God's Laws on Land and Inheritance--Part 5
Apr 26, 2008
Deut. 12:17 speaks of "the tithe of your grain, or new wine, or oil, or the first-born of your herd or flock." This tithe is owed to God because the income or increase was derived from God's labor when he created the heavens and the earth. Deut. 14:22 says,
"You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year."
The context shows that the tithe was to be used, in part, to finance the people's participation in the feast days, with the remainder to be given to the Levitical priests. The next verse says,
"And you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe . . . in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always."
This is not often taught from pulpits today, perhaps out of ignorance (lack of proper study), or perhaps because it might diminish church income. At any rate, there are many groups that "keep the feasts" today. Most of them are familiar with this provision that the tithe was to finance one's participation in the feasts. The main problem is that they often are not taught the history of "the place where He chooses to establish His name."
Some Christians believe that they have to go to Jerusalem to keep the feasts properly. Others go to the denominational headquarters or the place where the leaders decide to hold a feast-day gathering. But neither of these are Scriptural. The law in Deut. 16 makes it clear that Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles were ALL to be kept only in the place where He has chosen to put His name. It is the only lawful place to keep a feast. When Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, God placed His name in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1; Jer. 7:12). Later, because the priesthood there was corrupted, God left that place, labeling it Ichabod, "the glory has departed."
He then moved to Jerusalem (Ps. 78:68) in the time of David. But two centuries later, because of the corrupt priests there, Jeremiah told them that God was going to forsake Jerusalem even as He had previously forsaken Shiloh (Jer. 7:12-15). The glory of God then came to a new temple in the New Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. We are now the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16), and He has chosen to place His name in our foreheads (Rev. 22:4).
The only lawful place to "keep" the feasts are in this new place where God has chosen to place His name. If anyone is required to "go" anywhere else to "keep" a feast, it is a place not prescribed in the divine law. Passover is now kept by applying the blood of the Passover Lamb (Jesus) to our lintels (foreheads). Pentecost is now kept by the "fire" of the Holy Spirit that comes upon our heads, as seen in Acts 2:3.
The feast of Tabernacles is likewise to be kept in our bodies. Though not yet fulfilled historically, we retain the hope of the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23). In 2 Cor. 5:1-5, Paul tells us that we have two "tabernacles," one earthly and one heavenly. The one is our mortal body, and the other is our immortal body that is reserved for us in the heavens. When the Israelites observed this feast in the Old Testament, they left their homes and came to Shiloh or Jerusalem to dwell in booths made of living branches. This act signified the transference from the mortal to the immortal body.
This is the only way one may "keep" the feast in the lawful manner today. And, in fact, this has everything to do with the laws on land and inheritance, because the feast of Tabernacles signifies the time when we inherit the Promised Land. Our Promised Land is the glorified body that is made of spiritual flesh and bones, such as what Jesus had after His resurrection (Luke 24:39).
We ourselves often hold conferences during the time of the feast days. But this should not be confused with "keeping the feasts." We find it to be a good time to gather together and teach about the feast days and their prophetic significance today, but we also recognize that these feasts must be kept in one's forehead--that is, in one's mind and heart--for God is in the process of saving us, "spirit, soul, and body" in a complete deliverance (1 Thess. 5:23). Your spirit was saved through Passover; your soul is saved through Pentecost; and your body is saved through Tabernacles.
The tithe was to be used in part to "keep the feasts." If a person is led to use it for travel expense to attend a conference that is held during a calendar feast day, I see no problem with this. We must, however, realize that its proper use is not to go to a location on the globe, but rather that the true temple of God may go where he or she may be instructed in the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).
The rest of the tithe was given to the temple priests who gathered at the place where He had chosen to put His name. There were 24 priestly families or clans who made up the 24 "courses" ministering in the temple. Each family ministered a week at a time twice during the year. This accounted for 48 normal weeks in the year. All the priests came to help in the temple during the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. Alfred Edersheim tells us this in his book, The Temple, page 90,
"Each 'course' of priests and of Levites (as has already been stated) came on duty for a week, from one Sabbath to another. . . . On Sabbaths the whole 'course' was on duty; on feast days any priest might come up and join in the ministrations of the sanctuary; and at the Feast of Tabernacles all twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate."
The people were told to bring their tithes to the place where He had put His name (that is, at that time, Jerusalem). It was not only for the support of the temple as such, but for the support of the priests who ministered there at the time of the feast of Tabernacles. The priests, then, returned home with a kind of salary for their national service.
Not every Levite was a priest. Only those Levites descended directly from Aaron were priests. Like the priests, the other Levites had no land inheritance, but served as local officials of both the civil and religious order. They lived in priestly cities to which were given "suburbs" of 2,000 cubits of land beyond the city walls, which usually served as pasture land for their flocks. The Levites were the teachers of the law and worked as worship leaders in the local assemblies. On feast days they came to Jerusalem, for although they were not allowed to offer the sacrifices, they had many civil duties to perform for the temple.
Every third year the tithe was given specifically to the Levites instead of the priests. Deut. 14:28, 29 says,
" (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) And 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."
Some say that this was a second tithe--that is, an additional ten percent tax. This is a mere interpretation, not based on the text itself. I suspect that it was something that some modern church leaders hit upon to increase their revenues. To me, it is clear that it is "all the tithe" that year, and that it was to be given to support the Levites and the poor. It is not an extra tithe, but the same tithe which is diverted from the temple to the local government where the Levites served each town.
This is the final part of a series titled "God's Laws on Land and Inheritance." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones