Firstfruits

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Harvest Celebration

Leviticus 23:10-14

The Feast of the Firstfruits took place the day after the Sabbath following Passover. Passover would come on the 14th day of the first month, then the Feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th day to the 21st day. The day following the Sabbath Day, after Passover, was the Feast of Firstfruits, described for us in Leviticus 23:10-14.

"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the Lord. And the meat-offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings."

I. Give God Your Best

"Firstfruits," of course, applied to harvest time. During that first month, it would have been the beginning of the barley and the flax harvest.

            In the Feast of the Firstfruits God is saying to us, "Bring Me the best. Bring Me the first of everything. I must get first place in your life."

Before the people were allowed to eat of the harvest or make any bread, they had to bring the first sheaf to the Lord and wave it before Him in dedication. The burnt-offering (Lev. 23:12) speaks of dedication, giving our all to God. In New Testament terms, this is Romans 12:1: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."

The sheaves were brought to the Lord as an acknowledgment of His goodness. There would not even be a harvest were it not for the goodness of God! Israel would not even be in their land were it not for the faithfulness of the Lord. The Feast of the Firstfruits was a reminder to them that everything they had came from God.

Surely, all of us ought to be praising the Lord, for were it not for His goodness, we would have nothing. Some may have more than others, but whatever we have has come from God. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine" (Prov. 3:5-10). God gave the promise to His Old Testament people that if they were faithful in their giving, putting God first, He would abundantly bless them.

But let me make it clear that the New Testament Church has not been promised earthly riches. God has promised to meet our needs (Phil. 4:19), but He has not promised riches in return for obedience. We are not promised that our barns will be filled to running over. Some of God's choicest people in this world are poor. Jesus was poor. The Apostle Paul wrote: "As poor, yet making many rich" (II Cor. 6:10). There is no special guarantee that if you give God first place in your life, you will become a million­aire. But there is a guarantee that He will always take care of you.

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). Put Him first, and He will care for you. When you put the Lord Jesus Christ first in your life, then God has to take care of you. I am not saying that God will make you the wealthiest person in town. What I am saying is that you will never lack for any good thing. He will always care for us and give us far more than we deserve.

The Feast of Firstfruits says to us, "Put God first in your life! Give Him the firstfruits, and give Him the best of the firstfruits."

The sheaf was presented to God along with some other offerings. The meal-offering of fine flour speaks, of course, of the character of our Lord Jesus Christ. The burnt-offering in Leviticus 23:12 speaks of the total surrender of our Lord Jesus Christ. The oil reminds us of the Holy Spirit. The wine reminds us of joy. We bring the offering of our firstfruits to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not bring our firstfruits to the Lord in our name or because of our holiness. We bring everything through Christ (I Pet. 2:5). It is because of His sacrifice and His perfection that we have the privi­lege of bringing our best to God. And we do it joyfully. In the Old Testament, wine is a picture of joy. We don't bring our offering to the Lord grudg­ingly because the Lord loves a cheerful giver (see II Cor. 9:7).

Are you giving Him the firstfruits?

Or do you give Him the leftovers? How many people there are who burn the candle of their lives and then blow the smoke in God's face. How many there are who use their money, time, energy and resources for their own selfish pleasure, and then if there's something left over, they give it to the Lord. This is not what Firstfruits is saying to us. This feast declares, "God gets the first. He gets the best. Put Him first, and He will bless you."

II. The Resurrection of Christ

The Feast of Firstfruits also speaks to us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (I Cor. 15:20-24). When our Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead, He became the firstfruits. He was that grain of wheat that was planted in the ground (John 12:24), and He is the One who is going to bring the harvest.

Please note that the Feast of Firstfruits took place the day after the Sabbath following Passover. The Sabbath Day is always the seventh day. This means Firstfruits took place on the first day of the week! Our Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead on the first day of the week. Today we do not worship on the Sabbath Day; rather, we gather to worship on the first day of the week as the New Testament church did (see Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1,2).

Our Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead and became "the firstfruits." But what does this mean? It means that God has accepted Christ as a guaran­tee of the whole harvest. All believers will one day be raised from the dead! How do we know? Because Jesus is the firstfruits of them that sleep! When a believer dies, it is only sleep—the body goes to sleep, but the soul goes home to be with the Lord. One day there shall be a resurrection, a harvest. In my pastoral ministry, I have gone out to the ceme­tery with grieving people to lay a body to rest. Sometimes there has been just a little grave into which we placed the body of a baby or a little child. Sometimes it has been an aged saint who has lived a long and fruitful life. The cemetery is a field of seeds. It is "God's acre." One of these days there will be a resurrection, a harvest. Those bodies that were planted in the ground like a seed, in weakness, will be raised in power. Bodies sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption. Bodies sown in humilia­tion will be raised in glory (see 15:42-44). The ceme­tery will be a harvest place one of these days because Jesus Christ is the firstfruits. "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19).

Because Christ is the firstfruits, He has guaran­teed the whole harvest. The sheaf that was brought to the priest was exactly like the harvest in the field. It would have been a barley sheaf, identical to the grain in the field. One day we shall be like the Lord Jesus Christ! The fact that Jesus Christ is the firstfruits assures us that we shall be like Him. One day we shall have a body like His glorious body (Phil. 3:20,21). We know, "When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).

Christ is the One who established the Lord's Day, the first day of the week. For centuries the Jews labored for six days and then rested. But the New Testament Christian first finds his rest in Jesus Christ (on the first day of the week), and then he labors for Him. The Sabbath Day is a picture of salvation by works. The Lord's Day is a picture of salvation by grace.

When is this harvest going to take place? Nobody knows. We do not know when our Lord Jesus is going to come back. But when He comes, He will reap His glorious harvest. "Every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (I Cor. 15:23). The resurrection of Christ assures us that the dead in Christ shall be raised.

The Bible teaches that there are two resurrections. There is the first resurrection, which is a resurrection unto life and blessing; and there is a second resurrection, which is a resurrection unto death and condemnation (Rev. 20:1-6; John 11:25,26; 5:24-29). If you have trusted Christ as your Saviour, then you will participate in that wonderful first resurrection when Jesus Christ shall come for His people.

Did you note that the people were not permitted to eat the grain until they had first given the sheaf to the Lord? Jesus said, "My meat [my food] is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34). Put Him first in your life; give Him first place in your life. Make the will of God the nourishment of your soul.

Jesus Christ is alive today. He is the firstfruits. When He returns, He will take home to Himself those who have trusted Him as their Saviour. I hope you have trusted Him and know that He is the firstfruits. And I trust that you and I are giving Him first place in our lives. We must give Him the firstfruits of all that He gives to us, the very best that we have. After all, He has given His all for us.

III. The Assurance of Heaven

Another practical lesson that we can learn from this Feast of Firstfruits is that we have the assur­ance of heaven. We know we are going to heaven because the Holy Spirit is "the firstfruits" in the life of the believer. "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit [that is], the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:22,23).

In Romans 8, Paul was writing about victory, explaining how the Christian can walk in victory. Paul admitted that there is suffering in this world. Some religious groups deny the existence of suffering, but Paul declared just the opposite. He affirmed that there is suffering in this world. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (v. 18). God does not take away suffering; rather, He transforms suffering. The suf­fering that we endure today is going to turn to glory when Jesus Christ comes back. All of creation is groaning and travailing in pain. This, of course, is the result of sin. When will this travail end? When Jesus Christ returns. We Christians are waiting, along with creation, for "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (v. 23). When you trusted Christ as your Saviour, your spirit was redeemed and you were set free from the guilt and penalty of sin. As you walk with the Lord, you experience even greater freedom—the freedom of obedience, the freedom of glorifying God. But one of these days the body is going to be redeemed!

Today God is not specializing in redeeming bodies. He does heal bodies in answer to prayer, but that is not His main work today. His main work is saving souls and making people more like Christ. But when Jesus comes, we will be changed. We read in Philippians 3:20,21: "Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body."

Meanwhile, what do we do? Is this just "pie in the sky by and by"? Is this some sort of a religious sedative that we take? When we are suffering, when we are going through difficulty, do we pacify ourselves by saying, "Well, the Lord's going to come back someday, and so I'll look ahead"? There is more to it than that!

IV. The Firstfruits of the Spirit

Romans 8:23 tells us that we have the firstfruits of the Spirit right now! We're told in II Corinthians 1:21,22 that the Holy Spirit has sealed us and is the earnest of our inheritance. In Bible times, when you purchased something, you put your seal on it and nobody would touch it. It belonged to you. So the Holy Spirit is God's seal in our lives to the day of redemption. He is the down payment, the earnest. The Holy Spirit has been given to us as the guaran­tee that the rest is going to follow.

The "firstfruits of the Spirit" simply means that the Holy Spirit in us today is the beginning of the harvest. Many of us are enjoying (I trust) "the fruit of the Spirit," not just the "firstfruits of the Spirit." The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22,23: "Love, joy, peace" and that whole beautiful cluster of spiritual graces.

