Scripture: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. Leviticus 23:10-11a ESV
Observation: Having directed Moses to review with Israel what constitutes acceptable offerings (chapter 22), Yahweh now elaborates on the observance of his holy days of solemnity and celebration:
- Passover (and Feast of Unleavened Bread),
- Feast of Firstfruits,
- Feast of Weeks,
- Feast of Trumpets,
- Day of Atonement, and
- Feast of Booths.
Over the next four days, we will delve into the significance of the Feasts of Firstfruits, Weeks, Trumpets, and Booths. See the July 13, June 21, and August 15 Daily Focus devotions for coverage of the Sabbath, Passover, and Day of Atonement.
A one-day observance following the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits called for the offerer to present their sheaf of barley as a wave offering (23:11b) to God to dedicate the rest of their year’s crop to him, being its source and means of growth. Regarding protocol, while Israel could harvest all the barley before the Firstfruits offering (to avoid spoilage), they could only eat it after completing the ceremony. Also, concurrent with the wave offering, they present a one-year-old male lamb as a burnt (peace) offering and observe the ceremony as a holy day of rest (extending the Sabbath). And when they harvest the grain, they must leave remnants (the gleanings and the margins of the field) for the poor and the sojourner.
Takeaway: Implicit with protocol and its related symbolism, the Feast of Firstfruits would remind Israel of three essential attributes of their Holy God that they should emulate:
- First, Yahweh is good; he is their source of life. Beyond the seminal of their very existence, he continues to provide sustenance to sustain their wellbeing.
- Second, he is gracious; he receives substitutionary sacrifices in exchange for his forgiveness, peace, and rest.
- Third, the Lord is merciful; he cares for the vulnerable and calls those who prosper to show charity and dignity to those in need (providing the disadvantaged the opportunity to labor and gather grain for themselves).
So what would this look like as children of God in our modern era? Consistent with the breadth of Scripture, God expects his children to be firstfruits to the least, the last, and the lost. At times in our Church’s history, we have exemplified this calling. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, John Wesley, John Newton, George Müller, and William Wilberforce radically reached out to the margins of society where people suffered from addiction, abandonment, disease, oppression, and other ills of poverty to establish the Church as a vanguard Gospel of relief and care. And today, in this cancel-culture, we are called to pronounce grace to those ostracized for their sins and provide a safe harbor of peace and rest.
Lastly, we are to graciously promote life by supporting and or volunteering at Christ-centered pregnancy care centers, disaster relief programs (such as Samaritan’s purse), and family outreach missions (like Compassion International). And whoever we support, it would be good to ask, Do our gifts of firstfruits show the world God’s goodness, grace, and mercy?
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who exemplified your goodness, grace, and mercy as the Firstfruit of the resurrected life. Would you please help us submit to your Holy Spirit and follow in the footsteps of your Son, using our time, talent, and treasures to uphold the sanctity of human life from the unborn to the grave? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling