The idea of the passage brings to mind references to tithing: 'L4]ll the tithe of the land' Lv and 'the entire tithe in Israel' Nm Specifying the 'the whole tithe' indicates that many were either bringing a portion of their tithe or were bringing nothing at all. This as well echoes the guilt of the whole nation in verse 9 Clendenen Since the whole tithing structure appears to have been disregarded by those who returned from the exiles and succeeding generations, as can be deduced from the efforts of both Nehemiah Neh ; and Malachi toward its restoration, it appears as if in this present context the prophet is attempting to get the whole system started all over again.
This time however, with the support for the temple personnel as a priority in the light of their significant role in its temple cultic life of both worship and sacrifices. Thus the major emphasis is that, even in their unfavourable and undesired situation, the people are motivated to dedicate themselves to the fulfilment of their covenant responsibilities with respect to the tithe.
They are to bring the whole of their tithe and not holding back any portion. Neh Nehemiah called the storehouse 'a great chamber' Neh ; Pohlig A literal Hebrew meaning of 'house of supplies' has been suggested Verhoef There are several passages that give one a clearer and broader picture of what the temple storehouse looked like. Hill notes:.
These rooms are identified to be 'additional halls that were located around the main temple' Hill A difference between 'storehouses' and 'chambers' has also been established. On the one hand, the 'storehouses' are considered to be local accommodations reserved for the 'general' tithe, and on the other hand, the 'chambers' were quarters located within the complex of the temple that were used for the purpose of storing the 'tithe tax' that was taken along by the priests to Jerusalem Petersen This meaning of the term tereph is 'food, provision, consumption, meat, nourishment' Pohlig or 'fresh food' Petersen O'Brien puts it thus 'if you will honour what is due me, I promise to make you prosper'.
The idea of testing Yahweh in the text appears to be very uncommon and has an undesirable meaning in certain passages of scripture. For instance in Exodus 17 one reads:. Therefore the people quarrelled with Moses and said, 'give us water that we may drink. Why do you test the LORD? Nm In several occurrences, the word is used to mean Yahweh testing man Clendenen However, according to Mounce the term also carries the idea of trying to describe something appearing to be real, 'especially in the context of a covenant relationship'.
The result of the test is made very clear; Yahweh will accomplish what he had declared to do. The promise approximates the language of the covenant blessings. It is the nation as a whole that will reap the blessings. The point of emphasis however is that, 'the promise is, however, corporate, not individual, as are virtually all Old Covenant promises of abundance' Stuart The phrase 'arubhbhdth hashshamayim [floodgates of heaven], is basically taken to be an indication of rain, the key to agricultural prosperity at almost all times and places in world history Clendenen ; Stuart For the rain to descend, heaven's floodgates 'arubhbhdth hashshamayim had to be opened cf.
Their closure was threatened by Yahweh as punishment for disobedience to him Dt f. Pohlig The promise of rain indicates that Malachi and his contemporaries may have been experiencing a want of it, which invariably is an indication of a covenant curse Lv ; Dt Stuart The Hebrew verb riq translated 'pour out' refers to being empty.
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- Micah ESV - Thus says the LORD concerning the - Bible Gateway?
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Here it is understood basically to mean the abundant blessings that would answer the people's submission to Yahweh Clendenen The critical word day [sufficiency, enough] in the final phrase 'adh-bfli-dhay may render the whole phrase to mean, 'I will pour out a blessing until there is no sufficiency, i. Abundant rain is not the sum total of what is needed for agricultural productivity. Absence of crop pests and crop diseases are needed as well.
Yahweh then promises further to 'reproach the destroyer' and restrain it from wreaking havoc with their fruit p e ri and vine gephen Ml The verb ga 'ar [to rebuke, reproach, forbid, banish to retrain] Brown et al. It denotes the retraining of something, in other words, that it will not work as it should or that it will be destroyed see 2 Sm ; Is ; According to Keil and Delitzsch , the devourer probably refers to locusts which could destroy any crops, and then leaving barren the land in the process.
Mounce observes that the verb ga ar could also be interpreted as reprimand or prevention, with special allusion to insects. As he had been against them in the past for their wickedness Lv ; Dt ; , so Yahweh promised to be for them: in the opening of the floodgates of heaven, in pouring out of blessing and in rebuking whatever was destroying their crops, to protect their agricultural harvest from destruction and their vines from unfruitfulness cf.
Jl , ; Zch ; Ml ; Clendenen Ethical principles for Christian stewardship.
20th Century Religious Thought
The economic angle of the OT ethics focuses on the land that was considered 'not just a neutral stage where the drama unfolds' but 'a fundamentally theological entity' Wright a The land was an important category as well as a defining theme in OT tradition Brueggemann b Although Yahweh graciously gave the land to Israel as their heritage, they were to live in it in total reliance on him: 'The land is mine and you are resident aliens and tenants with me' Lv Thus the manner in which the land was considered and treated by Israel along with its yield was a key feature of their assignments under Yahweh's covenant.
