Published on January 25th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
First Fruits: The Right Way To Worship
By Pastor Paula White
First fruits is the principle of dedicating our “first things” to the Lord, so that everything else can fall into their proper position. It’s about aligning ourselves with God’s order. The Biblical principle of first fruits can be summed up like this: the “first fruits” establish the destiny of what is left. The principle of first fruits is a type and shadow that has been fulfilled by Jesus’ arrival on earth, His sacrificial death, and rising again to ascend to heaven. Jesus is the “first fruit” that God received of His harvest of sons and daughters He will one day receive from the earth. The pattern of Jesus’ life is an establishing of the destiny of “what is left:” you and I who trust in Jesus Christ.
The first fruits set a pattern for the things to follow. Firstfruits is an act of worship (or offering) in faith and it proves the position in which the giver holds God and is held by God! Anytime something is a first thing, a firstfruit (also called a devoted thing), God always lays claim to it. As we enter this new year, we make God’s presence our priority, and we practice His principles.
When you put God first, by obeying His principles and following His divinely established patterns, your life becomes aligned with His plan and promises for you:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
We must make God’s presence our priority. When someone or something has priority in your life, that means it has precedence; superiority in rank, position or privilege. That priority item or person is FIRST. If we don’t set priorities in our life, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. We must choose to make the change.
One of the first occurrence of first fruits in the Bible is in the history of Cain and Abel. The story of Cain and Abel that I am about to share with you is one that leaves many of us astonished and asking, “Why? What was it about Cain’s offering exactly that displeased God?” I’m going to talk about that with you and also illustrate an important principle – God’s principle of “first fruits.”
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and his offering: But unto Cain and his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
There is a way to worship. Worship is your response to what you value the most. This is done out of an intimate relationship with God. God declares in John 4:23 that “the time has come where true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” The Word “truth” in the Greek means, “not concealing or hidden. In other words, worship is revealing. I don’t reveal unless I feel safe. Intimacy is freedom to share the “real you” without rejection – or abandonment. What you worship is what you value! Follow the trail of your time, affection, energy, money, loyalty, thoughts, dreams, and priorities, and you will find what or who is sitting on the throne of your life (or heart). Whatever you value the most will ultimately determine who you are.
It is beyond question that Cain and Abel knew an order to come before God with acceptance. When the family came to worship God, most scholars note that Cain brought an offering of fine flour, oil and frankincense. That is a gratitude offering. But Abel brought a gratitude offering and the firstborn of his flocks (or, a first fruit offering). This would have been a very costly, maybe even heartbreaking sacrifice on Abel’s part. Not only did Abel give to God first – Abel gave God the very best he could give.
Giving a first fruits offering requires faith, and Abel demonstrated his faith, which was pleasing to the Lord. As is recorded in Hebrews, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.” (Hebrews 11:4, NIV) Because of the faith demonstrated by his offering, Abel obtained witness as a righteous man.
What does righteous mean? It doesn’t mean that Abel was simply a good man, or that he was handsome, or charismatic in his personality. It means that Abel was in right standing with God. It means Abel placed God first, in the right place. Abel followed the pattern of God.
Did Cain bring an offering? Yes, he brought “of the fruit of the ground an offering” to give the Lord. But it was a partial offering. Cain withheld worship..he did not have God in the right place – first.
Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sins (Heb 9:22). Abel’s offering involved bloodshed, but Cain’s offering was from the cursed ground (Gen 3:17). A first fruits offering is not a sin offering. However, coming before God as he did, it was almost as if Cain was presenting his offering based on his own worthiness, rather than faith in God.
Remember the Pharisees, who Paul would say about them in Romans 10:3, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
Cain brought fine flour, frankincense, and olive oil …which was a gratitude offering, or even a tithe..but not first fruits. “And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the Lord..” (Numbers 18:13) Because he gave only a part, and that not in faith, God was not pleased with his offering. Abel brought his firstfruits and honored the order or divine and accurate arrangement of God. Cain gave what He wanted to give. Abel gave what God wanted. Cain’s offering or “worship” was done out of obligation – under his own terms. Cain in pride and arrogance did what He wanted to do and gave what He wanted to give. Abel gave out of obedience and faith.
You cannot serve God just a little bit…He calls for full surrender. What was the difference between Cain and Abel’s sacrifice? The difference was that Abel gave a first fruit offering. Cain did not act on his faith, but gave only a partial offering.
The first fruits offering is based on faith: faith in the fact that giving God the first sets the course for the blessings to be released on the rest…faith that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Because Abel stepped out in faith and obeyed God, Abel obtained rightstanding with God.
The Bible says Cain’s countenance fell. His face began to reveal what was in his heart—disgust, disappointment and anger that his labor had been for nothing or that doing it “his own way” was not enough. This must have intensified in the days, and weeks, and Cain became consumed by a competitive spirit, as he began to observe the blessings of God manifesting in his brother Abel’s life, while he continued to toil and labor with the soil.
God in His mercy and grace said to Cain, in Genesis 4:7:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
To “do well” means to retrace his steps, to consider his ways, to find where he was wrong and then amend his offering and his intention accordingly. Cain’s error was not simply in his offering, but it was in an attitude.
“For where your treasure (gr = a deposit, wealth) is, there will your heart be also.”
(Matt 6:21 KJV)
This is a heart issue. What you give and where you give is a reflection of what you love, desire or value. God didn’t want or need Cain’s offering..He wanted Cain. What grace and mercy we see in God towards us from the very beginning. Although he was given the opportunity, Cain did not act on divine counsel.
When you honor God in obedience by presenting to Him all first things, His Presence covers and blesses the rest (or, He sanctifies it). All throughout the Word of God, we see what happens when there is activation and honoring of first fruits.
Firstfruits is an act of worship (or offering) in faith and it proves the position in which the giver holds God and is held by God! Anytime something is a first thing, a firstfruit (also called a devoted thing), God always lays claim to it. As we enter this new year, we make God’s presence our priority, and we practice His principles.