps in and gives us Jesus. The love of the infinite Father gives Jesus out of His bosom. Mercy, therefore, has the widest possible scope in giving the unspeakable gift; and justice has full play after it sacrifices Christ for sin.

    The question is, how could it sacrifice Christ for sins that were not His own? and the answer is a very easy one. Adam was the head of our race and sinned for us. Jesus Christ is the second head, and His people are one with Him. It was right, when they were in debt, that He should pay, for He was married to them. It was right that when they had sinned He should be punished, for He was their representative, and they were in Him. At His hand the evil was required, not because He had done it, but because He was the legal representative of those who had offended; and it was just and legal that He should suffer in their stead. He has done so. On the Day of Atonement the priest killed the bullock and the goat, and went with their blood into the mysterious presence of God within the veil and sprinkled the blood there. Dear friends, all our hope of pardoned sin must lie in Jesus, the great High Priest, having carried His blood within the veil. He was within the veil, I might say, in that thick darkness which hung over Calvary when He was pouring out His soul unto death on the cross. There in that inner circle of blackness and of agony where none could come at Him, for He was altogether alone — there it was that He made expiation, and sprinkled o’er the eternal throne. Let us bless and magnify Him to-night as we think over the Atonement.

    But then the next part of the ceremony of the Day of Atonement was the bringing out of the scapegoat. It was not killed. Killing it was not a part of the type, but sin was confessed over its head, and then the fit man led the goat out into the wilderness. There was a picture some time ago in the Academy of the death of the scapegoat. It ought not to have been painted.

    Whether the scapegoat died or not, however, has nothing to do with this.

    The whole of the meaning of this is that it was taken out into the wilderness and lost, and the sin was lost. There was no need to go farther.

    The goat was gone, and the sin of the people was gone too. Now, when Jesus Christ was taken down from the cross, being dead, our sins were gone. He cast them into His own tomb, and they are buried there, never to have a resurrection.

    Brethren, it is most important that we should have well ground into our spirit these two truths — first, that our atonement, our salvation, is by the substitutionary death of Christ. No man is saved by what he does, but by what Christ has suffered. And it is equally needful we should know that, if we have believed in Jesus, Jesus took our sins, and our sins have ceased to be. They are no more to trouble us, for they do not exist. What saith the Scripture? “He hath finished transgression.” What stranger term than that could be used? “And made an end of sin.” Oh, what a magnificent expression — “ made an end of sin”! It is gone. It is not possible for it to be laid to the charge of God’s people any longer, for it does not exist — has no being. It is a nonexistent thing. A person is in debt: the debt is paid.

    Where is that debt? There is no debt. He cannot be summoned for it, or called to account. It is paid, and the moment it was paid it ceased to be.

    And our liability as sinners before the eternal God ceased to be when Jesus Christ “bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” Oh, happy is that man who knows that his sins were borne there, and that he had a part in that great sacrifice when Christ laid down His life for His sheep.

    A further part of the ceremony of the Day of Atonement lay in the burning of the relics of the goat and of the bullock whose blood had been carried into the holy place. A part of the fat had been put upon the altar, but the skin and bone and offal still remained. All these were taken away, and carried right out of the camp — a distance of some miles in so large a camp, and then taken to a lone place, the place of the lepers, the place of the unclean; and there these things were utterly consumed by fire.

    Furthermore, to set out to us how Jesus Christ, when He took our sins, became obnoxious before the Lord as our representative, He had to be taken outside of the gate of Jerusalem to the unclean place, the Tyburn, the Old Bailey, of Jerusalem, where the malefactors were ordinarily put to death, and there He had to suffer. And He had to suffer, moreover, away from His God, for He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” — a most instructive picture to us as well as to the Jews of old of how the Lord hates sin — that even when He sees sin upon His own Son He smites Him with the blows of a cruel one. “It pleased the Father to bruise Him. He hath put Him to grief.”

    I may also remind you that a part of the ceremony consisted in a very significant change of garment of the high priest that day. The high priest had to put off the robes of glory and stand in the place of the sinner; he had to put on the humblest array to appear before the Lord, just like our Lord, of Whom it is written, “He made Himself of no reputation, but, being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross.” And then, after the atonement was made by blood, the priest put on his beautiful garments again, just as our dear Master, having bowed to the humiliation of this mortal life and the agonies of death, has now resumed the garments of His glory. John in the Revelation, when he saw Him, saw Him with His countenance as the sun, girt with a golden girdle about the paps, and so lustrous and fair that our eyes have longed ever since to behold the glory of that vision, the beatific sight. The atonement is made; therefore He has gone into His glory. One sacrifice for ever, offered up by Him, put away all the sins of His people. Their sins have ceased to be, and therefore He puts on the robes of glory and rests from His toil.

    But the great point I want you to notice is that during the Day of Atonement, the time set apart for these ceremonies, every Israelite was commanded to afflict his soul. Read the 27th verse: “Ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. Whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.” That is to say, no man ever receives the atonement of Christ unless sin be loathsome to him. I dare not preach, as I have heard some do — I think they err greatly in so doing — a faith that is apart from repentance. I am persuaded there is no faith that can save a soul which is not accompanied by affliction of soul for sin. Can it be possible that Christ took my sin and suffered for it, and yet I can think of sin without any detestation of it. Do you believe that man to be a pardoned man who was never a repentant man? Does he ever know, or can he ever know, the joy of the Lord who has not first of all felt the godly sorrow on account of his transgression? And, dear brethren, every one of us, when we come to the cross again, should come with an afflicted soul. I know some will think I mean they ought to doubt whether they are ever saved. I do not mean that.

    The Israelite was to afflict his soul when he knew that he was forgiven; and it is for that very reason the soul ought to be afflicted because it knows it is forgiven.

    Now, the legalist won’t understand this. He will say, “If my sins are forgiven there is no need for me to repent.” I tell thee, soul, thou canst not repent aright unless thou hast, at any rate, some faith in thy forgiveness, for it is when we are forgiven that we begin to feel the smart of sin. I know they are forgiven, But now the pain to me Is all the grief and anguish They laid, my Lord, on Thee. “On Thee.” To have transgressed against One who is so good and kind, and who has already forgiven me — this is the bitterness. My sins, my sins, my Savior, Their guilt I never knew, Till, with Thee in the garden, I near Thy passion drew.

    We must see the sweat drops bloody, and mark the wounds in His dear flesh, and .see what it cost Him to redeem us, before we shall have, in very deed and truth, in an evangelical manner afflicted our soul. Why, it is a bitter and a sweet thing to be always repenting. Do not imagine that we have done with repenting when we begin believing, for the more we believe the more we repent; and in our dying moments, it is probable, our repentance for having committed sin will be deeper and more pure than ever it was in our lives before; not conviction of sin, mark you — not terror of conscience — not doubts and fears, but a true childlike faith and grace, to think that one could have offended against so good and gracious a God. You would never see the atonement so well as through your tears.

    Believe me, John Bunyan was right when he put Mr. Wet-eyes to go with the petition from the town of Mansoul to Prince Emmanuel; and I believe that Mr. Wet-eyes is clearer-sighted than most, and when the tear-drop is in the eye it acts like a telescopic glass. Oh, let me weep for naught but sin, And after none but Thee!

    And then I would (oh, that I might!)

    A constant weeper be.

    At some time on the Day of Atonement the Jews added to this affliction of their soul a cessation from all work. I will read the 28th verse: “Ye shall do no work in that same day “; and in the 30th verse: “And whatsoever soul it he that doeth any work that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.” When we come to Christ we see all the work is done.

    When we behold His atonement and see the High Priest come out in all His golden garments we know that it is finished; and if it be finished there is nothing more for us to do, and we cease from all our legal works. Now, those that will work for salvation may take what comfort they can out of the solemn verse I read just now. That soul shall be cut off from Israel. By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified, for “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” I believe that verse in one of our Revival hymns is perfectly true :- Doing is a deadly thing, Doing ends in death, if it be with a view to obtaining the favor of God, or the blotting out of sin, There may be as much doing as you like out of motives of gratitude because you are saved; but to do anything by way of merit to salvation is to destroy your soul. You give up God’s way of salvation: you set up a way of salvation of your own: you will perish in your impertinent rebellion against God. Now, he who receives the atonement ceases from all servile work and rests in Christ, so that though there was an affliction on that day there was a measure of joy at the same time.

