|Messages By Ovid Need|
Rejoice in the Lord Enjoy life Ex. 22:29, 30
The message this morning was not at all what I had planned. I had planned to go back to Matthew ch. 2, but while working in Exodus 22:29, 30, this was heavy on my heart.
Something of which this command in Exodus 22 reminds me is that it is easy to promise to give the Lord something which we do not have and is based upon His promise.
Example: God promised to bless Israel abundantly when they got into the land. They were commanded to give the first and the best, as well as ten percent of all the increase, to the Lord. It was easy for them to say, "Great, we'll gladly do than." But when the Lord fulfilled His promise, and blessed them abundantly, they had second thoughts.
The same goes for the sabbath of the land and for the people. When they were in the wilderness, the promise was easy to make. When they got into the land, the promise was extremely difficult to keep.
We, as God's people, have the same difficulty. When we read or hear of a requirement of the Lord, we say, "No problem." But when the time comes to fulfill the conditions of that promised blessing, then there is a problem.
The last two Sundays we covered the responsibility to tithe. We mentioned the necessity of the Lord's portion of our income: 10% of the gross before taxes or anything else. This was off the increase of our labour.
Then, quite regularly, we hear of another requirement placed upon the income of the individual; remember the poor. This is covered extensively in the NT. Our love for God will be revealed by our attitude in the tithe and toward the poor, the needy and those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
Do we remember them in our prosperity? One of the reasons that the Lord prosperous us is so we can help those who need it and are worthy of help.
But this required offering of the firstfruits, which we want to look at today, also shows our love for the Lord. It is quite unusual. I think I have heard it referred to once in passing by a preacher many years ago. I referred to it here a few weeks ago, but in this message I would like to develop it a little.
Some in here today might say, "Oh no, here we go again. By the time the preacher gets done preaching about money, I won't have any left for myself." (And I would remind us all that our money is not ours, any more than is our life.)
You will like this message.
Christians today have the mistaken idea that the Lord is some kind of sadist who derives pleasure from seeing people suffer; the more suffering and doing without, the more pleased He is. The principle contained in this offering tells us quite the opposite.
As we have said, there was the required offering of the 10% of the gross income to the Lord, there was the required offering for the poor, needy and the Levite; both offerings showed the people's love for the Lord.
But this third required offering was of the firstfruits, and it is referred to several times in the law of Moses. In fact, it may be referred to more times than is the tithe off the increase.
The first time this offering is mentioned is in Exodus 22:29, 30. We see it again in Deuteronomy 18:4, The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him. It sounds like it belongs to the Levite.
When one traces this offering through the Books of Moses, it does seem confusing. We do not pretend to be able to sort it all out, but we can arrive at a general principle. As we look at the passages, we find that a small portion went to the Lord. Also the offerer was required to share this offering with the Levite, the stranger and the needy among the people. But the major portion went to the persons making the offering.
(Some of the passages dealing with the offering of the firstfruit: Ex. 22:29, 30; 23:19; Lev. 2:12-16; Num. 18:12-19.)
Deut. 15:19 sq.
Deut 16:9-15, talks about the feast of pentecost, an offering which was determined by the amount of blessing which the Lord had given His people. The principle was rejoicing before the Lord for His goodness.
Deut 18:4; Deut 26:1-15, gives the ceremony which goes with this offering.
Even the Levitie had to offer this offering, but his ability to make this offering was dependant upon the faithfulness of the people in their giving. If they were not faithful, then he would not have the wherewithal to give this offering.
When we compare Deut. 12:7-10, with Hebrews 4:1-11, we see a basic principle of this offering speaks of the rest which is found in Christ. We have ceased from our own efforts in our daily lives, and we now rest in Him, Heb. 4:10.
In other words, we have resigned to doing things God's way, according to His divine revelation, and we are now leaving the results up to Him.
Let's look at a few things about this offering.
1. It was required, thou shalt not delay, Exodus 23:29 (Deut. 26:2).
2. It was considered part of the tithe, therefore as much required as the tithe, but it was in addition to the tenth, Deuteronomy 14:23.
