Thursday, January 12, 2012
Christ our Firstfruits
A couple of days ago I read about the feasts that Israel was to celebrate each year. I've written previously about how the Jewish holidays point to Christ and are fulfilled in Him, in a post called The Substance is of Christ. I want to focus this post on the Feast of Firstfruits.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, 'When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted.'" Leviticus 23:9-11a
So the offering of firstfruits was so that God's people would be accepted by Him.
The timing of the Feast of Firstfruits is interesting. (Actually that's an understatement.) The Feast of Firstfruits took place 3 days after the celebration of Passover. (This is a bit of a simplification. See the charts and figures on this Messianic website for more information.) Remember, Passover was celebrated on the 14th day at twilight of the first month, Abib or Nisan. This was to commemorate the first Passover when the Angel of the Lord killed all the firstborn in Egypt, but passed over the houses of His people who had the blood of the sacrificial lamb spread on their doorposts and lintels. It is no accident that Christ became our Passover lamb on Passover, and rose from the dead three days later, on the day of the celebration of Firstfruits.
Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 15 when he's defending the resurrection of the dead (Saducees didn't believe in the resurrection and some in the early church must have been influenced by them).
"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:19-23 (emphasis mine)
I used to take this bit about Christ being our firstfruits metaphorically (as in He was the first of the harvest, which in a sense He is), but the 90 day Bible challenge has helped me to make connections between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible that I never saw before. Christ literally became our firstfruits offering. When He was raised from the dead by God, on the day of the celebration of the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits, He made His people accepted by God.
It's not just that Christ did this and that in His lifetime in order to fulfill aspects of the law. It's that the feasts were always meant to point to Him. Waving a sheaf of barley never really made God's people right before Him- it didn't take away the guilt of their sins. Christ was always our Firstfruits, just like He was always our Passover lamb. The holy days instituted by God were to point His people to their sins and their need for a Savior. The substance of the holidays were always Christ! Paul was a Jew of Jews and he knew his Old Testament. We are at a great disadvantage when we come to his letters without any understanding of the Old Testament. There is no such thing as New Testament Christianity divorced from the rest of God's law. The 90 day Bible challenge really helps put this in perspective. The first 68 days are spent reading the Old Testament and the last 20 days the New Testament. That's right, 77% of the Bible is Old Testament! When we neglect it, we're neglecting the majority of God's revelation to us! Amazing, isn't it?
This realization about the feasts might seem like a small matter, but it's meant so much to me. I like symmetry and order. This messy business about sacrifices and this series of holidays that were so important in the Old Testament and then discontinued in the time of the early church always troubled me. It all makes sense now. It's not that God had a plan A that didn't work out so then He instituted plan B. Christ was always the plan for our redemption. The substance is of Christ, the feasts were like shadows reflecting His substance. I love that God is a God of symmetry and order. Christ is everywhere in the Old Testament- it all points to Him and it all finds its consummation in Him.
The feasts and holy days were like a road map that led to Christ. The early Christians were Jews and they followed that map. Somewhere along the way, the church abandoned its Hebrew roots and I've so enjoyed rediscovering them. The books Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin R. Wilson, A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson, and Listening to the Language of the Bible: Hearing it through Jesus' Ears by Lois Tverberg and Bruce Okkema are several books that have helped me recover some of these Hebrew roots.
Remember this Easter as you're celebrating in church that Christ in His resurrection became our firstfruits offering so that we could be accepted by God. To God be the glory!
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.