First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10


4 The priest shall take the basket out of your hand, and set it down before the altar of YHWH your God. 5 You shall answer and say before YHWH your God, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and lived there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6 The Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid on us hard bondage: 7 and we cried to YHWH, the God of our fathers, and YHWH heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression; 8 and YHWH brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terror, and with signs, and with wonders; 9 and he has brought us into this place, and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 Now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, YHWH, have given me." You shall set it down before YHWH your God, and worship before YHWH your God.

World English Bible

Pride is a useful tool, but it has two edges. It can make the weak strong, but it can make the proud arrogant. Pride needs humility as a counter-balance; humility tempers pride with reality.

This passage from Deuteronomy is part of the harvest liturgy. The Law instructed an Israelite to take various produce at the beginning of the harvest (the "first fruits") and present the produce to the Lord at his dwelling (i.e., the Temple). After the priest received the produce and placed it on the altar [4], the farmer who offered it would recite the creedal formula of 26:5-10. Then, the priest and the farmer's family would sit down to feast on the produce.

The creedal formula emphasized the nation's humble origin and the graciousness of its God. God took an alien tribe, made them fertile [5], freed them [6-8], and gave them a land "flowing with milk and honey" [9]. At the end of this formula, the farmer reciprocated God's goodness with his offering [9] and a bow of worship [10]. On the lips of the farmer, the history of the nation and the power of its God were remembered.

Why was this ceremony important? The farmers of Israel were notorious for the "Sunday with God, Monday with my buddies" syndrome. On the Sabbath they would worship the God of Israel at the Temple; during the week, they would offer personal sacrifice to the fertility idols of their pagan neighbors. Split loyalties meant shallow faith, or no faith at all. The ceremony of the first fruits denied the fertility idols of such an honor, it focused farmer's attention on God's power, and it reminded the farmer of his humble roots. Israeli patriotism was exercised as loyalty to and humility before God.

Where place does humility have in our life, our national pride, and in our faith?