How do you rob me? – God

The Lord answered the Israelites’ inquiry of how they are robbing the Lord and the response is so simple — in your tithes and offering. In other words, the Lord is saying, “you rob me when you do not bring your tithes and offering fully.”86 You may be bringing in your tithe, but if you are not bringing in your offering, then you have not brought what God is asking in full.

The târumah is separate from the tithes, and it is a voluntary offering. It is voluntary in terms of the amount you give.87 If you give less than 1/60th of your increase, on top of the tithe, then you are a stingy man, if it is 1/50th of your increase, then you are fair, but a generous man gives 1/40th or more.

 

 

 

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Tithes and Offering Part 2

The offering is traditionally translated as the “heave offering” (Exo. 29:2-28, Lev. 14:32, Num. 15-19-21). It is found 76 times in the Hebrew Bible, mostly in Exodus, Numbers, and Ezekiel, which is usually related to the causative verb rûm, “be high,” which suggested it’s raised as an offering to the Lord. The târumah, as we have been discussing, is a contribution for the ministry of the Lord. It goes directly for the personal consumption of the priest. Moreover, the târumah is the setting aside an object from the owner’s domain to transfer it to God’s domain, as an act of dedication.84

The connection between the târumah and the tithe is suggested in Numbers 18:8-24. The offerings were reserved for the priests, since he was giving them no land to farm. All the târumah brought to the Lord, the portions of grain, and the like were not burnt. There is also a portion of the tithes that was designed to the Levites for the same reason. Not all of the tithes went to the priests’ direct consumption, because they needed resources to keep the temple running. The târumah comes in different amounts, unlike the tithe which is a fixed 10%. The târumah depends on the generosity of the person, which the most generous gives 2.5% or more of his increase. The târumah is not the tithe, but the tithe is a kind of târumah.

 

God said that the Israelites were withholding offerings that belonged to Him, especially the tithes.85 In the present time, a portion of the tithes is allotted for the salary of the priest, as other parts of it go to building rent, utilities, and the like. On the other hand, there are other offerings, which is entirely given to the priest for his nourishment and support. It is important to recognize if you are failing to bring your târumah, even when you are faithfully bringing in your tithe.

 

The Bible says if you fail to bring your târumah, then you are still robbing the Lord.

 

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Have you ever withheld a tithe? How about an offering?

 

Tithes and Offering

The way the Israelites treated the land of Canaan — the promised land — was a central feature in their responsibilities under God’s covenant. Ownership of land meant participation in the covenant community to whom God had given the land. The ownership of land is legitimized by an attitude of faith and gratitude for God. Covenant terms included keeping the Sabbath, and participation in the festivals of joy with gifts to God. A significant portion of this responsibility is bringing in the tithe and the offering through which the landless priests and Levites are provided for. The land the priests and Levites received were not farming lands, but residential areas. Therefore, they cannot work for their provision.

The condition of the covenant was given so that they cannot pridefully think, “My own power and strength produced this wealth for me.” Through tithes and offering, the people remember that it is God who gives them the ability to produce wealth, in order to confirm His covenant with them (Dt. 8:17-18). Their obedience to this requirement shows their acknowledgement of His Lordship over them, as well as their dependence and gratitude toward them.

 

Moreover, this practice also shows the people how faithful God has been to His promises.

Tithe is maʾăśēr, meaning “tenth part.”83 If tithes is maʾăśēr, and offering is târumah, then the Hebrew translation already distinguishes that the tithe is not the offering. Moses instructed Israel to bring in “A tenth of everything the land produces belongs to the Lord. That includes grain from the soil and fruit from the trees. It is holy. It is set apart for him” (Lev. 27:30). When Israel settled into the land, they were already required to bring in the tithe. Every third year, however, the tithe was specifically distributed to the offeror’s hometown, to its local landless inhabitants, such as the foreign residents, the Levites, the fatherless, and the widows (Dt. 14:28-29; 26:12).

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Do you faithfully give your tithes and offering?

PROVOKED THE LORD WITH IDOL OFFERINGS

 

The Lord was offended by the Israelites because they saw pagan shrines in the high hills and they worshipped. They provoked the Lord with their sacrifices, their libations, and incense offerings which were presented to pagan deities. God called them to account for their conduct by asking, “What is the high place to which you are going?” That was how those pagan shrines came to be called bamah, i.e., high place.

God is asking us, “What is the high place to which you are going?” Maybe it’s the luxury car or the luxury house you bought, which is the reason why you withheld your tithes and offering. Maybe it was the high credit card bill because you are under the yoke of excessive spending. What other gods are you bringing your offering to?

How are you offering to idols? When you look at your finances, you can determine if you are in the trap of idolatry? What are you spending on the most? Does it bring glory to God?

On the other hand, you can also evaluate your thought patterns. Are you God-centered or man-centered? Is the reason why you are not bringing in your tithes and offering because you feel you’ll be in lack? You would not be able to make ends meet. Do you think the Lord would command you to give to His ministry without providing for you?

You may not offer directly to Baal or other gods that the Israelites had name for. However, the Enemy has disguised idolatry in the modern times. It can be fame, pride, power, wealth, greed, lust, and a whole lot of other things. Narcissism is a powerful idol among this generation. People have been seeking after all these other things, instead of seeking the Lord for them. Anything that takes the place of the Lord in your life is idolatry.

People have devoted time to creating perfect social media profiles. They spend a lot on vacations, clothes, and shoes just so they can show the world their glory. However, they have neglected the work of the Lord. They took for granted the ministry of God. Instead of bringing in their tithes and offering, they are drowning in debt, trying to buy things they couldn’t afford in the first place.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, if we truly question why it is an issue for us to bring in the tithes and the offering, we would discover an idolatrous heart. We are creatures who are made to worship. Our natural tendency is to bring in our offerings in worship of something. The only question is if we choose the right object of worship.

 

 

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Israel’s Response to Yahweh’s Initiative

The response of Israel represented the contrast of the arrogance and defiance that Ezekiel experienced with his fellow Israelites. There were three specific characteristics to their response to Yahweh’s actions. First, Israel would remember their corrupt past. Remember is zākar, which does not simply mean “to recall to mind,” but also “to acknowledge, take account of, accept responsibility for,” their conduct (dĕrākîm). They need to take responsibility for past sins before they can move forward.

For Ezekiel’s audience, they cannot blame the past generations or God for their misfortune. They need to own their sins and recognize their mistakes for what they were. God noted that they were provocative deeds (ʿălîlôt), self- defiling (niṭmāʾ), evil actions (rāʿôt), and corrupt, or vile, deeds (nišḥātôt). If Yahweh acts on the nation’s behalf, it is in spite of, rather than because of, the people’s actions. It is because God is a merciful God. Even when they don’t deserve it, God still gave them another chance.

Another thing is that the memory of this repugnant past must evoke the Israelites’ abhorrence. This memory must result in intense self-loathing. In other words, the Israelites need to have a clear picture of what they did. There is no room for pride or for excuses. They need to humble themselves and acknowledge this shameful past.

Finally, Israel shall recognize Yahweh for who He is — faithful to His covenant oaths (Ezek. 20:42). His actions are motivated by a concern for His glory, even if they get nothing of what they deserve. The grace of God is unmerited. However, God is not only giving grace, He is giving restoration. Despite a long history of rebellion, Yahweh’s personal integrity would overcome his wrath.

 

 

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YAHWEH’S ACCEPTANCE OF ISRAEL

How are we accepted by the Lord? As a requirement of God’s acceptances, we are to bring in our offerings and tithes. The verse said I will accept them. Rāṣâ may denote God’s acceptance of the worshiper. What is the context by which this acceptance comes?

The Lord shows that He accepts His people when they are privileged to bring Him an offering. People cannot even give an offering to the Lord when He does not allow it. A lot of people complain that they are commanded to bring the tithes and the offering, but they must understand that it is because of their relationship with the God of the Universe that places them in this position.

The Israelites understood the implication of this speech. If God does not tell them to bring in an offering, it only means they are cut off from Him for good. The offering opens the connection between God and man. It is when people bring in their  that they detach themselves from worldly strongholds, and completely declare allegiance and reliance on the Lord.

Instead of God’s current refusal to receive the inquiry of the exiles, He required their offerings. In the place of Israel’s past defilement through idolatrous practices (vv. 7, 18), their offerings, specified as contributions, choice gifts (“the first/ choice lifted up ones”) will be accepted as genuinely holy. Below is the passage that provides a background as to why the Israelites sinned:

7 I said to them, ‘Each of you must get rid of the statues of the evil gods you worship. Do not make yourselves “unclean” by worshiping the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’

8 “‘“But they refused to obey me. They would not listen to me. They did not get rid of the evil gods they worshiped. And they did not turn away from Egypt’s gods. So I said I would pour out all my great anger on them in Egypt (Ezekiel 20:7-8)

 

They were worshipping and bringing in offerings to different gods. It was idolatrous and unfaithfulness to the Lord. Instead of the people provoking Yahweh with their pagan rites, Yahweh will accept the people themselves as a soothing aroma. Instead of defending the honor of His name before the nations through restraint, viz., by not destroying his people, Yahweh will vindicate his holiness publicly by affirmative action on Israel’s behalf: the new exodus from the peoples and countries where they are dispersed. Finally, instead of living in Egypt (vv. 5–9), the desert (vv. 10–26, 35– 38), or the diaspora (vv. 30–34), Israel will finally be brought back to the Promised Land, in fulfillment of Yahweh’s ancient promises to the ancestors.

 

 

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GOD CENTERED VS. MAN-CENTERED

When it comes to your bringing your offering to the Lord, are you God-centered or man-centered? Even if it’s not in the context of our finances, we must always evaluate our heart and check where our trust lies. Asking this question makes you evaluate what you are dependent on.

We must always be centered on the glory of the Lord. When we examine our lives, our language, and our thoughts, we find that it is very easy to slip back into a more man- centered philosophy. God may be kind and wonderful to us, but He does such things for a greater purpose.

In verse 44, we see the mindset of the Lord, which if we are wise, we would adapt the same way of thinking:

44 People of Israel, I will deal with you for the honor of my name. I will not deal with you based on your evil conduct and sinful practices. Then you will know that I am the Lord,’ announces the Lord and King. (Ezekiel 20:44)

 

Twice in this verse, we see how God puts focus on His actions and on Himself. God says to Judah, “You will know that I am the Lord.” At the center of what God is going to do with the people, the goal is for people to know that God is truly God — supreme, Lord, and King. God tells them that He will deal with them for His name’s sake, putting emphasis on the action of the Lord and not on the people.

Are we offended when God makes it about Himself, and not about us? The problem with today’s generation is people are so vain. They want to have all the glory. We want to be the star of our lives, when in reality, this is God’s spot.

Do we want God to make us the center of the picture? God is rescuing people from their captivity. He is bringing them to proper conviction and repentance of their sins. He is renewing a covenant with them, rescuing them from Babylon, and returning them to the Promised land. God is giving them both earthly benefits and heavenly riches. God is the One doing all the work. The Israelites are basically just the beneficiaries in this story. Why should the glory go to them? It rightfully belongs to the Lord. In the process of bringing glory to the Lord, the people are blessed and protected.

 

God cannot pretend that the most important characters in this event are people. Doing so would set them above God. Instead, God displayed His character. He defended His name and His glory. When God displays His glory, and focuses on His own name, the people experience the greatest blessings. They get to see God’s glory, and they are rescued by the mighty hand of God.

