Archive for March 23rd, 2008

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

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The Dome of the Church of the Holy SepulchreHappy Resurrection Day!

This is the final post in the current series of articles on Holy Week:

Part I: Lamb Selection Day
Part II: Passover Preparation
Part III: Passover Banquet
Part IV: Passover Sacrifice (also inserting Jesus’ use of remez while on the cross)
Part V: The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Today, in Part VI, we will briefly discuss the Feast of Firstfruits.

As we discussed in yesterday’s article, the feast of Firstfruits is the third celebration during Passover week, and it is celebrated the day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The Meaning of Firstfruits

Gezer Calendar StoneMany Christians do not realize that the Jewish calendar, as established by God, is set up around the agricultural calendar of Israel. There have been number of discoveries of ancient agricultural calendars from Israel, which link the religious and agricultural calendars together. One of the most prominent was the discovery of the “Gezer Calendar Stone” (right), which is housed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Turkey.

When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.(Deuteronomy 26:1-11)

So, the same way that we are to give to God the first part of our money, resources, time and everything else, these people brought the first part of their crop to God.
In the case of the Feast of Firstfruits, the celebration is of the first grain from the barley harvest – planted between the two rainy seasons of the year. Unlike modern farming, each family unit had its own plot of land on which they were to grow food for their family. From this farm, each family was supposed to collect the first grain of the harvest (which was typically fully ready in the weeks after this festival) and bring it to God to say “I am bringing you the very first part of my harvest, and I trust that you, God, will provide the rest for me and my family so that we will not starve.”

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil—an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. (Leviticus 23:9-14)

The New Meaning of Firstfruits

In the year of Jesus’ crucifixion, we know that Jesus was sacrificed on Passover at 3:00 p.m., the time in which a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of all of Israel, representing God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. And thus, Jesus became the sacrifice who has saved all who will believe in him and make him Lord, delivering them from the spiritual Egypt, sin.

On Saturday, he was buried (or “planted”, as Ray VanderLaan likes to say), and the people in the Temple celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, praying for God to bring forth life out of the ground.

And so on Sunday, Jesus became the firstfruits of those who would be resurrected, leaving us with the promise that we would be the harvest to follow. And we know we can trust God with this! As Paul wrote to us:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (I Corinthians 15:20-23)


Grace and Peace,


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