Mosaic Tithing: Part One

As Israel’s children became a nation under God, He fulfilled His promise and covenant to bless them and make them numerous and fruitful. God’s people grew and expanded in the land of Egypt, under the ruling of pharaoh until they became so numerous a new pharaoh felt threatened and began to afflict them, fulfilling what God had told Abraham. The line of Abraham and their descendants were enslaved there for many generations, until God heard the cries of the Israelites and sent Moses to free them.  Once free of Egypt they continued to multiply, exceeding Moses and Aaron’s governing abilities as just two people, even with God’s help. So the Law became the provision of God’s covenant to them as a nation. God gave instructions for His people through Moses which they are to obey fully, demonstrating his power and support. Among them there are 603,550 men in the census required by God, distinguishing the twelve tribes, each with their own duties from the Lord. These laws are to be the ultimate authority and direction of the Israelites in their lives, to govern all of their decisions, sins, atonements, offerings, and judicial rulings.

Immediately following the well-known Ten Commandments, God breaks down every detail of the laws that the Israelites must follow to live under God and with God among them in the Ark of the Covenant. In order to keep the ark holy and clean for God’s presence, he required burnt offerings be made morning and evening to him and for all the people. They had to remain clean enough to come before Him and live around Him. There are several chapters dedicated to cleanliness, whether unclean through animals eaten, bodily discharges, or coming into contact with a carcass. All of these things make them unclean to be in the presence of the Lord, because He is Holy beyond their understanding and they had tobe separate from the unclean world. There were five primary types of offerings given to the Lord and his priests to be redeemed: Burnt Offering, Grain Offering, Peace Offering, Sin Offering, and Trespass Offering. The burnt, grain, and peace offerings were given voluntarily and willingly to God to both mark the days in recognition of him to express their devotion, and to atone for unintentional sins. The Grain Offering and Peace Offering (which included the vow offering, wave offering, and heave offering) were an expression of thankfulness to the goodwill and livelihood that God provided.

The mandatory offerings to God consisted of the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. Any sin which went against the laws of God that compose primarily Exodus 20 through the end of Leviticus in Chapter 27, with additional laws in Numbers and Deuteronomy, must be paid for or atoned according to the specific instructions that God required therein. God’s commandments for the Israelites at this time number 613, which outline almost every part of daily life. Many of these included rituals and sacrifices made at the Tent of Meeting and led by Aaron and his sons as priests and servants of God who were clean and set aside for this duty. God gives the Levites to Aaron in Numbers 3 to assist him in the extensive duties of preparation and maintenance of the Tent of Meeting. All of these offerings which the Israelites agreed to as their half of the covenant with God were given according to his instruction and wholly separate from any tithe or monetary commitment. These were the Mosaic laws that structured their daily lives and the devotion that they gave to Him as His chosen people.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part Four

Abraham’s covenant begins in Genesis 12, asking him as Abram to take his wife and to move to the land that God is promising to him and his children. His obedience began a long line of blessings and protection for all the generations that were to come. His promise to them was simply this: I will bless you and your children, I will give you lands, and I will make you fruitful and numerous beyond the stars (Gen 12, 15, 17, 26, 28, 35, 49-50). Obedience to God and the practice of circumcision added later on were required of the his line to continue the blessings. Even when they disobey God and sin, He continues to provide for them, fulfilling his end of the bargain, in no way limiting their wealth or growth or demanding anything extra from them.

The last direct descendant of Abraham’s line that we see partake of the same covenant is Joseph, the great grandson of Abraham. Joseph serves as a translator for the interpretation of dreams through God and serves an Egyptian captain of the guard by the name of Potiphar, managing his entire household. God gave Joseph success in whatever he did, especially in managing the prison he was kept in and the Pharaoh’s own palace. He had all the wealth of the Pharaoh’s Kingdom in his hands and lived comfortably as second in command over all of Egypt. He recognizes the Lord in all of his success, as Abraham’s line was asked to do, with no offerings or tithes required.  In managing the Pharaoh’s land and country, Joseph has the power to trick and then save his family, moving them all into Egypt with him, where he can protect them. When all the Egyptians have given everything over to Pharaoh for Joseph’s leadership and protection, Joseph gives their land back to them and yields a 20% tax on all the crops grown there, to supply for the Pharaoh and the country.

