Deuteronomy 26 & Psalms 117-118

Deuteronomy 26

    “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God.

    “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.

    “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the LORD your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God. I 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 ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’

    “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the LORD is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”

(Deuteronomy 26 ESV)

Psalm 117

    Praise the LORD, all nations!
        Extol him, all peoples!
    For great is his steadfast love toward us,
        and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
    Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 117 ESV)


Psalm 118

    Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
        for his steadfast love endures forever!
    
    Let Israel say,
        “His steadfast love endures forever.”
    Let the house of Aaron say,
        “His steadfast love endures forever.”
    Let those who fear the LORD say,
        “His steadfast love endures forever.”
    
    Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
        the LORD answered me and set me free.
    The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
        What can man do to me?
    The LORD is on my side as my helper;
        I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
    
    It is better to take refuge in the LORD
        than to trust in man.
    It is better to take refuge in the LORD
        than to trust in princes.
    
    All nations surrounded me;
        in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
    They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
        in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
    They surrounded me like bees;
        they went out like a fire among thorns;
        in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
    I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
        but the LORD helped me.
    
    The LORD is my strength and my song;
        he has become my salvation.
    Glad songs of salvation
        are in the tents of the righteous:
    “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
        the right hand of the LORD exalts,
        the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
    
    I shall not die, but I shall live,
        and recount the deeds of the LORD.
    The LORD has disciplined me severely,
        but he has not given me over to death.
    
    Open to me the gates of righteousness,
        that I may enter through them
        and give thanks to the LORD.
    This is the gate of the LORD;
        the righteous shall enter through it.
    I thank you that you have answered me
        and have become my salvation.
    The stone that the builders rejected
        has become the cornerstone.
    This is the LORD's doing;
        it is marvelous in our eyes.
    This is the day that the LORD has made;
        let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    
    Save us, we pray, O LORD!
        O LORD, we pray, give us success!
    
    Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
        We bless you from the house of the LORD.
    The LORD is God,
        and he has made his light to shine upon us.
    Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
        up to the horns of the altar!
    
    You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
        you are my God; I will extol you.
    Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
        for his steadfast love endures forever!

(Psalm 118 ESV)

Something to Consider

Deuteronomy 26: The giving of your first-fruits was established as a constant acknowledgment and act of worship that remembered God’s gracious and constant provision for His people. In giving their first-fruits, the Israelites were giving the best portion of their harvest to the Lord and trusting that God would continually supply an abundant produce of their crop. God had given them the land, and therefore they were to give back to Him from the produce of that land. Today, we give of our first-fruits by giving of the ‘first’ or best of our earned wages. 

If we were honest, how many of us give God our ‘left-overs’ rather than our ‘first-fruits’? How many of us give out of our excess rather than out of our best? According to God’s Law, there is a “sacred portion” out of all of our resources that we are to give in worship and in support of the ministers, aliens, orphans and widows. 

Many of us struggle in obedience to this commandment, and then there are others who write it off as an Old Testament concept that no longer applies to us as New Testament people. The latter will often say things like, “God simply desires that we give what we desire to give as long as we do so with a generous heart.” Are we really to assume that the fullness of God’s revelation has now lowered the standard of our giving back to the Lord? If anything, as New Testament people captivated by what God has given us through His Son, we ought to be motivated to give more than the original standard set in the Old Testament Law. 

God hasn’t simply given us earthly land as an inheritance; God has given us the inheritance of eternal life. God has given us His ‘first-born’ Son and the “sacred portion” of His household that we might become spiritually rich. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8). For what can a man give back in return for the salvation of his soul? (Mark 8). May we realize that the cross of Christ has not lowered the standards of our giving but has shattered them beyond measure. Christ ‘emptied Himself’ of His best and gave Himself over to death in order that we might be given what's eternally best and an abundant life after death; may we “make response before the Lord our God” and cheerfully give beyond measure to the One who has given His all for us.