Saturday, March 25, 2017

‘First Fruits’

‘First Fruits’

Passover is fast approaching and we must prepare for God’s holy feast.  The ecclesia seems to be in agreeance that Passover is to be kept on the 14th day of Nissan each year and the 15th day of Nissan begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread but then God also places the Feast of First Fruits in the midst of the Unleavened Bread and this Feast seems to have some controversy around when to keep it. Leviticus 23:10-12,10 “Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘After you enter the land I am giving you and harvest its ripe crops, you are to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the cohen. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before Adonai, so that you will be accepted; the cohen is to wave it on the day after the Shabbat. 12 On the day that you wave the sheaf, you are to offer a male lamb without defect, in its first year, as a burnt offering for Adonai”   At first glance it seems obvious that the priest will wave the first fruits offering after the Shabbat so first fruits must be on the first Sunday after Passover.  However, the weekly Shabbat is not the only Sabbath that occurred this week, the 15th of Nissan is also a Shabbat, it is one of the seven annual Shabbats that God commanded us to keep in Leviticus 23.  So which day is it?  The day after the weekly Shabbat or the day after the 15th of Nissan?  It seems that God is wanting us to do our homework on this or he would have just told us to keep it on a specific date each year.  In the time of Jesus there were two major parties of Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Pharisees kept it on the 16th of Nissan and the Sadducees kept it on the day after the weekly Sabbath, so we can see that this has been a debated topic for thousands of years.  I am going to pull my acts 17:11 card and tell you to do your own homework on this one and do not take my word for it.  My personal view is that the Sadducee’s were correct in that we should observe First Fruits the day after the weekly Shabbat.  The reason i came to that conclusion is because it would be the only way to guarantee that there would be seven Sabbaths and fifty days leading to Pentecost. 

Let’s not get too tangled up on when we should keep it, we all know the season that we should observe.  Let us move on to the meat of the message and truly address the significance behind such an important feast.  Tonight I want to look at the theme of the first born and their importance to God!  You should be able to see through this message that it is all about the first born.  First Fruits truly represents the relationship that God desires to have with his people.  There are three major harvests in the land of Israel, one on First Fruits, Pentecost and Feast of Sukkot.  Israel was an agricultural community and depended on their crops to be able to survive.  In order for their crops to grow they needed rain, which is why we see the reference in scripture about the former and latter rains.  God is the former and latter rains, God is the reason for the increase of Israel’s crops.  God desires his people to trust him and if we as his people obey Him then God will hold his end of the relationship and he will give us land that flows with milk and honey.  To take that relationship a step further Israelites were commanded to give the land rest every seventh year and God would provide them with their increase.  That takes a lot of faith to be able to stop doing the things you do that created success and rely solely on God.  But that’s what He wants!!!  He wants us to trust Him!  On Feast of First Fruits Israel has a Barley Harvest and they are commanded to cut their first crops of barley and give it to the priest as an offering before God.  Not only are all first crops God’s but all First born humans belong to God, Numbers 18:15-16, 15 “Everything that comes first out of the womb, of all living things which they offer to Adonai, whether human or animal, will be yours. However, the firstborn of a human being you must redeem, and the firstborn of an unclean beast you are to redeem.”  Families would have ceremonies at the temple where they would bring their first born before the priest and the parents must redeem them.  There are a few rules for redemption:

1.     Must be near of kin Leviticus 25:48, 25:25, Ruth 3:12-13

2.     Must not need redemption himself

3.     Must be willing to redeem Ruth 4:6

4.     Redemption was completed when price was paid.   

Jesus is our ultimate redeemer, yet it is our own fault that we need to be redeemed.  If we would just listen and obey then we would still be in the garden but we see that Adam sold himself into slavery, Israel sold herself into slavery in Egypt and the Israelites chose to enslave themselves to kings and priests.  Yes Jesus still loves us and he is still willing to redeem us.  We see this theme of redemption throughout all of God’s Word but it is not the first born that redeems us it is the second always redeeming the first.  Abel redeems his first born brother Cain, Isaac is a second born set out as a sacrifice, Jacob is the second born, Joseph is the second first born to Reuben and it is Joseph that buys back his family in Egypt.  Manasseh is put aside for the second born Ephraim, we even see this example laid out in Genesis 38 with the story of Tamar and his twin sons. 

We see from the very beginning of the Word of God that A divine first born (Jesus) had to pay the penalty for a divine first born (Adam).   It is said that Jesus is the only son of God yet we can see that Adam is also a son of God and Jesus was known as the second Adam.  So if Jesus is the second how can he be the first fruit offering?  1 Corinthians 15:45, 45 In fact, the Tanakh says so: Adam, the first man, became a living human being;[a] but the last “Adam” has become a life-giving Spirit.”  God is perfect and He desires us to be perfect.  If we look at the pattern in scripture, Ishmael was Abraham’s first son but Ishmael was born out of disobedience to God, Cain’s sacrifice was a sacrifice of sin and Adam though born of God was also born of the Earth and chose to sin.  Every true first born could not be the kinsmen redeemer because they themselves need redeeming.  God set this example throughout scripture to point us to the ultimate first fruits offering, Jesus Christ. 

Today we celebrate First Fruits with more joy than ever knowing that our King, our God rose from the dead so that He could redeem His people.  This Feast is treated differently now than it did in Ancient Israel.  Today most of us do not live in an agricultural community nor do anyone of us have a temple or a priesthood set up for us.  This makes it tough to be able to keep the feast to the letter of God’s word, seeing that we have no Barley to give and no priests to give it to.  I believe that God did not want us looking at Barley as our first fruits any more but instead looking to His son Yeshua and we should praise Him on this day!  On the other side though i think that it is critical to have a relationship with God, just like the Israelites had a relationship with Him, in that He would provide the rain and the increase if they would do what He commanded.   Scripture tells us not to go empty handed before God. Deuteronomy 16:16. I believe that when you go before you God on this feast that you should still bring an offering, some sort of sacrifice that can form this relationship that enables you to trust Him with all your heart, mind and soul. 

This is an amazing time of year!  Life is happening all around us!  Spring represents life, and the end of the winter season which represents death.  This season remove your dead works and dedicate your life to God.  For it is by God’s first fruit offering of His son that we all live!