Chapter 7 -

Malachi 3 in Context


Perhaps by now you can see how difficult it is to really understand tithing and giving without understanding the Biblical history of the people of Israel. Many Bible students stop right here and go to the New Testament and present age of the church.

I have found it a help to first review the future, the history yet to be, in order to better understand the New Testament and the present. Therefore, any study of the Bible about giving is incomplete if it does not address the future role of tithing in the Messiah's soon coming kingdom of heaven on earth.

The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom whose inheritors are immortal. "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (I Corinthians 15:50)

But this kingdom of spirit beings will rule over a physical world inhabited by nations of mortal people.

And Thou has made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. (Revelation 5:10)

And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. (Revelation 2:26)

Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.”

For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3)

These prophecies and many others show that when Jesus returns as conquering King and political Messiah, He will rule from Jerusalem. The place of His throne will be the Temple, which will be restored prior to His return. This restoration of the Temple will necessitate a restored Levitical priesthood and the resumption of tithing to support it. Jesus did not come to change or abolish the Law the first time, neither will He when He returns in the future. (Matthew 5:17-20)

Here is where Malachi chapter 3 really belongs - in the future! Read what it says before the oft quoted verses 8-12.

Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord (Messiah), whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.

“And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD, as in the days of old.

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be swift to witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts.

“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, 0 sons of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes, and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you.” says the LORD of hosts. But you say, "How shall we return?" (Malachi 3:1-7)

Remember the Law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. (Malachi 4:4)

Part of that return to observing the whole Law of Moses was to tithe within the context of a restored, temple and Levitical priesthood as mentioned two times in the above verses. (Malachi 3:8-12)

Do the ministers who quote these verses to support their teaching on tithing also tell you to keep the rest of the Law of Moses? Do they preach that God is going to purify the Levites so that they will again receive the tithe, which will be shared with widows, orphans and the alien? Do they mention that God is coming to purify the Aaronites so that they will once again receive sacri­ficial offerings of beasts on God's altar?

Most likely not. They usually interpret the Bible to declare: "'Thou shalt tithe to this ministry of Jesus. If you don't, then y-o-u are a s-i-n-­n-e-r!" In so teaching, they have done what Jesus Himself said He would not do: they have changed the Law.

Malachi is a prophecy for the future. Its application in principle today is more complex, but the conclusion should be clear: There is no justification to pull the ordinances of tithing out of their histor­ical and temple ritual contexts - which are past or future and not present, and apply them to a Christian ministry.

Ezekiel chapters 40-48 describe in detail the restored Temple and rebuilt capital city of Jerusalem. The inheritances of the tribes of Israel will once again be farmed by descendants of ancient Israelites and naturalized aliens (circumcised according to the Sinai Covenant) who are adopted into the various tribes among whom they live. The produce of those inheritances will provide the sacrificial offerings and tithes for the service or work of the altar.

There will also be a restored and purified Levitical priesthood that conforms to both Sinai and New Covenants:

Thus says the Lord GOD, “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary. But the Levites who went far from me, when Israel went astray, who went astray from Me after their idols, shall bear punishment for their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the house and ministering in the house; they shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them...

“But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,'” declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 44:9-15)

Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the clean and the unclean. And in a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances. They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts, and sanctify My Sabbaths. (23-24)

And it shall be with regard to an inheritance for them, that I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel - I am their possession. They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offer­ing, and the guilt offering; and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. And the first of all the first fruits of every kind and every con­tribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests; you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house. (28-30)

“And it will come about that you shall divide it by lot for an inher­itance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it will come about that in the tribe with which the alien stays, there you shall give him his inheritance,” declares the Lord God. (47:22-23)

So will be fulfilled the restoration or refreshing of all things as promised and pre­dicted in Acts 3:19-20:

Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.


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