Lifestyle Christianity 4: Firstfruits

 
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JAMES 1:18

18  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Yahweh made certain decisions which are irrevocable when He chose to create Adamic man. One was for us to be born "with the word of truth". As a white individual, you are an eternal spirit forever connected to the Source of all things, God's creative power is in you, "the LOGOS OF TRUTH, that we should BE..."- this goes back to being created in the image of the I AM Himself. You are not a human being on a spiritual journey, but a spirit-being on a human journey- Yahweh is in you. The key is your willingness to walk in the truth Yahweh has given you. The only way possible is to live by faith.

That we were born with this is made evident by His expectation for us to be something- "a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." What is this "firstfruits"? We will explore this holy rehearsal which was given only to Israel in the law of God. It depicts the nature of faith and what it means to trust God.

Being willing to offer ourselves as living sacrifices is the same as the idea of firstfruits and up-front faith. Deep within, there's a need to present ourselves to God. Gratitude is one of the greatest priveleges in life which we must take full advantage of. To have Someone like God Who does things for you all the time, surely He is worthy of our attention and praise. OUR RACE IS GIVING GOD THE LEFTOVERS. We shut God out of certain parts of our lives while He is worthy of His portion of all of it.These ideas are depicted for us as we study firstfruits in the Scriptures. Israel's focus was to be on giving God first priority and in turn, God would bless with a bountiful harvest.

As an Israelite, you must realize the power and potential of this mind God has given you. The Apostle Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus". This is the creative, logos mind of truth. The "word of truth" is logos Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #3056. Liddell & Scott's defines it as the word or that which the inward thought is expressed... the inward thought itself. It is the Word which is to be first in our minds as God's offspring. This is where you hear the voice of God within you "the word of truth". Why is it "the word of truth"? Because all truth comes from above just like we did. Yes this temporal body came from down here but our essence came from the Father of Lights above.

Why do we have this? In our verse it says it was God's "will". If you just know that you've been on some kind of a journey off and on throughout your life in search of the truth, that which you have been getting acquainted with, actually existed within you the whole time. Now you must determine what you will do. The Apostle Paul said, "all things are yours"- the ability to receive your desires from God is not out there but already "with" you. There is a perfect purpose to go along with all those perfect gifts mentioned in the prior verse, which come down from our Father of Lights. It's just that God wants us to seek Him to manifest all these things. This is the purpose of faith: to bring us closer to God thru our desires. God has made it to where we draw closer to Him thru seeking what we want out of life- lifestyle Christianity.

He "begat" us for this purpose which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #616 in the Greek apokueo to breed forth.... to generate. GOD CREATED US TO BE A RACE OF BELIEVERS IN TRUTH. We have unlimited potential and power. But the more you ignore your inner self, the less you are fulfilling your Father's intentions in creating you. Wanting to live from within is the first step up toward our new life.

GOD HAS CREATED YOU THUS SO FROM WITHIN, YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THINGS. Do you believe it?! Then let's start living this way. We can see our own personal lives change and others' lives transformed if we will only listen to God and belive the truth. Make the first move in this relationship by trusting God. That's what we want to look at in this lesson.

The term "firstfruits" in the Greek is aparche Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #536 defined as a beginning of sacrifice. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary defines aparche as "a beginning" and the Hebrew reshit as "first" and bikkur as "first ripe." As with man and all livestock, the firstfruits were holy unto Yahweh, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Let us look at some Scriptures which explain this:

EXODUS 23:19

19  The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

DEUTERONOMY 18:4

4  The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.

These firstfruits were to include grain and fruit, as well as flour, oil, and wine, also wool.

EXODUS 22:29

29  Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.

The first sheaf was presented at the Passover by the congregation before the harvest could even begin.

LEVITICUS 23:10-11

10  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11  And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.

In Josephus' Antiquities (3:10:5) he says the sheaf was of barley and until this was performed no harvest work was to take place. Also, no closed or private offering of firstfruits were allowed until after the public oblation of the two loaves:

LEVITICUS 23:15-20

15  And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 17  Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. 18  And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. 19  Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.

It was left to the individual's choice how much was to be given in the offerings of this type. It only required that the choicest portions were to be offered:

NUMBERS 18:12

12  All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.

Of every tree bearing edible fruit belonging to an Israelite, the fruits of the fourth year at the earliest they could be eaten, were holy unto Yahweh. They were presented as an offering unto Yahweh.

LEVITICUS 19:23-25

23  And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of. 24  But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal. 25  And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God.

To the sanctuary, the firstfruits were brought in a basket to the priest who would then set the basket down at the altar. The one bringing the offering would then recite Jacob's going into Egypt and the deliverance of our ancestors from there. He then shows gratitude for the blessings of God.

DEUTERONOMY 26:1-11

1  And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; 2  That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there. 3  And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us. 4  And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God. 5  And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: 6  And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: 7  And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: 8  And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: 9  And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. 10  And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: 11  And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.

The following could have been the way Israelite families would have prepared and went to Jerusalem for this. They prepared a basket with barley, pomegranates, dates, olives, figs, and grapes. The basket was watched throughout the night. In the morning, they would set out for Jerusalem. An ox would go before them with an olive crown upon its head (later to be presented as their peace offering), as the people would sing and rejoice.

When they approached Jerusalem, a messenger would be sent to announce their arrival. The officiating priest, the Levites, and the treasurers would go out to meet them, and would accompany them into the city, still singing and rejoicing. The piper would lead the party to the mount of the Temple. Here everyone, including the king, would carry his own basket on his shoulders to the court of the Temple. Then pigeons, which were hung about the baskets, would be taken for burnt offerings.

With the baskets still upon their shoulders, everyone would begin the story of Jacob as we just read in Deuteronomy chapter 26, until they came to the words, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father", they would then let down their basket from their shoulder and hold it in front of them by the brim. The priest would then put his hands under it and wave it. The ones who brought the offering would then continue reciting the story. When they reached "And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land", he would then place the basket at the altar. Having bowed and put his face to the ground, he then would depart. After passing the night in Jerusalem they would return the following day to their homes.

It was said in Jeremiah chapter 2 that "Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase". In the New Testament firstfruits speak of hope and abundance, of excellence- a bountiful harvest. You were born to experience such benefits and blessings. The only stipulation is you must approach God by faith. Is there evidence in your life that God is bringing you closer to Himself? Those who will be closest to Him throughout all eternity, are those who recognize themselves now "as a kind of firstfruits of his creatures", being brought to the forefront by the truth. Trusting God and living by faith is the way we move closer. We must be willing to make the first move by stepping out in faith.

Do you see yourself as stepping forth in faith? All He wants is for us to make the move with our faith, refusing to settle, presenting ourselves as living sacrifices:

MALACHI 3:4-18

4  Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. 5  And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. 6  For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. 7  Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? 8  Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9  Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10  Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. 12  And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. 13  Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? 14  Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? 15  And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. 16  Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. 17  And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. 18  Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.

REVELATION 14:1-5

1  And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. 2  And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: 3  And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. 4  These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. 5  And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

As we have already seen in this series, nothing keeps you further from sin than living in pursuit of the righteousness of God by faith. We are a part of something much greater and far more significant than what we were told before. Now is the time to act upon your faith.

REFLECTION

We want a harvest but first we must present our very best to God by faith. It's only a matter of time. Once we are sowing the seeds of the Gospel along with faith, hope, love, gratitude, and forgiveness, we can expect for God to bring the increase. To be among those who answer the call and draw closer to God thru every opportunity, is to understand lifestyle Christianity. God never would have given us this if He did not intend for us to shine.