What is the tithe?
Or, perhaps a better question, who is the tithe?
The tithe was the fulfillment of a vow to the Lord made by Jacob. If God brought him into the promised land, then he would give a tenth of everything he got from the land. Reading through the Old Testament, the tithe was:
- only agricultural produce, crops or cattle
- only from the promised land itself
- never gold or silver, money
- never done by Jacob because he never entered into the promised land
- fulfilled by Israel once Joshua brought them into the promised land, thus fulfilling Jacob’s vow
- used for the tribe of Levi as they did not receive an inheritance in the promised land.
That’s a very brief and basic description of the tithe.
In 2 Chronicles 31, the people have returned to their cities and lands after celebrating the Passover. Hezekiah, the king, gave for all the burnt offerings. But, he commanded the people to give their portion to the priests. The scripture says, “As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.” So, the people fulfilled the command of the king to bring in the firstfruits and the tithe.
But, what is this speaking of? How are we to learn from this?
I believe the key to understanding the tithe is 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter is all about resurrection. In particular, we need to note 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, which says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” This shows us that the firstfruits and the tithe are not about agricultural products. Rather, it is about resurrection and people becoming God’s people.
For years I have sought to know who is the tithe if Jesus is the firstfruits. I knew there had to be something in scripture, but I could never find it. Until the Holy Spirit made 2 Chronicles 31 come alive this morning.
If Jesus is the firstfruits, the resurrection from the dead, a man in whom all shall live, then what is the tithe? The firstfruits were the very first shoots of the new life of that which had been planted. The tithe was of the same crop, but after a period of growth. So, if Christ is the firstfruits, then the believer is the tithe.
Back in 2 Chronicles 31, it says, “And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, and laid them in heaps. In the third month they began to pile up the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.” Note carefully when the tithe was brought in – between the third and seventh month.
Israel had seven feasts. The first three feasts occurred in the first month. Those feasts were the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits. Huh. What do you know? Jesus Christ literally fulfilled those feasts in the first month of the year in his death and resurrection. Those feasts all occurred before the third month. The fourth feast was the Feast of Pentecost. Take a guess what month that occurred in? Try the third month. Christ has fulfilled this feast as well when he poured out of the Holy Spirit on people. This feast, which we are living in now, represents the bringing in of the people, the tithe, which started in the third month in 2 Chronicles 31. There are three more feasts that have to take place. They are the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. By now you have probably guessed that these feasts occur in the seventh month. That is when the tithe had been fully brought. These feasts speak to the second coming of Jesus, the gathering, the harvest. When the time of the Gentiles has been fulfilled, Jesus will come back and literally fulfill these feasts, likely on the exact days of those feasts, just like he did in first coming.
So, we shouldn’t read the tithe as a physical thing we are to do. We aren’t in the promised land. And, most of us aren’t farmers. But, there is a great spiritual truth related to Jesus Christ, his resurrection, his salvation, and his second coming that we need to learn from the tithe.
What, sorry, who is the tithe?
You are his tithe, his portion, his inheritance. It’s a spiritual matter, not a physical one.