    But, then, notice that though they ceased from servile work, it is said, “Ye shall offer a sacrifice by fire unto the Lord” (27:5.). That is what the child of God does. He knows his Father, and he now brings his sacrifice willingly and cheerfully; he brings his own heart, body, soul and spirit, which are but a reasonable sacrifice. “I am redeemed,” saith he. “I am not therefore my own, but I belong to God. Now, since I have seen my sin put away by my Substitute, for the love I bear His name, He shall have all I have and all I am and all I hope to be, and I will spend and be spent in His service.”

    That the child of God does do, but it is a very different thing from servile work. Altogether, the Day of Atonement, though it was a day of affliction, was a day of Sabbatic rest. It is said, “Thou shalt keep it as a Sabbath unto the Lord.” O, dear hearers, do you know anything about this Sabbatic rest?

    Did you ever enjoy it? Did you ever come to this: “Now I have seen my sin laid on the Son of God; I have seen the Son of God bearing all the punishment of that sin, and now for me there remains no fear of hell “? “There is therefore now no condemnation to him that is in Christ Jesus,” so the old version of the Bible runs, and correctly enough. He has no fear of being cast away from the Divine presence. “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” has put it beyond all fear of that, and he has come into a state of perfect contentment — a restful state, in which he finds Christ to be his all — all that he can desire and even more.

    Now, if you ever came there, I know how you came there. You came there by the work of God’s Spirit leading you to look right away from yourself to the dear Savior standing in your stead. And if you have never come there, I will tell you this: you have missed the greatest joy this side of Heaven; you are in a state of danger, and as long as you live as you are, be you who you may, the most moral and the most amiable persons in the world, there is but a step between you and death and between you and hell.

    God is angry with you every day, and as you have not believed in Christ you are condemned already, because you have not believed on the Son of God. God gives you this testimony, that He has given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. If you accept not His Son and trust not in Him, you make God a liar because you have not believed His testimony concerning His Son. You cannot have peace. You may have just now a flush of joy because your conscience is not awakened, but if it ever should be you will be full of anguish, and I pray you may be, that your soul being afflicted you may fly to the stoning sacrifice. But mark this word: if you should die without that atoning sacrifice, “There is none other name given under Heaven among men whereby we must be saved. If he that despised Moses’ law perished without mercy, how much sorer” — mark the extraordinary question — “ punishment shall he be counted worthy who hath trampled under foot the precious blood of the Son of God.” Bear that in mind, for you trample on it when you seek some other way. This much concerning the Day of Atonement.

    II. Now, secondly, let us turn to the Feast of Tabernacles. When the Day of Atonement was over Israel was commanded to gather in the fruit of the land. And they were to take boughs of trees and willows and make themselves booths in which they were to dwell so many days, and make themselves as merry as they could be. After the atonement is over, then comes the joy. After the soul has seen its sin put away, then comes the blessed mirth which is wrapped up in that expression of Christ, “My joy shall be in you, that your joy may be full.”

    Now, why did they bring these booths? They were to remember that they dwelt in booths when they first came out of Egypt to Succoth. So God would have His people when they receive their pardon in the precious blood. Already, if you have only been saved the last hour you have much to look back upon for what God has done for you in bringing you out of the House of Bondage and setting you free. Your gratitude ought to cause you joy. Has the Lord clone so much for us, and shall we not be glad? We will be, till those round about shall say, “The Lord hath done great things for them whereof they are glad,” and we shall say, “He hark clone great things for us.” It was, then, a remembrance of mercy received.

    But the booths were also a token of the peace they felt. Men in times of war dwell-in castles and fenced cities; they do not go in fields and dwell in booths. None dared to make them afraid. They were quiet and happy. That is just the same under the atonement. Now each sitteth under his vine and fig tree; his doubts and fears are all over; he is not afraid of sudden death, hell, nor anything. Why should he fear? The Lord is reconciled to him, and he can sing, “I will praise Thee every day now thine anger is turned away.”

