Offering (No. 275)
(Edition 1.0 20060923-20060923)
Deuteronomy 16:16: 'Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place which he will choose: at the feast of unleavened bread, at the feast of weeks, and at the feast of booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed."
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 2006 Wade Cox)
This paper may be freely copied and distributed provided it is copied in total with no alterations or deletions. The publisher’s name and address and the copyright notice must be included. No charge may be levied on recipients of distributed copies. Brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles and reviews without breaching copyright.
This paper is available from the World Wide Web page:
Three times a year God commands us to gather together at the place that God places His name. The three Feasts are: the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread; the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost; and the Feast of Tabernacles. We are to leave our homes and go to the place He chooses. Deuteronomy 16:16-17:
16"Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place which he will choose: at the feast of unleavened bread, at the feast of weeks, and at the feast of booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed; 17 every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you. (RSV)
This instruction is given to us in more than one Scripture. Moreover, the command regarding the Feasts is as determined by tribes. We are not to go before God empty-handed.
Deuteronomy 12:1-18 "These are the statutes and ordinances which you shall be careful to do in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live upon the earth. 2 You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains and upon the hills and under every green tree; 3 you shall tear down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and burn their Ashe'rim with fire; you shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy their name out of that place. 4 You shall not do so to the LORD your God. 5 But you shall seek the place which the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there; thither you shall go, 6 and thither you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering that you present, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock; 7 and there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.
It is thus clear that when we are given our inheritance by tribes, the nations are to determine their places of worship and they are to attend those sites.
8You shall not do according to all that we are doing here this day, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the LORD your God gives you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan, and live in the land which the LORD your God gives you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you live in safety,
So the place of inheritance is to be determined and there, in that place of inheritance, we are to worship God.
11 then to the place which the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, thither you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the offering that you present, and all your votive offerings which you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your menservants and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. 13 Take heed that you do not offer your burnt offerings at every place that you see; 14 but at the place which the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.
All of the people are to worship before God together with their priests whom they are required to support. The Church was given this authority, and it taught that it had been given that authority from the very beginning (see the paper Tithing (No. 161)).
This text did not limit the eating of meat to the places of sacrifice at the temples of God as we see in the text immediately following. Meat could be slaughtered and eaten in all towns of the inheritance of Israel.
15"However, you may slaughter and eat flesh within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which he has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the hart. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out upon the earth like water.
The limitation, however, is that you must go to the feast to eat of the Second Tithe.
17You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstlings of your herd or of your flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the offering that you present; 18 but you shall eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, and the Levite who is within your towns; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all that you undertake. (RSV)
The term, "place that He will choose" has been varied over time and depends on the locations of the nations that God has given us for an inheritance. Remember, God dispersed Israel and destroyed the Temples both in Jerusalem, in Samaria at Mt. Gerizim, and also in Egypt. God transferred all the authority of the Temple system to the Church. The blessings of the tribes were taken away from Judah and from the Samaritans and they were destroyed as a people. The blessings of Ephraim and Manasseh do not rest in the Samaritans who claim those identities and blessings. The Samaritans were destroyed by the Byzantines and now number a very few people. Nor are these people identified with the Churches of God.
The Feasts have been celebrated in the nations we are given and are not dependent upon Jerusalem. When the Temple stood there were other temples in Egypt for centuries, both while the Temple at Jerusalem stood and in place of its apostasy. God commanded the Temple in Egypt to be built and the Feasts were kept there, and Christ himself kept them there as an infant with his parents, for it is written in Hosea: "Out of Egypt have I called my son". After the Church was formed, it was the spiritual Temple – the Church – that determined the Feasts and their locations. The priesthood of Melchisedek and the spiritual Temple replaced that of Levi and the physical Temple.
God also tells us that distance should not be an obstacle, so we need to keep this in mind when preparing for the Feasts each year. Many of us have to travel quite long distances in order to attend the Feasts. This is why in the third year we put our tithe into the welfare fund to assist those in need to attend the Feasts and, if necessary, to provide other assistance.
Deuteronomy 14:23-26 And before the LORD your God, in the place which he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herd and flock; that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses, 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (RSV)
Part of the preparation for all of these Feasts is to consider the blessings which God our Father has bestowed upon us, and appear with an offering in accordance with those blessings. We cannot just show up at the Feasts and make a spur of the moment decision based on what we have in our pocket at the time, or write a cheque and think we have done our duty as Christians. We must consider what God has done for us and give an offering that is appropriate.
2Corinthians 9:7 Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (RSV)
In other words, having decided on our offering we should be happy and honoured to be able to give what we are able in support of the commission we have been given. What is that commission? (See the paper The Commission of the Church (No. 171).)
Matthew 28:18-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (RSV)
The other important aspect of giving an offering to God is that of our relationship with each other.
Matthew 5:22-24 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (RSV)
To do the Commission of the Church we have to work together as a team. The team depends on the relationship of the members of that team to work efficiently and in harmony.
Look at 1Corinthians chapter 3.
Neither can we purport to be Christians without love of each other (Mat. 22:39).
John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (RSV)
This takes us back to the command in Deuteronomy 16:16 that we shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.
To love God and to love Christ we have also to love each other. This is not some warm fuzzy feeling for each other but the proper care and concern for the welfare of others; esteeming others better than ourselves. We should cry with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice. We should suffer with and comfort those who hurt. Pray for each other and be content with where we are, what we have, and begrudge others nothing.
Our attitude is therefore very important and is a determining factor in whether or not our offerings will be acceptable to God. We cannot take the giving of our offerings light-heartedly. We must sincerely consider our spiritual condition.
None of us is wealthy and we struggle to attend the Feasts, tithe as commanded, and provide our offerings. We cannot afford large offerings but this does not mean that our offerings are despised by God.
It is our heart that God looks at not our wealth.
We, as part of the body of Christ within the Church of God, have an obligation to preach the gospel to the whole creation. Preaching the gospel comes with a cost. Many of us work voluntarily, allowing the Church to use its resources to pay for the services we don’t have the skills to do ourselves. In order to preach the gospel to the whole creation it must be translated into all languages. There is a cost associated with translating all of the material that the Church has produced into the various languages of the world. However, it is great to see how much is being done. But we must diligently finish our task.
When we give our offerings we are financing a vital portion of the work the Church has been commissioned to do. We cannot take this lightly.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. (RSV)
Each of us has an obligation to give due consideration to the needs of the Church, the needs of our family, and the needs of others in our broader family of the Congregation of God.
The gospel will be preached throughout all the world. Scripture says so, and Scripture cannot be broken. (Jn.10:35). Let us work now while we can to ensure this is accomplished. Time is short now and if we don’t do the work God will raise up others to do it.
It is part of the race we run (Heb.12:1) and Paul states in 1Corinthians 9:24-27:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (RSV)
We run the race in faith for the reward to come. That is eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We run in faith that we might be in the First Resurrection, which is stated to be the better resurrection. We run the race that we might become more Christ-like and we run the race in obedience to God and His Commandments as given to us by Christ.
Christ says in Revelation 3:11-12:
I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (RSV)
We will take up this offering now and may our Father bless us, help us and inspire us to continue the work under the direction of Christ in the fulfilment of this commission. Let us rejoice now before God, here at this Feast, in the place He has provided for this occasion according to His commands, and let us also rejoice in being able to share this time together in peace and harmony.