Genesis 14:17-24 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:54 mins 57 secs

Is Tithing for Today? Genesis 14: 17-24


Genesis 14:18, "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine." It will be pointed out later that this is not some sort of precursor to communion. There is nothing stated in the text that this has anything to do with any sort of ritual or religious observance. Just because Melchizedek was a priest does not mean reference to bread and wine has to do with some sort of fellowship meal with God. He was simply providing logistical grace to the men who had followed Abraham.


Tithing, continued…

7)  From creation to the Mosaic law (which includes all of the pre-Israel dispensations) there is no mandate for giving. All giving was free will giving—grace giving. Giving under the Mosaic was not part of the spiritual life because the Mosaic law was addressed to every citizen of Israel, believer and unbeliever alike. What is meant by grace giving is that it is not mandatory. Under the Mosaic law there were voluntary offerings and there were mandatory offerings. What we see is that throughout history there are these two categories of giving. What we have to understand is that grace doesn't mean that there is no obligation. Another misunderstanding is that people think that grace means it is free. It doesn't mean it is free it just means it is free to you. Somebody has to pay. The model is salvation. Salvation is free to us but Jesus Christ had to pay.

8)  The next mention of tithes is in Leviticus 27, and there it is related to the Mosaic covenant and the giving of the tithe to the Levites. The references in the Pentateuch are all related to the Mosaic covenant. Remember a covenant is a contract, a legal binding document between two people. God is the party of the first part in all the biblical covenants, and we have to determine who the recipient is. The Mosaic covenant did not include Gentiles.

9)  Gentiles were not under the Mosaic law and therefore were never under the Mosaic laws of tithing. Nevertheless, the free will offerings that characterized the human race from Adam to Abraham were still in effect. Gentiles could give out of their own determination. They could give to the temple in Jerusalem, they could give to a priest, they could give to a prophet, they could give to whatever they wanted to, but they were never mandated to give to support the Levites, the priests, the temple, the widows and orphans in Israel. Gentiles were never held accountable for that aspect of the Mosaic law.

10)  What we do see as we look at the Mosaic law is that it recognized two categories of giving: free will giving and mandatory giving. Mandatory giving in the Bible is generally related to taxation to support the local government, whatever it may be. We see a recognition of free will giving in Deuteronomy 12:6, "And there [the treasury in the temple] you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and contributions of your hand [physical offerings, fruit of produce], and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks."

11)  Under the Mosaic law there were actually three mandates for tithing or giving ten percent to the state. Israel was a theocracy. What she had in terms of a bureaucracy was the Levites and the priests who ran the state. They were the ones who were teaching the law to the people, the ones who take care of the treasury in the temple, who oversee the administration of the sacrifices. So the first category of tithe went to support the Levites. Numbers 18:21ff gives the basis for this tithe. It was a ten per cent mandate on every Jewish citizen. In Numbers 18 God is talking to Israel only within the context of the Mosaic law, i.e. the constitution that He is giving to Israel to rule in terms of both the civil government and the ritual of the state. Verse 21, "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation." The word "inheritance" means a possession. Why does He do this? It was for the work they performed and this was their pay. It is legitimate to pay the priest for their work. This isn't in practice today. There are no Levites practicing in the temple, therefore this tithe is not relevant to anybody. So three points of observation here: a) Israel was a theocracy under the Mosaic covenant, therefore the Levites were the bureaucracy of the theocracy; b) Levites were not given any portion of the land as an inheritance, so the tithe of the rest of the nation was their inheritance or possession. It was equivalent to the land that God gave everybody else in Israel; c) The Levites in turn took one tenth of everything they received and gave it to the Lord for the support of the high priest. The next tithe is given in Deuteronomy 14:22-26. This is a slightly different tithe. "Deut 14:22, "You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name [the tabernacle and then the temple], the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring {the tithe,} since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you, then you shall exchange {it} for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household." This tithe is for celebrations. This was a great visual lesson on the spiritual condition of the nation. They would measure their blessing by their physical or economic prosperity. Then every third year there was a third tithe and this was the charity tithe to take care of the Levites and the widows and the orphans. This is described in Deuteronomy 14:28, 29, "At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit {it} in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do." So there is a basis for some sort of national welfare in the law. God is a compassionate God. We all know there are situations beyond our control, not matter how responsible we may be all of our lives, things can happen in the cosmic system where we can lose everything. So God does have a safety net in the Mosaic law. Those are the three mandatory taxes on every citizen.