Brueggemann a notes:. The gift of land provides secured people with dangerous alternatives. Israel knows very early that the need to rework identity in the land can lead to a new identity that perverts the land, distorts Yahweh, and destroy[s] Israel Israel does not have many resources with which to resist the temptation. The land along with all its produce was to serve as a constant reminder and declaration of Israel's reliance and Yahweh's trustworthiness, as evidence of the relationship between God and Israel.
This historical land-gift tradition engendered individual property rights in Israel and the follow-up to the Naboth incident opens up the prophets' preoccupation with economic exploitation Wright b The sterility of the land in Malachi, presumes that although the reconstruction of the temple has been achieved, once again, the people are attempting to defraud Yahweh by keeping back their contributions and tithes as well as the appropriate sacrifices.
Unless they have a change of attitude and return to Yahweh, Yahweh will not bring back the fortunes and abundant fruitfulness of the land for them to experience and enjoy. The prophet then assures the return of rain and the elimination of the destroyer as soon as the people return to Yahweh and with their full tithe to the temple Ml Alden observes that, since 'he was dealing with an agrarian society, the "blessings" had to do with crops and the like'.
The anticipated blessing is treble: 1 Yahweh will open the windows of heaven; 2 he will restrain the devourer from destroying their crops; and 3 the vines will not fail to be fruitful. The restoration of abundant fruitfulness after chastisement cf. Am ; Jl is an obvious indication that their covenant affiliation with Yahweh has once again, been re-established Nogalski One must acknowledge, at this point, though space will not allow for an elaborate discussion, the fact that there are issues that limit the ways in which the text Ml can be made useful to a contemporary Christian community of faith.
The limitations involved are both theological and practical. Theologically, one sees a clear argument against the situation of subjecting Christians to the requirements to the Mosaic regulations, 13 especially those regulations that are directly connected to the sacrificial system of the temple. For example, if a Christian is a cattle farmer, is he or she obligated to come to Church on Sunday with every 10th animal as his or her tithe?
With respect to the practical dimension, the tithe was basically limited to farm produce, there were restrictions as to its recipients, and its execution was subjected to certain and changing regulations.
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Kostenberger and Croteau b in their opinion note:. If so, then this is not an open-ended promise to bless in a material way anyone and everyone who tithes his possessions.
The question of whether the command to tithe is applicable also for the new covenant era cannot be decided. In considering the practicability of Malachi in a contemporary Christian context, Verhoef notes that:. With respect to the regulation of the OT, one can state that whilst the specific legislations do not all apply, the principles involved certainly do Alcorn Blomberg notes that one must be able to recognise and appreciate the unique importance of the relationship that existed between the contributions in terms of offerings and tithes and the cult of the temple.
In the absence of a similar centre for sacrifices today, it becomes very difficult for one to simply attempt to transfer all the various rules for giving in the OT to church giving principles in the New Testament NT category. Christian communities as well as their leaders may freely apply the regulations to fit the prevailing context by way of protecting the intent of the regulations and adjusting the application Goldingay What ethical challenge does reflection on Malachi's prophetic dialogue on the economic angle present Yahweh's people with - their attitude toward and use of their possessions?
The following underlying principles and reflections represent ethical ideals and practical moral demands that may be appropriately applied to Christians, that is, Yahweh's people living in faith communities. Acknowledgment of Yahweh's ownership and motivation for his honour.
In the OT, the economic angle concerns Israel's attitude and treatment of their material possessions. This to a large extent is what constitutes the concern of Malachi in this last disputation Mt  Clendenen The central emphasis of the message of the book was to once again, ignite the flames of hope and confidence in the hearts and minds of the depressed Judaeans. The reality that these people were holding back their required contributions was an indication of a greater disloyalty of the entire nation. Thus, it might be said that the essence of this aspect of the oracle is to invite them to return to Yahweh in repentance, which in the book of Malachi then applies to the major concern of tithing.
Irrespective of their disloyalty and unfaithfulness, Yahweh still loved them and unwearyingly waited for their return:. Yahweh waits to be gracious unto his people; but the exercise of his grace is conditioned upon a proper attitude of mind and heart on the part of the would-be recipients.
The focus on the tithe in the book of Malachi particularly in the fifth disputation oracle is closely associated with the issue of disrespect for the Lord. It is believed that an individual's opinion toward personal effects and belongings is a kind of measuring device that regulates the well-being of his or her relationship with Yahweh and with his or her neighbour cf. Wright a Thus 'failure to honour God in the material realm cannot be compensated for by religiosity in the spiritual realm' Wright a Yahweh casts himself in the role of the land owner and the Israelites as the dependent tenants, and as Wright a observes:.
