Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Feast of Firstfruits

Season:  7 Feasts   Buy

Dannah Gresh: At times, I think we’re all tempted to give God the leftovers of our lives rather than our best. Did you know God has given His best to us? Here’s Erin Davis.

Erin Davis: In the Feast of Firstfruits, God revealed His heart to give His children His very best. He has given us Jesus, and then Jesus gave us His first fruits, the very best He had to offer. In His death on our behalf, Jesus held nothing back for Himself—not even His very life.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for February 22, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

I want you to think about your time, your finances, your talents . . . every part of your life. Do you give God the best of everything you have? We’re continuing to hear from Erin Davis as she explores the seven feasts.

Leviticus 23 gave instructions to the Israelites for how to observe these festivals, and today Erin will explain the Feast of Firstfruits and how it reveals God’s heart for us. You’ll see the significance behind why we should give our best to the Lord.

If you’ve missed any part of this series so far, head on over to ReviveOurHearts.com and, of course, you can find all of the episodes on the Revive Our Hearts app. Here’s Nancy to start us off today.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Don’t you love holidays?! I know I do, and sometimes it’s just because we get an extra-long weekend or a day off from work or time to travel or reconnect with friends and family.

But what I really love about holidays is how they remind us of some significant event, maybe in our nation’s history or in the gospel story—Christmas and Easter. Those are precious holidays because of what they commemorate, what they remind us of.

Those holidays are an important part of our rhythm. We celebrate them every year. We know that at certain times of year we’re going to have certain holidays to celebrate. You know, actually the word “holiday” came from an old English phrase, “holy day.”

Many of the holidays we celebrate were originally holy days, reminders of certain important days in our faith. And so, this week on Revive Our Hearts, Erin Davis—who is one of my dear friends and a longtime friend of Revive Our Hearts . . . She actually serves on the staff of Revive Our Hearts as our Content Manager. She’s responsible for the Women of the Bible studies and podcasts that you may be familiar with (if you’re not, you should be!). 

Erin is teaching us all week about a passage of Scripture that a lot of times I think we just overlook: Leviticus chapter 23. Okay, for starters, when was the last time you were in Leviticus? This is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament. It’s super-important because it points us to Christ and the gospel in the New Testament.

In Leviticus 23 we find seven holy days—seven holidays, seven feasts—that were part of the every year rhythm of the lives of the Jews. Now, we don’t celebrate those same holidays today, but we do continue to celebrate what they represent.

Today we’re on the third of those feasts. Get your Bible if you can, get it open, because I want you to follow along. And again, I want to encourage you to be reading Leviticus chapter 23 each day through this series so you can get familiar with these holy days and can celebrate what they represent to us and to our faith. Now, here’s Erin Davis.

Erin: I can remember one Easter, not too long ago. I collapsed on the couch after a full day of ham roasting and potato mashing and Easter egg hiding and finding . . . and the level of exertion required to get four boys dressed in time for church!

I lay there and I surveyed the post-holiday state of my home. What I saw everywhere I looked were those little plastic Easter eggs, cracked open and empty! Of course, all the goodies had been taken, my boys had long moved on, but I couldn’t help but smile, because those plastic Easter eggs were telling a story.

They were telling the story of Christ’s empty tomb, even more than they did when they were full of the treats I packed for my sons. Let’s open our Bibles together to Leviticus chapter 23. We’ve been looking at the seven feasts given to Israel and we’re looking for how those feasts, recorded way back here in the Old Testament, point forward to the gospel. 

Today we’re going to study the Feast of Firstfruits. My hope is that, after we study this feast together, we will peek into the empty tomb with a fresh sense of awe and we will respond in worship to the One Who is worthy of our very best!

Let me read to us Leviticus 23:9–14: 

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest . . .” 

I know we’ve only made it a little ways, but I want to stop right there because you might already be lost. 

A sheaf is just a bundle of grain. So, I want you to picture the people of Israel—many, many thousands of them. They’re carrying these bundles of grain that they’ve just harvested. They are going to bring them as an offering to the Lord.

Picking up in verse 11: 

“. . . and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” 

So again picture, they’re bringing in these bundles of grain, and then the priest is going to wave that bundle of grain as an offering before the Lord.

Verse 12:

“And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

So it’s harvest time, and they’re going to bring this grain to the Lord as an offering. There’s some other offerings mentioned there in this description. 

The Feast of Firstfruits is the third of the seven feasts recorded in Leviticus 23. If we are unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar, we might miss some of the nuances of this feast that are very important as we connect the dots between the seven feasts recorded in Leviticus and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus we see in the Gospels. The timing matters. 

