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9/13/2020 傾福於我們 (Bless Us)

by 鍾卓權牧師 (Rev. Bernie Chung)


瑪拉基書第三章第一節萬軍之耶和華說:「我要差遣我的使者在我前面預備道路。你們所尋求的主必忽然進入祂的殿,立約的使者,就是你們所仰慕的,快要來到。」


近東一帶國家的習俗是在君王將要來臨之前,其慣例是事先差派使者宣佈他的來臨並為君王的來臨作一切的準備,包含人民接納君王的心。「立約的使者」是指主基督,祂的降臨是要見證並堅立神與人所立的約,祂必忽然進入祂的殿,「忽然」就意味著並沒有人知道那來臨日子,正如今晨,因北加州森林大火的緣故,人們並未預料會有大量的塵埃霧霾籠罩整個灣區,直至正午仍無法見到陽光,在互聯網信息群組中,弟兄姊妹們彼此議論稱這是否就是主耶穌回來的先兆?


瑪拉基書第三章第二節接著說, 這位主祂來的那日子就是要施行審判,無人可以站立得住,首先要清除那專職事奉神的利未人,審判他們的罪惡和不忠,之後也要審判行邪惡的百姓。耶和華再次重申祂在第一章所說的祂對雅各的愛沒有改變,之後,在3:7 節祂又說:「從你們列祖的日子以來,你們常常偏離我的典章而不遵守。現在你們要轉向我,我就轉向你們」。意思是說神要他們要先轉過頭來悔改,神之所以沒有顧念他們是因為百姓的罪使之與神隔絕,這豈不正是以賽亞書,耶利米書,何西亞書等先知書所重複的主題嗎?但以色列百姓卻問說:『我們如何才是轉向呢?』。利未記中什一奉獻的條例有兩種,一是按年的什一奉獻,供養利未人(利27:30;民18:21。)、其次是在特別節期送到耶路撒冷作禮物的什一奉獻(申14:22-28);每隔三年送一次,用以賙濟當地的窮人。什一奉獻是人對神的敬意,是我們對施予我們福氣和恩典之回應,是上帝供應了我們一切的需用。耶和華明顯地說以色列百姓卻將當納的十分之一據為己用,那就等於是奪取了神的供物。然而,耶和華又說:「你們要將當納的十分之一全然送入倉庫,使我家有糧,以此試試我,是否為你們敞開天上的窗戶傾福於你們,甚至無處可容。」。換一句話說如果我們盡了本份,萬福源頭的神必會向我們敞開施恩予我們。


神所看重是我們對衪的心意,人們需要回轉歸向上帝。不僅僅是要歸還屬神的十分之一,而是要全心全意的心歸向上帝。通常我們集中注意力在什一奉獻的字面上。有人會指出這個什一奉獻是在舊約律法下的規條,今天對我們活在新約恩典時代的人,還需要遵守這規條嗎?弟兄姊妹們,如此的說法是因為將焦點放錯了地方,我們不能僅看獻上的數字。重點的是我們向主的心意,悔改和順服是與上帝的救贖息息相關,我們在奉獻上的疏忽,就是我們輕視了上帝對我們的救贖恩典。


在此我要為教會的弟兄姊妹感謝神,在疫情期間,我們向神的奉獻並未有太大的差異,証明弟兄姊妹們在奉獻上的忠心。我們豈能忘記道成肉身聖子耶穌祂在十字架上的擺上呢?我們如果仍在討論奉獻是按納稅前之收入還是稅後的十分一時,讓我引用一位牧者的感言,他說神會讓我們選擇、領受福氣的時候,我們喜歡得到的福氣要根據稅前的收入還是稅後的收入呢?正如萬軍之耶和華所說:「你們要將當納的十分之一全然送入倉庫,使我家有糧,以此試試我...」,上帝容許我們在這件事上試試祂的信實,祂是不改變的神,祂的信實始終如一,祂必遵守與人所立的約。阿們!


Translation:


In Malachi 3:1, the Lord Almighty says: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.”


In many eastern countries, it is customary to send messengers to announce the king’s visit ahead of time. This will alert the people to clear the way and prepare their hearts to welcome the king. "The messenger of the covenant" refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to witness and establish the covenant between God and man. He will suddenly enter his temple. "Suddenly" means that no one knows that day beforehand. This suddenness rivals what happened last Wednesday morning. Because of the wildfires close by, a large amount of fire ashes covered the sky over the Bay Area; and there was no daylight even at seven or eight o’clock in the morning. In the WhatsApp group, brothers and sisters were joking with each other—could this be a sign of the Lord Jesus' return?


The second verse of Malachi Ch. 3 says that the day when the Lord comes is to exact judgment that no one could stand up to it. The Levites who served God must first be cleansed of their sins and unfaithfulness, and the evil people shall be judged also. The Lord once again pointed out in the first chapter of Malachi that His love for Jacob has not changed. In Malachi 3:7, the Lord Almighty says: “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you.” It is clear that the people must return to God and repent first. Their sins separate them from God and His care. Isn’t this the recurring theme in the Book of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea as well? The Israelites had asked what can they do to return to God? Tithing is one of the ways. In the old days, there were two types of tithing. The annual tithing to support the Levites was one (Lev. 27:30, Num. 18:21). The second type was the tithing sent to Jerusalem as gifts during special festivals every three years to help the local poor (Deuteronomy 14:22-28). Tithing is one form of respect we give to God in response to God's blessing and grace He has given to us. Truly, God provides us with everything we need. Jehovah clearly said that if the Israelites take the tithing for their own use, it was tantamount to robbing God the offering. Conversely, Jehovah says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10 NIV). In other words, if we willingly offer one-tenth of what is rightfully belongs to God, God will shower us with abundant grace for He is the Source of All Blessings.


Ultimately, we must ask ourselves: “Where do our hearts lie?” We must tithe to God wholeheartedly. Have we focused too much on the physical and quantitative tithing? Someone may point out that tithing was for people abiding by the old covenant law, whether we need to do the same in the age of grace and new covenant is questionable. Brothers and Sisters, there should be no debate on this if our focus is correct. God’s salvation, and our repentance and obedience are closely related, and they cannot be equated by material and figures. We must give our hearts to God and offer back to Him our all. Anything less would show our contempt for His redemptive grace for us.


Now, I would like to thank God for the brothers and sisters of San Francisco Chinese Baptist Church. During this epidemic, your dedication to God remains steadfast, and there has not been a major drop in church offering. Knowing that God’s only Son has sacrificed His all for us on the cross, are we still reluctant to tithe? Another interesting question often comes up: should the tithing amount based on income before or after tax? Let me quote a pastor’s answer: “God will let us choose also—His blessings with deduction or without.” If we truly have returned to God, our hearts will lead us to properly tithe. As the Lord of Heavenly Hosts says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this.” Try and test God. He even wants you to! God is faithful and He never changes. He keeps the covenant that He has made with us. Amen!


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