DEAR AGED FATHER IN ISRAEL: – Please give your views on Malachi iii. 10; also on Matthew vi. 33. By complying with this request you will oblige one who desires to know only the truth.
H. E. M.
Milam, Texas, Nov. 2, 1879.
REPLY: – On the first text named above we published such views as we have in volume xxi., No. 15, for August 1st, 1853; but as our inquirer after truth may not be able to obtain a copy of that issue of the SIGNS, we will briefly say that the tithes which the carnal Israelites were required to bring were for support of the Levitical priesthood, and consisted of the one-tenth part of all the increase of their lands, flocks and herds, according as they were prospered of the Lord. These tithes were required to be brought annually, in obedience to the covenant which they were under, and for their obedience they were to be blessed with temporal blessings, and for their disobedience they were to be punished with temporal judgments. The tribe of Levi was not to have any inheritance of real estate, like the other tribes; but as priests and Levites they were to serve in the priesthood and live of the altar, on the tithes and offerings thus provided for their support.
Israel under that covenant was a type of the spiritual Israel under the new covenant; and the sons of Levi were especially figurative of the chosen generation and royal priesthood of Christ, which is not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchisedec – not after the law of a carnal (fleshly) commandment, but by the power of an endless life. The tithes which Israel were required to bring were of what God himself had supplied them with, for they had nothing that had not been given them of him, and their faithful obedience to that law was not to impoverish, but to enrich them; and so in the antitypical application of the subject, the things which are required of the saints for supplying the house of God with meat include and call for nothing that God has not first bestowed on them. An apostle inquires, “What have we that we have not received?” Of all that we have received of God as saints, whether in providence or in grace, of things temporal or spiritual, all is committed to us as unto stewards, who are required to be faithful in our stewardship; and a portion of it, according as the Lord has prospered us, is to be applied to the benefit of the house of God. The primitive saints did not call aught of what they possessed their own. All their possessions, both of carnal and spiritual things, were laid at the apostles’ feet, to be disposed of as they directed; for whatever served to enrich the body, enriched all the members of the body, and to withhold more than is meet, tends to poverty. The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand; while the vile person will practice hypocrisy, and utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. – Isaiah xxxii. 5-8. Nor can the faithful obedience of the saints impoverish them; for in doing what Christ has commanded there is great reward, and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land.
From the day when Abel took a lamb from the flock to offer in sacrifice to the Lord, the service of God has been attended with more or less expense; and the willing sacrifice of a portion of the temporal things which God has entrusted to the stewardship of his people, is still the reasonable service of all who love the Lord.
The tithes which were required of the carnal Israelites also point to the spiritual gifts which God has graciously bestowed upon his people under the gospel dispensation. God has supplied an ample sufficiency of temporal things to his people to meet every legitimate want of the church, to sustain those who, like the Levites, are required to give attendance at the altar, or to give themselves wholly to the work of the ministry, and to forego the privilege of equal inheritance with the other tribes, as also to meet all the necessities of the church, supply her poor, and provide all that is required to meet the expense of a place to meet for social and public devotion; he also supplied such gifts as are required for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. In his glorious triumph over our captivity he ascended up on high and received gifts for men, and in the distribution of them “he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” – Eph. iv. 8-12. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” That is, for the mutual benefit of all the members of the same body. “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit,” &c. – Read 1 Cor. xii. All these gifts by the Spirit were prefigured by the tithes which were enjoined by the ceremonial law, and all designed for feeding the flock of God, and when all are in active exercise in the church, there can be no lack of meat in the house or church of God.
But as the whole nation of Israel in the type are charged with the sacrilegous crime of robbing God in tithes and in offerings, have not we, who claim to be the spiritual Israel of God, reason to fear that in tithes and offerings we are keeping back from the storehouse of our God those temporal things or spiritual gifts which he has entrusted to us as stewards, and which, although now for a little season are in our possession, still belong to God?
Do we not see how the meat in the church of God is affected by the bringing in or withholding of the tithes and offerings committed to us? If by withholding of our carnal things the ministers of the word are driven by necessity to their fishing nets or tent making, and the poor are neglected in the daily ministrations, or if the gifts which God has given for the edifying of the body of Christ, or if all or any of the diversified gifts bestowed on every member is kept back, will not the storehouse be impoverished, and what is still more dreadful, will not God be robbed?
The other text on which we are requested to write is a command of our Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and an assurance that all things else shall be added to those who obey this command. Only those who are born again can see the kingdom of God, consequently they cannot seek it successfully; but all who are born of the Spirit are commanded not only to seek it, but to seek it first, to let this be their first work as soon as they are born of God. It is not to be deferred, or second to any other work or employment. Not even our necessary food or clothing; however destitute we may be of food or raiment, God knoweth that we have need of these things, and he has them in store for us, and has promised to supply them. He clothes the grass of the field, and feeds the ravens, and careth for the sparrows, and has numbered the hairs of our head, and will not neglect to provide for his willing and obedient children, who need his care and providence. O ye of little faith! Some who have manifested cheering evidences of a new birth have lingered from a sense of their own personal unworthiness, as though they had understood the blessed Savior to say, Seek first the kingdom of God and your own righteousness, and don’t be in a hurry, for you may not be fit to fill a place in that kingdom; but if ever you find yourself worthy, and feel sure that you will hold out faithful to the end, then will be a good time to take the yoke of Jesus upon you. Wait, says one, for the Lord’s time; how very prudent and careful Satan himself can seem to be, when he would mislead the timid, trembling children of God into disobedience. What are we to know of the Lord’s time, beyond what he has informed us in his word? Has he not already commanded you to make it your first work to follow him? Has he not already given you the example? Has he not commanded all who love him to keep his commandments? Is he your King and Law-giver? Does not the command of a king require immediate and implicit obedience? Who is he that dares to tell the waiting child of God, Wait until you are compelled to obey? wait until you see the chastising rod coming? Where is there example or precept for waiting one hour from the time that the love of God is shed abroad in our heart, and an opportunity presented? The pattern in the New Testament is, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? The jailer and his house were baptized the same hour of the night in which they were converted to God. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized,” &c. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” But not only when we have sought and found the kingdom of God and his righteousness are we to take his yoke, but in all our subsequent experience are we to make our allegiance to Jesus, and our hope in God’s righteousness the primary business of our life, forsaking all to follow Jesus through evil as well as through good report. No worldly prospects of gain, no alluring vanities of the world, should be allowed to keep us from the assemblies of the saints and from the house of prayer. Seek first the kingdom of God; be not deceived by any of the provinces of Babylon, or by any of the worldly tents of wickedness. The kingdom of God is that kingdom which God himself, not man, has set up, and over which Christ our Lord presides upon the throne of power and grace, and where his princes rule in judgment. It is the habitation and city of the great King. The kingdom of God is not of this world: it is a spiritual kingdom; flesh and blood cannot inherit it. The King, the laws ordinances and privileges are all spiritual, and none but they who are born of the Spirit can see or enter into it. May all who have passed from death unto life seek not only the kingdom, but also the righteousness of God our Savior, and in his righteousness confide for justification before the throne, and trust in God to supply all that we need from abundant fullness for time and for eternity.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 16
August 15, 1880