Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty-Six Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verses 1-2: "Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, 2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name." We who have been called to faith, are to be a people who give. Unless the Lord calls us differently in individual situations, a good first thought is: "Hmmm, the Lord has given me this gift" (which may take the form of money), and we pray—"Lord, who needs my help today?" Proverbs 3:9 is clear: "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce..." We are to give as the Lord leads us. Proverbs 3:27-28 continues the idea: "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go and come again, tomorrow I will give it'—when you have it with you." If God blesses you with an ability, a resource or a favored life, pray. Before you decide to build or buy a house, pay those bills or have a good time, ask the Lord about how to share the firstfruits of what He has given to you.
Verses 3-4: "You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare this day to the Lord my God that I have entered the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4 Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God." Our Lord is at work everywhere, creating and guiding ministries that serve people in various ways. Obviously, we are to pray before we give to such organizations because counterfeits do exist, but when we know in faith that our firstfruits are to be given to a certain group or person, we are to do it. Notice that those in the organization you give to, as represented by the "priest who is in office at that time," are to pray as well. In ministry, we are not to simply spend the money or other gift as we choose, but instead pray about how to use what is given, as seen in the words, "set it down before the altar of the Lord your God."
Verses 5-9: "You shall answer and say before the Lord your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. 7 Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; 8 and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; 9 and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey." When you think about it, it's absurd that someone would call another human being, "Your Holiness," or "Your Lordship," or "Reverend," or "Your Honor," or "Your Majesty," or whatever. The phrase, "My father was a wandering Aramean," is much closer to the reality about all of us. We are the sons and daughters of poor sinners and we are sinners, too. We have been captured by sin, in thought, word and deed, except that some of us have "cried to the Lord," who heard us, "brought us out," and gave us a place in eternity with Him who has delivered us. Just like the physical, historical Israel, a lot of what life is about for us all is "toil and... oppression," but He who created us became our Savior, leading us to safety in the "land" of the Father.
Verses 10-11: "Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce 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; 11 and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you and your household." All too often our thoughts have included getting the most out of life, which may take the form of money, prestige, and power, which only lead us down the false path of pride. If we are made strong, it is to help the weak. The rich are meant to provide for the poor, and when Cain demanded of the Lord, "Am I my brother's keeper?" in Genesis 4:9—the true answer is—"YES, you are." The minister who teaches you about the Lord, the person from a different culture and background, the widow, the orphan—these are your brothers, your sisters, and what you have is not only intended for you—it is for them also.
Verses 12-14: "When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 You shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments. 14 I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of the Lord my God; I have done according to all that You have commanded me." When you look around at the world and the country you live in, you might have at least a few complaints about the way things are being run. Blaming leaders is a popular way of dealing with our concerns, but it does not solve the problem. Cartoonist Walt Kelly, a few decades ago, said words appropriate for today: "I has met the enemy and he is us" (sic). Do we pray for our country, our leaders? If we do, then HOW do we pray? Do we give to those in need, as led by the Lord? If not, why not? The "third year" was a time of special giving, and it represents all those times when the Lord has moved you to give something of value that you ordinarily might spend on yourself. Can we say today, "I have listened to the voice of the Lord my God?" He is speaking to you and me. To give as He leads is faith in action, and we are to remember that all we have really belongs to Him.
Verse 15: "Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers." There really is a direct relationship between what you are willing to give and God's blessing on your life. When Proverbs 3:9 urges us to "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce," it continues in Verse 10: "then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." Does that mean we are to give in order to get something in return? No, it does not. Even what we don't have is God's wondrous gift because it limits our pride. Jesus commented on our motives in Luke 6:27-36—"love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return," concluding, "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." God gives us far more in life than we know, and it is reasonable that we will look to Him, hunger for Him, and receive Him, becoming transformed into those who are willing to share some of what He has given to us.
Verses 16-19: "This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. 18 The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; 19 and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken." The nation Israel's earliest ancestors, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, found honest faith in the Lord. They did not have the Bible like we do, teaching them about the Lord, faith, love and so much more... they just responded to His touch, His promise, and gave themselves to the One who created us all. And then, at just the right moment in history, the Lord entered this world, becoming the Savior of all who trust Him in the past, present and future. To have faith in the Lord is to give ourselves to Him. We were His anyway, and faith is our acknowledgement of who He is and what we are in relation to Him. Israel is God's "treasured possession," and amazingly, "if you are Christ's, then YOU are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29). Jesus Christ gave Himself to and for us. It's a contract: He offered Himself, we accept His offer through faith, and something of infinite value is given—His blood—making this a legal, binding contract in the sight of God. We are now His "treasured possession," and "a consecrated people to the Lord... as He has spoken." So let's give of our firstfruits, as He leads us, especially sharing with them the Lord who loves you and me.
Lord, I confess those times when You called me to give and I kept it for myself. I surrender, Lord. As You lead me, I will follow. I will give because of You, who has given everything to me. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.