The firstfruits of the Spirit simply means that what the Holy Spirit is doing now is a foretaste of heaven to come! Some Christians do not have a good rela­tionship with the Holy Spirit. This is unfortunate, because the Holy Spirit wants to bring heaven to your life right now. Charles Spurgeon used to say, "Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul." The Lord Jesus has not returned yet. We are not in heaven yet. We are going through times of suffering and difficulty with problems and concerns. What is the answer? The answer is the firstfruits of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in the life of each believer, and the Spirit wants to give you a foretaste of heaven today.

You and I are looking forward to going to heaven. (It doesn't mean we're going to hasten the process by not taking care of ourselves, because that would be sinning.) We are looking forward to Jesus' coming back and taking us to Himself. We see so much trouble and turmoil in this world. You may say, "Your attitude is escapist!" I don't think it is. While I am in this world, I am enjoying the firstfruits of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, so today we can experience the glory of Christ. The Holy Spirit enables us to praise and worship God. We will worship and praise the Lord in heaven, but the Holy Spirit enables us to do it now. The Holy Spirit teaches us God's Word and enables us to grow in Christian character.

Some people have the idea that, no matter how they lived as a Christian, when they die and go to heaven, they will be just like the spiritual giants of the faith. But that idea is not true. An old Puritan preacher used to say, "Every vessel in heaven will be filled, but some vessels will be larger than others." Why will some vessels be larger than others? Because those people walked with the Lord and enjoyed the firstfruits of the Spirit here on earth. You and I need to prepare right now for the blessings of heaven.

The Holy Spirit enables us to fellowship with God's people. The love of the Holy Spirit draws us together. In heaven we are going to fellowship together, so start enjoying it now! There may be somebody in your church you don't want to talk to, so you bypass him and avoid him. Well, you won't avoid him in heaven! We must learn to get along with each other here on earth, and the Holy Spirit helps us.

The Holy Spirit gives us a foretaste of heaven. He is "the firstfruits" of heaven in our lives. As you walk with the Lord and as the Holy Spirit ministers to you, you enjoy heaven on earth. This experience makes it possible for us to overcome suffering and pain, bereavement and trial. Instead of complaining, we rejoice and look forward to seeing all of this suffering one day turned into glory.

V. Believers As the Firstfruits

Finally, you and I as believers are a part of the firstfruits. "Likewise greet the church that is in their house. [The assemblies in Rome met in various house groups.] Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia [Asia] unto Christ" (Rom. 16:5). Did you know that when you were saved, you became firstfruits? "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). What does this mean? It means that you are the beginning of the harvest. Paul won Epaenetus to Christ, and Epaenetus became the firstfruits of Asia. He was the beginning of the harvest, and he assisted Paul in winning other people to the Saviour.

You and I were saved that we might increase the harvest. Our Lord Jesus met a needy woman at the well of Sychar one day, and she trusted him for salvation (see John 4). She became the firstfruits. She went back into the city, bore witness of her faith in Christ, and the whole city turned out to hear the Lord Jesus! Many of them trusted Him as Saviour. They begged Him to stay and teach them more of the Word of God. That unnamed woman was the firstfruits; she was the beginning of the harvest.

You may say, "I am the only believer in my family." Well, that is an opportunity, isn't it? You are the firstfruits      the harvest ought to follow! Perhaps you are the only believer in your factory, office or school. Again, that is an opportunity for you. You are the firstfruits. And the harvest is supposed to follow.

The thing for us to do is just to give ourselves to the Lord and let Him use us. The Old Testament priest took the firstfruits and waved them unto the Lord in dedication. We ought to give ourselves to the Lord and say, "Lord, I'm just the firstfruits. There are no other Christians in my office or my family or my school. Please help me to be a witness that I might win others. I want to be the firstfruits leading to the harvest." "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:6).

I know it is not easy to be the only Christian in your office or on your campus or in your neighborhood. It is not easy, but it is a great opportunity to see God work in and through you to bring a harvest.

This, then, is the meaning of the Feast of the Firstfruits. God deserves our very best. Give Him the first and the best—not the leftovers. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead; He is the firstfruits of them that slept, and one day He shall return and claim His harvest. The dead in Christ shall be raised, and we shall be together with the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the firstfruits of heaven. In our heart we can enjoy the blessings of heaven today. You and I as believers are the firstfruits, and God is looking for a harvest.

Be God's guest! He invites you to days of heaven on earth!

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