First Fruits

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

“​1 When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, 5 you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7 we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. 11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.”  NRSV

The Israelites have arrived at the banks of the River Jordan. On the other shore is the long awaited promised land. This reading is part of Moses rehearsing all the laws the people must live by as they prepare take possession of the land.

Moses is reminding the people that the “first fruits” belong to God. This is the “tithe” and is defined in multiple places as one-tenth of a person’s harvest, flocks and herds.

Moses is also making it clear that is its much more than an offering. It is a time for remembering where the people came from and how it was God who brought them to promised land with its great abundance (“a land flowing with milk and honey”). Moses framed the offering in the larger story of Israel’s historic journey to the banks of the Jordan. God’s gracious hand in their deliverance had to be acknowledged and rehearsed in this act of thanksgiving.

The Offering Meditation during Sunday morning worship has its roots here. We must always frame the giving of our own “first fruits” to God in the larger story to acknowledge God’s gracious hand of deliverance at work in our lives, too!

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