We have been pondering the discussion between God and Moses at the giving of the second set of the tablets of the law after the incident with the golden calf.
There is an old legend (which cannot be backed up with scripture, but is purely a concept from the discussions of the Talmud) that speaks of the first broken pieces of the tablets of law being put inside the ark along with the new whole all-together set of commandments that God gave to Moses. One represents the brokenness of mankind. One represents the perfection of God. This comparison is a figurative analogy of the human heart in relation to God. When we break the commandments; we break the heart of God. Only God can make everything whole again. Only God can bring all the pieces back together that we have torn apart. The new whole tablets covering the broken pieces would represent what God can do for us and how He heals our lives and makes them whole again.
It is said that even when we are made whole again, often the little fragments of brokenness are still there to remind us of how important it is to always obey God. The broken pieces stand for how mankind would wind up controlling the world where we live. Eventually, we always break things. We are never capable of perfection. The whole testaments picture evidence of the fact that no matter how impossible things may be; that God can always repair us and make us right and whole again.
I love this comparison; even though it is probably not at all a true fact. It still gives us the relevant story of redemption and it tends to paint an interesting picture for us to ponder about the realities of humanity and the reality of God.
As we move on to the TRUE story from the scriptures today we are in the place where God was actually in the detailed process of setting up His covenant with His people through Moses.
NO IDOLS; NO PAGANISM
We have already discussed at length that God did not want idols or pagan practices associated with his people in any way, shape, form or fashion.
After the incident with the golden calf; I’m sure God wanted to spell this out very plain and clear.
There should be no more idol worship among God’s chosen people!
That was the first thing that God emphasized in the covenant with Moses.
First mentioned things are often most important things.
God went into great detail with his message and was very specific.
KEEP THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
The second thing mentioned in this serious conversation with God (which was also very specific) was the command to keep the annual festival called Unleavened Bread.
These specifics were all a part of the covenant that the people were making with God.
Most references to the ten commandments do not specifically say “Thou shalt keep the days of Unleavened Bread,” but God WAS saying directly to Moses that He desired for His people to do this.
The ten commandments state that God’s people are to observe the Sabbath (which we will discuss in more detail again in a later lesson,) but God’s Holy Days are also considered to be “Sabbaths.” Many people tend to forget these facts. The commandment to keep Sabbath includes the keeping of God’s Holy Days. The Holy Days are extra Sabbaths which are set apart to commemorate specific things of God.
Three of the annual Holy Days of God are High Sabbaths, more specifically; Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. The people were always to come before God annually and commemorate and remember these holy days. On these three High Sabbaths the males of each family were to appear before God with an offering of the family’s first-fruits.
The first time this reference to the Holy Days of God being brought up during the time of the giving of the law was in this particular passage of Exodus. It was brought up that the people should keep the festival of Unleavened Bread. In this festival observing process they would always remember how God had brought them out of Egypt. Part of these seven days of coming before God to celebrate Unleavened Bread is during the time of the Passover where we remember that the people were delivered by mighty miracles performed by The One True God of the Universe.
Welcome to our ongoing, chronological, on-line, bible study which is conducted from this blog every Thursday in the section we call COME AS A CHILD.
If you missed the lesson from last week; you may find it here: https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/unleavened-bread/ Last week’s lesson dealt specifically with the commandment to keep Unleavened Bread. Today we will discuss the next things that God mentioned to Moses in the re-giving and the making of His covenant with the people.
THE PRACTICE KNOWN AS FIRST-FRUITS OFFERINGS
Next we notice how the Israelites were commanded by God to give portions back to God from all the things that He had blessed them with.
This commandment was not established and proclaimed because God needed any of mankind’s offerings. God does not really need any of these things. The practice of frist-fruits offerings is simply a way that God gave us to show our love and worship for Him as our great God and Provider. This act requires faith and it publicly acknowledges that God is our provider. It is a specific acknowledgement that proclaims we know from where our blessings originated; and a message and worshipful physical action that allows us to be able to say we are grateful for all of them.
