Lord's Day Evening Meditations October
The Claims of Christ
After the remnant of Israel, had finished rebuilding
the wall, they asked for the law of God to be read to them. We
have been seeing the effect that it had as they realized what
their God required of them. They heard things that, either they
had never heard before, or that they had forgotten, and a firm
resolve formed itself in their hearts to conform to all that they
heard. v. 29. We have been seeing, beginning at verse 29, some
of the things that they intended to do, all of them fully according
to the law of God, which was the Word of God for them at that
time. We come now to verse 35.
"And to bring the firstfruits of our
ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees … and that
we should bring the firstfruits of our dough." v. 35,
37. Along with this was, "Also the firstborn of our sons,
and of our cattle … and the firstlings of our herds and of our
flocks." v. 36. Lastly they purposed to bring "the
tithes of our ground." v. 37 - 38. So there were 3
things here that they intended to bring:
1) the firstfruits (of ground, trees, dough)
2) the firstborn ( of sons, cattle, herds)
3) the tithes
All of these things were the requirements of the
law of God. The first sheaves, and the first ripe fruit was to
be given to the Lord. The requirement of the firstborn brings
us back to Egypt when all the firstborn in the land, who were
not sheltered by the blood of the lamb, died under the judgment
of God. From that time on God claimed the firstborn as His. Children
were to be redeemed, and the firstlings of unclean animals were
to be redeemed or killed. At a specified time, the Israelites
were to bring their tithes, which was 10% of their income, to
the Lord. This was the law of God given to Israel by Moses; it
is no longer in effect today. It never did apply to Gentiles.
However, it all has a typical application with very important
instruction for us, because it sets before us the Lord Jesus and
His claims on us.
1 Cor. 15:23 explains the meaning of 1) "the
firstfruits" - "But every man in his own order:
Christ the firstfruits." This is His position in resurrection
- the risen Man Who has died, but Who is risen again as the Head
of a new creation. "And He is the head of the church:
Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all
things He might have the preeminence (first place)."
Col. 1:18. He is the risen and glorified Man to Whom God has given
first place "in all things." Not only has
God given Him the first place, but God intends that He will have
first place in all things, and He will have it, in a coming day.
Meanwhile the will of God is that we recognize Christ as the risen
Man, and that we give Him first place in our natural and temporal
things (fruit of the ground), in our spiritual and heavenly things
(fruit of the trees), and in our domestic things (the dough).
Is that asking too much?
2) The firstborn, we said, reminds us of the story
of the deliverance from Egypt. Firstborn can refer to other things,
but we'll consider it in the light of the truth of redemption
- Christ as our Redeemer. What does the word redeemer mean? There
is a good illustration in Exodus 13:13. Remember that after the
Passover night in Egypt, God claimed, and rightly so, every firstborn
as His. The firstling of a lamb, goat, or ox was to be sacrificed
to the Lord. A firstborn son was to be redeemed with a sum of
money, but the firstling of an unclean animal was to be redeemed
with a lamb. "Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem
with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break
his neck." If the unclean ass did not have a lamb to
"redeem" it, then it must die. This is a simple
and clear picture of the gospel. I was that unclean ass, but a
Lamb was found to take my place. The Lord Jesus Christ is that
Lamb Who took my place in death so that I might live. He is my
Redeemer, the One Who not only has taken my place, but Who has
bought me with His precious blood. "Know ye not that
… ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price."
1 Cor. 6:19 - 20. Yes, He has redeemed us from the judgment of
God and from all the power of the enemy, and now we are called
upon to recognize His rights over us as Redeemer. He "gave
Himself" for His bride! What more could He give? Are
we not rightfully His?
The key to the gospel is: submit to Christ; just
what man refuses to do. He wants to be independent of God, and
fancies himself free, when really, he is a slave of Satan. Remember
that there are only two masters, and if you are not redeemed by
Christ, then you are a slave of Satan. What a wonderful thing
it is to be redeemed by Christ and to belong to Him! And what
a price He paid! Yes, you and I are not our own; we are the Lord's
property and are called upon to recognize His rights over us as
We come now to 3) the tithes. Some believers feel
that this still applies to us - that they must give 10% of their
salary to the Lord. But it is not so; today the requirement is
100%! Now that doesn't mean that you have to go and give everything
away. It is the recognition that "Jesus Christ is Lord"
(Phil. 2:11), and that as Master, all belongs to Him. We are not
owners, only administrators. In 1 Cor. 4:1 the Apostle Paul called
himself a "steward." A steward is someone
who is responsible for the goods of others. Paul was a "steward
of the mysteries of God," but there is stewardship
also in other things. Maybe in today's terms, we would understand
the word "manager" better.
Look at this question in 1 Cor. 4:7 - "What
hast thou that thou didst not receive?" In easier English
it is, "What do you have that was not given to you?"
Do you have anything that was not given to you? Think of the whole
range of things from health, food, home, family, salary, etc.,
to salvation, the Scriptures, untold spiritual blessings and a
home in glory for eternity. All has been given to us. We
acquired nothing ourselves, and if these things have been committed
to us, then we are responsible to "manage" them properly
and faithfully for the One to Whom they rightfully belong. In
doing this we recognize the claims of Christ over us as Lord.
These three things: firstfruits, firstborn, and
tithes were mandatory things, that is, they were required in the
law. But then, there were also voluntary offerings: "our
offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of
oil." v. 37. An Israelite could bring things to give
to the Lord, not because he had to, but because he wanted
to - he could give "willingly with his heart."
Exod. 25:2. What a delight those gifts are to the Lord, which
are given "willingly" from the heart.
The last statement in our chapter is, "And
we will not forsake the house of our God." v. 39. All
of these things were in relation to the temple - for us, in a
local context, the assembly gathered to the Lord's Name, where
He is in the midst. Let's review, then, these things which that
remnant intended to do, in the typical application to ourselves
that we have had. Suppose an assembly of the Lord's people, gathered
to His name, who firmly purposed to: keep His Word and not deny
His name (v. 29), maintain separation from all the sin, defilement,
and idols of the world (v. 30), honor the Lord's Day and reserve
it entirely for Him (v. 31), forgive all personal trespasses or
offences (v. 31), make provision for all the material needs of
the assembly (v. 32), make full provision for the profitable and
regular continuance of the meetings for prayer, for the ministry
of the Word, and for the remembrance of the Lord (v. 33), offer
their bodies a living sacrifice for whatever service the Lord
may require of them (v. 34), and finally, recognize the claims
of Christ over them as the risen glorified Man, as their Redeemer,
and as their Lord (vs. 35 - 38). What an assembly that would be!
What peace, what joy, and what testimony would be found there!
We know that it is not so with us, but we can ask the Lord to
help us in that direction. S.L.