Now, I would never claim to know everything God was doing through the seven feasts, but one of the things that seems that God was doing through the seven feasts was graciously giving His children, the nation of Israel, rhythms for their lives to help them fight against their chronic spiritual amnesia. 

As part of those rhythms that God established, He instituted a weekly Sabbath. Let’s look at Leviticus 23:3, 

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

A Sabbath is at its essence an invitation to change the pattern. Consider Creation with me for a moment. We see it in Genesis 1. Day one God created. Day two God created. Day three God created. Day four God created. Day five God created. Day six God created. Day seven God changed the pattern.

Genesis 1 tells us that on day seven God rested, and He carries that pattern through here in Leviticus 23, inviting His people into that same rhythm. Now, Sabbath features prominently in the seven feasts. More than half of the Feasts include a Sabbath that’s in addition to the weekly Sabbath. 

That probably ought to cause our spiritual antennas to perk up a bit, because it’s obviously something of significance to the Lord. Both the seven feasts and the Sabbath are examples of ways that God invites His people to change the pattern. 

I can think of so many times in my life when through His Word or through His Spirit, God invited me to change the pattern of my life—to look up from my work and to focus on His work; to stop my chronic navel gazing and to gaze at Him instead; to unclench my fists. I tend to walk around in this perpetual state spiritually speaking, and to open my hands for the gifts He wants to give me. 

As we consider that idea of God inviting us to change the pattern, let's head back to the seven feasts. The Jewish week begins on Sunday, which means that their weekly Sabbath was on Saturday. I want you to hold on to that little kernel, as we flip forward in our Bibles to the Gospels and consider the events of Holy Week.

If you’ve been following along with us, or if you’re reading the seven feasts, you may have already made some connections between the first two feasts and the events of Holy Week. 

  • Jesus was crucified on Passover.
  • Jesus was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

He was crucified on a Friday, and He laid in the tomb shrouded by darkness on Saturday, the Sabbath.

Have you ever paused to ask this question, I don’t think I ever had until I began studying the seven feasts, but when you consider the Resurrection have you ever asked the question, “Why wait?”

Why didn’t God ask Jesus to rise the day after He was killed? Or the moment after He was killed? How about the second that tomb was sealed shut? If the whole thing would have just exploded and Jesus would have walked out as it was still surrounded by guards, that feels like a Hollywood moment to me. But that’s not how it happened. 

In 1 Corinthians 15:4, Paul reminds us that Jesus was raised on the third day in accordance with Scripture. He’s right of course, but since God is the Author of all Scripture, why did He choose to write the story that way?

Jesus had the right to raise on the Sabbath day—He’s King of kings and Lord of lords. You might remember an interaction with the Pharisees when they questioned Him for doing good on the Sabbath, and He informed them that He had the right to do good on the Sabbath and they did too. Certainly, the Resurrection is a good work. 

But during Holy Week, the most important sequence of events since Creation, Jesus’ body rested in the tomb on Sabbath. That brings us back to Leviticus 23. Let me read to us Leviticus 23:11, and this time I’m going to give you a little homework. There’s part of this verse that I want you to underline. Leviticus 23:11: “And he . . .” He’s the priest, remember, picture all of the grain coming in and he’s going to wave that grain in front of the nation of Israel. 

“And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted [here’s where I want you to get out your pen], on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

Underline that, “On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

Maybe even take a moment and draw an arrow there pointing forward, because this part of Scripture, as all of Scripture is, it’s pointing forward to Jesus. If we didn’t have the context of the Gospels, we would miss the timing of that.

God’s Word is masterfully ordered. In Leviticus 23 God outlined His calendar of redemption for the nation of Israel, but He is outlining something bigger, grander, more significant for all of us. I am so excited to read to you from John chapter 20:1, especially as we consider this feast. 

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

I hope you know this story, this is the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene comes, and Jesus has already risen from the dead. Maybe you’re like me. You read that and you just want to get to Jesus. I understand, but let’s pay attention to the details. When did Mary come? She came on the first day of the week, Sunday, the day after Sabbath. 

  • Jesus was crucified on Friday, the Passover. 
  • He was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 
  • He laid in the tomb on Saturday, the Sabbath. 
  • He rose from the dead on Sunday, the Feast of Firstfruits.

Jesus observed the first three Feasts in perfect order as He was crucified, buried, and raised. As we consider this feast in the context of the other seven Feasts, it’s clear to me that it represents a pivot point in a couple of ways. 

Both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were instituted in Egypt, in the land of slavery. The Feast of Firstfruits was the first of the additional feasts to be celebrated in the Promise Land. 

The tone of this feast is different. The first two feasts are somber, and this feast is pointing towards a truly joyous moment. So yes, the feasts point forward to God’s redemptive timeline, but they also have such practical lessons for all of God’s children.

