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The Feast of First Fruits (Sermon during a special youth service) September 21, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Leviticus, Religion, Sermons.
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FIRST FRUITS

Leviticus 23:9-14

The Israelite festival year began with the Passover which was on the fifteenth of the first month. Passover was also the beginning of eight days of celebration known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was one of three times during the year in which all of the men of Israel were required to gather at Jerusalem to worship their God.

As we have learned, the purpose of Passover was to teach Israel the great deeds which He did for them in the past. The day after Passover was also a special day, the Feast of First Fruits. On this day, the focus was not on the great deeds of the past but the blessings of the present. It was the first of three feasts celebrating harvest, in this case, the barley harvest.

God blesses His people (“the giving of the land,” verse 10a). This command was given while Israel was still at Mount Sinai. They had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, camped at Mount Sinai in the middle of the desert where they received the Ten Commandments, and had built the Tabernacle according to God’s specifications. God is now telling them about their future, they are going to receive the Promised Land as a gift of God. He wants them to remember, when they get into the promised land, that it is God who gave them that land.

We tend to forget the benefits which the Lord has given us. Psalm 103:2 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…” This psalm begins by naming spiritual benefits but it does not stop there but continues to name a number of physical benefits which Israel should also expect to receive.

Certainly, we have also been blessed of God. To many of these spiritual benefits, we can also lay claim. Yet the Lord has blessed us also. We are a rich people. Rich financially, rich intellectually, rich in time, rich in talent, rich in opportunity. We need to be thankful for both the spiritual and physical riches. In this passage, we find out how that we can be thankful as well as how we can acknowledge God’s great benefits for us.

When He blesses us, we have the opportunity to give to Him the first fruits (verse 10b). This was symbolic of the priority of God in our lives. The giving of the first fruits was not dependent on the abundance of the harvest but on the fact that whatever was harvested, it came from God.

During the time of Christ, this is how the Feast of First Fruits was celebrated: “The barley being sooner ripe than the other grains, the reaping of it formed the commencement of the general harvest season. The offering described in this passage was made on the sixteenth of the first month, the day following the first Passover Sabbath, which was on the fifteenth (corresponding to the beginning of our April); but it was reaped after sunset on the previous evening by persons deputed to go with sickles and obtain samples from different fields. These, being laid together in a sheaf or loose bundle, were brought to the court of the temple, where the grain was winnowed, parched, and bruised in a mortar. Then, after some incense had been sprinkled on it, the priest waved the sheaf aloft before the Lord towards the four different points of the compass, took a part of it and threw it into the fire of the altar—all the rest being reserved to himself. It was a proper and beautiful act, expressive of dependence on the God of nature and providence—common among all people, but more especially becoming the Israelites, who owed their land itself as well as all it produced to the divine bounty” (from JFB).

The giving of the first fruits was a reminder that everything we have is His. The giving of first fruits do not mean: this is God’s and the rest is mine. The giving of the first fruits means that I give to others to be used for God and the rest that I have is meant for a lifestyle that glorifies Him.

It was also a reminder that of their commitment to God. “God is wise and knows us deeply. He knows that there is something wrong with the husband who answers his wife’s complaint that he doesn’t give her any time by saying, “What do you mean, I don’t give you my time? ALL my time is yours. I work all day long for you and the children.” That has a very hollow ring to it if he doesn’t give her any “especially time.” Giving her some evenings together and some dates does not deny that all his time is for her, it proves it. This is why God declares one day in seven especially God’s. They are all his, and making one special proves it” (adapted from John Piper).

As a church, God has blessed us richly. Today we are emphasizing the gift of young people to our church. Our teens have led us in worship today. They have led us in submitting ourselves to God. I trust that you were following. I hope you were focused on God and not on the young people.

Since God has given us such a wonderful gift, we need to ask ourselves what we as a church should do with this gift. We need to give it to God. In a sense, this service is nothing more than a waving of the sheaf before God with the expectation that he would accept it from us. It is a reminder of the great gift that God has given us, a gift for which we are responsible. It is wonderful to see these young people serving God publicly and we want to use them to the fullest extent possible in this service. What, however, are we going to do with this gift of young people the other 364 days of this year?

