Summary: A very short talk given at a midweek Communion service, looking at the firstfruits brought to the Temple. Today, our offerings should also be used to bless the foreigner, the asylum seeker and the Priest!
I wonder how you will react when in just a moment I rephrase verse eleven of this Bible reading.
We’ve just heard about an important act of worship in the life of Israel. As a response of thanks and praise to God for bringing them into the Land he promised (26:3), worshippers were required to bring a portion of the produce from their farms and allotments (26:2). A bit like a traditional Harvest Festival – but magnified many times over, literally massive amounts of food produce was placed in baskets. They were given to the Priests and set down “in front of the altar of the Lord [their] God” (26:4).
Imagine being a farmer. It is Harvest time. As an act of worship – an act of thanks for the grace and mercy of God – you put aside a sizeable portion of your farm’s fruit and grain and you bring it here. The Church Minister places it on the altar and there is great joy in doing so.
God has rescued us and brought us to a place where we can freely live life – His way. Offerings, and praise and worship are on our hearts, lives and lips.
To quote verse 10: “…and now I bring the first-fruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me.” All of the worshippers were declaring this together, and retelling the story of God graciously rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. The worship was corporate! “We cried out to the Lord … [and] the Lord heard our voice” (26:7). “The Lord brought us out of Egypt” (26:8), and “He brought us to this place and gave us this Land” (26:9). In our world that can be very individualistic with lots of reference to ‘I’ and ‘Me’, this is a reminder that our worship is corporate. It is more about ‘We’ and ‘Us’ than ‘I’ and ‘Me’. And it also more about 'We' and 'Us' and 'Them' than it is about 'I' and 'Me' !!
And then we come to verse 11: “And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you”.
The CEV – Contemporary English Version – put it like this: “Then you and your family must celebrate by eating a meal at the place of worship to thank God for giving you such a good harvest. And remember to invite the Levites and the foreigners who live in your town” (26:11).
Perhaps I could paraphrase that, using some words from the Good News version of the Bible: “Be grateful for the good things that the Lord your God has given you and your family; and let the Priests, the foreigners and the asylum seekers who live among you join in the celebration.”
God rescues us. God delivers us. We respond in grateful praise and worship, bringing a sizeable portion of our produce or our income to the place of worship, so that we can enjoy good things together; and so that the Priests, the foreigners, and the asylum seekers can also experience those same blessings.
This challenges me! It was for ancient Israel then, it is for modern day Israel now, and it is for the Church now, because it is the way of Christ.