He could be pleased, but not humoured. The divine ownership generated a wide range of responsibilities. Wright b notes:. Responsibility to God for the land which included such things as tithes and first-fruits of harvest, other harvest laws, and the sabbatical legislation. Responsibility to the family included the fundamental law of inalienability Responsibility towards one's neighbours included a host of civil laws and charitable exhortations concerning. The basic and essential principle of the tithe was simply an acknowledgement on the part of the Israelites that all their belongings evidently and eventually belonged to Yahweh.
The reservation of a certain percentage of their income or produce to be consecrated unto Yahweh indicated his ultimate ownership of all that they owned as a people, in addition to Yahweh's provision in granting them the land to farm. Thus, the unproductiveness of the produce of the land served as a direct indication of their inability to surrender the specified contributions, namely the tithes and offerings. Yahweh's proprietorship is exercised in his gracious bestowal to his people, of the land of Canaan:.
Gn It is also manifested in his ability to apportion a 10th to temple personnel, that is, the Levites in Israel:. And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given the entire tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting. Yahweh's ability to pronounce blessings or to curse the produce of the ground is shown in Malachi The submission of the 10th in this manner was simply an indication of reverence that acknowledges Yahweh as the sovereign LORD over the earth and the only supplier and sustainer of Israel Hill Positively, then, the book of Malachi's ethics is a powerful and robust notice that motivation for Christian stewardship should emanate from, first and foremost, an acknowledgement of Yahweh's ownership of all the Christian's resources and a high regard for his honour.
Motivation for total Christian stewardship. Faithful Christian stewardship involves recognition and appreciation of the sovereignty of God over his creation, the dynamic faithful administration of one's vocation or calling, and a voluntary giving of alms on a godly basis:. It includes everything that a Christian does in grateful response to God's grace and mercy. Stewardship fits in with such activities as worship, prayer, charity and evangelism. Stewardship is one of the many ways by which a Christian seeks to love God with all his heart and soul and mind and to love his neighbor as himself.
One can say then that the basis of this functional and viable association is love. The love of God for humanity compelled him to giving himself and the Christian response to this love is in following his example. The theme of Yahweh's faithfulness and generosity in Malachi has implications for contemporary Christians. The prophet had to remind the people by calling them back to the ethical requirements of their covenant obligations, namely, that the maintenance and sustenance of the temple personnel and temple ministry was their ethical duty.
Malachi's prophetic narrative in serves, not only as a warning to Yahweh's people in faith communities of the consequences of bitterness and arrogance towards him, but also as an encouragement and strong motivation and inspiration to persist in giving even in the midst of hard economic realities. The most reasonable deduction that one can make here is that the ministries of the Christian church should be funded by the contributions of her members. There is nothing that can be more shameful than a church which goes about organising fund-raising events, lotteries and the like in order to carry on the work of the ministry.
Such approaches bring shame to God's reputation and certainly can never be pleasing to and invariably honour him Davis Since the giving of an individual is merely a noticeable means of demonstrating his or her love for God, members of faith communities are expected to give generously in reply to the generosity and grace of Yahweh, without being forced Marshall The Christian stewardship of material resources does not concern itself only with what is given to the individual members of the church, but takes into account all the needs, privileges and assignments that Yahweh sets before the individual Christian.
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- Matthew 24:4-8; Mark 13:5-8; Luke 21:8-11.
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Thus, total Christian stewardship requires critical examination and evaluation of all needs, privileges and assignments, and taking note of their relative significance and necessity. It is in this light that the Christian who is a responsible steward will make proper decisions in the fear of Yahweh and inspired by his grace.
This critical assessment and evaluation guides him or her to determine priorities in the allocation of scarce and available resources. Total Christian stewardship consists of serving one another by sharing our scarce and limited resources with each other as God has graciously bestowed them on us. This article begins with a survey of the economic reality of Yehud during Malachi's day, and then highlights the intricacies of the prophet's accusations of hypocrisy concerning the tithe. In an attempt to be dispassionate as well as careful, the article concludes by emphasising some underlying principles with regard to Christian stewardship which will serve as a reminder to Christians about their ethical responsibility.
These underlying principles and reflections represent ethical ideals and practical moral demands that may be appropriately applied to Christians, that is, Yahweh's people living in faith communities. Indeed, Malachi's ethical contribution with respect to the tithe in Malachi which is based on the theme of Yahweh's faithfulness and generosity has inherent implications for contemporary Christians in faith communities. Malachi's challenge in this regard, makes a powerful and robust ethical appeal to Christians in faith communities that motivation for Christian stewardship should emanate from an acknowledgement of Yahweh's ownership of all the Christian's resources and a high regard for his honour.