Set apart a tithe of all the yield of your seed that is brought in yearly from the field. In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if, when the Lord your God has blessed you, the distance is so great that you are unable to transport it, because the place where the Lord your God will choose to set his name is too far away from you, then you may turn it into money. With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.
“I want everyone in the neighborhood to know that if they want a good time, then the Hendricks’ house is where they want to be!” With those words my seminary professor, the late Howard Hendricks, nudged me to think differently about a Christian lifestyle. While Jesus never said it would be easy to follow Him, He did intend us to be rejoicing with Him all along the way.
Today’s Scripture speaks of a joyous lifestyle that helps me as I approach the coming holydays. Without spending a penny more I intend to go all out for Thanksgiving and Christmas and encourage others to also really enjoy themselves.
This little known passage of Scripture comes from a section of the Old Testament pertaining to the tithe. (When was the last time you thought of tithing while having a rollicking good time?). It is important to note that in ancient Israel there were actually three tithes required by the Lord.
- A yearly tithe, or tenth, for maintaining the Levites serving in the temple.
- A yearly tithe, or tenth, brought to temple for rejoicing in the presence of the Lord.
- Every third year a tithe, or tenth, was kept at home, to be used in caring for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28).
It is the “second tithe” I want to focus on today.
With this “second tithe” God makes provision for those living too far from Jerusalem to transport a tenth of their crops and animals to tithe at the temple. So God’s “plan B” for them is to sell the tenth of their grain, wine, oil, and flocks, so that they could take the money with them to Jerusalem to be used for rejoicing in God’s presence.
They don’t have to lug their ox all the way from Beersheba to Jerusalem; rather, they can sell the ox, take the money to Jerusalem and “spend the money for whatever you wish – oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire”. In other words, have a feast! Whatever you want! Have a wonderful time eating together and celebrating “in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together”.
Whether they choose to buy sheep, oxen, wine, or whatever, it is to be joyful. The point is, they are to celebrate together and rejoice in the presence of a generous and gracious God.
Feasting and celebrating together became a key element in the lifestyle of God’s people. But the joyous eating together took place in the context of the “tithe”, a reminder that all we have comes from God and ultimately belongs to Him.
Now I write as a male, and as one who has never, ever, gone about the work of preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. But why not plan our own “festivals” to the Lord this year. We can organize a meal for family, friends, and the poor, which includes good food, fun fellowship, and worship along the lines laid down in today’s text.
If a meal sounds like too much work, then make it a potluck, or go out to a restaurant, or take-out. The point is to rejoice in the presence of God and have a wonderful time!
There are three communities that vie for the honor of being the first place where Thanksgiving was celebrated in America: the Plymouth Colony in 1621; the banks of the James River in Virginia in 1619; and St. Augustine, Florida, where in 1565 Spanish settlers made a feast of bean soup in order to give thanks for God’s protection and provision.
Throughout history the people of God have knowingly turned to feasting as a way of celebrating God’s blessings. What a wonderful way to worship, and to honor our generous God! So eat up! Have good fun and fellowship! It will make God smile.
Enjoy the holydays!
P. S. On Thanksgiving Day at 2:00 p.m. (MST) I will be discussing Thanksgiving with Henry Rojas and Art Brooks in “The Living Room”. Listen live or later on “The Living Room” page at www.waterfromrock.org.
photo by ilovebutter