Why does God desire our firsts? He commanded the firstborn of flocks and herds, and the firstfruits of our increase. Why does it matter and what does it mean to give God the firstfruits? This chapter dives into these questions and more, giving us a foundation upon which our practice of the tithe should be built.

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“The first” is an essential theme in scripture

  • “The first” represents the totality of something.
    • Adam, the first man, affected all of humanity by his sin.
    • This principle is found in Galatians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 5:6, and Romans 11:16.
  • “The first” is also seen as the root, or “…the governing factor for the totality.” (pp 15)
  • This is why the tithe is to be the first thing that is given to out of our income. It is against God’s standard to give to Him last what He gave to you in whole.
    • “God is not an object of our charity, to be cared for when all our needs are provided for, but He is the Lord, our creator, King, absolute owner, and our judge and redeemer. If we forsake the principle of the firstfruits, we forsake the Lord.” (pp 15)

The law of the firstborn

  • Every firstborn was to be redeemed from the Lord (Exodus 34:20; Numbers 3:13, 44-51; Numbers 8:18)
    • This was true of man and animals.
    • This was not redemption from service to God, but redemption from the punishment of death.
      • They are the Lord’s both in death and in redemption
      • “Thus, the redeemed firstborn male must serve the Lord; animals are to be used to the glory of God, and man must also be the instrument of the Lord in His ordained calling.” (pp 15)
    • Not all animals could be redeemed.
      • Only unclean animals could be redeemed.
      • Clean, male, firstborn animals had to be sacrificed to God.
        • “They were a constant reminder that the redemption of the rest of the firstborn, the unclean animals, and the clean, because fallen in Adam, the firstborn male of mankind, owed their redemption to the vicarious sacrifice of the substitute ordained by the Lord.” (pp 15)
          • See Numbers 18:15-17
        • The clean animals were eaten (Numbers 18:18).
          • It was an expression of thanksgiving and communion with God (Deuteronomy 14:23, 24-26; 15:19-22)
        • The clean animals acceptable (holy) to the Lord (Numbers 18:17).
  • The firstfruits from agricultural produce also belonged to the Lord (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Leviticus 19:24; 23:10-11; Numbers 15:17:21; Deuteronomy 18:4; 26:1-11).
    • The firstfruits of agricultural produce included:
      • Wine and fleece (Deuteronomy 18:4),
      • First cake and dough (Numbers 15:17-21).
  • “In brief, in every area of man’s life, he is to remember that the Lord has prior claim on all that he is, does, and has.” (pp 16)

The tithe in the early church

  • Rushdoony refers to his Institutes of Biblical Law regarding examples of the early church keeping and applying the law of the tithe.
  • At the time of Rushdoony writing this book,
    • Farmers in Soviet Armenia followed the law of the firstfruits.
    • “In the United States, it was once common in farming areas, and farmers, while not observing all aspects of the law, still brought firstfruits to their pastor, and, in some cases, used that word.” (pp 16)

The tithe is another form of the firstfruits principal

  • Outside of Israel, tithes were a tenth of one’s increase paid to a human ruler (1 Samuel 8:15, 17).
    • This tithe to a human ruler was the consequence for Israel when they rejected God as their King for a king like the other nations had (1 Samuel 18:18).
  • The law of the tithe is a declaration that God is King of His people.
    • “To deny the tithe is to deny God’s covenant and to deny that God is our Lord and King. It is simply another way of saying, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), a cry not only of the chief priests who crucified our Lord, but of the antinomians who crucify Him afresh today. The tithe is a royal tax: it is God’s claim on us as Lord and King.” (pp 16-17)

God is gracious in collecting his tithe

  • The tithe given by Israelite farmers was usually in the original form of the animals or crops, and not converted to cash first.
    • The animals or crops would be counted one by one, and the tenth one to be counted would be tithed to God.
      • “This meant that, if a man had 89 calves, his tithe amounted to 8, since no tithe was possible on the last 9. On everything else, it was the first tenth, but the flock or herd not being divisible, the Lord took the last of every 10.” (pp 17)
        • See Numbers 27:30-32
  • The tithe is on the increase or income, not on our existing capital.
    • A tenth is taken of the fruit, not the fruit trees.
    • 1 out of ten new calves or lambs was tithed, not all of the herd.
  • The tithe is before all other “expenses.”
    • “Because it is the prior claim on us, it is the tenth before we, our dependents, or the state take their share. No one has a priority claim that outranks God’s right or diminishes it.” (pp 17)

The tithe went to the Levite

  • The Levites stored the tithes in storehouses until sold or used (Malachi 3:10).
    • “It is a silly and self-serving modernism which leads some clergymen to insist that the storehouse is the church. It was a tithe-barn.” (pp 17)
  • The Levites would give a tenth of the tithe to priests (Numbers 18:25-26).
  • The Levites would then use the received tithe towards their other functions.
    • Teachers
    • Musicians
    • Occasional judges
    • Medical authorities
    • “…superintending foods and their cleanliness…” (pp 17)

The second tithe, or the rejoicing tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22-27)

  • This tithe was for households rejoicing before the Lord, and this tithe-funded event would include the Levites.
  • The rejoicing tithe is related to the Sabbath principle.
    • It was used during the Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Weeks.
      • In total, it was used to fund rejoicing during a period stretching a little over 2 weeks.
  • “This was a festival tithe; in a sense, it was comparable to the modern idea of a family vacation, but with an enormous difference. These festivals required the assembling of the men of Israel, who normally took their families with them, to rejoice in and before the Lord. This did not mean that they necessarily spent their time in worship services, but it does mean that their rest and festivities were a rejoicing in the Lord.” (pp 17, 18)
    • The most similar example to this event in our time would be Christian summer conferences.

