Learn to revere the Lord
28 May 2006 am
Call to worship
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:7, 9)
Grace to you from God our Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord, through the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of Confession of sin
Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord, I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the Lord, I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:12-13)
Hymn no 381 “Nothing is mine but what I received”
Prayer of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer
Doxology Hymn No 113: “How excellent in all the earth”
Prayer for others
Scripture Reading 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Hymn No 365: “We give You but your own”
Scripture Reading Deuteronomy 14:22-29
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Those of you who also attend our evening services will know that I am reading from Deuteronomy at the moment. We have now come to the subject of tithing to the Lord.
Before we proceed with this paragraph from the Word of God, let’s just repeat something we looked at last Lord’s Day night. I want to repeat something of what we heard then:
“Those whom God calls to Himself from all eternity in Jesus Christ are members of this church. The New Testament is a continuation of the church of the Old Testament. Old Israel now became New Israel and both have the covenantal father Abraham and become children of God through Jesus Christ.
This means that what Deuteronomy says about Israel is now applicable to the church today, but then as understood through the salvation of and fulfilment in Jesus Christ.”
Tithing in the New Testament
Christ has come to fulfil the Ceremonial Law: There is no slaughtering of lambs and bulls when we come to worship God corporately on his Day. We don’t have an altar, a temple or a curtain separating us from God anymore. There is no more shedding of blood anymore, and we don’t have priests making intercession for us anymore. Our sacrificial lamb is the Lamb of God, our priest is the Lord Jesus Christ, the temple of God is now his church in general, but also his corporate body of believers; in them He lives through his Holy Spirit.
Tithing as it was applicable upon Israel is not applicable upon us in the same way, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that does not mean that tithing as principle to serve the Lord with our material income does not apply to us anymore. Nowhere in Scripture does the Lord Jesus Christ teach such a thing.
Fact is, we do not have animals, or corn or firstfruits from our crops to serve the God with anymore. In Jesus Christ we do not give our sons and firstborn as a tithe to the Lord, and in the narrow sense of the word, we do not have the elaborate system of Levites and priests who have to be supported by the tithes.
; But the principle remains, and that principle we take as premise this morning: we need to serve God with a tenth of our income. Anything short of that comes down to rob God of what belongs to Him. We deduce this principle from verse like the following in the Bible:
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. These are the commands the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai for the Israelites. (Leviticus 27:30-34)
Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
Therefore, verse 22 of the paragraph we read together from the book of Deuteronomy says “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.” The literal reading of this verse says “Tithe your tithe.” The form of the verb is the intensified form, which accounts for the translation “Make sure you tithe your tithe!”
The implication for the New Testament is clear. Not calves, bulls or rams anymore. Not necessarily bushels of grain; or sheaves of corn or wheat; or firstfruits or the like. But the principle that remains is: what we have and what we enjoy is the Lord’s. He enables us to work and to make a living. ; The world belongs to Him and we belong to Him.
The Christian today, irrespective of its culture, occupation, or geography has to adhere to this principle. This means that even those who do not live and labour in an agricultural environment like Israel still serve the Lord with a tenth of their income as the Lord would bless them.
However, some might still bring their tithe in the form of grain or animals. Some of it which will then be sold or distributed by the responsible officers of the church for money, and some will be given to the needy in the form of food.
Richard Wurmbrand who wrote the book Tortured for Christ said that when in prison they tithed! “When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soup every day, we decided we would faithfully “tithe” even that. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brethren as our “tithe” to the Master.”
Usually, this distribution of goods and money is undertaken by the deacons of the church. In our denomination this distribution is not fully adhere to, but some of it is done by the Committee of Management. We will see how this is done.
; Dimensions of tithing
Tithing had two dimensions: ; serving God and acknowledging his providence. The other is to provide for needs of the widow, the fatherless and the aliens.
Acknowledging God, tithing was never meant to be an onerous weight, that one must as if was a burden to give a tithe of what one earns. Rather, the tithe was a liberating act of joyful worship. The Bile teaches in Deut 12:12
And there rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. (Deuteronomy 12:12)
; We have heard from the Word of God how He impresses on his people the importance of joyful worship. 2Cor 9:7 also declares
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
All that one has is God’s; we are just stewards of what belongs to God. To surrender to God’s use a small proportion of what one holds in trust by his grace is a grateful act of submission and dependence.
; Secondly, tithing has a manward, or community thrust; it is part of the inter-relatedness of the people of God. The Levites who were in the service of God, not in commercial activity, were the direct beneficiaries of the tithes. There was an inter-relatedness between the ministry of the Levites and the daily labour of the non-Levites. It was as if God wanted them to know that in principle what the Levites were called to do, were actually the task of every Israelite. However God ordained that the Levites would minister in his presence or behalf of the rest of the nation.
