Christians And The Tithe - Part 7

As we begin our concluding remarks from the book of Malachi, you will be better equipped to study it if you have previously studied the parts of this series here: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4, PART 5, and PART 6.

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TO THE PRIESTS

Malachi 2:1 -- “Now, you priests, this commandment is for you.

This verse is the essential connection to the rest of Malachi makes it the most important. For the second time, God explicitly addressed the priests. There being no corresponding text in the book of Malachi that God shifted his primary audience, then God did not alter his audience for the rest of the book. God proceeded to rebuke the Priests in chapter two. 

BLESSINGS INTO CURSES

Malachi 2:2 -- If you do not listen and take seriously the need to honor my name,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will send judgment on you and turn your blessings into curses – indeed, I have already done so because you are not taking it to heart.

How many preachers disregard this passage while discussing the curse in chapter three verse nine? Possibly because these three instances of CURSE in Malachi like the first are aimed against ministers? This paragraph makes no sense. 

Malachi 2:3 -- Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung on your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.

This passage reveals God's wrath towards the priests. He has no sympathy for them since they lack tithes and firstborn offerings to sacrifice.

Malachi 2:4-7 -- And you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that my covenant might be with Levi, said the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear with which he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

Remember these lines while reading chapter 3:7, which is the immediate background for chapter 3:8-10. God's whole covenant with all Israel included His particular covenant with the priests of Levi, yet the only covenant mentioned in Malachi is the priestly covenant of God. 

They remind us that when Israel sinned, God held the priests accountable for not living righteously before them and for teaching His word properly as they had done when the country was young.

GOD'S MESSENGERS

Malachi 2:8-10 -- But you are departed out of the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, said the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as you have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law. Have we not all one father? has not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

The priests were called to be God's messenger to His people. Malachi means "my messenger" in Hebrew. Over 200 times in the Old Testament, the term is rendered "angel," in Hebrew.

In this passage, the priests deserve God's wrath. They have agreed on which portions of the Law they would follow and teach. From "you" to "we" and "us." After the LORD's temporary silence in verse nine, Malachi speaks. Malachi, meaning my messenger, is most likely a priest. So "we" implies "priests."

We refer to the whole nation if Malachi as a prophet spoke for all of Israel. Since the term covenant has already been used in Malachi 2:5 and Malachi 2:8, there is no reason to think Malachi has suddenly shifted to the broad covenant with all of Israel.

According to Malachi 2:10, "Have we not all one father? has not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" This leads to Judah's misdeeds.

JUDGEMENT OF PURIFICATION

Malachi 3:1-4 -- Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, he shall come, said the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appears? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

A priest's main duty is to teach the truth. God's judgement of purification will begin in His home-His temple. Many tithe preachers have properly utilised these passages to teach about John the Baptist or Jesus Christ. The context is not focused on such applications, which are true due to the concept of higher multiple fulfillment.

APOSTELESMATIC PRINCIPLE

These passages have at least three potential fulfillments according to the "apotelesmatic" principle. The first fulfillment is clear to New Testament scholars. To prepare for Jesus' mission and his temple cleaning activities, Jesus quoted these scriptures.

Mark 1:2-3 -- As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 1:76 -- And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;

Luke 3:4 -- As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 7:26-28 -- But what went you out for to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you. For I say to you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

John 1:6-7 -- There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

John 1:23 -- He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

Isaiah 40:3-5 -- The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.

Also, the pronoun in the passages alludes to God's coming in wrath and fire. Rather than John the Baptist, we can see that the Messiah came as a refiner's fire to purify and reform the Levitical priesthood. Also, Israel's great Messianic hope expects the Messiah who will establish the pure temple worship upon his return.

Many, if not all prophetic Messianic predictions have a pre-Messianic historical context historical fulfillment. Malachi is still God's spokesman. For Ezra and Nehemiah, to physically cleanse the designated priesthood and return the priests to their covenant, we cannot overlook Malachi's historical background in Nehemiah.

