I’m excited to be sharing what I’ve learned about the Feast of Firstfruits today as we continue our Word Nerd Wednesday series on the Levitical Feasts.
Feast of Firstfruits Commanded by God
The name of book of Leviticus comes from the tribe of Levi, the tribe from which Israelite priests came. It is full of laws, ceremonies, rituals, sacrifices, and the procedures for priests to properly conduct them, given by God to Moses on mount Sinai.
“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.’”
The Hebrew word translated to “firstfruits” in this passage is re-shiyth (ray-sheeth’) and it means the first, in place, time, order or rank—beginning, chief, first (-fruits, part, time), principal thing.
The Israelites celebrated the Feast of Firstfruits in early spring. At this time, grain was beginning to grow and mature, early figs were ripening and new lambs were being born. This was also the time of the barely harvest, the earliest grain ready for harvest. Grain, oil, and wine were the three major agricultural products produced in the Promised Land.
“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 the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine.”
Priestly Procedures and Provision
During the Feast of Firstfruits, Priests:
*waved sheafs of barely before the Lord
*offered a spotless young lamb as a burnt offering
*made a grain offering of flour mixed with oil (2/10 of an ephah or about 4.4 liters)
*presented a drink offering of wine (1/4 of a hin or about 1 quart)
I love that it says these food offerings produced an aroma pleasing to the Lord and I’ll be talking more about that soon in our Friday series on experiencing God through the five senses He gave us.
According to Mosaic Law, God used the people of Israel to provide for their Priests by making an offering of the fruit of their labors… grain and animals. Some of which were strictly used for making sacrifices at the altar, such as is the case in the burnt offerings, other specific portions were eaten by the Priests and their families.
Grace before Meals
“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.”
God commanded the Israelites to make their offering to Him before they ate of the new harvest. Even snacking as indicted by the mention of “roasted or new grain” in this passage. Roasted or parched grain was a snack those harvesting ate. Workers took newly picked heads of grain and roasted them in a fire, then ate them when cool. This practice is also mentioned also in Joshua 5:11 and Ruth 2:14. For me this is a reminder to give thanks to God for His provision prior to every meal or snack I eat. As we cultivate this attitude of gratitude, we will begin to notice just how much God provides for us.
Jesus modeled this practice when the boy offered His lunch to feed the crowd. He raised, or waved, the fish and the loaves and gave thanks to His Father. And then all were fed with plenty was left over. We participate in this practice when we say grace before our meals, too.
Jesus and the Feast of Firstfruits
Because there are no coincidences in God’s plan, I find it interesting to note, the Feast of Firstfruits was celebrated on the third day after Passover, making it what we know as Easter Sunday. Jesus rose from the grave on the Feast of Firstfruits.
Jesus was the first and only son begotten by God. We know from His fulfillment of prophecy that His sacrifice on the cross fulfills the Law. His crucifixion was the final sacrifice and now takes the place of all the other sacrifices God commanded in Mosaic Law. Because of Jesus, peace with God is possible, and now He simply desires our sacrifice of praise. This is what produces a sweet aroma in heaven. Because He has created all things under heaven and on earth, we give back to Him the first and the best of what He has blessed us with. It isn’t terribly hard to praise God in times of plenty, but when we don’t feel like our earthly needs are being met it feels more like a sacrifice.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—
the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
Firstfruits by Faith
In Romans 16:5, Paul refers to Epenetus as a “firstfruit,” or one of the first converts to Christianity, of the church in Asia. Those to whom God has given the gift of faith become Spiritual firstfruits for Him. And in James we are also declared God’s firstfruits through His Word.
“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth,
that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
James 1:18 In Romans, Paul talks about Jesus’ holiness being imputed to believers as we attach ourselves to Him by faith.
“If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy;
if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
As believers, we receive the Holy Spirit as a firstfruit, or a guarantee, of the promise to come when Jesus returns to establish His eternal kingdom.
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
But it doesn’t end there. Paul calls Christ the firstfruit of the resurrection, which is the assurance we, who have been given the gift of faith, have of being raised with Him for eternity when He returns.
“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 turn:
Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.”
1 Corinthians 16:15
Rituals still serve as reminders of our redemption. As we gather weekly for divine service, God’s Word and sacrament remind us of our salvation. As we ponder the sacrifice that makes peace with God possible, we praise God for His plan to make us His own. When we practice gratitude and thanksgiving, we remember God’s provision, His goodness, and His mercy and grace. We offer the best of what we have to God, remembering that all we have comes from His hand.
Jesus told us that if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit and that the mission fields—our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and the whole world—were ripe and ready for harvest. But He wasn’t talking about barely, corn, or wheat. He was referring to believers. As we are connected to Him by faith, the Spirit works in and through us to SHINE for God’s glory. May I choose everyday to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits by offering the best of me to God first with praise and gratitude for His glory.Rituals still serve as reminders of our redemption. #wordnerdwednesday #feastoffirstfruits Click To Tweet
- The Lutheran Study Bible, “The Israelite Calendar,” page 262
- Strongs Concordance, H7225
- The Lutheran Study Bible, Leviticus 23:9-14 study notes, page 198-199
- The Nelson Study Bible, Leviticus 23:9-14 study notes, page 214
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Faith On Fire, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Soul Survival, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday, Salt and Light, and Becoming Press’s Writer Wednesday, Moments of Hope