26 The Lord is giving you the land, and soon you will conquer it, settle down, 2 and plant crops. And when you begin harvesting each of your crops, the very first things you pick must be put in a basket. Take them to the place where the Lord your God chooses to be worshiped, 3 and tell the priest, Long ago the Lord our God promised our ancestors that he would give us this land. And today, I thank him for keeping his promise and giving me a share of the land.
4 The priest will take the basket and set it in front of the Lords altar. 5 Then, standing there in front of the place of worship, you must pray:
My ancestor was homeless, an Aramean
who went to live in Egypt. There were only a few in his family
then, but they became great and powerful, a nation of many people.
6 The Egyptians were cruel and had no pity on us.
They mistreated our people and forced us into slavery.7 We called out for help to you, the Lord God of our ancestors. You heard our cries; you knew we were in trouble and abused. 8 Then you terrified the Egyptians with your mighty miracles and rescued us from Egypt.9 You brought us here and gave us this land
rich with milk and honey. 10 Now, Lord, I bring to you the best of the crops that you have given me. After you say these things, place the basket in front of the Lords altar and bow down to worship him.
11 Then you and your family must celebrate by eating a meal at the place of worship to thank the Lord your God for giving you such a good harvest. And remember to invite the Levites and the foreigners who live in your town.
As we listen to this passage we are reminded, as indeed the Jewish people were reminded each time these words were read out, of just how much of a debt they owed to their heavenly Father. How they were rescued from a life of slavery in Egypt and guided through those difficult wilderness years into the promised land. If we read the whole story of those hard times, then we find that the people of God werent always as faithful to their God as He was to them, and there were many times when they were tempted to follow other gods, as man today is also tempted when times are hard, or when spiritual help is not visibly available from the Christian church in their neighborhood, to follow after false doctrines or prophets.
But however often the people of God rejected Him, God never took his eyes off them, and eventually they turned back to Him and crossed the Red Sea into the promised land.
Now, in order that they might never forget that moment, a law is delivered to them. They are to take some of the first fruits of the harvest and offer it as a thank offering in the temple. This offering became the festival of Tabernacles or Booths, a celebration which included camping out in gardens and on roof-tops in tents or huts made out of branches. These tents (or tabernacles) were a reminder of those days spent living in tents in the desert.
The festival included a ceremony in which water was poured out and prayers made for good rains for the coming season. It was at this festival that Jesus stood up and declared Whoever is thirsty should come to me and drink. As the scripture says Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will pour out from his heart. Jesus knew how to drive a message home by making it relevant to the moment.
After the instructions regarding the giving which are spelt out in Deuteronomy, there follows almost a hymn of thanksgiving, confession and dedication, spelling out a summary of all that the people of Israel had been through - followed by words of assurance
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.
Lets look at this passage then in the light of our own worship, the reasons why we are here in this place today, singing hymns, saying prayers. Is it not an absolute truth that if we forget just how much we owe to our heavenly Father, how thankful we are that he has placed us in this wonderful country. How thankful we are that he loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. How thankful we are that we can know his peace and his love in our lives, then if we lose any sense of why we are doing what were doing here, then our worship loses its life and vitality.
We need constantly to remind ourselves of all that God has done for us in our lives, both individually and as a congregation. And yes, we need to give as a token of our gratitude. The passage makes no mention of tithing or giving a tenth, but simply infers that the giving should be in proportion to that which has been given by God. And we are given the reassurance that a grateful giver will be blessed in the giving.
© John Birch Top of Page