12)  There was also free will giving. This was the basis for constructing the tabernacle, described in Exodus 35:29; 36:3. "The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.… And they received of Moses all the offering, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, to make it withal. And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning." It wasn't because they were manipulated by guilt, it was I gratitude because had just brought them out of Egypt. They made their own decision as to how much they were going to give to the Lord. There is no percentage related to this. There are a number of other passages which talk about free will offerings: Leviticus 22:28ff.; 23:38; 27:30-31; Numbers 15:3; Deuteronomy 12:6; Ezra 1:4; 3:5.

13)   When Israel were apostate they quit giving. They didn't pay the tithe and they didn't bring free will offerings. The tabernacle fell into disrepair and temple also fell into disrepair after the apostasy of Solomon. During Hezekiah's reform there was a return to the tithe, 2 Chronicles 31:5, 6, 12. Hezekiah's reform saw a return to the tithe. The coffers were full again and people joyously gave. After this both the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom goes out under discipline, until there were various returns under Zerubbabel and Ezra and Nehemiah. In Nehemiah we are told that they reinstated the tithe. This is because they were going into the second temple now and they need to have the support for the Levites. Nehemiah 10:38, "And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the store house [the temple, the house of God]." The temple was the house of God because it was the place where the Shekinah glory dwelt. There are no houses of God today. A church is not the house of God. The believer's body is the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, and that is the only real sanctuary around. The Hebrew word for "storehouse" was the otzar. Note: There was a mandate back in Numbers and Deuteronomy to give those three tithes. It was in the imperative mood. But here there is no imperative mood here in Nehemiah, this is just describing their obedience to the law. Then again in Nehemiah 12:44, "And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures [The place inside the temple where the money was kept], for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law [law of Moses] for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited." This shows their positive volition and they are glad to support the priests and Levites. Nehemiah 13:5, "And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests." This is the application of the Mosaic law. Then in Nehemiah 13:12, "Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries." This is the storehouse in the temple. After their return to the land there is this initial euphoria where they are all excited about supporting the temple, the Levites, and paying their taxes. Ten per cent is not an onerous tax, so they are pleased to do that, but after a while they started falling apart. In Ezra we have the same terminology we have in Nehemiah. Ezra 1:4, "And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem." Notice that these aren't tithes. These are free will offerings for the temple.

14)  We have laid out this case to understand one of the most abused verses in the Old Testament: Malachi 3:8, 10, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." This is God speaking. Tithes were the mandatory offerings for the free will. God is just saying they were disobeying the law. Verse 10, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, says 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." The storehouse is in the temple. The food in the house is the welfare programs so that the widows and the orphans and the Levites can be taken care of when they are destitute. Is there a temple today? No, there is not. Are there Levites today? No, there are not. In terms of the church age we can't talk about it because this is all part of the Mosaic law. The promise of blessing for obedience goes directly back to the promises in the Mosaic law that "if you obey me I will bless you materially, physically and financially; and if you don't, I won't." But that doesn't function that way in the New Testament at all. Romans 6:4, you are not under the law but under grace. There is a shift in contract. The contract is no longer the Mosaic covenant. Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone that believes." The Mosaic law was terminated when Jesus Christ died on the cross. That ends the priesthood, therefore there is no tax for the priesthood. In 70 AD when the nation Israel was wiped out there was no more annual tithe for an annual party. There was no need to support the widow and orphan in Israel. All those commands were tied to these. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the church age, they have nothing to do with Christianity in the church age. However, the principle of free will giving certainly continues and this is the emphasis that we see in the New Testament.