"Speak to the Israelites and say, 'When you enter the land I am giving you and reap its harvest, you are to bring to the priest the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest.
I. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD AS THE GIVER OF ALL GOOD GIFTS.
1. Here he is recognized as the God of providence, whose kind hand enriches man with the fruits of earth, causing the seed to germinate, and perfecting and ripening it with sun, air, and rain. Israel thus rebuked the folly of surrounding nations, who deified the earth as a personal goddess; and. the conceptions of the modern materialist who refuses to see in nature any trace of an overruling Deity, and of the pantheist who identifies God with his works, may be similarly reproved. And if the blessings received from Providence are to be acknowledged, surely the same argument wilt apply to all the many favours, temporal and spiritual, that stream upon us as the children of God. In fact, what have we of intellectual, physical, or propertied endowment that did not proceed from him?
2. Recognized by the congregation as a whole. Family, corporate, national religion is distinct in a sense from individual worship, and God may honour the one as such apart from the particular merits of the other. The entire body ought, however, to resemble the component units; otherwise there is felt to be an incongruity that mocks the Being whom we intend to magnify. The Americans have shown that, apart from what is called State religion, there may be hearty national recognition of God.
3. The general does not exclude the personal acknowledgment of God's goodness. In chapter Leviticus 2:14 are found regulations respecting the presentation of free-will individual firstfruit offerings. The service of the sanctuary should stimulate and not serve as a substitute for private prayer and praise. Let the congregational dedication be seconded by a personal self-surrender to the glory of God.
II. THE METHOD OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT.
1. An offering brought to the Lord, viz. a sheaf of barley, which is "waved" by the priest, the symbolical act indicative of surrender of property to God. By returning a portion of what was originally bestowed, God's proprietorship and man's stewardship are signified in fitting manner. Each Church and family should pay its tithe to the Lord, separating some of its members to religious work.
2. Such an offering may provide for the support of God's appointed servants. This sheaf was not consumed upon the altar, but was for the benefit of the priests. Those who by reason of exclusive devotion to the altar cannot find leisure to sow and reap, must be remembered by the people in whose behalf they labour. To assist the servants of Christ is to render help to the Master himself. Let the wealthy in the receipt of their dividends think upon the men who are their representatives in Christian effort. The division of labour must not allow one field of industry to be entirely isolated from the rest.
3. Other offerings naturally accompany the particular presentation. The one food reminds of other blessings, and so, besides the firstfruit sheaf, there are brought a burnt offering, a meat offering, and a drink offering, constituting a festal sacrifice. One gift prepares the way for another, opens the door so that a presentation of a different kind may follow. He who sets apart a portion of time for God is not likely to stop there, but will contribute money and influence likewise.
III. THE PRIORITY OF GOD'S CLAIM TO HONOUR.
1. It precedes our own enjoyment. No bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears must be tasted till Jehovah has been duly acknowledged as the bountiful Giver. The rent must be paid ere we can settle down to comfortable possession of the house. Men think they can without impropriety reverse this order, attending first to their own needs and pleasures, and then to God's requirements. In two ways they err - they dishonour their Maker, and they fail to hallow the enjoyment of their daily food and privileges by the happy consciousness that a portion has been previously dedicated to God. To acknowledge our indebtedness is to send us back rejoicing to our dwellings.
2. It is not right to wait until the whole amount of blessing has been reaped. At the very beginning of harvest this ceremony occurs, consecrating the harvest toil, ensuring the favour of God upon the remainder. Men who delay an offering until they know the exact amount of their savings, are likely to find the total less than they hoped. It is well to give in faith, seeing quite sufficient reason already to evoke a testimony of gratitude. "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." For the first convert in a place that seems teeming with promise of fruitfulness, we would at once give thanks. Ere the multitudes of happy dead can be raised and gathered into the heavenly garner, Jesus Christ is risen and become the Firstfruits of them that deep. His appearance before God as the Perfect Offering guarantees an ample blessed harvest. - S.R.A.
