Believers often have difficulty in reconciling some of the Old Testament commands that were unique to the nation of Israel, and embodied in the law of Moses, with what God expects of His children today. The Old Testament festivals and sacrifices were the “shadow” of things to come” that were ultimately fulfilled and made a nullity with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Hebrews 10:1. So some members may ask why Saint Mark has a “First Fruits” month in January. Let’s review one of the main scripture passages on the First Fruit festival.
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession and you have conquered it and settled there, put some of the first produce from each crop you harvest into a basket and bring it to the designated place of worship*the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored. Go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “With this gift I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land he swore to our ancestors he would give us.” The priest will then take the basket from your hand and set it before the altar of the Lord your God. “You must then say in the presence of the Lord your God, “My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt. His family arrived few in number, but in Egypt they became a large and mighty nation. When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us by making us their slaves, we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey! And now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.” Then place the produce before the Lord your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him. Deuteronomy 26:1-10
Clearly there are distinctions to be made between the Old Testament and our current situation. We are not farmers so we do not produce a crop harvest. Our biological ancestors were not related to Jacob so God did not bring them out of Egypt. But our comparative analysis should not stop there. If we look deeper into the intent of the command, we will discover some parallel motivations that are applicable today.
The “first fruit” festival and offerings were basically an acknowledgement that God brought the people through a difficult time into a better situation. The “first fruit” offering was also a sign of the belief that there would be an abundant crop to meet all of their needs even after a portion of the initial harvest was presented as an offering. Giving an offering to God was an act of obedience, thanksgiving, love and faith.
We must not confuse the FIRST FRUIT offering with the TITHE or ten percent of our income. When we bring our tithe to the Lord we really have not GIVEN Him anything yet. The tithe belongs to the Lord anyway. The entire tithe of the herd and flock–every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod–will be holy to the Lord. Leviticus 27:32. When tithing, you set a tenth aside, not always the first aside. A “First Fruit” offering becomes your personal statement to God. You are saying you are grateful for the “harvest” (your income), you want to share in the building of the Kingdom of God with a special sacrificial offering and you believe that He will provide for all of your needs during 2012!!
Can you acknowledge that it was God who made you victorious over health issues, employment difficulties, financial challenges, personal dilemmas and other issues that could have destroyed you in 2011? Do you give God credit for your successes in 2011? Do you have a spirit of thanksgiving that translates into a desire to make an offering of your “fruit” (wages, pension, income) at the beginning of the year? Do you believe that God will bless you during the year with an “increase” in one or more aspects of your life when you choose to make a sacrificial offering at the beginning of the year?
Then your situation is similar to the Israelites who made the “first fruit” offering as commanded. Your motivation is thanksgiving, a vow of obedience, trust in the Lord and faith in God’s promise to provide all of your needs, even after you have made a sacrificial offering of your initial increase. Celebrate “First Fruits” month during the entire month of January. Join the church in honoring what God has done in the past and demonstrating your faith in what He will do for us in 2012!!!