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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Robbed of Tithes And Offerings?

Malachi is a small book, only four chapters. Yet its words are very potent. In my continuing investigation into tithes, I would like to investigate Malachi.

Much ado has been made by Armstrong, and especially Flurry, about Malachi 3: 8-9, where God says:
(MAL. 3: 8-9) 8 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 

But let's take a much closer look here. Who is the majority of Malachi speaking to?

(MAL 1: 6) To you priests who despise My name.
(MAL. 2: 1) And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.
(MAL. 2: 7) For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

The entire first chapter is to the priests. [There are no more priests in the New Covenant, but Christ only.] The first half of the second chapter is to the priests. [There are no more priests in the New Covenant, but Christ only.] We should ask, which priests are we referring to here?

(MAL. 2: 4, 8) 4 Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant with Levi may continue
8 You have corrupted the covenant of Levi

There is not a priest who draws breath who is under the covenant of Levi. Malachi is God's (to borrow a phrase) final witness to the Old Covenant priests. The very same ones Christ supplanted, as described by the author of Hebrews (HEB. 7: 11-13).

Now, the first half of the third chapter is a prophecy of the coming Christ. Herbert Armstrong would have us believe it is about His second coming. I will remind you that all prophetic interpretation is speculation, and nothing to base theology on. I take the position that this speaks of His first coming. The temple in Jerusalem is gone. Judah was judged. And Malachi was fulfilled:

(MAL. 3: 1) And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant [the New Covenant!], in whom you delight.

We can see the fulfillment of these very verses in Matthew 17.
(MATT. 17: 5) While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

And the very same thing again!

(MAL. 4: 5) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

We again see the fulfillment spoken of in Matthew 17.
(MATT. 17: 10-13) 10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

I like how it is worded in Mark 9: 12-13 as well.

The only reason why Mr. flurry is so adamant that Malachi is about this time is because he is wedded to the false idea that Herbert Armstrong was Elijah. And why that? Because Herbert Armstrong is the sole and singular source of authority, for Gerald Flurry and all of Armstrog's many self-appointed successors, to assume the position of priest and to extract tithes from people against the clear teachings of God's New Covenant. But how many times do you hear them go on about this next verse?

(MAL. 3: 5) And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness... against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans

Will there be a future fulfillment? This idea has been debated for 2,000 years - starting at the very time of Paul. It probably will have a future fulfillment. But that foreshadowing is peppered in with words meant directly for the time Malachi wrote them. Thus, Armstrong makes a terrible error in assuming the entire book of Malachi is explicitly for the future, and every last word in it. How does he explain the exhortation in Malachi to keep the covenant of Levi (which Christ clearly removed)? He does not. But he does spend an exorbitant amount of time concentrating on the verses dealing with tithing. A double standard? Or cherry-picking perhaps?

The book of Malachi is addressed to the Israel. But then it immediately starts God's case against the priests. The priests who despise God, that is. What warning does any of Armstrong's ministers take from this? They use it as a tool to accuse the ministry in competing organizations. They compete for tithes and they compete for control and they wield the scriptures as a club to beat each other over the head with. (GAL. 5: 15)

In contrast, the Gentiles are prophesied to glorify God.
(MAL. 1: 11) For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations,” Says the LORD of hosts. 

The "Gentiles" are the people of the New Covenant; the covenant brought in fulfillment of Malachi 3: 1. No doubt that the New Covenant is implied here. Never before were the Gentiles invited to worship God. The incense are prayers, BTW (REV. 5: 8). 

Israel may be judged, but it is not forgotten. Even in Israel there are those who fear God. They will be remembered.
(MAL. 3: 16) Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. 

Read Malachi 1 to get the context of this book. Who offers offerings? Just anyone? No. The priests! Who claim over and over to be the modern priesthood? The ministry. [That's their claim, not mine. I say Jesus alone is a Priest.] Nevertheless, by this claim they incriminate themselves. To ignore the guilt, they pass blame onto the membership.

How was God robbed in offerings?

(MAL. 1: 12-14) 12 But you [the priests] profane [God's altar], In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is defiled; and its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ 13 You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it, says the LORD of hosts. 
And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?" says the LORD. 14 “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished

God makes it quite plain what the problem was with the priests – they took their duties for granted, they were tired with the services of the temple, they despised God's worship. So they stole from God the perfect sacrifices He is due, substituting all sorts of lesser sacrifices, and keeping the good, which they certainly had available, for themselves. This is very much in line with what I have observed and heard about among the ministry of Armstrongism!

Finally, how many times have we heard the following verses?

(MAL. 3: 10-12) 10 "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field, says the LORD of hosts; 12 and all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.

Yet Armstrong did not understand what he preached. You see, we in the New Covenant are not ever going to receive these promises - tithe or no tithe - because these promises aren't for us!

(HEB. 8: 6) But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

Herbert Armstrong and his students had us all looking for physical promises of a physical covenant when the far better covenant with far better promises waited for us!

Beloved by God and dear to His heart, understand this - you are not a part of the Old Covenant! It is gone. It has been gone for 2,000 years. You cannot be a part of it even if you want to. The opportunity has passed. The world waited for 4,000 years for what we have received. Prophets and angels deeply desired to see it arrive. Now, delivered to us without any help from us, through no effort on our part, which we do not deserve nor have we earned, comes the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. To this we are called. The breach between man and God has been healed! Our sins are forgiven us! Why insist on attempting to resurrect that which Christ has replaced? Step into the New Covenant!!

10 comments:

Raccoon said...

I enjoyed the post. You are certainly right when you point out that Jesus <> Levitical priesthood. Things addressed to the Levites would not pertain to Jesus who as Hebrews says "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek". Malachi would certainly apply as you have shown it's addressing issues with the Levitical priesthood.

One thing I'd like to point out is that the entire book of Hebrews is a treatise on how the new covenant we have with Jesus is far superior to the old covenant. It was addressed to those who were considering leaving Christianity due to Roman persecution and returning to Judaism. The author throughout the book points out how much better things are under the new covenant than the old, how Jesus is superior to Moses, the angels, etc. How Jesus is our high priest replacing the Levitical priesthood, and so on. When read with the original audience in mind it's a powerful and illuminating book.

xHWA said...

Awesome comments, Raccoon! Thanks for sharing that insight.

The New Covenant is superior to the Old. I don't know how Armstrong got caught up in trying to make the two identical, as if there is no real difference, but that view is simply not correct.

Please keep coming back and charing more with us!

Anonymous said...

"Yet Armstrong did not understand what he preached. You see, we in the New Covenant are not ever going to receive these promises - tithe or no tithe - because these promises aren't for us!"

Maybe he did understand what he was preaching, knowingly deceiving the people.

Bill H.

xHWA said...

wow, Bill... I hadn't actually, uh, thought about that... I suppose. wow. that's depressing.

it's possible.

Purple Hymnal said...

I find that I have just got to agree with Bill H. here.

(Now don't everybody die from the shock all at once.)

Armstrong knew exactly, exactly what he was doing. Just read Robinson's Tangled Web if you don't believe me.

xHWA said...

PH - did you have a specific schedule in mind for death from shock? Because I may sign up for a time slot.

:P

Purple Hymnal said...

:-)

xHWA said...

WOW! I mean.... WOW!! *gasp* *shudder*

I just went to Amazon.com and looked up Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web. There are three. A "used - very good" copy starts at $124.99, and a "used - good" copy will set ya back $349.91!!!!!!!!

If I didn't die of shock before, I'm real close now!

Shuli said...

Malachi 1:11 does not say "gentiles". It says "nations" in hebrew goyim.
Even Israel is a 'goy kodesh' a holy nation as in mamlechet kohanim v'goy kadosh or kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
So to use it as "gentiles" is not correct.
Gentile really is latin based for "non roman citizen" anyway.

xHWA said...

Shuli,

In MAL. 1: 11, some bibles have "nations", eg. NIV. Some have "Gentiles", eg. KJV & NKJV.

Far be it from me to declare that just because I used "Gentiles" that makes it utterly so.
I always use the NKJV as my main study Bible (and always use it when posting verses here - unless otherwise noted), cross-referencing with other versions and commentaries, so that's why you see it here.

Major commentaries understand this to be "Gentiles"; eg. Clarke, Darby, Gill, Henry, etc.
Also, every Hebrew Lexicon I could find includes "Gentiles" or the phrase "usually of non-Hebrew people" in the definition of this word.

Strong's defines "goy" as, "a foreign nation; hence a Gentile; also (figuratively) a troop of animals, or a flight of locusts"

The word "goy" is rendered "nations" 266 times, "heathen" 143 times, "nation" 109 times,
"gentiles" 30 times, and
"people" 11 times.

I think the key is that the verse says "from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun". Most certainly that is meant to include the Gentiles.

So, when you say "So to use it as 'gentiles' is not correct" I (and many others) must respectfully disagree if you mean that it does not include the Gentiles. I would agree if you said that it can include both the Jews and the Gentiles, which I think it very well could.