Our scripture reference for this concept can be found in Exodus Chapter 34; verses 19 – 20; 19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
What exactly does this passage mean?
What did it mean then; and how does it apply to us today?
Why do you think God commanded this specific thing; that all the first-born should be redeemed, and that no one was to appear before God empty-handed?
IS THIS ONLY AN ANCIENT SYSTEM OF TITHING?
On first glance; one might think that God was simply referring to a tithing system.
Before the people of God were held captive in Egypt for years and years; God’s people all had observed a system of giving God a tenth. We see this in the story in the scriptures of the offering of Abraham to Melchizedek after his victorious battle with the kings. We even see this in the examples of Cain and Abel when they brought their offerings before God at the very beginning of all things. We see God was specific then; and God doesn’t change. We know there WAS an ancient tithing system that had been passed down through generation after generation straight from the days of Adam and Eve. It was often referred to by the ancients as “first fruits.”
This system was a process of offering God the first of your blessings and the best of your blessings.
This system that was a sort of tithing applied to everything that anyone owned; your children, your home, your marriage, your family, your substance, your labor; everything that God had blessed you with; you always offered the best of the first portion of it back to God in the form of an offering.
Whenever you received a new blessing the first tenth of that blessing always belonged to God.
You took the best portion of your blessing and had the priest to hold it up to God as an offering. This was especially true of farmers and their agricultural crops. The first and best of every harvest was traditionally offered up to God.
FIRST FRUITS OF THE CROPS
No one ate of the new crops until that first-fruits offering was made to God as the provider of all harvests.
FIRST FRUITS OF THE CHILDREN
The first-born son was always dedicated to God.
He was set aside to serve God for his family.
He was taught to keep his life holy and proper before God.
The first son had certain legal rights because of this. Being the first-born son was considered a blessing, but it was a blessing that carried heavy responsibility. Legally, the first-born son was the next in charge after the Father of the family. His inheritance was greater; but he had many family members under his roof that he had to look after too. He was groomed and trained to be most responsible and dependable and godly in all of his ways.
Eventually, the whole welfare of the continuing family line depended on the first-born son’s set-apart state to officiate over the family affairs after the family father passed away. The first-born son had a very important responsibility to the whole family; but even more important; he had a high degree of responsibility before God.
FIRST FRUITS OF THE FLOCKS AND HERDS
When animals were owned; the first-born of each herd or flock was offered as a sacrifice to God.
Nothing from the herd or flock was ever used for food or labor until that first-born male animal from the herd or flock was offered up to God.
HISTORY PROVES THIS ANCIENT SYSTEM OF FIRST FRUITS
This concept of on-going first fruits offerings gets very specific and interesting in the studies of Cain and Able, then later with Jacob and Esau.
In both stories mentioned, the first-born sons had the responsibility to come before God in the proper way and failed. Cain murdered his brother in jealousy and worshiped his own desires above God. Both men (Cain and Esau) only worried about the satisfaction of the physical bodies instead of developing spiritual righteousness and accountability to God. Cain and Esau both shirked their responsibilities to their families, and both men married foreign women who worshiped false idols. Esau was wasteful and a slacker; and so was Cain.
A better way had to come down the line, or mankind was doomed.
The better way was Christ offering Himself up as our first-born offering before God.
GOD’S FIRST-BORN SON CHANGED EVERYTHING
The first-born son who was performing properly, always assured redemption for their family members.
The first-born son not acting in a godly manner and the proper ways of God always meant trouble for the whole family.
We can see a good example of this in the story of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz was a good kinsman redeemer; a shadow of what Christ would be for us in the future.
We can also see a bad example of the same concept in the story of Joseph and his cruel older brothers.
To this day devout Jewish people always redeem their first-born sons.
THINKING ABOUT BIRTH AND THE FIRST-BORN PROCESS TOWARD LIFE
It is interesting to me that we come to this part of the study right after Christmas.
I long ago discovered that Christ was CONCEIVED on December 25th; making his birth around the time that we all gather for The Feast of Tabernacles in the Fall of the year. So; during the time when most of the world is celebrating the BIRTH of Christ; I am celebrating his CONCEPTION. Nine months later I celebrate his birth during our celebration of The Feast of Tabernacles.
