The Basket Of Firstfruits
from "Girdle of Truth" (available from Present Truth Publishers)

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

In this offering of the basket of firstfruits, the individual Israelite is presented in the special aspect of a worshipper before the Lord, whose goodness had redeemed His people out of Egypt and planted them in the land of Canaan. It is a constitution which the Israelite was to observe when he had come unto the land which the Lord his God had given him for a possession; and where, in the full enjoyment of the blessing, he could, in act and confession, bear witness to the delivering mercy and faithfulness of the God before whom he was to stand and worship.

He is here the joyful witness of this goodness, and in the full effect of the faithfulness of Jehovah in the accomplishment of all His promises; promises, it may be observed, which, with regard to Israel, related to their establishment by the Lord, in Canaan, as their earthly inheritance.

The basket of firstfruits is a special constitution amidst the ordinances of Israel. Its character and import are distinct. The feasts of the Lord, which presented Israel in their nationality, unfolded, in type, at least, the means of redemption and the grounds of that relationship into which the people were thus brought to Jehovah; while the offerings and priesthood presented the grounds of approach to a God of holiness, in consonance with the character He bears. But it is not redemption that the basket of firstfruits presents; it is inheritance. And the worship connected with it is individual, and not corporate. The worshipper stands here in the full and unequivocal enjoyment of all that the faithfulness of God had promised; and the offering which he brings, the confession he makes, and the joy of heart by which it is accompanied, all bear the special impress of accomplished blessing. It is an offering of thanksgiving--a sacrifice of praise.

Misery and helplessness are owned, and mercy and redemption are acknowledged; but these are only steps in the pathway to the possession of the inheritance of the Lord. They were necessary steps, indeed; but they were only steps by which the faithfulness of Jehovah had brought His people to the inheritance of the "land that flowed with milk and honey."

The worshipper is here in possession of that inheritance; and he comes with his basket to the place where Jehovah had set His Name. "Thou shalt go (says the ordinance) unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His Name there." "And thou shalt set it (the basket) before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God."

What elements of worship are here brought together! How simple and yet how perfect! It is only, in truth, the appropriate owning of God in the actings of His goodness, in the results of which the worshipper has been placed. He comes not as an alien in the land, but as its possessor, planted in it by the Lord, whose gift it was. His own hand had gathered these firstfruits--the proof of the fruitfulness of His inheritance--and had stored them in the basket to present them as a witness before the Lord. They are the firstfruits of the land which the Lord His God had given him, and which he possessed and dwelt in. They are brought to the place which God has chosen to place His name there: to the appointed meeting place of the worshipper and the Lord, as He had said, "In all places where I record My Name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." The priest, too, the necessary medium of approach, is there, and has his appropriate part. "The priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God," the place where atonement has been made. Thus, then, we have the inheritance, the worshipper, the offering, the priest, the altar, and the assured presence of God. Now comes the confession. "Thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous; and the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage; and when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression; and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: and He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey."

The helplessness and miserable condition of the people whom God had redeemed is fully owned. Egypt is recalled to view as the place of their bondage, with the pity of the Lord in answer to their cry of anguish and oppression. Redemption is acknowledged in all its characteristic power as the work of the Lord. And, lastly, the land, as the inheritance which the Lord had given to His people, is characterized according to the terms in which it was described, when it was yet but the land of promise, "a land that floweth with milk and honey."

At this point, there is a touching and instructive change of address. It is no longer the blessed rehearsal of the acts of the Lord; but the worshipper speaks directly to the Lord. And how simply! But this is always so, when the consciousness of His presence possesses the heart. "And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which Thou, O Lord, hast given me!" Then comes the final element of joy, which is the appropriate expression and fruit of the heart, arising from the conscious enjoyment of all that God had thus accomplished for him, and had given him to possess, and of the relationship in which God stood toward him. For there is the constantly-recurring expression, "the Lord THY God." And here "the Levite and the stranger" are brought in, as those who had a claim to participate in the joy which was flowing from the source of the grace and goodness of the Lord.

If this offering be looked at simply, it is the presentation of the firstfruits of his land by the Israelite to the Lord. God is first acknowledged and enjoyed in the blessings and in the inheritance His goodness has bestowed. It is not the blessing apart from God, but God owned and enjoyed in the blessing. So all the blessings of God's hand should bring us to God Himself; and should bring us to God first, with the firstfruits of thanksgiving to Him. Otherwise, His blessing may lead the heart away from Himself, and God may be forgotten in the very enjoyment which His goodness has bestowed.

This is true, not of temporal blessings only, but it is often true of the blessings of redemption and grace also. How many hearts are dwelling more on their security in Christ than on Christ Himself--resting in the effect of redemption as relating to their own happiness and hopes, instead of being brought by it into the eternal blessedness of communion with God. And how many, who have gone a step further, rest, practically, in the knowledge of their position in Christ, instead of using it to enjoy and to know God, the source of all their blessing, and to whom in thanksgiving and praise it should all return. "Jesus suffered for sins once, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." The firstfruits of the inheritance which God has given us in Christ should be brought in the fullness of our hearts to God. In the enjoyment of every blessing, God should be the first in our thoughts. It is by His actings in grace that He makes Himself known to His people; and hence the character of the Giver, and the affections of His heart, become the prime element in their blessing. "God is love;" and love, to be known, must be enjoyed. And here it is infinite enjoyment.

God makes Himself known to His people by His own actings; and by these alone is He adequately revealed, whether in regard to the redemption of an earthly people, or in that redemption and grace and eternal inheritance which are the fruit of this love, through the death and resurrection and ascension and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is God acting in the supremacy of His love; and thus making His very nature to be known by our hearts. And these actings of our God are the only suited mouldings of His people's thoughts, and are designed to inspire and guide the worship they present. But how far, how very far, from this, is the mere wordy recapitulation of known truths before the Lord; in which memory, and not the heart, too often, takes the lead.

The basket of firstfruits, on the part of the Israelite, was the real witness, in the presence of God, of the portion which He had given His people; however suited might be the character of the confession by which the offering was accompanied. Alas! if we have nothing in our hearts, gathered, by faith, from our inheritance in Christ--if we have nothing when we come, as worshippers, before the Lord, but the confession of our lost estate, however true; or the acknowledgment of redemption, however certain--if there be no joyous affections kindled in our hearts by their having "tasted that the Lord is gracious;"--fruits of His love stored up in our souls, to be presented in praises and thanksgiving, we are like the Israelite coming without his basket, or with his basket empty--an insult instead of an honor to the Lord.

The basket of firstfruits must be brought; for it is written, "Thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God." If he had not been dwelling in the inheritance, he could not have brought of its fruits. "Now He that establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God; who also has sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1:21). May we dwell where we are thus established by God, and gather constant fruit from our inheritance, so that we may say, "And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which Thou, O Lord, hast given me."