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God’s Word for You

Numbers 15:17-21 Firstfruits

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, September 2, 2021

17 The LORD told Moses 18 to speak to the Israelites and tell them this: When you come to the land to which I am bringing you 19 and when you eat from the food of the land, you are to present an elevated offering to the LORD. 20 From the first of your dough you are to present a round loaf as an elevated offering. You are to lift it up just like an elevated offering from the threshing floor. 21 For your generations to come, you will give to the LORD an elevated offering from the first of your dough.

Here the Lord tells his people to give something back when he gives them a harvest. Fruit or grain, something out of the ground or from a stalk, berries or nuts, rice, honey, or corn, they should give the first pickings to God. In his book On Sacrifice, Professor Chytraeus lists twelve varieties of sacrifice. It won’t hurt to list them again here, to be sure we identify this one correctly:

1, The whole burnt offering (holocaust), repeated twice each day.
2, The sin offering (for sins of omission or ignorance).
3, The trespass offering (to show repentance for intentional sins)
4, The grain (meal, bread) offering.
5, The peace offering (also called the fellowship offering)
6, The thank offering.
7, The firstfruits
8, The tithe
9, The ram offered to consecrate a priest
10, The goat and calf offered on the Day of Atonement
11, The red heifer (Numbers 19)
12, The Passover lamb

Since the elevated offering in our passage is associated with gathering in the harvest, and the repetition of the word reshith “first, beginning” (compare Genesis 1:1; Psalm 111:10), it’s clear that this is a reference to the firstfruts offering. The idea of the firstfruits was this: The first grain (or whatever it was) that was harvested was given to the Lord. The people might roast heads of grain with oil (Leviticus 2:14), or bake loaves of bread (Leviticus 23:17), or simply bring the fruit, vegetable, rice, corn, oil or wine, or what have you, and they would present it to the priest. Not only was this the priest’s share, it was also a confession of faith. That confession was the belief that just as God blessed them with these first things, so the Lord would give much more, blessing them in all their needs and more so. “Honor the Lord with your wealth,” Solomon said, “with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). This is an important point to understand, since beginning with Jeremiah and continuing many times in the New Testament, the idea of firstfruits is applied to God’s people rather than to God’s food harvests. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Christ himself is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” This is vital to our preaching about the resurrection and about the Easter miracle. Since Christ has been raised as the firstfruits, God promises that we shall rise, too, on the final harvest of the Last Day.  Paul combines these thoughts while he explains our righteousness in Christ when he says: “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16). Since Christ is holy, and we put our faith in Christ, then we are holy through faith and through Christ. This is the assurance God gives to us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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