Don’t you love that about Scripture? I mean it’s giving us these giant cosmic truths, and also these practical principles we can apply right now. 

In Egypt, the crops of God’s people, humanly speaking, belong to Pharaoh. The Israelites didn’t get to decide what they did with their crops. But these were now free people, and their lives were their own. God was using the Feast of Firstfruits to teach them a rhythm of giving their lives back to Him, “I give it back to You; I give it back to You; I give it back to You.”

If you’ve ever quit a job that you’ve been in for a long time, or your home was full and now it’s an empty nest, or your calendar was full and for some reason that changed, you know that you need new rhythms. That’s what God was doing for His children here. He was teaching them a rhythm of giving their lives back to Him.

The quality of the Firstfruits offering mattered, because it pointed forward again to a greater offering. Listen to Leviticus 23:10 again, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, ’When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.’” That’s why it’s called the Firstfruits.

Can you imagine as they were picturing life in the Promise Land, as they were dreaming of having their own gardens, and nobody could take it from them, but there was a part of their heart that wanted it for themselves.

I think of my own garden, which I spend many, many months preparing. When that first tomato shows up on the vine, I don’t want to give it to my kids, I want it for me. God was teaching them, bring Me the first fruits, give Me the first of what I give you in the land. 

And then 12 and 13: 

“And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine [circle that word “fine”] flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin.”

How did the children of Israel celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits? By giving God their first and their finest, the first of their crop and the finest of their flour and livestock. All of Scripture opens up when we approach it with this question, “What does this tell me about God?” 

I bet I am not the only one who approaches Scripture by default with a different question, “What does this tell me about me?” If you’re reading about the Feast of Firstfruits asking, “What does this tell me about me?”, you’re going to be confused, because it's not about you. 

But what does it reveal about the heart of God. There’s a passage in the book of Acts that I love and when I apply it here to the Feast of Firstfruits, it helps me understand this better. Let me read to us Acts 17:24–25, 

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

A little bit of sarcasm there, I always like that when it’s in Scripture. Since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything, Scripture is telling us God doesn’t need anything. He made everything, so take that magnifying glass and put it over this feast. God is asking His children to bring Him grain and livestock and wine, and Acts is telling us that God doesn’t need anything. 

God didn’t command the Israelites to bring that to Him because He was hungry. The feasts are about reminding God’s people who He is. Here in Leviticus 23 and preserved for us, God was revealing His heart, not filling His stomach.

In the Feast of Firstfruits, God revealed His heart to give His children His very best. He has given us Jesus, and then Jesus gave us His first fruits, the very best He had to offer, in His death on our behalf. Jesus held nothing back for Himself not even, His very life.

Jesus gave us His very best in His resurrection. He gave us His resurrection power, and His triumph over sin. Jesus gave us His very best in the beautiful promise, that someday we will rise with Him.

This is the gospel, and it’s way back in Leviticus 23. As the nation of Israel began this new ritual, which don’t you know felt as foreign to them at first as it does to us as we read it. They began this annual ritual though of giving God their best.

“We will give You our best, Lord. We will give You our best. We will give our first and our finest, Lord.” And they were telling the story that God gives us His best.

Now, I’m sure that they couldn’t have imagined what that meant. As they considered God giving them His best, they were thinking of the Promised Land. He was going to give them that land flowing with milk and honey. They thought God’s best was good crops and good cows. But God gave us so much more. He gave us His very Son, Jesus. 

This not only changes “how” we live our lives, the how is this, we give God our best. We give Him the best of our time. That means He gets the best of your day. If the way you order your day is that you will give God time when you get to it, you will never give God a nanosecond.

But we order our day so that God gets the best of us. We give God the best of our talent. It’s for Him, it’s for His glory. It’s for the sake of His kingdom, not what’s left over after we give that away to some other lesser cause.

We give God the best of our finances. I don’t know about you, but if my approach towards money is that I will give God what’s left over at the end of the month, there will be nothing to give God. But it comes off the top, because He gets my best. 

It does change the “what”—what we do with our time, what we do with our money, what we do our energy. But I’m less concerned about that, if you’re listening. Because it changes the “why.”

In the Old Testament, God’s people gave their best in order to earn His acceptance. I’m not making that up, it's right there in the text, in verse 11, “and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted.” 

But we live in a New Testament reality. Because of Jesus, and because of the gospel we give Jesus our best, because we’re already accepted. Jesus made a way for us to experience God’s acceptance that requires no grain offerings, no food offerings, no wine offerings, we’ve shifted from works to worship.

Maybe you’ve heard the old song, I’ll try to sing it, “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves; we shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.” Maybe you had no idea what you were singing about. 

Maybe you didn’t know what a sheaf was, and you didn’t have a Bible reference for what you were singing but everybody else was singing it. Well, now you do. It comes straight from Leviticus 23. God’s people were coming in rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

They were commanded to bring in the very best of their crops as a firstfruits offering. But that song also describes how we can live every day as God’s beloved children. We’re bringing in the sheaves of our time; we’re bringing in the sheaves of our energy; we’re bringing in the sheaves of our families, of our money, of our everything.

If you’ve heard the other sessions of this series, you know that I first taught this in my church. Every woman was given a single stalk of grain, and they sat in this passage. They were all over our church campus, and I invited them if they wanted to give God the best of their lives to come in singing and place that on the altar.

So about 200 women (and they didn’t do it all at once) over a period of about thirty minutes I hear, “bringing in the sheaves,” and then somewhere else, “bringing in the sheaves.” Two hundred women saying, “Yes, we want to give You our best.” They weren’t trudging through the song; they were singing it with joy.

They realized that God had given us His best. And you know what days are going to come when we give God the crumbs of our time and energy, our finances. I have days like that, and I crawl into my bed and I just feel sorry that I missed it. I missed the chance to give God my best. 

But when we have those days we don’t wilt. We repent. We believe the gospel, and we ask God to empower us by His Spirit to give Him our first fruits tomorrow.

I want you to think about the Feast of Firstfruits as the backdrop for some of Jesus’ most famous words. They are recorded in Matthew 6:31–33. Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”

So lock that in your brains, because the second part of this passage you may have heard but what Jesus says next He was saying in response to the crowds anxiousness,

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

The Feast of Firstfruits is about God first living, and God first living is not meant to cause us anxiety. If God first living is causing you anxiety, you’ve missed the most important lesson of the Feast of Firstfruits, that God has already given you His best. 

God first living, seek first the Kingdom. It’s a lifestyle of bringing our first fruits as an offering before the Lord, every day, every year, every hour, I give You my best. And we do it not to be accepted but because we’re grateful that He has given us His best. 

When Jesus rose, Resurrection Sunday, He changed the pattern. He moved us from death to life, from dark to light, and that is the reason we offer Him our best. That gospel hope is our center that makes us come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. 

Let me pray. Jesus we love you. You’re worthy; help us to give You our very best, amen.

Nancy: Thank you, Erin, for helping us to think about that obscure Old Testament passage with New Testament eyes. 

I’d love for us to just take a moment to respond, wherever you are—wherever you’re listening to or watching this program—and let’s just bow our hearts before the Lord and respond to Him in this way.

First, Lord, we give You thanks for what we see in this Old Testament feast, how it points us to Christ and to Easter and to the Resurrection and the Firstfruits—Christ being raised for us and how, in Christ, You gave us Your very best! You held nothing back. You gave us the first, the best, the most that You had, and we are so, so grateful!

And then, Father, what You have done for us moves us to worship and to offer ourselves back to you as a gift, not grudgingly but joyfully. And so, Lord, we want You to have the best of our time, of our resources, our money, our efforts . . . not because we’re trying to earn Your favor or be accepted by You, but because You have accepted us.

So we’re grateful, and we offer ourselves up to You in a fresh way this day. Thank You for these holy days that remind us to tether our hearts to You and to live lives of gratitude and worship. We thank You in Jesus’ name, amen.

I hope that what you’ve heard from Erin Davis has whetted your appetite to know more about this Old Testament passage and these seven feasts that were part of the rhythm of the Jewish calendar. Erin’s just had time to touch on the surface of some of these things, but she has written a study that will let you take a deeper dive.

It’s an eight-week Bible study called Seven Feasts: Finding Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament. We’d love for you to have a copy of that study to do by yourself or with a group of friends—maybe your small group or at your church. You can dive in and say, “Lord, what more would You want to say to me about Christ, about the gospel, and about my walk with You as I learn through these seven feasts in Leviticus 23?”

We’d love to send you a copy of Erin’s study. We’ll do that as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. That’s what we’re doing every day, helping people celebrate the gospel, the goodness of Christ, His resurrection power and the beauty of living lives that are consecrated and devoted to Him.

But we can’t do that without you. When you support this ministry with your prayers, with your financial gifts, that helps this message to be multiplied to the lives of women around the world. You can make a donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, our website, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

When you call to make your donation, be sure to ask for Erin’s book on the 7 Feasts, and we’ll be glad to send that to you. Thanks so much for your support of this ministry, and remember today to give Him your best because He has given His best for you! Be sure and join us again tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as we continue this study on the seven feasts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to bring God your best. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Teacher

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.