If you’ve had the experience of growing anything from seed, you know that the biggest celebration comes in the middle of the process. You rejoice in the sprouting, and grieve in the ending, but the middle is the money. It is the time where the fruit makes its glorious arrival. The time when the work you’ve done has paid off, and now the harvest begins.
The time when that sweet, red, tomato makes its presence known. When the snap peas are plump and crisp. When the corn stalks are full and the silks are turning—the first-fruits—all pretty, and ready, and delicious.
But, what about when the first-fruits aren’t pretty? What about, like my glorious carrot shown above, the first fruit looks all wonky, and not-so-great? The ugly fruit. The fruit, that by supermarket standards, isn’t worthy of the shelves. It’s the throw away, because it doesn’t fit-the-bill. Home gardeners and farmers have a different take on this.
God talks about first fruits, too. The bible has its share of explanation and direction. The process is a representation of the giving back, to the One who gave. It is the tithing of our money, of our time, of our possessions—off the top—give the first, because it’s the better; it's what you’ve worked hard at.
Not because God needs the gift, but because He needs our hearts. It is a discipline that sets itself to give back, what has been given to.
“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.” Is 37:14-15
It is one of my top favorite stories in the Bible. It is about a king, who received a not-so-good message, and was caught in a dilemma. And what did he do?, he went and laid it all out before the Lord. He literally spread the papers before God and said, “Do you see it? What do I do with this? Will you handle, Lord?
What a scene!
Have you ever spread out your troubles to the Lord? I mean, really, truly, unabashedly spread them out?
Not a little side prayer.
Not a, “maybe, if You aren’t too busy, God…,” prayer.
Not a, “oh He won’t listen” prayer.
I mean, a full-on, arms wide open—here it all is—I’m giving it all to you, kind of prayer.
A, lay-it-all-out-on-the-table, spread from corner to corner, I can’t bare my soul any deeper…moment with God.
Certainly, I may be taking liberty here in this jump between first fruits of our givings, to the first fruits of our problems, forgive me if it doesn’t sit well, but I have to ask, doesn’t God want both? Doesn’t He want both the “pretty” and the “ugly”? Doesn’t He want us to give Him our first in our best, and our first in our worst?
If first fruits is about discipline for giving, should it matter whether it is the supermarket beauties, or the ugly discards? Isn’t anything that causes us to draw as close as possible to God, what He wants first?
Friends, quite simply, God wants all of us! Our every thing, our every part, our every up, our every down; both the good, and the bad; the pretty and the ugly!
We can’t be followers of a God that we think wants only our best, with no mention of the worst. If we can unload ourselves to Him in the best of times, what about all that middle area worst-of-times? Are not the ugly fruits just as important as the supermodel fruit? Are not our anguish prayers, just as important as our praise prayers? Can our no-matter-what prayers be our first fruits to the Most High?
I believe they can be.
I believe, just as with our money, and our time, and our resources, our prayer life is a similar discipline that also sets itself to give back, what has been given to.
Our lives were given to us; therefore our hearts must be given to Him.
The Hezekiah story. Why for this post? Because what happened next, to me, proves this point. It should give us all a little pause and encouragement in our own lives:
“Then Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah. This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Because you have prayed to me (…followed by multi-verses of going-to-dos by God)…I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!’” Is 37:21-35
God heard Hezekiah!
He saw the message!
He saw the papers!
He was there when Hezekiah laid it all out!
God took notice!
Friends, take heart in this example! Bring it all to God! Bring the first fruits of your hearts. Bring the pretty. Bring the ugly. Bring without hesitation. Bring with hope. Bring with confidence. Bring with anticipation.
Then watch what God will do!
Your first fruits, no matter how they look, are what God wants most.
Lord, God, thank you for the examples and the messages you give us, through others. Thank you! And thank you for wanting to hear, and see, and know, what is in my heart—no matter how it looks. Teach me to bring it to you first, and fully.
(NOTE—I’m going on vacation! It’ll be a bit prolonged. I’ll be back here in early February. I’ll be praying for you all. See you soon!)