14 Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.
15 Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)
16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.
18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.
19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
K.J.V. Bible Text
When I read the verses of today’s reading, I was somewhat confused. To clarify for myself exactly what three feasts the Hebrews were to celebrate, I looked at a newer version of the Bible, Today’s New International version. The simple language I found there immediately clarified Exodus 23 verse 16 for me and then I could clearly see in the King James Version, which I use as text for this column, that there are two feasts related to harvest, the feast of first fruits and the feast of ingathering at the end of the year.
Giving thanks to God is a concept we well understand in relation to harvest. At the beginning of the settlement of our great country by the first pilgrims, a feast was held to celebrate the harvest of their first crops. We still commemorate that occasion and the plenty we now enjoy with our Thanksgiving feasts.
I notice that the Lord God told the people not to come to him empty handed but to bring sacrifices of the first fruits of the land. I don’t think God needs to receive sacrifices from us, however. I believe He knows we need to give sacrifice to him. Only by giving back to the Lord some of what we receive from him can we truly appreciate our bounty.