TITHING AND THE BLESSING OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-10-82 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Tithing and the Blessing of God. It is an annual sermon on stewardship. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we will turn to that; Hebrews chapter 7 toward the end of the New Testament. Chapter 6 of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 6:20] ends with a quotation from Psalm 110:4: "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Talking about our Lord Jesus; He is not a Levitical priest after Aaron and Levi. He is a priest after Melchizedek. Then he speaks of Melchizedek, and you just read about him a moment ago in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis [Genesis 14:17-20].
Now the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the victory over the kings, and blessed him:
To whom also Abraham gave a tenth of all; first being by interpretation, king of righteousness, Melchizedek –
melek, king, tsedek, righteousness –
Melchizedek, king of righteousness, and after that, king of Shalom, king of Salem, which is king of peace.
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest forever.
Now consider how great this man was, under whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
Verse 7: "Without contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:7-8]. Now verses 15 through 17:
It is evident that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest,
who is made not after the law. . .but after the power of an endless life.
For He testifieth – of the Lord Jesus in Psalm 110:4 – Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
When the author of Hebrews wrote this book, the temple was still standing in Jerusalem. And that’s what he means when he avows, "Here men that die receive tithes; but" – there speaking of our Lord Jesus, who is the antitype of Melchizedek – "but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witness that he liveth" [Hebrews 7:8].
Who is this Melchizedek? This is the passage you read: after God had given Abraham and his three hundred eighteen men victory over a combination of kings [Genesis 14:14-16], it was something God did. On the way back to Hebron, Melchizedek, king of Salem, Shalom, brought forth bread and wine [Genesis 14:18], a picture of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28]. He was the priest of the Most High God.
And he blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abram gave him tithes of all.
Who is that Melchizedek? There are many, many scholars, many of them who say this is a christophany. It is a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus the Christ. All through the Old Testament, you will find those christophanies; the appearance of Christ before His incarnation.
The fifth chapter of the Book of Joshua ends in one of those christophanies. The great warrior Joshua – preaching about him tonight, and the great question he asked – Joshua sees a Warrior standing over Jericho, and he comes before Him. And that Warrior says: "As Captain of the Lord of hosts have I come. . .Take off your shoes from off your feet. The place you are standing before Me is holy ground. And Joshua worshipped the Lord" [Joshua 5:13-15]. That is a christophany, an appearance of Christ before His incarnation.
In the Book of Isaiah in chapter 6, John writes in chapter 12 [John 12:41] that it was Jesus that Isaiah saw in chapter 6:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord. . .high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
And above Him stood the seraphim. . .
And they cried one to another: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the earth is full of His glory.
That is a christophany. John said that was the Lord Jesus pre-incarnate that Isaiah saw high and lifted up.
In the third chapter of the Book of Daniel is a christophany. The three Hebrew children are cast into the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:21-24], and when Nebuchadnezzar looks through the flames, he sees four men. The three he cast in walking unbound, and the king says: "And the countenance of the fourth is like unto the Son of God" [Daniel 3:25]; a christophany; an appearance of Christ before His incarnation.
I repeat. There are many, many scholars who say this is a christophany [Genesis 14:17-20], this Melchizedek is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. There are other scholars who say that he is a type of our Lord: without father, without mother, without antecedents [Hebrews 7:3], without descendants. He just appears there. He is a type of our Lord. And either way, and either way, Melchizedek is the high priest of Almighty God, not of the Levitical tribe, but as a priest of God, he abideth one forever [Hebrews 7:4-8]. He had no antecedent, predecessor. He had no successor. He stands there forever. And Psalm 110:4 says of our Lord: "He is a high priest of God after the order of Melchizedek." He has no predecessor. He has no successor. He abides forever and forever.
Melchizedek, to whom Abraham gave a tenth of all that he possessed [Genesis 14:20]; why did he give that high priest, the Lord Jesus? "Here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that he lives forever" [Hebrews 7:8]. Where did Abraham get the idea of giving Him, our Lord, a tenth of all that he possessed? That was five hundred years before Moses, before the Moses legislation before the law. Where did he get that idea of giving God a tenth?
You meet the same thing in the life of Israel, in the life of Jacob. The twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis closes with Jacob at Bethel. And Jacob says, Israel says to the Lord God: "If You will be with me, if You will give me food to eat and clothing to wear, out of all that You have given me. . .I will return the tenth unto Thee" [Genesis 28:20-22]. Where did he get that idea? Where did that come from? Simply this: that right is right forever. The idea was from the beginning. It is in the heart and character of God. There is no such thing in the Bible as "situation ethics" or "relative morality." What is right has always been right, is now and will forever be right. The Bible is a book of absolutes. What is right is grounded in the character of Almighty God, and He never changes [Malachi 3:6].
The law, Galatians 3 says, is a parenthesis. It was added just to make us see how far short we fall of the glory of God and to bring us, in our need and sinful iniquity, to Christ [Galatians 3:22, 24]. But whatever has been right is right forever; it never changes. Right is like God; He never changes. Right never changes. What was right then is always right. The Ten Commandments, the moral law: that did not come into being right in the days of Moses; whatever was in the Ten Commandments has always been right from the beginning.
· The first commandment, "Thou shall have no other gods before Me" [Exodus 20:3]: it has always been wrong to worship anybody but God.
· The sixth commandment, "Thou shall not murder, thou shalt not kill" [Exodus 20:13]: that has always been right. It has always been wrong to kill.
· The seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" [Exodus 20:14]; it has always been wrong to commit adultery. It didn’t just start in the days of Moses.
· The ninth commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not lie," [Exodus 20:16]: that has always been wrong.
The commandment has always been right before God. You must obey these great moral precepts that are founded in the heart of God.
Sacrifice has been from the beginning. Abel brought a sacrifice before God [Genesis 4:4]. Noah brought a sacrifice before God when he came out of the ark [Genesis 8:20]. Abraham sacrificed when he came to the land of Canaan [Genesis 12:6-8]. There has always been sacrifice, and we today come before God in the name of the blood of the sacrifice of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we come before God, we are bold to approach the great, mighty heavenly holiness of God on the basis of the atonement of our Lord sinners as we are [Hebrews 10:19-22]. And we interpose the blood of Christ between the wrath of God’s judgment upon sin and upon us poor, lost sinners. Sacrifice has always been and always will be. In heaven, when we stand in the presence of His great glory, we shall sing that song: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain" [Revelation 5:12], "who hath redeemed us to God by His blood" [Revelation 5:9]. It has always been. It has everlastingly been. It will everlastingly be. These things are God. Tithing is one of them.
Back yonder, back yonder, in the beginning and forever, one-tenth of everything that I possess belongs to God [Malachi 3:8-10]. It is His. Do you notice the blessing upon obedience? Obedience moves the heart of God. It always does. It never fails.
In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis, there is the story of the obedience of Abraham when God said to "Sacrifice your son Isaac" [Genesis 22:1-3], and He pointed out the mount, Mount Moriah, where the temple later was built in Jerusalem. And there, in obedience to the command of the Lord God, Abraham took his only son Isaac and bound him and placed upon the altar, lifted up that knife to plunge into his heart [Genesis 22:9-10]. And when he did so, an Angel of God stopped his hand [Genesis 22:11-12].
And the Angel of the Lord called unto him a second time,
And said, By Myself have I sworn –
Because there was none greater, God swore by Himself [Hebrews 6:13] –
By Myself have I sworn, said the Lord, that because thou hast done this thing, and has not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing, I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed. . .
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because – and it is repeated again – because thou hast obeyed My voice.
Obedience moves the heart of God. When a man does what God asks him to do, somehow God is moved by obedience. And there is never in the Bible, ever, any command of God but if a man obeys it, God blesses him; always. There is never an exception to it.
I haven’t time. We could spend the day reading these things:
· In 1 Samuel chapter 2, "Them that honor Me I will honor" [1 Samuel 2:30].
· In Proverbs, "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase; and thy barn shall be filled with plenty" [Proverbs 3:9-10].
· In Luke chapter 6: "Give, and it shall be given unto you. . .pressed down, running over, shaken together" [Luke 6:38].
· In 2 Corinthians, verse 6 in the ninth chapter: "He that so soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully" [2 Corinthians 9:6].
There is no exception to that. Wherever in the Word of God and in human experience, wherever God says something, if I obey it God inevitably blesses me in it; there’s never an exception to it.
And God does something else. He puts Himself on trial before us. Can you believe that? God puts Himself on trial and says: "You try Me, you test Me, and you see" [Malachi 3:10]. And when I speak of that, I come into a realm of personal experience. I can either affirm it or I can deny it; I am capable of doing either one. God says, "Try Me and see for yourself." And in that human experience, it’s a realm into which I can enter. I can see for myself.
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse. . .prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" [Malachi 3:10]. "Put Me on trial," says the Lord God. "Set Me down and see for yourself. Try it. Experience it. Just see if I do not open the windows of heaven and give you blessings that your heart cannot contain them, and your life cannot hold them." That’s what God says.
One of our men was in debt. How do you give God a tenth when you are in debt? He was persuaded by the pastor to try it. Just try it. That’s what God says. "Prove Me, test Me, and see if I will not open the windows of heaven" [Malachi 3:10]. He was in debt. Man, how do you tithe when you are in debt? You owe the money to somebody else. Or how do you tithe when you are poor and have hardly enough to eat? So this man started off. That meant he rearranged his life in the will of God. He began living in the Word and purview and review and presence and grace of the Lord God. It was another beginning for him. He began with God.
Now it didn’t happen overnight. It took him two years, because he was deeply in debt. It took him two years to get out of it. But he got out of it. In two years, he was free. And in the years that have remained, he has aboundingly prospered before the Lord.
If you don’t tithe when you’re poor, I can tell you for certain, you’re not going to tithe when you’re rich. It’s a thousand times harder to tithe when you’re rich than it is when you’re poor. If I have a dollar and give a dime to the Lord, that’s kind of easy. But if I had a hundred million dollars and bring ten million down here to the church, to God’s storehouse, I don’t know a rich man that does it. Not in the earth. I don’t know. Rich men sometimes will give a whole lot for a museum or a whole lot for something else. But to do what God says, I don’t know of one. But there are thousands of us who are poor who regularly give to the Lord. If you don’t give to the Lord when you’re poor, you’re not going to do it when you’re rich. "Just try Me and see," says the Lord God. "Just try Me. Just try Me" [Malachi 3:10].
One of those men to whom the pastor was speaking, the pastor said to him, "Try it for three months and then forget it. Just try it three months and then forget it." And in these after years, that man has testified saying, "I took the pastor’s word and I tried it for three months. Did you know that’s been thirty years ago, and I’ve been tithing ever since." God enters the picture. God says something. God does something. The man’s life is changed. He lives in another world.
One of the men to whom the pastor persuaded to tithe said, "Did you know I don’t miss the money? I’ve decided to double the tithe just to see if I’ll miss it then." That’s God. "Try Me," He says, "and just see if I do not bless you; open the windows of heaven, give you such blessings that your heart is not able to contain them" [Malachi 3:10].
Now we’re going to look, just briefly, at this thing that Abraham did before Melchizedek, who is either Christ or a type of our Lord. "Here men that die receive tithes, but there He receiveth them, our Lord Jesus, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth" [Hebrews 7:8]. I want you to look at one thing here. We are going to look at three things. Look at the first thing here. It was done systematically. It was a tenth [Hebrews 7:4]. Now that required reckoning. Isn’t that right? If you’re going to give God a tenth, Abraham had to sit down somewhere and decide, "What is a tenth of what I have?" It was done systematically. Like the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:2, "On the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him." It is done systematically. It is a tenth. He figured out a tenth and gave God a tenth.
"Well," somebody says, "that’s legalistic, that’s legalistic." I want to point out to you. Even the infidel Voltaire said, "When a man says to you it’s not the money, it’s the principle of the thing, put it down, it’s the money." That’s what the infidel Voltaire said. Whenever a man says to you, "That’s legalism," put it down, he’s trying to deny God. He’s trying to cheat God. He’s trying to rob God. Just put it down.
Isn’t it a funny thing? He never says that in the business world. If a man works for, say, the bank or works for the corporation, when the time comes that he gets his salary, he never says, "That’s legalism for you to figure that out." No. He says, "Now you pay me what you owe me. If my salary’s two hundred dollars a day, I want two hundred dollars a day. If my salary’s two thousand dollars a month, I want two thousand dollars. I want you to pay me what you owe me." That’s not legalism. That’s just right. Isn’t that right? That’s right. That’s right! And whether it’s the bank or the store or the corporation, pay that employee what you have agreed is his salary. That’s the way to do; systematically. This is God’s. I owe it to the Lord. It’s not mine, it belongs to Him. Figure it out. Give it to the Lord.
I want you to notice another thing. Not only was Abraham giving to God systematically – he figured it out, he gave Him a tenth – but he was giving to God voluntarily, voluntarily. It came out of his heart [Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4]. You see, that tenth belongs to God and I give it to Him, or He collects it; one or the other. In any event, it’s His, and He gets it, and He takes it; one or the other. I can give it to Him voluntarily, joyously, triumphantly, gratefully, gladly. I can give it to Him, or God collects it; one or the other.
Now I may rob a bank, and I may rob a store, and I may rob you, but I don’t rob God. I don’t cheat Him. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked" [Galatians 6:7]. He collects. The tenth belongs to Him, and He takes it if I don’t give it to Him. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that strange? I tell you some things about God it’s good for us to know. He is so mighty and all powerful, it’s good for us to get acquainted with Him and to know how He does and how He works.
A pastor was asked, "How many members do you have in the church?"
And the pastor said, "I have a hundred fifty."
And then the pastor was asked, "How many are tithers?"
And he says, "One hundred fifty."
And the questioner said, "Man, you got a hundred fifty members and a hundred fifty tithers?"
"Yes," said the pastor, "Fifty of them bring the tithe to the storehouse, to the church, and the other hundred God collects it off of them."
I was never introduced to great wealth until I came to Dallas. It’s only been since I’ve been this Dallas that I have met and associated intimately, closely, with people of tremendous wealth. And in these thirty-eight years that I have observed them and been close to them, this is what I have seen. There is no man in this earth that keeps God’s tithe. God collects it. God collects it.
That rich man; man alive, look at him, but without God, he will make a miscalculation and a misjudgment. And God will take his tithe out of his fortune. It never fails. It never will. A poor man or a medium income man, all alike; it may be a severe illness. It may be a disaster. It may be a bankruptcy. It may be a colossal financial misjudgment mistake. But you put it down; God collects that tenth, and He will from you. You won’t cheat God. Or as Malachi says, you won’t rob God [Malachi 10:8].
You can do one of two things. You can give it to Him joyfully and triumphantly and gladly, or He will take it; one or the other. But you won’t keep it. It belongs to Him, and God takes His own. How much better, how much better for a man to come before God and say, "Lord, this is Yours. It’s not mine. This is Yours, and I give it to Thee," and do it with love and prayer and gratitude.
John Bunyan wrote a little thing:
There was a man, some called him mad;
The more he gave, the more he had.
Isn’t that an amazing thing? Do you know what I would give God? You just start, you just start. You just test Him. You just prove Him. You just try Him, and you see if God doesn’t do things for you that you never thought for. There’ll be illnesses that come that won’t reach you; God. There’ll be troubles that come. They won’t reach you; God intervenes. There’ll be disasters that come; they won’t touch you. "A thousand shall fall at thy right hand and ten thousand before thee, but the trouble will not come nigh thee" [Psalm 91:7]. That’s God. That’s the Lord.
Just one other thing: not only did Abraham, coming before the Lord Jesus, not only did he figure it out, he gave systematically. This belongs to God. This is a tenth, and it belongs to God [Hebrews 7:4-6]. And not only did he give it voluntarily, God didn’t have to collect it from him, take it from him. He voluntarily gave it to the Lord. He did it gratefully.
"Blessed be the Most High God. . .and he gave him tithes of all" [Genesis 14:20]. "Blessed be the Most High God." Now here again, not only does obedience move the heart of God; when God sees a man obedient, God’s heart is moved. When a man is grateful, God’s heart is moved. When Jesus healed the ten lepers and one returned to thank Him, a despised outcast, alien, foreign Samaritan, the Lord noticed it and was moved by it [Luke 17:11-19]. It moves His heart when we do in gratitude.
When Mary of Bethany, because she loved the Lord and He had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44], when Mary of Bethany broke that spikenard over the dear Savior’s feet, the perfume filled the air, and she dried His feet with the hair of her head, Judas was there, who had the bag, who grasps greedy! And he said; "Look at that waste. Look at that waste. We could have used that for a thousand different things" [John 12:1-6]. That’s what most people think. But the Lord was moved by the love and grace and gratitude that moved that sweet Mary of Bethany. And He said – and I am one of the fulfillments of that prophecy – "wherever this gospel is preached, this will be said as a memorial to her" [Matthew 26:13; John 1:7]. It moves the heart of God when I come before Him: "Lord, Lord, You have been good to me. This is Thine, thank You, Lord." Just like Abraham: "Blessed be the Most High God. . .And he gave Him a tenth of all that he had" [Genesis 14:20]. It moves the heart of the Lord.
And this last observation: God doesn’t forget it. I may forget. These that I know best may forget, but God never forgets. He never forgets. God never forgets. He said, "I will bless you. I will take care of you." He never forgets. At our midweek prayer service, a dear saintly woman stood up and said, "God has let me down. God has let me down. God has failed me. All these years and the years I have been a faithful tither, believing the promise of the Lord. I have faithfully tithed. And yesterday my company permanently terminated my services, and I am out. And I am old and I can’t begin again in another job. Nobody wants me. And God has forsaken me and God has let me down. God hasn’t kept His promise. And I’ve been so faithful to tithe to Him."
Well, you couldn’t listen to that and not sympathize with that poor godly woman who is let out, and let loose, and let go, and the company has terminated her services. And what would you say when she says in the testimony, "I faithfully have tithed, and God has let me down"?
Now you listen to this. The next day, the next day, the head of a great corporation was having lunch with that pastor. And as he talked to the preacher, he said, "Preacher, you’ll be proud of me, and you’ll be proud of my company." He said, "We have installed in our corporation a pension program. And preacher, the first name placed on that pension program is a member of your church." And he named that woman, who the night before was complaining that God had let her down.
He doesn’t forget. When I do right by God, God is under obligation. He says so in His Book, to see me through, take care of me, to bless me and to help me. And He says: "You try Me and test Me and prove Me and see if I will not open the windows of heaven, pour you out a blessing that there not be room enough to receive it" [Malachi 3:10].
Then He mentions being in a rural area: "I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and I will cast out the worm for your sakes, and I will rebuke the drought for your sakes, and I will bless you" [Malachi 3:11]. Man, I can’t lose with God. Lord, Lord, with how much? God, how I am indebted to Thee; how much I am indebted to Thee! And would I ever pause or hesitate to express that infinite gratitude to the Lord by giving to Him what He says is His? One-tenth of all that I possess, and ask God to bless the nine-tenths that remain. Try it, prove it, and see. May we stand together?
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Savior, in how many ways do we let Thee down, but You never let us down. In how many ways do we fail Thee, but You never fail us. Thy very name is faithfulness. "Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord, unto me" ["Great Is Thy Faithfulness," Thomas Chisholm, 1925]. And what a privilege it is, Lord, to take Thee for a partner. You and I are in business together, Lord. Now You help me, and stand by me, and show me what to do, and give me wisdom in every decision that I make. What a partner to have God.
Lord, You told me that when I came to this church; that if I would be faithful to the Thee in preaching the gospel, You would send us souls. And in thirty-eight years, You have never failed. You are not going to fail. That’s God. Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful thing to have God as a partner!
What a wonderful thing it is to see a young couple when they marry, marry in the blessing and goodness of God. What a great thing it is for their home. What a wonderful thing it is when the child is born. This is a gift from God. What a wonderful thing it is to go into a business or a profession and take God as a partner and talk to Thee about all the problems that arise and let the wisdom of God see us through.
Man, we can’t lose with Thee, Lord. You are just everything. You have just got it all. And You have got it together. You are not going to fail, and for us to be a part of the infinite grace and plan and goodness and glory of God, O Lord, what a privilege, what a privilege!
And that’s our appeal to your heart today to give your life to the Lord. "Lord, you have just looked down on me. I’m coming to Thee. I’ve decided for God, and here I am, and here I stand." A family, a couple, just you, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press of people in the lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I have decided for God. I’m going to walk with Him. I’m going to give Him my heart and life, do it." And, our Lord, thank Thee for the gracious harvest You give us, in Thy saving name, amen. A thousand times welcome, while we sing, come, come.