GIVING YOUR ALL – UNTO MATURITY IN THE BODY - Leviticus 23:9-16

An overview of First Fruits and counting the omer

Shalom all, may the name of יהוה (Yahweh) be esteemed in this place as we His children gather together as one in יהושע (Yahushua) Messiah, aměn! I do trust that you are all enjoying this wonderful Feast of Matzot (Unleavened Bread). We had an awesome Pěsaḥ (Passover) Meal the other night and enjoyed such intimate worship the next morning – how awesome and joyous it is to celebrate and worship our King, aměn! As we go through this week of Unleavened Bread which for some at first may be quite an adjustment in not having leaven in the home and not eating anything leavened – yet as we look at the command regarding this feast we also see a great positive command – and that is that we are commanded to eat unleavened Bread for 7 days – that is it – it is not only that we are to not eat leaven but we are told to eat unleavened bread each day!!! This is a wonderful picture of us eating of the unadulterated Word every day – something we ought to do every day of our lives – but yet more specifically during this feast – it is all Him – nothing added!!! How has that been going for you all? This coming first day we will be celebrating the Feast of First Fruits and upon this day we also begin to count of 7 full Sabbaths and the day after the seventh Sabbath – which from ‘First Fruits’ is a period of 50 days when we then celebrate Shavuot – Feast of Weeks. 3 times a year all the men were commanded to come up to Yerushalayim, at the feast times of Pěsaḥ/Unleavened Bread – at Shavuot and at Sukkoth – all of these feasts are centred on harvest celebrations and offerings. During Unleavened Bread we have First Fruits which is the beginning of the barley harvest – Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Pentecost) is the celebration of the beginning of the wheat harvest and Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles) it is the fruit harvest. Tonight I want to share with you a little on just what season we are in and celebrating right now and will share a little on what First Fruits is all about as well as what the counting of the omer symbolises for us leading up to Shavuot.

In a message tonight called “Giving your all – unto maturity in the Body”, I certainly hope to stir your hunger and passion to give your very all as a daily living sacrifice unto יהוה.

The Feast of First Fruits is a celebration, as I have mentioned, of the barley harvest – this is the agricultural significance of course – however this Feast has as we all know greater and deeper spiritual meaning – the meaning the desire to ascertain as we walk in the spirit, aměn! This was the first harvest celebration of the year and in 7 weeks’ time we will celebrate the wheat harvest. What this Festival of First Fruit assures us is the sure and blessed promise of a future harvest to come. This Feast is NOT Easter; that is a pagan holiday in worship to the sun goddess Ishtar/Semiramis that is celebrated with bunnies and eggs all centred around child sacrifice unto the self-proclaimed Queen of Heaven.

This truly is a time of celebration, as we celebrate יהושע as the first fruit of the resurrection from the dead. Turn with me to Wayyiqra/Leviticus 23:9-14 (Read)

It is in this chapter we have just read that we see clearly the very appointed times/Feasts of יהוה. They are not man’s feasts or ‘Jewish’ Feasts – they are יהוה’s Feasts!!! They are also not, ‘well I’ll see if I feel like it’ gatherings – no they are commanded set-apart gatherings – and guess what – the Sabbath is one of those – Sabbath is not a if you feel like it I’ll come occasion – it is His Feast times – His appointed times we are commanded to keep and proclaim or rather ‘rehearse’ as set-apart gatherings unto Him!

In the process of revealing His plan of salvation for mankind, יהוה established His annual Appointed Days around the harvest seasons in the Middle East. Just as His people harvested their crops around these three Festival seasons, יהוה’s Appointed Days show us how He is harvesting people for eternal life in His Kingdom. The Appointed Feasts have meanings that build upon each other. Together they progressively reveal how יהוה works with humanity. The fifteenth of Aviv (1st month) begins the Feast of Matzot (Unleavened Bread), which is a high Sabbath. It is a seven day feast to יהוה. The day following the Sabbath during Matzot, which will always be on the 1st day of the week, is called the Feast of First Fruits.

When the barley harvest was ready to be reaped, a sheaf of the first grain would be brought to the priest who would wave it before יהוה. This was called the ‘the sheaf of the first fruits’ and would take place on the day after the Sabbath.

יהוה commanded the people to bring a sheaf of the harvest. Sheaf in the Hebrew is ‘omer’ which was the dry measure of food stuffs, and was a 1/10th part of an ephah – a dry measurement of grain equalling to the approximate amount of 22 litres, therefore an omer was around 2,2 litres dry equivalent. It is described as the measure of the seed resulting from one sheaf of grain. An omer was also deemed by יהוה to be the sufficient measure of ‘manna’ that an average person could eat in one day. Therefore an omer or sheaf also symbolises a single person and is in fact a picture of oneself being turned over to יהוה for the process of becoming useful to His community – His Bride!

We will look at what this ‘counting of the omer’ season means and speaks to us today in a short bit, after we just fully understand the major theme of First Fruits – which is primarily about resurrection and salvation. יהושע has fully met the requirements for these feasts we are celebrating and speaking of right now – He is our Passover Lamb – the bread of Life and the First Fruit offering!

It is very interesting to note several important events that took place on this day as recorded in Scripture, and they are:

1 – Noaḥ’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat on the 17th day of the 7th month of the then civil calendar which corresponds to the first month of ELOHIM’S calendar on saving Yisra’ĕl from bondage in Mitsrayim (Egypt). (Berěshith/Genesis 8), remember that יהוה changed the calendar when He brought Yisra’ĕl up out of Mitsrayim and what was then the 7th month now became the first month!

2 – Yisra’ĕl crossed the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) and were saved from the Egyptian army (Shemoth/Exodus 14)

3 – In the time of Estěr (Esther), Haman plotted to kill the Yisra’ĕlites in Persia and Media. Interestingly Haman had ten sons and is a type or picture of the false Messiah (Antichrist), representing the ten kingdoms who will rise in the tribulation period. (Estěr/Esther 9:7-10) On the 13th on Aviv he sent out a decree that all Yehuḏim would be killed, and Esther called for a three day fast, which would have been Aviv 14-16. On the 16th Esther risked her life and went before the king, she prepared a banquet for the King and Haman and again on the 17th of Aviv where she exposed Haman and he, a type of the false Messiah and Satan, was hanged and יהוה’s people were delivered and saved from the decree of death!

4 – Most importantly - יהושע was resurrected on the Feast of First fruits, offering Himself as the first fruits to all generations fulfilling the sign of Yonah (Jonah) – 3 days and 3 nights and becoming the first born among those who sleep!

יהושע is the first fruit of the Barley Harvest! Let us look at some Scriptures that speak of Messiah as the ‘first’:

1. יהושע is the firstborn of Miryam/Mary:

Mattithyahu/Matthew 1:23-25 ““See, a maiden shall conceive, and she shall give birth to a Son, and they shall call His Name Immanu’ĕl,” which translated, means, “Ěl with us.” 24 And Yosĕph, awaking from his sleep, did as the messenger of יהוה commanded him and took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she gave birth to her Son, the first-born. And he called His Name יהושע.

2. יהושע is the first-born of the Father:

 Iḇ‘rim/Hebrews 1:6 “And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, “Let all the messengers of Elohim do reverence to Him.

3. יהושע is the firstborn over all creation:

Qolasim/Colossians 1:15 “who is the likeness of the invisible Elohim, the first-born of all creation.

4. יהושע is the firstborn from the dead:

Ḥazon/Revelation 1:5 “and from יהושע Messiah, the trustworthy witness, the first-born from the dead, and the ruler of the sovereigns of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

5. יהושע is the firstborn of many brethren:

Romiyim/Romans 8:29 “Because those whom He knew beforehand, He also ordained beforehand to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, for Him to be the first-born among many brothers.

6. יהושע is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep:

Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, and has become the first-fruit of those having fallen asleep.

7. יהושע is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Aleph and the Taw:

Ḥazon/Revelation 22:13 “I am the ‘Aleph’ and the ‘Taw’, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

8. יהושע is the head of the body, the assembly – First in all!:

Qolasim/Colossians 1:18 “And He is the Head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that He might become the One who is first in all.

He is the most set-apart One of ELOHIM and He is both the first born of ELOHIM and the first fruit unto ELOHIM.

In Messiah what assurance we have is that in Him we are redeemed – Pěsaḥ speaks of our redemption, Matzot or Unleavened Bread speaks of our sanctification –being set-apart (cleaned up from leaven) and First Fruits is the assurance of our promise of eternal life and resurrection in Messiah. Blessed are those who have part in the first resurrection for the second death has no power over them!!!

Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 15:20-24 “But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, and has become the first-fruit of those having fallen asleep. 21 For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a Man. 22 For as all die in Aḏam, so also all shall be made alive in Messiah . 23 And each in his own order: Messiah the first-fruits, then those who are of Messiah at His coming, 24 then the end, when He delivers up the reign to Elohim the Father, when He has brought to naught all rule and all authority and power.

A wonderful passage that Sha’ul is writing to describe truly what we are celebrating on First Fruits – Messiah is the first fruit among those who have fallen asleep (died) and it is in Messiah that we are made alive. This passage is read as a commentary on the order of resurrection but Sha’ul is also referring here to First Fruits – In that יהושע in being the first to be raised has fulfilled this Feast – securing the future harvest. So at this Feast we celebrate the resurrection of  יהושע and in so doing we also celebrate the future completed resurrection of His Bride as each are made alive in Messiah  - each in his own order!

יהושע’s resurrection was in affect a sheaf wave offering presented before the Father as first fruits of the harvest to come! He also presented His first-fruits offering to the Father on this day:

Mattithyahu/Matthew 27:52-53 “and the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the set-apart ones who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the set-apart city and appeared to many.

A scripture not often understood and even very quickly skipped through lack of understanding – יהושע presented a first fruit offering of souls unto the father. Those graves that were opened when He died lay open for 3 days and3 nights and after His resurrection the dead from the tombs that were opened came out of the tombs and appeared unto many – picture the scene – at His death the temple veil was torn, there was a huge earth quake and tombs of many were opened and they stayed open for 3 days and 3 nights until יהושע was raised, after which the dead of those who were in those tombs came out and appeared to many. These raised ones were taken up when He ascended and presented the first fruit offering unto the Father – fulfilling this Feast and its requirements:

Wayyiqra 23:12 “And on that day when you wave the sheaf, you shall prepare a male lamb a year old, a perfect one, as a burnt offering to יהוה.

He is our High Priest who presented the wave offering, being the ‘year old perfect lamb’ ascended up to the Father!

Yoḥanan/John 20:17 “יהושע said to her, “Do not hold on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My Elohim and your Elohim.’

That day He ascended and presented the first fruit offering and the next evening He came and stood in the midst of His taught ones and breathed on them and they received the Set-Apart Spirit – a first fruit of the Spirit that would later be poured out on many!

So what we are celebrating is the fact that in Messiah the first born is the first fruit and our High Priest in whom we have redemption and the promise of eternal life with Him. But what does this season also mean for us - His Body? This counting of the omer from the start of the barley harvest unto the start of the wheat harvest reflects a great lesson for us – this speaks to us about a time of being refined – making oneself count for the Kingdom and taking an honest account of where one fits in and how well one is progressing toward fulfilling the calling of the Father in one’s life:

Counting the omer is not a time to sit back and relax and in a sense have the misconceived idea of ‘once saved always saved’, no – this is a time of diligent preparation and humble obedience to walking in and becoming more effective as part of His Bride who has prepared Herself. I hope that you are still with me here as now I want to share something that is so very profound in understanding the process of preparation. As we consider during this time that we are to pay closer attention to the fields we find ourselves in – be it a literal farm or the workplace/field you find yourself in – let that filed teach you, as we recognise that these days are a time to transform us into a more refined people, in order that we can be easily mixed together and made into a unified loaf of Bread so to speak unto יהוה for Him to enjoy and be satisfied and pleased in. This First Fruit feast is a wave offering of the sheaf of barley and at Shavuot there is a wave offering of leavened bread, so let us look at the process of making bread and preparing it for a wave offering unto יהוה! There are several steps or processes which as we look at I hope that we are all reminded and realise just what is expected of me in being a part of the body or loaves if you will of Messiah!

10 steps:

1 – SOWING OR PLANTING: The Hebrew term used for sowing or planting also carries with it the meaning of ‘scattering’ – picture as a farmer ‘scatters his seed. The ancient practice of scattering was called to ‘broadcast’ the seed from a bag that was hung over ones shoulder. We as a people of Elohim have been scattered over the whole earth and long to be replanted, if you will, into our native soil. I am sure we are all aware of the sowing and reaping principle – nothing can be reaped from what was not sown and you cannot reap something different from what has been sown – you reap what you sow – be it attitudes, thoughts, actions or even priorities – do not expect to get something out from that which you did not sow! You want an intimate growing relationship with יהוה - then sow the time and effort in seeking Him! יהוה scattered Yisra’ĕl and we get a greater understanding of this from the book of Hoshěa which I encourage you to read. Scattered but watched over – for this scattered seed will bring in a bountiful harvest for reaping!

2 – GROWING: There is always a season or period between sowing and reaping – it never happens immediately. It is during this time where growth occurs and this season of growth is a time in a sense for us to think about what was done wrong and how we can do better. One of the keys to overcoming the period of growth or period of ‘exile’ if you will, is simply just that – grow and grow and grow – and to grow we have to realise that we have inherited some lies – ok more than just some – a whole lot!!! But in realising this we also begin to grow and realise and know יהוה’s power and more importantly – His NAME!!! To ‘know’ is to walk in His Torah – for as Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 2:3 says that we know that we know Him when we guard His commands! And as love for יהוה and one another grows through obediently guarding his commands we can ‘outgrow’ our ‘exile’ from the Promised Land – the more the world grows dim before our eyes and has no effect on pulling us away from obedience and therefore be ready to be lifted up when He comes and be replanted where we belong – together with Him in His Land!!!

3 – REAPING: This reaping process is simply separating the harvest from the field that it grew in. Grain must be reaped or else it cannot be used. We too, just as Aḇraham, may have to be reaped out of our circumstances and even our families. Grain when reaped is gathered into storehouses – and this is a wonderful picture of what we see happening more and more in these last days – pretty much the equivalent of Him gathering or assembling His grain into communities – because to put is plainly – a single kernel of grain cannot make much bread - and certainly not enough for an offering unto יהוה! Once gathered together this is when the real preparation begins – say what – yes this is when it begins! What has erroneously been taught in the church today is that this is the final stage for those blinded hopefuls and they do not realise what lies ahead in the process of making bread! This is only the beginning and the next steps are what shape us into what we need to become in order to be presented to יהוה as a prepared Bride! This is His storehouse or rather one of His storehouses where He will gather together much grain – grain that is ready to be prepared to be made into an acceptable offering of bread unto  יהוה!

4 – THRESHING: Ouch – the sound of this word already makes you realise why the church chooses to stop blindly at reaping, and why they developed a false rapture teaching that sadly for them seemingly removes them from the rest of the bread making process! Admittedly most would prefer to stay at the reaping stage – sitting quietly in a barn being no use to anyone at all and it is easy to understand why – nobody likes to be ‘threshed’. It almost sounds like ‘thrashing’ and guess what – it is!!! Boy – many who have left the reaping stage into threshing or thrashing soon want to jump back to the safe old barn of no good premature stop! The Hebrew word for ‘teach’ literally means to ‘prod with a stick’ and so it is with threshing – which is simply the applying of pressure to grain – be it from beating it or grinding it or letting heavy animals trample on it – with the purpose in mind to loosen the shells and separate the grain from the chaff – or the stalks from the husks – which is still pretty much useless at this stage. It is the stalk that represents that which attached us to the field that we came out of and we do not want that to be an ingredient in the bread!!! Most of what we bring in from the field – be it dogmas of Rome, doctrines of man, theologies, misguided moral codes and even wrong priorities that we have picked up along the way – is no longer useful to us once we have grown enough and been separated from the system – threshed out in other words – not always painless I might add – and are now threshed out enough to begin studying the Torah. The omer basket is filled with kernels and each one has a husk that has to be removed. All too often though we don’t want this to happen as we can so often find ourselves hiding from one another behind the husks so to speak – those very things that need to go! We cannot be a part of the bread of we hang on to the ‘hull’ – the ‘hull’ is the outer part of a seed or fruit. We must begin to be honest and give an account for ourselves and ask, “What am I still attached to that is useless to the Kingdom?” In this threshing process we must allow other trusted brothers and sisters in the body to ‘loosen’ our kernels – after all in the process of making bread it is people who do the job!!! Each of us is responsible to help one another in these processes – and is a great honour and privilege that requires faithfulness and trustworthiness! For we are in effect taking what ‘protects’ people into our hands and whatever we learn about them in the process must be used to help them and build them – not harm or destroy them! We need to be ‘threshed’ out of the field from which we have come from and we must realise that we cannot keep holding on to those things that previously shaped our thinking, especially when it contradicts the Torah! All we can do is repent, which is a critical step in being able to move on – threshing is a must – not easy but a must – those husks and hulls must be loosened off of us and we need to let go of those things that we thought gave us security as we realise that in our vulnerable state our only security is in יהוה!

5 – WINNOWING: Another step in the process, that involves a ‘fork’ that looks like a rake. The threshed grain is thrown up into the air in order to expose it to the wind which will blow away the lightweight particles and the heavier – that is the more important – will be left behind! This process worked better on a hill top and so you find many threshing floors being on higher ground to allow this process to take place after threshing. This process reflects to us an elevating of one another – lifting one another up in prayer and edifying each other up into the presence of the Almighty where the ‘wind’ or Ruach blow away the unneeded stuff in our lives as we immerse in His presence – letting that which is useless be blown away and what will simply be left is better refined kernels with no chaff! Sha’ul said to the Corinthians that he desires that they all speak in tongues but he would rather prefer that they all prophesy – why? Because prophesy builds up the body – tongues is for the individual unless there is an interpretation for the body but prophesy in itself is there to edify others – edify the body and in so doing elevates others to a place where the Spirit can remove the chaff!

