We see the contents of the oath the people all entered into. Not all could sign it, as there wasn’t that much room, but ALL agreed to it.
The document signed and sworn to covers the basics for the people. Three main points are covered. One is in more depth than the other two. The first is marriage to other nations. The second is commerce on the Sabbath. And the third is the tithe and provision for God’s house.
The first point is the one that Ezra addressed right away when he returned from captivity. The people had intermarried with the other nations. We discussed the danger of this at that time but it bears repeating. God wasn’t being xenophobic with this command. He was protecting His people from the influences of the other nations; especially that of their false gods. God knew that with the intermarriages many would bring with them their gods and ways from their home countries. And, as Solomon proved, these would be tolerated and spread through the Israelites. No mixed marriages meant no mixed allegiances.
The second point, though crouched in statements of commerce, actually applied to the people’s hearts. They were NOT to buy or sell on the Sabbath or any other holy day. This promise was put in practical terms that the people could clearly identify where the line was. But what this statement really did was to set aside the days as holy. It reminded the people each time that this was a SPECIAL day and to treat it as such. And it was SPECIAL because GOD made it so. Therefore, each time they considered the day they also considered its Maker.
The last point actually takes in much more than the tithe. It covers the people’s responsibilities to the Lord and His Temple. The tithe was the support for the priests and Levites. They had no inheritance in the land and God promised to take care of them through the tithe. The Levites were to care for God’s House, to serve as mediaries between God and the people, to teach the people of God’s Laws, and to maintain a storehouse for times of extreme trouble. There is NO WAY the Levites could do this alone. Their lack of an inheritance in the land alone made this impossible. The size of the nation only added to this impossibility. But God never asked them to carry this burden alone. He set in place provisions to help them in their work. The tithe of the people was its foundation.
This provision even took into account who was responsible and when for bringing wood for the offerings. This is something I hadn’t even considered until this moment. It must have required a GREAT amount of wood for the sacrifices offered to the Lord.
For years, my husband and I had a wood stove for our heat. Each year we would go through between four and six chords of wood. Neither of us are physically able to go into the forest and cut the wood so we had to purchase it. We bought it split and delivered. We also paid to have the deliverer help stack it. I then brought it to the porch for use in our home. I only had to contend with this job for part of the year but I had to consider it and prepare for it throughout the year. The Levites didn’t get part of the year off and they had to use EXTRA LARGE amounts during holy days. My two times feeding the fire a day was nothing compared to their needs. God gave the men writing this covenant the foresight to address this need in detail. This was essentially the ‘wood tithe’.
The tithe and offering of the rest of the increase was addressed in this clause. There is one clause that I don’t remember reading anywhere else though. This was the clause regarding the Levites giving a tithe of the tithes.
Even the Levites were required to remit a portion of all they received back to the Lord. “And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse” (verse 38b). Those who served in the House of the Lord were as responsible to give back to Him as any other person. Everyone gave a portion of what the Lord had given back to Him.
My mom told me once that if a church consisted of ten people who tithed on a regular basis, the pastor made more than the person who made the least of these members. God provided enough that His people could honor Him, and He expected them to do so.
We are not under the Law any longer and the tithe was part of the Law. But the tithe doesn’t have to be a ‘Lawful requirement’. It is a demonstration of gratitude now. The tithe is also the one item in the Bible that God says to test Him in. I know that this was a test given while the people were still under the Law but God still calls us to care for His people. We can do this through our tithes.
Tithes doesn’t mean just money or ‘first fruits’. It also represents our time. It took time to grow the produce and flocks. It takes hours to prepare the bread and oils. It takes time to earn the money. Giving Him of our time is just as important as giving of our increase. Giving of our talents is another way of offering a tithe unto God. As long as what you are giving is meant to honor God, it is an offering, a tithe, to Him.
Father God, You have blessed me SO much! I haven’t always been faithful in giving back a full portion of the money You provided for me. Often what I gave instead was my time. I truly believe that this has value to You as well. Thank You for honoring what I have been able to return to You. Thank You for blessing me with the ability to give financially too. Thank You for directing me as to where to give also. Keep doing this in my life as the situations change and the need to adjust the focus does too. But ALWAYS be the central focus of ALL I give. NEVER let me give with an attitude of pridefulness. Let it ALWAYS be done in love. And let it be done with respect for the receiver too. NEVER let me make them feel small, only loved by You.