THE SHEAF OF THE FIRST-FRUITS
Henry Law, 1855
"When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first-fruits you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath." Leviticus 23:10-11
The book of nature is a fruitful study. That heart is dull indeed, which marks unmoved the varied beauties of recurring seasons. But they, who ascribe these lovely scenes to nature's course, pause at the threshold of delight. The infidel's cold creed can thus praise verdant and luxuriant charms. He only gleams real joy, who everywhere beholds the hand, the care, the love, the power, the truth, the wise decree of God.
My soul, bring God into your every view; and then the view is elevating rapture. Trace God in all the produce of the soil, and then the produce is a step towards heaven.
Our tender Father knows, that happiness thrives not, where He is hidden. Therefore in all His works He strives to fix attention on Himself. In feeding the body, He would show Himself unto the soul.
But goodness, as in nature's constant stream, may fail to impress. The regularity may rather lull than rouse. Hence in the case of harvest, a solemn rite is added to the Jewish code, to obviate the evil of indifference.
Reader, the teaching of this ordinance now claims your mind. Come listen to its voice. Mark well its apt solemnities. Receive its sanctifying moral.
When the season of the Paschal-feast returns, the appointed harvest tarries not. The early promise is fulfilled. Gen. 8:22. The firstlings of the grain are ripe. The fields of barley wave their golden heads.
But shall the gatherers now heedlessly collect their treasure? Shall thoughtless hands now bear the riches to the garner? Oh! no. The Altar must unlock the reaping gate. Hence the first ears are bound, as holy, into a holy Sheaf. The priest with reverence receives, and heaves it aloft towards heaven. He waves it to and fro. A victim is next slain, and then the happy reapers hasten to the crops. Such is the rite. God is thus sought. Then man begins the blessed toil.
Reader, survey this rite more closely. The harvest's first act adores the harvest's Lord. The first grains feed the altar. The first sickle cuts an offering for God. The lesson is plain. The thought of God should precede every work.
Let morning dawn with Him—to Him—for Him. Let prayer be the foundation-stone of each design. Nothing is well done, except begun in God. All is disorder, unless the First be first.
The priest uplifts the Sheaf on high. The First-fruits represent the entire produce of the fields. This is confession, that all earth's yielding is the property of God. Without His will no seed takes root—no blade appears—no stalk ascends—no grains mature. Man's toil and care may be employed, but all the power is divine. Where then is foolishness like his, who fondly dreams, that he is lord of lands? The richest hands hold nothing but a loan. Let that, then, which is God's, and only His, be wholly His.
The Sheaf is then waved to and fro. It floats from east to west—from north to south—as traversing the globe. This motion warns, that every spot, in every climate, is God's. His is an universal sway. In every land one sovereign owner reigns.
In this solemnity the offering is small. He, who might justly claim the whole, takes but one Sheaf. The large abundance remains for man's supply.
Thus, while a bounteous hand fills our garners; while valleys bend with corn; and clouds distill their fatness; the Giver makes His small demand. All must not be consumed on self. The poor need food. The shivering cry for clothing. The famine of the Word must be relieved. The heathen perish for the bread of life. Such are the claims on our First-fruits. Will any rush to copious crops, and grudgingly withhold God's Sheaf?
Reader, mark next, the Paschal sacrifice introduces the Wave-sheaf. A firstling of the flock, also, without blemish, accompanies the offering. A Gospel-truth here shows its light. The hand, which would bring gifts to God, must first be washed in the atoning stream. In every service God's eye looks for His Son's blood. If this be present, sure acceptance smiles. If this be absent, stern rejection frowns. The worldling's heart may throb a grateful throb. But it cannot approach in nature's filth. He must be cleansed, or he can gain no access. And nothing cleanses, but the blood of Christ. Cain would not live without some homage. But Cain despised the victim. He and his offering were cast out. Reader, let the sweet savor of the cross perfume your thanksgiving. Then all your gifts, and all your life will mount, as welcome fragrance, to your God.
Already we have found rich teaching. But faith asks more. It has an eye, which ever searches for one object. It has a thirst, which Gospel-wells alone assuage. But here Christ's person quickly meets the seeking heart. The name of First-fruits—the day of offering—lead by straight paths to Him. The Spirit's voice is very clear. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the First-fruits of those who slept." "Christ the First-fruits; afterwards those who are Christ's, at His coming." 1 Cor. 15:20, 23. These First-fruits, then, distinctly picture Christ.
The day of offering next seals this truth. On the morning, which succeeds the Paschal Sabbath, the Sheaf is waved. On this same dawn Jesus arose, avowing himself the antitype. Faith, then, has solid ground, when here it chiefly sees the Lord.
