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Song of Return: The Melody of Home

Although the United States generally observes fewer formal ceremonies compared to many older European countries, at American high school graduations, certain traditions are regularly observed. Graduates process and recess to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” They wear long gowns and mortarboard caps, typically turning the tassel from one side of their cap to the other at the end of the ceremony.

Ceremonies are important for commemorating momentous events like births, weddings, graduations, and even deaths. In our passage today, we have a very important “homecoming” ceremony, given by God to His people for celebrating the fulfillment of His covenant promises. When the Israelites “have entered” the land, when they have “taken possession” of the inheritance, and when they “have settled” into their new home, they are to bring a basket of produce to Shiloh, the central place of worship, and return to God a portion of the good that they have received from Him (vv. 1–2).

But God’s people are not commanded to make a wordless offering. Rather, they are given a brief history to recite as they set their basket in front of the altar. It is their story of a search for home: “My father was a wandering Aramean.” They would start with Abraham and continuing through Egyptian exile (v. 5). They are instructed to recall that though they had once been a placeless people, God made good on His promises. Because of His favor, they had made it home.

One might wonder if the history we will recite, as we enter the new Jerusalem, will be similar. “My father was a wandering Aramean,” we might begin, remembering our life as one long and weary journey. But there will be one key difference in that heavenly ceremony: the firstfruits that God’s people will offer will be themselves.

Apply the Word

The firstfruits ceremony, which the Israelites were instructed to observe upon entering the Promised Land, reminds us of the importance of retelling God’s acts of goodness in our lives and the history of His faithfulness. Write down your faith story, and share with a friend this week how God has shown His steadfast love to you—despite your losses and trials and temptations.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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