6 – PARCHING: After being separated from the lighter elements – all that airy fairy fluffy junk that just clogs up our lives and is actually of no use – all the ‘hot puffed up air’ so to speak – once that is gone guess what? The heat is turned up!!! What – seriously? Yes – it gets hotter! Once we are a taught people who have been elevated we can be exposed to things that we would never have considered before. It is interesting to note at this stage that is would be useless to ‘parch’ a single kernel – so we are all parched together! No one has to go through this alone! This is not a ‘burning’ of the grain but rather a process of removing moisture from the kernels and makes the grain even lighter, and what this pictures for us is that at this stage we begin to give less weight to the ‘me, myself and mine’ attitude and rather consider what is best for one another and the whole bread, so to speak! You know it is so difficult to ‘give up’ individual rights – but we can when we are in it together! Parching may cause tears – in fact more often than not it will as one lets go off selfishness and pride – the removal of moisture!

7 – CRUSHING: Come on Craig, crushing… when does it stop? This is even a scarier process I know! In Ancient times all bread was what you would call, ‘stone ground’. In fact at many archaeological sites many ancient ‘millstones’ were found. A millstone is where two huge concrete stones are used from crushing – grains were crushed between two stones – the two stone of a millstone picture the two stone tablets upon which the Torah was written. The kernels are not destroyed in this process – far from it – they in fact now become very useful and fully useable – for now all the kernels have actually become part of one flour mix – inseparable – a picture of a people with the same purpose. It is at this stage where we can safely say that a bird cannot come and snatch away a single kernel as there is no way to identify the part of a single kernel as they are now so mingled and mixed in together. You see it is like this – as we obey the Torah, love יהוה and love one another – what happens? We become inseparable and become as one!

8 – SIFTING: In the 2nd Temple times the wheat for the offering at Shavuot was sifted 13 times!!! Each times becoming finer and finer! 13 is the numerical value for the Hebrew word ‘echad’ – meaning one or unified and יהושע Himself prayed that we would be one! The closer we get together through obedient living and fellowship, the more refined we become. Those who are crushed with us are our true neighbours!!! One thing we must realise is simply that if I do not bring my part and am causing disruption in the body causing the refining of the body to stumble then as it is sifted again I may just be sifted out!!!

9 – TESTING: Then comes the testing – as a body or as a loaf! The Temple treasurer would come at this stage and plunge his hands into the refined flour and it needed to be so fine that no flour was to be seen on his arms. In fact they were so strict that if any adhered to his flesh it would have to be sifted again. This although seemingly a strict procedure pictures for us that we are in this together – it is not a case of ‘well that is their problem’ or ‘it is someone else’s problem’ – no – until all of us are sufficiently refined together none of us can become the bread – this is everyone’s responsibility to become a part! If you do not bring your part into the body or for sake of this teaching the loaf and the batch is failing the test due to your inconsistency then you may, as I have said, be simply sifted out. Satan is the one who desires to sift us out – he asked יהושע if he could sift Kěpha! Let us be careful that we are not sifted out by continually failing the tests!

10 – BAKING: Once tested it can now be baked and presented fresh unto יהוה as the first fruit of wheat. It is at the feast of Shavuot leavened bread – why? Because it has been permeated with the Kingdom:

Mattithyahu/Matthew 13:33 “Another parable He spoke to them, “The reign of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until all was leavened.

This bread is leavened with the Kingdom – not with sin as leaven represents for us at this feast we are in of Unleavened Bread. At Shavuot 2 loaves are presented representing the 2 houses of Yisra’ĕl which once were scattered but now are being brought back and the promise of this is seen in the fulfilment of both these first fruit offerings of the barley and the wheat.

Guys this is a season and time to prepare – let us prepare as we celebrate and recognise the very work our Saviour has done in becoming our Passover Lamb, our First Fruit and the very Living Bread of which we are His body and in Him we are one able to be presented to Elohim as a pleasing offering!

At this First Fruit Feast what will you bring unto יהוה? יהושע has indeed fully met the requirements of this feast and as Yoḥanan says that we are claim to stay in Him ought also to walk even as He walked and so we too come and give our best, our all unto יהוה, prepared to be part of a Bride who makes herself ready – rid of the leaven of sin, yet becoming permeated with the good leaven of the Kingdom. Praise יהוה all you servants of יהוה and bless His mighty Name – I look forward to seeing you all in the morning for our Shabbat day set-apart gathering and on the first day for a set-apart gathering for first fruits as we bring Him a wave offering of our lives set-apart unto Him in Messiah יהושע!

Understanding what He has done for us – will you give your all – unto maturity in the body?

Shalom

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