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First Fruits

“You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the festival of weeks to the Lord your God, contributing a free-will offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the Lord your God. 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 the widows who are among you—at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes” (Deut. 16:9-12). Moses outlined for the Israelites the ordinances of the Festival of Weeks (Shavu’ot or Pentecost). This festival commemorated the harvest seven weeks and one day(50 days hence Pentecost)after the first Sabbath after the festival of Unleavened Bread. The festival was to be a celebration marked by a free-will offering, an offering “in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the Lord.” The festivals and rituals that God gave to the Israelites served as reminders of His participation in their daily lives. Agriculture did not depend upon the farmer and his ingenuity or the luck of the weather; rather, God, Himself, blessed and provided for the daily needs of the people. The rituals and festivals functioned as reminders of God’s nearness and called upon the Israelites to give thanks, to rejoice. The Israelites celebrated Pentecost not only within their families but with their communities. Three groups of people are specifically identified as participating in the celebration of the festival—strangers, orphans, and widows. These three groups lacked a legal advocate within ancient Israel, which is why God often describes Himself, the just Judge, as the defender of these three groups. In the midst of the celebration, God calls on the Israelites to remember those on the fringes of their society and to bring them into the festivities. The basis for this action: “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt.” You were once an outcast, someone at the bottom of the social world, so remember and bring those at the bottom of your world into your celebration of the Lord’s blessing. Do we see God’s provision and care in every facet of our lives? Do we celebrate it and remind ourselves to rejoice at His provision? Do we share our blessing and bring into our celebration those on the fringes of our society? This was God’s expectation of the ancient Israelites when they celebrated Pentecost. He expects the same from us.

Father, thank You for Your daily provision in my life. As a sign of my Thanksgiving, may I share Your blessings in my life with others. Amen.

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