Moses' fourth speech, Part 14
Dec 07, 2012
Deuteronomy 15:19 tells us the law of the first-born:
19 You shall consecrate [kadosh, “set apart, to be clean or make clean”] to the Lord your God all the first-born males that are born of your herd and of your flock; you shall not work with the first-born of your herd, nor shear the first-born of your flock.
This is the basic law of the first-born, correlating with the law of first-fruits from the crops. From the beginning, God has claimed for Himself all the first-born of the herds and flocks. This law is reflected also in Deuteronomy 25:4, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” Paul quotes this law in 1 Corinthians 9:9 and again in 1 Timothy 5:18. Those doing the work have a right to partake of their labor.
Paul also explains this law to us in 2 Timothy 2:6,
6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
The principle is rooted in the idea that the farmer who owns the land has the right to partake of his labor first. This is a basic right of ownership. It is why the people were required to bring a first-fruits offering when they appeared before the Lord three times in the year (Exodus 34:22-26). The law did not allow men to harvest or eat of their crops until God had been given the first-fruits offering.
Timing of the Offering
Regarding the first offering of first-fruits—the wave-sheaf offering of the barley harvest—Leviticus 23:14 says,
14 Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread, nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
The land belongs to God by right of creation. James 5:7 presents God as the ultimate Landlord and Farmer. Therefore, all of the first-fruits of the crops and the first-born of the flocks and herds are to be set apart for His service. Sacrifice was one way of simulating God’s table where He is the first to partake of the meal. But obviously, God does not need physical food, so He gave it to others to eat in proxy for Himself.
It was important that the people give God the first-born, because it signified their recognition that God was indeed the Owner of that which He has created. When men set up secular governments and refuse to recognize the sovereignty of God over their lands and nations, they violate the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Deuteronomy 5:7).
God’s right to rule Israel was based also on the fact that He redeemed them from Egypt, as one buys a slave (Deuteronomy 15:15). Whereas other nations were required to serve the Creator by His right of creation, God formed a double bond with Israel. Hence, their requirement to give God the first-born was based upon more than one law, but the other nations were also required to do the same by the Law of Creator’s Rights.
The first law, set forth in the book of Exodus, required the Israelites to present the first-born to God on the eighth day only. But the second law, set forth in Deuteronomy, altered this requirement to fit the new circumstances, where the people may live some distance from the tabernacle (or temple). In Exodus 22:29 and 30, we read,
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
Yet in Deuteronomy 15:20 we read,
20 You and your household shall eat it every year before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses.
In other words, it was understood that they could give it to God during a festival. The first-fruits offerings in each of the festivals were also held on an eighth day, so this did not violate the spirit of the law. On the eighth day of the week following Passover, the wave-sheaf offering of barley was to be offered to God (Leviticus 23:11). It was offered on “the day after the Sabbath,” i.e., Sunday.
Seven weeks later the second first-fruits offering was offered to God, this time of the wheat harvest. It was “the feast of weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest” (Exodus 34:22). This festival was later known by the Greek name, Pentecost, “fiftieth day,” because it was to be celebrated on the fiftieth day inclusive from the first-fruits offering of barley (Leviticus 23:15-17).
Therefore, we can see that the first-fruits of the wheat harvest was given to God on an eighth day of the week as well, thus fulfilling the spirit of the law found in Exodus 22.
Finally, the third festival was Tabernacles, wherein the people were to appear before God the third time in the year. It was an eight-day festival as well, if we include the final appearance before God on the eighth day. At this festival the first-fruits of the vintage were given to God with drink offerings of wine. These drink offerings were poured out for the entire week (Leviticus 23:37; Numbers 29:19, 22, 25, etc.). Most importantly, the drink offering of wine was poured out on the eighth day of Tabernacles (Numbers 29:35-37), showing once again the principle of the eighth day.
Presenting the Sons of God
The law requiring first-fruits and first-born to be given to God on the eighth day is important, because it establishes the prophetic timing of future events. After Jesus rose from the dead, He was presented to the Father in heaven as the first-fruits offering of barley at the moment the high priest was waving it in the earthly temple. Seven weeks later, as the priest offered God the wheat offering, the Spirit of God came as fire to accept the offering. He did not accept the offering in the temple, but came upon the 120 disciples in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4). Wheat, therefore, represents the Church.
The remaining festival, that of Tabernacles, is yet to be fulfilled, when the Sons of God are presented to the Father in the Temple in heaven on the eighth day of Tabernacles.
Moses continues his speech in Deuteronomy 15:21-23,
21 But if it has any defect, such as lameness or blindness, or any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. 22 You shall eat it within your gates; the unclean and the clean alike may eat of it, as a gazelle or a deer. 23 Only you shall not eat its blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water.
It was inevitable that some of the first-born of the flocks and herds would be defective. These were not eligible to be presented to God at a festival or an eighth day, but were instead to be eaten at home. Neither were these defective animals to be treated in a special way, for they could be eaten by the clean and unclean alike.
Prophetically speaking, it is equally true that many believers are spiritually blind or lame and cannot be presented to God on the eighth day of Tabernacles. Nonetheless, God finds use for them at home. This presents us with the distinction between believers and the Sons of God. This distinction is seen clearly in the story of Jacob. Jacob was a believer for the first 98 years of his life, but he did not recognize the sovereignty of God until his wrestling match with the angel in Genesis 32. When the angel gave him a new name to reflect his new understanding, he became Israel, which means God rules.
In effect, Jacob was defective until receiving this new name, and so he was not eligible under the law of the first-born to be presented to God. Being a believer is not sufficient. Nor was Jacob’s genealogy from Abraham and Isaac sufficient to make him eligible as a son. The promise of God only ensured that God would train Jacob and at last bring him to the understanding necessary to qualify for Sonship.
The Law of Priesthood
We know from Revelation 20:4-6 that the Sons of God who are eligible for the first resurrection are to be “priests of God and of Christ.” Hence, they fall under the laws of priesthood. In Leviticus 21:17-23 shows that priests must not be defective in their body parts. If they are defective, they cannot minister to God directly, even if their genealogy came from Levi and Aaron. Genealogy in itself was insufficient to qualify them for such ministry, even though “he may eat of the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy” (Leviticus 21:22).
When we understand that the Sons of God are priests, called to minister to God in a special manner, it is apparent that there are believers who are yet ineligible to be called Sons of God. Under the Old Covenant, they were concerned with physical defects, but under the New Covenant, the Melchizedek priesthood is concerned with spiritual defects.
Once again, this sets forth the distinction between believers and the Sons of God. This entire principle is seen later in Israel’s history in the story of Eli and his sons. They were descendants of Phineas, to whom the priesthood had been given (Numbers 25:13) until they were found to be in rebellion against God. As a consequence, that dynasty of priests was replaced by Zadok in early years of the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 2:27 and 35).
Ezekiel comments prophetically on the story of Eli and Zadok in Ezekiel 44:10-19, telling us of the change of priesthood from Levi to Melchi-Zadok (Melchizedek). The distinction under the New Covenant is in terms of rebellious priests as distinct from those obedient to God. Remarkably, God will use the rebellious priests to minister to the people, but only the Melchizedek priests can minister to God directly in the Sanctuary in heaven. Again, this shows the distinction between believers.
It is clear, then, that the law of the first-born, which includes the restriction of defective priests and animals, establishes the distinction between believers and the Sons of God. Hence, the law says that defective first-born animals were to be eaten at home, rather than presented to God in the temple or tabernacle. Such animals are useful for regular food, but not as an offering representing either the Son of God or the Sons of God.
Other than that, only the normal prohibition against eating blood is applicable (Deuteronomy 15:23).
This is the fourteenth part of a series titled "Moses' Fourth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones