First-fruits of birth
Jesus Christ fulfilled the law of Moses throughout his life. He said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law … but to fulfill [it]’ (Matthew 5:17). Under Mosaic law the Israelite worshipper was to give God the first-fruits of his fields: ‘And now, behold, I have brought the first-fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me’ (Deuteronomy 26:10). Only when the first corn reaped from a field had been offered to God was the worshipper permitted to use the rest of the crop for himself (Leviticus 23:14).
Similar was the obligation to offer to God the first male-child born into an Israelite family. This offering was an expression of the family’s consecration to God, a believing commemoration of that deliverance wrought for Israel’s first-born by the substitution of a passover lamb: ‘Sanctify unto me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast: it is mine’ (Exodus 13:2). It was obedience to this very stipulation which brought Mary with her first-born son, an eight-day-old infant called Jesus, into the temple at Jerusalem, led there by the Spirit as were Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:21-39). Later, Jesus in his death at Calvary was the true passover sacrifice, propitiating God’s wrath against the sins of all his chosen people (Matthew 1:21; 1 Corinthians 5:7).
First-fruits of life
Birthdays and harvests only continue because in the beginning God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed’ and ‘Let us make man in our own image’ (Genesis 1:11,26). Man may sow the seed and water the plant, but God gives the increase. Likewise, ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward’ (Psalm 127:3). All that man produces comes from the God of creation. The feast of first-fruits (Exodus 23:16) underlines the reality that God’s gift, life, is for God’s glory.
In the New Testament Jesus says, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matthew 6:33). Not to seek God’s righteousness, by looking to Christ alone for salvation and trusting in his merits, is to lose out on the promise of ‘all things being added’. This is why ‘basket and store’ are today under a divine curse in our land (Deuteronomy 28:17).
God has blessed the nation; he has ‘done good, given us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness’ (Acts 14:17). Yet the blessing has turned into a curse against those men and women who have not sought first the kingdom of God. They exist on unconsecrated ‘corn’, raise unconsecrated families and enjoy unconsecrated festivities. Instead of being ‘blessed in their bread’, they are ensnared in their possessions, whether of employment, food and shelter, money, television, cars, computers, mobile phones, or the privileges of home and family. All these have become idols, turning their hearts to mammon and away from the living God (Matthew 6:24). Let believers be careful to flee such idolatry, counting themselves stewards of God’s bounty and using it wisely for his glory.
First-fruits of resurrection
Adam’s descendants, dead in trespasses and sins, are another kind of harvest field. Yet by Christ’s perfect obedience, propitiatory death and resurrection, a glorious harvest of redeemed sinners has been won for God, ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). In Christ sinners are quickened from spiritual death and made free from condemnation. ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Redeemed sinners will one day follow Christ in his resurrection, ‘made like Christ, like Christ we’ll rise’.
First-fruits of glory
Jesus, enthroned in glory, presents himself to the Father and says, ‘And now, behold, I have brought the first-fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me’ (Deuteronomy 26:10); he says, ‘Behold I and the children which God hath given me’ (Hebrews 2:13). It is as though he says, ‘Not only am I, the first-fruits, here for your enjoyment, Father, but the rest of the harvest is still to come!’ And God says of that harvest, Christ’s elect people, ‘This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise'(Isaiah 43:21).