The children of Israel had finally left Egypt and are beginning a new chapter in their lives. No longer are they slaves to a fearful tyrant. However, before they can get too far in their newfound freedom, the Lord gives Moses this new command.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.’”
This may seem like an odd request. What’s so important about the firstborn? In our culture they don’t hold too much significance outside of being a little bossier and a little too overbearing. But in other cultures, and during the time of the Exodus, the firstborn was a place of honor and was entitled to extra privileges.
Up until recent times, the firstborn would inherit most, if not all, of the family’s wealth and prestige. They would be the one carrying on the family name. Therefore, the firstborn was a place of honor and denoted a position of extra favor. But even now, there is something special about the firstborn child. An extra sense of newness and novelty, simply in the fact that they are the first one.
Therefore, I find it interesting that the firstborn hold a special place in God’s heart too. Let’s see why. Moses gives the Israelites, and therefore us, further explanation why all the firstborn are to be consecrated to the Lord.
“When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’”
While we are not under the Old Covenant, and therefore do not need to redeem our firstborn sons with a lamb, there is still things we can learn from this concept. Remember, firstborn signifies the best, or at least special. It is a place of honor. But we can translate firstborn to not only mean the firstborn of our children but also the first of our labors. When Cain and Abel were sacrificing to the Lord, they were supposed to bring the first or best of what they were working on. Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions, which pleased the Lord.
So for us as believers under the new Covenant, we can know and apply this truth: God wants our first things. He wants us to give Him the first of what we do. It reminds us of priorities. We may not need to redeem our firstborn children, but we should give God the first of our time and energy. The first of what we produce. The first born of our children. The first of what our hands create. The first place in our hearts. God wants it all.
Why? For the Israelites, it was for a reminder. God killed all the firstborn in Egypt and spared their children. So He wanted their firstborn to be set apart or consecrated for Him. Therefore, the coming generations would never forget what God did for them in Egypt.
But for us, God gave and sacrificed His Firstborn for us. Jesus was the firstborn Son of God. He had everything and meant everything to the Father. However, God deemed us—rebellious wretches that we were—worth the sacrifice of His Firstborn. So He sent Jesus to earth to die on our behalf. He gave His Firstborn that we might live.
Is it, therefore, too much for God to ask for our first things? I think not. Rather, God is absolutely worthy of our first things.
So let us give God the first of all that we have, and do it both as an act of worship and as a reminder of what He has done for us. For without the sacrifice of God’s Firstborn, we would have no hope. Therefore, let us remember that the firstborn, the first of all that we have, is the Lord’s.
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