EXPLOITED

The Lord was continuing addressing the priesthood in the following verses. With the tithe rules in effect, the same people the tithing laws were intended to help were being exploited.

Malachi 3:7 -- Even from the days of your fathers you are gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, said the LORD of hosts. But you said, Wherein shall we return?

The priests had abandoned God's original ordinances, and the Lord summoned them back. There is no reason to believe that in the following four lines, God excused the Levites and merely chastised the ordinary people.

THE BROKEN SYSTEM

The tithe and offering system was broken. GOD SAID THAT THEY ROBBED HIM. 

Malachi 3:8 -- Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.

He condemned them again and ordered them to tithe their food. Due to their negligence, the temple storeroom ran out of food for the temple employees. 

Malachi 3:8-10 -- Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE

Finally, God reaffirmed His conditional blessing to Moses. The vine, the field, and ground would produce fruit again if the nation obeyed.

Malachi 3:10-12 -- Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, said the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for you shall be a delightsome land, said the LORD of hosts.

Concerning blessings and curses, God merely reiterated the Mosaic Law. To obtain benefits, the Israelites had to follow numerous laws, including tithing. They were cursed by the Law if they broke even one of Moses' 613 commandments.

Deuteronomy 27:26 -- Cursed be he that confirms not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Galatians 3:10 -- For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

GOD ACCUSED THE LEVITES

It seems that the Levites were the main thieves in Malachi's day. They were the ones who carried the tithe into the storehouse so the temple workers might eat. In Malachi 3, God accuses them of hoarding nearly all of their share, leaving priests and temple labourers hungry. They also sacrificed lesser animals and gave inferior food offerings on God's altar as we have seen in the previous post explaining chapter one.

Malachi 4:4 -- Remember you the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

The sons of Levi and their supporters were cursed for not doing so.

FIRST TWO COMMANDMENTS

But some see this verse in Malachi differently. Today's non-tithers, according to some pastors, are violating the five Commandments: the first, second, fifth, eighth, and tenth commandments. They say that the eighth commandment prohibits stealing and to refuse God's share is robbery.

Malachi 3:8 -- Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.

TITHING AND THE HEART

Tithers are accused of violating the first two commandments since they cannot "return to God a part of His favour." And this they call a heart issue.

The third chapter of Malachi addresses both the day of the Lord's coming and tithe, according to leaders and pastors who encourage tithing. They claim that when the Lord comes, the world will be "under trial for robbery" and that means not tithing. They lament the loss of the Mosaic Law, especially the tithe. They suggest we must still obey the whole Mosaic Law.

"You must tithe where you are fed, whether your church, from a book or audio ministry, any broadcasting channel, a missionary camp or a mix of the above," say many pastors today. 

They claim God wants today's Christians to tithe in order to obtain the benefits promised in Malachi 3:10-12. Some call them "PEOPLE WITH THE SEED," after Abraham, who gave the first recorded tithe. 

They also claim that there is a blanket insurance policy that we can receive from God against the devourer that prevents him from consuming what's ours, and that insurance policy is tithing.

Many concur that tithes are still due to God's storehouse. They call the storehouse a place of spiritual sustenance. They say that the storehouse was the Tabernacle for Israel, but "the local church" for New Covenant believers and non-tithers rob God.

DO BELIEVERS NEED TO TITHE TODAY? 

The offerings in Malachi had nothing to do with money. Since tithes are plural, it refers to all three kinds required by law. Second, offerings are also stated. Burnt sacrifices, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings are all mentioned in the first few chapters of Leviticus. 

These were mostly animal sacrifices. We no longer provide animal sacrifices, but tithing is still commonly practiced. When both tithes and animal sacrifices are stated in Malachi 3:8, why do we still not do both? Of fact, most churches redefined giving as the amount you give after your tithe. This is not Biblical.

