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The Feast of Firstfruits
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 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: 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. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Leviticus 23:9-14)
Did you ever notice in reading the Scriptures that our God wisely and graciously revealed the gospel progressively? First, he spoke to Adam and Eve of the bruising of the serpent’s head by One who would be the Seed of woman, promising a man to be our Savior. Then, he killed an innocent victim, portraying the sacrifice of our all-glorious Christ as our Substitute, dying in our room and stead that we might live by his blood. Then, he clothed our first parents with the skins of that slain victim, typifying Christ’s righteousness, that righteousness in which every redeemed sinner, being made the righteousness of God in him, by him, and with him, stands accepted before God in Christ, forever justified.
Throughout the Book of God, we see the unfolding drama of redemption, act by act, scene by scene, until at last the Son delivers up the kingdom to the Father, saying, “Lo, I and the children which thou hast given me,” and presents all the myriads of his elect holy, unblameable, and unreproveable before the presence of his glory.
In the progressive revelation of his purpose of grace, the Lord God established seven annual feasts to be observed by the children of Israel, each one building upon the other, and each revealing a specific aspect of our God’s operations of grace and mercy for the everlasting salvation of his people.
The first feast established by God was the feast of the passover, which typified Christ our Passover who is sacrificed for us, by whom we are redeemed. Then, the feast of unleavened bread was established to portray our life of faith in this world. There could be no life and no faith without redemption by the blood of Christ. All the redeemed, all for whom the paschal lamb was slain, kept the feast of unleavened bread, because all who were redeemed by the blood of Christ are born of God and given faith in him at the appointed time of love. Now, in verses 9-14, we come to the feast of firstfruits, which speaks of Christ our Resurrection and our future, bodily resurrection, which will follow this life of faith in Christ. We know that this is what the feast of firstfruits referred to and typified because God the Holy Spirit specifically tells us that in 1st Corinthians 15:19-28.
The Feast of Firstfruits
The feast of firstfruits was a celebration of God’s provision in the Land of Canaan. The feast was established by divine law while Israel was in the wilderness; but it was not observed until they came into possession of the Land of Canaan.
For forty years, they ate manna, the food of their wilderness journey. Then, when they arrived in Canaan it was time to celebrate the promise of God’s abundant harvest in the land of provision. So they observed this feast, as they did the feast of passover and unleavened bread, just as soon as Joshua brought them into Canaan (Joshua 5:9-12).
For the believing Israelite, the harvest represented all God’s elect, all who shall be saved in time. The firstfruits of the harvest represented the Lord Jesus Christ risen from the dead as the pledge of the full harvest.
The ancient ceremony itself is described in this portion of Holy Scripture. When they planted their crops, the Israelites marked off a specific section in their barley fields. When the harvest was ripe, the men carried their sickles into the field and gathered one sheaf of barley each, the firstfruits of the field. They carried that sheaf to the tabernacle and gave it to God’s priest. The priest then waved the sheaf along with the burnt offering and the meal offering.
The priest, of course, speaks of Christ our Priest and Mediator, by whom we come to God. The sheaf of firstfruits, as we have seen, speaks of Christ. This was waved before the Lord for the acceptance of the people and of their sacrifices. The burnt offering of the he lamb typified Christ, the Lamb of God, by whom we have atonement. The meal offering mingled with oil, which was double the usual amount, represented the very life of the people. They brought that upon which they depended for sustenance to God as an expression of faith, trusting him to provide everything for them. This was to be offered with a drink offering of wine, which demonstrated that the offering was made willingly, joyously, without reluctance (Psalm 104:15).
All this was done before they were allowed to gather anything from the fields for themselves. This firstfruits offering represented the whole harvest yet in the field. They gave thanks to God for the harvest while it still stood in the field, before they had so much as one bite of corn from the ear in their mouths.
How forcibly this taught and demonstrated their utter dependence upon the Lord God for everything. Yet, it also displayed, ceremonially, a willing, joyful consecration of all things to their God. They dipped every temporal blessing in the fountain of life before ever tasting it. And that made it sweet to their taste. The Lord God accepted both the people and their sacrifice as a sweet savor with which he was well-pleased (Ecclesiastes 9:7).
Oh, may God the Holy Spirit graciously enable us to see and acknowledge our God’s rightful claim upon the firstfruits because he is God. The firstfruits belong to him, even before they are harvested. God still claims the firstfruits of everything. He has first claim on our lives. Everything on the earth, both man and beast, was to be presented before the Lord as firstfruits to him
The firstborn of both man and beast were sanctified (made holy) and presented to the Lord (Exodus 13:2; 22:29). And the firstfruits of all the earth were presented to the Lord at his altar with praise and thanksgiving (Deuteronomy 26:1-11).
The message of the feast of firstfruits is resurrection and salvation by Christ. Without question, all who know and worship God, all who have been washed in the blood of Christ, all who are born of God, all who are saved by God’s free grace in Christ ought to bring the firstfruits of all things to God. The giving of the firstfruits is a picture of faith in Christ, trusting God our Savior for all things.
“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.” (Deuteronomy 26:2)
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:5-10)
But there is much more represented here than our faith in Christ and our devotion to him. The feast of firstfruits points us to Christ and his devotion to God and to us as our Savior.
There are many very important and significant things recorded in the Scriptures which took place on the very day the Lord God set as the day his people would keep the feast of firstfruits. — Here are five with which you are familiar.
1. Noah’s ark rested on Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4), picturing redemption finished by Christ.
2. Israel came out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 13:3-4), portraying our deliverance (salvation) by God’s outstretched arm and omnipotent hand.
3. Israel ate the firstfruits of the Promised Land (Joshua 5:10-12), which represented God’s elect obtaining heavenly glory with Christ.
The manna that God gave from heaven during the days in the wilderness ceased the 16th day of Nisan after the people ate of the old corn of the land. The day following was the 17th of Nisan, the day when the children of Israel ate the firstfruits of the Promised Land. Nisan means “new beginning.” And in Christ every saved sinner experiences a new beginning (2 Corinthians 5:17).
4. Haman was defeated and slain (Esther 3:1-8:2), even as all our foes are vanquished by our God, and Satan and antichrist shall forever be overthrown by our mighty Man of War, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Book of Esther, Haman plotted to kill all the Jews in Persia and Media. Haman had ten sons. He was a picture of the false Messiah (antichrist). A decree was sent out on the 13th of Nisan that all the Jews would be killed. Upon hearing this news, Esther proclaimed a three-day fast, which would be Nisan 14-16.
On the 16th of Nisan, Esther risked her life when she came to King Ahasuerus. The king asked her, in effect, “Tell me, what you want?” Esther replied, “If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him” (Esther 5:4). This was the 16th day of Nisan. At the banquet, the king again asked Esther what she wanted, and she asked the king to come to another banquet to be held the next day, the 17th of Nisan. On this day, Haman (the picture of antichrist and of Satan) was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordechai.
5. The resurrection of Christ took place on this very day (John 12:24, 1 Corinthians 15:16-20).
The Lord Jesus celebrated the festival of firstfruits by presenting himself as the Firstfruits of his elect. According to the Jews’ own calculation, our Savior’s resurrection from the dead was accomplished on the very day the firstfruits were appointed to be offered (John 12:23-24).
On the next day after the sabbath, the Son of God arose from the dead. Standing upon the earth, the risen Christ waved himself before God as the true Wave Offering of Firstfruits by whom, with whom, and in whom we are accepted as a sweet savor to God (Matthew 27:52-53; 28:1-6; Romans 4:25). He was for us the Lamb of sacrifice. He stands before the triune Jehovah as the wave sheaf of harvest for his ransomed. And he is our sweet savor of acceptance (Ephesians 1:6).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the firstfruits, the one who has preeminence in all things and over all things (Colossians 1:18). He is the firstborn of Mary (Matthew 1:23-25). He is the first-begotten of God the Father (Hebrews 1:6). He is the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15). He is the first-begotten from the dead (Revelation 1:5). He is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29). He is the firstfruits of the resurrected ones (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). He is the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14). He is the preeminent One — Jehovah’s Firstborn (Colossians 1:18).
The Lord Jesus Christ, our all-glorious Savior, is indeed the Holy One of God, sanctified by the Father as his Firstborn. He is the first, the choicest, the preeminent One. Behold the crucified, risen, exalted Christ, our Savior, Jehovah’s Firstborn as he is held before in the Book of God.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:10-18)
“What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” (Song of Songs 5:9-16)
Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, is both the Firstborn of God and the Firstfruits unto God. He is the sheaf of the firstfruits, the pledge and promise of the full harvest. The firstfruits represent the whole.
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-25)
“I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
As if that great expectation were not enough, Paul tells us about another great “firstfruits” that all who trust Christ have already experienced, which is the first resurrection, the new birth (Revelation 20:6). He wrote to the saints at Rome, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
We have received the pledge, the promise, the down payment, the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit. That means there is more to follow. Can you imagine what it is going to be like in heaven in the presence of the Christ, our God and Savior, for all eternity? No, we can’t even begin to imagine it! We have only tasted what it is going to be like when Christ comes for us. The presence of the Holy Spirit guarantees the promise.
The apostle John was permitted to see what is taking place in heaven, around the throne of God. He heard the new song they are singing about the throne. He saw the Lamb and those who follow him wherever he goes. — “These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4). He goes forth with a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)
“And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal (Liberty) unto this day.” (Joshua 5:9)
Even so, come Lord Jesus, even today!