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Good morning! It is good to be together again! Last night several of us went to a concert in Quincy - so if I fall asleep during service like some of you do today, just wake me up when church is over. Just kidding. The concert really was a wonderful time. 22 of us went from here, which I thought was really cool.
Last week was resurrection Sunday - we came together to celebrate the reality that Jesus did not stay dead on the cross, or in that tomb but that He rose again, and today is seated at the right hand of the father. It was a wonderful service, this house was full - the food was fantastic, and the fellowship was filling.
Today we are returning to our study of the book of Hebrews.
When we last left off, we were in Hebrews 6. I really enjoy going through these studies together, chapter after chapter within the same book for a lot of reasons. It is far easier for me to know what to preach on next, it seems like as I preach through each book things come up exactly when they need to, and we cover such a variety of issues. It is easier for me to be faithful to the scripture, because I am not so much bouncing around preaching on the things that I want to preach on. In fact, today is quiet the opposite. Today I am teaching on an issue that I don’t like preaching on at all because I know how people feel about it.
Today we are going to deal with the issue of tithing.
Before we begin, let’s pray.
Before we get into the word, I want to clarify a few things:
I am not preaching this sermon because I want a better salary. My salary is determined by our church council, and any one of you that are members of the church can be appointed to that group. I am not teaching on this issue because we want to put bigger TV’s up here, or we are wanting a better coffee maker or anything like that. We work to make sure that we are as financially transparent as possible.
We are dealing with this issue because it is taught in the Bible, and my responsibility is to teach you the Bible. Let’s open our Bibles to Genesis 14.
The book of Hebrews keeps referencing back to this person from the old testament that seems to have a very small footprint. In fact, we only know of his existence from three verses in chapter 14 of Genesis. But those are critical verses and ones that we should understand.
Genesis 14:17–20 CSB
After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Shaveh Valley (that is, the King’s Valley). Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High. He blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High who has handed over your enemies to you. And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
This is hundreds of years before Moses recorded the law.
Before Abram was Abraham.
Abram was returning from war, from rescuing his nephew Lot. He was greeted by this character Melchizedek.
From these three verses we learn a few things about Melchizedek.
He was a king and a priest to God Most High. And He came out to meet Abram.
From our perspective, Melchizedek could have been coming out to offer tribute to Abram, returning from war, so that Abram would not attack his own city, Salem.
He came out to meet him in the kings valley and brought out bread and wine after all.
He even blessed Abram. He must have been shivering in his sandals - looking out on a battle hardened Abram.
But the next verse tells us that interpretation would be wrong because it says
“and Abram gave him a tenth of everything”
So here is what really happened. Abram returned from battle, and was met by Melchizedek and Abram responded to Melchizedek, rather than the other way around.
Abram understood that he was standing in the presence of one who represented the Most High God.
And Abram responded, by giving a tenth.
This is the first time a tithe is mentioned in scripture, and it is long before laws about tithes are written. A few hundred years later, several tithes will be demanded of the nation of Israel because of the structure of government that God had given to them. The tithe would support the work and workers of tabernacle and temple, another tithe would support the feasts and festivals, and another tithe would provide support to the poor and needy. Those tithes were required.
But this one, this one given by Abram, came before all of that, as a response to God.
Why does that matter to us?
Hebrews chapters 7, 8, and 9 work to establish Jesus as superior but not unlike Melchizedek. In fact, many scholars agree that Melchizedek was either a preincarnate Christ, or a resemblance of one.
Hebrews 7:1–10 CSB
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, met Abraham and blessed him as he returned from defeating the kings, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means king of righteousness, then also, king of Salem, meaning king of peace. Without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. Now consider how great this man was: even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the plunder to him. The sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have a command according to the law to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their brothers and sisters—though they have also descended from Abraham. But one without this lineage collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. Without a doubt, the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case, men who will die receive a tenth, but in the other case, Scripture testifies that he lives. And in a sense Levi himself, who receives a tenth, has paid a tenth through Abraham, for he was still within his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
Hebrews 7:26–28 CSB
For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.
Hebrews 8:1–6 CSB
Now the main point of what is being said is this: We have this kind of high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that was set up by the Lord and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; therefore, it was necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he wouldn’t be a priest, since there are those offering the gifts prescribed by the law. These serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was warned when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For God said, Be careful that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain. But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been established on better promises.
The author of the book of Hebrews builds a logical argument here for Jesus. He says that Jesus is not only the King of Peace and the King of Righteousness, but that he is the perfect Priest. That with our new covenant - our new agreement with God, that we have this perfect mediator paid the perfect price.
I want to think about that for a moment - the word perfect.
Perfect means having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
But thats not how we use it. We make something and we call it perfect, but it isn’t. It can’t be. Because you or I made it.
We finish something and we did it to the best of our ability, and to our standards, it is pretty good, so we say its perfect, but it can’t be.
Because we cannot be.
But Jesus can!
And when the bible says something is perfect. It is actually perfect. Jesus, without spot or blemish. The perfect offering. The perfect priest. Hebrews 7:28
Hebrews 7:28 CSB
For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.
That is who we encounter in the valley. TALK ABOUT JESUS.
The lord that goes out to meet us.
The lord that comes into the valley.
That God that greets us where we are.
I said I was going to talk about Tithing. And this is about that, but also not about that at all.
The bible says that when Abram encountered Melchizedek that he responded with giving a tenth.
Our priest is better.
Our covenant is better.
Every better, because of Jesus.
That is the God that we encounter today.
What do we do with it?
As we encounter the Lord, we respond to the Lord.
That will mean worship.
That will mean giving.
And it will mean blessing.
Matthew 26:7 CSB
a woman approached him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table.
Luke 6:38 CSB
Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 CSB
Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.
1 Corinthians 9:13–14 (CSB)
Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar?
In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.
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