TEXT:      Deut. 16:9-17


What is Pentecost? It started as a feast in Israel many thousands of years ago, it was one of 7 feasts in their annual calendar. 3 of the 7 feasts were required attendance by all Jewish men, and Pentecost (also called the "Feast of Weeks") was one of these required attendance times. It was called "PENTECOST" because it came 50 days after Passover ("pente" being 50). It was the time of "FIRSTFRUITS" of their grain harvests. It was a celebration of harvest and giving to God the best, the firstfruits were considered the best of the grain … and God was given the best first before they kept any for themselves. Why did God inaugurate such a festival for Israel? One of the great struggles of the sinful nature is to give away to God or others what we have possession of. Our Sinful nature tries to hold on to everything for self. ILLUS:My 14-year-old son, Joel Porter, has a job this year. He got his first, official paycheck. Boy, was he thrilled. He came home and showed me his paycheck. Then he marched into the room where Mom was and said, "You know, I've thought it over and I'm not sure I can afford to tithe." He has more money in his hand than he's ever had before, and what happens? All of a sudden we say, "I really need this money for something else." Out of the mouth of a 14-year-old boy, true to his human nature, comes this whole question, "Where do I put God?" Is he first? Is he second? Is he fifth? Is he twenty-third in my life? Where is God? -- John Maxwell, "God's Trust Test," Preaching Today, Tape No. 156. PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that giving is a fundamental part of belonging to Christ, it is a recognition that I don't own all things and a way of expressing gratitude to God for His many blessings and abundance.

I. RECOGNITION       16:9-10

A. Abundance     16:9 1. At Passover the very first sheaf of barley was waved, and 50 days later on Pentecost the full harvest came in. a. The "firstfruit" sheaf was actually waved on the Sunday following Passover, the day Christ arose from the dead - then 7 weeks later (49 days) the full harvest came in! b. In this sense Jesus was the "firstfruits" of all those who will one day be resurrected from the dead … a New Testament theme: 1 Cor. 15:20 "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." 2. In the Old Testament is was a time of celebrating God's abundant gifts to His people … a time to not only receive the harvest, but a time to give back to God the best of what they had in recognition of His blessings to them. a. All the other nations became rich and spoiled … and power from wealth corrupted them. b. God wanted His people to avoid this process of corruption and death … by their giving they would never forget that they didn't "own" everything, and that God was their constant source of supply! c. Taking in without giving out would destroy them as it did every other nation. ILLUS:There are two seas in the same country, Israel. They are both in close proximity to each other and both are fed from the same source, yet they are vastly different as bodies of water go! One is the sea of Galilee which is brimming with life. Its waters are fresh and full of life everywhere, vegetation is all around its shores and it is the main waterway for commerce. It gives away exactly what it receives and so remains fresh and vibrant all the time. Not far from it and fed by the same source is the Dead Sea. Unlike the sea of Galilee, it is just as its name implies ... a dead body of water. There is no life in it at all, no vegetation grows around its shores, it consumes all the water it receives and yet nothing ever grows. It sends nothing onward to another place, but instead of getting bigger it is slowly withering away. It will only grow worse and worse as it shrinks in time. As to its brackish nature, no life will ever fill it! The only difference between the sea of Galilee and the Dead sea is that the Sea of Galilee passes on what it receives, the Dead Sea gives nothing, it only takes! B. Accountability     16:10 1. God has PENTECOST become a time of accountability … they were being asked to give a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings God had given them. a. No set percentage is given here, this was a freewill offering. b. It was a time for them to express God's blessings by an act of giving on their part. 2. If their harvest had been bountiful, they were to give an offering that reflected the great bounty from God. 3. Ironically they would discover that by their giving, their land and their own lives would be even more enriched as God opened the windows of heaven for them. a. Giving would not impoverish them, it would enrich them in many ways. b. They would see God's hand at work among them when they recognized God's ownership and responded with thankfulness in their giving. ILLUS:A priest once asked one of his parishioners to serve as financial chairman of his parish. The man, manager of a grain elevator, agreed on two conditions: No report would be due for a year, and no one would ask any questions during the year. At the end of the year he made his report. He had paid off the church debt of $200,000. He had redecorated the church. He had sent $1,000 to missions. He had $5,000 in the bank. "How did you do all this?" asked the priest and the shocked congregation. Quietly he answered, "You people bring your grain to my elevator. As you did business with me, I simply withheld 10 percent and gave it to the church. You never missed it." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 460. 4. Their giving was not the "leftovers" -- it was the "firstfruits" - the best! a. Pentecost was all about giving the first and best of their blessings to God, not giving what they could afford after everything else was taken care of! b. It was done this way so that in the hearts of God's people the Lord would always be first! c. God said He is a jealous God … and the first commandment is to love the Lord God and Him only! II. REJOICING       16:11-15 A. Attitude     16:11a, 13, 14a, 15 1. Notice the atmosphere of this time of giving for Pentecost - "Rejoice" - "Celebrate" - "Be Joyful" - "your joy will be complete" 16:11a, 13, 14a, 15 -- all expressions of great joy in giving! a. For God's people giving is a joyful thing, not a negative thing. b. There is something wrong with the idea of a Christian that resents being asked to give! 2. The New Testament embraces this same concept: 2 Cor 9:7 "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." a. Giving is not just to avoid God being mad at us! b. Giving is a privilege, the heart of God is that of a giver, so when we give we reflect His heart rather than a sinful heart. ILLUS:We heard of a man and woman who gave a sizeable contribution to the church to honor the memory of their son who lost his life in the war. When the announcement was made of the generous donation, a woman whispered to her husband, "Let's give the same amount for our boy!" Her husband said, "What are you talking about? Our son wasn't killed." "That's just the point," she said. "Let's give it as an expression of our gratitude to God for sparing his life!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 262. 3. The emphasis in the text is on the attitude of joy and celebration, these are mentioned much more than the actual giving is. a. This time of "Pentecost" was a time of great joy, a time to give joyfully in recognition of God's blessings on Israel for another year. b. The abundant harvest was celebrated by giving to God as the first thing. c. This put a spiritual dynamic to material things and kept their attitude toward material blessings focused on God rather than on self. B. Acceptance     16:11b, 12, 14b 1. Notice the focus on who participates in this giving … a. "you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows … " b. No one was exempt from being a giver … not even the poorer members! (1. There is joy in giving … the selfless act is not reserved only for those who have abundance. (2. Everyone has something to give. 2. God reminds them in 16:12 "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt…" a. God reminds them of a time when they had nothing, but because they honored Him as God He brought them out. b. They should not forget where they came from and how God has blessed them … giving would remind them on a regular basis that they owe their lives and abundance to Him. 3. Giving is something that is level ground for all God's people … each can give. III. RESPONSIBILITY       16:16-17 A. Action     16:16 1. Here it is mentioned that all Jewish men must attend 3 different festivals each year, one of which is the feast of Pentecost (also called "feast of Weeks") a. Notice the last half of this verse, "No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed:" b. God calls all the heads of household to be sure to handle the finances of their own home in such a way that they have something to give at these special offering times. c. God does not want a one way relationship with us, while He gives all the time He also wants us to give back to Him … such is the nature of all healthy relationships. 2. This call to action was not meant to produce grudging givers, as we have seen already in the text their time of giving during Pentecost was to be full of great joy! a. No parent likes to see their kids be always expecting something and then not contribute something back … we work hard as parents to teach our children that they need to think of others -- and our heavenly father is doing the same thing. b. Learning to give teaches other things besides just money issues. 3. As God's people we should be anxious TO GIVE … it comes natural to the heart of God, and if His heart is in us it will become a natural part of our new nature in Christ to give also. ILLUS:A handful of our people went on a mission trip to Eastern Europe several weeks ago. When they came back, they told me they were really impressed with the dedication of the Christians in Rumania. Christians there don't have very much, but they believe they should tithe. They think that's God's standard. But the government of Rumania is repressive, and they are allowed to give only 2.5 percent of their income to charitable organizations. They're trying to minimize the opportunity for any anti-government organization. So Rumanians are searching for loopholes in the law, so that they'll be able to give 10 percent. The Rumanian Christians have less, and they're looking for a way to give 10 percent. We have more, and we're free to give as we please. In fact, we get a tax break by doing so, and we're looking for loopholes in the Scripture to avoid doing it. What an indictment. -- Bob Russell, "Take the Risk," Preaching Today, Tape No. 143. 4. God certainly wanted His children to enjoy the abundance He gave them, but He also wanted them to take action to give as recognition of where it came from. a. How active are you in giving for the Lord? b. Is it a joy to give or a nuisance? B. Appropriate     16:17 1. The terminology in this verse would make non givers squirm for sure, "Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you." a. The percentage is not given here of what is appropriate … just that giving IS appropriate and in the measure of proportion to the way God has blessed. b. There are times when 10% is too small! - and so there is flexibility even under the law to give more if one wishes! 2. There are great lessons about faith we can learn in giving! ILLUS:Paul and I were dairy farmers in the Northern New England town of Lancaster, NH in 1976. Our small farm was in the Connecticut River Valley. We were in financial difficulty because we had borrowed money to start our business. We had recently given our hearts to the Lord and were attending an Assemblies of God Church pastored by Norice and Bert Gallop. Dave and Marlene Tidwell worked at the Church and began coming to our farm to share God's Word with us. One evening Dave asked if were tithing. We didn't know what tithing was, so he explained from Malachi 3 about bringing the tithes into the storehouse and not robbing God. We felt the Lord speak to our hearts to tithe on what we needed just to keep our farm from going under. The grain store refused to sell us more grain until we paid $2,000. We decided we needed $4,000 to keep our farm and felt led to pay a tithe in advance on that amount. When we got our bimonthly milk check for $700, we took out $400 in cash and placed it in an envelope. The following Sunday we put the money into the offering at Lancaster Assembly of God. The next day, an elderly couple who lived up the street from us, came to our door. They said as they were praying that morning the Lord told them to give us some money. They hugged us and left. The check was for $2,000, enough to pay our grain bill. We went into the field and sat down in the middle of our herd, held hands and began to praise the Lord. From that moment our prayer life together began. This couple's obedience was the beginning of a series of miracles. The same herd of cattle, eating sub-standard hay, doubled their milk production within two months, so our milk checks more than doubled. When the Lord called us into ministry in 1978, we sold our equipment and cattle to pay the bills. Who would give money to a poor dairy farmer? Only those who were walking in the Spirit and listening to God. -- Paul & Lana Duda have been Assembly of God missionaries to Ecuador since 1990. They assisted Dave and Marlene Tidwell pioneering First Assembly of God in Bangor, Maine; then pioneered Elim Assembly of God in Bath, Maine. They served in the Northern New England District office for 5 years. --- Pentecostal Evangel - June 11, 2000 issue pg. 26 "The Day The Lord Visited The Farm" 3. Giving is not just about money … there are so many other spiritual ramifications to it … hence why it was so important to God! a. Certainly God doesn't need our money … but we need to learn to be givers. b. It is for our sakes that God desires us to give, so that even in giving we are receiving. 4. It is most appropriate for those who lead God's people to speak about giving, though it is the brunt of jokes and for some Christians it is a sore subject in Church … for those who are in love with God it is a privilege and a joy, they are not offended! a. Pentecost was a wonderful celebration of firstfruits … anticipated with great joy and experienced with great celebration. b. What if every offering taken had this atmosphere and every follower of Christ this attitude? CONCLUSION:    The day of Pentecost was a celebration of harvest, also called the "feast of weeks." It was a time of celebration of the firstfruits, so called because it was the first harvest of grain. This grain was the best, and it was acknowledged by giving to God as the best and the first of abundance they had been blessed with. The giving was associated with great joy and honoring God. p.s. Now let's take the offering!