Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you be come into the land which I give to you…
The design of these festivals was two-fold: they were eucharistic or commemorative, and they were also typical or prophetic. This ordinance is not a distinct festival, but a ceremony observed during the feast of unleavened bread, as the Paschal Feast is sometimes called, from the fact that during the seven days through which it lasted the children of Israel were commanded to put away leaven out of their houses. It was observed annually with great solemnity. Certain persons were deputed by the Sanhedrin to go out into the fields and procure a sheaf of the newly-ripened corn, which was then carried into the temple preceded by oxen crowned with garlands, and other tokens of national rejoicing. There can be no doubt that this observance had a moral bearing on the people of the time. It was a solemn recognition, on the part of the whole nation, of Him who was "the Lord of the harvest," and an appropriate ascription of praise to Him for His goodness in giving the fruits of the earth in their due season. But we are now to inquire into its typical or Christian import; and —
I. Here we have at once a clue IN THE DAY ON WHICH THIS CEREMONY WAS OBSERVED. It was to be waved "on the morrow after the Sabbath," that is, of course, the Jewish Sabbath; or, in other words, it was to be presented on the first day of the week, the Lord's day — the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, and became, as St. Paul says, in evident allusion to the ordinance, "the first-fruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). To this fundamental event, then, the offering of the wave-sheaf refers; it is a type of the resurrection of the Saviour. But there is a farther and more intimate agreement of the day. It was not only the first day of the week, but it was the first day of the same week of the Jewish ecclesiastical year as that on which the Saviour rose. When we refer to the fifteenth and sixteenth verses of this .chapter we read an account of the pentecostal feast, and we find that the period of fifty days, from which it derives its name, is reckoned from this very day.
II. Let us, then, proceed to examine THE SUITABILITY OF THIS TYPE AND ITS APPLICATION TO THIS IMPORTANT SUBJECT; and —
1. The first-fruits hallowed the harvest from whence it was taken. It removed the impediment which stood opposed to its being gathered; the ceremonial impurity, if I may so say, which was attached to it previous to the waving of the sheaf before the Lord, until which time it was unlawful to make use of it. The prohibition on this head was express (ver. 14). There was, then, you perceive, an imputed uncleanness attached to the harvest before the offering of the first-fruits, but which, when the sheaf was presented, was done away; and thus it is written, "he (the priest) shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you" (ver. 11). Now this significantly exhibits the bearing of the Saviour's resurrection upon the justification of His people. The relation that the first-fruits sustained to the harvest the same does Jesus sustain to those that believe in Him — they are the harvest in respect to Him. His resurrection was necessary in order to our justification before God. It is on this the argument of the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians depends. And thus also he writes in another place, He "was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). Our justification depends on the resurrection of Jesus. You will easily understand this when you call to mind the character in which He died. He was crucified as a sinner, under the imputation of His people's sins; God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us," "He laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It were utterly impossible that He should be set free while any portion of the debt He undertook to pay remained undischarged. We know the issue of the trial; His work was amply sufficient to discharge the debt He had taken on Him. In the power of His own essential righteousness He burst asunder the bands of death. The law had no further claim to urge or penalty to exact; and therefore the Saviour had power and right to take His life again. And rising in the character of the accepted offering He became "the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him." He is "waved before the Lord to be accepted for us."
2. The first-fruits was the earnest of the coming harvest. It was a pledge that the harvest would be gathered; that it had escaped all the vicissitudes of the climate and was now ripe for the sickle. And such was the resurrection of the Saviour to His people. He is "the first-fruits of them that slept." The fact that He has risen from the dead secures to us the hope that He shall rise. The resurrection of the Saviour is the guarantee which God has given us of the resurrection of his people. Does any one feel a doubt upon this subject? Does it seem "a thing impossible that God should raise the dead?" We appeal to the fact — the historical fact, established upon evidence which no other fact can boast of, that Jesus is raised from the dead. The faith which realises this fact gives to the soul the blessed persuasion that "He who has raised up the Lord Jesus shall also raise us up by Jesus." Jesus stands to us in the relation of our covenant Head. As by virtue of our connection with the first Adam we are subject to death, so by virtue of our connection with the second Adam we are made partakers of His life and immortality which we derive from Him.
III. THE SHEAF OF FIRST-FRUITS WAS A SAMPLE OF THE HARVEST. When the children of Israel looked upon it they beheld a specimen of the crop from whence it was taken and of which it was itself a part. And this reminds us of another light in which we may contemplate the resurrection of our Redeemer, as affording us a sample or specimen of our own. What was resurrection unto Jesus? It was the resuscitation of His (lead body, the same body which was laid in the grave. But in what power did He rise? Was it in the power of animal life, such as that with which our mortal bodies are animated — the life of nature — of the flesh? Oh, no, the body of Jesus when it left the grave left it not, as did that of Lazarus, still the subject of weakness and mortality. It arose in the power of immortality, in the energy of the very life of God. It arose the same, and yet another; another, because animated with another life — His own eternal, incorruptible, spiritual life. "He was put to death in the flesh and quickened by the Spirit." Such was the resurrection unto Jesus, and such shall it be also to His people — "For we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him." It had been but a pitiful prospect, that of resurrection, were it merely restoration to such bodies as those which we have now. But, blessed be God, such is not the hope He has set before us — it is one which is "full," not of mortality, but "of immortality" (2 Corinthians 5:2). If humanity, in the person of the Saviour, is quickened with the life of God, it is in order that the same life may be imparted to His people. It is even now imparted to the soul. Whenever a sinner believes in Jesus, and by faith is converted to God, there is a resurrection. This faith is the result of the operation of the Spirit of the living God, working in the same manner as when, by His mighty energy, He raised the lifeless body of the Saviour from the dead (Ephesians 2:18-22). And this life shall be hereafter imparted to the body. The same Spirit which has operated on the believer's soul and raised him from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness shalt, in the resurrection morning, descend upon the cold remains of his lifeless corpse, and shall animate it with new, with spiritual, everlasting life (Romans 8:9-11). Such, then, will be the resurrection of the dead — such is the blessed prospect which is set before the Church of Christ. That which is sown in corruption, in dishonour, in weakness, shall be raised in incorruption, in glory, in power — no longer an impediment to the soul, but the vehicle through which its immortal energies shall be consecrated to the praise and service of the Lord.
IV. WHEN THE FIRST-FRUITS WERE OFFERED THE HARVEST WAS AT HAND; and not only at hand, but also expected and wished for; all thoughts in Israel were now directed to it; the wave-sheaf was the certain indication of its approach. And this reminds us of the position which we should take in regard ¢o the coming of the Lord and the resurrection morning: we should be in the attitude of expectation, of joyous expectation, of "that day." There is something erroneous and unscriptural in our habit of thought upon this subject. We are accustomed to admit the truth of the resurrection, but we do not realise its practical importance, we do not embrace it as a motive for action; it does not exercise a practical and habitual influence upon us. And why? Because we put it at a distance from us; when we think of the subject at all we regard it as something that is to take place at some very remote period of time, before which all that is important to our eternal condition will be necessarily fixed for ever. Hence the little influence which this blessed prospect exercises on our lives. How different the manner in which it is spoken of in the Scriptures! The effect of apostolic preaching was to lead men to "look for" and "hasten unto" the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12). In fact, an important feature of Christian character, as described in the New Testament, is the expectation of the coming of the Lord to reap the harvest of the world.
(J. B. Lowe, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: "Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, 'When you have come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap its the harvest, then you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest: