Summary: This the second message in our money month series "The Blessed Life". Looking at the commands for the First Born, the First Fruit and the First Tithe.
The Blessing of First Things
(Many of the concepts in this message come from Robert Morris’s book “The Blessed Life”)
Well, here we are week two of Money Month. If you are visiting or new to Cornerstone each year we take the month of April to teach the theology of giving. Almost a dozen years ago I decided that instead of simply preaching in response to any given financial crisis in the church that I would take the time to teach those who call Cornerstone their church home why giving is a proper response to the love and Grace of God. You understand, God doesn’t need you to give for His sake. God is God, the entire universe is his. So if he doesn’t need us to give for his sake than it must be that he wants us to give for our sake. Our giving shapes our response to God.
Last week I looked at the fact that God wants to bless us, thus the theme of this year “The Blessed Life.” We saw how the concept of God’s blessing is seen in the first chapter of the first book of the bible, in the last chapter of the last book of the bible and scattered throughout the bible.
And that blessing comes when we are faithful with what God has given us and we are obedient to the commands of Christ. And that shouldn’t surprise us. And while the bible talks about the many blessings that God gives to his people it certainly doesn’t shy away from financial blessings. But the blessed life doesn’t mean the blessed cheque book it means the blessed life, a life lived in obedience in the presence of God.
This week I want to look at the Blessing of the First Things. Which brings us to the scripture that was read for us today.
At first it seems like one of those weird Old Testament things. You know the ones, they leave you scratching your head and thinking. . . huh? And there are a few of those, things and stories we don’t understand lessons that were for people who lived in a different land and a different culture.
And sometimes it’s hard for us to get our head around things that happened in a desert 3,000 years ago. For that matter think back to the sixties and seventies and there are things that are difficult to understand from fifty years ago.
But if we actually take the time to work through this one, we get an explanation.
Exodus 13 begins with these words: Exodus 13:1-2 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me.” And then God explains to Moses why he requires the dedication of the first born. As a part of that explanation God establishes the Passover Celebration so the people wouldn’t forget their deliverance.
This story in Exodus happens right after the Exodus, that is right after the people of Israel have been delivered by God from the slavery of Egypt. It is here that he establishes the celebration of the Passover so that his people would never forget what He had done for them. And the Passover is still celebrated around the world by Jews for the same reason that it was instituted 3000 years ago.
But after God gives Moses direction about the Passover Celebration He returns to the original theme. That is the passage that was read for us this morning, Exodus 13:11-12 “This is what you must do when the LORD fulfills the promise he swore to you and to your ancestors. When he gives you the land where the Canaanites now live, you must present all firstborn sons and firstborn male animals to the LORD, for they belong to him.
It is here that God decrees that the first of all things born to his people belonged to him. And so this was the law, if your first born was a son then he was dedicated to God and a sacrifice was made: not the child, just to make that clear. The child was symbolically given back to the Lord, we kind of do that with baby dedications today. And then the parent’s presented a sacrifice that was them purchasing the child back from God. Remember from the Christmas story Luke 2:22-23 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the LORD.”
In the case of acceptable animals, that is those which could be eaten under Jewish law the first born was presented to the Priests for sacrifice, the idea of animal sacrifice seems weird to us today and somehow unbecoming but we aren’t talking about today it was 3000 years ago. The animal was killed and a portion was offered to God and the remainder was used to care for the Priests and their families.