Deuteronomy 26 – Presenting Firstfruits and Tithes
A. Instruction for bringing the firstfruits and tithes.
1. (1-4) Bringing the firstfruits to the priest.
And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.” Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God.
a. When you come into the land: The Promised Land lay just across the Jordan River, and though there were formidable obstacles (such as a Jordan River swollen by Spring floods and the mighty armies of Canaanites), God still assured them that they will come into the land.
b. Some of the first of all the produce of the ground: Numbers 18:12 speaks of the firstfruits that must be regularly brought to the priests, but the firstfruits described here in Deuteronomy 26 seem to be a special offering of firstfruits, from the first of the harvest they gain in the Promised Land.
c. Set it down before the altar of the LORD your God: Firstfruit giving obviously honored the LORD, because it gave the LORD His portion off the top before any was used for one’s self.
2. (5-10) The words of thanks and praise at the giving of firstfruits.
And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: “My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the LORD God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’; and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me.” Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God.
a. And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: This wonderful confession of thanks remembered the history of Israel from the time of Jacob and his family in the land of Canaan, to the family’s going down into Egypt, and to the eventual deliverance and Exodus into the Promised Land.
b. He went down to Egypt and sojourned there: Israel spent some 400 years in Egypt. Yet in the course of God’s eternal plan, it was nothing more than a sojourn. We can often focus so much on our own time of trial or misery that we think that it defines our whole life; God saw Israel’s experience in Egypt as a sojourn.
c. Few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous: This was the major reason God had for sending Jacob and his family on their sojourn in Egypt. When they lived in Canaan, there was great risk of the family just assimilating with the wicked, pagan peoples around them. To prevent this, and to allow the nation to grow, God sent them down to Egypt, which was a very racist society, and who would not intermarry with Israel. Therefore, they could go down there few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
d. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land: This initial giving of firstfruits when Israel came into the Promised Land was an appropriate way to say “thank you” to the LORD. This giving, and all giving done with the right heart, is a proper way to worship before the LORD your God.
3. (11) So you shall rejoice.
So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.
a. Rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you: When we receive from the LORD, and give back to Him, it makes us rejoice. It is the proper response of a creature to his Creator, who has supplied him with all good things.
4. (12-15) The prayer for the giving of the tithe.
When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year; the year of tithing; and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God: “I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God, and have done according to all that You have commanded me. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
a. When you have finished laying aside all the tithe: The tithe was required of Israel every year, but every third year, the tithe was given not only to the Levites for their support (as was instructed in Numbers 18:21-24), but was to be shared by the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so they may eat within your gates and be filled.
b. Then you shall say: The prayer described here shows that the giving was done with the right kind of heart. God not only wants us to give, but to give with the right heart.
i. Right giving is done according to God’s Word: According to all Your commandments which you have commanded me.
ii. Right giving is done within the context of a whole life of obedience: I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.
iii. I have not eaten any of it… nor have I removed any of it: Right giving genuinely sets aside what is to be given unto the LORD.
iv. Nor given any of it for the dead: Right giving is not done superstitiously; “Putting food in a grave with a dead body was a common Egyptian and Canaanite practice, which is most likely what the Israelites were not to emulate.” (Kalland)
v. Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people: Right giving is done with the expectation of blessing.
B. Moses’ exhortation to Israel.
1. (16) A call to complete obedience.
This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
a. This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments: Deuteronomy 4:1 began this long section with the words Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe. From Deuteronomy chapter 4 through chapter 26, Moses has reminded Israel of God’s commands. Now he exhorted them to keep the commands.
b. therefore you shall be careful to observe them: Sometimes we need to be instructed regarding the law of God; sometimes we need to be reminded regarding the law of God. But most often, we need to be exhorted regarding the law of God. We know what to do, but we need to be encouraged to actually do it.
2. (17) Israel’s proclamation.
Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice.
a. Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God: Israel was to proclaim two things. First, that the LORD to be their God. Second, that they will walk in His ways and keep His statutes. The two go together, because the identity of our God is always demonstrated by the direction of our obedience.
3. (18-19) God’s proclamation.
Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.
a. The LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people: Israel’s obedience to the LORD would be more than rewarded. God promised that He exalt an obedient Israel, to set them high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission