Are you ready to accompany me on another captivating adventure into the Biblical Feasts of Israel? Are you as addicted to this series of adventures as I am? If you missed our first excursion into the Biblical holidays of the Hebrews, please get your passport up to date by clicking on the link under recent posts (The Lord Our Passover) to catch up, and then be sure to come back here for FIRSTFRUITS, the second stop on our tour.
“For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” Romans 11:16
The Firstfruits observance rose out of the sawdust of the construction of the very first ever “church” (the tabernacle) and its priesthood. The Hebrew people, wandering in the desert, on their way to the Promised Land, were instructed to give their first best of their first spring crops to God and in return God would bless their spring harvests. He would also use these offerings and tithes to fund the operation and ministries of His house on earth.
“But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses…to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.” There you shall take your offerings, your sacrifices, and your tithes. “And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:5-7)
God established that His people (the Hebrews) seek His dwelling place (the tabernacle), and go there, packing their tithes and offerings, partaking of the communion (which had been established between Melchizedek king of Salem and Abraham their ancestor in Genesis 14:18-20), and there rejoice before the Lord.
“And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.
And you shall go to the priest in those days…then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall say…I remember what you delivered me from ‘and now behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’
Then you shall set it before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.
When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase…and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled…then you shall say, ‘I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me.
Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people…’”
According to Leviticus 23:9-12, the priest would wave a sheaf of green barley from each offering of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, and west); a male lamb was then sacrificed as a burnt offering to the LORD; there was also a grain offering of unleavened bread made with oil, and a drink offering of wine.
I took this photo of a crop of wheat growing in a field near my house. The farmers all around me planted winter wheat in their fields last year. When spring came, with perfect warm and dry conditions, most of them were counting their chickens, as the saying goes, hoping to cash in on the terrible, relentless drought we were suffering with exactly the right low maintenance/minimum water required crop. I enjoyed watching as the beautiful fields of green slowly began turning amber gold, and the warm Texas sun dutifully accomplished its work.
One late afternoon weeks before the harvest those still green grains got bent over and blown down by a tornado and wind squalls. The gusts mischievously pounded the crops with down drafts in the night while we were all sleeping, and in the morning when we rose the fields looked as if aliens had crafted crop circles in the night, or as if herds of elephants had bedded down in the middle of them. Every field was sculpted with strange mazes and patterns of wheat pinned to the ground in random fashion. The farmers kept their optimism that their crops were still harvestable.
Just when the wheat was almost perfectly aged and ripe for harvest, south Texas got smashed with a month of flooding rains. Inches and inches of rain. Rain that carried houses away, washed bridges away, washed all our firewood and even our picnic table away, and filled up all the lakes and rivers to overflowing. The wheat fields sat in standing bogs. After a few weeks the amber waves, well, what remained of them, began turning a grayish tan. Even so, the farmers held out hope that the sun would come out, dry everything out, and there would still be something enough to salvage.
The sun did eventually come out. The wheat did eventually dry out. When the wheat was finally dehydrated enough for harvest the farmers turned the key on their gargantuan tractors, and lowered their combine blades down to the ground to rake up their pitiful, drowned, and wind damaged wheat. The blades dragged across rocks and hard clumps of dirt, in an attempt to reap every kernel possible. The damage to their equipment ended up exceeding the small pittance they netted from those fields. There was little to no profits that year, only tax write-offs and equipment repairs.
So when I read this scripture about green barley I realized that there is still a lot of faith to be had between green FIRSTFRUITS and that actual golden harvest, at least in south Texas.
“Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firsfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” Proverbs 3:9-10.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And try me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake, so that he will not destroy the fruit…” Malachi 3:10-11.
“Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20
Male lamb, sacrificed
Now, here again, as with Passover & Unleavened bread is the beautiful, curious parable (mystery) which gambols and pirouettes on a fine centerpoint in the chiastic ring structure of scripture – Jesus! Let’s begin with the amazing coincidence that Jesus, our male Lamb, sacrificed, arose from the grave on the very day of Firstfruits – three days after Passover/Unleavened Bread.
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
Unleavened Bread & Wine
We learned in the Passover study that Jesus’ body is the unleavened bread, pierced, striped, and broken for us. His shed blood is the wine of the new covenant. When we partake of the communion, we remember His sacrifice until that day when He shall eat and drink it anew with us at the wedding feast of the Lamb, in His kingdom.
“We have a High Priest, (in the order of Melchizedek Gen. 14:18 ) who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man” Hebrews 8:1,2,5.
Jesus is the first-begotten of the Father (Heb. 1:6); the Firstborn of Creation (Col. 1:15-16); the first-begotten of the dead (Rev. 1:5) and is the Firstfruits of those who are to be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:20-23). And just as He is our Firstfruits, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18).
Jesus’ presented Himself as the “firstfruits” of the harvest to come.
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt. 27:52-53).
Our High Priest offered to the Father a “wave offering” of what will be an overwhelming harvest at the end of the age.
“…but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23)
* * *
There is a famous credit card commercial on TV that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” In the same vein I ask,
“What’s in your BASKET?”
This is the question on my heart now every time I walk down the isles of the big box stores at Easter, strolling among the purple baskets, green baskets, yellow baskets, pink baskets, and blue baskets…baskets filled with candy and toys…baskets for little girls and little boys…baskets filled with grass and eggs. Longaberger baskets, Peterboro baskets, and great big Texas baskets filled and decorated with bread, or flowers, or fruit, used as centerpieces on our dining room tables. What’s in your basket? What do you have to present to the Lord?
With our High Priest now seated in His heavenly sanctuary, what firstfruits will we present to Him in our baskets?
There is one thing I know, we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out when we die (1 Timothy 6:7). Not our riches. Not our fame. Not our social calendar. Not our church attendance. The only things to follow us to heaven are the souls of people whom we have invited to the great banquet, AND our other good deeds, which were done in obedience, and in secret, without fanfare, if they survive the fire (done out of love) – 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
“And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” John 4:36.
I wonder, could the firstfruits in our baskets be the PEOPLE whom we’ve brought to the house of God (church), shared our faith with, helped in times of need, and fed and fellowshipped with around our tables?
Are my firstfruits fireproof?
Why was Cain’s offering not accepted (Genesis 4:3-5)? I believe there is a big hint in the wording of the scriptures that tells us he gave an offering, but it was not of his “first” fruits. Abel’s offering, on the other hand, was of the “first” born of his flocks.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20
And perhaps the biggest of all, if we do the good we know to do out of obligation rather than love, we may as well not done anything at all (1 Corinthians 13:3). Love suffers long, is kind, does not envy, doesn’t parade itself, and if not puffed up. It doesn’t behave rudely, seek it own, or easily provoked. It thinks no evil. It doesn’t rejoice in other people’s misery, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails.
Something the Holy Spirit put in my heart to consider also is Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift.”
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them” Revelation 14:13.
I’m excited for our next adventure in the feasts (the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost). You’ll find it under the title: Happy Firey Tongues Day! Come take your place at my Lord’s table, and let us sup together these blessed feasts that the Lord has laid out for us in His word. Let us be rich and well fed on the Word that we may have hope for our future!
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21