in which I reminded you of the words of Yahweh to the prophet Ezekiel:
"Thus says Yahweh-Elohim: I Myself will take a twig from the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it out; I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and will plant it upon a mountain high and exalted (Is.11.1,10; Jer.23:5; Zech.3:8; Is.52:2). On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and be a noble cedar; and under it shall dwell birds of every feather; in the shade of its branches they shall nestle and find rest. And all the trees of the field shall know - understand and realise - that I, Yahweh, have brought low the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree flourish. I, Yahweh, have spoken, and I will do it" (Ezek.17:22-24, Amp.V).
Authentic Fruits: Joshua and Caleb
Yom haBikkurim begins with a single sheaf of Barley which, one one level, represent the two faithful witnesses of Israel in the wilderness - the only two men of the original exodus who entered the Promised land, Joshua the Ephraimite and Caleb the Judahite. They were, as it were, the first fruits of Israel - the authentic Israel as opposed to the descendants of carnal Jacob who perished in the wilderness because of their idolatry and rebelliousness. Two men! This is how Yahweh works - He crops the best, He takes a portion from the lofty top of the cedar, reserving the tenderest twig which He plants high and exalts it while the world looks on and scorns it.
The Bikkurim Choice to Trust and Obey
When the first Yom haBikkurim was marked at the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea), Israel was exuberant. They had witnessed astonishing miracles. Yahweh had delivered them from the oppressor and taken them out of the Land of Oppression. He did this by His mighty hand. He did this in full view of the world so that everyone would know that Yahweh-Elohim is greatest amongst the elohim, even as Jethro the Midianite testified (Ex.18:10-11). And the people, what did they have to do? Nothing. Just make a choice - and to trust and obey.
A Pledge of Greater Things
The firstfruits are always set-apart or 'holy' to Yahweh, just like every firstborn son. They belong exclusively to Yahweh, just as the prophet Samuel did, whose record was unblemished. This Israel - this exodus of the sons and daughters of Jacob from Egyptian bondage - was to be a pledge of a greater harvest yet to come. This first experience of the nation of Yahweh's redemptive hand would set a precedent of many other rescues to come, and their purpose in existence - their purpose in being 'chosen' was not that they could boast that they were the "apple of Elohim's eye" but that Yahweh's goodness and provision could be displayed to the nations, to be a testimony of the wonderousness of our Heavenly Father, so that all the world might come to know the Elohim of Israel. Israel was therefore called to be the firstfruits of all the nations - the pledge of a greater harvest when Messiah would come.
Root and Branches Set Apart
Now salvation, as we have come to understand, is a strange and marvellous thing, because it is entirely bound up in the concept of 'grace' or the undeserved loving kindness of Yahweh. Only Joshua and Caleb were worthy to inherit the Promised Land but the remarkable things is that it was because of them that Israel even lived at all. Because of their constant wickedness the 'chosen people' merited the death penalty. They arose against Yahweh and His servant Moses again and again. And it was only because of the patience, long-suffering, love and intercession of Moses that Yahweh spared the people from their just fate, raising up a second generation to pluck up His banner and carry it honourably. Paul said:
"For if the firstfruit is set-apart (holy), the lump is also set-apart (holy); and if the root is set-apart (holy), so are the branches" (Rom.11:16, NKJV).
Joshua the Redeemer Figure
Because of righteous of Joshua - Moses' successor - the whole of Israel became 'righteous'. Because Joshua was truly set-apart, the whole of Israel became set-apart, as it had been under Moses. They didn't deserve to be set-apart but because of grace, the righteousness of one man was sufficient to cover the whole. Now how did Joshua become righteous? Was it because of his deeds? No, it was because he trusted. Now Joshua, you know, is a type of our Messiah. Even his name, Yahoshua, is the same as that of the Messiah, meaning 'Yah saves'. Paul says further:
"And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins'" (Rom.11:26-27, NKJV).
Coverings of the Redeemers
Joshua the Ephraimite endured his trials along with his spiritual brother Caleb, and is to be a kind of firstfruits in this the end-times. The Final Deliverer came out of Zion 2,000 years ago, and became the firstfruits of the resurrection, our Master Yah'shua the Messiah. This day is primarily in honour of Him! It is because He is the righteous firstfruits that we are covered, it is because we are clinging to Him that we become set-apart jurisdictionally because He is fully set-apart and consecrated to Yahweh. As Israel received her holiness-covering from Moses and then Joshua (and remember, that Israel was baptised into Moses - 1 Cor.10:2), so New Covenant Israel receives her holiness today - an eternal holiness or set-apartness - from Yah'shua our Deliverer from sin, our Moses and our eternal Elohim.
Firstfruit Guarantees of the Promises
But even before Moses the Levite and Joshua the Ephraimite and Caleb the Judahite, there were other firstfruits too - there were other patriarchs like Abraham who stood in the breach and were justified by their faith. In the time of Yah'shua the first converts, who had given themselves wholly to their Master and to His Gospel, were also firstfruits and they were also the guarantee and promise that Yahweh had not once and for all rejected His people but that He would provide for them a nation, even after the Romans scattered them yet again. That nation has still not been formed. It is still not in the Priomised Land but it is even today being gathered out of Egypt and even now is preparing for its long march back through the closing decades of this dispensation towards the final Sukkot and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. We, who have been called to be a firstfruits for the last generation, have a commission to spread the news of the work of the Cross. We have a calling and an appointed destiny. Every new convert is added to these firstfruits, every soul who trusts in Yah'shua and agrees to obey Torah is a sheaf to be presented to Yah'shua, our Cohen Gadol or High Priest. The apostle James said:
"Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures" (James 1:18, NKJV).
We, if we remain true and faithful, are tender twigs, barley sheaves, the firstfruits of the entire Creation after Yah'shua who is the Father's Firstfruits or Bikkurim. We, if we remain true, have the promise that the whole planet will be set free from its bondage, from its spiritual decay, from its dying, and will enter the liberty that the Children of Yahweh, the firstfruits.
A tender branch is very vulnerable, but Yahweh knows that and takes extra precautions to preserve it, like a good vinedresser. It does not matter, then, how weak we may be, or how few in number, because the Father has a special love for the firstfruits of His labour. We need to continue resting in that assurance, no matter how tender or vulnerable we may be or feel
Bikkurim and Water Immersion
Yahweh ordained that Yom haBikkurim should fall on the second day of Chag haMatazah and there is a reason for that. Firstfruits is an 'early' thing. It's the barley harvest. It's not the superior wheat harvest that comes at Shavu'ot and it is not the final grape harvest which comes at Sukkot. We have three harvests in our lives - barley-bread, wheat-bread and wine. And in a very real way the barley harvest is the most important one because without it the other two lose their meaning. If we do not become firstfruits to Yahweh - if we are not immersed into the Messiah by water baptism, which is what Yom haBikkurim also represents - and it primarily means spiritually baptised, for even spiritually dead people can be baptised in water - then what that means is that our firstfruits become consecrated to the flesh - to self - and therefore to Satan - so that anything that is added thereafter, which includes the wheat and the wine - even though it is dedicated to Yahweh - will, in fact, belong to the flesh and to Satan, because the firstfruits 'foundation' is not the Creator.
Little but Huge
The firstfruits is not some huge harvest. It is represented by a single sheaf. It is little, like the widow's mite (Luke 21:1-3). What she has was very little - two small copper coins or mites - but it was everything she had. When she was young I am quite sure she had given in the same manner even if her offering was smaller. It is what we do with the small things when we are little physically or spiritually that determines what we do with the bigger things when we are older. Our attitudes are revealed when we are young, and those attitudes will be shaped in us by our parents, peers and others whom we allow to have influence over our upbringing. Yahweh says:
"A generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand" (Isa.32:8, NKJV).
This generosity - this desire to be giving - is something placed in us by the Creator. It isn't something we have 'invented' ourselves. Unfortunately, those who seek glory for their generosity - those who seek recognition, accolades and praise for their generosity, kindness, niceness or goodness - are denying the source of that impulse and robbing Yahweh. To be generous is good - and certainly better than being mean - even if that generosity is 'selfish' - for self-glory. However, it will not gain you any credit in heaven. It will not store up any spiritual wealth in your heavenly bank account. Your reward will be in the here-and-now, even as the Pharisees sought recognition from the people and got it (e.g. Mt.6:16). When you get to heaven - assuming you are saved - you will be an empty man. But generosity which gives all credit to Yahweh is of an entirely different spiritual substance. It is written:
"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation [O Yahweh], and uphold me by Your generous Ruach" (Ps.51:12, NKJV).
It is very, very important that we present the correct firstfruits to Yahweh and not to be pretending, because if we merely enact it to get the approval of other religious people, we will be laying a spiritual foundation - preparing a spiritual soil - which will neither support a house nor sustain a crop to bring forth the bigger harvests ordained for our lives by Yahweh.
