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Seasons of Harvest – The First Fruits

Feast of Tabernacles 2013

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Publish Date: 
Thu, 04/25/2013
Seasons of Harvest – The First Fruits

 

"Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread  […] and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labours which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labours from the field.” (Exodus 23:14-16)

Three times a year the people of Israel were required by God to come to Jerusalem for a holy convocation. Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles are the three great pilgrimage feasts which the Israelites were instructed to celebrate. All three biblical feasts were celebrations of thanksgiving for the different seasons of harvest in Israel’s calendar. In this and coming issues of the Word From Jerusalem magazine, we will feature a three-part teaching series that looks at the important lessons these festivals teach us about “Harvest”, which is the theme of this year’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem.

First Fruits
The Passover feast was the first of the three great harvest festivals, and it was also called the feast of the firstfruit or chag habikurim.

"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. (Leviticus 23:10-11)

Every Passover, “on the day after the Sabbath”, a sheaf of firstfruits (bikurim in Hebrew) were to be waved before God. The firstfruit represented not only the very first produce of each year, it also represented the entire harvest. Paul explains this in Romans 11:16, saying, “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy…” This means that through the offering and the setting apart of the firstfruits, the entire harvest was set apart.

Waving the firstfruits before God was a declaration that all the produce of the coming year belonged to Him. He owns it all, and His blessing on the seed is crucial as it is also He who gives the increase.

The same was true for all cattle and even for each family. God said, “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, […] it is Mine.” (Exodus 13:2) So for each first child, there was a symbolic sacrifice brought to the Temple to represent the firstborn of the family.

By honouring God with our firstfruits, we declare that our families and all our possessions belong to Him. This holds a great potential of blessing for us. If we decide to dedicate our family and our possessions to God, we submit them to His Kingship and place everything under His hand of blessing. It means that we give our best to God, just as Abel gave the firstborn (bikurim) and it found favour and acceptance with God (Genesis 4:4).

Israel the firstborn
God called Israel as a nation His firstborn. “Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn.” (Exodus 4:22)

This means that Israel has been given by God the rank of the firstborn among the nations. In saying so, God declared in a beautiful way His intention to bless all the nations of the earth. Remember what Paul said: “If the firstfruit is holy then the lump is holy.” (Romans 11:16)

In calling and blessing Israel as His firstborn, the Creator was declaring that He was also going to call and bless a redeemed people from all the nations. This corresponds to the election God placed upon Israel from the beginning: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)

And indeed it was through the one “seed” of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah, that this blessing came to all humanity (Galatians 3:13-16).

But Israel’s calling as the firstborn among the nations also gives hope for the restoration of Israel. Being the firstborn assured the privilege of a double blessing (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed: “Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, […] I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:8-9)

Other Hebrew prophets foresaw a future restoration of Israel which indeed involves a double blessing on the nation (Isaiah 61:7; Zechariah 9:12).

As the inheritance of a firstborn is ensured by God, in the same manner we know that He will fulfil all His promises given to Israel.

Jesus, the firstborn from the dead
During the Passover week, “on the day after the Sabbath” – that is, the first day of the week – the firstfruit offering was waved in the Temple. The Gospels record that it was on that very day when Jesus rose from the dead.

“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb…” (Matthew 28:1). Jesus thus became “the firstborn from the dead,” (Colossians 1:18; see also 1 Corinthians 15:20).

Jesus was the first to overcome death, and as such he entered the heavens and presented himself to the Father. But he did so not just for himself but in him, as the firstborn, were presented all the millions who would “believe in Him and not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

That is why the Bible calls him “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15) and thus has the supremacy in all things (Colossians 1:18). Even though we can call him our elder brother, we honour and worship him as our King, Lord and Saviour.

Conclusion
We end part one of this teaching series with the thought that the firstfruits are a representation of the best that we have and of all we own. If we present this back to God with a thankful heart, He promises us His blessing.

“Honour the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)

Be encouraged to give God your very best!

(Next month in Part II: Shavuot – the Harvest begins!)

 

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