God promised the line of Abraham to be numerous and fruitful, to bless them in all things, and to take care of them as long as they were obedient to Him and circumcised their children on the 8th day of their birth. They had been promised land and were true to it, Jacob and Joseph making sure to be buried there, rather than Egypt where they had died. When they were unable to have children, they prayed to God, and He cared for them, fulfilling his promise each time. The descendants of Abraham worshipped, erected pillars and altars, and recognized God’s power in all the great acts that they could do. This covenant between them and God is fulfilled in the obedience and faith that they give to Him, and they are blessed immeasurably. When we pick up next week, we will be exploring the beginning of the Mosaic law and how that brought about changes in their relationship. As we move forward, remember this: scripturally, there is no basis for tithing in Abraham’s covenant with God.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part Three

Following Abraham’s line, everything is based on lineage and inheritance, of faith and of God’s blessings, based on the covenant between Abraham and God. Jacob grows up knowing that he is the second son and has no guarantee of the blessings of God and will watch his stronger older brother inherit everything. To get around this, Jacob takes the first opportunity he can to break this line, because he wants to be blessed too. We watch in Genesis 25:27-34, as Jacob makes Esau promise his birthright to him for a single meal. Esau agrees, thinking that one measly agreement won’t change his rightful status as the first born son.

When Isaac knows that he is old in age and will likely die soon, he asks Esau to bring him a fresh and perfect meal which must be hunted as Esau could only do. For this, Isaac will give him the Lord’s blessing and the inheritance which is owed to him. Rebekah and Jacob trick a blind and aging Isaac into blessing the wrong son, while Esau is away. However, this blessing which has been rightfully passed down among Abraham’s line continues to Jacob knowing that Jacob has sinned. Isaac finds out, and God knows the whole time. Yet, Jacob is indeed blessed and rewarded for his sin.

Isaac at this moment, knowing that the blessing has been passed down to the wrong son, even ensures that Jacob knows how to use that blessing to protect himself. He sends him away to Rebekah’s brother, Laban, in order to save him from Esau and tells him to have all of the blessings of Abraham’s line. God later sends him a vision, not to condemn Jacob for his trickery and theft but to confirm his blessing. Jacob sets up a pillar and pours oil over it, vowing that only if God was with him and protects him, returning him to his father’s house, that then he will give God one-tenth of what he was provided.

Laban too is a deceiver and and changed Jacob’s wages ten times, trying to cheat him out of money of which Jacob was owed. Instead, God protects him from the theft against him by marking the sheep that he is entitled to for wages with spots and other markings. In this, Jacob’s wealth grows to the point that Laban’s children begin to have issue with how rich Jacob is getting. God’s blessing of Jacob with wealth is through Jacob stealing the animals that God says he is entitled to from Laban. God gives him children and cattle and blesses him thoroughly, with no tenth being yet paid to God.

Laban feels that Jacob has stolen his daughters and their children from him when Jacob runs away, taking his animals as well. However, Laban knows that he can not fight to keep his children, he agrees that there will be no war between the two men and they make an agreement. They offer up a sacrifice, each of them to their own God to complete the agreement.  Jacob had years of God’s protection promised to him and fulfilled, but still he was fearful of rumors that Esau was coming with a band of 400 men. He separates himself from his household, sending them ahead, in case of a fight. That night wrestles with a man, demanding after the struggle that he will not let the man go unless he blesses him. The man injures Jacob’s hip to mark him and tells him that he is to be named Israel because he has overcome both God and man.

Esau welcomes Jacob as family and tries to refuse the offers of cattle from Jacob in accepting him back. Jacob gives thanks to God for protecting from him from a potential fight with his brother and builds an altar to God to praise him.  Jacob is later called out for his stubbornness in not using the name that God has given him of Israel and for idols and false gods in his lands. Jacob makes another promise and another altar, receiving blessings and promises of land and fruitful offspring with God’s continued help to the line of Abraham, saying kings will come from his line.

From Abraham to Isaac, we have two of the most faithful and obedient men in the Old Testament to model after, and Jacob undercuts all of it. Jacob cheats his way into blessings, steals what is owed to him, and fights God for his blessings, when God has only asked for faith to bless Abraham’s lineage. Even following his promises, being protected by God away from his family and land, Jacob never pays the tenth to God that he trades for protection. Jacob was taken care of as completely as Isaac and Abraham, but no payment was ever issued to God. God cared for him and protected him without a single tithe, because when he said he would bless Jacob, his word was enough.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part Two

Isaac is just as essential to the study of tithing as Abraham, because there isn’t a single scripture to show he paid tithes. My own pastor used Abraham over and over for lessons in tithing, while leaving out Isaac’s complete lack of tithing and the specifics of why Abraham’s line never had to “pay” for their blessings, except in obedience.

