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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
Leviticus 23:9-14, 22
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2014 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original tounless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes, musings, and thoughts that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Why do we have celebrations, memorials, or special observances? We celebrate because personally or culturally something is important for us to remember and it helps us to stay connected to the story and meaning behind the reason for that particular observance. These special times play a large part in our lives and we want to acknowledge or honor the occasion in the appropriate way it is called for because in doing so not only do we keep the spirit of the reason for the specified celebration alive, but we keep ourselves personally invested in the meaning of it as well.
And, the reason behind these celebrations that God has specifically allotted during these special times of feasts and the like noted in the book of Leviticus is for the purpose of bringing honor to Him. Many of the celebrations we participate in today, even those with religious undertones, have become more people centered and not God-centered. The purpose of everything that God instructs for His people is with the reason and for the learning of the people to put Him first and to keep Him first. To make God their number one priority. These feasts take the people’s focus off themselves and bring them to times of remembrance centered around God alone.
In this week’s lesson, provision and God’s blessings are celebrated and remembered during the observance of the firstfruits. Remembering what God has already done and acknowledging that He is the blesser and fulfiller of things to come is imperative for a child of God.
Forgetfulness can be a dangerous thing for anyone. But, for the one who has been delivered and stands in relationship with God, forgetting what He did and where He brought you from and what He provides for His people daily, can be absolutely detrimental. The Feast of the Firstfruits, along with all the other accompanying feasts, prove to be grounding agents that help keep one planted in the roots of the how’s and why’s of their faith. These seasons of celebration act as mental markers showcasing how God has worked in His people’s lives in the past and they are mindful pointers of the promises He has ahead.
Leviticus 23:9-11 “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 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: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
Leviticus 23 opens with God speaking to Moses, saying, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts,” (vs. 2). Here, right at the beginning of this chapter, we see that the feasts mentioned are God-ordained. He calls them “my feasts” and wants these special festivities to be set aside from other days, in commemoration of some point of their relationship with Him.
After He laid the law once again for the Sabbath, seen in verse 3 of this same chapter (seen previously also in Gen. 2:3 and Exo. 20:8-11), He yet again declares, “These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons,” (vs. 4). Each feast had its own “season” of celebration and He proceeds to announce the why’s and how’s of each particular one that is to be carried out. This is very important because when one seeks to worship God, they want to worship and honor Him according to the way He sees fit. Knowing the significance of these feasts the people are to follow a very detailed and prescribed order of the right way to celebrate.
Following the order laid out in Leviticus, Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of the first month known as Nisan/Abib, they are the same month (Lev. 23:5). The very next verse tells us, “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread” and that this was celebrated for “seven days,” (Lev. 23:6), which is also referred by some as the Passover Week.
On the 1st and the 7th days of those “seven days” were to be a “holy convocation” when no work was to be done, (Lev. 23:7-8), and offerings were to be made to the LORD all “seven days.”
Next, we see where the Feast of the Firstfruits is discussed in the verses of today’s text, which occurs after Passover (compare Numbers 28:26). This “firstfruit” offering is from the barley harvest (for there were more than one firstfruit offerings because depending the on the time of year, there was more than one harvest).
With that, God lays out the proper instructions for celebrating for when the people “come into the land which I give unto you.” As of yet, the children of Israel are still dwelling in the wilderness. Even at the time of this lesson, the words written in this particular book of the Bible are the words God spoke to Moses while he was still in the area of Mt. Sinai. They have not reached the Promised Land, or the “the land which I give unto you,” (compare Genesis 50:24; Exodus 6:8), and therefore, are not harvesting from crops that are their own.
But, when they do… When they go from this traveling band of wilderness wanderers into the settled establishment of promise that God has in store for them, God has set out for them laws, customs, rituals, feasts, and the like to govern their lives by. It is in the midst of these customs and feasts where the people will learn to truly honor God and to make Him a priority not only in their worship but in their lives as well.
One of the ways to honor God instructed them to bring of the “firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest” (compare Exodus 23:19; 34:26). The priests are the officiators of God’s services in the sanctuary. These specially ordained men are consecrated to stand before God and offer the people’s offerings unto the Lord (compare Exodus 29:1-36 and Leviticus 8).
In this region where many people relied on agriculture for their livelihood and well-being, a harvest was a big deal. It was time to gather what was previously sown. The crops have made it through that particular season and have grown from seeds to maturity and are now able to be used for food and such. In an era where grocery stores and such did not exist, this was a reason for rejoicing. The people would have food in order to survive.
But, in the midst of that gathering, the people were commanded by God to bring to Him the “firstfruits.” The first of the crops taken in are to be offered to God. God is our provider. He is the one to be acknowledged for the successfulness of the crops harvested. Therefore, out of that first part gathered, a “sheaf” or a bundle of the newly reaped barley (barley was the particular harvest gathered at this time) would be brought to the priests.
“He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD.” Out of the use of obvious wording, this is known as a “wave offering” (compare Exodus 29:24). This symbolized portion of the crops was lifted up and waved before the Lord in thanks and acknowledgment that that which was yielded came from Him. It was “on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it” when it was to be performed while the remainder of it stayed with the harvester or owner of the crops.
Leviticus 23:12-13 “And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.”
Another stipulation that had to be followed, along with the sheaf of the firstfruits that were offered, there also was a “lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord” that was required.
In bringing an offering unto God under this, or any category, it had to be the best one could give, with no defaults present. When walking through their flocks they were to be very careful in choosing their presentation before God. He was and is to be honored above all.
Therefore, no deformities or defects were to be present; it couldn’t have any faults or imperfections. God requires more! The ordinary just won’t do. One should always desire to honor and please God in all they bring to Him.
As a matter of fact, “whatsoever hath a blemish, that ye shall not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you,” (Lev. 22:20 (read vss. 21-25 for more on purity standards of the offerings offered; see also Deut. 15:21). These will not be received by God. He takes no pleasure in half-hearted less than fully devoted worship (and, not just with offerings, either – wink, wink). One should always want God to be pleased with what they offer Him.
Deuteronomy 17:1 called it an “abomination” to bring such less-than offerings to God. An “abomination” speaks of God’s hatred and disgust toward such. So much so that Malachi 1:14 pronounced through that prophet, “But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.” A curse is spoken.
Therefore, only the best for God will do. Untainted and undefiled offerings show that God has priority in one’s life. He doesn’t get the dejected leftovers – He gets the best. He doesn’t get the stuff nobody wants – He gets the cream of the crop – the crème de la crème.
God is perfect and when one brings that which falls short of honoring Him as such then they have misplaced the priority of Him in their lives and the firstfruits is all about giving God the priority first.
Remember, it is never wasteful to give God one’s best.
“Meat offerings” are generally considered more as cereal or grain offerings and not the animal products we often define the word by today and were often offered with “drink offerings” alongside the burnt offering we see demonstrated here and in other verses of the Bible (compare to other feasts and offerings requirements found in Numbers 28-29).
These were the required offerings: “These things ye shall do unto the LORD in your set feasts, beside your vows, and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your meat offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings,” (Numbers 29:39). These offerings were for God and to honor and acknowledge Him, and as such, the requirements of how He instituted each needed to be carefully followed, even in the offering discussed in today’s lesson of the firstfruits.
The measurements vary according to different resources when we try to find out what the true equivalent of each in our day and time. But, what I like is God did issue exact measurements to the people in what He expected to be offered. God does not leave His worshippers blind to His expectations. God openly shows His people what He is looking for.
Leviticus 23:14 “And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”
None of what was reaped, and eventually be used as “bread, parched corn, nor green ears” from this season’s harvest could be used for personal use until “ye have brought an offering unto your God.” As stated earlier in this lesson, they were to be God-focused in the remembrance of this firstfruit offering. The very nature of this offering required them to put God first in their worship. “God, it is our honor to present this to You first before we enjoy any of it for ourselves,” was the mentality.
They were approaching God with gratefulness of heart for all He has provided. If you mix in the attitudes found in last week’s lesson, one can imagine the joyfulness that was expressed in the giving of these offerings. There can’t be a grudging attitude when one is seeking to put God first in their life.
God wanted theirs and our full devotion and He wanted to be first on the list to receive it. In our worship and in our lives, He is to take precedence over all else and His offering was to come first.
Some leftovers may taste good on a dinner plate, but it’s something that shouldn’t be included when we think about our relationship with God. God doesn’t get leftovers. He gets the first. He gets the best. He is always to be acknowledged in that way.
Leviticus 23:22 “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”
During the harvest, God also made sure provisions were made for those less fortunate. Therefore, when they reaped the harvest they were not to completely wipe the fields clean (make clean riddance). In fact, they were to leave the “corners of thy field” untouched so that those who would have need could find food during desperate times as well.
We see a great example of this in the story of Ruth when she went to the fields of Boaz to glean the leftovers that she and Naomi may have some food to eat. Some of those who would be most vulnerable and forced to go without would be “the poor, and to the stranger,” but God has provided means for survival even for these among His people. He made a way for those who had to share with those who didn’t. The people’s responsibility was to follow the guidelines of the feasts and the harvest that all might be blessed.
God blesses His people that they might be a blessing to others.
Using the offerings discussed in our lesson as a backdrop one must examine what they bring to the Lord. Do they come with half-hearted devotion or a life of total commitment? God is worthy of the best and the first of all that we have to offer. Make Him a priority today.
Standard Print PDF: Bringing Firstfruits Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Large Print PDF: Bringing Firstfruits Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
How Many Words: Bringing Firstfruits How Many Words
Memory Verse: Bringing Firstfruits Memory Verse
Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“Feasts and the Farming Year” (Color this calendar that outlines when and which feasts and farming occur. Enjoy!)
“You Get the First Fruits” (Although this is from an entirely different lesson, I believe some of the concepts shown here can be reworked and applied to this lesson as well. Enjoy!)