Approaching the Festival with a Right Heart
It is possible, as I have told you many times, to approach the festivals with the wrong attitides. Moreover, the festivals do not exist for themselves, as something to be done, as exercises or tasks given by Yahweh for us to enable us to earn His favour. The fact that we do them, whatever our reasons, does count as obedience and is credited to us, but only to obedience - and if we refuse to do them then our works are discredited as disobedience and we earn disfavour. Obviously. But the festivals cannot work for us unless we understand them with a spiritual eye and see that they exist as aids to spiritual growth and are not simply ends. Do not make the existential mistake of thinking that because our heart is wrong we should not observe them - that is a different kind of error. But recognise that when obedience is married to love, then Yahweh sanctifies the observer for His obedience and the observer for His love.
When the light of understanding comes, when the heart acknowldges that no personal glory will ever satisfy, that the only glory must belong to Yahweh because it is rightfully His anyway, then a true firstfruit offering can be made. It is written:
"The heart of the rash will understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly. The foolish person will no longer be called generous, nor the miser said to be bountiful; For the foolish person will speak foolishness, and his heart will work iniquity: To practice ungodliness, to utter error against Yahweh, to keep the hungry unsatisfied, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail" (Isa.32:4-6, NKJV).
If your firstfruits are carnal, even if they are made in Yahweh's Name, what will happen to you? You will fail. Your soul will fail, because your soul will be hungry and thirsty. But worse, in many ways, will be the souls of others to whom you seek to minister with your generosity and kindness, because your generosity will be selfish and lack the Ruach haQodesh. You may be able to minister physical things - and you will be blessed for feeding a hungry and thirsty man - but your spiritual contribution will be void. It will consist of many words which may resemble the Gospel but its spirit will be of the flesh. The one who is generous in the Ruach - who gives all the glory to Yahweh, whose life is consecrated to Yahweh, whose firstfruits are the unblemished tithe of his very being - this one will reap great harvests in the future:
"The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself" (Prov.11:25, NKJV).
Martyr and Messiah Complexes
If a person waters another but himself remains barren, he himself will eventually perish from thirst. He may also, in his delusion, regard himself as a martyr or messiah, thinking that in sacrificing himself to death that he is some wonderful person. This is, sadly, a great error. One IN whom dwells the Messiah is constantly watered as he himself waters! Because he gave his firstfruits to Yahweh, Yahweh multiplies him many times over. You all know Yah'shua's great Sermon in which He said:
"Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom" (Luke 6:38, NKJV).
What, then, of the person who gives and gives and gives, but gets drier and drier and drier? These are souls who have not met the resurrected Messiah! They are giving in their own strength, of their own substance, who are relying on themselves and who live - even if it is only subconsciously - for their own glory. Because our Maker says that if we are IN Him, we are suppled by Him. He says that when we water, we will be simultaneously watered. He says that when we give, He will give back abundantly, so much, in fact, that the goodness will be pouring out of you in its bid to reach the souls Yahweh wants to bless through you.
Losing the Focus, Losing the Way
Now the fact that your are feeding from your own pitiful resources and burning yourself out may not mean that you were never born again. It may simply mean that you wandered away from your First Love, that you lost your focus, that you shifted your gaze from Him to yourself. It is so easy to do. As we move from one to the other, so we are producing two harvests simultaneously - one to our own glory which will be burned up and be useless, and one for His which will be an everlasting testimony with which Yahweh can shame Satan and the fallen angels who daily mock Him saying that man will never choose Yahweh because man does not really have Yahweh's image in Him. But that is a lie. It is in His image we are made, and any glory we have comes directly from Him. We did not manufacture it ourselves.
The Boy and the Load
When we believe we can obtain glory for ourselves in our own strength we are merely deceiving ourselves. There are many Christians and Messianics who are like the boy carrying a heavy load who, upon seeing a cart, asked if he could have a ride. The drayman invited the lad and his load on board and he gratefully mounted the waggon. But instead of laying his burden in the cart, the boy continued to carry his load on his shoulders whilst accepting the free transport.
We can laugh at the foolishness of the boy and yet this is what we so often do. We ask Yah'shua to be our Saviour, get on board but still keep on carrying our own load. And the reasom so many do is because they want to be seen as martyrs. "Oh look at Johnny carrying that heavy load! Isn't he wonderful, isn't he strong, isn't he brave?!". But Johnny in this story has missed the point altogether. He wants glory. He wants the world to respond to his "Look at me!" and get sympathy, admiration, or whatever it is he thinks he needs. He fails to recognise that the vacuum in his heart is not filled by the praises of the world but by the acceptance of Yah'shua.
The Search for Someone to Admire and Worship
The other day at the lunch table I remarked to my family how it is we are all looking for someone to look up to and simply feel awe and wonder for. There is something in us that needs to worship. When we give it to a man or a woman, or even a group of men and women, a nation, an organisation, an ideal, or whatever, we soon discover that as a god he or it is very defective because the nourishment offered back is either just a trickle or non-existent. So we dump one god and find another, and another, and another and at the end of the road we can get up very disillusioned, not to mention hungry and thirsty. Even those who claim to be believers do this. And we can never get into a right relationship with others until we are in right relationship with Yahweh through Yah'shua. Every relationship will be defective, every relationship will be mediated by powers which are not what we think they are.
The Limitless Power to Endure
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Those who have Yah'shua have the power to endure. Those who don't must, at some point, throw in the towel because they come to the end of their own meager resorces.
No Torah Involved at Bikkurim
Please notice that the Ruach of Yom haBikkurim is not works- or Torah- related beyond the decision to leave Egypt at Pesach, stand firm on the west bank of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) and trust Yahweh for a miracle, and to actually cross the Sea of Reeds when the miracle of the parting of the waters actually takes place. This crossing is not at all unlike a small child being pursued by some hostile person and then being rescued by a parent at the last minute who scoops the child up and whisks him off to safety.
With Your Back Against the Wall
The one who has offered his firstfruits, the one who has offered his sheaf, has given to his Deliverer in the poverty of his ownership (for he owns very little), namely, his TRUST, and this while his back is up against the wall. So many people fall down spiritually at Yom haBikkurim because they fear to yield control of their lives to the Higher Power - to the Creator, to a parent, to a husband at critica moments.
Satan Mocks Trusting
Satan, of course, mocks and says you are a fool to surrender anything. He says: "Stand in your own strength! Do it your way!" But what he doesn't tell you is that that is precisely what Pharoah did, not what happened when Pharaoh's army tried to take advantage of a miracle given to others who had real faith. When the Egyptian Army tries to exploit a miracle of Yahweh, this is no different from the thief who is trying to get into the Kingdom by another route that does not involve the Blood of the Passover Lamb or the desire to remove the sin-chametz or -leaven out of his life. He wishes to inherit the Promised land without surrendering to Yah'shua and without repenting from sin. He's looking for a false gospel - an existentialist 2 gospel free of the responsibility and obligations required by Yahweh's Torah.
The Counterfeits are Swallowed Up
And when he tries to do that, he is swallowed up into the Sea of Reads as Pharaoh's Army was or as Korah and his followers were swallowed up into the sand. Such have no firstfruits and even if they take a boat across the Sea of Reeds and try to join the Camp of Israel further along in their journey, they will be found out! You can't enter the Kingdom without being born again and you can't remain in it without staying IN Yah'shua.
None of what we have been memorialising over the last few days has anything to do with Torah! Yahweh has required nothing more than trust and simple obedience to divine revelation in the here and now involving moving from A to B - from the world and into Yahweh's moment-for-moment care and provision. Torah obligations do not come until Shavu'ot - when we have learned to trust and obey in the simple things. Then Torah-observance becomes a great privilege because it marks a spiritual graduation of sorts from childhood and into maturity, and belief becomes even more transformed into faith:
"Faith is not belief - belief is passive - faith is active." 3
Brethren and sisters, Yom haBikkurim and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds represents, I believe, the end of the Third Wave for the 'first generation' of New Covenant Christians. All but two were washed away, symbolising Joshua and Caleb. Many who pretended to be Israelites drowned with Pharaoh's charioteers and were washed away.
When I think back on what has happened in the last year - and it has been a traumatic year - I see a new beginning on the east bank of the Sea of Reeds. What a contrast this Yom haBikkurim has been with last year's! Today we present before Yahweh our firstfruits. They're not much but they're everything we have. And we are glad that He has them. May all glory be given to Yahweh and may He bless you and your loved ones in Yah'shua's Name until we gather again for the last day of Chag haMatzah. Amen.
Lee Smith, Old Doctrines, New Light
See Chag haMatazah 2008: The Authentic Twig
Edith Hamilton (1867-1963), American educator and author known for popularising Greek and Roman literature