Many of the rules or laws in Leviticus seem rather strange to us today. There are rules about not mixing different types of fibers in clothing, for example. Yet today we have clothing not only made of mixed fibers but no fibers at all. Some of the laws don't seem to apply to everyone, only to specific people. One such is "When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God" (Lev 19:23-25).
People who grow fruit trees know that the first several years the tree either produces no fruit or the fruit is small and not tasty. It takes several years for a fruit tree to mature and produce good fruit. So we could see in this law generally good advice about fruit trees. But the other lesson is about who to thank for those fruit trees and their produce. In the first year that the fruit matures the entire crop should be given to God in praise and thanks. The tree has grown; the soil has been fertile; the rainfall and sunshine plentiful; no locusts or birds have eaten the fruit. So in this first good year of harvest, the firstfruits all belong to God (Proverbs 3:9).
We all have first fruits of one kind or another. We earn a college degree and go out for our first year of work in our chosen field. We enter an apprenticeship program, become a journeyman and then a master. We start a new venture and have our first year when we turn a profit.
There's a temptation for many of us, I think, to consider this thanks offering as a tax instead. It is not necessarily freely and gratefully given. But a praise offering needs to be given with thanksgiving in our hearts.
For Reflection: Has there been a time in my life when I did not give all the firstfruits of my labor to God? If so, how can I make up for it? Have I continued to give God thanks through the days and the years for all He has given me?
Let us pray. Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. How priceless is your unfailing love (Psalm 36: 5-6, 7).
"Homemade Rice Bowl" By ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
How important is being mentioned by name? Often at the end of an event you hear thanks being given to those people who helped to organize it and who gave their time to make sure all in attendance were well taken care of. Rarely does the speaker have the opportunity to thank everyone by name.
In Exodus 1, two women are mentioned by name. Because the Hebrew slaves were increasing in numbers and strength, Pharaoh became fearful of an uprising. He told the slave masters to work them ruthlessly. And then he ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys that were born. But the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, refused to do that. When Pharaoh discovered this, he summoned them for questioning. No doubt two slave women brought before the king were afraid, but they stood up to him and were spared their lives.
Only two midwives were named in Exodus though it is more than likely that many midwives served the Hebrew women. Shiphrah and Puah were probably the leaders among the midwives and that's why they were brought to Pharaoh. And so they are mentioned in the account, like the organizers of an event, as a way of thanking them and their coworkers for their service. These women, who were not afraid to stand up for what they knew to be right, saved lives and entered the pages of history.
For Reflection: We are all descended from a long line of ancestors. What courageous people do we have to thank for the gift of life? Who crossed a sea or fought a war or stood up to a king that I might someday be born?
Let us pray. God, I thank you for Shiphrah and Puah and their bravery. I thank you for all of my ancestors - my ancestors in life and my ancestors in faith. I thank you for the few I know by name and the many whose names I don't know. I thank you for all those who struggled and persevered for my sake.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.