The third tithe, or the poor tithe (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

  • The poor tithe would have fallen on the 3rd and 6th year of the 7-year rotation.
    • The 7th year being the sabbath year.
  • The tithe was shared with Levites, foreigners, fatherless, and widows.
    • Outside of the two years where the poor tithe was given, these same people were cared for via gleaning laws and gifts.
  • The poor tithe was not a gift to the poor or God, but it is God’s tax.

Lansdell commenting Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and the three tithes

  • “As Lansdell restates the conclusion of v. 29, “The objective of the tithe was, that Jehovah might bless the work of the tithe-payer’s hands” (p. 30). According to Lansdell, “It would seem, then, that the Mosaic law enjoined upon the Israelite to pay yearly, in connection with his religion, two-tenths, and, at the end of three years, a third tenth, of his income” (p. 36).” (pp 18)

God commands the law of the tithe, but His ownership goes beyond the tithe.

  • God’s owns the first and the last and demands our obedience with the first and the last.
    • “In addition, God dictates the use not only of the firstfruits but the lastfruits, i.e., the fruit on the top of the branches, the grain in the corners of the field, on the edges, or the ditchbanks, and the stray bunches of grapes on the vines; these last-fruits are to be left for the poor, the gleaners. God is “The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Rev. 1:8), and His rights and claims are total in every generation. Hence, He claims the firstfruits for His purposes, and the last-fruits also, and everything in between is to be used by us to His purposes in our calling.” (pp 18)
      • For the gleaning laws, see Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19-21.
    • God’s claim on our time goes beyond a tenth of the calendar.
      • Weekly Sabbath
      • Various festivals and holy days
      • Sabbath Year
      • Jubilee Year
    • “…There was the poll tax (Ex. 30:11-16), or throne tax, which provided for civil atonement, i.e., the covering or protection of society by God the King.” (pp 18)

The purpose of God’s tithes is the extension of His Kingdom

  • The tithes (or taxes) provided for many things.
    • Health
    • Education
    • Welfare
    • Worship (ministry of grace)
    • Missions
    • The State (ministry of justice)
  • God’s Kingdom requires God’s ordained taxes.
    • Our ethical relationship to King Jesus is evident in our tithing or lack thereof.
      • “If we are citizens of that Kingdom, we pay its taxes. If we are outlaws, we do not pay. If Caesar is our King, we meet Caesar’s demands “for conscience sake” (Rom. 13:5), but we first of all give to our Lord all that He requires, so that His Kingdom may prevail. We cannot have God’s order, Kingdom, and blessing except in God’s way.” (pp 19)
    • An excellent example of the tithing spirit is seen in General William Booth.
      • He is the founder of the Salvation Army.
      • He wrote the book In Darkest England and the Way Out.
        • It pointed to the fact that Christians have to give of their money, time, prayer, and action to renew their nation.

The tithes are for today because God doesn’t change

  • God is Lord now as much as He was before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    • The tithe, poor tithe,  and rejoicing tithe are, even now, owed to God.
      • “We need to rest and rejoice before the Lord, and family conferences and festivals need to be developed and strengthened. We need to create tithe agencies and strive to govern every area of life and thought in terms of the Word of God, and to enjoy and glorify God in all things.” (pp 19)
  • Matthew 7:21 says that only those who do the will of the Father in heaven here on earth enter the Kingdom of God.
    • The Law is a significant part of the Bible which reveals God’s will.
      • Can one neglect the law and still be doing the will of the Father?
        • “Such people speak of being led by the Spirit,  but in practice their lives manifest the barest compliance with a few laws, i.e., no adultery (usually), no murder, and no obvious theft with respect to men. (They steal from God daily, Mal. 3:8-9)…Can it be theft before the cross to withhold tithes and offerings from the Lord, and a virtue the day after? Are we on a lower moral plane than the people of Old Israel?” (pp 19)

The New Testament assumes, and cites, the Law of God

  • In all that he says, Paul should not be interpreted as making void the Law of God but read as establishing it (Romans 3:31).
  • Paul uses the Law of God as His authority in his epistles (1 Corinthians 7:39; 9:8f; 14:21, 34).
  • God teaches that Christians are the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), and this new Israel retained “…the same system of government by elders, with a supreme council of elders such as the Sanhedrin…” (pp 19)
    • There were elders over:
      • Synagogue
      • Country
      • City
    • “It is certainly reasonable to assume that, as Old Israel had several kinds of elders, for various areas of government in God’s Kingdom, so too did the New Testament community. The term elder meant for Old Israel one who ruled according to God’s law in a particular domain. The use of this word in the New Testament is evidence of a like concept of government.” (pp 20)

The unity of Scripture

  • The unified revelation of God is foundational to Christianity.
  • The Bible, as a whole, puts out the consistent teaching of;
    • The Triune God,
    • God’s Law-Word for all of life,
    • Salvation by sovereign grace,
    • Christ the promised seed,
    • Christ the last Adam,
    • The fallen state of man outside of Christ:
      • Unable to save himself
      • Dead in sin and under the curse of the Law
  • God’s Word is one, and God is one. Scripture is unified because God, as Trinity, is a unity.

Takeaway

God’s Law is authoritative throughout all of His revelation, and in all administrations of the Covenant of Grace, because He is the eternal King. God’s Law is unified because God, as Trinity, is unified. The unchanging character of God means God’s ethics are immutable. We should accept God’s tax as He is our unchanging King, who has saved us and blessed us. When we tithe lawfully, we affirm that God is King, the Creator-Owner of all things, that His kingdom is growing, and His purpose and revelation are unified in all of history.