This is the sixth part of our series on tithing. We continue from last week on tithe in the New Testament. If you missed Parts 1-5 of the series on tithe please click here.
Last week we discovered that the subject of tithing is treated four times in the New Testament. There are three mentions in the gospels and one mention in the Book of Hebrews. Jesus taught the subject of tithing but he taught it under the terms of the Law of Moses. And he added a twist. He introduced an over-riding factor – something he called the “weightier matter of the Law.” Mercy is a “weightier matter of the Law” and it overwrites the Law of Moses. God’s prerogative mercy is superior to the harshness of the calcified demands of the Law of Moses. Today we look at the treatment of the subject of tithing in the Book of Hebrews. As we shall see it’s over-arching. The relevant chapter is Hebrews 7. It bends over backwards on history, dragging the Law to look back at Abraham.
Tithing was however not the primary focus of Hebrews 7. It was illustrative of something bigger. The subject matter of Hebrews 7 was the superiority of the priesthood of Christ to the Levitical priesthood. Abraham’s tithing was used as illustrative proof of the superiority of the ministry of Christ to the Levitical order. The writer used the event to prove the inadequacy of the Law to save. The letters of the “Ten Commandments” cannot save. He contended that if the priesthood on which the Law was based was okay there wouldn’t have been need for a change. The Book of Hebrews is a treatise. Its logicality is so profound it’s like a lawyer’s argument.
In pursuit of his objective, the writer first established that Jesus has an eternal priesthood. But his priesthood represented a major change. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not from the tribe of Levi, he was from Judah. His priesthood was therefore a radical departure from established order. It represented a new dispensation. David had prophesied in Psalm 110:4 that Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. It was this Psalm the writer of Hebrews was referring to in Hebrews 5:10, 7:11, 15, 21 concerning the priesthood of Christ.
This Melchizedek, the writer reminds us was the one who met Abraham after the “slaughter of the kings.” He’s described as priest of the Most High God. Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of war to him. Genesis 14:18-20. The argument of the writer of Hebrews was simple: Since Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek, Levi in the loins of Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek. He also argued that the blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek had significance: “It is beyond all contradiction that it is the lesser person who is blessed by the greater one.” (Hebrews 7:7). That the priesthood of Jesus is superior to that of Levi because Levitical priests died but Jesus lives forever. His priesthood is unending: “You are a priest forever after the Order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 7:17.
This Melchizedek is a typology of the Lord Jesus Christ for several reasons. His name means King of Righteousness. Our Lord reigns in righteousness. Isaiah 32:1, Jeremiah 23:5. He is King of Salem. Salem (Jerusalem) means peace. Our Lord is Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, Hebrews 7:2. And so righteousness and peace kissed each other in the Order of Melchizedek (See Psalm 85:10). Melchizedek is also described as having no beginning and no ending, just like the Son of God. (Hebrews 7:3). That just means the Bible is silent on his ancestry, not that he’s an alien life form. The nondisclosure of his ancestry, birth or death points to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. And so the issue of tithe came up in Hebrews to explain the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus. And that was the last mention of tithe in both the New Testament and the Bible.
Taking a panoramic view of the Bible, there are two clear chronological geographies of tithing: Tithing before the Law by Abraham and Jacob; tithing under the Law from Moses to the earthly walk of Jesus. Under the Law, tithing was a civic duty in a theocratic state. It was compulsory. Non compliance carried a penalty. But Abraham and Jacob gave tithe of their freewill. They gave to God voluntarily. It is very significant that bread and wine were presented by Melchizedek at the occasion of the tithing of Abraham. “Melchizedek King of Salem brought out bread and wine for their nourishment; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, Blessed (favoured with blessings, made blissful, joyful) be Abram by God Most High, Possessor and Maker of heaven and earth. And blessed, praised, and glorified be God Most High Who has given your foes into your hand. And Abram gave him a tenth of all he had taken.” Genesis 14:18-20.
The fact and principle of covenant were first established before the tithe. The same principle of covenant first, then the tithe was established in Jacobian tithing: After Jacob had seen a vision of a ladder reaching up to heaven, the Lord stood over him and made a covenant with him: “I will give to you and to your descendants the land on which you’re lying. And your offspring shall be as countless as the dust of the ground, and you shall spread to the west and the east and the north and the south; and by you and your Offspring (Christ) shall the families of the earth be blessed and bless themselves. And behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this land; For I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.” Genesis 28:13-15. “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, If God be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me food to eat and clothing to wear, so that I may come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God; and the stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all the increase of possessions that you give me I will give the tenth to you.” Genesis 28:20-22.
And so we have the covenant, and then the tithe. Only that Jacobian tithing also points to the Church and the Christ: “This stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be God’s house” The stone is a clear reference to Christ, our Rock and Pillar – the stone which the builders rejected and now the cornerstone of our faith: “You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole structure is joined together harmoniously, and it continues to rise, grow, increase into a holy temple in the Lord – a sanctuary dedicated, consecrated, and sacred to the presence of the Lord” Ephesians 2:20-2.
Both the tithing of Abraham and Jacob point to Christ and the New Testament. Just as Levi subjected himself to Melchizedek in Abraham, so did the Levitical priesthood under the Law bend backwards in obeisance to the priesthood of Melchizedek, which in turn leaps over the space-time occupied by the Law to point to Christ and his body. Tithe is a covenant principle, even under the Law (Deuteronomy 26:13-15). Has always been. Tithe cannot exist outside of covenant. From the very foundation the principle of tithing points to the covenant of the New Testament, to Christ and his body.
See you next week when we continue the series. I hope you’re gaining understanding.
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org