In chapter five we were introduced to Melchizedek the King/Priest of the ancient city of Jerusalem. In verse six of that chapter we are told that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek lived in the time of Abraham. He was a true priest of God. He was also a King. And his ancestory was completely unknown.
Now in chapter seven the writer again draws our attention to Melchizedek. The priesthood of Jesus is likened to the priesthood of Melchizedek. Melchizedek belonged to an order of priesthood unique in the bible and far older than that of Aaron and superior to the Aaronic priesthood.
To prove the Lordship of Jesus over the priesthood of Aaron, the priesthood of Jesus is likened to that of Melchizedek, not of the Aaronic priesthood which functioned under the law.
Melchizedek's priesthood was so powerful, so overwhelming, so indisputable that Abraham acknowledged it instantly, completely, and without question.
Melchizedek's position and power is seen in that he held the rank of both priest and king. Any Jewish person would realize the significance of this position for no Hebrew could hold both of these offices. No Jewish king could be priest and vice versa.
In II Chronicles 26, we read the story of King Uzziah who tried to unite the offices of both priest and king. God would not allow it and King Uzziah was smitten with leprosy and died because of his preseumption in taking upon himself the role of priest. In Isaiah 6, we see Isaiah mourning the death of this King and we read his great vision of the holiness of God and the greatness of God in contrast to human leaders.
So in Hebrews seven, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the priesthood of Melchizedek to illustrate the greatness of Jesus who is our prophet, priest, and king.
The example of Abraham is given us to follow. For Abraham immediately recognized that he was in the presence of greatness. As great and powerful as Abraham was, he at once acknowledged a power far greater than his own. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. (Genesis 14)
Note the position and function of each. Melchizedek blessed. Abraham paid tithe.
vs. 1 - "He met Abrahm returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything." vs. 4 - "Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!"
Who was greater, Melchizedek or Abraham?
Who blessed whom? Who gave tithe to whom?
The greater blesses the lesser, and the lesser gives tithes to the greater. (Verses 6-7)
So who was greater? Melchizedek!
Thus Melchizedek is presented as a type of Christ our great High Priest. Jesus is our King and Priest.
Who is lesser? We are! Who is greater? Jesus is!
When we are in His presence we are in the presence of greatness. When we humble ourselves before Him we are acknowledging a power greater than our own.
Who gives us power to defeat the enemy principalities and powers? Jesus!
Who gives us power to make a living, to work, to do our job, to receive compensation? Jesus!
If the greater blesses the lesser, who is the one who blesses us? Jesus. So, who is lesser? We are! Who is greater? Jesus!
If the lesser gives tithes to the greater, who is the one to whom we give tithes? Jesus!
The biblical and spiritual practice of tithing is not rooted in the law...it is rooted in the relationship of the lesser to the greater. It is rooted in this proper biblical response to the One who has blessed and continues to bless.
Do we understand that that is why God said in Malachi 3 that His people were under a curse. They had received blessing from God, but withheld from God what was rightfully His.
It's as if God's people were saying, "God, I will take all the blessings you have for me, but I will not submit myself to you as the One who is greater than me. I will not recognize your rights over my life as the greater. I will take your blessings, but I will not give you tithes.
Now, in case you misunderstand. The Bible does not teach that we buy blessings with our tithes. Such thinking makes tithing a human/divine bartering system. Such thinking removes the elements of relationship, Lordship, love, and the accountability of a lesser to a greater.
The Bible does teach that tithing is the appropriate financial response to God's blessing upon our lives. It is a recognition of His Lordship. And as I submit to His Lordship in tithes and offerings, I am also learning to submit to His Lordship in other areas of my life. Such a relationship is marked by blessing.
The warning in Malachi is that God's people bring a curse when they ignore this relationship of the lesser to the greater. It is taken for granted that God will understand and that He will still bless. Thus my wisdom and agenda is moved into the forefront and I (the lesser) live as if I know better than God (the greater).
You see their robbing from God in the tithe was not just a math problem. It was not that they couldn't figure out what one tenth of all their income was. That was not the issue.
The issue was a relational one. It was a heart problem...not a law problem. These people had become takers. Their wants, desires, and personal agendas took precedence over God's will. They lived by human wisdom beliening that their needs for self and family would be met as they honored self first, rather than honoring God first. Their rights became more important.
Their behavior brought a curse because they ceased to humble themselves as the lesser coming before the greater totally dependent upon God and His blessing for their well-being.
God challenged them: "Put me first. Let me be Lord of your finances. Honor me as the greater. And see if I don't honor you and bring blessings to your life that only I can bring. Blessing that come not out of legalism, but out of a submissive relationship of the lesser to the greater.
ILLUSTRATION -- I can get where I want to go without a car. It might take me longer, cost me more, or inconvenience me, but there are other ways. However, a car is a great blessing because it has power to do for me what I cannot do for myself.
It's ability is greater than mine when it comes to transportation. Let's say I ignore my responsibility to the car. I just put gas in it and drive it. It will continue to bless me with transportation for awhile.
But eventually I will bring a curse on myself because I just used the car never changing the oil or attending to any maintanance. Soon I will be living without this blessing. Yes, I can get where I am going without a car......there are busses, bycycles, skate boards, roller blades, the shoe leather express, etc., but OH my aching feet!
Now I know this illustration has its weaknesses. It is just a human way of trying to explain this truth of the lesser and the greater, the one blessing the other...and the blessed one honoring the one who blesses. I consider my car to be a blessing to me. It has power to do for me beyond my own transportation ability. My car has 77,000 miles on it and my van has 110,000 miles on it. And I keep the oil changed and take care of both of them. They bless me, I honor them. I try to be a good steward of these blessings.
If you don't have a car, that's OK. Put your furnace in the illustration...or your clothing, or your house, etc. Then put God and your relationship with Him in the illustration.
You see the tithe principle is a relational truth.
Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek. This is the act of a lesser toward a greater.
Abraham gave tithes from the top of the heap. In other words, Melchizedek received first and he received the best. Abraham did not give leftovers, nor did he give second best.
Abraham did not give from compulsion. That is why the Scriptures teach us that God loves a cheerful giver. Abraham gave freely and generously. He gave out of love, gratitude, and yieldedness to a greater authority.
Verses 5-10 explain how the Jews, under the law, paid their tithes to priests who died. Verse 8 tells us that in the case of the law, the tenth or the tithe was collected by men who die...but in the case of the greater priesthood, the tithe is collected by One who is declared to be living. READ VERSE 8: Who is this Living Tithe Collector?
Verses 16-17 identify Him as none other than Jesus!
Do you understand why we give and to whom we give? Jesus is the greater, we are the lesser. Jesus is our Living Tithe Collector.
We give because it is right. We give because it is Biblical. We give because God expects a generous and consistent response from our lives. We give because our trust is in the God who blesses and not in our own ability to provide.
Malachi 3:8-18 is filled with promises for the tither. I understand these promises to tell me that the blessings of tithing are: things will last longer, God will make my money stretch further, I will learn discipline and wisdom in the use of money, I will have peace about finances, and I will experience greater productivity in my life. God decides when and how these blessings will come, so I trust Him as the One who blessses.
Verse 18 promises that when times are tough, people will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The children of God will be cared for while others are needy.
ILLUSTRATION -- I have not been able to locate documentation, but I believe this story has credibility from what I know of God and His promises.
During the Great Depression, somebody did a survey among thousands of people standing in soup and bread lines. Their question: "Before the depression, did you faithfully tithe?" The survey claimed that not one tither could be found in the soup lines.
When you believe in the biblical principle of sowing and reaping, God becomes your covenant partner. In covenant, God obligates Himself to care for His obedient children. If God is your source, then your giving is the result of the relationship of the lesser to the greater. Tax credit is not the motivation. Yes, take the credit when it's offered that's fine. But the motivation is blessing, love, obedience, and submission to God's authority.
Now, I have known some people who said they did not believe in tithing...it's O.T. law and legalism they say. Of course, Hebrews 7 proves their error. I have never known a person who said they didn't believe in tithing who was generous with God!
Not believing in a God-given pattern for our finances does not release us from accountability or consequence. There will be a harvest of goodness or of heartache.
Some seeds take longer to bear fruit, but eventually what is planted is revealed.
ILLUSTRATION --My wife and I have practiced this truth about tithing in submitting our personal finances to God for almost thirty years. We believe this truth when it comes to tithes and offerings. We also endeavor to practice and walk in what we teach and believe.
I find that the more I give to God, the more I want to give. I find myself looking for ways to give more not less. It is not legalism motivating me, but love; God's love....not mine...flowing through me to bless.
I want to encourage each of you to not be stingy with God and to not have formulas that exclude God from certain portions of your finances (gifts, inheritances, bonuses, etc.) When we do this, we become Phariseacal...looking for ways to keep God out of certain finances. God does not treat us this way. And when we act this way, then tithing becomes legalistic rather than relational.
Then we are like people who say prayers in order to appease God, rather than praying in order to know God and draw close to God, and be empowered to do God's will.
We are like the spouse who offers sexual relationship to their marriage partner because "it is my duty", rather than because it is my life and love given freely to the one I love.
In the Old Testament, God dealt severely with His people because they did not respond to His love by loving Him. Tithing was one of the areas that God saw as the witness of their heart's love for Him.
God saw their lack of love in the excuses and ungodly priorities of His people -- He saw them putting their children before Him, their homes before Him, their clothes...food...stables (cars) etc. before Him.
So the Lord began to subtract from their lives in the hopes that they would turn to Him once again with all their hearts. This is what a love relationship requires. It is a test of where our heart is. For Jesus taught us that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Tithing is a witness that Jesus is first in my life. It is a witness of His Lordship. It is a witness of my gratitude. It is a witness that says I am more attached to the eternal than I am the temporary. It is a witness that I am dependent upon God and His blessings for my survival. It is the witness of my checkbook to His greatness over me.
It is a witness that His family comes before my family. That His will comes before my will. That His wisdom in this matter supercedes my wisdom. It is a witness that His Kingdom is more important to me than the Kingdoms of this world.
It is a demonstration of seeking first the Kingdom of God in my finances. His way before my needs!
Tithing prepares us to give up all, if necessary for Jesus' sake....as has happened in some countries. It is a spiritual discipline that is part of my relationship with Christ and part of my growing in the Lord.
Tithing is humbling myself under God's mighty hand in the area of finances...believing that He will lift me up in His time and in His way.
Tithing is acknowledging that indeed God has blessed me. None of us will bow our heads on this Thanksgiving and say, "Thanks for nothing."
Tithing is acknowledging that I am the lesser and that He is the greater. It is acknowledging a relationship with my Living High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for me.
This High Priest is Jesus. In Him we have found something far better than rituals, O.T. sacrifices, or priests who die. We have found a great High Priest who also reigns as King over the House of God and over the people of God. He is the greater. We are the lesser.
He is also our Living Tithe Collector. And when we give our tithes to Him, we are blessing the work of His Kingdom on this planet. We are making it possible for His family to do His will. And we are laying up treasures in heaven...for earthly mammon...when given to the Living Tithe Collector, becomes heavenly treasure.
It is really the only way to make your money last forever. Give it to the Living Tithe Collector!
Other sermons by Pastor John.