Proverbs 3:5-10 (NIV) 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
I had never noticed that tucked into the famous “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” passage is the concept of first-fruits. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a famous passage of inspiration about how God wants to work in our lives, how God will guide our steps, and how He will help us succeed. At least that’s often the part we focus on. But we have a part to play here. Trusting Him with all of our heart involves more than a head decision or a feeling. It involves a lifestyle that is committed to the concepts found in the first-fruits offering that is outlined in the Old Testament. In other words, “first-fruits” is the way we live out our trust in the Lord. Is anyone ready to learn something this morning?
By exercising the components of first-fruits in our lives, we will ensure we aren’t leaning on our own understanding. We will make sure we aren’t wise in our own eyes. We will guarantee we aren’t following a path that leads to evil and destruction. So God doesn’t just tell us to trust in Him, but through the first-fruits concepts or components He tells us how to do so.
Turn to Deuteronomy 26:1-11 where we can gain a more specific understanding of what it means to live a “first fruits” life.
1 When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God.5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “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. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. 7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. 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 and your household.
First-fruits offerings dealt with the first part of any harvest. Not just the first part of the harvest, but the best of the first part! In a first-fruits offering, the worshiper would present God with the best of the first part of the harvest.
We see in this passage that Israel was told to give a first-fruits offering from the new land that God had brought them to. It represented a new beginning, a new opportunity, a fresh start. Proverbs 3:5-10 tells us the way to always be experiencing something new, the way for us to establish new opportunities and fresh starts in order to receive God’s blessing is tied to our faithfulness to live a first-fruits life.
First-fruits living enables us to RECEIVE our inheritance from the Lord. Deuteronomy 26:1-2 “When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce. . .”
One thing I know about God is He is a GIVER. Part of His nature or personality if you will is to be giving. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) He is the GIVER of strength and peace. (Psalm 29:11)The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. He gives us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4) Psalm 84:11 says, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” He gives encouragement and endurance. (Romans 15:5) He gives us “the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) He gives wisdom, James 1:5 and it says He gives it to us generously. He gives us hope. He gives us forgiveness. He gives us salvation. He has new mercies to give every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). In fact, if you are going to get a good and perfect gift, it is going to come directly from the hand of God (James 1:17).
First-fruits living tells us the way we receive and truly possess those good gifts is by offering them right back to the Lord in consecration to Him. Too many people wrongly assume that when God blesses them that what He gives is then theirs to enjoy without Him; that it is theirs to do with as they desire or see fit. We can only truly possess or use to its full what we surrender back to God. What we hold on to cannot increase because we can never hold more than we can contain and keep track of. But what we commit to God is stored in abundance through His safe keeping. It will be a constant and perpetual inheritance.
Have you ever thought about why land was given to the Israelites as an inheritance? Land is constantly reproducing, right? Land yields a perpetual harvest as long as the sower does His part. Part of possessing your perpetual inheritance involves honoring God with everything He gives you. God wants to continually lead you to possess more and more of Him and to have greater dominion over your earthly life as well. He can only honor you to the point that you honor Him with what He distributes to you.
First-fruits living is not only the way to open the doors to receiving all God has in store, but it is a daily RECOGNITION that everything we have belongs to God. In that recognition everything that flows into our lives and through our lives is consecrated back to Him. This ensures that we receive our full inheritance or that we receive every blessing God wants to give us. Remember Proverbs 3:9:10 “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” God wants His blessing to overflow in your life and it starts with giving the best of the first.
Let me go deeper.
If you want to live with all of God’s blessing, you must understand that even if you give the best of the first to the Lord, He still owns all the rest as well!
Try to wrap your mind around this. Giving a first-fruits offering of your money, your time, or your talent is just a representation of all of the rest that God has given to you. In other words, the first-fruit offering is part of the whole. When you give the best of the first to the Lord, Scripture tells us that the rest of our money, time, and talent also become “Holy to the Lord.” In other, other words, J the first-fruit offering sanctifies all of the rest that that offering came out of.
Let’s say you had 100 precious stones and hypothetically you were going to give a first-fruits offering from them. So you give 10 precious stones to the Lord. Those 10 are representative of the entire bag. If those are acceptable or pleasing to the Lord, then so will the other 90 be. The rest of what you have gets blessed because you gave the best of the first. Is anyone following me? So the 10 you gave get set apart for the Lord and are blessed, but when you did that, the other 90 got blessed, consecrated and set apart as well. What you do with the best of the first determines what will happen to the rest of all you possess!
Just because you give the 10 doesn’t mean that the other 90 are yours apart from the counsel or authority of God to use as you desire. But as you stay surrendered to God, you can expect Him to direct you to use the other 90 in a way that will cause you to experience His blessing and favor on that portion as well. We should never give with the idea that God gets the first and we get the rest. God gives it all. He gets it all! So first-fruits living is a way to practically give the best of the first to God while acknowledging through that symbolic gift that God owns it all.
The principle is illustrated in Numbers 15:17-21 17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land to which I am taking you 19 and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD.
20 Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor. 21 Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering to the LORD from the first of your ground meal.
The dough from the cake offering that was presented to God made the rest of the lump of dough holy as well. When sacrifices were still being made in the temple, the best of the first, the first-fruits offerings were given to the Levites, God’s servants (Numbers 18:12). When the temple was destroyed and the sacrificial system was no longer in place, the ladies of the house would take a handful of dough and throw it into the fire as a way to offer the first-fruits offering to the Lord so that the rest of their dough would also be blessed of God.
Paul commented on this idea in the New Testament. Listen to Romans 11:16 “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.”
You see this principle in Jeremiah 2:3 3 Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,'” declares the LORD. Israel had the honor of being separated or set apart unto God. His plan was never to save Israel alone, but that the Israelites would be a light to the Gentiles or everyone else who wasn’t a Jew (Isaiah 49:6). In other words, what was consecrated first to the Lord was to sanctify or bring about the sanctification of the rest of the nations.
You see what you do with the best of the first reveals if you recognize that the rest is also to be holy or set apart for God to direct and bless.
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart . . . Give Him the firstfruits of your wealth. OK, so first-fruits giving and living helps us receive our full inheritance and blessing and causes us to live with the recognition that God owns it all and gets it all as we give the best of the first to Him. What else can we learn about first-fruits living?
Living a first-fruits life enables us to live a life of REMEMBRANCE which leads to thanksgiving for all God has done and does.
Our passage in Deuteronomy 26 shows us that when the Israelites gave the first-fruits offering they would remember and talk about what God did for them. They had been slaves in Egypt. God delivered them with miraculous signs and wonders and led them into a land flowing with milk and honey. It wasn’t just that they opened their wallets to the Lord, but they opened their hearts in worship to Him as well.
Psalm 103:2 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…” By instituting a first-fruits offering God strategically gave them a practical way to remember that He was their Source. He was their Help. He was their Deliverer. Just like children often need to be reminded to say “thank you,” the first-fruits offering gave Israel an opportunity to remember to express their thanksgiving to God for what He had done.
When you place your 10% tithe into the offering plate, do you do it as an act of worship? Do you remember the times God brought you through? Do you remember that He has gotten you a job or He has supplied your need in another way? Do you remember that He has given you the skill to do something that enables you to earn a living? Do you remember the price He paid to forgive you of your sin? Is there a “thank you” from your lips as the check or cash leaves your hand? How thankful are we in general? Not just for material things but for our relationships, our health or the spiritual blessings God has poured out on us? Even if your health isn’t perfect, you are here this morning!
“There was a man who lived with his 6 children in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Just before school was to start all of his children were in need of new shoes. At the same time the washing machine wore out. To top it all off, because of bad weather, his work as a carpenter had dwindled to almost nothing.
He was able to scrap together enough money to buy the children shoes, but he ran an ad in the paper wanting to buy a used washing machine. One day the phone rang, and it was someone who had a used washing machine to sell. He went to the home and noticed they had all the things he wished for his family. After talking to the man of the house concerning the washing machine and how he would get it home, the conversation got around to children. Claude, the out of work carpenter, began complaining about how expensive it was to raise 6 children, especially when they all needed shoes at the same time. The woman of the house ran out of the room crying. Her husband explained that they had only one child who had been paralyzed from birth and he had never needed a pair of shoes.
When Claude got home, he picked up the worn-out shoes, worn out from skipping rope, kicking rocks, and jumping puddles, and he went off to be by himself. Kneeling by his bed he gave thanks to God for the worn-out shoes in his house. ”
You can always rejoice in something God has done for you or provided for you even if the situation isn’t exactly as you want it to be. Israel didn’t just have the Promised Land delivered to them on a silver platter. There was the little bit about 40 years of walking and wandering and wondering if they’d ever make it. There were the people who were occupying the land when they got there who didn’t just pack up and leave once Israel came on the scene. They had to exercise faith, courage and effort to take the Promised Land, but they realized as they gave that first-fruits offering that none of it would have been possible without the Lord’s help.
What I am and what I have today is all by the grace and gift of God. He created me, prepared me, called me, gifted me, and placed me exactly where I am. He is deserving of the best of the first of all that I have as a symbolic recognition that everything I have and am belongs to Him as well. Are you conscious of that same reality?
Often I will say to our children when we go out to eat or get to take a trip, “God has blessed us with this blessing. He has made this special time possible.” We enjoy Deuteronomy 26 :11 in our house. “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 and your household.” I believe that kind of gratitude and conscious recognition is a routine part of our lives because God, to the best of our ability, gets the best of the first of all we have. . . financially and otherwise. It ought to be a joy and pleasure to give to the Lord. If it isn’t we don’t have the correct perspective on God as supplier and on us as the stewards. If it is hard for us to tithe ten percent of our income or makes us bitter, resentful or angry, we don’t truly understand the concept of God as not only the Giver but Owner of it all. George Mueller said, “God judges what we give by what we keep.” Are you a first-fruits giver?
So Israel was able to receive their inheritance, recognize God owned it all, remember what God had done, and finally, the first-fruits offering gave Israel an opportunity to RESTATE their faith.
When Israel gave the best of the first to the Lord they were declaring by faith, “God will provide for us. There is more where this came from.” They were symbolically saying, “Lord, we offer you the first part of this harvest because we KNOW you are Lord of the Harvest and more is on its way.” They didn’t feel a need to hoard their resources, but surrendered their all to the Lord in recognition that they didn’t have to provide for themselves in the future, but that God would take care of them.
First-fruits offerings in the OT refer foremost to a person’s income or wealth, but the principle of giving the best to the Lord is laced throughout all of Scripture. God deserves our best when we come to worship. We should sing with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3). He is delighted to sit among people and manifest His presence among people who are giving Him their best in worship. Does that describe what you offered Him today?
We are to offer God our minds. We are to study and know and do the Word of God and be able to handle it correctly, II Timothy 2:15. We are to present our minds to the work of the Holy Spirit that they be transformed and renewed and focused on the will of God, Romans 12:1.
Our work is to be of the most excellent quality. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Don’t just do enough to get by. Do more than enough in order to please and honor the Lord.
We ought to be excellent in the way we serve the Lord by using our gifts and talents in the Body of Christ via this church. Think back over the last few months. Can you say you have presented your best to the Lord in His service? Romans 12:11 is one of my life verses. It says, “Never flag in zeal. Be aglow with the Spirit. Serve the Lord.” There ought to be a passion, an enthusiasm, a drive to want to serve the Lord whether it is teaching a class, mowing the church lawn, sending cards to tell people we care, visiting the sick, greeting people at the door, praying with people around the altar, picking up bulletins between services, making a meal, or setting up tables and picking up trash. We ought to do everything in our power to contribute to making the church and the ministries of the church the most excellent they can be.
Do you want to receive all God has planned for you? Be a first-fruits giver. Do you want to recognize God as the source and owner of everything He has given to you? Be a first-fruits giver. Will you take time to remember all God has done for you and thank Him? Be a first-fruits giver. Do you want to walk by faith and not by sight? Be a first-fruits giver.
Leftovers are such humble things,
We would not serve to a guest,
And yet we serve them to our Lord
Who deserve the very best.
We give to Him leftover time,
Stray minutes here and there.
Leftover cash we give to Him,
Such few coins as we can spare.
We give our youth unto the world,
To hatred, lust and strife;
Then in declining years we give
To him the remnant of our life.
Author Unknown.- http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/giving.htm
Let us pray.