0318 L11-Bringing First Fruits

Bringing First Fruits

May 13 • Bible Study Guide 11

Bible Background • Leviticus 2:14, 23:9–22
Printed Text • Leviticus 23:9–14, 22 | Devotional Reading • Ephesians 4:25–5:2

Aim for Change

By the end of this lesson, we will: EXPLORE the biblical call for offering the first fruits; AVOID giving God leftovers; and COMMIT to give God the first and best in everything we offer.

In Focus

Regina was fresh out of college, and favor was coming her way. She had been blessed with a lucrative, entry-level job, and she was more than excited to receive that first paycheck. She had already been eying that new purse in the mall and those designer shoes in the window of the boutique next to her corporate office downtown. She had her eyes on jewelry, too!
Her excitement was building, and she wanted to share it with her mother. “Mom, I can’t wait,” she texted. “I’m going to go straight over to that store and grab that bag after I deposit my check.”
Her mother, who had tried to instill a love for God in Regina from an early age, did not hesitate in her response. “No, you won’t,” she texted back. “You will be writing out your tithe check and putting it in your current purse to take with you to church on Sunday.”
Regina recalled memories with her mom at church over the years. Mom had regularly given Regina money to place in the offering plate to help her develop the habit of giving back to God. Oh, it was so easy when it was really my mom’s money I was giving. This giving thing is harder than I expected. I just want to keep my hard-earned money, she thought.
In today’s lesson, we will explore how gratitude is shown through setting aside an offering for God. Besides money, what can you set aside as an offering to God?

Keep in Mind

“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” (Leviticus 23:10).

Words You Should Know
A. Accepted (Leviticus 23:11) rason (Heb.)—Pleasure, favor, will; used to describe a sacrifice that is acceptable to God.
B. Statute (v. 14) huqqa (Heb.)—Ordinance, regulation, decree, especially one of God.

Teacher Preparation
Unifying Principle—Reasons to Give. In a culture of scarcity, people acquire and hoard the best they can afford. How can they live less fearfully and more joyfully during difficult economic times? God called His people to worship with the first and best of their lives.
A. Read over the lesson and Scriptures at least twice.
B. Pray for the class and notice anyone in need.
C. Fill a basket with bags of grain or bread to use as a visual aid.
D. Prepare a stack of note cards and pencils.

O—Open the Lesson

A. Ask for a volunteer to pray.
B. Give an overview of the lesson and highlight the topic.
C. Read and discuss In Focus.

P—Present the Scriptures
A. Ask the class to read silently over the Focal Verses.
B. Read the Key Verse aloud.
C. Read and discuss The People, Places and Times; Background; In Depth; and Search the Scriptures sections.

E—Explore the Meaning
A. Answer the Discuss the Meaning questions and have someone read the Lesson in Our Society section.
B. Explain that the visual aid is symbolic for the first fruits of Israel. Have the participants use the note cards to jot down one way they could improve giving their first fruits to God, or sharing their fruits with others; collect and share these aloud.

N—Next Steps for Application
A. Read Make It Happen together.
B. Reiterate the suggestion of the exercise in Make It Happen.
C. Commit to praying for the hopes listed on the group’s notecards.

Worship Guide

For the Superintendent or Teacher
Theme: Bringing First Fruits
Song: “More Than Anything”
Devotional Reading: Ephesians 4:25–5:2

Daily Bible Readings

MONDAY
Honor God with Your First Fruits
(Proverbs 3:1–10)

TUESDAY
Martyrs, First Fruits for God
(Revelation 14:1–5)

WEDNESDAY
Gifts, a Pleasing Sacrifice to God
(Philippians 4:15–20)

Preparing Grain Offerings
(Leviticus 2:1–10, 14)

FRIDAY
Acceptable Offerings are Without Blemish
(Leviticus 22:17–20)

SATURDAY
Observing the Sabbaths and the Festivals
(Leviticus 23:1–8)

SUNDAY
Present Your Fruits to God First
(Leviticus 23:9–14, 22)

KJV

Leviticus 23:9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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.
12 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.
13 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.
14 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 for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.

NLT

Leviticus 23:9 Then the LORD said to Moses,
10 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you enter the land I am giving you and you harvest its first crops, bring the priest a bundle of grain from the first cutting of your grain harvest.
11 On the day after the Sabbath, the priest will lift it up before the LORD so it may be accepted on your behalf.
12 On that same day you must sacrifice a one-year-old male lamb with no defects as a burnt offering to the LORD.
13 With it you must present a grain offering consisting of four quarts of choice flour moistened with olive oil. It will be a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. You must also offer one quart of wine as a liquid offering.
14 Do not eat any bread or roasted grain or fresh kernels on that day until you bring this offering to your God. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation wherever you live.
22 “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.”

The People, Places, and Times

Observation of Firstfruits. This Jewish celebration was linked to the observance of the Passover and the Festival of Harvest, another important time of observance for the Jewish people. The observation served as a reminder to the Israelites that the harvest they had belonged to God and was a result of God’s goodness. Whereas Old Testament scholars have had some debate about the initiation of the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the significance of these observances is traced back to God’s provision of the people during their Exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 12:1–14:6). Likewise the offering of firstfruits was an opportunity to show thanks for God’s provision by giving the first of the harvest back to God as an offering.
Harvest. The Passover, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and the Festival of Harvest were annual Jewish observances that occurred during the spring harvest of barley grain. As an agricultural people dependent on crops, they had expectation and anticipation for a new harvest each spring. Scholars suggest that at each harvest, new crop would be prepared to be stored for the year while old crop from the previous harvest would be discarded, a significant occasion. To set aside time to commemorate God’s past and present provisions by taking specific actions with the crop only increased the significance given to the harvest.
What celebrations or special occasions have been selected to be observed by your family and/or church to commemorate God’s blessings and provisions for His people?

Background

Leviticus details the laws God gave to the Israelites. While some might sound foreign to modern ears, following them had a great amount of importance for the Israelites then.
Laws provided guidance for daily living, intended to maintain Israel’s identity as God’s people. The word “covenant” is key here. God and Israel had formed a covenant relationship tracing back to the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and now with Moses and Israel. This covenant had terms, and certain laws were instituted to keep the relationship with God in right standing.
The setting of the book is post-exodus from Egypt and pre-entrance into the land that God had promised their ancestors. The Israelites are journeying there, and as they journey toward the destiny God has determined, He prepares them for life in the new land.
Preparation for this new life in Canaan included ensuring that the Israelites did not forget about God or diverge from their identity as His chosen vessels to bless the earth. Therefore, God directs them to follow very specific rituals and laws, ranging in degree of importance and of type. For example, laws cover making proper sacrifices, maintaining individual and community purity, and keeping the community holy as God is holy. One of these rituals is found in today’s passage in Leviticus 23.
Why are laws important in creating balance, order, and unity in society?

At-A-Glance

1. God Provides for Israel (Leviticus 23:9–10)
2. Israel’s Offering Back to God (vv. 11–14)
3. God Provides Through Israel (v. 22)

In Depth

1. God Provides for Israel (Leviticus 23:9–10)
This section opens with God speaking through His mediator, Moses, to the Israelites, as God has done throughout their journey out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land. While the last part of verse 10 is God’s instruction to Israel, the first half of the verse describes His goodness to Israel. In this way, the covenant relationship between God and Israel is on display; God will fulfill His covenant, which He had confirmed to Moses (Exodus 34).
Two important statements made in the second half of verse 10 cannot be overstated. In this short phrase, “When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof,” God confirms that (1) He is indeed leading this nomadic people to a land; (2) this land will be Israel’s to inhabit and cultivate; and (3) God will bless them with a fruitful harvest. These words assure that God will continue to bless Israel.
When God promises to provide sustenance as well as additional blessings for us, do we have a tendency to develop into arrogant or grateful people? Why or why not?

2. Israel’s Offering Back to God (vv. 11–14)
This section depicts the responsibility God gives the people after they enter the land and begin reaping its benefits. Before doing anything else with the harvest, they must turn their attention toward God. By bringing the first of the harvest to the priest who submits it to God as an offering, Israel symbolizes that they have not forgotten that God freed them from Egypt, sustained them through the wilderness, provided the land of Canaan, and brought forth the harvest’s abundance. By submitting their very first crop, they emphasize not fulfilling their personal or communal hunger, but honoring the Lord.
The last statement in this passage indicates the permanence of this ritual. God did not ask Israel to do this once, but to make it a practice that would endure “forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (v. 14). Recognition and acknowledgment of God’s provision and blessings throughout Israel’s history would be an annual ritual at the spring harvest.
If everything we own comes from God, why is it so difficult for us to decide to give our first and best offering to Him?

3. God Provides Through Israel (v. 22)
This passage displays the deep compassion God has for the “least of these,” the people on the margins who had uncertainty about their next meal. “The poor” and “the stranger” are people who also should receive God’s steadfast love and provision (the narrative of Ruth tells of harvesters who put into practice God’s demand; see Ruth 2).
The Israelites are required to embody the same love God has for the poor and foreigners in society, not to ignore them or hoard their crops. This passage also indicates that God has not provided only enough for Israel, but more than enough so that Israel can be a blessing to others. God has chosen to give provisions to Israel so that He can give to others through them.
What causes us to hesitate and assess people before giving to the poor and needy who approach us seeking assistance?

Search the Scriptures
1. What might be the significance of giving God the first crops, as opposed to the second or third (Leviticus 23:10)?
2. What does the permanence of this ritual mean for the future of Israel (Leviticus 23:14)?

Discuss the Meaning
Agricultural labor is not easy work, and there is no guarantee that labor would result in an abundant crop. A first crop brings excitement, but a second or third crop might not come. What feelings, thoughts, or concerns might Israel have needed to overcome to arrive at a point where they would willingly give their first crops to God?

Lesson in Our Society
Our everyday needs can sometimes become obstacles for expressing gratitude to God for His blessings and provisions in our lives. How often do we let paying the bills, buying necessities, and splurging a bit on ourselves take priority over thanking God for our finances and giving cheerfully back to Him through tithes or generous and sacrificial offerings? God’s demands for the Israelites are what He also expects from all His children. As provider of all that we have, God is pleased when we consciously remember His provisions and gratefully display our gratitude in giving. He is especially pleased when we teach our children and family to do the same.
If we consider the attitudes of our congregations during the offerings, what are we teaching our younger generations about giving to God?

Make It Happen
• Copy and post verses in a prominent place as a reminder to give to God first.
• Create a list of ten things that are valuable to you and commit to giving one of those things away as an act of worship.
• Write in your journal about how it feels to give away something that is valuable to you as an offering to God.

Follow the Spirit
What God wants me to do:
______________________________________
______________________________________
______________________________________
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Remember Your Thoughts
Special insights I have learned:
______________________________________
______________________________________
______________________________________
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More Light on the Text

Leviticus 23:9–14, 22
In Leviticus 23, God sets regulations for the major festivals and feasts for the Israelites. After stipulating the rules for the Sabbath and the Passover, God tells Moses about this observation of the first fruits. This is different from the Feast of the First Fruits, which God details next (Leviticus 23:15–21). The other holidays detailed in this chapter are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths.
The Israelites celebrated three pilgrimage festivals yearly. While some commentators designate all three festivals as agricultural because they follow the agricultural season, the Festival of Unleavened Bread is a historical commemoration of their freedom from slavery in Egypt (in addition to coinciding with the barley harvest). The two agricultural pilgrimage festivals are the Feast of the First Fruits and the Feast of Ingathering. The Feast of the First Fruits at the beginning of the wheat harvest was held fifty days after Passover, also known as Pentecost and the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Ingathering at the beginning of the grape harvest was also called the Festival of Booths.
While the Passover was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the waving of the sheaf took place at the end of the feast. This springtime celebration was in the month Aviv (later called Nisan, contemporary March-April), the month Israel left Egypt. Therefore, it carried a sense of gratitude and memorial. This was a time for the Israelites to remember their deliverance from their former state of slavery in Egypt. As a first fruits offering, the time also symbolized an assurance of a good harvest. It is likely no mistake that this celebration would later coincide with the day of Resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection as first fruit among the dead is an assurance of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20).

