Moses' fourth speech, Part 5
Nov 02, 2012
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 speaks of the tithe that the Israelites were supposed to pay in order to support their government. Moses had spoken of this law briefly in his third speech (Deuteronomy 12:17-19), but there he limited his remarks to the location that the tithe was to be brought. But now, in his fourth speech, he treats this topic more fully.
22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.
The tithe is the ten percent tax on all that man produces from nature. God requires a ten percent return on His labor, which is to be used in support of divine government. Not every source of income is taxable, of course, but only that which is derived from God’s labor. Leviticus 27:30 says also,
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.
When God labored for six days to create the heavens and the earth, He was the Owner of that which He created. As its owner, He has covenanted with man to bring forth fruit, and part of the agreement was that man would render to God a tenth of that which is produced from His labor. Giving Him a tithe, then, is an act of recognition that God is indeed the Creator and Owner of the land from which we derive our subsistence.
Hebrews 7 speaks of the tithes that Abraham gave to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:20. His point was to show that Melchizedek was “greater” than Abraham, for we read in Hebrews 7:6 and 7,
6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them [i.e., from Levi] collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.
In other words, Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek because he recognized Melchizedek’s authority over him. Melchizedek was actually Shem, the builder of Jerusalem, the “City of Salem,” and he held the Birthright which had been passed down from Adam. Shem was thus the true King-Priest of the earth, the one holding the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:26. At that time Nimrod had already usurped most of the dominion of Shem by setting up his kingdom in Babylon. But Abraham recognized Shem as the rightful heir of divine government.
The point is that tithing gives recognition that this person (or institution) is an heir of the Melchizedek Order and functions as the legitimate divine government in the earth. Hebrews 7 shows that the alternative priesthood of Levi was a temporary governmental order that was to function until the Melchizedek Order returned to its rightful claim under the New Covenant.
The problem today is that the existing Babylonian governments have claimed the tithe (and more) for the establishment of their own kingdoms, without recognizing the right of Jesus Christ to rule as the high priest of the Order of Melchizedek. Yet at the same time, we must recognize that God gave His people into the hands of those rebellious governments, on account of the sin of Israel and Judah. Meanwhile, it is our duty before God to remember His law and to study the mechanisms of divine government, so that when Babylon’s governments are brought into judgment, there will be people on earth who know how to replace these usurpers with true government under Jesus Christ.
It is ironic that so many churches put away the law, but retain the tithe. Their hypocrisy is exceeded only by their self-interest, for not only do they demand tithe, but they demand that all income be tithed. In this way they turn voluntary offerings into mandatory tithes. Scripture limits the tithe to a return on God’s labor at creation.
Man is given land as an inheritance, but God claims eminent domain over all the land, saying in Leviticus 25:23,
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.
Many years later, God removed Judah from the land because they broke His covenant with them and used their land for unlawful purposes. In Jeremiah 27:5 God says,
5 I have made the earth… and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant…
Because the people of Judah, like Israel, had refused to be God’s servants in the way they used God’s land, God removed them and gave the land to Babylon. After Babylon, the land was given to Medo-Persia, then Greece, Rome, and its prophetic extensions. We are now living at the end of the final extension, and we expect to see the Stone Kingdom established shortly.
Because God owns the land—and the whole earth—we are responsible to utilize it in a lawful manner. The rules are written in Scripture, beginning with Moses.
Tithe is due to God on all production from agriculture and ranching, as well as mining, lumbering, fishing, electrical power, solar power and any other source of wealth that is derived from God’s labor at creation. This is not an unjust tax, for it is merely a return on His labor. He provides the land, the sun, the rain, the air, electro-magnetism, and all the things necessary to bring forth fruit. He thus expects a return on His labor.
In Medieval times, a lord required thirty percent of the produce from the peasants. God’s standard in the law shows that such a requirement was very unjust. The high taxes today that the Babylonian nations impose upon the people are likewise unjust, but this injustice ought to be viewed in light of the divine judgment upon us for the rebellion and lawlessness of our fathers. The Israelites thought that God’s law was too harsh, so they desired the laws of men instead. So God gave them their desire, in order to show them how unjust the laws of men were. If we will not be governed by the laws of God, we will be ruled by the laws of men.
