When Abram left Ur of the Chaldeans on a pilgrimage of faith, he was promised God’s blessing in order that he and his descendants would bless the peoples of the earth. Abram and his nephew Lot, you remember—along with their families and numerous belongings—began their journey traveling together until Lot determined to head for Sodom and Gomorrah. But this area was in political turmoil; so Chedorlaomer took Lot and all his possessions captive. Only a brave rescue mission by Abram and the three hundred trained men among his household was able to save Lot, as well as the other citizens of Sodom. Abram had returned a victorious deliverer, having recovered the goods and people of an entire city.
After this successful venture, Abram was met by the king of Salem, who is simply identified in Scripture as a priest of God Most High (E1 Shaddai). In sheer gratitude Abram offered him a tenth of everything he had.
Then the king of Sodom offered Abram all the spoils of war, treasures that Abram might have considered a just reward for his heroic efforts. But Abram refused to take anything from him, lest the king would boast, “I made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:23). In other words, Abram had learned that God is the rightful owner of heaven and earth and that he alone had given Abram victory. The gift of a tithe to Melchizedek was based on the recognition that God was owner and provider.
Abraham’s grandson Jacob also had a profound experience with God at Bethel. In a dream God renewed to Jacob the promise that had been given to Abraham (Gen. 28:14). When Jacob awoke, he set up a marker and made a vow with God. “This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me” (28:22).
Therefore, it is apparent from these repeated instances in Israel’s earliest history that the patriarchs practiced tithing before the law was given. It was a simple act of gratitude in recognition of God’s provision.
And as we look to the Old Testament for a model of giving, we discover that Israel continued to be given numerous opportunities for worshipping God through tithes and offerings.
Hemphill, Ken. 2006. Making Change: A Transformational Guide to Christian Money Management. Nashville, TN: B&H Books.
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