Following this clue, let us now gaze on Jesus in this type. The Sheaf relates a tale of triumph. It brings back thought to a seed cast into the ground. To view, it was a dry and worthless husk. Earth's tomb then buried it. Mighty hindrances assailed it. The frost retained it with iron grasp, and many storms repressed it. At last it raised a living head. Here life gains victory over death.
Thus Christ descended to the grave. Life seemed to be extinct. Corruption threatened to devour its prey. The grave made fast its bars. But every foe is foiled. Death and hell yield. The tomb throws back its portal. The mighty conqueror strides forth alive. He shows himself to God—the First-fruits from the dead.
Believer, now in this Sheaf discern redemption finished by your rising Lord. It was an anxious moment, when the dying Jesus bowed His head. Justice had seized Him. To the prison He was dragged. In the conflict Satan was strong, while He expired. The anxious heart would anxiously enquire, will He now suffice to pay the countless debts of countless souls? He came—He died—to save; but may He not have failed? But before the question can be fully asked, behold, He rises; He lives; He comes forth again to God. All claims then must be satisfied; all enemies must be subdued. His resurrection manifests, that all hell's worst is now a broken reed.
Clap then the hands of joy. Raise high the voice of your ecstatic praise. Exult and glory in your waving Sheaf. The book of justice has no charge against you. The dying Lamb has washed the pages clean. Can the stern jailer now detain you? His scepter lies the shadow of a shade. Jesus, appearing on the third day, is full assurance of redemption finished, and Satan's empire spoiled.
Again behold the Sheaf. It stands alone—but it is not alone. It enters first, but a long train will surely follow. It is the earnest of the coming crop. It tells, that countless grains will soon succeed. Thus Christ is waved, the Head of His blood-purchased flock. His many members all gain life in His life, and triumph in His triumph. The Spirit sees this harvest, when He cries, God "has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:6.
Believer, this mystic-resurrection is long passed. When the Redeemer burst the bands, you rose arrayed in clothing of eternal life. God's eye beams on you, as brought back in Jesus to His home.
Know, also, that the reality is near. Doubt not. Death is to you a conquered foe. It will indeed approach. It will extend an icy hand. It will take down your tottering house. It will consign you to a narrow cell. It will call worms to do their work. Your body is sin-soiled; let it then be dissolved. But cast away all fears. Death's seeming triumph is a real defeat. It lays you low, that you may rise the higher. It wounds to heal. It weakens to give strength. It mars to bring in fresher beauty. The grave must part asunder. A clarion note will wake the sleeping clay. Those who are Christ's, will rise as portions of His body. But, oh! how changed! The crumbling dust will then shine brighter than the mid-day sun. Decay will bloom into unfading youth. The mortal will be robed in immortality. The fleshy clog will be all spirit.
Reader, our present thought cannot conceive such a state. But it is true, and it is near. The trumpet is prepared to sound. The Lord of life is at the door. Hear these sure tidings in the First-sheaf's voice, and glory in your resurrection-hopes.
But there is more than future rising—there is constant presentation here. This is one marvel of all the Bible-types; each form gives multiform instruction; each ray will split into a variety of color. So here a changing view reveals the never-failing work of Christ above. The great High-priest is ever standing before God. He there presents—not blood alone—He shows the Sheaf of First-fruits. He displays the many members, who compose His body. Upon His shoulders and His breast the names of all His Israel appear. He pleads, that they are gathered from the world. He offers them, as consecrated for His Father's use. If there is rapturous joy, it is when we look up, and see a Savior's hands waving our persons and our work to God. If, also, there is glorious prospect, it is the thought, that a great day is flying onward, when the whole mass shall really be reaped from earth's wide field, as holy as God—and fit for the eternal throne.
Another thought remains. They, who make boast of Gospel-joys, confirm their right by Gospel-signs. They, who are safe in Jesus's hands, display His mind. They, who rise in Him to a resurrection-state, rise with Him to a resurrection-walk. They move in this world, as "begotten with the word of truth, to be a kind of First-fruits of His creatures." James 1:18. They are no more their own. If God is theirs—they, also, are God's. They love and seek His glory. They wear His livery, and do His service. You who profess that you are First-fruits unto God, have you these First-fruit marks?
This offering sanctified the crop. "If the First-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy." Rom. 11:16. Thus the little handful of Christ's band leavens the mass of human race. Believer, see your calling. You are blessed above men, and you must be a blessing unto men. Your family, your friends, your country, the world, must be the better for your being. Your light must lighten—your salt must sprinkle savor—your grace must scatter grace.
Reader, are you these First-fruits unto God?