Moses' ninth speech, Part 3, First-fruits vow
Jun 11, 2013
When men brought their first fruits offering to the place where God had placed His name, they were to make a statement before God as an expression of their heart. We read in Deuteronomy 26:4-10,
4 Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. 5 And you shall answer and say before the Lord your God,
“My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. 7 Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; 8 and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; 9 and He has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 And now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which Thou, O Lord has given me.”
And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God.
This statement acknowledged that Yahweh, the God of Israel, had the right to be recognized as the King and the Source of all the fruit of the land. It recognized God as the Creator of heaven and earth, the Owner of all that He has created, and having the right to be served and obeyed. In other words, this vow was rooted in the First Commandment.
But God was far more interested in the hearts of the people than in the fruit of the ground. In fact, the fruit of the ground was just a carnal type of the fruit of the Spirit that He was looking to receive from His people. God knew that the first step to receiving the fruit of the Spirit was for His people to obey the First Commandment.
The Song of My Beloved
The prophet Isaiah bears witness of God’s intent in the “Song of My Beloved” in Isaiah 5:1-7,
1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved a Song of My Beloved concerning His vineyard:
“My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 And He dug it all around,
Removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it;
And hewed out a wine vat in the middle of it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.”
The prophet then interprets this in verse 7 by telling us that the vineyard was Israel, and the plants themselves were Judah. In other words, the primary focus of this song was upon Judah and Jerusalem, as this was where the temple was located, where the people were supposed to bring their fruits of the ground. However, because the vineyard did not produce fruit that was good to eat, God said in verses 5 and 6,
5 So now let me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. 6 And I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.
It is not hard to see that the “wall” being broken down was the wall of Jerusalem. The city was to be laid waste by the Babylonians a century later, and the “briars and thorns” (beast nations) were to take over the vineyard. Further, God vowed to withhold the rain of the Holy Spirit upon that vineyard.
Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard
This same situation was repeated centuries later when Jesus came to receive the fruits of the vineyard. Jesus drew His material from Isaiah’s song when he told the parable in Matthew 21:33-40,
33 Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. 34 And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.” 39 And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?
We see from this, as in Isaiah’s prophecy, that God expected to receive fruit from the vineyard. The first fruits offering was the physical manifestation of the real fruit that God expected—the fruit of the Spirit, which we find listed in Galatians 5:22, 23,
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This is the fruit that God wants us to present to Him. If a person comes to the temple, speaks his vow according to Deuteronomy 26:5-10, yet presents evil fruit that is not fit to eat, that person is hypocritical and unacceptable to God. But in Jesus’ parable we find some added features that fit the situation in His day.
First, we are given a brief history of how the prophets were persecuted and stoned when they came to receive the fruit of the vineyard. Secondly, when the Landowner sent His son (Jesus), they immediately recognized who He was and decided to kill Him in order to seize the vineyard for themselves and for their own use. In other words, they ceased to recognize God as the rightful Owner of the vineyard and thereby violated the First Commandment.
It is important to note that Jesus believed that those usurpers recognized who He was, and this was why they would soon kill Him. They did not do this in ignorance. They killed the Son as a deliberate act to usurp the vineyard from the Father.
The main difference between Isaiah’s song and Jesus’ parable is that Isaiah spoke of fruit that was unfit to eat, while Jesus spoke of their refusal to render to God any fruit at all. These are two sides of the same issue, so they do not contradict each other. They were indeed producing fruits of bitterness against God for subjecting them to the four beast empires of Daniel 7. Yet they also refused to give God any fruit of the Spirit. Bitterness is not one of the fruits of the Spirit.
The Evil Figs
All of this was prophesied again in Jeremiah 24, where we see a very specific prophecy based on the first-fruits law in Deuteronomy 26. Jeremiah 24:1, 2 says,
1 After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon, the Lord showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord! 2 One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten due to rottenness.
This occurred during the time of fig harvest. Two men had brought their first-fruits of figs in baskets to the temple, in accordance with the law of first fruits in Deuteronomy 26. From one tree the figs were delicious. From the other tree the figs were rotten (roah, “evil, wicked”). The revelation is then given:
5 Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. 6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. 7 And will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
This was important, because God was in the early stages of destroying His vineyard as a whole for its evil fruit, as Isaiah had prophesied a century earlier. God made it clear that if the people would submit to the divine judgment, agreeing with Him that His judgment was just, then He would consider those people to be “good figs” that were fit for God’s table. These willingly went as captives to Babylon.
On the other hand, if people disagreed with God’s judgment, deciding to fight the Babylonians that God had called to bring judgment upon Jerusalem, they would continue to be categorized as evil figs, as we read in Jeremiah 24:8-10,
8 But like the bad figs which cannot be eaten due to rottenness—indeed, thus says the Lord—so I will abandon Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and the ones who dwell in the land of Egypt. 9 And I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I shall scatter them. 10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and to their forefathers.”
These evil figs were to remain under God’s judgment as long as they continued to produce bitter fruit, which, in Jeremiah’s day, was on account of their refusal to submit to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, as God had decreed. The evil figs (people) were so carnally minded that they viewed their situation only politically and militarily. They saw an ungodly king threatening their kingdom, their religion, and their way of life.
Religiously, they thought that their temple sacrifices and rituals were sufficient to satisfy God. They were unaware of the real “fruit” that God desired of them. Essentially, the priests had usurped the place of God, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. So when God judged them, they first blamed the prophets, and later they blamed God Himself for treating them unjustly.
In Jesus’ day the situation was largely the same, and it had the same result. This time God used the Romans to destroy the city and the temple, for Rome was the fourth beast of Daniel 7 which God had raised up to a position of authority under Him. Once again, most of the people did not accept the divine judgment and chose instead to fight the Romans. As a result, over a million people were killed, as once again they thought God would come to save His temple at the last minute.
The Present Danger
Today we see the same situation repeating. Under the banner of Zionism, the Jews have returned to the land without repenting as the law demands in Leviticus 26:40-42. They have no intention of bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit that God also demands. They still consider themselves to be innocent victims of divine justice. They still reject Jesus Christ and continue to usurp His Kingdom with the help of Christian Zionism.
History is about to witness the final destruction of Jerusalem as prophesied in Jeremiah 19:11, where the prophet said that the city would be destroyed as a vessel which could never again be repaired. The prophet even illustrated it by smashing an old earthen jar in the valley of ben-Hinnom (Greek: gehenna), the city dump.
It is inevitable, then, that the current state that calls itself Israel is headed toward utter disaster, for they are the old clay jar that Jeremiah smashed in gehenna. Nonetheless, any Jews who repent and agree with the judgments of God will be considered “good figs.” Those individuals who repent of their hostility to Jesus Christ (Leviticus 26:40, 41) may escape the judgment of God.
While Christian Zionists raise money to send Jews into the destruction zone, the Scriptures warn Jews to depart from that land to avoid the disaster. The full solution, though, is to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit that God required of His vineyard. This has been the requirement from the beginning. It has always been God’s purpose for planting a vineyard—His Kingdom.
Therefore, we fulfill the law of first-fruits first by recognizing God’s right of ownership over that which He has created. Secondly, by faith in Jesus Christ we not only accept Him but the One who sent Him. Thirdly, we may receive the promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit, given at Pentecost, by which we may bear fruit that is fit to eat.
This is the third part of a series titled "Moses' Ninth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones