“Bring the best of your firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.” Exodus 23:19 (NIV)
Sometimes I think pastors confuse us. Not intentionally of course, but mixed messages can be sent from the pulpit.
“God wants your very best.” I know He does, but my best can’t be good enough.
“God understands your failings. He knows you’re not perfect.” Excellent! I’m in fine company because most times I feel more like a Peter who has heard the cock crow three times, than a Paul standing in front of kings giving a rousing evangelical speech!
“‘Be Holy as I am holy.’” That’s great! How?
“The title of my sermon today is, ‘Living perfectly in an imperfect world.’” Hmmm. Wish I could be perfect.
“We all struggle with sin in our lives.” Oh yeah – you hit THAT nail on the head.
If you’ve spent any considerable time in church you’ve heard the gamut of sermons that cover these and other subjects. You’re meant to be perfect; offer God your very best; but God knows you can’t. Part of me wants to cry out, ‘Then why bother?’
Nonetheless, there is hope for those less-than-perfect Christians, of which I am one. Tucked away in a book that most of us skip over because it’s almost as boring as Leviticus (no offense Moses!) is this little gem, “Bring the best of your firstfruits…”
How many of you have heard a sermon or a teaching on this at least once in your life? I have, and I felt I could never measure up because generally the speaker is either talking about money, or a spiritual/natural gift and I am not the most gifted person in the world, so when I can’t measure up, I quit trying because what’s the point? God isn’t going to accept it anyway because it doesn’t look like the best, or the brightest, or the biggest.
There are however hidden depths to this verse. Let’s not focus on the word ‘best’ but instead ‘firstfruits’. When farmers sowed seed and watered the soil they would watch carefully for those seeds that sprouted first. They would then ‘tag’ them with a piece of string or ribbon so that later when the crop was harvested they would know which ones came up first. The interesting thing about the firstfruits is they were seldom the biggest vegetable or fruit harvested. In fact quite often they were pitted from birds pecking at them, they were smaller than the rest, or they were sun scorched because there was insufficient shade to protect them. Fruits and vegetables that grew later in the harvest invariably looked better than these. If they were puppies, they’d be the runts of the litter! Yet, this is what God asked them to bring to the Annual Festival of the Harvest.
God does the same when it comes to people. Time and again we read in the Word how He took someone who looked as though they could achieve nothing, and used them mightily — Gideon, Peter, Paul, Esther, Ruth, even Mary and Joseph.
When Jesus chose His twelve disciples, He chose some of the most ragtag men. In fact he chose the detritus of society in one case, but they were His firstfruits. Perhaps you’ve felt you’ve done a less than stellar job in walking your Christian faith, however, if you’ve kept your heart faithful to Him, and sought “first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) then you’re offering Him your firstfruits, and that’s what He desires.
Perhaps life has thrown a few blows at you, you’ve been ‘burned’ by people, your life in comparison to others appears to be insignificant – none of that matters to the Lord as long as you offer yourself to Him first. He has ‘tagged’ you, you’re His, and He can use you no matter who you are.
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