April 13, 2008

Thinking about harvest

The Old Testament people of God practiced ceremonies that make little sense to us. For instance, before the grain harvest, they were to take some of the ripe grain and wave it before the Lord. In that ceremony, they were dedicating the entire crop to God and pledging that the fields were fully ripe and ready for the reaper’s sickle.

I grew up on a farm. When I was young, my father was not yet a Christian, but he had a good attitude about harvest. He believed that if he faithfully planted the seeds, God would make them grow. He also believed that no matter the yield, the family would have enough.

However, the only harvest ceremonies that I can remember were the rituals of testing the grain to make sure it was ripe enough and dry enough to harvest. If not, we waited, then tested it again. I also remember the sights and sounds of the grain as it was separated from the plants by the combine and flowed into the grain hopper. It went from there into the waiting truck box, then from the truck to the grain bins near our home.

The word “firstfruits” was never used on our farm, so when I saw it in the Bible, it was a new term for me, even though the idea or concept of firstfruits is thousands of years old. The wave offering presented by the Israelites seemed at first a gesture of thanksgiving and appreciation to God for what was to come. However, it was more than mere gesture. This ceremony was designed by God to point to a New Testament reality fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15 is about the risen Christ and how He conquered the grave so that those who believe in Him would also have victory over this last enemy, death. Verse 20 says, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

My devotional reading begins with this glorious thought: “Christ risen is the firstfruits of that mighty crop of buried dead whose remains still sleep in the silent dust, and who will be joined by successive ranks of those who die in Him, till all are together wakened up in the resurrection morn.”

The sheaf of the firstfruits which was waved before the Lord at harvest time is a figure or type of Christ. The wave sheaf represented the entire crop. By waving it, the whole crop was dedicated to the Lord. In the same way Christ is our representative. His offering is a dedication to His Father of that which is still not reaped, a great harvest of souls yet to be lifted from the earth.

When Christ rose from the dead and presented Himself before the Lord as the firstfruits, He represented that grand harvest not yet reaped. He presented Himself as the firstfruits of those who believe in Him, consecrating and dedicating us, the whole harvest. This is my assurance; all who sleep (die) in Him will rise from the dead at the last day. His wave offering is my future. I will be part of that harvest and experience resurrection also.

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