The unjust laws of modern nations are generally based upon the principle of the value-added tax. A lumberman cuts down trees and sells them. He makes some money on the sale and is taxed on his income. The lumber mill shapes the lumber into boards and sells them to carpenters and contractors, and because the mill has added value to the wood by means of labor, it makes a profit which is taxed again.
The carpenters build furniture, adding more value to the wood. They sell it to a broker at a higher price that reflects the value of their labor, and their income is again taxed. The broker provides a distribution service to various stores, and the profit that he receives from his labor is taxed. The store sells to the public at a retail price, and their labor is again taxed.
When the customer finally purchases the furniture, then he is usually required to pay a sales tax on top of all the previous taxes. Because of each tax along the way, the cost rises, for no one would provide such labor unless he could make a living. This causes the price of goods to be inflated far beyond the cost of the actual labor that has gone into production and distribution.
This is how Babylonian governments require people to pay far more than the mere ten percent that God’s law requires. Under God’s system, the original lumberman must give God’s government one tree out of ten that he cuts down. There is no further tax as the lumber goes to market, for all other labor is their own and is not directly derived from God’s labor at creation.
The only caveat here is that if a lumberman wants to keep the tenth tree, he may do so by paying an extra fifth of its value (Leviticus 27:31). That is, he pays in cash twelve percent tithe, instead of ten percent. The same is true if he wishes to redeem the tenth animal from his flock (Leviticus 27:32).
We should also point out that God’s system is land-based, while Babylon’s system is city-based. In God’s system, every family has a land inheritance. Under Babylon’s system, people can be disenfranchised from the land. This creates a tendency to gravitate toward larger and larger cities. City life brings about a certain culture that is more easily corrupted, and hence we see how big cities become more and more violent as people are uprooted and separated from their God-given land inheritance.
When God brought the Israelites into their inheritance in Canaan, He gave each family a portion of land (Joshua 14-19). The prophet Isaiah said that God planted a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7). The people were supposed to be like trees or grape vines, having roots in the land and producing fruit that God could enjoy.
While not everyone is called to farm the land, every family should include some farmers, according to their calling. Everyone should have a house and property in the land allotted to his family. No one should be disenfranchised. No one should be homeless. Every citizen of the Kingdom ought to have a refuge among his family, even if he has decided to travel or to work in another location.
The Babylonian system does not provide for this. It refuses to recognize God’s ownership of the land, and so land is bought and sold by those who can afford it, while homelessness remains a problem.
The law of the tithe will not be sufficient to support government unless the rest of the law is followed. The tithe is based upon the laws of land and inheritance. God’s inexpensive government depends upon the people being rooted in the land and the emphasis upon the family relationship that it supports. This is also the key to maintaining a very low crime rate.
By contrast, Babylon’s government seeks power, and to increase its power, it seeks to increase the crime rate by destroying marriage and the family unit. The more crime there is, the more excuse there is to pass restrictive laws and thereby increase government control and power. Babylon feeds men’s carnality to make them more selfish and unruly, so that the people themselves demand a police state that enslaves all of its citizens.
The tithe is God’s main way of supporting Kingdom government. Because such government is small, due to the low crime rate, the tax burden on the citizens is very light. Most of the tithe in Israel went toward the support of the local government, the town clerks, magistrates, or judges. A tenth of the tithe was sent to the national government. Numbers 18:26-28 says,
26 Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, “When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. 28 So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest.
God’s government has two distinct branches that are subject to the divine law—priestly and political. Aaron was the high priest, Moses was the civil leader. During the time of the judges, the priestly government functioned continuously, while the judges themselves were raised up temporarily as national political leaders when they were needed to deliver the nation from captivity.
In the full development of Israel’s government, they were given a king. Although they demanded a king too soon and received Saul, it was always part of the divine plan that they would have a king (Deuteronomy 17:15).
The ultimate government, of course, merged the office of high priest with the king. This was known as the Melchizedek Order, of which was David (Psalm 110:4), though he did not actually replace the high priest in his time. It remained for Jesus to take the reins of government from the high priest of the Levitical Order and merge them with the throne of David.
This is the government to which all men owe the biblical tithe. While we do not yet see this government established in the political realm on earth, we can now only fulfill the law of the tithe in a partial manner. Yet we study the word so that when Babylon falls, we will understand the law and know how to rebuild the Kingdom of God that is prophesied in Scripture.
This is the fifth part of a series titled "Moses' Fourth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones