Acts 17:11 Archives

Melchizedek Getting a "Tithe" from Abraham



In response to a question after reading our posting on The Tithe of "Why did Abraham give Melchizedek a tenth?" by Dean VanDruff

Gal 3:10 (NRS) All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."
A point often made is that since Abram gave 10 percent of the war-spoils to Melchizedek, the tithe came before the law and is thus not a part of it.

In a word, nonsense. For example, God killed an animal to provide a "covering" for Adam and Eve, and Able got this right in his approach to God by way of sacrifice, long before the sacrificial "covenant" spelled out the details. So did Abraham, Jacob and many others predating "the Law". Does this mean we should still kill animals in sacrifice, since Able and Abraham did so before the Law of Moses was formally established? No. This would be so flimsy an excuse logically that it could only be made by someone with a strong hankering for the old wine. (Luke 5:39) Good grief, how far away from Christ do we want to go, and with what faulty logic as an excuse? What next, we can't eat "apples" from certain trees... should be carried into the "new covenant"? In Christ the religious law is dispatched with in totality, and to embrace any part of it is to tacitly reject the reality of the incarnation of Christ and the promises of the New Covenant.

Imagine that someone actually asserted that we should not eat from certain apple trees because "this command predates the law, and thus is not part of the old or new covenant". Wouldn't this be a clear symptom of liking the old wine better than the new? Wouldn't it also hark of an ignorance of biblical history and a penchant for religious myth as well? Was it an "apple", as per popular fable, or a fig? What the tithe actually is in scripture is dealt with elsewhere, but for the purpose here we need to look at what happened between Abram and Melchizedek in context.

Melchizedek did not receive a tithe in the Deuteronomy 14:22-29 sense, obviously, even though the same Hebrew word is used since it was a "tenth". Yet the context was different in many aspects. In the case of Melchizedek it was a "spoils of war" issue; more like a tribute or tax than the tithe. Melchizedek was a king and priest and had a higher standing than Abraham who was at that time a wanderer without a home, and thus Abraham paid tribute to "the greater". This is the point of the citation in the New Testament. For the purposes of the point of the writer of Hebrews, the amount (5/10/20/50%) is not the point--it is that Abraham paid homage as a lesser to a greater. "The Tithe" in the old covenant had little to do with homage, rather the opposite. The greater were to give to the lesser (alien, Levites, widows, etc.) as can be seen in the definition of the tithe in Dt 14:22-29

Heb 7:4 (NIV) Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!

From this precedent, and since Melchizedek was a priest as well as a king, the Old Testament priests got a sort of "tax" of 10% payments that were also termed "tithes" as a means to fund the temple, as well as getting gifts from Kings (later), and being included in the OT "tithe party" (Dt 14 style), as well as getting to eat the meat offered in sacrifice, etc., etc. As you can see, the Levites had multiple sources of income and providence, but the rules were strict: they were not allowed to own anything, they had no inheritance in this life. Their focus had to be on God, since by definition they could not own anything.

The spiritual point of this is full of meaning for us. The "priests" are not the clergy, right? As Russell Hobbs likes to say: "You are a priest of the Most High God!" yet our minds easily snap back to false religious notions that the Old Covenant priests were replaced by Pastors or Popes or Clergy. It is not so. If there is an application here, it is to all believers, not just a few.

So what is God saying here? We (the Levites, the priests of God) are to have no inheritance? It think so. Consider the lilies. Consider the sparrows. Sound familiar?

It is a hard teaching for "the rich", and not many will enter the kingdom. But with God, all things are possible.

Luke 14:33 (Phi) "Only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple."

In conclusion, remember that we are no longer under the shadow law in any sense, certainly not in a small detail of how the old-covenant priesthood was funded. Along these lines--if you have not read it already--I highly recommend the message entitled "The New Legalism".

The new covenant makes most every aspect of the old covenant more severe and radical. All might be required, and presently. Jesus might look at us and say, "Sell all you have..." or just a field, or perhaps something else. There is no telling, and thus we must get rid of all sense of possessing. Jesus made the Old Covenant seem easy in many respects: "I tell you, if a man lusts in his heart..." and "He who hates has committed murder..." and so on. In like manner, Jesus takes giving/tithing/tribute to the radical and ultimate extreme. All is required, even if you get to keep some of it for a time. <smiles> Our treasure is elsewhere.

Mt 6:24-34 (NIV) "No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."



Acts 17:11 Bible Studies

Acts 17:11 Bible Studies Dialogs and Commentary Home Page
NEXT Dean and Laura VanDruff's Home Page

http://www.acts17-11.com/dialogs_tithe_melchizedek.html