by Shawn Brasseaux
In time past, when God dealt with His covenant people, the nation Israel, He ruled them with a very strict set of rules (the Mosaic Law). Israel had to follow God’s instructions by faith. God promised to bless them if they listened to Him, and He promised to curse them if they went contrary to His instructions (Deuteronomy 28:1,15). That was in Israel’s program under strict, severe Mosaic Law. It is highly, highly important not to mix God’s dealings with Israel and His dealings with the Church the Body of Christ. Today, we live under grace, not law (Romans 6:14,15). God is doing something different with us today (which we will discuss later). For now, let us get a better understanding of how God dealt with the Circumcision, the nation Israel, in time past.
First, let us look at Leviticus 26:3-13 KJV. If Israel kept JEHOVAH’S commandments, He would bless them with bountiful harvests, peaceful lives, victory over their enemies, and He would “be their God” (verse 12). Now, on the other hand, the LORD would bring curses upon Israel for their disobedience and unbelief. In verses 14-41, the LORD would chastise Israel by sending plagues, wild beasts, war, and other righteous judgments.
Now, compare this with Deuteronomy 11:26-28 KJV (which is the LORD speaking to Israel):
“28 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.”
With that for background, we come to a topic that is quite controversial today. What about tithing? Malachi 3:8-11 is the most common passage that religions and denominations use to coerce people into giving money. In Old Testament Israel, you had to give the tithe: by the way, the tithe involved giving grain and livestock to the Levites. The tithe has nothing to do with us today—nothing! If Israel tithed obediently, God promised to “open the windows of heaven to pour out on them a blessing” (Malachi 3:10). People are using that same verse today, saying if you will give their ministry or church a tithe, God will “pour out a blessing.” This is ridiculous because this was spoken to Israel under strict Law, long before Calvary. Paul tells us today to give willingly, apart from demands or laws (2 Corinthians 9:6,7). Whether we give money or not, God has already poured out His blessings on us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 4:19).
There is one verse that is often misquoted and taken out of context, whether ignorantly or deliberately. That verse is Jeremiah 29:11 KJV: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” It sounds like a good verse, and it is, but it was not spoken to us. (Read the context [verse 10]! This is spoken to Israel after she is dispersed by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon; God is promising to reunite the nation Israel.) Again, take notice that this is a blessing verse promised to Israel, not to us.
People love Jeremiah 29:11, but you will never hear anyone promising Jeremiah chapter 44 for obvious reasons: this chapter is filled with God promising to curse and judge Israel for their wickedness. (When I pointed that out to someone who loved to steal God’s promises to Israel, she told me she wanted nothing to do with those curses because they were “too negative.” Listen, you cannot pick and choose like that in the Bible; that is dishonest. Neither the curses nor the promises were given to us.)
In Jeremiah chapter 44, the LORD will righteously judge Israel, punishing them for their wickedness, including pagan idolatry. But, God also promised to never completely destroy Israel: remember that this was about 600 B.C. The devil’s plan was to cause Israel to stumble so much, God would have enough and destroy them completely. If the Jewish lineage would have ceased to exist, the promised Jewish Messiah could never come. For the sakes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God would not destroy Israel (Leviticus 26:42-46).
Another passage people often like to quote is Numbers 6:24-27 KJV:
“24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Again, this was to Israel, not to us today—people often like to leave off verse 27 because it gives away the meaning (that it is not for us, but for Israel)!
The book of Judges is filled with the account of Israel slipping into pagan idolatry, and God judging them for their unbelief and disobedience. Over and over, God would send invading armies to defeat Israel. Israel would straighten up for a while, but then go back into idolatry like before. Look at what Judges 2:20 KJV says: “And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice.”
The LORD instructed Israel to farm their lands for six years, but let the land rest the seventh (sabbatical) year. Read Leviticus 26:34,35 KJV: “Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.” Because Israel was not hearkening unto the LORD and not letting the land rest that seventh year, God would now drive them out of the land with foreign armies, and then the land would get its rest. Today, the Jews have been dispersed over 2,000 years!
By glancing back into time past with God’s dealing with Israel, we have a greater appreciation of God’s grace. Today, as we live in the Dispensation of Grace, we have been given an opportunity of forgiveness and grace through the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not have to do anything but take it by faith: we have received the blessing, even when we not deserve it!
Even atheists still have a chance at getting right with God today. Instead of God dealing with our unbelieving world in wrath, judgment, and anger, He has given them over 2,000 years to straighten up in this Dispensation of Grace.
Consider 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 KJV:
“19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
God’s wrath is being postponed, but it is coming soon, after the Church the Body of Christ is taken up at the rapture. God will not tolerate this unbelieving world for much longer. Our world better take a lesson from history: God’s justice will be brought about one day, and the lost world will be brought down in God’s righteous indignation.