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THE EIGHT RUDIMENTS OF CELEBRATION

THE EIGHT FEASTS OR FESTIVALS OF ISRAEL

The Feast of First Fruits

Leviticus 23:9-14

(festiv4.doc)

THE NEW HARVEST

        Harvest had begun in a Midwest farming community.  Combines were moving through the fields looking for the payoff.  Soybeans were flowing into the waiting grain wagons.  One farmer climbed up onto one of these bins to check out the "first-fruits."  What he saw had to be an encouraging sight.  His community, along with many others, was in the middle of the worst corn crop failure in more than 40 years.  Yet as the beans began coming in, there was evidence that all was not lost.  Those first loads gave reason to thank God for the harvest that He did give.

        The Feast of First Fruit (not the feast of unleavened Bread) had its roots and meaning in an agricultural setting such as this.  At the Lord's direction, Jewish farmers celebrated a Feast of Harvest.  In a tradition rich with symbolism they recognized the Hand of God that had given them the "first-fruits."

        I am preaching a nine message series on the rudiments, skills, or principles of celebration.

  God has been showing me that humanity needs celebration.

  He has been showing me that celebration is a very important part of the Christian life!

  He has been showing me that celebration is of special significance and importance to African-American Christians.

        Life is a struggle for everybody, no matter what your color or nationality, but for African-American people life is even more of a struggle because of the residual effects of slavery.  After we have been beat up and beat down all week; after we have struggled and striven to achieve life through material and earthly means, we need to take a break from the rat race and return to the human race by entering God's presence for a time of celebration.  The importance of celebration is illustrated in the Old Testament in Leviticus the 23rd chapter.

        Four messages ago, we began to deal with the eight feasts or festivals which God commanded Israel to celebrate.  These festivals were holy convocations, conventions, or celebrations which God invoked upon His people.  There is a major rudiment or skill which is taught in each festival, which will yield a principle that we can learn and apply to our own modern worship celebrations.

        In the first two messages, we covered the feast or festival of the Sabbath.  The major rudiment, skill, or principle of celebration that we covered was resting from our worldly labors.  In the next message, we studied the festival of the Passover.  The major rudiment of celebration that we covered was remembering God’s redemption.

        In the last message, we studied the feast or festival of unleavened bread.  The major rudiment of celebration that we covered was removing all sin, worldliness, and filthiness of the flesh from our lives.

(Let's move on to the next section of Scripture in Leviticus 23:9-14.  Would you turn there with me please.  Would you follow along silently, as I read aloud for us.  The next major principle of celebration is:)

IV.    RENDERING (Sacrificing).

If you have been following along from week to week, you have noticed that all of these rudiments or principles begin with the letter "R," and that I am continuing the same outline from week to week.

        The next major festival was the Feast of First Fruits.  The major activity of this festival was offering or rendering to the Lord the first fruits of harvest.[1]

        "Although the Passover was established on the night they left Egypt, it was not observed as a commemorative feast throughout the forty years they were wandering in the wilderness.  This is probably because they had no lambs, or because the people were being sustained by the manna which God provided from day to day.  After keeping the Passover on the night of their deliverance, they never observed it again until they entered the Promised Land.”[2] "Until this time they had eaten only manna.  In the desert, a roaming people had no fields to sow nor harvests to reap."[3]  This festival could not be celebrated until the Children of Israel entered into the Promised land and the manna stopped.  As long as they were wandering through the wilderness, because of their own disbelief and disobedience, God rained down manna from heaven to feed them.  When they entered the Promised land, the manna stopped and they planted a crop.  No man was permitted to partake of any part of the new season's harvest until the first fruits had been presented.[4]


         If you will look at the chart in the middle of your bulletin, which I tediously put together for you, you will notice that “Closely connected with the Passover, and while the feast of unleavened bread was in progress, the third of Jehovah’s Feasts took place.  This was the Feast of First-fruits.  The land of Canaan was the proper scene of its celebration.”[5]  "It must be borne in mind that this feast was kept on the sixteenth day, and that at that time the day began at six o'clock in the evening (hence the repeated statement in Genesis 1:  `And the evening and the morning were a day.')  Toward the close of the fifteenth day, just before the going down of the sun, three men, each carrying a sickle and a basket, walked out through the city gate.  Separating from one another, each one would move toward one of the three previously buried hoops, and stand there.  These men would be accompanied by representatives of the people, both religious and secular--in other words, priests and elders--who would wait outside the city gate.  Quietly they would watch the sun set, denoting the end of that day.  As it slipped over the horizon the three men would address the priest with the following questions:

        Has the sun gone down?

        On this fifteenth day?

        Into this basket?  (Each man would hold above his head).

        With this sickle?  (Holding it high for all to see).

        Shall I reap?

