Tithing and Biblical Giving-Part 3

We are going to begin with the ceremony for bringing the first fruits at the festival of Shavuot. Before planting the crops, a benediction is said involving Song of Songs 2.11-13. This is done 70 days before Unleavened Bread and the counting of the Omer. 50 days after that is Shavuot, for a total of 120 days. This is a very important number. It will be related to a prophecy given to Noah in Gen 6.3. So, there are 120 days from planting to Shavuot. As the crops start to come up, you declare them “first fruits” and you “mark” them and they are set aside to the Lord. This is exactly what happens at the beginning of the Day of the Lord with the 144,000 (Rev 14.4). Once past Unleavened Bread, there will be a great, formal procession when the people came up to Jerusalem at Shavuot. Now, there were three pilgrim festivals called the “shelosh regalim” which were Unleavened Bread, Shavuot and Sukkot (Exo 23.14-17). All males were to attend these three festivals. Now, each festival had a procession that was done when they went up, but the one for Shavuot was different. In all 24 districts, a leader would go to the Levitical city there and go to the “town center.” He would say, “Arise, let us go up to Zion, and to the house of the Lord our God.” The people gathered there would say, “I was glad when they said unto me ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’ There was an order to the procession. Leading everyone was a flute player they called “the pierced one” which is an allusion to Messiah in Zech 12.10. Then there was a sacrificial bullock (Hos 14.1-2) who had myrtle wound around its horns and would be offered as a Korban Shelem (peace offering). A Levitical choir followed, singing the 15 Songs of Ascent (Psa 120-134). Then the people followed, carrying baskets with the bikurim, or first fruits. This is done slow, with joy, and this pilgrimage was not burdensome. The choir would sing a verse and they people would answer with the next verse, called an antiphonal response. The people could be heard 12 miles away from Jerusalem. As the procession approached Jerusalem, you would stop at specific points. When the city was in sight, a messenger was sent ahead. The bikurim was decorated. A delegation from the Temple met them. Shavuot was the only festival that you had to come in groups. At the other two, you could come yourself (John 7.10). As you enter the city, you would sing Psa 122.2 and the people of the city would greet them. Upon approaching the Temple, no matter who you were, you carried your own basket with the bikurim. It was carefully layered in the exact order of the sheva minim (Deut 8.8). Psa 150 is sung upon arriving in the Temple court, at the stairs in front of the Nicanor Gate. Levites would be standing on the 15 steps at the Nicanor Gate, with their backs turned to the people and facing the Holy of Holies, singing Psa 30. Notice that the 15 Psalms of Ascent corresponded to the 15 steps of ascent leading to the Temple building. Pigeons and doves that were to be given for a Korban Olah (burnt offering) would be hanging from the top of the baskets (bought at the Temple). With your basket on your shoulder, the worshipper recites the following. “I declare today to the Lord, your God, that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to give to our fathers to give us (he then takes the basket from his shoulder and gives it to the kohen, or priest, and he waves it). My father was an Aramean, about to perish and he went down to Egypt to sojourn there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great and mighty and populace. But the Egyptians mistreated us and afflicted us and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the Lord God of out fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked to our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm, with great terror, signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and now behold, I have brought the first fruits (bikurim) of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.” The kohen (priest) places the basket next to the mizbeach (altar). The worshipper falls on his face and worships the Lord, and departs the Temple (Mishnah, Bikurim 3.1-12). The worshipper thus testifies he is not ungrateful or haughty and has not forgotten the Lord’s kindness and mercy. In bringing the first fruits, you also brought the tithe and anything else agricultural, besides the sheva minim (Matt 23.23). This ceremony only applied as long as there was a Temple and a functioning priesthood. A stranger, a Levite or Kohen (priest) did not bring bikurim. In the Passover Haggadah, you also recited “my father was a wandering Aramean” which is done at Shavuot. You started these days with they same saying as you ended with. There were three measures of bikurim. You had the required amount, then there could be additions of the same species, and then there were the “decorations” for the bikurim, which were additional fruits not required in the bikurim. The first day after Shavuot had the status of a “chol ha moed” or intermediate day of the festival, when additions and sacrifices could be made in the Temple. Unleavened Bread and Sukkot already had intermediate days. We see the concept of the “harvest” all through the Scriptures. Matt 24.29-31 is a Yom Kippur and the “shofar ha Gadol” (great trumpet) and angels go forth with a sickle. In Isa 27.12-13, Israel is “gathered.” Deut 30.4 says that the outcasts will be gathered. What we see in ceremonies like this is a rehearsal for the second coming of Yeshua and the “harvest.” The angels are like the priests and the Levites. The people will come up to the Temple, singing like before and the angels will instruct. The 144,000 are the “first fruits” of the Bithrpains, or Tribulation (Rev 14.4). Now, we read in Gen 6.3 that the Lord mentions 120 years, which meant that there would be 120 years to the flood. His Spirit was not going to strive with man and there would be judgment. This is how it relates to Shavuot. The barley is planted 120 days before Shavuot, the “harvest.” If you multiply 120 by 50 (years to a yovel, or jubilee) you come to 6000 (years to harvest of the first fruits-Rev 14.4). So, Gen 6.3 talks about 120 years to judgment, or harvest. There were 120 days from planting to harvest at Shavuot. Then, there are 120 Yovel’s (50 year segments called “jubilee’s” in English) till the beginning of the Day of the Lord and another harvest. All of this is giving us a rehearsal (“mikrah” of Lev 23.2 translated as “convocation”) for the future. Everything they experienced will be experienced again and everything was done for a reason. Remember, Song of Songs 2.10-13 was recited before planting. Israel was betrothed at Shavuot (Jer 2.2) and the book of Ruth is also read at Shavuot, which also speaks of harvest and betrothal to the “goel” or kinsman redeemer. In Acts 2 the believers are filled with the Spirit at Shavuot and this is tied in with 2 Chr 5.12-14 and the Kivod of God filling the Temple, and Ezek 43.1-5, which is the haftorah reading for the festival of Shavuot, which also talks about the Kivod filling the Messianic Temple. Yeshua ties in John 4.3-38 with the harvest in the end times. There is a great principle in bringing the bikurim called “beautifying the commandment” which is having a joyful heart and going over and above what the Lord said to do. The first responsibility of the tithe was to take care of the Levite, the widow, the orphan and the poor and needy (Deut 14.21-29; Jam 1.27; Gal 2.10; Acts 24.17). You were also to rejoice before the Lord, that you gave totally to him and he allowed you to partake of it too. We should be led of the Lord and learn how they gave to the Lord and apply certain principles. Giving is like all the other areas, learn it but don’t neglect all the other areas to study and apply. In Part 4, we will begin talking about “tzedekah” or righteousness and how this was tied in with charity, tithing and biblical giving.

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