3. A portion was to be burned for an offering unto the LORD, Leviticus 2:16.
4. It was a time of rejoicing and was given to the offerer for him to enjoy. He was to eat it himself, sharing it with the Levite and stranger, Deuteronomy 26:11 (Num. 18:12).
5. This offering of the firstfruits was unusual in that it was set aside for the use of the individual. It was for whatever his heart lusted after, longed for, or enjoyed. It could be turned into money to be spent for whatever pleased the individual as long as it was not sinful, Deut. 12:15, 20-22.
6. There were only 4 restrictions upon the use of this offering: the place had to be pleasing to the Lord, the Lord was to receive His portion, the Levite was to be included, and the blood could not be eaten, which was in contrast to the pagan's practice of offering the first to their gods, vs. 1-4.
7. Even though it was for the enjoyment and benefit of the offerer, it had to be used within the confines of the requirements of the Lord.
8. It was to be done as a reminder of the goodness and grace of God in His redemption and prospering of His people, Deuteronomy 26:2-11.
9. The first portion represents the best and the whole. And the first portion of this first portion was given tothe Lord. There was no set amount required; rather, the requirement was that it be given with a thankful heart. The amount given was determined by the thankfulness of the individual.
Thus, we see that this offering spoke of these things:
Rest in the Lord. Not only rest in redemption, but primarily rest by doing things according to His divine revelation and depending upon Him to bless and prosper that activity as He sees fit.
Rejoicing in the Lord, and His goodness to His own.
Taking a break from everyday activity, vacations.
Doing all things to the glory of God. Even this vacation was for His glory and in obedience to His command.
A basic requirement of this offering was rest in the Lord and rejoicing in that rest. God requires that man enjoy the fruit of his own effort, with a thankful heart to the Lord and a willingness to share with others, Ecclesiastes 3: 12, 13, 22. Note that the working individual is to enjoy the fruit of his labor, not someone else as in Socialism.
But that rejoicing and enjoyment must be according to the principles of His word. God tells us to rejoice and enjoy the fruit of our labour, but it must be done in a way that brings glory to Him.
The hard working person is to set aside the very first for the Lord in tithes and offerings. Then he is to set aside a portion for his own enjoyment, maybe a vacation or pursing a hobby; something he enjoys doing. Debt prohibits this. When a person is in debt, his first responsibility is to the one he is debtor to.
We have only looked at one small aspect of this offering of the firstfruits. This is presently all for which we have time.
As we read the NT passages on joy, they primarily speak of joy in trials, tribulation and hardships, but we are to rejoice in all things, Ph 4:4, 5.
Is this rejoicing which is required of God's people restricted to just an inner attitude? We cannot say that without destroying the unity of Scriptures and making void the law.
Therefore, it is obvious that the NT requirement to rejoice includes a reference to the OT rejoicing tithe. As God's people follow His principles of life in every area, especially with their finances, and the if Lord sees fit to prosper them, they are required to use that prosperity in rejoicing before the Lord.
1 Tim 6:17-19, the Lord gives all good things for man to enjoy. He enjoys seeing His people enjoy life, all, of course, within 1 Cor. 10:31.
We see in this required offering that if the Lord has prospered His people as they have obeyed His word, they are to set aside funds for their enjoyment: a trip to Florida and Disney World, a trip to Europe, a hunting trip, a trip to Kentucky.
Anything that the heart desires, as long as it does not violate His word and hinder their walk with Him.
If God has prospered you, and you have been faithful in returning His portion to Him, then you are also required to do something you enjoy.
7. Furthermore, this offering represented redemption. It spoke of the firstborn of the Egyptians which was slain, and the firstborn of Israel which was spared by God's grace, Exodus 13:11-16. The first-born of man (sons) and beast was to be given to God on the eighth day, Exodus 22:29, 30.
8. The law allowed for the firstborn to be redeemed at times. Any unclean beasts (such as an ass) was to be killed, or a clean animal substituted for it or could be bought back with a 20% added value, Exodus 34:20; Numbers 18:15-17.
