Summary: The Feast of Firstfruits points to the resurrection of Jesus.
We come now to the third feast celebrated in the Jewish religious calendar, the Feast of Firstfruits. (READ TEXT)
Firstfruits marked the start of the grain harvests in Israel. Barley was the 1st to ripen of the grains sown in the winter months. For Firstfruits, a sheaf of barley was brought to the Temple as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord. It was representative of the barley harvest as a whole and served as a guarantee or pledge that the remainder of the harvest would be gathered in the days that followed. Three things about Firstfruits:
1) The regulations are outlined in our text. A sheaf (Hebrew - "omer," meaning "measure") was to be brought to the priest at the Temple who would wave it before the Lord for acceptance. There were also to be accompanying sacrifices: an unblemished male lamb of the first year, a drink offering of wine, and a meal offering of the barley flour mixed with olive oil. The people were forbidden to use any of the harvest in any way until after the firstfruits were offered to the Lord.
2) The ritual is detailed in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. The order of the ceremony, even the actual wording of the thanksgiving prayer to God, were carefully recorded in that text.
3) The relationship to the next feast. Firstfruits also started the countdown to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), which was the fourth of Israel's annual feasts. Beginning with Firstfruits, forty-nine days (or seven sevens) were counted, and on the fiftieth day, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was celebrated. The Lord commanded: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath (1st day of Unleavened Bread), from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:15-16). As a result, this was, and still is, known as “the Counting of the Omer” because of the ritual of counting the days from Firstfruits to the Feast of Weeks.
On the evening of Nisan 16 (6 PM on Saturday), three priests would leave the Temple, accompanied by a crowd of observers. They would go to a barley field for the Firstfruits reaping ceremony. With sickles in hand and baskets under their arms, the three priests would stand before the preselected bundles of barley. Then they would each ask the crowd a series of questions: “Has the sun set?” “With this sickle?” “Into this basket?” “On this Sabbath?” “Shall I reap now?”
After receiving affirmative responses, the selected sheaves were reaped until one ephah of barley (approximately two-thirds of a bushel) was gleaned. This was then taken to the Temple and the next morning, it was offered to the Lord in the prescribed manner.
Firstfruits wasn’t just a national observance. Families observed it, too. They’d select a sheaf of barley to offer, and on the morning of Nisan 16 (Sunday) they’d go to the Temple and present their offering. Today, without the Temple, the only surviving ritual is the counting of the omer, the days from Firstfruits to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).
1. The practical significance of this feast for Israel.
A. God is the owner and provider of all things. God claimed . . .
2) The firstfruits of the bread dough (Numbers 15:20-21);
This served as a reminder of the principle declared by David:
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” - 1 Chronicles 29:14 (NIV)
B. God has the power to keep His promises.
When presenting the offering to the priest, they quoted Deuteronomy 26:3, 5-10: “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us. My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me.”