The Scriptorium

What to Offer, What to Eat

The importance of the firstborn sacrifice. Deuteronomy 15.19-23

A Holy Community: Deuteronomy 15, 16  (3)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 115.1-3
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 115.1-3

(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, “Where is their God on high?”
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 15.19-23

1. What were people required to offer to the Lord?

2. Were there any exceptions to this?

Committing each year’s firstborn male to the Lord was an act of faith. After all, what if that was the only male born that year? That would mean less for the shepherds, wouldn’t it? Shouldn’t they make sure, first, that all their needs were taken care of, then offer what’s left to the Lord?

Sound familiar?

Firstborns were to be put to no work, and they were not to be shorn (v. 19). They were “sanctified” – set apart for the Lord, just like the people of Israel. Keeping the firstborn of the flocks and herds sanctified would be yet another way God reminded His people that they were called to be holy.

God commanded the people to give their firstborn of the flocks and herds each year for two reasons. First, He wanted them to trust Him, to trust that, even if this firstborn was the onlyborn, God would provide.

Second, God had a Firstborn plan up His sleeve, and He would show His people just how much He loved them by giving His own Firstborn as the sacrifice for their sins. All those years of offering firstborns, firstborns, firstborns, would pay off with joy when the people saw God’s Firstborn coming as an offering for them – and for us.

The qualifier in verse 20 concerning “the place which the LORD chooses” did not override the third-year tithe. It just acknowledged that, in the third year, the place God chose was in the local community.

But if the firstborn was defective, it must not be offered to the Lord. It could be eaten like any other clean meat; but it must not be offered in sacrifice. The sacrifice God requires is a perfect sacrifice, just like He Himself would offer for our sins in the fullness of the times.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The people already knew about firstborn lambs and sacrifices. God told Abraham to “take now your son, your only son Isaac…” and Isaac said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham told him, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22). They were not unfamiliar with this concept. And now God was calling them to participate in trusting and obeying Him in this same manner. He was also preparing the way and imparting the knowledge of the means to everyone’s salvation. As John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1.29) And the joined voices of ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5.12)


1. Why was making sacrifices to God such an important part of Israel’s calling as a holy people? Does God still call us to make sacrifices today? Explain.

2. Jesus has made the sacrifice that makes our sacrifices acceptable to God. Explain.

3. Meditate on Romans 12.1, 2. What does it mean for you to be a living sacrifice to the Lord?

Another caution is added, that they should make no profit of the first-born; for they might have used the labor of the ox in plowing, or as a beast of burden; they might also have sheared the lambs, and have afterwards brought a deteriorated animal into the tabernacle. God commands, therefore, that what was due to Him should be honestly and absolutely paid.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 15.19

Lord, I offer my body today as a living sacrifice to You, so help me to…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 115.9-18
Ask the Lord in prayer to show you ways you can more consistently and fruitfully use your body to bring thanks, praise, and glory to Him.

Psalm 115.9-18
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
All who trust in Jesus yield – ever to His Name be glory! –
find in Him their help and shield – ever to Your Name be glory!
O Israel, trust the Lord!  He helps us evermore!
Fear Him obey His Word: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Blessings from our gracious Lord – ever to Your Name be glory –
will attend us evermore – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless all who fear You, Lord, all who obey Your Word,
all who Your Name adore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Grant us, Savior, great increase – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless us with eternal peace – ever to Your Name be glory!
Heaven and earth are Yours; let every soul adore
and bless You evermore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore