I remember going to my first Broadway show. It was Lion King, and it was fantastic. My best friend and I made it to the show just in time, running up the stairs past a glittery woman in an elephant costume and scooting past seatmates as the lights dimmed and the first song began. After the best ninety minutes of my life, rounds of applause sounded for each member of the cast, and then, the crew. I remember thinking how nice it was that the sound team and the lights team, diligent in their black clothing and headsets, were recognized and appreciated. It was so appropriate. None of it would have been possible without their quiet background work.
It kind of reminds me of the Israelite priests. Their work wasn’t really in the background, but it was the kind of work that could get overlooked, and glossed over. Yet it was a lot of work, and a lot to remember. God is only just now finishing up his instructions about the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, and the fellowship offering. He explains to the priests exactly how to offer the guilt offering and which parts of the animal should be removed and burned and where. Thorough explanation of which parts of the fellowship offerings could be eaten and when are also included. Finally, God reminds the Israelites that the fat and blood from animals, the fat and blood that figures so significantly in the offerings, should not be eaten. And now, if it wasn’t before, it is certainly the priests’ time to shine. They are about to be ordained.
The Treasures Within:
Making Good Use of Your Tithe
Although they were lengthy and very detailed, the offerings that the priests were to make, especially the fellowship offering, were vital to them. That’s because they fed them. In verse 12, the Bible re-describes the thick loaves of the fellowship offering that are to be baked and then brought to the tabernacle. In verse 14, God explains that the bread belongs to the priests. Yummy! Verse 9 declares that “every grain offering, whether mixed with olive oil or dry, belongs equally to all the sons of Aaron”. And in verses 28-36, God officially establishes certain parts of the food offerings as the priests’ share – forever. Imagine how much food that amounted to! This was how the Levites made their living. This was how they fed their families.
It all sheds a new light on tithe and offering. Although the sacrifices described here by definition were not tithe, they are analogous to the offering we give today. Tithe and offering can be a controversial subject. Should we really entrust our hard-earned money to our pastor or to our conference? Can we give our tithe and offerings to other vaguely spiritual things instead? Does God really want us to pay tithe AND offering? That’s a large cut of my paycheck! But Leviticus helps put things into perspective. The Israelites paid tithe and offering. Who knows how much of their good lambs, good rams, and good flour went to offering? It was probably enough to grumble over. But God asked them to give this anyway. It reminded them that He was the giver of all good things, and it kept His storehouses, his tabernacle, and his priests full and functioning. It’s a cool thing to see the church community coming together and supporting God’s work, and when we give our tithe and offering today, we get to be a part of that.
He Keeps On Lookin’ Out For Me
This financial support was significant for the Levites themselves. Remember Genesis 49? It was right before Jacob died, when he blessed(/cursed?) each of his children. When he got to Simeon and Levi, they must have known his words weren’t going to be exactly glowing. They played big roles in killing all of the men of Shechem after the son of the king of Shechem raped their sister and in selling their own brother into slavery. Jacob’s words reflected this, calling them violent and cursing their anger. He also said that they would be dispersed and scattered in Israel.
The tribe of Simeon is hardly ever mentioned in the Bible, but the truth of this prophecy is clearly seen in the story of the Levites. As the priests, they sort of had nothing of their own. They didn’t live or work like the rest of the Israelite tribes. Later on, when the Israelites arrive at the Promised Land, the Levites would not receive towns or land as inheritance. They were truly scattered in Israel. This might have made them worry about putting food on the table and surviving – if you don’t have your own land to farm or raise animals on, you can’t really make a living. But it’s almost as if God told them not to worry about anything – He had already provided for them. As priests, they would always have not only a job, but a home and food. Despite the wickedness of their ancestors, God fully provided for them.
It makes me feel good to know that that’s the same kind of love and care God gives to all of us. Worrying about money and jobs and family is nothing new. The stress of feeding our children and paying the bills is only exacerbated by the pressure of tithe and offering. It’s tempting to decide that just this once, we’ll skip our tithe, or just this once, we’ll put our offering to other things. But this chapter reminds us that we don’t need to do that. When God asks us to give Him our hard-earned money, at that very moment, He knows exactly what we need and how He’s going to give it to us. He hasn’t forgotten us and He never will. If He didn’t even fail to provide for the Levites, do you think He would fail to provide for you?
God’s Message To Us:
“I love a cheerful giver.” No one is too small or too insignificant for God’s notice. He knows your name, your needs, your likes and dislikes, and the number of hairs on your head. And He adores you. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s always true. This means that there is no one too small or too insignificant to praise and thank God for His goodness. Our tithe and our offering are just one part of the gratitude we show God for who He is and what He’s done. The love, the thanks, the faith that goes into our tithe and offering does not mean that God will wipe away all of our money struggles and make us millionaires. But it does mean that we will never be alone. It does mean that we will never have to worry. It does mean that we will always be provided for. Knowing that, how can our giving not be cheerful?
What do you think? Did you see anything else interesting in the laws God gave to the Israelites? What message did God want you to get from this chapter?
There Are Always Questions:
- What do you think about the rule about eating fat and blood? What is the connection, if any, between the role fat and blood play in the sacrifices and the law that the Israelites cannot eat them? Do you think that law still applies to us today?