By Jaime Sherman
I love fresh raspberries just plucked off the unruly vines in my backyard, and I admit I selfishly desire to be the first each summer to pop the first ripe berry into my mouth. After all, I reason, I was the one who planted these raspberries, and I’m the one who weeds, fertilizes, and waters these vines. I, of course, have a right to the firstfruits of this season. Right?
Our deep dive into the feasts of Leviticus 23 has blown my mind, and I’m only three feasts into our study! In the Passover, I saw Jesus as the final, sacrificial Lamb. In the Feast of Unleavened Bread, I saw the ugliness of my sin and the incredible cleansing I receive through the shed blood of the Lamb. And now, in the Feast of Firstfruits, I see how God gave His very best, His Son, who in turn gave His very best, His life, for me.
The feast of Leviticus 23:9-14, which was to be celebrated for the first time as the spring harvest was reaped in the Promised Land, provided the Israelites with a reminder that everything they had was from God and still belonged to Him.
When you come into the land that I give you… (v. 10) …wave the sheaf before the LORD… (v. 11) …a burnt offering to the LORD… (v. 12) …a food offering to the LORD… (v. 13) …the offering of your God… (v. 14)
In offering the first stalks of the harvest and an unblemished lamb from the flock along with fine flour, oil, and wine, they acknowledged that apart from God they had nothing. They were dependent upon Him.
In Old Testament times, this offering was to gain acceptance before God (Leviticus 23:11), but the need for acceptance changed when God gave His only Son as the once-for-all sacrificial lamb. Sinful men, women, and children were freed from the weight of earning their worth, turning the Feast of Firstfruits into an act of worship.
In her book 7 Feasts, Erin Davis lists areas in life we may be tempted to give God our second best:
Time. Money. Devotion. Gifts. Future dreams. Family. Relationships. Energy. Work. Recreation. Service. Marriage. Parenting. Physical health.
I keep returning to this list, considering these questions: Am I giving God my leftovers in any of these areas? Do I need to reset my focus in one or more of these areas to give Him my first and best?
Giving Him the firstfruits of my life isn’t just about offering up the first raspberry from my backyard or giving a percentage of my paycheck as a tithe. No, it’s about acknowledging that “from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). All I have is His.
I long to worship Him with this life He has given me to steward, “continually offering up a sacrifice of praise” to Him (Hebrews 13:15), celebrating with joy the sheaves He has given me to harvest (Psalm 126). Will you join me in the great choir of praise?
Our study of the Feast of Firstfruits has reminded me of the Tennessee Ernie Ford version of the American spiritual “Bringing in the Sheaves” that my grandpa listened to in his final days of life.
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve; Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. Refrain: Bringing in the sheaves, Bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves; Bringing in the sheaves, Bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, Fearing neither clouds nor winter's chilling breeze; By and by the harvest, and the labor ended, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. [Refrain] Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves; When our weeping's over, He will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. [Refrain]
Knowles Shaw, a.k.a. the singing evangelist, wrote these lyrics in 1874 from Psalm 126:6: “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”