By Arthur Wallis
"Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal. 3: 10).
On the conditions of revival much has been said of the negative aspect, but there are certain positive factors that must now be considered. It is an easy matter to pray for revival without realizing what is involved, but it is quite another thing to pray with a clear appreciation of the price that must be paid.
There may well be Christians praying for revival who, if they knew the implications, would be crying to God not to send it. With some there may be a willingness to face up to the question of sin, but an unwillingness to face up to the question of sacrifice; yet the latter is as much bound up with the conditions of blessing as the former. It is possible that some who oppose the emphasis on revival have a clearer view of the cost than some others who are in favour of it, and in this may be found the real reason for their objections. Be that as it may, we cannot escape from the fact that there is a price to be paid, for Scripture is emphatic on the point.
Through His prophet Malachi God had to say to His people, "Return unto Me, and I will return unto you" (3:7). One can almost hear their offended tone as the orthodox make answer, "Wherein shall we return?" (verse 7). "We have not wickedly departed from the Lord; why do you thus accuse us?" And the Lord answers them, His voice vibrant with anger and yet mellowed by grief, "Will a man rob God? yet ye rob Me. . . in tithes and offerings. . . even this whole nation" (verses 8, 9). The closing days under the old covenant reveal that the sin of God's people was that of robbing Him on a nationwide scale. What of the closing days under the new? Is history repeating itself? How many earnest Christians are irreproachable when called to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's", but are verily guilty when it comes to rendering "unto God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21). Consciences are stirred when there is failure to settle debts with fellow-men, but there is often little or no concern that debts to the Lord remain unpaid. Such must face this accusation of God, "Ye rob Me."
The question, "How much owest thou unto my lord?" - which the unjust steward put to his lord's creditors (Luke 16:5) - is a pertinent question for us to ask one another today. Can we forget that there was a day when the only feeling we had in our hearts towards the God who gave us life and breath and all things, was one of enmity? He it was who had commended His love toward us while we were thus in rebellion against Him, by sending His Son to die for us.
With what infinite longsuffering and relentless love He continued to pursue us, until He brought us with broken and contrite heart to the Saviour's feet. We cannot estimate the grace and the patience, the goodness and the mercy that have followed us all our life long unto this hour. In the light of all this and much more that is bound up in our inheritance, and reserved in heaven for us, let us face the question, "How much owest thou ?"
When I stand before the throne
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart;
Then, Lord, shall I fully knowC
Not till thenChow much I owe.
- R. M. MCCHEYNE.
However, we already know enough of the goodness of the Lord to answer, with the prompting of the Spirit, that we owe "a hundred measures". If we are able in any degree "to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of that love of Christ which passeth knowledge, we are bound to confess that nothing less than a hundred per cent should be the measure of our response. "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." We may, however, acknowledge in theory that everything belongs to the Lord, and yet utterly fail in the practical outworking of it. The lip service we pay to the truth of "full surrender" may all too easily cover a practical failure to render to the Lord His due.
Under the old covenant God claimed absolute possession of all that belonged to His people, and indeed of everything that He had created. "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Hag. 2:8). "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). "For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Ps. 50:10). This did not, however, relieve His people of their responsibility to honour the Lord with their substance, and with the firstfruits of all their increase (Prov. 3:9), to be faithful and diligent in the rendering of their tithes and offerings. When David blessed the Lord for the free will offerings that the people had brought for the building of the temple he said, "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee" (1 Chron. 29:14). It was this people to whom God had to say later, "Ye rob Me. . . in tithes and offerings." Let us now consider four ways in which the church of Christ may be guilty of doing the same.
It is possible that we are robbing God of the love and devotion which are His due. Of all the offerings we may bring to the Lord, the expression of our heart's affection is supreme. He cannot accept any substitute for this. He may have blessed us with many human loves, but He demands the firstfruits of our devotion for Himself, for the firstfruits are holy unto the Lord.
These were not only first in sequence, but first in quality. He is not content to accept the second best. He will brook no rival for that first place in the heart. "He that loveth father or mother [or anyone else] more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:37). He, who has poured out His love upon the sons of men in measureless fulness, is He likely to be satisfied with that pittance which is all too often confined to Sunday mornings, offered from cold hearts, and which we dare to call "worship"?
The following is another extract from The Price They Paid, an account of a movement of the Spirit among missionaries in India: "We were directed to Malachi 3:10, 'Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse', and found that one tithe was worship and praise of Christ. The Lord brought our past lives into review before us, and we saw how continually we had denied Him fellowship, praise, and love, for which He is longing. We spent a good deal of time in those days just worshiping and glorifying the Lamb upon the throne. Our eyes were continually brought to focus on the cross." The Lord is commanding us also, "Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house." Again and again He comes to His house hungry for the meat offering of our devotion, thirsty for the drink offering of our love; He meets us there to receive His portion, and receives it not. Do we wonder that the heavens are shut up and there is no rain? "Return unto Me," He says, "with the warmth of true devotion, and I will return unto you with the rain of the Spirit."
Are we robbing God of that portion of our time that He expects us to yield to Him in a special way? It is true that all our time is His, whether occupied with secular or domestic duties, or even with social or recreational activities, and that all should be done to His glory. But over and above this, God expects us to preserve time from the incessant claims of temporal things to devote utterly to Him and His interests, in the same way as He expected the Israelite not only to acknowledge that all he possessed was God's, but to give a proportion specifically and wholly to God. There is much land to be possessed in the spiritual realm, there are priceless treasures to be sought and obtained, and these can only become ours when we are prepared to give time to seeking them with undivided attention. "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). How can we do this when pressed down with the cares of this life, legitimate though they may be? Whether our responsibilities are great or small, as followers of Christ we are to obey His command, "Seek ye first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
At a certain missionary training college the students are required to account for every minute of their day, that they might learn self discipline in the use of time, and how to use the moments to the best advantage. It may be a revelation to the reader to put pencil to paper in a similar way and account for the past week and how many of its 168 hours have really been devoted to God. Whether we care to submit to such a test or not, it is certain that it will all be revealed at the judgment seat of Christ when "each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it" (1 Cor. 3:13).
Had some remembered what it was they were to "seek first", even God's kingdom and righteousness, they might have halted the expansion of their businesses; they might have refused the more lucrative job that robbed God of the time they had been giving Him; they might have been content with the smaller house or the less congenial surroundings, instead of moving away from the sphere where God was using them. To many a Christian swamped with business God has to say, "Ye rob Me of My time." Such might argue that we fail to understand the situation, the cost of living, the needs of a growing family, and so on. Perhaps this is so, but the Saviour understands, and He answers, "All these things shall be added unto you." No one ever sacrificed anything for Christ's sake and lost out by it.
The founder and head of an immense and prosperous factory, having listened to an address by a servant of God, wrote to him as follows:
"Your words may save a soul from death. Early days - I was out and out The Spirit of God was mighty.
I. Obedience to Him was a delight.
His word was illuminated.
It was the chief delight.
His service was supreme.
Everything was done by prayer.
Great distress and crises in business.
II. Tide turned.
III. Prayer time shortened.
Practically nil today.
Experience of His presence gone.
Life no longer on the heights.
Foundations of things on low level.
Impossible through sheer impotency.
Habits have the grip.
Will power gone.
IV. The truth and force of your words realized, but case hopeless.
With the outline of your address I can fill in practically all you said: it shall be my close study and may be the recovery of my soul."
With this solemn case before us, let us take heed to the apostle's words, "Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:15). May we never have to regret the hours that we might have devoted to Him, but squandered on ourselves and our selfish interests. Time lost can never be reclaimed.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends, in thy conduct, His likeness shall see.
- W. D. LONGSTAFF.
If we truly desire that God shall open the windows of heaven and pour us out the blessing of revival, then we must render to Him forthwith the tithe of our time. Do we already give a little? God says, "Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse."
Here is another sphere in which God is robbed by His people. Gifts may be natural endowments which God desires to purify and set apart as holy unto Himself, or they may be spiritual gifts which are the manifestations of the Holy Spirit received by faith (1 Cor. 12). In either case they are gifts from God, for "a man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven" (John 3:27). This fact should keep every believer humble. It was to those who were zealous of gifts that Paul had to say, "Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? but if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). As the farmer scatters his seed in the expectation that it will return in harvest, even so does "the Father of lights", from whom cometh down "every good gift" (Jas. 1:17), expect that each shall return to Him again, bringing an increase of honor and glory to His Name.
It has been the continual objective of Satan to frustrate the purpose of God, and so to rob Him of His portion in His people. All too often he has succeeded, and believers have been, though often unconsciously, ready tools in his hand. Where human talents are made to serve selfish interests, to minister to our promotion, popularity, social prestige, or material prosperity, his evil purpose has in that measure been achieved, and the divine purpose has failed. It is inevitable that talents retained for ourselves will serve the Devil's purposes more than God's; yielded to Him, however, their powers and influence are transformed and multiplied beyond measure.
When Stenburg, already famous as a German artist, was converted to Christ he longed to serve His newly found Saviour. What could he do? He had no gifts in preaching or speaking.
It flashed into his mind that since he could paint, his brush must declare the love of God and glorify His Savior. As he laid his wondrous artistic power at the feet of His Lord, his natural ability was purified, quickened, and inspired by the Spirit; and thus the brush of the artist led many a soul to Christ. "What is that in thine hand?" asked the Lord of Moses (Exod. 4:2). It was only the humble rod of the shepherd; cast down it became a serpent; taken up in faith it became the rod of God by which signs and wonders were done in Egypt. If we yield that shepherd's staff to Him, He will transform it into the rod of God.
As with natural gifts, so with the spiritual. Even these may be prostituted to fulfil the desires of the flesh. The carnal man will seize with grasping fingers the choicest spiritual flower that God has placed in his garden, only to discover too late that he has shed the bloom. When God invests spiritual gifts in men He looks for His investment to return with eternal dividends.
Where, however, such gifts become a means of ministering to the flesh, an occasion for pride and ostentation, the opportunity of obtaining the praise of men, then that which should return to God is retained for self, and God is thus robbed of His portion. But we may rob God also by neglecting our spiritual gifts, as well as by abusing them.
The servant who hid his lord's talent in the earth was as guilty of robbing him as if he had invested it and misappropriated the dividends. Have we allowed temporal things so to swamp us, or personal considerations so to weigh with us, that our gifts have run to seed? Let us own at once that we are guilty of robbing God, and take heed to the apostle's words, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee" (I Tim. 4: 14), "Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee" (2 Tim. 1:6); and let all who desire to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that the windows of heaven may be opened observe well the words of Peter, "According as each hath received a gift, [minister] it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (I Pet. 4:10).
Primarily, the verse in Malachi suggests that God's people had been robbing Him in the matter of their material giving. The Israelite was commanded to honour the Lord with his substance and with the firstfruits of all his increase (Prov. 3:9). This involved, firstly, returning a tenth (or tithe) to the Lord (Gen. 28:22; Deut. 14:22). Over and above this proportion that was owed, the Israelite had opportunity to give free will and other offerings. It would appear that an Israelite's giving did not commence, strictly speaking, until he had paid his tithe. Here in Malachi God accuses His people of robbing Him in both tithes and offerings (3:8).
They were speaking and acting as though they had fulfilled their obligations while they were giving God short measure, imagining that they would escape detection, and that no one would know. They were despising God by offering Him beasts that were blind, lame, or sick, that they would not offer to their governor (1:6-8). "But cursed be the deceiver, which . . . sacrificeth unto the Lord a blemished thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and My Name is terrible among the Gentiles" (1:14).
How is it with us under "the better things" of the new covenant? Does God expect less from His people under grace than He demanded from His people under law? Shall we who live in the full blaze of Calvary and Pentecost, who are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, and who are looking for that blessed hope - shall we give less than they who only knew "a shadow of the good things to come"? It is true that we are not under law, and that there is no specific command in the New Testament that we must give a tenth or any other definite proportion of our income to God. You may rejoice in this freedom, "only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh" (Gal. 5:13). Remember, God's love was measured by His giving (John 3:16; Eph. 5:25) and so is ours. The teaching of the New Testament is, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. . . for with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38). This is but a restatement of that Old Testament proverb, "There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want" (Prov. 11:24). God's ways have not changed.
Our heart attitude to our money and possessions may be a very real index to our spiritual state. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).
Since it is obviously impossible for our hearts to be in two places at once, we cannot lay up treasure on earth, and at the same time lay it up in heaven. Which are we doing? The command of Christ is, "Sell that ye have, and give alms; make for yourselves purses which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not" (Luke 12:33). Are we obeying it? It is a spiritual tragedy when God's stewards feel free to lavish what has been entrusted to them on needless and even harmful luxuries while the interests of God's kingdom in many lands are declining through lack of means. Is it not clear that such Christians do not look upon their money as God's but as their own to use as they please? "Let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper" (1 Cor. 16:2), is the New Testament standard of giving, and it is certainly no lower than the Old Testament. It means in a word that instead of living up to our income we are giving up to our income. When John Wesley commenced his ministry he found he could manage to live on his meager stipend. As God prospered him and his income increased he resisted the temptation to raise his standard of living; instead he continued to live in simplicity and gave the rest away. Since he gave the Lord His due, is it any wonder that the heavens were opened on his ministry?
Have we not here one vital reason why so often today "the heaven is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit" (Hag, 1:10), even that many of God's people are more wrapped up in their own earthly interests, than in those of His heavenly kingdom? Before the fall of Jericho God had said, "The city shall be devoted, even it and all therein, to the Lord" (Joshua 6:17). This was not only because of its wickedness, but because it was the firstfruits of Israel's conquest of Canaan, and therefore belonged to God.
"All the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are holy unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord" (6:19). It will be remembered that Achan committed a trespass in the devoted thing, in that he secretly retained for himself that which should have been devoted to God. This one man's sin resulted in the Lord's anger being kindled against all Israel, so that they turned their backs before their enemies and were smitten at Ai. The judgment that befell Achan and his family teaches us how solemnly God views this sin of robbing Him of His due, and suggests a possible explanation for some of the reverses sustained by God's people in the wars of the Lord.
Much the same lesson is repeated in the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). The church had been obeying the command of Christ, "Sell that ye have and give alms," "for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet"(Acts 4:34). But these two desired "to make a fair show in the flesh", to give the appearance of utter consecration while they "kept back part of the price".
Deceit is anathema to God at all times, but more particularly when it is planned deceit in relation to holy things. No one had compelled them to sell the land - "Whiles it remained, did it not remain thine own?"; and when sold no one had forced them to devote the money to God - "after it was sold, was it not in thy power ?" (5:4). But they wanted the blessings of consecration without paying the price. In their sin and folly they thought that they were only dealing with the church; they did not perceive that it was the Head of the church with whom they had to do. Their end reminds us that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31).
This solemn act of divine judgment is recorded for our warning. It is better not to vow unto the Lord than to vow and not pay (Eccles. 5:5); it is better that we should openly fail to pay our tithes, than pretend to do so while withholding part of what is due; it is better that we should not seek revival, if, while we appear to mean business, we keep back part of the price.
Let us face it now; let us face it on our knees before God: REVIVAL IS COSTLY. If it were otherwise the people of God would be more ready for it than they are, and perhaps God would send it more often. God is saying to us, "Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse."Whether it be our devotion, our time, our gifts, our possessions, or whatever else it is we have not been rendering to Him, He demands nothing less than "the whole tithe". If the windows of heaven are to be opened the price must be paid in the coin of sacrifice.
Speak to us, Lord, till shamed by Thy great giving, Our hands unclasp to set our treasures free; Our time, our love, our dear ones, our possessions, All gladly yielded, gracious Lord, to Thee. - ANON.
Prove Me Now
That the blessing may be poured out God not only says, "Bring ye the whole tithe", but also, "Prove Me now herewith." The one is the divine challenge to sacrifice, the other is the divine challenge to faith. We cannot prove God until all the tithes are in, for they constitute the "herewith", the ground on which we prove Him. The bringing in of all God's due does not necessarily secure the outpouring, for there must also be the exercise of faith. When faith is made perfect, when in the words of this passage we can prove God now, He will surely respond in a way which shall be worthy of His promise of a blessing which shall overflow our capacity to receive it. Perhaps there are those who have, according to their knowledge and ability, laid all at His feet, yet the blessing tarries, and they have wondered why. It is evident that they have not yet arrived at an unwavering faith that can prove God now.
The need for patient waiting upon God has already been emphasized. This factor needs to be balanced by remembering that the time must come when God says, "Prove Me now." Let us beware that as we pray for revival we do not in our thinking defer it forever to some remote time in the future, when God may be saying, "Now is the accepted time." It is an imperfect faith that always relegates the desired blessing to a tomorrow that never comes. If we would see revival, we must sooner or later deal with this procrastination of unbelief. Deeply significant are the words of the Lord to Ezekiel: "Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: There shall none of My words be deferred any more, but the word which I shall speak shall be performed, saith the Lord God" (Ezek. 12:27). The acid test of a faith that is made perfect is the ability to prove God now. When we find it in our hearts to do this, revival will be nigh, even at the doors. In the words of Charles Finney, "If God should ask you this moment, by an audible voice from heaven, 'Do you want a revival?' would you dare to say 'Yes'? 'Are you willing to make the sacrifices?' would you answer 'Yes'? 'When shall it begin?' would you answer, 'Let it begin tonight - let it begin here - let it begin in my heart now.'?"