Scripture: Exo 13:1-2; 12-13
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine” ... 12 you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s. 13 But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
Putting God first is a spiritual discipline that has to be built upon. When God is at the centre of our lives and what we do, we are assured of His presence. As in the Lord’s prayer: His Kingdom comes when His will is done.
Placing God first can be expressed in many forms. One very important one that we ought to learn and hone is the principle of Firstfruit. Do a search of the Bible and you will realise that it is mentioned throughout the OT and NT. Rather than treating the teaching in Ex 13 as part of the Mosaic law, it is more important, I believe to understand the heart of God embedded in this instruction, and learn from the lessons Israel went through, so that we can live a more blessed and fruitful lives.
1st Principle: The Firstborn is either Sacrificed, or Redeemed
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea… These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Cor 10:1, 11)
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Rom 8:29)
God uses the symbolism of an innocent and perfect lamb to teach and remind generations of Israelites that a saviour will be provided for the redemption of those which are rendered “unclean”.
2nd Principle: The Firstfruits Must Be Offered
The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. (Ex. 23:19)
Honour the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. (Pro 3:9-10)
- It takes faith to give God the first one
- God is first
- What is not offered will be lost
3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. (Gen 4:3-5)
3rd Principle: The Tithe Must be First
And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. (Lev. 27:30)
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. (Mal 3:8-9)
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not (a) open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” 11 “And (b) I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field” says the Lord of hosts. (Mal 3:10-11)
Tithing Preceded the Law
…Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Gen 14:20b)
and this stone that I (Jacob) have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth. (Gen 28:22)
The journey of following Christ is for us to grow toward becoming more like Christ. As much as Christ was poured out for the redemption of humanity, we become more like Him when we learn to give. God is not looking at the mechanical formula of giving, but a transformation of the heart, from a sin-bound self-absorbed orientation to one which is God-honouring and others-centred.
Tithing is one of the practical spiritual disciplines that God instituted for man to work off his self-centred nature. It can be a struggle, at least from the beginning. What we need to focus on is His blessings on the 90%, rather than the 10% tithe.
14 So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 15 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ (Exo 13:14-15)