Leviticus 27:26, refers to the firstborn. This chapter is dealing with making a vow (which was not required of God's people) and setting something apart for the Lord. (Mk. 7:11.) Maybe a person was pleading for something from the Lord, and said; "Lord, if you will bring this to pass, I will give you thus and such." The thing vowed to the Lord could be bought back from the Lord for the estimated value (the priest shall estimate it), plus twenty percent. Anything could be vowed to the Lord except what already was His, v. 26-33. In other words, a person could not vow to pay his tithe, because that already belonged to the Lord. He could not vow to give a firstborn animal to the Lord because it already belonged to the Lord.
But an animal which might be claimed by the Lord (the tenth under the rod, v. 33) could be bought back with 20% increase. Moreover, the tithe which consisted of an animal could be redeemed by adding twenty percent to its value. The example given in v. 32, is when counting a flock or herd, every tenth animal belonged to the Lord. Suppose this tenth was good breeding stock. It could be redeemed, bought back by adding twenty percent to its value.
If the vow consisted of an unclean animal, there were three things that could be done. The one who vowed it could buy it back for the value estimated by the priest, plus twenty percent. It could be given and the priest could sell it for his estimated value. Otherwise, it was to be killed, v. 27.
Note these two things. All trade in buying and selling was according to the shekel of the sanctuary, Led 27:3. Weights and measures were a function of the religious leaders. Second, the priest established the value of the thing vowed. It was not the open market which established value, but the man of God according to the word of God. Value of property is a religious function, as is every thing else. Because the priest had no inheritance, there would be no need for him to manipulate the prices and values of property (unlike the bankers of our day).
Another important point here in Led. 27. V. 8, allows the priest to change the value downward. This shows us that the Lord is more interested in the spirit of the law than in its letter.
The devoted thing of v. 28, would be something placed under a ban. This would be something used by the ungodly in their rebellion against God, and service to idols, Deuteronomy 13:13 sqq. These things could not be redeemed.
7. The Levities were taken in place of the firstborn of Israel, Numbers 3:12, 13. The Levities were the substitute for the rest of Israel. Thus, the first-born spoke of the redemption of His people out of bondage, through the death of the firstborn of Egypt. Because He spared the first-born of His people, God laid claim on all the first-born, Exodus 13:2, 12. Circumcision on the eighth day also spoke of this claim, Genesis 17:12.
Christ is the firstborn, the firstfruit for the whole of God's people, 1 Corinthians 15:23. Christ, as the firstfruits of the redeemed, is a reminder that it is all of God. Christ, as the firstborn, is the substitute for the redeemed. Christ raises up the dead in Christ, and they all belong to Him. But this would not change one of the principle contained in this giving of the first-fruits to the Lord; the principle of remembering the goodness of God toward His people.
When the first is given to God it is the admission that He gave the power to gain wealth and that He owns all. It admits that He provided everything by His grace and mercy, therefore, it all belongs to Him. This is reflected throughout the 5 Books of Moses. To fail to give the firstfruits was to forget God and His goodness to His people.
Exodus 23:19, The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Notice that this is followed immediately with Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk. This second part would come under honor thy father and mother, but it is placed here with good reasons.
First, God's word leaves nothing to the imagination of man. Everything is important to Him. Second, He is the Father of Lights from whom all good things come, James 1:17. Therefore, He has the right to tell man how to use these good things. The first-fruit offering shows that He is honoured as the Provider of all good things, Proverbs 8:9.
Man has a problem remembering God when times are good. This offering of the first-fruit would be another reminder that the Lord alone gives the increase, and He is the cause for rejoicing, Deuteronomy 8 (17-20). When this is forgotten, there is a sure promise, ye shall surely perish. The pagans were destroyed out of the land before Israel for this very reason: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful... Failure to give to the Lord is one of the first areas where forgetting God shows up.
Exodus 22:31. The forgoing laws explained God's standard of holiness, as will the laws following. If the people wanted to be holy, they would have to follow God's standard of holiness. It is amazing how many times the command is presented for God's people to be holy even as He is holy. These laws present His holy standard. His command is to obtain to this standard to holiness. His spirit of Grace provides the power to obtain to this standard, and His mercy provides forgiveness when we fail. (1 Thes. 4:7; 1 Pet 1:15, 16; Ex. 19:6.)
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