The Church and God’s Law (31)

You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage (Ex.22:29).

When Israel occupied the promised land, it’s was largely an agrarian based economy. A large proportion of the community had fields and flocks, and so their tithes were predominately based on these. As the priesthood was to be paid through Israel’s tithes and offerings, the timely payment of these from the harvest was a critical factor for the maintenance of the priesthood. Delay in these offerings could mean the priesthood’s deprivation.

In Deuteronomy, God further explained this:

Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep, of which they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. For the Lord your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes to stand and serve in the name of the Lord forever (Deut.18:3-5).

This law reflects God’s concern for all workers, and the Levites were workers. God said that

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry out against you to the Lord and it become sin in you (Deut.24:14-15).

The maintenance of Church leadership through the Church members’ tithing is a fundamental aspect of Christian stewardship. It always has been. God later said that Israel was robbing Him, through their refusal to tithe (Mal.3:8-10), while Paul later explained that “the one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him” (Gal.6:6).

You want the oxen (that is, Church leadership- see I Cor.9:4-14) to work well for you? Well, feed them daily.

Because the bulk of the modern church has adopted a temperance position in relation to the Christian consumption of alcohol, we have difficulty properly appreciating what the Bible teaches about the “vintage.” But as a matter of fact, alcohol’s use was considered by God to be natural and normal. Thus alcohol could be conspicuously consumed by the children of Israel. He explained that

You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the fields each year. You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always (Deut.14:22-23).

He also directed that

You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household (Deut.14:26).

The great problem with Christian leaders of temperance groups historically, is that they have great difficulty finding many Biblical texts to support their beliefs. In fact, there is a lot of teaching in the Bible directing us to do the opposite.

The Psalms teach us that wine is an outcome of the work of God with men:

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart (Ps.104:14-15).

Furthermore, God actually said that one of the positive signs of the restoration of Israel, would be the presence of new wine.

For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the bounty of the Lord-over the grain and the new wine and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; and their life will be like a watered garden, and they will never languish again (Jer.31:11-12).

In Joel’s era, one of the outward signs of national ignominy and disgrace, and a cause of wailing and mourning, would be the absence of new wine (Joel 1:8-10). But the deliverance of the Lord upon Israel would lead to a marked change:

Then the Lord will be zealous for His land and will have pity on His people. The Lord will answer and say to his people, “behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied in full with them; and I will never again make you a reproach among the nations”… the threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil… and in that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine… (Joel 2:18-19, 24; 3:18).

Conclusion:                                                                                                                                 

The prompt and consistent provision of “the offering from your harvest and your vintage” (Ex.22:29) is a command of God to His people today, the Church. There is nothing in scripture to indicate it’s negation in the New Covenant.

Isn’t it time we obeyed this, like all of God’s commands?

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