Let Us Keep the Feasts: First Fruits

[Steve Myers] Good to see you tonight. Hope
you’re doing very well, not only those of you here in the room, but those that are joining
us on the Web. Tonight, we continue our series on Let Us Keep the Feast. And since we’ve
come through the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost is right ahead
of us, we’re going to change our point of view and start to talk about something a little
bit different tonight that points us to the next festival in God’s plan, and that is Pentecost.
And so to begin tonight, why don’t we go ahead and bow our heads? We’ll ask God’s blessing
on our study tonight. Loving Heavenly Father, God almighty, thank
you so much for your wonderful way. We thank you that you have a plan and a purpose for
all of us. Thank you, God, for that plan. Thank you for revealing that plan and as we
study your word tonight, Father, help us to even understand more fully and perhaps more
deeply than we ever have before certain aspects of your love and your way and your mercy and,
of course, the plan that you have. And so we thank you for this. Thanks for the opportunity
to discuss your word. Thanks for your presence here with us. And we just pray that you bless
every word that’s said and bless our thoughts and our thinking as we discuss and consider
your word. So thank you for this opportunity, Father. Thank you for your love and your way.
And we just want to put it into your hands now. So we thank you for it, and we ask this
blessing by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. All right, to begin tonight, I thought I could
begin with a question. If you had to say how God reveals His plan to us, how would you
answer? How does God reveal His plan? Okay, well, we know He’s got to open our mind to
His truth. Okay we could probably start there. Without God’s calling, without Him working
with us, without Him taking the blinders off, well, we can’t even begin. But once God begins
to do that, is there something in His word that shows what He’s doing that indicates
His plan and His purpose for mankind? Is there anything that indicates the way that His plan
of salvation works? How is He going to rescue us? Like Paul says, how is He going to rescue
us from this body of sin, this body of death? How is He going to do that? Well, throughout the Bible, we find that God
reveals that plan through His Festivals and Holy Days. And it’s by those Festivals and
Holy Days He paints a picture of his purpose. He paints a picture of his plan. And in a
way, I think we can say it’s an object lesson, isn’t it, that he gives us a means to help
us understand. So if you had to say, what is that object lesson that God demonstrates
through His Festivals and Holy Days that’s supposed to help us to understand what His
purpose is, to help us understand His focus and His intent for salvation? What would that
be? What would that object lesson be? Well, if you tear apart the Scriptures, I
think you’ve got to come to the conclusion that it’s about harvest. It’s about harvest.
If you look at the early writings back in the Old Testament, we find the focus of God’s
Festivals and Holy Days are around the harvest. And it’s supposed to be an object lesson for
us. Now, it’s a little bit of a challenge for us today because most of us aren’t farmers.
We don’t grow our own food. We’re not so connected to the land that it immediately pops out as
“Oh, wow! There’s something being taught to us through this lesson of harvest” But nonetheless,
that’s the way God reveals His focus. He reveals it through three festival seasons. And those
three seasons are symbolic of what God’s purpose is. He is harvesting. God is harvesting. And
He uses this physical harvest as an object lesson to teach us spiritual things. And so if you’d like to turn with me over
to Exodus 23, we can begin there to see this object lesson played out as God discusses
how the ancient Israelites should be able to recognize that purpose that God is working
out for mankind. Let’s notice it. Exodus 23, beginning in verse 14, He describes these
three harvest times. Let’s notice it. Exodus 23:14, He says, “Three times you shall keep
a feast to me in the year.” He says, verse 15, “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened
Bread. You should eat unleavened bread seven days as I commanded you at the time appointed
in the month of Abib.” That’s the first month of the year according to God’s calendar. “For
in it, you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty.” Then He says, “A second time in the year,”
it says “and the feast of harvest,” it says, “the first fruits of your labors, which you
have sown in the field.” So there’s that harvest connection, that how you harvest from the
field should be symbolic of some greater spiritual truth. And then He points to the third season,
and He says, “And the feast of ingathering at the end of the year when you’ve gathered
in the fruit of your labors from the field.” And so here God is showing His people that
He’s established His Festivals and Holy Days to outline His purpose. And He’s done it around
these harvest seasons, these harvest seasons in Palestine, in ancient Israel. And the interesting
thing is it’s not about crops. It’s not about physical grain that’s growing or fruit that’s
going to be coming to harvest at the end of the year. That’s not what it’s about. But
it’s supposed to teach us what it is about. And so here’s God mapping that out. And in
a way, you know what He’s saying. He’s saying, “Just like you harvest these various crops
at different times during the year, I am going to harvest people. Just like you harvest crops,
I am going to harvest people to eternal life in the Kingdom of God.” And so He established these Holy Days that
are wrapped around the harvest seasons. And so in the spring time, we have the Festivals
and Holy Days of Passover, Unleavened Bread that begin that first harvest. The barley
harvest is in Palestine right in the spring time of the year. Then as we move on through
the year, we get to the early summer where Pentecost falls. And that’s representative
of this wheat harvest, still an early harvest, not this gigantic, overwhelming, open-the-storehouses
kind of harvest, but a small harvest, an early harvest. And then of course, He mentions here in the
fall of the year, we have those fall Holy Days of Trumpets and Atonement and the Feast
of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day. And they’re certainly representative, I suppose, as a
whole of that ingathering that he mentioned here in Exodus, this huge harvest, almost
overwhelming harvest of all the other things, other than wheat and barley mainly, all those
other crops that are going to finally be ready to be taken in. And that happens in the fall
of the year. And so we see as God maps out how important those harvest seasons are. And in fact, still here early on in the year,
he points to this feast of harvest. Well, what does this feast of harvest have to do
with the crops that are going to be gathered in? And how does that fit toward the beginning
of the year? We have those spring harvests, the Passover and Unleavened Bread, I guess
you could say, and then Pentecost following. Why would He call it the feast of harvest? In fact, this particular Feast seems to have
more names than most of the others. Sometimes, it’s called the Feast of Weeks. If you just
flip over a couple of pages to Exodus 34, we see that name synonymous with this feast
of harvest. It says, verse 22 in Exodus 34, “You shall observe the Feast of Weeks of the
first fruits of wheat harvest.” And then he mentions that third season again, the feast
of ingathering at year’s end. So he mentions those three seasons here again in Exodus 34.
And so we have the feast of harvest, which is equal to the feast of first fruits, also
called the feast of weeks, the Feast of Weeks, because we recognize that God designed this
feast to be counted out from the Days of Unleavened Bread to when it should be kept. And it’s
a number of weeks. Seven weeks plus a day are counted. In fact, the New Testament name in Greek is
Pentecost, which means 50th. And so it’s actually numbered out so we know exactly when to keep
that specific day. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in just a minute. Now, we know that these days, whether it’s
called the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of First Fruits, connected and synonymous with Pentecost
in the New Testament. We know in the New Testament something awesome happened, that was the time
that there was this speaking in all kinds of different languages when God poured his
spirit out on his people, and the New Testament Church began. And in fact, it is interesting
when you begin to think about what does ripening fruit have to do with beginning of a New Testament
church? How are those things connected? And what in the world is a first fruit anyway?
What is it? Well, it’s not real hard to figure out. It’s
pretty much what those words say. First fruits would be those first that ripen, the ones
that come to maturity fastest, to come to maturity first. And so God uses that concept
of first fruits, those that ripen sooner, to spell out a portion of what He’s doing
in his plan, in that plan of salvation. God uses this concept of the first fruits, those
that would be harvested sooner, in order to illustrate what He’s doing at the beginning
of His plan, more toward the beginning of what his purpose is all about. And so when
we look at what He’s doing at the beginning of those harvests, what was it? What was it? Well, when you look to the beginning, to the
Days of Unleavened Bread, it begins to point out that there was a certain procedure that
was done during those days. Before that early harvest could begin, there was a special ceremony
that had to take place. In order for any harvest to start, physical harvest at that time, something
had to be done first. God had a requirement for them. In fact, it’s found over in the
book of Leviticus, Leviticus 23. If you take a look over in Leviticus, we’ll see what God
required must happen before any harvest could take place. So let’s take a look over in Leviticus
23, and we begin in verse 9, Leviticus 23:9. Here’s the Lord speaking to Moses and He says,
“Speak to the children of Israel. Say to them, ‘ When you come into the land which I give
you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest
to the priest.” So before any harvesting could be done, this
ceremony had to take place. An individual would go out and cut a sheaf of that barley.
And once that sheaf was cut, we could say it was a handful, an omer, a couple of liters
worth, I guess, of dry measure, they would bring it to the priest. And then what would
the priest do? Well, verse 11, it says, “He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be
accepted on your behalf. On the day after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it.” And so here we see the beginning of the harvest
began with this sheaf of the first fruits. Sometimes it’s called the wave sheaf. This
single lone sheaf was called the first fruits. And so this priest would take that, and he
would wave it before the Lord. Or literally, he would lift it up. He would lift it up and
present it before God. And that was a significant festival because no one could eat any of the
new grain, any of the new harvest. None of it could be touched in that sense. None of
it could be harvested. None of it could be eaten until that ceremony took place. And so it meant something very significant.
And especially when you begin to think about the spiritual connection here because it’s
not just about crops. Remember, God is giving us an object lesson to teach us about a greater
spiritual truth through these three harvest seasons. So before any of them could begin,
this sheaf of the first fruits had to be waved, had to be lifted and presented before God. So let’s consider this sheaf of the first
fruits for just a moment. The sheaf of the first fruits is what Leviticus calls it. So we’ll write that out. I’ll try to spell
it correctly here before I get carried away. So the sheaf of the first fruits, sometimes
also called the wave sheaf, well, what does it represent? So we’ll put that up here.
It represents. What is that significance of this particular
ceremony and this particular sheaf? And more often than not, it was barley, in order to
begin that harvest. Well we see specifically it’s called the first in verse 10. Verse 10,
it is called the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest, the sheaf of the first fruit.
You see, Israel understood this concept of first fruits. First fruits not only applied
to the crops. It not only applied to the grain or any of the harvest things. It also applied
to people. And so this wave of the first fruits also had a representation that connected them
to the firstborn. This sheaf of the first fruits has a connection
and represents the firstborn. And the firstborn of God’s people were special to God. There
was something that related to that idea of being first, being first. It’s always nice
to be first, isn’t it? First in line, first to win the race. What’s second place? The
first loser, right? Well, you want to be the first loser? You want to be the winner, firstborn.
And it had that connection. It’s the best. It’s the choicest. It’s the one that is special.
It’s that whole concept that they did understand that it’s the best and also an indication
that if it’s the first, there must be more to follow as well. So they understood there was this connection
between the sheaf of the first fruits and the firstborn. If you go with me over to Nehemiah
10, we can see this connection spelled out in that representation to the firstborn and
the connection to a sheaf. Let’s notice what it says here in Nehemiah 10. Look at verse
35, Nehemiah 10:35. Here it says, “We made ordinances to bring the first fruits of our
ground.” Of course the “We made it” is not really there in the Hebrew. In your Bible,
it may be italicized. But certainly, they were told by God to bring the first fruits
of their ground and the first fruits of all fruit of all trees year by year to the house
of the lord. And so we’ve got this connection to the first fruits, but it doesn’t stop there. So we keep reading, also verse 36, “to bring
the first born of our sons.” And it didn’t stop there either, “the first born of our
cattle,” as it’s written in the law, “and the first born of our herds and our flocks
to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of God. To bring the
first fruits of our dough, our offerings, the first from all kinds of trees, the new
wine and oil to the priests and the storerooms, to the house of our God, and to bring the
tithes of our land to the Levites.” And so we see the Israelites understood. There
was a connection here between the first fruits and the firstborn. The first fruits were holy to God. They understood
they belong to God. And what happened at the time that those firstborn came on the scene?
It says they were presented before God like that wave sheaf. Like the sheaf of the first
fruits, they were presented to God. They were set apart by God and then presented to Him.
He considered them something special, something that was choice, something that was first. And so Israel certainly understood there was
a connection here. Now, this firstborn concept goes farther as well because it’s not just
about cattle and fruit and sheaf and not just about that. There’s a spiritual significance.
So keep that in mind, because we’ll come back to that in just a moment, because there’s
more to what the sheaf of the first fruits has a connection to. It’s also interesting that this sheaf, or
really, oftentimes, any sheaf in the Bible can be representative of a person. So it has
a connection to the firstborn. But there’s also this connection of a sheaf to a person.
Can you think of any example in the Bible? Let’s say other than Jesus Christ, where a
sheaf has a connection to a person. Well, we probably all know the story of Joseph with
his fancy multi-colored coat that his dad gave him. Remember how he got in trouble with
his brothers? Remember what that dream was all about that Joseph had? I won’t go there.
But if you went to Genesis 37, it tells that story of Joseph and the multi-colored coat
that he had. And his brothers got jealous because Joseph had a dream. And in that dream,
what was happening? They were putting sheaves together. They were bundling up the grain.
And as those bundles came together, whose bundle stood tall? Whose sheaf stood tall
while all the others of his brothers bowed down to Josephs? Well, it was Joseph’s. So we see there is a connection there in that
story of Joseph and his dream that that one sheaf represented Joseph. The others represented
all his brothers. And so there is that connection that a sheaf can represent a person. There
is that connection. In fact, it doesn’t stop there. There’s an amazing psalm. I don’t know
if you’ve ever noticed this. Psalm 126, it seems like the early days of America, they
recognized this psalm, I’d say, often, often. In Psalm 126, right at the very beginning
of the psalm, we’ve got a prophetic psalm. It’s a prophetic psalm that speaks to the
future of what’s going to be happening and looks to the past of what has occurred as
well as it identifies God’s people, God’s people. It says, “When the Lord brought back
the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.” But we know what happened to Israel,
well they got carted off into captivity because they disobeyed God. But we know, prophetically, there’s a time
they’re going to come back. God’s going to bring them back. And this is accounting for
that very scenario. Let’s notice something. It says then, wow, “This is great! We’re
going to be back in our land where we belong.” It says, “Our mouth was filled with laughter.
Our tongue was singing.” And they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things
for them.” God gets the credit. And we know this is going to happen in the future. God
is going to bring His people back. Verse 4, “bring back our captivity, the streams of
the south. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Yeah they’ve sowed in tears as they
were carted off into captivity, but when they’re redeemed, they’re brought back, and then there’s
going to be, it says, “great joy” And in a way, that happened in Christ’s ministry
as well. The Jews expected Christ to come in great power and authority and wipe out
anyone that stood against Him. But He was a man of sorrows, wasn’t He, first time around,
a man of sorrows? He sowed in tears. Connection to Christ there. But ultimately, what will
be reaped? Well, He says great joy here. Then he says, verse 6 “He who continually
goes forth weeping, bearing seeds for sowing shall doubtless come again with rejoicing.”
There’s that connection to Christ, a man of sorrows who was sowing what’s going to be
reaped, a fantastic harvest. And what does He say about that harvest? Remember our connection
here? It says, “He will bring his sheaves with Him.” He’ll bring his sheaves with
him. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the song
before. But in early America, they used to sing it all the time. Did you ever hear that
song? “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, we shall come rejoicing, bringing
in the sheaves.” That’s what that is from. Christ is going to bring His people with Him
represented as a sheaf. As the sheaves He’s going to bring with Him. So I think it’s undoubtable
that there is a connection between sheaves, the first fruit, and people and that harvest,
of course. So we see that connection to this representation of what God’s purpose and plan.
He’s going to return and His people, those sheaves, are going to be with Him. Now, I think it also begins to point out something
pretty specific that we’ve even talked about a little bit already, that there is this representation
of Jesus Christ Himself. That wave sheaf is representative of Jesus
Christ. Yes, there’s connections to the firstborn and to people as sheaves. But most specifically,
this single sheaf not only represents Jesus Christ, but I think, more importantly, is
that it was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. This ceremony that we read about in Leviticus 23
not only was a representation, but something that Christ Himself fulfilled. He is the firstborn.
He is that sheaf of the first fruits. He was the firstborn as well, firstborn of Mary but,
most importantly, the firstborn of the Father. He was also the first born of other things
as well. If we turn over to 1 Corinthians 15, we can
see this connection to this first fruit and this wave sheaf and Jesus Christ. Look at
1 Corinthians 15:20. 1 Corinthians 15:20, you probably remember chapter 15 oftentimes
known as the resurrection chapter. And not only talking about the opportunity for God’s
people to be resurrected, but it get’s right back to the beginning, right back to the first. And in fact, it is interesting, in the Old
Testament the word oftentimes translated first fruits is reshith. That’s an English transliteration.
But you know what it’s also translated as? Beginnings, beginnings. It’s also translated
as beginnings. Where does the plan of God begin? Well, it begins with Jesus Christ.
Where does our hope begin? Well, it begins with Jesus Christ. Where did the church start?
Well, it started on Pentecost, on the feast of harvest, on the Feast of Weeks the New
Testament church began. And so there’s amazing connections even with just the usage of the
terms when you look at what the Bible says. Well, anyway, back to the resurrection chapter,
chapter 15, 1 Corinthians. Let’s notice verse 20. It says, “But now, Christ is risen from
the dead and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. So that tells
us straight away, Christ not only represents but fulfills the first fruits. He is the first
fruits of those who have fallen asleep. He says “For since by Man came death,” by Man
with a capital M, by Jesus Christ, our Savior, “also came the resurrection of the dead,
for as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ, all shall be made alive.” But he says each
one in his own order. Christ the first fruits, afterward, those who are Christ at his coming.” And then comes the end when He delivers the
Kingdom of God to the Father and puts an end to all rule and all authority and all power.
And so it’s kind of interesting here in Corinthians, we see that pattern of the harvest seasons.
And Christ is the beginning. He’s the first of the first. But there’s also a connection
of how there will be each one in his own order. There’s a series of things. And those harvest
Festivals in Palestine and ancient Israel have a connection to what God’s purpose is
all about. There’s a spiritual meaning behind it. And so that wave sheaf, that sheaf of
the first fruits points to the beginning. It points to our savior Jesus Christ and everything
that He not only represents but He fulfilled in His life and His resurrection. In fact, Colossians exemplifies this, expands
on it even more. If you go over to Colossians 1, we can see here in verse 16, Colossians
1:16, it talks about the preeminence of Christ. It talks about how Christ is choice, how He
is the best, how He is the ultimate. He is the firstborn of the Father, firstborn in
so many ways. Let’s notice what it says, Colossians 1:16. Well, look at verse 15, “He is the image
of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” So he’s preeminent. It says, “By
Him, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things were created through
him and for him.” Making that point, He’s the choice. He’s tops. He’s number 1. Verse 17, “He is before all things, and in
Him, all things consist. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning.
The firstborn from the dead that in all things He may have the preeminence,” all things,
He may have preeminence. So He is the most holy one. He is the fulfillment of the first
fruit, that sheaf of the first fruits. He was that fulfillment. He represents that. In fact, we see that played out in scripture
right to the T how that wave sheaf that was lifted before God in ancient Israel had a
connection to what we just read about, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you remember
the story of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ, if you look really
quickly over to the book of John, John 20, let’s recognize in more than one way he fulfilled
this sheaf of the first fruits. John 20, let’s see. Where should we begin? Well, verse 13, here’s Mary at the tomb. And
we see they ask Mary, “Why are you weeping, woman?” She said, “Because they’ve taken away
my Lord, and I do not know where they laid Him.” Verse 14, “When she said this she turned around
and saw Jesus standing there and didn’t know that it was Jesus.” Jesus said to her, “Woman,
why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Well, she supposed Him to be the gardener.
And she said, “Sir, if you’ve carried Him away, tell me where you’ve laid Him that I
will take him away.” And Jesus said to her “Mary!” She turned and
said to him, “Rabboni,” which is to say teacher. She recognizes Christ. Well, what does Christ
say to her? He says something interesting. He says “Do not cling to me for I have not
yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren and say to them I’m ascending to my Father
and your Father, to my God and your God.” So it’s interesting to see this connection
now. Where was Christ in all of this? This connection to the sheaf of the first fruits,
He’s been cut down. He’s been resurrected. But He hasn’t been presented yet. Just like
that sheaf had to be cut, had to be gathered up, and then taken to the priest, He was right
in between. He’d been cut down. He’d been resurrected and picked up in that sense but
hadn’t been taken to the Father yet, like that sheaf had to be taken physically to the
Father, Christ had to ascend…or to the priest, Christ had to ascend. He said don’t touch
me yet. I haven’t ascended, haven’t been there yet. But later on in the story, we see that Christ
does allow the disciples to touch Him and hold Him and handle Him. If you go over to
the book of Luke 24:38, we see just a little while later, same day, different story. A
different story is right here as we see Christ appear before the disciples. This is verse
38 in Luke 24. It says, “Why are you troubled? This is Christ speaking. Why do doubts arise
in your hearts? Behold, my hands and my feet that it is myself.” It’s me, He says. “Handle
me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” So here’s Christ
encouraging them to touch Him when just earlier in the day He said, “Mary, don’t touch me.
Don’t touch me. Don’t hang on to me, because I haven’t ascended. Well evidently, like that
wave sheaf that was lifted up by the priest, Christ hadn’t been lifted up yet to the Father
when Mary was there. But later on in the day, obviously, that had happened, and He had ascended
and had been presented before the Father and had been accepted by the Father. And so He
fulfilled that sheaf of the first fruits. And we can see how that representation follows
straight through in what Christ Himself did. His resurrection and appearance to the Father
testified to the very fact that this sheaf of the first fruits had been not only cut
down but reaped and presented, reaped and presented to God in His Heavenly sanctuary,
not to just some priest, but to God the Father. And in fact, it’s also interesting to note,
back in Leviticus, if we were to have kept reading there in Leviticus where it talks
about this sheaf of the first fruits, it also talked about other things that were to happen
when that sheaf was presented. They had daily sacrifices that always went on. But it also
talked about special sacrifices. So when you get time, you can look back at Leviticus 23,
and it points to other sacrifices that were to have occurred when this wave sheaf, this
sheaf of the first fruits, was presented at the temple. You know what they were? Those sacrifices
were ones that had a connection to a great spiritual truth as well, because there was
a meal offering that was given. Meal offerings often consisted of the grains that would have
been included in bread and things like that. There was also a coinciding drink offering,
a drink offering that was also presented before God. Now, that wasn’t all. During that presentation
of the wave sheaf, there was also a burnt offering that was offered, a burnt offering,
the whole body of the animal being given over to God. And of course, then there was the
wave sheaf as well, that sheaf of the first fruit. Does that remind you of any connections here?
Can you think of God’s plan being outlined in His Festivals and Holy Days? Well, the
Passover, certainly representative of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That burnt offering
was a complete offering, body and blood, everything offered. So we have that connection to Jesus
Christ, Christ’s death itself in that. There was also the meal offering with connections
to bread. There was the drink offering with connections to wine, point also to the Passover,
and the wave sheaf because after the Passover and after His crucifixion, it points to His
resurrection. But there’s also something missing there in
Leviticus. One of the sacrifices was missing that was a normal kind of sacrifice that everybody
had to account for. You know what that one was? Sin offering. At that wave sheaf ceremony,
there was no sin offering. Can you think why? Christ is sinless. There is no sin in our
Savior Jesus Christ. Christ Himself was sinless. And so the amazing connections here between
Christ fulfilling that symbolism of the sheaf of the first fruits and those connections
even to the offerings that were given are really astounding when you think of how amazing
and how interconnected the word of God is and how many nuances there are into why He
did the things that He did and how they should just bring forth His amazing plan. It all
starts with Jesus Christ. And of course, being the first, we saw that
there is another connection here. It’s also a symbolic thing toward the harvest,
because even though specifically we can say that points to Christ, it’s also pointing
to the fact that there’s a harvest coming. It had to start with that first sheaf that
they cut and then bought to the priest physically. It had to start there. Then what happened?
Well, they all sit back and forget it and relax. No, that’s the time we’ve got to get
going. There’s going to be more. We got to go get the rest of the barley in. It’s time.
It’s time for the harvest. It’s time for the early harvest. The wheat and the barley, that’s
when it began. And so this sheaf of the first fruits pointed to the fact that there will
be a harvest. There will be a harvest, not specifically the harvest of the first fruits,
but this was a sample, you could say. This first wave sheaf was a sample of what’s to
come. It also even pointed to the fact that there’s going to be a greater one, a huge
harvest, at the end of the year by the time you get to the representation of those later
Festivals, those Festivals that came in the fall of the year in Palestine. And so this
was just the beginning. This was just the start. And so we see a double sense in that that’s
specifically representing Christ. But this harvest, I think, has that connection to a
person, the sheaf, that the fact that this harvest is pointing to the fact that it’s
symbolic of God’s people, not just any people, but more specifically God’s people, those
who will be sheaves with Him when He returns, fulfilling that Psalm 126. It points to God’s
resurrected saints that will be with Him at his coming. It certainly points to that very
fact. And I think the important aspect of that is the first fruits…Let me get it spelled
right. The first fruits points to us. It points to God’s people, specifically. God’s people,
it points to them that like Christ, He was the first of the first fruits with those to
follow, His people. His people that have been set aside that are called by God, that are
responsive to God, that have been given His Holy Spirit. They will follow. In fact, there’s an amazing passage over in
the book of James. Take a look over in the book of James, first chapter. James 1:16 is
where we’ll begin. James 1:16 points to the fact that we are called first fruits.
There is a symbolic connection between the first fruits and God’s people , those who
have responded to the call of God and have received His spirit. James 1, look at verse
16, says “Don’t be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is
from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there’s no variation
or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth that we might
be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” Some translations say “of his own creations.” And so then it goes on saying, well here’s
how first fruits behave. Because He brought us forth, because He opened our minds to His
truth, because like that beginning of the New Testament church, He poured out his spirit
on us, and we made a commitment to follow God. And as we keep that commitment, He promises
his first fruits will be there when Christ returns. We are those first fruits. We are
the first fruits of His creation. And so we have an opportunity to be a part of that early
harvest because another harvest is coming later. But that early harvest, that wheat
harvest, that barley harvest that happens early on in the year, we have an opportunity
to be a part of that early harvest that Revelation 20 talks about. We’ll be able to reign and
rule with Christ when He returns. And so that’s God’s people. The first fruits are representative
of God’s people. And over in the book of Romans, it substantiates
that even more. And in fact, you might do a study of sometime. Just Google first fruits
and see how many times in the New Testament that word comes up and study it. Recognize
how many times that term is used and notice what it’s connected to, how often it’s connected
to Christ Himself and how many times it’s connected to God’s people. Just recognize
that. You’ll probably have some fun going through a study like that. But over in the
book or Romans, Romans 8, notice verse 11. Romans 8:11, it points us to the fact that
we are the first fruits. God considers us like the firstborn, like a person who has
responded to His truth, who has received his spirit. Romans 8:11 says, “If the spirit of
him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…” that’s where it starts, we got
to have God’s spirit, “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your
mortal bodies through His spirit who dwells in you.” So we see that connection to the
Feast of Weeks, to Pentecost, the beginnings of the New Testament church with God’s spirit
being poured out. If God’s spirit has been poured out on us and we have made a covenant
with God, He says He’ll give us life. We’ll be in that early harvest. We’ll be right there. In fact, if we skip down a little bit to verse
14, He says, “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”
We’re the sons of God. And we’re the first ones because there’s going to be more later.
And those three seasons of harvest point to that very thing. And so later on, there’ll
be a bigger harvest. And so right now, we can be the sons of God if we’re led by His
spirit, it says, by His spirit. Now down to verse 16, it says, “The spirit itself bears
witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Then it says, “If children then heirs…We
are heirs, it says…heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with
him that we may also be glorified together.” Boy, it sounds like Psalm 126. He’s going
to be bringing those sheaves with Him. His first fruits will be with Him, glorified together. And so if we skip down a little bit further,
look at verse 22, “We know the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs until now.”
And not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves
groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body,
for we were saved in this hope.” And then He goes on from there. So God identifies those first fruits. He identifies
those who have His spirit are set apart as His people. They are His people. They are
His church. And what that harvest indicates is not going to be some monstrously huge number
of people. Because like that early harvest, it’s going to be smaller. The barley harvest
didn’t rule the year. The wheat harvest, by no means. It was that fall harvest that was
the big one. That was just the amazing one where the storehouses just become packed full.
And so this certainly points to the fact that, right now, God’s just dealing with a few people.
And there’s a much greater huge spiritual harvest to come down the line. But it’s also a very hopeful thing. It’s not
something that anybody should get a big head over, “Wow! Look at me. I’m great. I’m a
first fruit. That would be a warning message there. Better be careful. You see, it points
to the fact that everyone’s going to have an opportunity. Everyone’s going to have an
opportunity. You point to those fall Festivals, you point to the harvest that’s in the fall.
It’s pointing the fact everyone’s going to have an opportunity to know and understand
God, have an opportunity to choose His way, have an opportunity to respond to God’s calling. And so the first certainly should remind us
all that there’s going to be more to come. The early harvest, the small harvest should
always remind us there’s a bigger harvest to come down the line. And it is a promise.
It is a prophecy that Christ will certainly fulfill as a part of God’s great plan. And
it’s spelled out in those harvest seasons. So the fall season will certainly be representative
of the fact that all people will have an opportunity to understand the truth and have an opportunity
to be a part of the family of God. Now in the mean time, first fruits also are
challenged. First fruits, if we want to be a part of that early harvest, we’re challenged
to do what the preeminent one did, the one who was the forerunner, the one who led the
way, the one who was resurrected, the one who was lifted up to the Father. We are challenged
to do as He would do. That’s a challenge for us as God’s people, as first fruits. And the
only way that can happen is also found in this representation of the first, God’s spirit.
It’s only by the power of God’s spirit that we can accomplish the things that God wants
us to accomplish. You see we have the opportunity to be the
first to seek first the Kingdom of God. That’s a wonderful honor. But it’s also a big responsibility,
isn’t it? Also, a huge responsibility. We have the responsibility to be the first ones
to come out of this world. How many times did God say to come out in front of my people?
Don’t partake of their wrong ways. We have the opportunity to be the first ones to do
that, following in the steps of Jesus Christ. We can be the first not to compromise, not
to give in. We’re to maintain with love, especially that first love of the truth so that we not
only know the truth, but we live the truth, and we do the truth. And we keep accomplishing
those things that we were called to by that faith that God’s given to us. And so we’re
the first to do battle against human nature. Other than Jesus Christ, we’re following in
His footsteps. Like Paul said, we can overcome, through God’s Holy Spirit, that normal everyday
carnal human way of thinking. Through the power of God, through His Holy Spirit, we
can be the first to battle. We’re called as first fruits to be holy, to be just, to be
different than the rest of humanity. God’s called us to that. And so we have those responsibilities as his
called out people because we’ve been given his spirit. We have to be different people
than the rest of the world. We have to be people of integrity. We have to be people
of our word. We have to be people that represent the highest standard. In fact, we’re striving
for that full measure, that standard of Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re striving for. And
so we can be first and foremost in love and obedience and service. And we can be the first
to be growing in grace and knowledge. In fact, when we do those things, we recognize
it’s not by anything that we work up. It’s not by our greatness or our power or our authority
or our good looks. It’s none of that. We know it’s only possible by God’s spirit, God’s
spirit, which connects us right back to the beginnings. The beginnings of our connection
to God is through His spirit, by his calling and our response to that calling. And in fact,
we’re told very specifically over in 2 Timothy, if we’re to be first fruits, we’ve got to
maintain that. 1 Timothy 1, notice verse 6. I’m sorry 2 Timothy 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:6 brings
us back to that connection to the Spirit of God. Here the apostle Paul has reminded the
young minister, Timothy. He says, “I remind you to stir up the gift of God, which is in
you through the laying on of my hands.” Well, what was that gift? He says it’s His spirit.
It’s the Spirit of God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love
and of a sound mind.” That’s the heart of a first fruit that they stir up that spirit.
They respond to that spirit. They submit to the Spirit of God, and that they imitate Jesus
Christ. They follow him. They’re transformed from the ways of this world into the character
of Jesus Christ. And it points to the fact that there’s more
to come. There’s more to come. And we have the opportunity to be a part of the things
at the beginning. So what a wonderful blessing. In fact, when you get to the very end of the
story, you go all the way back to the book of Revelation, there’s an interesting comment
that’s made in Revelation 14. And for me it hearkens back to that passage in the Psalms
that we read about the sheaves. Revelation 14, it talks about the 144,000, certainly
pointing to the fact of those sheaves I guess you could say that would be with him when
Christ returns. Right at the very beginning of the chapter, he says “I looked and behold
a lamb standing on Mount Zion and with him 144,000 having His Father’s name written on
their foreheads. So here’s the lamb, Jesus Christ, with his people. And down in verse
3, it says, “They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living
creatures, the elders, no one could learn that song except the 144,000.” And it says
who are they? “Those that were redeemed from the Earth, those that were redeemed. It says, “These are the ones who weren’t defiled,”
specifically it says with women, “for they are virgins.” Spiritually speaking, that’s
what it’s talking about, “These are the ones who follow the lamb wherever he goes.
These were redeemed from among men being first fruits to God and to the lamb.” And so right
when we get to the end of the story, we see when Christ returns his first fruits will
be with him. And so we want to be there. We want to be there. And with that great calling
that God has given us, we have that opportunity to be a first fruit. And so this whole aspect of the sheaf of the
first fruits has such amazing significance that we don’t want to take it lightly. We
want to make sure that we recognize there’s responsibility that comes with being a part
of God’s great calling, especially now. Not everyone has that opportunity right now. That’s
going to come later. That’s represented in the plan of God, in His purpose, in those
harvest Festivals. But we have that opportunity right now. And so what an awesome calling
we have. And it’s not because we’re so great. We know that passage that talks about that.
It’s not because we’re so smart or so great. It’s because God is so good. He is gracious.
And He has an awesome plan. And He’s called not many mighty. But he’s called us to be
a part of His plan now, to be a part of his family, especially when Christ returns. And
we can be there. And so I think if we take this symbolism that
God’s given us, it can have deeper meaning for what God’s purpose and His plan is all
about. And hopefully, it will also motivate us then to strive for the ultimate standard.
And of course, that ultimate standard is found in the first fruit, the ultimate standard
of Jesus Christ. So let’s strive to meet that standard and allow Christ to live in us and
through us, and then we can truly be first fruits. All right, well, that will do it for our study
tonight. I hope you enjoyed it. We will be having another Bible study in two weeks or
our next biweekly Bible study two weeks from tonight. So we hope you’ll join us right here
at the home office of the United Church of God. If not, join us on the Web. You can tell
your family and friends. They can watch online. It’s archived on ucg.org as well. So we hope
you’ll catch up on some of our past Bible studies. We’ll continue this series of Let
Us Keep The Feast in two weeks. So we look forward to seeing you then.

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