I. WE shall endeavour to show THAT THIS SHEAF OF THE FIRST-FRUITS WAS A TYPE OF CHRIST, AS TO THE MATTER OF IT, BOTH IN RESPECT TO QUALITY AND QUANTITY. With respect to quality it was a sheaf of barley, as to its quantity it was a single sheaf, or, however, such a quantity as only one omer of barley was taken from it and waved before the Lord by the priest. Now this being of barley, which is a mean sort of grain, may denote the mean estate of our Lord Jesus Christ in His humiliation. But this sort of grain, though mean, was used for food; so Christ, in His mean estate of humiliation, is suitable food for faith. He is held forth in the everlasting gospel as food for the faith of His people under the character of Christ crucified. So much for the quality of this sheaf of the firstfruits: it was of barley. Next, its quantity. It was but one — one sheaf that was waved — one omer, which was the tenth part of an ephah. It was as much as a man could eat in one day. Christ in many respects is but one. One with His Divine Father in nature and essence. Christ is one in His person, though He has two natures — human and Divine. This is the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." Christ is but one in His office as Mediator, the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who has interposed between God and man, and made up the breach between them, who is our Peace, and by whom the way is opened for us to God. He is the one Lord, as the apostle says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." He is the only Head of the Church whom the Father has given to be head over all things unto it — a Head of eminence to rule over and guide and protect it. A Head of influence, as the natural head is to the body from which it receives its nourishment and increases. And He is the only Husband of the Church — "Thy Maker is thine Husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name." Thus in many respects Christ is but one, as this sheaf was. Bat then, though this sheaf was but one, it had many stalks, many ears of corn, and many grains in it. And so Christ, though He is but one in various respects, as we have seen, yet in Him there is a complication of blessings of grace. Jehovah has presented Him from all eternity in the council and covenant of grace and peace with all the blessings of grace and goodness for His people; He has put them all into His hands, and blessed them with all spiritual blessings in Him. Moreover, He has not only a complication of all blessings in Him; but as this sheaf of the firstfruits represented the whole harvest, and was a pledge and earnest of it, so Christ the Sheaf of the firstfruits represents all His people. They are all gathered together under one head in Him, and when He was crucified they were with Him; when He was buried they were with Him; when He rose again from the dead they rose again with Him; and are now sat down in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And besides, as the sheaf of the firstfruits had a connection with all the rest, so He with all the people of God. It was for their sakes He suffered, died, and rose from the dead.
Wave the sheaf.
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.)
II. IT WAS SO WITH RESPECT TO WHAT WAS DONE UNTO IT AND DONE WITH IT. First it was reaped. And this was done in a very solemn and pompous manner according to the account the Jews give of it, which is this: The messengers of the Sanhedrin went out (from Jerusalem over the brook Kidron to the fields near it) on the evening of the feast, and bound the standing corn in bundles that so it might be more easily reaped, and the inhabitants of all the neighbouring villages gathered together there that it might be reaped in great pomp, and when it was dark, one said to them, "Is it sunset?" They said, "Yes." "With this sickle shall I reap it?" They said, "Yes." "In this basket shall I put it?" They said, "Yes." If on a Sabbath-day he said to them, "On this Sabbath-day shall I do it?" They said, "Yes." These questions were put and answered three times; then they reaped it, and put it into the basket, and brought it to the court. Now this reaping of the sheaf of first-fruits was an emblem of the apprehending of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Jews, or by officers which they sent to take Him. They attempted it once and again before they accomplished it. We are told in the seventh chapter of John that, "at the Feast of Tabernacles they sought to lay hold of Him; but His time was not yet come." The very officers were dispirited, and when they were called to an account by the chief priests and Pharisees for not bringing Him they said, "Never man spake like this Man." They could not take Him. But when the set time was come He was easily apprehended by them. And as we are told they bound the ears of corn, that they might be the more easily reaped, so they bound Christ, and brought Him to the high priest. This was done at night when it was dark. And as the sheaf was reaped by a deputation of men sent by the grand Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, so our Lord was apprehended by officers sent by chief priests and Pharisees, who were assembled together in council as the great Sanhedrin of the nation. Likewise the circumstance of the sheaf of firstfruits being reaped near the brook Kidron exactly agrees with the apprehending of Christ near that brook. When this sheaf was reaped, then it was