Spend Tithes on Self?

tithes-1

Q. Deut 14 says: “Eat the tithe of your grain (v 23) … Use the silver to buy whatever you like, … or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice (v 26).” Why does it asks us to enjoy ourselves with the tithes which are for God?

A. Some readers might be confused by two phrases in this passage – buy whatever you like, anything you wish. To understand what it really said we have to first look at the text, which I copied from NASB & pasted below in italics, with brief comments:

Deut 14:22-29
22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.

• Tithe = 1/10; all the produce i.e. income in an agricultural society, not principal
23 You shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.
• As in the case of fellowship offerings (Lev 3, 7:11-21), the offerer eats a communal meal when he brings his tithes. The rest of the tithes belong to the Levites. The purpose is that the Israelites learn everything comes from God, & also to provide for the Levites who serve God & do not receive land as an inheritance.
24 If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you,
25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.

• Because of God’s care for the Israelites, He provided a temporary exchange for their convenience, in order that they don’t have to carry produce or live stock over long distances, because travel was typically on foot in those days.
26 You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
• Upon arrival at Jerusalem, the offerer may buy whatever he desires to offer, including produce or live stock, or donate the money as is, out of which he enjoys a communal meal with his family, and gives the rest to God.
27 Also you shall not neglect the Levite who is in your town, for he has no portion or inheritance among you.
• The tithes are provisions for the Levites.
28 At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town.
29 The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

• Every third year the beneficiaries of the tithe extend beyond the Levites to the foreigners & the poor. Other commentators believe it’s an additional tithe, not just dividing the one tithe over more recipients. I myself hold this view.

These instructions are actually already given in the preceding context, Deut 12:5-7, 11-12, & 17-19:
5 But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.
6 There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.

• The Israelites are to seek God at the place God chooses i.e. Jerusalem, not any place they choose & bring their offerings & tithes there.
7 There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.
• The offerer’s family shares in a communal meal.
11 then it shall come about that the place in which the LORD your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the LORD.
12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.

The offerer’s household enjoys a meal as the tithes are offered, which will be used to provide for the Levites who have no inheritance like other tribes.
17 You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand.
18 But you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all your undertakings.
19 Be careful that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land.

The communal meal is to include the whole household and the Levites.

So Deut 12 and 14 are consistent. The exchange into money is only for the offerers’ convenience to easily carry while traveling to Jerusalem, not to spend it all on themselves. They only share in a fellowship meal, not the entire tithe which are for the Levites’ maintenance.

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The Offerings in Leviticus (2 of 2)

Leviticus offerings 2

(Continued)

4. Sin Offering
Lev 4:2-3 Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the LORD a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.
• Lev 4:20 He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.

This is to atone for unintentional sins committed unknowingly, where restitution is not possible, not for willful defiance against God. It is also for cleansing from ceremonial uncleanness.

5. Guilt Offering
Lev 5:6 He shall also bring his guilt offering to the LORD for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.
• Lev 5:15-16 If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the LORD’S holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by shekels, in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall make restitution for that which he has sinned against the holy thing, and shall add to it a fifth part of it and give it to the priest. The priest shall then make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and it will be forgiven him.

This is also for unintentional sins committed unknowingly, but makes restitution by repaying the damage plus a payment for compensation.

Scholars further distinguish which are voluntary (1 to 3) versus mandatory (4 and 5), and which are sweet aroma (1 to 3) versus non-sweet aroma (4 and 5). They also examine what is the Lord’s portion, the priest’s portion, and the offerer’s portion. Furthermore, each offering is a “type” of Christ representing aspects of His character and/or ministry, which we will reserve for another time.

The Offerings in Leviticus (1 of 2)

Levitical offerings 1

Q. What is the significance of the bread, grain and drink offerings in Leviticus?

A. The Levitical offerings are usually discussed in relation to their function, not the ingredients used. There are five offerings as follows:

1. Burnt Offering
Lev 1:3-4 If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.

This is the most basic offering in which the whole animal (except the skin) is burned on the altar and offered to God. No portion is to be eaten by the worshipper. It signifies atonement on behalf of the sinner so that he may be accepted before the Lord, and complete surrender to God.

2. Grain Offering
Lev 2:1 Now when anyone presents a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it.
• Lev 2:11 ‘No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD
• Lev 2:13 Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

This is the only offering without the shedding of blood, a “living” sacrifice. It is a gift to God from the best of the worshipper’s fruit of the land, in thanksgiving to his acceptance before God. The oil is emblematic of the Holy Spirit, the frankincense of prayer, no leaven representing no evil, and salt symbolic of an enduring covenant.

3. Peace Offering
Lev 3:1 Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the LORD.
• Lev 7:15 Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.

This is the only offering in which the offerer shared in the meat of the sacrifice, and signifies the fellowship between God and men. There are three types of peace offerings:
Thanksgiving offering – gratitude for blessing without asking
o Lev 7:12 If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.
Votive or freewill offering – gratitude for blessing granted in response to a vow, or freewill without regard to any specific blessing
o Lev 7:16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten;
Wave offering – priest’s portion of the peace offering
o Lev 7:30 His own hands are to bring offerings by fire to the LORD. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be presented as a wave offering before the LORD.

(To be continued)