Parents, how are you going to guarantee, as best that can be done humanly, that your children are going to serve God? Are you going to pray with your children? Are you going to teach them the Word at home? Are you going to involve them in more than just Sunday School and youth or children’s ministries? Are you going to live before them a life that is pleasing to God? What bad habit are you going to get under control so that your children and grandchildren will see that you are a man or a woman of God? What bad attitude are you going to purge from your life?

Church, we are also responsible. We are responsible to teach them how to be saved. That is why we have Awana. We are responsible to teach these children the truth. That’s why our Sunday School program is geared the way it is. We are responsible to teach them the importance of baptism as a testimony to saving faith in Christ. We are responsible to teach them the responsibility of church membership, which is why we allow and encourage them to join the church. We are responsible to teach them to serve God and others and help them find opportunities to do so. We are responsible to teach them to pray, which is why we encourage our young people to participate in the prayer group. We have been given a great gift and we want to remind ourselves of that gift through this youth service but the reminder is only as good as the follow-up which we practice the rest of the year.

This is my commitment, this is the commitment of our church, to give our young people to God for His honor and His glory and for His service.

Making God a priority in our life pleases Him, it fills Him with pleasure, it is His delight and desire, it is God’s will to make Him a priority in our life, that is what is meant by “accepted on your behalf” (verses 11-13).

God goes to great lengths to describe the offering that is to be given. The purpose for this offering is that it would be acceptable to God on behalf of the nation.

There are two parts to being acceptable before God. The first involves the perfect sacrifice of Christ. He was obedient in all things, even to the death of the cross. Through His death, He made it possible for us to become acceptable to God in that through His death we receive His righteousness when we put our trust in Christ as the only way of salvation. In that way, we become heirs of righteousness with Christ Jesus. We acceptable before God in Him, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

The second part of being acceptable before God involves living consistent with the commitment that is made through the sacrifice. This was true in the Old Testament. Obedience in this offering and other ritual offerings was demanded and commanded but not just in the ritual of the offering but in all areas of life obedience was demanded. There was only one thing necessary in the Old Testament for an offering to be acceptable to God, obedience. That is why in Jeremiah 6:20 and Malachi 2:13, God refused the offering of the people because they were disobedient before God. They apparently thought that they somehow by obeying the ritual law, would be able to get God to look the other way during their every day lives.

We find this concept in the New Testament also. Paul begged the Roman believers on the basis of the mercy of God shown to them through the death of Christ that they would “…present (their) bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which (was their) reasonable service, and (not to) be… conformed to this world but (to) be transformed by the renewing of (their) mind, that (they might) prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 14:17-19 describes more exactly the type of life that is acceptable to God. It is not arguing over what we should eat and drink but rather righteousness and peace and joy, specifically, Paul is emphasizing peace between believers in Christ.

We saw a few weeks ago in Philippians 4:18, that our financial gifts to the work of God is included in what is acceptable before God. Colossians 3:20 teaches us that when children obey their parents, it is acceptable before God. Titus 2:9 teaches us the same about the obedience of slaves to their masters.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 teaches that whether our service is acceptable before God is the basis whereby believers will be judged.

The symbol was individualized through the denying of one’s self (verse 14). The giving of the first fruits served as a reminder against idolatry of the heart. Many of the things that we do or should do serve as a guard against the ungodliness that is constantly lurking around our hearts.

In verses 9-14, in the Feast of First Fruits, these people have been laboring since the end of October or beginning of November when they first planted their barley. They have watched it sprout up out of the ground, grow tall, fill out with grain. But they may not eat it until the first fruits are given to God.

Part of giving to God involves the understanding that you must deny yourself. To deny yourself does not mean to deny your existence. That would be foolishness. Nor does it mean that you give up some pleasure or sin for the sake of Christ. It is simply, which was symbolized by not eating the bread. Your needs, your wants, your desires take a back seat to what God commands.

Again, the message is both to the community and to the individual. Obedience does not mean giving God something so that you can enjoy the rest without fear of punishment. Obedience means a denial of your importance in relation to the things of Christ.

Will you deny yourself and follow Christ? Will you make Him the priority, not a priority, but the priority in your life?

 

 

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Comments»

1. REV. MAX LEON - February 7, 2010

please keep me inform

maranatha grace church


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