TERUMAH - OFFERINGS

There are nine instances of the Hebrew term "terumah" used in Malachi 3:8 meaning "offerings" in the Old Testament. 

As well as heave offerings, animal sacrifices, and sin offerings, two taxes, a land offering, and gold, thread, skins, oil, and stone offerings during the wilderness tabernacle and second temple periods. The two remaining purposes were grain offerings for the priests and a part of the Levites' tithe.

CHURCH IS NOT THE STOREHOUSE

This passage teaches "storehouse giving." Those who hold this perspective see the church as a place where Christians may save their gifts for the Lord. Some even believe it is improper for Christians to donate to the Lord outside of the local church, such as directly to missions. 

This perspective ignores the distinction between Israel's temple and Christian churches. The Israelites' contributions to the Lord's servants and labour were stored in Israel's temple. The Christian church, unlike Israel, lacks a central sanctuary and a national homeland.

For almost 300 years after Pentecost, Christians had no "storehouses" of their own. They lived in nations where being a Christian was illegal, much alone establishing churches. 

The term "church" in the New Testament does refer to God's dwelling place and His people are His dwelling place according to the new covenant.

MONEY IN HIS HOUSE

Why is the meaning of the words "storehouse," "food," "fruit of your ground" and "the vine will not lose its fruit before harvest" appear in Malachi 3:10-11? In the words of Malachi, is God chastising Christians today for not giving ten percent of their income to church structures so that "there may be [money] in His house?"

Food is mentioned in Malachi 3:10. As we saw, the tithes were food and not money. It is also no coincidence that the land will bear fruit and be protected by God in Malachi 3:11. The tithes came from the land, and the tillers had to deliver them to the Levites.

God created a great system that benefitted everyone when obeyed. A broken connection harmed the whole system. This system provided for the Levites and priests. The whole Levitical worship structure would collapse without it. That is what occurred, and it is why Hezekiah, Nehemiah, and Malachi had to reform and chastise.

APOSTASY OR TITHE

Malachi 3:7-12 deals with apostasy and not tithe. Judah is accused of forsaking the Lord who chose and blessed them, and the laws He gave them to test their devotion and determine their course of life. 

Malachi 3:7-12 -- From the days of your ancestors you have ignored my commandments and have not kept them! Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “But you say, ‘How should we return?’ Can a person rob God? You indeed are robbing me, but you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and contributions! You are bound for judgment because you are robbing me – this whole nation is guilty. “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out blessing for you until there is no room for it all. Then I will stop the plague from ruining your crops, and the vine will not lose its fruit before harvest,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “All nations will call you happy, for you indeed will live in a delightful land,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

The people revealed their idolatrous hearts by keeping the tithes and other sacrifices due to God, and their heartless hearts by abandoning the Levites and the landless poor.

Malachi, like Nehemiah, prophesied in the post-exilic era (relating to the period of Jewish history between the end of the exile in Babylon in 538 B.C. and A.D. 1)

CURSED WITH A CURSE

"You are cursed with a curse," should not have surprised the priests, Levites, or Israelites. They had only just "entered into a curse and an oath to abide in God's Law, which Moses gave." The curse of Malachi 3:9 is the same as the curse of the law in Galatians 3:10-13.

Malachi 3:9-11 describes blessing and a curse that were both brief in duration, lasting only until the old covenant was fulfilled at Calvary. Malachi's audience had purposefully affirmed the old covenant.

Nehemiah 10:28-29 -- And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone having knowledge, and having understanding; They joined to their brothers, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes..."

Moreover, Jesus put an end to the curse of the law.

Galatians 3:13 -- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)

We will begin with our study of the New Testament in the upcoming posts, I hope you are being built on a good and clear foundation to understand tithes. 

Feel free to comment or email me. I will try and reply as soon as possible.

Stay safe, healthy, and growing in Christ.

Blessings,

Godwin.





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