Sunday, February 26, 2017

E.G.O. ---- Edging God Out --- what happened to our Sabbath – and the 7 Feasts of the LORD? --- week 4 - First Fruits

E.G.O.  ----  Edging God Out    

--- what happened to our Sabbath – and the 7 Feasts of the LORD?

Facilitated by Rev. †Ken Neuhaus at Fort Mitchell Baptist Church (KY) 
(8 week series 2/5/17 – 3/26/17) on 2/26/17

We are continuing in the discussion from Leviticus 23, regarding the Feasts of the LORD.  This week, we discuss First fruits --- and I want to challenge us to consider if we, as Christians, should be observing the Sabbath and these Feasts.  

Feast of First Fruits
The feast we are reading about is found in Leviticus 23:9-14.  
Now, I don’t want to shock you too badly, but if you have been observing Resurrection Sunday --- you really have been co-celebrating the Feast of First Fruits.   

Let’s break it down….
Let's review the last 3 weeks.  Jesus, the spotless Lamb, entered into town on “Palm Sunday” and was tested throughout that week, and was proven to be the Spotless Lamb.  All the questioning by the religious could not trip him up, and He provided many parables and learning opportunities to share the Good News with everyone who would listen.  This corresponds with Passover, where the Lamb was brought into the home of the Israelites and inspected in order to be found Spotless.  Then we see Jesus conducting the Passover Seder, observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where Jesus is speaking about his body being broken and his blood poured out, and He being the New Covenant.  The Passover Seder is eaten while reclining at the table, ready to depart at a moment's notice, to symbolize the departure from Egyptian slavery and the coming deliverance into the Promised Land.  (Exodus 12:11)  Then we see the Crucifixion, where the Passover Lamb is slain and the sins of all mankind are placed upon Jesus.  Here is a good quote identifying what really happened.... (When an Israelite worshiper laid his hand on the animal victim, he identified himself with the animal as his substitute . . . this accomplished a symbolic transfer of his sin and a legal transfer of his guilt to the animal victim. God then accepted the slaughter of the animal . . . as a ransom payment for the particular sin which occasioned it.   (F. Duane Lindsey, "Leviticus," 166.))  

Jesus is the ransom for all our sins!!!

Now, we come to Jesus being in the tomb for 3 nights and 3 days.   We see in Luke 23:54 that Jesus was buried, but there was the day of preparation, and Sabbath was coming.   So before the Sabbath, they saw how Jesus was laid in the tomb. But after the Sabbath, something was very out of place.  The day after the Sabbath, it was discovered the tomb was empty.  Leviticus 23:11 says that the day after the Sabbath the first sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest be presented to the LORD.   This is the Messiah, on Resurrection Sunday, the first fruits raised to the LORD.

Paul identified this in 1 Corinthians 15:24, that Jesus is the first fruits.  The whole observance of the Feast of First Fruits began as a celebration of the people as they entered out of bondage and into the land the LORD is providing.  This is a statute to be observed forever throughout our generations in all our dwellings. (Leviticus 23:14).   How fitting it is, that on the night he was betrayed, as Jesus took bread and cup, and provided a New Covenant as the Passover Lamb, that just 3 days later, He would become the fulfillment of the First Fruits.   

What are we missing here?
What happened to you when you got saved?  What happened to you when you accepted the Death and Resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ, and you accepted that your very existence depends upon Jesus' sacrifice for your salvation, and that you now have the Hope of a Resurrection.   Didn’t you enter into a new dimension, a new relationship, a new circumstance?  That was the goal of Jesus becoming the Passover Lamb.  That by the shedding of his Blood, by the ransom for your sins, by these things you could enter into the Kingdom of God.   This is you, entering in, and reaping its harvest.  Leviticus 23:10  And this is you, demonstrating your honor to God by giving the first of your harvest back to the LORD.  We are missing the temple today, but you can remember this commandment in other ways.  Another commandment instructs us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger and the priests.  Deuteronomy 26:12   You might consider donating money off the TOP of your budget (your first fruits) before spending money on anything else.  You might prepare double a meal and give the FIRST batch to someone who needs it, or by some one else's groceries BEFORE you purchase your own.    We are called to honor the LORD with our wealth, and with the first part of our harvest.  Proverbs 3:9. Let's not miss the point that the FIRST of our harvest must go to the LORD, not our scraps.

So, what else are we missing here?
Resurrection Sunday is the Feast of First Fruits!!!!  God led you out of your slavery to sin, God covered you with the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus led you into the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is the First Fruits on Resurrection Sunday.  So also, under the New Covenant, God brought forth the word of truth, so that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures (James 1:18).   This is a huge Feast, this involves us showing God our honor, and God providing Hope in our own resurrection.  We miss the significance of this when we don’t follow His command to observe First Fruits.  Now, let’s shift gears.

Why do we observe Easter?
Let’s clarify… All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Each spring, people saw other first fruits, like a budding tree, and figured it would be a good time to ask their goddess for new babies – both for themselves and for their livestock to reproduce.  They worshiped the things in nature which represented fertility, such as the rabbit and the egg.  Since the rabbit is a prolific breeder, isn't it wonderful that the Easter Bunny hide eggs in places easily discovered to give hope of fertility.  An egg hunt represents the attempt to conceive a baby.  I have friends who like to say "they go at it like rabbits" when talking about sex.  Today, we continue this observance with the Easter Bunny and painted eggs and new outfits for Easter church services and parades.   It isn’t very popular to speak the truth, but the Easter Egg business is a nearly $2 Billion industry.   God hates this idolatry, Exodus 20:2-5, and for our disobedience, there is generational perversity.  The reality though, is that we diminish the Gospel, the Good News of the Messiah, when we get side tracked on all this other non-sense.  The end result is that the church at large doesn't understand who Jesus is as the First Fruits - because we've kept them busy with other distractions.

Why do we observe Resurrection Sunday?
For a Risen Christ, our Messiah resurrected from the grave!  For many Christians, this is the extent of their comprehension of what happened on this particular Sunday.  

Should we observe the Feast of First Fruits?
Not if you want to miss out the deeper meaning of the New Covenant.  Most of Christianity isn’t interested in that deeper relationship with God; rather they just want the blessings.   Throughout history, including at the Cross, believers scurry away when they are confronted with the Truth.  Modern Christianity is the worst, where we come to church to sing some songs, raise a hand, feel emotionally charged from the rousing music and a 3 point sermon.  But that’s it.  Most Christians just want to show up and get blessed.  Sadly, most Christians are a breed of lazy souls, going along for a ride, not really wanting to do more than lip service.  So, when society offers options, God’s way will get pushed out.  This is seen today with watered down and seeker friendly sermons, the abandonment of “servant” in servant leadership, homosexuality in the pulpit, and with lack of accountability upon church leadership.  But the largest means by which God’s way is pushed out is when the congregation has removed the ability for God to bless them.  God cannot bless them when they are despising Israel.  (Genesis 12:3)  Moreover, the problem is that our ego doesn’t allow us to submit to God’s way.  The solution is simple.  The solution is that we must submit to God and walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Jesus observed these Feasts, why don’t we?
Jesus is the faithful witness. He is first among all who will be raised from death. He is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Jesus is the one who loves us and has made us free from our sins with his blood sacrifice.  He made us his kingdom and priests who serve God his Father. To Jesus be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. Look, Jesus is coming with the clouds! Everyone will see him, even those who pierced him. All peoples of the earth will cry loudly because of him. Yes, this will happen! Amen.   (Revelation 1:5-7)  

Won't you follow Jesus in a deeper way?

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” 
― William Booth

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