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How Should Israel - and Ourselves - Sow our Love for God

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What Demonstrates Our Love for God?

Approximately 140 years before Malachi wrote his book, a number of Israelites had returned from captivity to rebuild the temple.[i] About 80 years later, a Levite named Ezra came to Jerusalem to restore the worship of the temple.[ii] Approximately 50 years before Malachi wrote, a leader, Nehemiah, came and stirred up the nation to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.[iii] In the case of both Ezra and Nehemiah these leaders found the nation in desperate need of “spiritual” repairs.[iv] For example, Nehemiah found the nation neglecting the provisions [tithes] for the Levites,[v] money-making on the Sabbath,[vi] and marrying foreign [idol-worshipping] women[vii]. So it is not surprising that not many years afterward, the nation had the same spiritual problems.
How can I demonstrate my love for God? [Cf John 14:21]
[i] Cf .
[ii] .
[iii] Cf .
[iv] Cf Ezra 9ff, .
[v] .
[vi] .
[vii] Neb 13:23-31.

What was Israel’s Real Problem?

At the beginning of this section, God says to Israel:
7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My statutes And have not kept them. (, NKJV)
These Israelis had not kept God’s statues and were certainly out of fellowship with the LORD. And God says:
7 Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. (, NKJV)
But Israel’s response was:
7 ‘In what way shall we return?’ (, NKJV)
God is very specific with regard to His will. He says:
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. (, NKJV)
In Israel’s case – because they were an agricultural society – God had commanded them to give a TENTH = TITHE[i] of various parts of their property to support the Levites, provide for the feasts in Jerusalem and support the poor and needy[ii] . This amounted to approximately 231/3% each year of their income.
It appears that Malachi is referring to a neglect of these tithes.[iii] However, it is possible – as Jesus pointed out – to NEGLECT THE LOVE OF GOD in offering one’s tithes and just go through the motions of giving. And this, undoubtedly, was at the heart of their problem.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (, NKJV)
God reminds them that He is fully aware of their failure – but will abundantly reward them if they sacrificially give.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; 12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts. (, NKJV)
We know that – in the future – Israel truly will fulfill the whole law[iv] and also be BLESSED among the Gentiles.[v] Verse 12 may indeed be alluding to this fact. But it also includes a promise of present blessing for the nation.
What did God pinpoint as Israel’s problem in their relationship to Him?
[i] The word translated tithe is מַעֲשֵׂר ma’aser = tenth.
[ii] provides for support of the Levites and the priests through the tithe. The Deuteronomic code stipulated that the tithe of agricultural produce be used for a family feast at the sanctuary celebrating God’s provision (). The same code stipulated the third year’s tithe for care of the Levites, orphans, widows, and foreigners ().
[iii] Cf .
[iv] .
[v] . . . , .

Application for Today

The New Testament provides the same incentive for giving – including ETERNAL REWARD. Note , , .
38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (, NKJV)
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (, NKJV)[1]
What application can I make today concerning these things?
[1] See also .
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