Post-Captivity Tithing: Part Three (God’s Prophetic Warnings)

Continuing our work through the prophets, we come to the last few mentions of tithes and blessings in the Christian Old Testament. Following in Ezra and Nehemiah’s paths, we find Haggai and Zechariah, who each served as a guide to the Jewish people in returning to the faith and dedication that they had prior to exile. Ezra mentions Haggai and Zechariah as the prophets that will lead and direct God’s people early on in Ezra 5, vouching for their importance and leadership before we even get to their designated books in the Bible. They, like the many other major figures working in Jerusalem, served to rebuke and restore the people to good standing according to the covenant they held with God, which was renewed in Ezra and Nehemiah. The restoration of the city as well as its people through the covenant and God’s protection would take several more generations before completion.

Haggai first reprimands them for the paneled houses that they have built for themselves while God’s house, the Temple, is in ruins. He tells them that for their neglect, they will face poor harvests, eat without getting full, drink but always thirsty, be clothed but still cold, and be unable to keep the money they earn. The only way to correct this, to restore the natural order, is to restore the house of the Lord, and from this, they will be blessed, once again. In Haggai 2:3-9, Haggai points out that those who remember the Temple recognize that its current state is nothing to God. He then tells them that he will bring his glory into this Temple to be greater than the Temple before.

Much of Zechariah is spent in prophecy, predicting not only a savior to come but also glory for the Jews as they will be blessed beyond Israel’s borders. In the midst of many of these stories, Zechariah pauses to call out the people who have been fasting in the fifth and seventh months. God tells Zechariah that despite their participation, they were not using it as a true dedication to the Lord. He states that they are fasting for their own reasons and that they should execute true judgement, showing mercy and compassion, not oppress those they have power over. They must stop thinking evil of their brothers and remove themselves from those doing all of the above.

Malachi starts by reprimanding the Jews once again, as the former prophets had. This time, he points out the blemished sacrifices that are being given to God, whether blind, sick, or lame. God points out that this is disrespectful to Him, just as it would be to a father, a master, or a king. Then Malachi calls on them for their treatment of marriage, by marrying foreigners of different faiths and cheating on their wives. Then God tells them that they have robbed him by withholding tithes, leaving no food for the house of the Lord. He tells them that if they give freely, that He will bless them freely, just as He has done before. There is a small and faithful remnant that will follow, but Malachi ends on the note that a savior is coming who will change the tide of the Jewish people.

We find tithing in a list of corrections, among blind animal sacrifices, marrying foreign women who worship other gods, and neglecting the Temple of the glory that God deserves. The Jews have returned from exile to their land, but they must restore not only the land and the city, but their hearts must be once again promised to God, in order to receive the blessings and protection that their ancestors were given. He asked them to take care of each other and to show mercy in all manners. For the Jews the Mosaic Law was their path to God, and tithing was one example in a list of so many others in which the Jews had failed their end of the covenant. The only way they would be blessed was through the love and dedication that God demanded of them.

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