In our walk of new birth as a Christian, the time of the conception can be looked upon as a time of growing and transforming inside the womb of God’s Kingdom. A small seed is planted inside one’s heart that leads them down the path toward belief in the Messiah. As we mature as Christian believers; we mature very similar to a baby in the womb; it is a process. It takes a physical baby in the womb nine months of transformations to get to the good state of being ready to be “born again.”
When you think about the physical aspects of actually being “born” you realize that first you are “born” into your mother’s womb. God allows a seed to be planted, and He begins to form and shape it into a person. He has prepared a soul and a spirit that is there first; even before any transformation begins to take place. That soul or spirit that God places inside the mother’s womb at conception is the “being” or “life” that God “knew” before birth.
God “knew” all of us before we were ever born. We were with Him in spirit before our physical birth, when He first created us and he plants us inside our Mother’s womb with the life He has given to us.
It was He that placed the seed of our father that was put inside our mother’s womb which eventually grows into a physical and spiritual person. So, in so many strange words, you are born into your mother’s womb; then you are “born again” into the world as a child of God. It is birth and re-birth; or being born and being born-again. The spirit of God living inside us from the beginning helps us to find God again through a million little processes.
THE HOLY DAYS OF GOD FOLLOW THE SAME PATTERNS OF BIRTH AND RE-BIRTH
If you think about your life with God during the course of a year of following His Holy Days; you begin to see this same pattern of being born and re-born.
You come to God as you begin following the Holy Days He has given. You are needing transformation and growth. Through prayer and meditation on God’s Word and fasting and worship and repentance and turning and deciding to go God’s way instead of man’s way you are able to come closer to The Spirit of God as the spiritual year progresses.
You start out at Passover in the spring time by leaving the world and coming closer to God through the redemption of Christ who takes away all our sins and allows us to stand before God. That is just the first step of a long process. Unleavened Bread and Passover are the first Holy Days of the year. Basically these days bring us all out of Egypt and closer to God, or out of sin and closer to Christ.
We are like little babies that have just passed conception which have only begun to grow inside their mother’s womb.
Then the rest of the transformation begins.
Pentecost comes along and the first-fruit harvest is waved before God and offered up as a first-fruit offering.
Because of the miracle of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ after his suffering for our sins, we have already come clean and have been made new creatures of God by the blood of Christ covering us and now the Spirit of God is living within us, because Christ has made it possible.
At Pentecost God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence inside our cleaned-up bodies and souls and we come before God in worship bringing our first and our best of all of our blessings back to God.
We begin to learn the commandments and how to follow God’s ways; and we learn to offer the first and the best of all that comes from God back to him in thanksgiving.
LIVING OUT GOD’S DESTINY FOR OUR DAYS
God always gets His offering back from what He has made us to be. He planned this all along, even before we are able to fulfill or carry out our purpose, or before we ever even knew we had a purpose.
Until we fall before His feet in utter dependency; we are not ready to start growing. When this DOES happen though; we step into our destiny before God.
Everyone has a destiny.
Everyone has a reason for being.
God does not make mistakes.
There is quite a growing process that takes place before a person can move into God’s design for their life. It is happening all the time, unseen and unknown, like a seed planted far underneath the ground that is growing and growing down beneath the blanket of earth that is covered with the cold winter snow. In the unseen growing process; the baby Christian is nurtured and prepared for what is to come later. Every day new transformations and growth are taking place.
THE OFFERING OF THE FIRST BORN TO GOD
I could go on and on about this growing process and how God’s seasons and times and holy days walk us through their shadows and teach us things about our destiny; but my point today is that the first fruits, the firstborn sons, or the first-born animals, or the first of the harvest; must always be offered before God.
Do you remember how Pharaoh refused to let the people go until God took the first-born sons of the people of Pharaoh?
These innocents didn’t die because God was a mean and unmerciful God. God never planned for them to suffer; He offered many alternatives to that before it happened. If Pharoah had only turned so much would have been different.
God gave Pharaoh every opportunity to turn and repent and let the people go. These first-born innocent children died because of the sins of their ruler and their fathers who would not repent and worship The ONE True God.
God will not let generations of paganism and spiritual adultery go unpunished. It has to end somewhere. Pharaoh was living in one of those times for ending paganism and false worship. If he had only turned so much heart-ache and sadness could have been avoided. Everyone could have existed in peace and harmony. Sometimes horrible things happen for a reason. That is never evident when the process is taking place. Sometimes it takes generations passing to be able to understand as you look back.
THE FIRST-BORN SONS INHERITED THE LAND
So God uses the first fruits of the people that were offered up to Him in the proper manner to prosper and grow His Eternal Kingdom.
The first-born sons of the Israelites were actually the ones who were able to cross over to the promised-land. Their parents sinned with the golden calf, and they never made it to the land flowing with milk and honey. Their children who had been properly redeemed were able to cross over into the promises of God.
We often see a type of this process today in the blessing of the children that is held in various congregations of worship across our land. The children’s souls are being offered back to God by their parents until they reach the age of accountability. It is like a prayer for God to lead them and guide them through life and to use their destinies for His kingdom’s good.
WHEN THE WOMB IS OPENED A SON IS BORN
So it is that the birth comes after the conception.
The Hebrew word for “firstborn” means “the opener of the womb.”
This means it is the mother’s first baby. If it is a male, it is required to be redeemed before God.
The Jewish people call this rite of passage a “pidyon haben” which means “redemption ceremony.”
It takes place even if the FATHER has other older children. If a daughter is born first, then there is no redemption required for any subsequent male (because the womb had already been opened.)
This has to be a mother’s “firstborn” male child.
If the mother’s first pregnancy ended in still birth; there is no need for a pidyon haben for the next child (the womb has already been opened.) If she miscarried in the first forty days of gestation; and another male child is born later; there would need to be a pidyon haben for this child. (Because the womb would not be opened by the miscarriage at that point.) If she miscarried after the first forty days a rabbi would have to be consulted to determine whether or not the next male child born was “the opener of the womb.”
There is really a lot to consider about the first-born son!
The list goes on to say that if the first-born child (even if male) is delivered by cesarean section; no pidyon haben is held (because the womb is not opened by the child being born), either for this child or the next child born naturally; because it is only held for the “first-born son who opens the womb of the mother.”
In the case of first-born twin boys; only the first-born child can be redeemed.
Most people thinking of twins remember the story of Jacob and Tamar. Her twins were breach and the midwife tied the scarlet thread on one’s hand as the birth was taking place. It mattered very much who came out first – or WHO opened the womb. In the case of two male twins – the first would be the first-born son. It would be the father’s place to redeem him – indicating Jacob’s guilt in being the father who was passing judgment on the woman for being pregnant out-of-wedlock. This first-born son provoked the recorded confession of the famous patriarch.
Though it is the fact that mother’s womb was opened with this first-born son that causes the redemption to be necessary; it is the responsibility of the father to redeem the child before God.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REDEMPTION TO GOD
Why would all of this come up in the middle of God’s covenant with Israel as proclaimed to Moses?
Because; (obviously) redemption is a very important issue with God.
It carries the same importance for our souls today.
Each soul that enters the Kingdom of God must be redeemed.
We learn this very important fact from the scriptures written down in Ephesians 4:30 which says “Do not grieve The Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Psalm 107 reveals these things and spells them out again. Verse 2 says: “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.”
Praise God, this is you and this is me!
if we have repented and turned to Jesus to redeem us from our sins; we are saved.
We have a Father in heaven that loves us who has our back, who protects us from our enemies. He gave his only begotten son that we could enjoy this salvation.
The end of this Psalm (which I highly suggest everyone read and meditate upon today) says: “Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the LORD.” (verse 42).
It is important to remember to give of our first and best to the LORD.
Whenever we do this; we are promised a Psalm 107 kind of life!
What more could one ask?
I love this part of the promises of God to his people through Moses. Next time we will continue with more of the same conversation.