brought to the court; so Christ, when He was first apprehended, was brought to Annas, then to Caiaphas, then to the court, where, after His arraignment and trial, He was condemned to death. This sheaf being brought to court was threshed, winnowed, dried, and parched by the fire, and ground in a mill, all which set forth in a lively manner the dolorous sufferings of our Lord. The sheaf being threshed was expressive of His being smitten by men, of His being buffeted and scourged by the order of the Roman governor by the soldiers, all in perfect agreement with the prophecy that "they should smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek"; "that He should give His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them which plucked off the hair." This sheaf of the firstfruits as it was beaten out so it was dried and parched by the fire, which may be considered as expressive of the wrath of God which Christ endured, which is compared to fire, and by which (as it is expressed in the Psalms concerning Him) "His strength was dried up like a potsherd." It was ground also in a mill (as was the manna, another type of Christ), which was another circumstance that pointed out the sufferings of the Redeemer, who was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. Upon the omer of flour that was taken oil and frankincense were poured, which may denote the acceptableness of Christ in His sufferings, death, and sacrifice to His Divine Father. He gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice unto God for a sweet-smelling savour. And then the waving of this by the priest before the Lord seems to denote His resurrection from the dead. It is also expressive of His connection with His people whom He represented, and whose resurrection is the pledge, earnest, and security of theirs. For as the firstfruits sanctified the rest of their harvest, represented the whole, gave a right to the ingathering of it, and insured it, so our Lord's resurrection from the dead sanctified and secured the resurrection of His people. Because He lives they shall live also, or as sure as His dead body arouse, so sure shall theirs rise also.
III. WHAT WERE THE CONCOMITANTS OF IT? What accompanied the waving the firstfruits were a burnt-offering and a meat-offering. The first of these was an eminent type of Christ, as all the burnt-offerings were. It was a lamb — a figure of Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. A lamb without blemish — a type of the immaculate Lamb of God. This was a burnt-offering, so a fit emblem of the dolorous sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then there was a meat-offering which always went along with this, which was also typical of Christ. From hence we see the great advantages we receive from Christ. He is the firstfruits, and all our fruit is from Him. And therefore many are the obligations we lay under to give thanks unto His name and not forget His benefits. We ought, through the constraints of His love, to live to Him who died for us.
(John Gill, D. D.)
I. THE BOUNTIFUL KINDNESS OF GOD IN SUPPLYING THE WANTS OF HIS CREATURES, Smatterings of science have a tendency to divorce God from the providential supply of the world's wants. We too commonly think of our daily supplies as the results of physical laws. We say the earth yieldeth her increase; Nature supplieth those things that are necessary for man's sustenance; light and heat, warmth and moisture are the great factors in the world's bounty. Let us grant all that, but who is behind it? To me the supply of the world's daily bread is a standing proof — not only of a self-existent and ever active Deity, but of a Divine Fatherhood — ever thinking, ever acting, ever providing for the wants of all His children.
II. THE NECESSARY CONNECTION BETWEEN THE DIVINE BENEVOLENCE AND HUMAN EFFORT. Whatever the Divine rule, whatever the Divine love that broods over this poor earth, making it to yield its fruits in abundance, the world without man would be a vast howling wilderness. It is God plus man that enriches the earth and makes it to bring forth abundantly. And thus it is that toil becomes dignified, that the sweat of labour is God's crown of approval upon the human brow. Every man who is putting God's gifts into such conditions that they become greater gifts; every man who is preparing the soil for the seed and the seed for the soil; every man who by any kind of industry is helping God to fulfil His purposes in making the earth provide for the wants of man, is a servant of God, however low and however humble the man may be. To be idle is to be outside the purpose and economy of God; to be lazy is to be out of harmony with the laws of the universe
III. THE INEVITABLE RELATION BETWEEN THE SEED-TIME AND THE HARVEST. The man who wanted a harvest of wheat knew that to effect such a result he must sow wheat. It is God's law that it should be so. Every harvest is the evolution of some past seed time. Human life and human destiny are evolved, not by chance, not by miracle, not by the Divine caprice, but by the law of cause and effect, of precedent and consequent. Your present is the outcome of some past; all the good that you enjoy is the harvest of your own or other's sowing; your future will be the consequent of this present. Human conduct is the factor of human. destiny; the sowing of time determines the harvest of eternity.
(W. J. Hocking.)
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