I hope you can see this passage today as warning rather than judgement. If you are out of alignment with God’s Word there is forgiveness if you repent. As we look at this passage today there are some important principals to keep in mind: Jesus’ church has always read the Old Testament Scriptures and taken the principals of what God commanded for His people, the nation of Israel, to apply today to Christ’s Body, the New Testament Church. Some of the specifics are not always the same but the principals hold true because it is the same relationship.
The Nation of Israel was a united Group that God dealt with as a whole. Jesus’ church is a united group that God deals with as a whole. Pre Christ: God’s people were a body who’s spiritual life centered around the Temple. This was the spiritual infrastructure God provided for them. United Worship. Post Christ: As Christ’s Body our spiritual life is centered around the local church. This is the spiritual infrastructure God provides for us. United Worship. The same principles that applied then apply now. Because God doesn’t change!
As members of a local Body of Christ’s purchased followers, we share in the blessings that come from honest relationship AND in the consequences for unrepentant disobedience.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. ~ 1st Corinthians 12:26-27
As members of Christ’s Body we are all called to relational honesty with God. Today’s passage may convict you, my prayer is that you will make changes to align your life with God desires of HIS people. I also know some of you may disagree with what I am going to say. But this is not some ‘new’ interpretation. The application of this passage has been agreed upon by Christ’s followers for 2000 years. If you disagree, I encourage you to search the Scriptures and seek out one of the Elders to talk about it with. I remind you that as a covenant member of Midtown church the traditional application of this scripture is part of our covenant to each other.
Our culture here at Midtown is based on the honest application of ALL scripture. It is based on mutual sacrifice and communal obedience to the revealed will of God. What we are looking at today is an essential aspect of our discipleship and I would say that until you come into alignment with this scripture your discipleship will be stunted and incomplete. Partial obedience is disobedience.
6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned My decrees and failed to obey them.
- Throughout scripture God has revealed Himself to be ‘Immutable’ (unchanging)
- The interpenetration of this passage begins with this fact: Same God OT & NT
- Because His love, mercy, grace and compassion are constant…we exist
- We are no different than the nation of Israel as far as failing to obey God
- Because of who He is we can still be His people
- Praise God that we do not get what we deserve from HIM!
Now return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’
- This command is to be acted on NOW (delayed obedience is disobedience)
- This is a call to repentance (define repentance)
- But no one has ever repented when they didn’t think they needed to…
- What hubris to say to God: ‘I have not strayed’
- Like the rich religious leader Jesus encounters in Luke 18
- The opposite is found in David’s prayer psalm 51 (transgression / inequity / sin)
- Since they (US) seem to need an example, God is going to use tithing as one
8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated Me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat You?’ “You have cheated Me of the tithes and offerings due to Me.
- God establishes agreement that His people should not cheat Him (we agree?)
- Everyone can agree that as His people we are to be honest with God
- HE points out they & we cheat Him…and again there is denial of sin
- HE then hits them with the truth (and HE knows the truth) God is all knowing
- Two separate things, tithes & offerings (all together about 23%)
- The focus here is on the tithe (tenth) that pertains to everyone
- A percentage makes it equal for people of different incomes
- There are prescribed offerings that are situational to different people
- BOTH are due to Him, as in commanded as part of the relationship
9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating Me.
- Then God declares that His blessings have been withheld from the nation
- We are to be united in sacrificial giving. If one cheats we all share the guilt
- As Christ’s body we are interconnected by Christ’s indwelling Spirit
- We answer to God as individuals and as a Body
- This Body is only as obedient as the least obedient member of it
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.
- Obedience to this for Christ’s people has always been giving 10% to the church
- The specific command is: bring ALL the tithes to the ‘Storehouse’ (not 8%)
- This provides for the spiritual infrastructure of the community (Temple / Church)
- The only way to read this: Members of Christ’s body give 10% to the church
- That shared sacrifice is at the heart of what a ‘Body’ is about
- This is what provides for the ‘spiritual feeding’ of God’s purchased people
- Giving of a portion of tithe to other entities is saying ‘I know better than God’
If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!
- The command comes with a promise if we are obedient
- God says if you do it…we will get a look into what Heaven is really like
- If we do this, everyone in the whole Body, God will show ‘The Kingdom Come’
- It will blow us away! We will have so much [God Stuff] we will have to share it
- There is no hoarding of Heavenly blessings [spiritual not material]
- God says ‘I dare you to try it and see what happens!’
- We are never to test God unless He tells us to…
11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
- He lists some examples for the people at that time tied to agriculture
- We can understand this as a the blessing our means of provision
- Everyone, of various backgrounds, will recognize God blessing His people
- Our Body will be a source of delight to the entire community at large
Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Part of that unchanging nature is His grace and mercy for His chosen people. His unchanging compassion, patience and love keep Him from giving US what we deserve for our disobedience.
Christ is always there to take us back when we repent. We must be honest with Him about our sin, truly owning it. The example of cheating God specifically referenced is disobedient giving to the spiritual infrastructure He provides for us. (Temple / Church)
Since we are a Body (interconnected), if one part cheats God we are all cheating Him! As Christ Body we are only as obedient as the least obedient members of the that Body. Jesus’ Church shares blessings and curses.
God commands His people, in unity, to give 10% of what they receive to HIS ordained worship structure (Temple / Church). This fully enables HIS people to be fed spiritually. If we do this as a body He promises to bless us beyond what we can imagine.
Christ says to His Body; try not cheating Him, try being obedient to what He has called each of us to do (specific to this passage; tithing to our church Body).
If each member of this Body were to obediently tithe, we will experience unimagined blessings, but more importantly, God will be fully glorified!
In what ways can you practice thankfulness for God’s grace in dealing with your sin and disobedience?
How well do you own up to your sin? What specific sins can you own up to with God today during communion?
Do you view giving 10% of your net income to your local church as a Scriptural command or as an optional practice? In either case, what drives your behavior?
Do you believe that giving to other ministries, missionaries or of your time is part of the tithe commanded in this passage? What Scripture backs up such decisions?