 

 

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THE CONTRIBUTION AND ALLEGIANCE OF THE LORD

In Ezekiel 20, , the Lord is speaking to the people of Israel through the prophet. He is talking about how the people would serve Him, and He shall require holy sacrifices and the finest gifts. The Lord also talked about a renewal of the covenant wherein all His promises would be reinstated.

40 People of Israel, you will all serve me,’ announces the Lord and King. ‘You will serve me on my high and holy mountain in Jerusalem. There I will accept you. I will require your offerings and your finest gifts. I want you to bring them along with all your other holy sacrifices. 41 I will bring you back from the nations. I will gather you together from the countries where you have been scattered. Then I will accept you as if you were sweet-smelling incense. I will show that I am holy among you. The nations will see it. 42 I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Long ago I raised my hand and made a promise. I promised to give that land to your people of long ago. 43 There you will remember your conduct. You will think about everything you did that made you “unclean.” And you will hate yourselves because of all the evil things you have done. 44 People of Israel, I will deal with you for the honor of my name. I will not deal with you based on your evil conduct and sinful practices. Then you will know that I am the Lord,’ announces the Lord and King.” ’ ” (Ezekiel 20:40-44)

 

Verse 32-44 is a form of disputation speech. The form used here is to make the speech a vehicle for the proclamation of salvation. However, despite the positive message of the proclamation, there is an interwoven announcement of partial judgment.

 

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Have you ever believed and desired for a reaping without actually sowing anything?

COMMITMENTS OF A BELIEVER

The importance of the temple was shown in how the construction of the temple was the first order of business for the returning exiles. Their slowness in building it became a burden for the minor prophet Haggai. Continued provision for the temple even concerned Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was a civil rule. The expectation was he couldn’t care less about the temple. He was largely concerned about rebuilding the city walls. However, Nehemiah 10 showed us his commitment to the temple by binding people to being a God-fearing, cohesive, and conscious nation. ]

 

According to Howard F. Vos says, “The temple … provided the religious and social cement to bind members of the community to each other, and preeminently to God and his service.”72 Unity in the country is difficult to maintain. At the end of the book, and even in the book of Malachi, we find the later generations of Jews neglecting their tithes and offerings. They neglected the ministry of the Lord.

 

Under Nehemiah’s leadership, he made sure the people upheld their duties to the Temple. Do not pass the buck to the next person. You are a believer, and being so, you have responsibility to obey the Lord and to take care of God’s ministry in the capacity God has given you. Do not be apathetic or complacent, thinking, “Someone richer would do that.” Operate on the courts of advancing God’s Kingdom. Don’t just watch around, as you mistake yourself as doing action. You just might regret your non-participation on judgment day. This “lifestyle of stewardship,” is a way of being, in which you have first given yourselves to the Lord and then regularly give ourselves to others in his name (cf. 2 Cor. 8:5).

 

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HOW DOES A LIFESTYLE OF STEWARDSHIP LOOK LIKE?

 

Under the Law

More often than not, when pastors preach about money people get turned off. They commonly think the pastors just want their money, instead of understanding that the pastors are only preaching the Word and ushering the church of God into a space wherein they can be blessed. If they do not know about the biblical commands about giving and the promises of God that are attached to it, then how can people obey the Word?

Christians would argue is the topic of money about law or grace. Well, it’s always about grace. Other than food and money, people usually don’t have an issue with the Old Testament. For example, people would agree that incest — a Leviticus 12 command — is wrong, and people would agree. But it’s the Law. Are these people going to argue that they should not be placed under Law by teaching this command?

 

Even in the most ancient of the Old Testament commands, your forgiveness has never been found in keeping the commands. Instead, your forgiveness was found in putting your faith on God’s faithfulness. People sacrificed the lamb, and they were forgiven, because they obeyed God’s command to do so. There is a sacrifice because God demanded a sacrifice. It was not the priest’s idea.

The command was never intended to be a means for the forgiveness of sins. The commands were intended to show how forgiven people are to live. The Law is not a means to get into heaven. Instead, the Law is about how God intends us to live to experience the best kind of living.

