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Friday 7 February 2020

The Significance of the Firstfruits Offering in Christianity

There has been a lot of controversy on the validity, importance and significance of the Tithes and Offerings in Christian circles.

Many argue that tithes and offerings are things of the past, relics of the old covenant or testament and hence shouldn't be mentioned or collected in these modern times.

Others postulate that Christian leaders are using tithes and offering to rob members of the congregation of their hard-earned money. They are quick to identify Christian leaders who live lavishly and travel in private jets while members of their congregation can barely afford to eat three square meals.

Are these arguments valid today especially in the light of the Scriptures - the inspired Word of God? Is the practice of the giving of tithes and offerings truly obsolete?

My intent with this post is to share my understanding of this knotty subject and thereby contribute to the body of knowledge on a particular type of offering - the Firstfruit Offering.

Someone's  hand offering gifts as firstfruit
The firstfruit offering of gifts

It is not my intent to insult the religious beliefs and sensibilities of my esteemed and enlightened audience but to let iron sharpen iron as the holy scriptures declare. 

As this is purely a Christian discourse, I will rely heavily on the holy Scriptures - the Bible- as my authority. If this sounds offensive to you in any way, then this is where we part ways as I suggest that you discontinue reading. However, if my introduction resonates with you as a seeker of truth then lets dive in together. 
I intend treating this subject in two parts. The first part which you are presently reading will deal with the historical background of the firstfruit offering and its significance today. In the second part, I will attempt to answer the controversial topic of whether your January salary is your first fruit offering.

Why Should you listen to me?
My best qualification is that I am a child of God, the King's kid in whom dwells the Spirit of God, just like you. I became a Christian at age eleven and the LORD has kept me through various seasons and phases of life. 
Finally, I was recently ordained as a labourer in God's vineyard having being schooled by seasoned and established teachers of God's Word like Dr Iruofagha S James (my father in the faith whom God has used to mould me), Reverend Kenneth E Hagin (of blessed memory), Pastor Tunde Bakare, Pastor Enoch A Adeboye and Reverend Olusola A Areogun.

What Is The Firtsfruit Offering?

As the name implies and within the historical context. the firstfruit offering is an offering of the very first agricultural produce of the ground during harvest.

An Offering is a freewill gift or present that a person offers to another as an expression of love. In context, it is a freewill gift or present from a man to his God as an expression of love or worship.

The firstfruit offering was instituted in ancient Israel and was first mentioned in the Scriptures in Exodus 13 as a procedure during one of the three annual feasts the Israelites were to observe.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Consecrate[a] to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.” Exodus 13:1-2 (emphasis mine)
Secondly, celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest." - Exodus 23:17

Historical Background
After being in captivity to their colonial masters Egypt for four hundred and thirty years, the Israelites had just gained their independence and were just taking their first baby steps into nationhood.

With no defined identity and way of life which had been battered by years of captivity, the Israelites struggled to discover themselves and often longed to go back to the land of Egypt, the colonial masters.
If only we had died by the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt!" they said. "There we sat by pots of meat and ate our fill of bread, but you have brought us into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death! Exodus 16:3
We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. Numbers 11:5

Any modern nation today who was once under the colonial rule but has now gained independence can identify with this. The first few years are usually very chaotic characterised by in-fightings and civil wars as the nation tries to carve out an identity for herself distinct from her colonial masters.

God Almighty, however, had other plans. He wanted them to have a unique identity distinct from Egypt and the other nations surrounding them. He wanted them to have His identity. He thus began to reveal Himself to them, teaching them how to relate with Him as God as well as with themselves. 

The Torah or the Body of Laws was the outcome of that teaching and training session. It contained principles and practises that govern their way of living and taught them how to relate with a Holy God. 
Nations of the world today call their body of laws, their Constitution, which governs their way of life. 

God Almighty led His people through the wilderness to a promised land flowing with milk and honey. During their sojourn through the wilderness, God miraculously fed them with manna and provided for their every need.

