“Call a THING a THING!” by Pastor Aamon R. Miller
William Shakespeare penned the famous line in Romeo & Juliet, “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Ah, classic love . . . and love seen through rose-colored glasses. Juliet pined for her forbidden love, Romeo. And she exclaimed that his family name, her family name – neither meant anything. No matter where they were or what they were called, their PERCEPTION & INTERPRETATION of their love was all that was important.
Yeah, that’s cool for literature & prose. But, when interrogating the Biblical text, we must call a “thing” a thing. In that, to understand the “tithe” in Malachi 3, we must know what that tithe is elsewhere in the holy script. Malachi doesn’t tell us because Malachi is written to an audience who already KNOWS what the tithe is. So, we must go back & learn what they already know: there are actually THREE (3) prominent tithes under the Law:
- The First Yearly (Levitical) Tithe: Numbers 18:21-32
- Given to the Levites IN THEIR CITIES WHERE THEY LIVED because they didn’t receive a land inheritance in Canaan. The other tribes were to take care of them.
- From this TITHE, the Levites were to then TITHE to the priests & temple workers IN JERUSALEM. HUH? YEAH!!! They were to give 10% of THEIR 10%, which is 1% for the priests and the temple workers IN JERUSALEM. . . .
- Numbers 18:26, "Give these instructions to the Levites: When you receive from the people of Israel the tithes I have assigned as your allotment, give a tenth of the tithes you receive--a tithe of the tithe--to the LORD as a sacred offering." . . .
- Nehemiah 10:38 confirms this: "A priest--a descendant of Aaron--will be with the Levites as they receive these tithes. And a tenth of all that is collected as tithes will be delivered by the Levites to the Temple of our God and placed in the storerooms."
- The Second Yearly (Festival) Tithe: Deuteronomy 12:1-19 and 14:22-27
- The PEOPLE were to take 1/10 of the crop & animals, go to the designated place of worship (Jerusalem) & EAT their tithes in celebration of the Lord!
- If they had too much (crops/animals) to travel with, they were to sell everything, take the money, travel to the festival, buy whatever they desired & EAT AND DRINK IT!!! And, they shared with the priests & Levites who had no crops. EVERYBODY ate and drank together. Nothing was given to the storehouse.
- The Third Year (Poor) Tithe: Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13
- EVERY THIRD YEAR the people were to take 1/10 (TITHE) of everything (crops/animals), and share it with the needy IN THEIR TOWNS: the Levites, widows, orphans, fatherless, and Gentile strangers.
- They were not to bring it to the storehouse in Jerusalem. It stayed local in their towns, suburbs. And the Levites did NOT tithe to the storehouse from THIS tithe.
So, it is from the FIRST YEARLY LEVITICAL TITHE that 10% is to be brought up to the STOREHOUSE so that there would be MEAT in the house for the workers to have on a daily basis. The PEOPLE NEVER brought tithes to the storehouse. The PEOPLE either:
- GAVE their tithe to the Levites where they lived (Tithe 1) OR
- ATE their tithe in celebration in Jerusalem (Tithe 2) OR
- SHARED their tithe with the needy in their local towns (Tithe 3) . . .
What is the STOREHOUSE?
- Nehemiah 12:44: "On that day men were also appointed over the CHAMBERS FOR THE STORES, the contributions, the first fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served."
THIS brings us to Malachi 3!!! Man down situation!!! There has been a robbery! . . . Who robbed whom of what? Well, we know that the STOREHOUSE was empty! Everything that was supposed to be stored up in Jerusalem for the workers who rotated in & out in two week courses was gone. AND the LEVITES/PRIESTS had stopped bringing the tithe (1%) to the storehouse, so there was nothing there. Malachi was calling for them to do right!!! Nehemiah also noticed this when he was rebuilding the walls. In Neh. 13:10. He said,
"I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields."
. . . So, Nehemiah replenished the storehouse by calling for the people to bring their tithes to the storehouse ONE TIME to get things back in order. See Nehemiah 13:11-13.
Taking all of this into account, NOW go back and read Malachi 3:6-11 again. We’ll catch up next time to further bring things into perspective . . .
-- Pastor ARM
Topic: “Call a THING a THING!”
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