“What would a man take tithings for, if he had any…If he never was born, and never will die, and was from beginning to end, and—and never had no father or mother or descent, and owned the whole Heavens and earth and all in it, why would he take tithe? Why would he ask Abraham to pay tithes? You see what a strict thing it is to pay tithes? Tithing is right. Every Christian is duty bound to pay tithe. That’s right. Never has been changed.”

  57-0915E – William Marrion Branham

Lessons from Isaac’s life are more about his warring children or the servant’s journey to bring him Rebekah. Yet when he took over his father’s house, he was so like Abraham in bearing and running his affairs that kings asked for the same peace with him as they had with his father (Gen 26:26-33). It’s no surprise that God reaffirms his covenant with a man who followed the teachings of Abraham so closely. God is even clear as to why: obedience to every law, every statute, every commandment. If tithing were included, it would be here.

Isaac must have grown up hearing the stories of his miraculous conception. He would have known the issues behind the expulsion of his step brother Ishmael, and every other step sibling as Abraham would not allow any of them to share in the blessing with his heir (Gen 25:5-6). Isaac was taught of Abraham’s blessings and to obey God in every aspect, to reap the blessings offered to them. In Abraham’s eyes there was nothing else as dear to him as the fulfillment of God’s word. Isaac was born only through that covenant that Abraham shared with God.

Abraham was given a promise from God himself, and he made sure to remember it. He knew it would take care of his children and all those who would come after. Abraham’s covenant required action of himself and his line, to separate themselves from others with a mark. Abraham made sure Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day, so in Chapter 26 of Genesis, God confirms to Isaac that the covenant will continue to bless and protect his line. Abraham gave willingly of a merry heart for celebration, and it ends there. God is consistent and follows through (Numbers 23:19) and will always prefer the obedience of a willing heart over the giving of worldly things (I Samuel 15:22).

Isaac was known for his unfailing faith in God’s plan for his family (Heb 11:20). Abraham and Isaac both followed His will when it was most painful to them. Because God’s will always came first, Isaac was spared. When Isaac married Rebekah, they were unable to have children, just as his parents, Abram and Sarai, were. He begged the Lord for a child as his father had, and she was able to bear twins.  The Lord promised him, “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham” (Gen 26:3). Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps, every step of the way, continuing his very successful and wealthy line, with God’s blessings and protection. If we take Abraham and his son, Isaac, for examples in tithing, all we pay to God is our obedience.

Abrahamic Tithing: Part One

Tithing is a major part of Christianity today. Whether your church passes a plate, has a box on the back wall, or takes up offerings, we’ve all heard it. We’ve seen the ministers on TV preaching the better you ministries. The concept is always the same: the more you give to God, the more you’ll be blessed. If you’ve ever been in the spot like I was, not having enough money for your bills but having been raised that you had to pay tithes first and ‘God would make it all work’, this is for you. God as always has a clear and beneficial plan for his children. While God blesses those who give to others and believe in Him, tithing is something that seems to wrongly be placed on the forefront.

Most of us grew up believing that tithes started with Abraham’s tale and blessing and a tenth of his wealth which was given away. He made an agreement with God to be obedient and that God promised innumerable offspring, judgment on those who would subdue his children one day, the financial gain from that, and considerable land.. God never once asked or implied that Abraham would need to pay anything out of the wealth God gave him. Abraham wouldn’t take spoils from others. At one time, Abram enlisted 318 male servants from his household, armed them, and pursued Chedorlaomer to rescue his nephew, Lot. After returning victorious with Lot and the spoil taken Abram wanted everyone to know his portion, his wealth, and everything he had had come from the Lord. Because of this, the wealth from spoils of war was paid to the labors of servants and the other soldiers but submitted the excess to the King of Sodom, where his nephew lived (Gen 14:18-20). He gave a tenth to Melchizedek, based on the tradition in the Mesopotamian area of taxes to rulers to be of ten percent, which has later been termed a “tithe” meaning tenth. Later, Paul touches on this giving from Abraham in the New Testament, so we’ll come around to this story again in a later section.

Abraham doesn’t work as a basis for tithing, since his promise from God for wealth did not require tithing. Abraham was blessed many times over by God with only his faith and obedience to God as payment, as his way of sacrifice for the blessings that were given. The only time he gives a tenth, or tithe, to anyone is in the excess acquired from someone else’s wealth, not the blessings given to him by God. If we want to be blessed as Abraham was blessed, the first promise we are given from God comes from a life of obeying His Word.

Tithing Series: Introduction

Tithing seems to be a commonly requested topic here at The Incomplete Message. We keep all of your questions and constantly look for ways to address questions you’ve brought up. So if you’ve asked a question but haven’t seen it in a post just yet, don’t think we’ve forgotten you. We simply want to give all questions the respect of a thoroughly thought out and Biblically based response.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be diving into the scripture to show the different ways tithing has evolved through Old Testament, the prophets, and now into the New Testament.  First focus will be where tithing came from and its purpose: what does taking a tithe mean, why it was instituted at all and where it ended. During the time of Mosaic law and the Kingdom of Israel, there were strong changes in tithes purposes and what was expected: why was it changed from Abraham’s version, to what purpose, and how it also met its end scripturally. From the time the Israelites were exiled until the end of Jesus’ life, new doctrines once again reinvented tithing, its purposes, and came to a conclusion in scripture. After Christ’s departure, we come to a modern take on tithing that follows both Christ’s teachings as we find the stories in the New Testament and Paul’s doctrinal refinement, learning how it is relevant to us today and how to apply it to our own lives following God’s teachings.

The point of this series will be as always to show the simplicity of Christ and his message of peace in our lives. Just as Jesus Christ was a human to bring balance, so must the Word be made flesh and lived in us towards all fellow humans. I hope you find something in the coming lessons useful, challenging, and enjoyable. If you have any questions or issues, I would love to see the commentary on it or PM me at any time.

 

“Come now, and let us reason together,”

Isaiah 1:18

We are His Children

13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. – Mark 10

It’s hard to question your upbringing. Parents are given the ability to create the norms you judge the world by. The filters they gave me, from inconsistency caused by them disagreeing on new doctrines: are TV’s evil, playing cards of the devil, shorts examples of a sissy spirit, physical discipline guided by the whims of ministers (thinking you can beat the devil out of your child), and money management (why save when the world was ending). For me, one of many cracks in that wall came when my son was born. I wanted to be an example for him because I couldn’t control the outside world, only what I showed him. This was a huge responsibility. Once leaving the group I have had to stop in the midst of things to check my sources, everyday thoughts might have been based on non biblical traditions, I also had to evaluate my parents’ lessons, deciding if they were based on things I still believed.

“…old-fashion mother, see her girl come out on the street, back there in them mountains, with a little pair of shorts on, like you and grandma and the rest of you wear. Let her come in, of a morning, and her clothes half off of her, twisted up, and her manicure, lipsticks, or whatever it is, all over her face, been out with some little Ricky all night long, in a hot rod, running around, come in. She would blister her, one of them hickory limbs, she couldn’t get up out of the bed for six months” 63-0412M – William Marrion Branham

My thoughts on parenting needed adjustment right then and there. I was appalled this had been taught to me, but my parents didn’t want to hear how they were wrong, who does? They had done right in their minds based on how they’d been raised. Every generation trying to fix what they felt was messed up, yet the message froze certain ideas and cemented them in place like the above quote.

I can only imagine that this was the wall that so many of the people in Jesus’ time ran into when he told them that God’s grace had been promised not only to the Jews but to all the Gentiles and all the people of the world. When they had to compare all the rules they’d ever known, taught to them by rabbis, by their parents, by their entire world up until that point that rules and expectations would be what got them into heaven. Jesus told them that the kingdom of Heaven was likened to the starry-eyed curious children running to meet him that the disciples couldn’t hold back. I had to realize like those that converted to Christianity that my salvation didn’t depend on rules and restrictions like wearing skirts and tithing and hiding the TV when my minister said it was evil. Jesus came to show us that there was a good and human (and fallible) way to find salvation. I had to find the loving way to raise my kid, in Jesus’ name.

And everywhere the Lamb went; Mary was sure to go

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

– Luke 21:46

As a parent I have the fear of losing my child in public places. Walking through Walmart, I have witnessed first hand how my child, upon seeing a toy, developed faster than light travel the moment I looked away. I have played through so many scenarios of what I would do if someone took him or he managed to actually disappear, but in all of my instances of losing him, I’ve only needed to find the nearest shiny or toy section to be reunited with him; thankfully, he and I think similarly.

I’ve heard some people talk about how bad of a mother Mary must have been on that trip. How could she lose the son of God? Depending on who you ask it was three to five day trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem at the time of our story. It was not an overnight trip to a family member’s house. This was a yearly trek for the whole family to the hub of nation to take part in one of the biggest festivals. Think about that, a family vacation, to a church function, with ten or so days just for travel, not counting the seven to eight days of the actual feast of Passover, leaving home for most of a month. I can’t make it from Louisville to Dayton (two hours by the way) without forgetting a toothbrush every time.

After three days of being politely told to stop worrying, as all relatives seem to do, the mom-alarm went ballistic. The Bible tells us that after three days they sought him. No one could for sure say when they’d seen him last, so terrified, they had to head back. Jesus had been left alone in Jerusalem for six days by the time they got back. They didn’t find him scared and hiding. No front desk was paging them. They had to search through every place they had been during that week. When they finally walked into the temple to say a prayer for their lost child, they finally found him. Jesus was not lost; He was sitting amongst those that taught the law and doctrine of the temple. I can imagine as they stood there in shock someone seeing the direction of their stares, telling them, hey, have you seen this kid? He knows more than most of us already. Whoever has been teaching that boy is parent of the year. He’ll make an amazing rabbi someday for sure.

So then we read her cry, “My son. Why have you done this to us? Look at me. Your father and I have been searching high and low for you, worried to death.” We can finally attach the motherly pride and pain to it. We can also imagine the anger that Jesus’ words would have spurned. “Why would you be looking for me anywhere but here? Don’t know you know this is my Father’s business?” However, he relented and went home with them.

God has a purpose for all of us. He has given us each a task to complete, though not many of us by angels. He not only knows our every need but every ounce of our potential. We might be day two of heading back into town trying to find Jesus, panicked, but God is still in control and knows what we need. He wouldn’t give you a responsibility without equipping you to handle it.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

– Isaiah 41:10

Mary had a little Lamb

The virgin birth was a paradox. I do not believe that Jesus was any part of Mary. That was not His mother. It was a woman that God used for that purpose, a incubator to bear His Child. If Mary… If the seed of the woman, which, she is the egg and the man has the hemoglobin… If that’s right, doctor, and (See?) the—the blood. The life lays in the blood cell.                                  62-0128A – William Marrion Branham

As Mary looked down into His eyes in the swaddling cloth, she did her best to smile. The stench of the animals was making them all gag. She blinked away tears as she looked over at Joseph who smiled back at her. The last year replaying in her mind as she looked around. The laughter and happiness as she discussed being espoused, learning about the man she would call her husband, Joseph of Galilee. The Angel that had visited him too gave her a companion and a confidante in her struggles, once he could see the truth for himself. They had tried to follow God’s will to give birth to the baby. Yet they felt lost and worried, sitting in a borrowed stable in a strange town. Surely this wasn’t the place God had planned to come to man in. She must have missed something. In the midst of this doubt, there was a knock on the door.

As Joseph opened the doors and a group of dirty shepherds made their way in, the confusion grew. These men had been visited too, more recently, telling them to come, see, and worship. The shepherds didn’t seem sure of themselves, being grown men told to go find the son of God and worship Him. What they found was a confused couple worried about messing up God’s plan and a newborn baby. But as the pieces started to fall into place, it was more and more apparent how these strangers had been brought together as pieces of a bigger plan and the roles they had been given.

We glorify the people in the Bible like fantasy characters, but if we really believe them to be true stories, then they were human just like us. They had to have been flesh and blood people. They used the bathroom, tripped and fell, broke things, told bad jokes, laughed at the wrong times, had no clue what was happening. A lot of times, we imagine Jesus walking around with twelve saints and how they spoke of the Lord and His awesome power. I’ve never seen thirteen men stay focused on one topic for more any amount of time, and they had to have cracked jokes, ones that would make you groan.  When you’re friends with someone for that long, there are running jokes and looks that they share in a way that we experience every day. When we talk about being close to God and talking to Him one on one, so often we think it has to be a formal black tie event. Do you think Peter ever asked Jesus if he could make a million shekels appear? Who wouldn’t ask just once? Jesus came to this earth to live life like us, for the son of God to not only suffer a death that was miserable, but to live and play in the dirt as we do. When I was a youth minister, it was remarkable to see how quickly the kids could relate to things in the Bible when they felt like Jesus really was one of us and not only suffered with us, but laughed with us. Suddenly the Bible actually meant something. God lived among us, His people who were created in His image, and we can be people just like they were, following His plan.

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.                                                                                                            – Luke 1:30-31

Happy New Year

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG)

Thank you for all who have joined us and contributed to our discussions here. I am deeply moved by your trust and time. In just a few short months, we now have over 300 followers. I can’t wait to see what opportunities open up to us this coming year.

As everyone looks to start a new year, seeking to build upon their successes or overcome their mistakes, remember that there is one thing we can rest on. God’s love for us is not just a resolution. He does not hope on us for a few months, weeks, or days before sighing and moving on. He knows all we are made of, all we are capable of, and all we can be. He loves every broken and finite piece.