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Deuteronomy 26:1-11 1
1 When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. 7 Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. 11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.

Background

After forty years in the wilderness, Moses instructs the Israelites about God’s covenant and the way His people are to lead their life. In return, they are to receive God’s blessing and the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 26:1-11 presents a theological interpretation of the summer harvest, during which choice agricultural produce was brought to the temple in Jerusalem. This offering was to be from the bounty provided by God through the gift of the land and was associated with the pilgrimage festival known as Shavuot or Weeks, held seven weeks after Passover (hence the Greek name Pentecost, for “fifty” days after Passover).

According to Jewish tradition, first fruit offerings were made of seven species native to the land: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. This specificity should encourage us to locate ourselves within our own particular contexts today, giving thanks and offering from what we have been uniquely given by God for the prospering of our neighbors and the community at large.

Enjoyment of God’s sustenance was to be extended even farther to others listed in the longer description of participants in the festival of Shavuot or Weeks in Deuteronomy 16:11: “Rejoice before the LORD your God — you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strangers, the orphans, and widows who are among you” (cf., Deuteronomy 26:12-13). The reason for inclusion of the entire community is again stated clearly in Deuteronomy 16:12: “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt.”

When God makes good His promises to us, He expects us to honor His faithfulness. There is no doubt that we enjoy God’s many blessings. The person who offers his first fruits, is called to remember and own the history of that nation, the one to which they claim membership. Israel as a nation was in its infancy, having journeyed in Egypt as strangers. They served there as slaves, were a poor, despised, oppressed people in Egypt.   Although now, they were about to become rich and great, they had no reason to be proud, secure, or forget God. It was time to be thankful and acknowledge God’s great goodness to Israel.

The comfort we have in our own lives should lead us to be thankful for our share in the peace and plenty of our world. It is our present mercies that should move us to remember the former mercies of God and the future mercies we expect and hope for.  So each is called to offer their basket of first fruits filled of good things that God given us.

Items for Discussion

  • What would today’s first fruits look like?
  • What are your first fruits?
  • What happens to our relationship with God when we acknowledge His generosity?
  • What makes an offering a “first fruit?”
  • To a church or congregation, what would you list as the first fruits?

 

Luke 4:1-13
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Background

These verses offer us both challenges and opportunities:

  • If our Lord taught the disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” (Matt. 6:13) why then did the Spirit lead our Lord into temptation, as our text indicates? Furthermore, if James informs us that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13) and we know that Jesus was fully God, how then could Jesus  be tempted?
  • From the standpoint of our Lord’s ministry and calling, His entire mission is contingent upon His victory over every temptation of Satan. Jesus is being tested as the “Son of God,” Israel’s Messiah and King. To fail these tests would be to nullify all of God’s purposes and promises which were to be realized through the Son of God.
  • By studying the temptation of our Lord by Satan, we learn a great deal about our adversary, Satan. To know the mindset and the methods of our enemy, we are forewarned and forearmed as to the temptations by which Satan will seek to destroy us.

The term “temptation” is used in two very different senses, which can be seen from the temptation of our Lord. Temptation is, on the one hand, a solicitation to sin, to do that which is contrary to the will and the word of God. Temptation is an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan’s efforts at temptation always fall into this category. But “temptation” when viewed from God’s point of view is a “test,” an opportunity for one to be proven righteous. Thus, in the case of Job (cf. especially chapters 1 and 2) Satan sought to bring Job to the point of forsaking his faith, to the point of sinning, but God’s purpose was to deepen Job’s faith, as well as to demonstrate to Satan that Job’s love for God was not based upon the material blessings which God bestowed upon him.

We might therefore maintain that Jesus was “tempted” in two ways: From the vantage point of Satan’s intended purpose, our Lord was tempted. Satan wished to prompt the “Son of God” to act in disobedience to the Father, thus terminating His ability to fulfill His mission. From the viewpoint of God, and the author (Luke), this was a “test” of Jesus Christ, proving Him to be suited and qualified to fulfill His mission as the Son of God.

  • First, our Lord understood that God uses deprivation to test man’s faith, as reflected by his obedience when doing so was dangerous or could have been deadly.
  • Second, our Lord understood that testing through deprivation is often God’s preparation for future blessing.
  • Third, our Lord refused Satan’s proposition, not because He could not achieve it, but because He should not do so.
  • Fourth, our Lord’s presence and His hunger in the wilderness, like that of Israel of old, was the will of God, the result of God’s leading.
  • Fifth, the only motive for making the stone into bread would have been to express distrust regarding the goodness and the guidance of God.
  • Sixth, Life is more than mere physical survival and thus must be sustained by more than food. Luke stops after the words, “Man does not live by bread alone,” thus emphasizing the fact that life is more than a matter of food.

Items for Discussion

  • What value is there in understanding evil?
  • Do you think that temptation for the purposes of strengthening someone is fair?
  • Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 – What comfort do you get from the Apostle Paul’s words?
  • How do you personally strengthen yourself so you do not succumb to temptation?
  • Why is this true? “It is much more important to fear the One who can destroy the soul than the body” If you believe it to be true, why do people disagree with you?
  • How do you think our Old and New Testament verses are linked?  Hint: Verse 4 in our old testament above

Discussion Challenge

  • In what ways might God be testing our church or our society today in order to prepare us for a future blessing?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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