        To each question the priest would answer in the affirmative.  With the last `yes,' the three men simultaneously would thrust their sickles into the barley within the hoops, and the sheaves would be placed in the baskets that they were carrying.  Then these men, with the priests and elders, would march processionally up to the temple with much rejoicing, where the bundles would be put together into one great sheaf or bundle and handed to the priest.  He, in turn, took the sheaf and waved it before the Lord as a wave offering (this is seen in Leviticus 23:10-11):

`...When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.  And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’

This wave sheaf was accompanied by burnt and meal offerings."[6]


        You can see then, that they celebrated this festival by waving a sheaf or bundle of barley before the Lord.  "According to Exodus 9:31-32, barley was the first of the grain; flax was second; wheat was third."[7]  So, "According to the Jewish Calendar, this takes place in the spring of the Jewish year."[8]  "The beginning of barley harvest was marked by the waving of the sheaf of the first ripe grain, announcing the death of winter and the arrival of spring."[9]  The act of waving the sheaf from one side to the other before the Lord held the suggestion that the sheaf, which was a memorial, was waved sideways to indicate that it represented the whole harvest yet in the field, from one side to the other side of the land.

        In brief, men gave thanks to God for the harvest while it still stood in the fields.  We must learn to give thanks to God by waving the first fruits or ten percent of the things which He has provided us with.  The ten percent is a token of the entire provision of the Lord.  We wave the ten percent before Him and offer it up to Him as a representation of all that we own or will own.

        "The sheaves were brought to the Lord as an acknowledgment of His goodness.  There would not even be a harvest were it not for the goodness of God!  Israel would not even be in their land were it not for the faithfulness of the Lord.  The Feast of the First Fruits was a reminder to them that everything they had came from God."[10] We must be reminded of that same truth!!!

(But there is another very important principle here!)

God always claimed the first fruits of everything.  He still does!  There could be no celebration without thanksgiving for what God had provided.  And there could be no thanksgiving without rendering, sacrificing or giving to God out of what He had provided.  God ordained three festivals, and this is one of them, when all the males were to appear before Him:  and they could not appear before Him empty-handed.[11]

Deuteronomy 16:16, "Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed."

        There can be no true worship or celebration without thanksgiving.  And there can be no true thanksgiving without sacrifice.  Therefore, the main rudiment of this festival and the principle of celebration that we want to learn and apply is rendering, sacrificing, or thanking God for His blessings by giving Him the first fruits or first part of that which He has blessed us with!!!

        "We don't bring our offerings grudgingly, because God loves a cheerful giver."[12] This means then, that we do not give Him leftovers!  "How many people there are who use their money, time, energy and resources for their own selfish pleasure, and then if there's something left over, they give it to the Lord."[13]

        “But let me make it clear that the New Testament Church has not been promised earthly riches.  There is no special guarantee that if you give God the first fruits, you will become a millionaire. ).  There is a guarantee that God will always take care of you (Matthew 6:33).  God has promised to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19).”[14]

        The point is:  if we want to experience true celebration today in this worship/celebration service, we must give God the first fruit of our income to thank Him for salvation and all the blessings which are attached to it.  We come today to thank God for what He has provided.  Some of us come with our regular tithes and offering.  Some of us come with our regular tithes and offering, plus a special offering for the nursery.  However we come to church, let none of us come empty-handed!!!

(All through this feast or festival, we see the wonderful imagery of Jesus Christ!)

        “These one-day feasts all point to certain acts of Jehovah’s hand, certain definite transactions of His, perfect and complete in themselves.”[15]

        “There can be no doubt that the sheaf of first-fruits reaped from the harvest field, on the day after the Sabbath, and waved before Jehovah in His temple for acceptance¾was a type and foreshadowing of Christ risen from the dead.”  Jesus was the First-Fruit of the resurrection, raised on the day after the Sabbath¾Sunday, and waved before Jehovah God in the true tabernacle in heaven for His acceptance!!!

        “The very name of that sheaf, is the name given to Him as the One risen from among the dead¾‘Christ the First-fruits.’”

1 Corinthians 15:20,  `But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.'


"What a wonderful picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having become the Passover (Paschal) Lamb shedding His blood upon the cross, is afterwards seen in the fullness of His resurrection power.  He was the grain of barley or wheat which fell into the ground and died, that it might spring up again and have much fruit.”[16] But the harvest is not now!  Until then, "He shall remain the First Fruits and our Representative until the day of His coming again, when the whole harvest of the Church, including those who are in the graves and we who are alive and remain, shall be gathered in for the great `Harvest Home.'"[17]

(There is another striking image of Jesus Christ!)

        "When the sheaves were cut from the fields and carried to the city, small vacant spots were left behind.  When the Lord rose from the dead, He left behind Him a small vacant spot, which still remains as a reminder of His resurrection--it is an empty tomb."[18] The image and work of the cross is stunning in Christianity, but the image of the empty tomb is likewise stunning!!!

        If you are keeping up in this series of messages, "This is the third step in the Christian walk--the first is salvation; the second is separation; the third is consecration.

        A question which might come immediately to mind would be--What is the difference between the separation of The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the consecration of The Feast of First Fruits?  In the first, (The Feast of Unleavened Bread) it is separation from; in the second, (The Feast of First Fruits) separation to.  If one only separates from the world, or from anything else, and seeks to stand alone, he could very readily become an isolationist.  This is not practical because there is too much involved in life.  (God has not called us to isolation, but to involvement!)  If a person leaves one thing, he must become attached to something else.  He cannot be independent.  (Independence is another description of the sin which flows from self.  God wants us to be dependent upon Him, but we seek to be independent from Him and dependent upon ourselves.  So, when we separate from something, we must separate to something.)  We separate from the old life unto Jesus Christ."[19]


        Therefore, there is something much more important here than a monetary gift.  The sacrifice cannot be anything less than ourselves!!! "The believer, therefore, gives the first fruits of his life, the best part of it, the early years if converted early--yes, himself--and yields them without reserve to the Lord remembering:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20, `...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?'[20]

        "As no person was allowed to move a sickle in the field until the first fruits were presented, so we take nothing to ourselves until we have presented our all to Him."[21]

        "In the Feast of the First Fruits God is saying to us, `Bring Me the best.  Bring Me the first of everything.  I must get first place in your life.'  before the people were allowed to eat of the harvest or make any bread, they had to bring the first sheaf to the Lord and wave it before Him in dedication.  The wave offering, as well as the burnt offering and the meal offering that were to accompany it, speak of dedication¾of giving our all to God.  In New Testament terms this is

Romans 12:1, `...to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.'"[22]

        In our time, we don’t understand that true consecration is costly.  It may cost you your acquaintances?  It may cost you your friends?  It may cost you your peace?  It may cost you your job?  It may cost you your family?  It will cost you your self!!!  To live a Spirit-controlled life that is consecrated to the Lord, you must pay a high price!!!  Yet, to the person who really desires to please Jesus this is a delight.

        On the other hand, consecration is also very costly to others.  When Jesus was being driven through the streets of Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene¾probably a man of color¾was pressed into helping Jesus carry the cross.  When we decide to fully follow Jesus Christ it will cause misunderstanding, pain, confusion, etc. to others we have relationships with.  This causes us to shrink back, because we don’t want to cause others suffering.  But God will take care of them, if we take care of His business.

        "Another practical lesson we can learn from this Feast of First Fruits is that we have the assurance of heaven.  We know we are going to heaven because the Holy Spirit is the `first fruits' in the life of the believer" (Romans 8:22-23).[23]

        "The `first fruits of the Spirit' simply means that the Holy Spirit in us today is the beginning of the harvest.

        The first fruits of the Spirit simply means that what the Holy Spirit is doing now is a foretaste of heaven to come!"[24]

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine,

O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchased of God;

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, This is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

This is my story, This is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

(It is important to keep in mind that:)

       “The Feast of First Fruits took place on the first day of the week!  Our Lord Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week.  Today we do not worship on the Sabbath Day; rather, we gather to worship on the first day of the week as the New Testament Church did (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2)."[25]

        As was stated in the first message, "These festivals make up God's calendar."[26]  Not counting the Sabbath, which is of a different nature than the others, God began His calendar with the shedding of blood during the Passover.  Unless you know Jesus Christ as your own Lamb, your Savior, these feasts will have no application to you.  You will miss out on the blessing of being God's guest simply because you have never put your faith in Jesus Christ."[27]  Remember God's salvation.  After salvation comes sanctification by removing the leaven of sin, and after sanctification comes consecration to God through rendering sacrifice.

        So, I pray that you can see the importance of celebration to humanity, to the Children of Israel, to the New Testament local church, and to African American Christians in particular.  I pray that you see the importance of celebrating what God has done for us.  I pray that you see the importance of celebrating what God has done for us.  I pray that you will become familiar with the rudiments of celebration, which are resting from worldly labors, remembering God's deliverance, removing sin, the flesh, and the world from our midst, and rendering sacrifice to God for His spiritual and physical blessings unto us.

Celebration adds vibrancy to life!

Celebration adds meaning to life!!

Celebration adds dignity to life!!!

O come and magnify the Lord with me in joyous celebration through giving, singing, teaching, preaching, praise, etc., with reverence, awe, excitement, festivity, and thanksgiving!!!

(Now is the day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


----

[1] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 104.

[2] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, pp. 101-102.

[3] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, pp. 101-102.

[4] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 104.

[5]John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982, p. 39.

[6] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, pp. 102-103.

[7] Ruth's Romance Of Redemption, Edward Boone, The Boone Publishing Company, Des Moines, Iowa, 1936, p. 60.

[8] Ruth's Romance Of Redemption, Edward Boone, The Boone Publishing Company, Des Moines, Iowa, 1936, p. 74.

[9] Ruth's Romance Of Redemption, Edward Boone, The Boone Publishing Company, Des Moines, Iowa, 1936, p. 60.

[10] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 40.

[11] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 104.

[12] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 42.

[13] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 42.

[14] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 41.

[15]John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982, pp. 33-34.

[16] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 104.

[17] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, pp. 104-105.

[18] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 105.

[19] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, pp. 105-106.

[20] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 107.

[21] C. W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1974, p. 107.

[22] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 40.

[23] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 46.

[24] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 48.

[25] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 43.

[26] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 7.

[27] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be God's Guest, Back to the Bible, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982, p. 9.

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