Scripture: “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there.” Deuteronomy 26:1-2 ESV
Observation: Having addressed various laws that build trust and care in the community, in Chapter 25, Moses reviews a few loose ends concerning:
- corporal punishment, limiting a whipping to forty lashes (vv.1-4),
- Levite marriages (vv.5-10),
- corporal punishment for a woman seizing a man’s private parts (amputation of hand, vv.11-12), and
- full and fair weighting and measuring in conducting commerce (vv.13-16).
Thus, the above list concludes his review of the laws with the intent to ensure order in the Promised Land. Then, recalling a time in the early history of the exodus when Amalek waged war against Israel, Moses insists that his people wipe out Amalek’s memory from under heaven once they have conquered Canaan and settled in the land (vv.17-19).
Next, in Chapter 26, Moses continues his instruction on the Promised Land conquest by concisely recounting Israel’s early history, religion, and economy. Rightfully, he begins with a directive to offer the “first fruit of the ground” to Yahweh by gathering it in memorial baskets and taking it to the place the Lord will choose where “his name will dwell,” referring to the future resting site of the tabernacle (above verses). There, each man will present his gift and say to the priest, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us” (v.3 ESV). The priest will then receive the produce basket and place it before the altar (v.4).
Takeaway: As theologian Earl Kalland contends, while similar to the regular offering of first fruits, this is not the same. It is an inaugural offering presented after the first harvest. Indeed, representing an epoch in Israel’s history, a ceremony expressing gratitude is in order. Similarly, twelve hundred years later, as the church entered its new Promised Land, its members devoted themselves to the leadership by selling their possessions and presenting the proceeds as gifts for the benefit of all. And they too praised God with words of gratitude (Acts 2:42-47).
The takeaway for us? Pretty much the same. When our Lord graciously leads us to new phases of life, whether a spouse, newborn, job, house, or retirement, we would do well to commemorate these occasions with our offering of gifts and expressed gratitude. It is also an occasion to unite the community of believers, whether a marriage or renewal of vows ceremony, a baby dedication or baptism, a house or business blessing, or a retirement celebration. And with each observance, we will bless our Lord if we keep the focus on him rather than ourselves.
How so? Amid the celebration, we need to pause and give thanks, offer prayers, and pledge our gift related to the occasion that furthers the growth of our Lord’s kingdom. Examples? Ruth and I sponsored a new Compassion child with the birth of each of our children. Above our tithe, we give an additional offering when we receive gifts (e.g., inheritance). And God willing, when we retire, we will pledge a portion of our time above our commitment to adult children and grandchildren to Christian charities and missions.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for leading us into the eternal Promised Land of your Son’s kingdom. Would you please help us to commemorate each special occasion in our lives that mark your goodness and grace toward us with heartfelt gifts of gratitude that glorify your name and grow your kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling