Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Coming with our Baskets Full

Deuteronomy 26 is a passage that is often used and misused by many to get people to give to God. Many times pressure is put on the people of God to give by preachers today to encourage their people to give an offering above and beyond tithing. They urge them to give first paycheck of a new job or the first paycheck of the year, a portion earned from the sale of something or a portion of each subsequent paycheck. None of these things are wrong in them-selves but is this the real meaning of first fruits in the Bible?

What is First Fruit? 
Firstfruits were a Jewish feast held in the early spring at the beginning of the grain harvest. It was observed on Nissan 16, which were the third day after Passover and the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Firstfruits were a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision. Leviticus 23:9-14 institutes the firstfruits offering. The people were to bring a sheaf of grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord. A burnt offering, a meal offering, and a drink offering were also required at that time. Deuteronomy 26:1-10 gives even more detail on the procedure of firstfruits. No grain was to be harvested at all until the firstfruits offering was brought to the Lord (Leviticus 23:14). The offering was made in remembrance of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, the Lord’s deliverance from slavery, and their possession of “a land that flowed with milk and honey.” The day of the firstfruits offering was also used to calculate the proper time of the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16).

Lessons for Us Today 
In this chapter there are many lesson connected with the firstfruits of the land. We see three things about coming with our baskets full. It is an act of Thanksgiving, Remembrance and Celebration. Notice that the word “to give” or a form of the word is used 7 times. The first three times it refers to God giving the land (v 1, 2, 3). The last three times it refers to the good gifts provided by God (v9, 10, 11) and the one in the middle (v6) the word is used referring to the way the Egyptians once afflicted the people of God and laid hard labor on them.

Another thing to notice is that chapter 26 is the only chapter in Deuteronomy that speaks of the people worshipping Jehovah an in it we see the priestly service toward God!

I would like to divide the chapter up into four sections using four key words; Remember, Rejoice, Reach Out and Re-examine.

I. Remember: What are we to remember? Numbers 18:26 speaks of the firstfruits that were to be brought regularly to the priests. But here it seems to be a special offering from the first of the harvest in the land. Let’s look a little closer at these verses to notice several points.

1. “When you come into the land.” It was a redeemed people who were to offer their firstfruits to the LORD. This term LORD is used at least 18 times in the chapter. It is the name of Jehovah, the God of relationship; the covenant keeping God. Only a redeemed people can enter into His presence and offer Him anything! This reminds us that every Believer has been redeemed! Just as the children of Israel were brought out of the bondage of Egypt so we have been delivered out of darkness into His marvelous light! We are a redeemed people (1 Cor. 6:19-20, 1 Pet. 1:18-19). We are now brought into His presence to offer up the sacrifice of praise as holy priests (1Pet. 2:5). This is what we see here in Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and we are also royal priests (1Pet. 2:9-10), which is what we read in our chapter 26:12-19.

2. They were to take their baskets full to the place where the Lord chose to make His name abide (v2). Where is that place today? It is where two or three are gathered together unto His name where He has promised to be (Mt. 18:20). God’s chosen place to meet with His people is around His beloved Son! Back in Deuteronomy 12 the Lord spoke of the place, but today that place is found in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ! In Hebrews 10:19-22 we read of this place being available to us where we are able to go in within the veil. Then in Hebrews 13:13 we are exhorted to go outside the camp unto the Lord Jesus. He ought to be the center attraction for us!

3. The basket is placed before the alter, not on it. It is not for sin or acceptance, but it is for presentation of giving back to God! This was to be set before (in the presence of) the alter, which for us is Christ Himself according to Hebrews 13:10.

4. What is it that we are presenting? The firstfruits! For us Christ is the firstfruits (Jn. 12:23-24, 1 Cor. 15:20-25, 50-58). We are to come with our baskets, our hearts, full of Christ. Harry Ironside tells the story of a little girl who heard him speak on having our baskets full. She told her father, “Daddy, I don’t think my basket is very full so every day I’m going to spend a few minutes thinking about Jesus and by Sunday I think my basket will be full!” That little girl understood what it meant to have your basket full. The psalmist spoke of his heart overflowing and his tongue being the pen of a ready writer (Ps. 45:1)!

5. We are reminded of the grace of God in verse 5, which really takes us back to Jacob. Abraham reminds us of the Sovereignty of God, of the purposes and calling of God. While Isaac reminds us of the resurrection power by which God affects His purposes. But in Jacob we see the grace of God and the protecting care of disciplining grace. In Ephesians 1 we are reminded that the eternal purposes of God and the Power of God were at work on our behalf! In chapter two our history is again traced and the grace of God is emphasized. Notice here in Deuteronomy 26:5 that the word dwelt or sojourn is used, it has the thought of being a temporary resident. Israel had been in Egypt for 400 years, but this is God’s timing not mans!

II. Rejoicing: We learn here that the worshipper’s lips proclaim the completeness of what the Lord has done. The worshipper’s baskets contain the fruit of Jehovah’s land (v10-11

III. Reaching Out: In Deuteronomy 26:12-15 we see that those who are occupied with the firstfruits of the Lord begin to reproduce the character of their God! When we are truly enjoying the blessing that we have been brought into we are going to share with others. This reminds us of such verses as Matthew 25:31-46, Ephesians 2:10, Luke 6:38 and Matthew 5:16. This is the function of a royal priest (1 Pet. 2:9-10) and fulfills Hebrews 13:16. Some other verses to consider would be 1 John 4:7-8, 11-12, 3:16-22 and James 1:27, 2:16.

IV. Re-Examine my own heart: This is the exhortation that is given in verses 16-19. Here we have personal holiness, practical sanctification, entire separation from everything inconsistent with the Holy place and the relationship we have been brought into.

In these last three point we have three things:

1. Look up to God and offer the sacrifice of Praise (v1-11).

2. Look around at the needy world and do good (v12-15).

3. Look within my own heart (v16-19).

May the Lord help us to gather up during the week a deeper appreciation for who the Lord Jesus is and for what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for our good and for the glory of God. And out of that appreciation may we then reach out to those around us who need to see His love in action!

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