    That, I think, is another reason for their dwelling in booths.

    And then, again, this feast was connected with harvest. It came at harvest time, so it was a time of plenty, a time when they could afford feasts beyond any period of the year. And so the child of God, when pardoned, finds plenty of grace. The fruits of joy and love are very plentiful in his spirit, for he is enjoying the love of his espousals, and therefore it is that he is exceeding happy and the Feast of Tabernacles, after the atonement, has with it a harvest of thanksgiving. I am told, too, that this time of the Feast of Tabernacles was in September, a season of the year which in the East is uncertain, subject to disorder, and therefore they had some discomforts while they were in these tabernacles. But that was to remind them that that was not their rest. Now, to the sinner that is a very comfortable idea,. He wishes it might be his rest. But the child of God, when he has received the atonement, knows he is living in a booth, not in a house, and knows that if this earthly tabernacle be dissolved he has a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. I believe — and I think there is good reason for believing it — that our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the day of the Feast of Tabernacles, or somewhere in that month of September. There is no earthly reason for believing that He was born in December, but there are a thousand reasons for believing that it was in September He was born.

    There are reasons that may be gathered from His age and from the whole circumstance of the Jewish festivals that He was born about this time. And if so, right well might they keep the Feast of Tabernacles, when He was come — the Word made flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten Son of God full of grace and truth.

    No doubt their dwelling in tabernacles would lead those who were instructed believers among them to think of Christ’s coming in the flesh, to think of the time when the tabernacle of God should be among men, and “how amiable,” I may say of Christ’s body, “how amiable was Thy tabernacle, O Lord God of Hosts, my king and my God !” And I have no doubt that the booths would carry forward the minds of those who were believers to that happier period which is prophesied as yet to come — the Millennial time, when it shall be said in very deed and truth, “The tabernacles of God are with men, and He doth dwell among them.”

    These tabernacles would make them think of the day when He shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and lead us unto living fountains of waters, and this earth shall have upon it the New Jerusalem which shall come down out of Heaven in all its glory; the earth itself shall shake off the curse, and the mantle of mist which sin hath spread shall be rolled up, and ,put away, and this planet shall shine in its pristine luster.

    There is one thing about this Feast of Tabernacles I would mention in closing, and that is this: it does not appear ever to have been celebrated from the days of Joshua to the days of Nehemiah. I do not understand it, but if you will read in Nehemiah you will find the people who returned from captivity kept the Feast of Tabernacles, and it is said it had not been kept since the days of Joshua, the son of Nun. What was David and what was Solomon about, and all the others that this rich festival was forgotten?

    There must have been great wrong about that. But it seems to me to be typical of this fact that there are many believers in Christ who have received the Feast of Atonement who don’t ever care to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. I mean they are saved but do not rejoice. I wish they did..

    God meant they should, and it is their own fault that they do not. There are many believers resting in Christ who have a cloudy notion about the atonement. They do not believe that He was literally their substitute. If they did, they would be as happy as the days of summer. If they did but know their sin was gone and never could return; that as far as the East is removed from the West God hath removed transgression from them, surely they would begin to rejoice, and they would sing some of those noble psalms and some of those grand utterances of Paul would be upon their lips. They might even get so far as that hymn which we have at Communion :- My name from the palms of His hands Eternity cannot erase; Impressed on His heart it remains In marks of indelible grace.

    The terrors of law and of God With me can have nothing to do, My Savior’s atonement and blood Hide all my transgressions from view.

    Yes, I to the end shall endure, As sure as the earnest is given, More happy, but not more secure Are the glorified spirits in heaven.

    That is the way to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. God grant that we may come to keep it now, with all our hearts and souls glorying in that atoning sacrifice that was not offered in vain, that precious blood that was not spilt in vain. I believe all Christ died for He will have. Nothing was paid for by Him but what He will have. I cannot understand the Son of God pleading all that He has suffered in our stead in vain. God cannot cast into hell a soul whose sins were visited upon His own Son. Oh rejoice, and be glad ye that believe in Him and keep the feast this day. Go from the Tabernacle to the Temple and keep the feast of your dear Redeemer.

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