However, when they entered their promised land, the miraculous supply of manna stopped and they were required to till the ground and work for their sustenance.

Being an agrarian society Israel, harvest time was greatly anticipated as the Israelites looked forward to and depended on the yield of the land for their economy. 

God instructed them through their leader Moses to dedicate the very first fruit of their fields to Him

 The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. (Exodus 23:19)
So they were to be observant during harvest time and bring the first set of products from their farms into the house of God and offer them as firstfruit offering.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 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. 
 ...it shall be statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. (Leviticus 23;10-11; 23:14) emphasis mine
God gave specific instructions on how, where and to whom the firstfruit offering be given.

The Law of Firstfruits
The universe as we know it today is guided by laws and principles. Over time men have postulated various theories and laws in an attempt to explain how the universe works.

From the law of gravity postulated by to Newton's Laws of Motion to Einstein's laws of Relativity and Aerodynamics in the Sciences to the laws of Demand and Supply as well as Diminishing returns in the Social Sciences, various laws control different aspects of human life.

The Law of the firstfruits was one of the laws or guide which the Almighty gave to the Israelites. In its simplest form, it simply states that
Give God FIRST place/priority in all things.
The law demands that God be given preeminence in all facets of life - in our hearts, time, finances, resources, families, businesses etc. 

The firstfruit offering is an outflow of a life that obeys the law of the firstfruits, that is, a life that puts God first in all things.

When the Israelites gave their first fruits offering to God, it was a declaration of their faith, a bold statement of trust in God's ability to take care of them. An affirmation that God is their Source and Provider. Deuteronomy 26 explains it further:
 Once you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance and take it over and settle down, you are to take some of all the firstfruits of what you grow in the land that God, your God, is giving you, put them in a basket and go to the place God, your God, sets apart for you to worship him. At that time, go to the priest who is there and say, “I announce to God, your God, today that I have entered the land that God promised our ancestors that he’d give to us.” The priest will take the basket from you and place it on the Altar of God, your God. And there in the Presence of God, your God, you will recite:

5-10 A wandering Aramean was my father,
he went down to Egypt and sojourned there,
he and just a handful of his brothers at first, but soon
they became a great nation, mighty and many.
The Egyptians abused and battered us,
in a cruel and savage slavery.
We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers:
He listened to our voice, he saw
our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight.
And God took us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,
with signs and miracle-wonders.
And he brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I’ve brought the firstfruits
of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.

10-11 Then place it in the Presence of God, your God. Prostrate yourselves in the Presence of God, your God. And rejoice! Celebrate all the good things that God, your God, has given you and your family; you and the Levite and the foreigner who lives with you. (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)

Significance of the Firstfruits Offering
1) It gives God the first place and acknowledges Him as the Source of all provision.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

2) It brings honour to God.
Honour the Lord with your possessions,And with the firstfruits of all your increase  Proverbs 3:9
When we bring our firstfruit offering in accordance to Gods instructions, we honour Him. This honour is quite similar to the honour Christians are commanded to give to their parents.
Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

3) The firstfruit is like a down payment, a guarantee that future harvests in the year shall be fruitful and bounteous.
If you do (honour the LORD), your barns will be filled with grain, and you will have too much wine to store it all. Proverbs 3:10
God Himself gave that guarantee and has gone a step further in the New testament to give the Holy Spirit as a guarantee for all believers. 

4) It acts as a channel for the impartation of a household blessing.
 The best of all the firstfruits and of all your special gifts will belong to the priests. You are to give them the first portion of your ground meal so that a blessing may rest on your household. Ezekiel 44:30 (emphasis mine)

5) God Himself said that He would defend and protect all those who have become His firstfruits.
In those days Israel was holy to the LORD, the first of his children. All who harmed his people were declared guilty, and disaster fell on them. I, the LORD, have spoken!” Jeremiah 2:3.

Watch out for the second part of this article titled 'Is my January salary my firstfruit offering?' 

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1 comment:

  1. This is quite indepth. God help us all... Anticipating the part 2


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