February 23, 2022

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "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. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings (Leviticus 23:9-14).

The Feast of Firstfruits (reshith qasir) takes place on Nisan (a.k.a Abib) the 16th, two day after Passover begins at sunset on the 14th of the month. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of the month. The 16th of Nisan is comparable to our April 1st. Firstfruits is a celebration of thanksgiving to and dependence on God as the source of all agricultural blessings. The roots of ‘Firstfruits’ go all the way back to the day when Cain brought his offering of vegetables and Abel brought his offering of a lamb in worship before the Lord. The difference is that Abel gave the ‘first’ and the ‘fat’ (the best) while Cain gave ‘an offering’ (not the first nor the best).
According to Leviticus 23:9-14, an Israelite (usually a priest) would bring the first sheaf (a loose bundle of grain stalks) of the barley harvest to the courtyard of the Temple. The grain was winnowed (separated from the stalk), roasted, and crushed into flour. One ‘omer’ (5 pints) of barley was mixed with 3/4 pint of olive oil and frankincense. This was the ‘firstfruit offering’. The priest would wave this offering before the Lord towards the four points of the compass, burn some on the altar, and give the rest to the Levites.

At the same time the family offered a 1 year old lamb and a grain offering as a sacrifice. The Israelites were not to eat of the new harvest until the ‘firstfruits offering’ had been made. Leviticus 23 does not specifically link the offering of firstfruits with the exodus event, but Deuteronomy 26:1-11 states that when the Israelites brought the firstfruits of their harvest before the priest, they were to acknowledge that God had delivered them from Egypt and had given them the land just as he had promised.

For the Christian, the celebration of Firstfruits is significant. Jesus Christ is God’s ‘firstfruit’ because He rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, the very day the ‘firstfruits’ were to be offered by the Jews. He then became the firstruits of those who have fallen asleep (Romans 16:5). Christians celebrate this knowing that we are wholly dependent upon God for the offering of Jesus Christ as our sacrifice for sin, to Jesus Christ as the first to be raised from the dead never to die again, and that we are included in that offering of firstfruits to God (Revelation 20:6). Amen.


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