Ask yourselves about core belief questions. Are you willing to trust God with your eternal soul? If yes, then what is it about money that you don’t trust with Him? If you are able to trust God with something as big as your eternal destination, how come there is still a tendency to hoard money? Unless money seems more important to you than your eternity — that’s dangerous and short-sighted.

God instituted a divine order for handling money. There is a divine order of giving and a divine order of living. How does God intend to keep believers the most blessed group of people in the world? It’s by instituting a divine order of giving and living. Look at the Jews. They make up less than 1% of the world’s population, but they have 30% of the world’s wealth. Is it because of them, or is it because of the covenant God had with their ancestors?

 

 

 

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Appointing with Integrity

God appoints people with integrity. When you are doubting your church for using the money you donate wisely, you must assume they are people of integrity who are accountable before the Lord. Even when you have great doubt for human error and temptation, at the end of the day, these people are answerable to the Lord. Any corruption and misuse, they would have to account for on the Day of Judgment in front of the King of kings.

Come to think about it, it’s a dangerous journey for Ezra and the priests. Robbers can ambush them and kill them to get hold of this great treasure. Physically, they were carrying heavy loads. Like humans, they can also be tempted to pocket a few silver or gold. However, the Lord has blessed their journey. Passage below shows that the Lord kept them safe. Upon their arrival, there were more offerings made for the Lord in the form of livestock. Truly, we see abundance and prosperity left and right from different groups of people, as they are able to generously give to the work of the Lord.

 

31 On the 12th day of the first month we started out. We left the canal that flows toward Ahava. And we headed for Jerusalem. Our God helped us. He kept us safe from enemies and robbers along the way. 32 So we arrived in Jerusalem. There we rested for three days.

33 On the fourth day we weighed out the silver and gold. We also weighed out the sacred objects. We weighed everything in the house of our God. We handed all of it over to Meremoth the priest. He was the son of Uriah. Eleazar, Jozabad and Noadiah were with him. Eleazar was the son of Phinehas. Jozabad was the son of Jeshua. Noadiah was the son of Binnui. Jozabad and Noadiah were Levites. 34 Everything was listed by number and weight. And the total weight was recorded at that time.

35 Then the people sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel. They had returned from Babylon. They offered 12 bulls for the whole nation of Israel. They offered 96 rams and 77 male lambs. All of that was a burnt offering to the Lord. They sacrificed 12 male goats as a sin offering. 36 They also handed over the king’s orders. They gave them to the royal officials and governors who ruled over the land west of the Euphrates River. Then those men helped the people. They also did many things for the house of God. (Ezra 8:31-36)

 

Ezra 8:31-36 shows us that Ezra and his group arrived safely in Jerusalem. Furthermore, Ezra 8:34 tells us that the books balanced when the silver, gold, vessels and offering were counted and weighed. The men chosen had faithfully fulfilled their task and proven themselves trustworthy in the mission given to them.

 

 

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Not OUR church or ministry, it is God’s

 

It is not our church or ministry, it is God’s. The money in the church treasury does not belong to the pastor or the treasure. It does not belong to one person. It belongs to the movement of God. The resources of the church does not belong to the individuals by which they are assigned to. The pastor is God’s shepherd whom He uses to lead, feed, and guide the flock. The pastor does not own the church. Workers of the Lord need to recognize that everything they have to work with belongs to the Lord. Donations that are given are prompted by the Lord in order to fund His mission.

Ezra is basically saying to the priests, “Guard this stuff with your life until you weigh it in at Jerusalem.” The day of accountability would come when they arrived “at Jerusalem” and gave account “before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel.” This is a reference to the leaders of the nation of Israel. The “chambers of the house of the Lord” were rooms around the edges of parts of the temple area used both for administration and storage and for the priests’ personal convenience. He was making sure the offering made it safely to where they were supposed to be.

 

 

 

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Have you ever felt that it is unfair for the offering to go the pastor’s livelihood? Why do you think you feel this way?