I recently saw The Ten Commandments again with Charlton Hesston and crew. What a spectacular movie. And what a moment when God delivers the Israelites from the angel of death. The firstborn of Egypt were all struck down, but the firstborn of those who had covered their doors and windows with the blood were saved. Therefore God said that all the firstborn Israelites were to be dedicated to Him.
But later on instead of the first-born being dedicated to God, the Lord chose the whole of the Levite people in place of every Isarelite’s family first-born. They were to serve in the temple.
Once the temple was established in the desert, then the Israelites were instructed to bring sacrifices and offerings from their flocks to the temple. These were to be their unblemished sacrifices, their firstfruits in order to make atonement. The “tenth.”
From these God allowed the Levites to save back a portion of this for their wages and payment and provision. But they too were to tithe. They too were to give their best, the tenth, and pass it on to Aaron and sons.
“When you receive from the Israelites the tenth that I have given you as your inheritance, you must present part of it as an offering to the Lord–a tenth of the tenth. Your offering will be credited to you as if it were your grain from the threshing floor or the full harvest from the winepress. Give some if it to Aaron the priest as an offering to the LORD. You must present the entire offering due the LORD from all your gifts. The best part of the tenth is to be consecrated” (Num 18:26-29).
What I glean from this is that
- When the Israelites gave, it was to the Lord. Sometimes I hear people talk about “giving to the church” and the “church is doing well, they don’t need that money.” But tithing and giving was “unto the Lord.” Not to a church. Or to a people.
- The Lord was gracious and made provision for the people who ministered before the Lord. He made it so that they received a portion of the gifts given to the Lord.
- Those in ministry before the Lord were also expected to give. They too were expected to give the very best, the tenth of the tenth, and pass it to Aaron.
Historically speaking, this worked until the people started being disobedience to the Lord. They stopped giving the tenth to the Lord. The result was that the Levites were forced to return to their fields. They could no longer serve in the temple.
I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields (Neh 13:10).
Yet when the people of God stop giving their tenth, the ministry to God comes to a screeching halt. And right now this is a very real issue.
A New History Written
Coronavirus is still raging throughout the world, although it seems to be leveling off, yet still deadly. Churches are “closed” in that the buildings are shuttered. Finances are tight throughout the earth. And the first thing to go for many people is the supply line to missionaries. The supply line to pastors. The supply line to churches. And the forward movement of the church potentially is slowed. (The Word says it will always be growing).
This is a problem. It’s not that God’s work stops. It doesn’t. God accomplishes his purposes regardless. But when pastors and missionaries are taken out of commission and have to “return to their fields,” it means they are not working in the harvest fields.
This is beyond just a spiritual component. As I have heard said before, “Those you don’t go to with the good news of Jesus will come to you with the sword.” Just look around and you will definitely see that.
Now more than ever, when finances are tight, our giving “unto the Lord” needs to stay strong. Our generosity towards others needs to be rich (it may look like donating toilet paper). And our love for one another needs to grow.
How we continue to trust Him will be writing the history books even as we speak.