This chapter reveals the faithfulness of God to his people in the past, which points to His blessings for them in the future, provided they are faithful to his covenant. This is instructional to us today. Verses 1-11 is a call to thanksgiving and confession that God has been faithful to His promises. Deuteronomy 12-25 consisted of important stipulations and instructions from God for His people. Now Moses begins to prepare Israel for their entrance and dwelling in the Land. Verses 1-11 is call to God’s covenant people to confess publicly that God has been faithful to them personally and to Israel as a nation.
Deuteronomy 26:1-2 What a person believes and professes determines how a person behaves day by day. We all have a theology which means literally the study and what is believed about God. Our theology is based on Scripture, which teaches the truth of God and His dealings with man. Our theology instructs in what we believe and how we act: Prov. 23:7 “For as he thinks within himself, so he is”. If a person lives for the pleasures and material possessions of this world, he will attach himself to those things. If his faith is in men, he will likely be committed to a humanistic philosophy. If his faith is in science and technology as the key to success and achievement, then his hope will be in them. Where we place our faith determines how we live. But even more, what a person confesses and trusts in determines his eternal destiny as well as his life today. Most people don’t examine what their trust and faith is in. What we think and confess matters to God: Rom 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. God wants His covenant people to make a public profession of faith. So, He established two services of confession for His people. Two times a year they were to come before God with thanksgiving and confess their faith in Him.
Deuteronomy 26:3-4 God’s people were to say to the priest at the door of the tabernacle, I declare today to the Lord my God that I have come to the land. It is commanded elsewhere in Torah that there was a regular offering of the first fruits of the harvest to be offered to the Lord (Exod. 23:19; 34:26), here it is clear is a different offering. God’s people were to confess that God has fulfilled His word to the individual personally and collectively to the nation. The offering was given to the priest, who would set it before the altar of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 26:5-9 God’s people then declared God’s redemption before the priest and others who were present. That Israel were the children of Jacob. That they believed God’s word concerning their father Jacob who journeyed from Aram where he fled from Esau. That God kept His Word to Jacob/Israel. That Israel had become a great nation, mighty and numerous. That they had been enslaved by Egypt and mistreated, afflicted and forced into slavery. That they cried to God to deliver them and He heard their cry and delivered them with power, miraculous signs and wonders. That God put His terror on any who stood in their way on their journey to the Promised Land. That God led them to the Land they were now in which flowed with milk and honey. This is part of the annual confession at the Passover Seder.
Deuteronomy 26:10-11 Then the worshipper would bow and present his first fruit offering to God. There were two offerings of first fruits (Lev. 23:9-14; 15-21). The first occurred on the day after the Sabbath following Passover (first day of the week) and called Bikkurim (first fruits). The second was Shavuot (weeks) also on the first day of the week. Shavuot was also called “The First fruits of the Wheat Harvest” (Ex. 34:22). Bikkurim (Lev. 23:9-14) foreshadowed the resurrection of Yeshua (1 Cor. 5:6-8) and Shavuot/Pentecost (Lev. 23:15-21) pointed to the greater harvest of Jews and Gentiles (the church). These appointed times by the Lord have never been done away with and in our Messianic Assemblies we observe them in the light of Messiah Yeshua. New Covenant believers are called to offer thanksgiving for His salvation and blessings. We confess that all we have is from Him. That we have been delivered from the bondage of sin, that He walks with us as He did with Israel and leads us to His Promised Land. This is the first fruit offering for us to confess. Hebrews 13:15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. After this time of confession and worship, portions of the harvest were to be shared with the Levites and the aliens living in Israel. It was designed so Jews and Gentiles could rejoice in the blessings of God. This is the kind of worship that pleases God.
Deuteronomy 26:12-15 Every three years, God’s people were to set aside a portion of their harvest to share with the Levites, aliens, fatherless and widows. This offering was previously mentioned in 14:22-29. This was in addition to the annual tithe to support the work of the tabernacle and priesthood. This was a local tithe, to support these four groups living in towns scattered throughout the land. The faithful Israelite could then declare that he had not used any of the tithe for himself. There was the temptation to neglect this offering for various reasons. One example cited is failing to tithe while mourning. These were days that work could not be done so they may have been tempted to use this tithe for personal use. They were not to the tithe while ceremonially unclean. This too would be a time when work could not be done. They were not to use the tithe for the dead, perhaps referring to funeral expenses. After giving the tithe the Israelite would then be able to confess to God and know in his heart that he fulfilled the command and was obedient. This was not done for atonement or justification, but faithfulness. In making this offering God promised blessing, not because their obedience deserved it, but out of gratitude that God had been faithful to him and to His people. Covenant blessing always flow from faithfulness. We too are called to tithe and support the work of the Lord. Part of our giving should be directed either through the Body of Believers or through various ministries for the care of foreigners, orphans, widows, and the needy. We are called to give for those in want and along with that share the Good News. Our money is needed for God’s work. It was during the days of Moses, and it’s needed today. God calls us to be generous, benevolent and to have a giving heart.
Deuteronomy 26:16-17 This last paragraph is a summary of the statutes section of Deuteronomy (chaps. 12-26). God wanted his people to observe what he had said with all their heart and with all their soul. The statement “You have declared” likely looks back to Exodus 24:7, where Israel declared, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” Like a marriage vow Israel said publicly that they intended to keep God’s decrees, commands and laws, and God is calling them to fulfill their promise.
Deuteronomy 26:18-19 This verse records the sealing of the covenant by the Lord. This repeats what God told them earlier that they are his people, his treasured possession. Their obedience would assure them that God would keep His promises to them, bringing them fame and honor above all the nations of the earth. Since we have become partakers with Israel this call is to us as well. We too are called to obey God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. “Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21).