Reading Scripture: Exodus 23:14-18
Verse to Memorize: Exodus 23:16
Reference: Deuteronomy 16:9-12
Goal: to help believers understand the origin and the spiritual meaning and implications of the Feast of Harvest and how to observe it according to the Word of God
The Feast of Harvest was initially celebrated by the Israelites to give thanks for the harvest of the first fruits of their labors in the land of Canaan after they entered the land from the Exodus. It was one of the three annual feasts. In Korea, churches keep the Feast of Harvest on the first Sunday of July. I hope you will understand the origin and spiritual meanings contained in the Feast of Harvest and become blessed believers who please God.
1. Origin and Spiritual Meaning of the Feast of Harvest
Exodus 23:16 states, “Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field.” Here, the first fruits refer to wheat. Toward the end of barley’s harvest, the harvest of wheat starts in Israel. The Feast of Harvest offers thanksgiving to God for blessing them to have the new crop, which is the wheat. This is one of the biggest agricultural festivities in Israel, and it is also called the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22) or Pentecost.
The Feast of Weeks means that it is the day seven weeks later from the following day of the first Sabbath after Passover. The total period is fifty days, so it is also called ‘Pentecost’ which means ‘fifty’. According to the Acts of Apostles, the Spirit descended on Pentecost, so, in Korea, Pentecostal Sunday celebrates the Spirit’s descent and the first Sunday of the second half of the year is celebrated as the Feast of Harvest. On the first Sunday of July, they give thanks to God for His grace and observe the Feast with hope that God will be with them in the coming second half of the year.
Then, how are we supposed to abide by the harvest of first fruits? Deuteronomy 16:9-12 reads, “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.”
Numbers 28:26-31 says, “Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the LORD in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. You shall offer a burnt offering for a soothing aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old; and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, a tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one male goat to make atonement for you. Besides the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall present them with their drink offerings. They shall be without defect.”
During the Feast of Harvest, together with usual offerings, two loaves of bread made of fine flour baked with leaven were offered up as first fruits for a grain offering as written in Leviticus 23:16-17. With the offering, they gave a burnt offering with a soothing aroma and sin offering.
The burnt and sin offerings indicate that saved souls should devote their hearts and bodies to God in the fullness of the Spirit all the time. Additionally, the offerings show us that we have to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion for our salvation and we also should become holier by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
Therefore, observing the Feast of Harvest spiritually means that we thank God not only for letting us have the first fruits of grain from the field, but also for allowing us to become God’s children by giving birth to spirit through the Holy Spirit who first came on Pentecost. We give thanks for letting us, who were destined to the way of destruction, have the right to become God’s children.
We could not communicate with God because our spirits died after the disobedience of Adam. But by Jesus Christ our spirits have been regenerated, regained the communication with God, and obtained salvation and eternal life. Furthermore, we are members of the church that is the body of the Christ and are trying hard to become sanctified up to the point of the Christ being formed in us. How grateful we should be!
2. Offerings for the Feast of Harvest
During the Feast of Harvest, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and sin offerings are offered up to God. The Bible tells us that people should give two one-year-old male lambs without defect as the continual burnt offering every day (Numbers 28:3-4), a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering that is mixed with a fourth of a hin of pressed oil (Numbers 28:5-6), and a drink offering (Numbers 28:26-31).
In order to make our offerings acceptable to God, we need to destroy the wall of sin between Him and us. We must offer up the worship services in fullness of the Spirit with all our hearts, will, and devotion, and we must prepare thanks offerings with our hearts. So then, let’s delve into the proper way to prepare thanks offerings.
Since we as God’s children have received the Holy Spirit, if we want to give the offerings we receive His guidance and gain insight concerning them. Then, if we love God and want to obey the guidance of the Spirit we will immediately obey and act upon it. God takes delight in cheerful givers who give with thanks from the bottom of the hearts (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
When we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; when we sow evil we will reap evil. Also, when we sow life, that is, the truth, we will reap eternal life. When we sow untruth we will reap death. He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. It is the law of God. However, the standard of application of the law depends on each different circumstance and situation that each individual is in, because God who knows everything of everyone. Jesus was pleased when He saw a poor widow giving two small copper coins and said, “For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
In the past, people gave offerings from their cattle, sheep, or goats but today we usually give from our income. Sometimes, we give things that we have that are precious to us. When we do not have money we can offer our bodies in doing volunteer work. No matter what we give, God accepts joyfully if we give it with joy, sincere hearts, and faith, then He repays us with blessings. He drives away every kind of trials and difficulty, causes all things to work together for good, and guides our souls to the way of prosperity.
Deuteronomy 16:10-11 reads, “Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the LORD your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.” Thus, during the Feast, we should gather in the Lord’s Temple, offer up the worship service in spirit and truth, give a tribute of a freewill offering, and rejoice together with other believers.
Celebrating the Feast of Harvest, I hope you will thank God for His love and blessing and especially for giving us the Holy Spirit and allowing us to enjoy authority and blessing as God’s children and to live a sanctified life with hope for Heaven in the guidance of the Spirit.
3. Life of Giving Thanks in Everything
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God promised His beloved children He would answer their prayer and guide then to the beauty of Heaven. So, we can rejoice and give thanks with hope even if we are in difficulties. Moreover, Jesus the Son of God was crucified to save us who were on the way to eternal death! How couldn’t we give thanks for the love!
If you give a little bit of thought of finding reasons for which you give thanks, there are so many. We can breathe, walk, and stay alive, which are the reasons for giving thanks. Even if we have some kinds of worries and anxiety, God the Almighty is our Father, so we have nothing to worry about. This is because God can even revive the dead and solve all kinds of problems.
Psalm 50:23 says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” Although we are sometimes faced with afflictions or trials, if we overcome them with heartfelt gratefulness, we will be able to discover ourselves, be changed into spirit, and receive answers to whatever we ask. Celebrating the Feast of Harvest, I hope you will think about on the grace and blessings God has given to you and offer up greater thankfulness to Him.