by 鍾卓權牧師 (Rev. Bernie Chung)
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。
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!