9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying.
The Lord (Heb. Yahweh, YAH-weh) had brought the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. After three months of journey in the desert, they arrived at Sinai (Exodus 19:1–2), where the Lord spoke directly to them in a fearful and solemn manner. They therefore requested that Moses should speak to them on behalf of the Lord so they will not perish (Exodus 20:18–19). From then on, Moses listened to God and conveyed His message to the rest of the people.

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 first fruits of your harvest unto the priest.
Once the people arrive in the land, the Lord deserves their honor and gratitude through the fruits of their labor. The word for “first fruits” (Heb. re’shit, ray-SHEET) describes the crop that ripens first, but also that which is best, chief, and foremost. The Lord deserves the first place in the life of His people and the finest things of our belongings, and He expects nothing less than the best from us.
In bringing the first fruits to the Lord, the Israelites were expressing their gratitude to Him for His faithfulness, but also their faith in His continued provision. With this small offering of a single sheaf of barley, they recognize that all of their future harvest is also from God. Each year, the Israelites would remind themselves of God’s power and favor for giving them a good harvest as well as His faithfulness to give them a harvest in the future.

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.
The gesture symbolizes a presentation to God. The acceptance of the offering is connected to the place it was waved. It should be waved “before the LORD” which means in the house of God (Exodus 23:19).
“On the morrow after the Sabbath” could mean Sunday, if the Sabbath it refers to is the regular seventh day, or it could mean the fifteenth of Nisan if it refers to the Passover Sabbath. Most commentators, however, favor the later Sunday as the day for this offering. This understanding works well with Leviticus 23:15, which counts 50 days after this wave offering to the Feast of First Fruits.

12 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.
The day the sheaf is waved, a male yearling lamb without blemish is offered as a burnt offering. Most offerings to the Lord demanded an unblemished animal (Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 1:10, 22:21). The Lord deserves honor and we have to give Him the most precious offering (Malachi 1:8). Following this sacrificial language, the New Testament presents Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and as a Lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19).
A burnt offering (Heb. olah, oh-LAW) is an offering that is burnt completely to ashes on the altar. It cannot be eaten, neither by the priest nor by the donor. A burnt offering atones for the worshiper’s sins and restores fellowship between a sinner and a holy God. Some take it as a symbol of total consecration to the Lord.

13 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 savor: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
The King James translates minchah (Heb. min-KHAH) as “meat offering,” but it actually refers to an offering of grain. It was made of the best wheat flour mixed with oil and salt, but honey and yeast were prohibited. A portion of the dough was burnt on the altar and the rest was for the priest to eat.
“Two tenth deals” of flour is about four pounds or fourteen cups. This offering is a sign of dedication to God. The “sweet savor,” or soothing aroma, often represents the people’s prayers raising favorably to God.
A drink offering (Heb. nesek, NEH-sek), or libation, is a liquid offering (usually wine) that is actually not ingested at all, but poured out. This particular drink offering measures to the fourth part of an hin, or about 1.5 liters, and was poured at the base of the altar. Note how the drink offering, the burnt offering, and most of the grain offering are all devoted to the altar, given to God and not consumed by the people. As they offer food and drink that they could have enjoyed themselves, they demonstrate their faith in God.

14 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.
Unless the sheaf is waved and all the accompanying offerings are made, no one could eat from harvested barley. Once the Israelites settle in the land, the most important thing for them to remember is that the whole land is God’s, and so they cannot enjoy the harvest without first giving God a portion.
This regulation and the entire law had to be passed down throughout the generations (Exodus 12:24). “In all your dwellings” deals with the application of this law throughout the entire land in which the Israelites would live.
22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
After making it clear that the Lord has to be first in the life of the people demonstrated by the waving of the first sheaf, verse 22 addresses how neighbors are treated, particularly the deprived. Jesus summarized the Law as loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). God therefore urges the people to remember the poor and the stranger by leaving some crops for them to glean. Ruth and her mother-in-law took advantage of this law in the field of Boaz when they returned from Moab(Ruth 2:1–3).

Say It Correctly

Hin. HIN.
Riddance. ri-DEN(T)S.

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