Ministers and other fulltime people in the ministry do not equal the Levites of the Old Testament. The Levitical priesthood was fulfilled in Christ. All Christians are now priests, prophets and kings in what is called the “priesthood of believers”. Everyone can be called by God to some form of ministry; you do not need to be of a certain bloodline to qualify anymore. You need to be called, however. ; But the principle is the same as in the time of Israel: those called by God for a specific ministry are actually doing what is the task of the body as a whole; therefore those called by God to be his ministers, those who are recognised by the church as such by being setting them apart for that ministry, can and must look at the body of Christ to support them. This is God’s will. Not all of us are fulltime ministers in local congregations, yet in a very specific way what ministers do is the responsibility of all Christians; therefore members of local churches tithe to make it possible for fulltime ministers to carry out their duties. Not all of us can work on the mission field, but in a certain sense it remains our responsibility. We now make it possible for some to go by being faithful in our tithing. Here the Committee of Management comes in: it is the task of the Committee to set up a budget. It is done in such a way that it keeps in mind the income of the people; but it is also the task of the Committee to educate God’s people and to impress on the hearts of the church to put God first and to obey his command by tithing.
Alpheus Hardy made money and used it to support missionaries and educate ministers. The great Japanese, Dr. Joseph Hardy Neesima, was helped by him when he landed in Boston on one of Hardy’s ships. Neesima helped lay the foundations for Christianity in Japan.
Here is Hardy’s experience: I wanted to go to college and become a minister. My health broke down and the truth dawned on me that I could not be a minister. I cannot be God’s minister, was the sentence that kept rolling in my mind.
One morning, alone in my room, my distress was so great I threw myself flat on the floor. The voiceless cry of my soul was, O God, I cannot be Thy minister.
Then it came to me that I could serve God in business with similar devotion, and to make money for God might be my special calling. The vision was so clear and joyous, I exclaimed aloud, “O God, I can be Thy minister! I will go back to Boston. I will make money for God, and that shall be my ministry. I am God’s man, and my ministry is to make and administer money for Him.
; Moreover, the poor, the widows, and the orphans (proverbial subjects of neglect) were to be maintained by means of the tithe of the third year (Deut 14:29). They too, though defenceless, were a part of the community. The tithes insured their well-being, a major step toward a healthy society.
; Learn to revere God
Verse 23 makes mention of a very interesting principle: God commands us to tithe as an act of reverence. ; The original uses a word which signifies a purpose and result: Tithe with the purpose; or: tithe and what will happen then is …
; Learn: this word signifies to gain information and respond properly to it with regular action, implying acceptance of, or submission to the information. It is a process of being educated.
Let’s take the sentence again: Be sure to tithe order that you can be continually educated.
; Let’s move a bit forward. The next word is revere: show high status and honour to one in authority. We have already seen that God is in authority because to Him belongs everything. He is the Creator.
We see something very interesting in this verse. ; Just look at the order of things. It does not say because you have reverence for the Lord your will learn to bring you tithes to the house of the Lord. It is the other way round. Bring your tithes to the Lord in order that you will learn to revere Him. It is a process of growing in awe for God by trusting and worshipping Him.
; My dear brothers and sisters, something happens when you bring your tithe into the service of the Lord, even in the face of sure financial calamity. Never does the Lord ask from us before He provides for us. But there are times when we have to trust God, even if the figures on the bank account do not work out. The amazing thing is this: God provides. It is a schooling process. We have to learn to revere God, and one of the quickest ways to do this is to let go the cramping fingers upon the wallet. It means that we show that we believe that we would have nothing, but for the grace of God. Listen to this verse form the Word of God:
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Honour and reverence are the same words. To tithe is to honour God. What happens when we get caught up in the process of God’s teaching: He will see that we have enough to do so. God does not take from us without also honouring our trust in the Him.
There is another verse in the Scriptures teaching this:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:10-11)
There are so many Christians who do not understand this. They never trust God and serving the Lord is done with a heavy heart, without the grace to think that their dollars might contribute to the salvation of some lost soul. It becomes a joy to give to the work of the Lord knowing that God is powerful to perform his mighty acts of glory through the obedience of someone who might just say: God, today I will trust you with my tithes. I give to You what belongs to You. Teach me to fear and revere you, everyday more and more. Use my dollars and cents and build your kingdom.
The price of the opposite is very high: those who cling to the last sent might just one day find out that they have nothing. God might just take it all. After all, the cloak of death has no pockets.
The Christian who tithes will be surprised:
(1) At the amount of money he has for the Lord’s work,
(2) At the deepening of his spiritual life in paying the tithe,
(3) At the ease in meeting his own obligation with the nine-tenths,
(4) At the ease in going from one-tenth to a larger percentage,
(5) At the preparation this gives to be a faithful and wise steward over the nine-tenths remaining,
(6) At himself for not adopting the plan sooner!
W. L. Douglas was a shoe manufacturer of fame. From his early, struggling years comes this story. He had been unemployed so long that he was down to his last dollar. Nevertheless, he put half of it—fifty cents—in the collection basket of his church. Next morning he heard of a job in a neighbouring town. The railroad fare to that town was one dollar. To all appearances it would have been wiser if he had kept that fifty cents. However, with the half dollar remaining he bought a ticket and rode half-way to the desired place. He stepped from the train and began to walk to the town.
Before he had gone one block he heard of a factory right in that town where they were employing men. Within thirty minutes he had a job at a salary five dollars more a week than he would have received had he gone on to the other town.
· ; To tithe (to set aside a full 10%) one’s income is a command from God.
· It must be done joyfully
· It is a process of learning to revere God
· It provides for the work of the Lord – abundantly!
· It provides for those in need.
Tithes, offering and dedication
While the stewards wait on the tithes and offerings, all remaining seated sing
Hymn No 363: “Forth in your Name” (Tune 518)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)