Moses' third speech, Part 17
Oct 19, 2012
Moses continues his third speech to Israel in Deuteronomy 12:17 and 18,
17 You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, or new wine, or oil, or the first-born 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.
There are tithes, offerings, and first fruits (or first born animals) mentioned here. These are distinct from one another. The tithe is a tenth part of that which is produced from nature—primarily the crops and the herds. It extends beyond this, of course, because the principle has to do with giving God a return on His labor, when He created all things.
The tithe is a recognition that the God of Israel is the Creator and Owner of all things. He owns all the land (Leviticus 25:23) on which these crops grow and from which the herds graze. The Israelites were tenants on God’s land, living there on the basis of God’s privilege—not as an inherent right. Their rights were only in terms of their relationships with each other.
When our own government in America was established, the founders recognized this principle and made it clear that all rights came from the Creator. Hence, the Declaration of Independence states, “we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Governments were instituted to enforce the rights that God has given in His law, and that if a government grants anything to men, it is only a privilege—not a right. Of course, God does not give government the right to grant privileges that are contrary to His law.
In recent years, however, America’s government has stopped recognizing the Creator as the source of all rights and has assumed the position as the god of America. Therefore, it now claims the right to grant rights, and politicians now use the terms “privileges” and “rights” interchangeably.
When this change took place a century ago, the government also began to take the tithes (taxes) from the people, which rightly only belonged to the God who created the land and who thus had the right to receive a tenth of its production. An ungodly government demands ever-increasing tribute, and Scripture calls this situation a CAPTIVITY to a foreign nation (government).
There are two forms of captivity. The first is a “yoke of iron” (Deuteronomy 28:48), where people are removed from their country and taken to a foreign country. The second is depicted as a yoke of wood (Jeremiah 28:13), which is where foreigners invade, take power, and demand tribute (taxes) to support ungodly government.
Throughout the book of Judges, Israel experienced the wooden yoke many times, but God put them under the iron yoke when they were given to Babylon. America today is under the wooden yoke of Mystery Babylon.
The recipient of the tithe, then, is the god of the nation. Either we serve the God of Scripture or He will give us the desire of our rebellious hearts by forcing us to serve the gods of this world. When Israel refused to serve the God of Israel, thinking He was too oppressive and restrictive, they were placed under the gods of this world through various captivities, until they learned that those gods could not give them true freedom or happiness.
In a godly government (the Kingdom of God), a tenth of all production from nature must be given to God. Leviticus 27:30 says,
30 Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.
This is based on God’s ownership by right of creation. God wants a return on His labor, so that He may enjoy the fruits of His labor. This requires recognizing God as the Creator and the sovereignty of God over all the governments of the world. As Creator, He also requires a tenth of all oil production, minerals from mining, fish from fishing, electricity from power stations of all kinds, and logs from the logging industry.
All of this was to be used in support of divine government which we know as the Kingdom of God. This is the main revenue of the Kingdom.
However, Deuteronomy 12:18 tells us that when the people brought their tithes, they were also to “eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God will choose.” In other words, the tithe was not merely given to the Levites, who were the government officials in Israel. The tithes were first to be used to support the family’s trip to the place where God had placed His name—primarily in keeping the feast days.
That which remained after that expense was to be given to the Levites. Hence, Deuteronomy 12:19 continues, saying,
19 Be careful that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land.
We also see from Deuteronomy 26:13 that the tithes were to be used to pay the trip expenses of strangers, widows, and orphans as they went to the designated place to keep the feasts. The only restriction was that the tithes of fruit and grain were not to be consumed until they actually left town on their way to the place where God had chosen to place His name (Deuteronomy 12:17). While they were at home, they were expected to eat from the 90% that their fields had produced.
There is more to this law of tithing, but because Moses speaks of it in more detail in later chapters, we will reserve further comment until then.
Meanwhile, he mentions more than just the tithe. Distinct from the tithe were “the first-born of your herd or flock,” the “votive offerings which you vow,” along with the “freewill offerings,” and other contributions. The first two were obligatory, while the last was voluntary.
The first-born of the herd or flock was the equivalent of the first fruits offering of grain. The first-born animal was to be presented to God on the eighth day from birth (Exodus 22:30), even as the first-born sons of men were also to be circumcised and presented to God on the eighth day. This prophesied first of the presentation of the Son of God on the day after the Sabbath after Passover, when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to be presented to the Father in heaven. Second, it prophesied of the day of Pentecost seven weeks later, when the church was presented to God as a Pentecostal first fruits offering, for this too was done on an eighth day (of the week). Finally, the Sons of God (overcomers) are to be presented to God on the eighth day of the feast of Tabernacles.
Other offerings might be given as the result of personal vows. In a sense, these could be thought of as voluntary offerings, except that once the vow was made, they became obligatory (Psalm 50:14). Over and beyond these were the voluntary offerings, which were given just because the people rejoiced to support their divine government.
It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to pay more taxes to the gods of this world. Men do not pay taxes to governments except by fear. But in the Kingdom of God, the people give more than what is required, because they love God. There are some who would think that a tithe is too small to support any government, and for this reason they advocate ungodly tax rates. But God’s government is much less expensive, because the divine law is designed to reduce the crime rate to near zero. When the people are ruled by love, and when they love their righteous government, the cost of ruling is very low. Yet if an extraordinary situation arises where more money is needed, the people have opportunity to give out of love, rather than by obligation.
This is the seventeenth part of a series titled "Moses' Third Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones