As I look at my skin, I see many scars. I have a few scars from some bee stings that caused my life to be rattled for a few weeks. I have the scar on my right hand when I attempted to cut open a brand new VCR I got for college using my house key and it did not work out well. I have a scar on my knee from falling on the ice while walking Max, gashing my knee causing me to walk a mile home with blood dripping down my leg the whole way. I have scars on my wrists from when my great aunt put my chubby self into a checkered dress a size too small, only to have my circulation a bit cut off by the nasty elastic in the sleeves (hence why they don’t make clothing like that anymore). With scars, comes pain. Each of us have scars; each of us have suffered pain.
The Bible speaks about how life is going to be when we get to heaven. We know that we will leave the earthly body behind—which means all of our scars will be gone. We also will have no more pain, no more struggles. No more of the bad knee that causes the hobble walk. No more back pain that keeps you up at night. No more headaches that make it feel like your head could explode. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 for more on the resurrection body.
We also know that there will be One Who will bear scars. In Revelation 5, we read of He who was slaughtered. We are reminded of the One Who never sinned, but died on a cross to pay for our debt, to be a sacrifice for our sins. We are reminded that the wages of sin is death, but that God has offered us life through Christ Jesus. We are reminded that we will see the Lamb, and we will see His scars. The scars remind us of His love and His sacrifice. No words can describe His love.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1 [NLT]
“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth.” – Revelation 5:6 [NLT]
There is a big difference from being told to give something compared to giving something from the heart. I am sure there were many times that I did not want to give someone something, but I was told to do so and obliged. It didn’t mean I wanted to actually do it. I cannot remember this, but I trust that it happened because I have seen the same thing with my children over the years.
When it comes to tithes and offerings, the same thing is true. There is a difference between someone giving because they are told to give, and someone actually wanting to give—actually delighting in the giving. Paul wrote, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). If the heart isn’t in the giving, the offering is made for the wrong reason.
Today, ask for the Spirit to reveal what is on your heart. Are you giving just to give? Are you giving because you desire to give? Are you giving so people see you giving? Are you moved to give? Is it a joy to give? Are you cheerfully giving? If you aren’t giving, ask why not? Thank God for His blessings and ask Him to reveal how He desires you to be a blessing.
“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.” – Exodus 25:2 [NLT]
Tithing is always a sore topic to bring up. It seems whenever the “T” word is mentioned, people grab hold of their wallets, slide down in their seats, and contemplate why they should not open up their wallet because they don’t want anyone to catch a glimpse of what is inside. Many times the “T” word causes people to consider the church always “wants more of my money.” Some people might consider on what the church is using the tithed money.
In Nehemiah 13, we read about what happened to the Levites and the singers who did not receive the portion commanded by God. When Nehemiah returned to his duties for the king as cupbearer, the Israelites no longer gave the commanded portion and the Levites had to return back to their fields. This basically meant that the Levites, who were supposed to care for the Temple, had to leave their duties to take care of themselves. This is not how God designed everything to work out.
This saddens me. God commanded the people to take care of the Levites as they serve the Temple of God. The people dropped the ball and left the Levites to fend for themselves. There is great importance in taking care of God’s house. For us, things are different. We don’t have a Temple like back in Nehemiah’s days. Instead we have two very important items of great significance of which need provisions and care. We have our bodies, which is what houses the Holy Spirit. We also have our local church. It is important that we care for both; treat your body as a temple of God and remember that yes, God doesn’t need your tithe, but you need your tithe. Why? Because by tithing, you are giving God back what He has given you. You are worshiping Him rather than worshiping things. You are fixing your eyes on the Creator and King, rather than on temporary. It is a joy to give. It is a blessing to give. Give abundantly and watch what happens.
“I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.” – Nehemiah 13:10 [ESV]
I’ve been to many banquets over the years; each one is a great celebration. In today’s verse, it speaks about “a banquet of praise.” The NIV says, “Sacrifice thank offerings to God.”
Now today we do not sacrifice thank offerings like they once did; however, we still should offer praise to God. He alone deserves praise. In verse 15, God says, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Call on Him. He will help. We will honor Him. It seems so simple but yet it gets neglected again and again.
We can never praise God enough. We can never offer Him enough thanks for what He has done for us, what He has given us. When I think of spreading out a banquet feast, I think of the big table of food at a wedding celebration or birthday dinner. I think of a Christmas family dinner or a picnic spread on a beautiful summer day. Those feasts we give a lot to make happen. We prepare. We spend. We plan. We pour a lot out for those banquets. A banquet is elaborate. A banquet is large. So when we think of a banquet of praise, it should never be only a “thank you for my food” before your meal and nothing more for the rest of the day. Imagine tomorrow morning, waking up and only having what you thanked God for today. Wow! There’s so much more to be thankful for, so much more opportunity to praise Him. Start spreading out that banquet. Honor Him.
“Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—
I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”
-Psalm 50:14-15 [MSG]
When we give something to God, we are to give our best. God has given us His best and everything that we have is not even ours—it is His. Everything.
When we look at Cain and Abel, today’s passage speaks volumes. Abel brought an offering from the FIRSTBORN animals. They were CHOICE CUTS of meat. Firstborn. The first of what Abel had was given to God. Cain also brought an offering, but the passage simply says “produce of his farm.” It likely wasn’t the firstfruits. It was what he gathered from his farm but it wasn’t the first.
As you read your Bible, again and again we read of the firstfruits and the dedication of the oldest (first) child to the Lord. When we tithe, it is to be the first of our income—money right off the top before we do anything else. When we provide an offering (which is something above the tithe), it should also be something that is meaningful. We shouldn’t give out of excess. It all comes down to the heart. It all comes down to trusting God. He has given us His best.
“Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.”
– Genesis 4:3-5 [MSG]
I have seen many people buying gift cards for people just because they felt that they had to do it. They didn’t want to buy the gift cards. Some were very blunt about it. They were doing it because “it’s what you do” or because “the other person was getting them something” which meant to them that they had the “obligation” to do the same in return.
This verse speaks about meaningless gifts. The people were not giving gifts from the heart. The people were simply doing what was part of the ritual. When you think of it, the people were actually worshiping the ritual. It was all about the ritual, all about getting it accomplished. They were that far from God that this ritual was a routine to get done and nothing more.
God doesn’t want meaningless gifts. In fact, God doesn’t need your gifts. He doesn’t need your weekly tithe. He doesn’t need you to help your neighbor shovel. He doesn’t need anything from you. But He wants your heart. He loves you. He doesn’t want you to feel obligated to do something for Him, but if you love Him, you will want to do things for Him. You’ll want to serve, to help, to live your life with open hands. The gifts you present won’t be meaningless—they will be out of love. It will be a sweet aroma to God and He will be pleased. Not because you’re following a routine but because you’re pouring out love.
“Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting–they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings.” – Isaiah 1:13 [NLT]
There were different offerings given to the Lord including the Grain Offering. The Grain Offering was to show honor to God. Recently when I was reading Leviticus 2, I read about what was involved with the Grain Offering. There was choice flour, olive oil, and frankincense. But there was something else. Something else was added to the Grain Offering. Salt.
The salt was used to season the Grain Offering. That might sound strange to us because we think of salt as a seasoning for food that we will eat. Why would a person salt an offering that was going to be given to God? This salt was to remind the people of God’s covenant with them. Salt symbolized preservation. Salt symbolized healing. God offers us preservation and healing. This salt reminded people that God was active in their lives. He was active and he was offering preservation and healing and restoration.
Today we are still offered preservation and healing and restoration through Christ. Like salt, God can penetrate our lives and preserve them. He can offer us healing. He can offer us eternal preservation. But have you added the salt? Have you allowed God to penetrate your life? Are you allowing Him to be active in your life?
“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.” – Leviticus 2:13 [NLT]
We do not always know where God is leading us and we certainly cannot predict the future. We are to walk in faith, trusting that God is faithful. When Abraham was tested, he was told to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Abraham went forward guided by his faith. God had promised Abraham many descendents. God had promised Abraham blessing. Abraham trusted God and pressed forward.
When it was time to sacrifice Isaac, an angel of the Lord called out to Abraham, telling him not to go forward with the sacrifice. When Abraham looked up, he saw a ram in the bush. God had provided the sacrifice that Abraham needed. In verse 8, Abraham had told Isaac: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (NIV). God surely provided with this ram.
If you are going through something right now and you are wondering if things will be okay—remember that God always has a ram in the bush. You might be expecting something different. You might not know what to expect. You might be too exhausted to even look—but the ram is there. God always provides what we need to get done with what we are called to do for Him. Live expecting that ram.
“Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.” – Genesis 22:13 [NLT]