Today at a sharing , there is a friend who shared a mini sermon regarding blessings, in general his points are as follows

1. Jesus came to this world to give us a more abundant life. (Jn 10:10)
        a. A more abundant life is not just riches
        b. It is blessing of all sorts

2. In order to get a more abundant life, there are 2 aspects that was discussed
        a. Putting God first
               i. He quoted Haggai 1:1-11 saying that Israelites do not put God first
               ii. Hence they do not have their blessing (Hag 1:6)

        b. Obedience to Gods word (Tithing as an Example)
               i. Blessings can turn into curse (Mal 2:1) if one disobey God
               ii. Tithing is a way to get Gods blessing (Mal 3:10-11 )
                       a. God will rebuke the “devourer” if you do.

The principles shared are not exactly wrong, God do bless the people who offered offerings and followed his teachings. But then to stop at blessings will make our faith appears shallow, as our relationship with God deepens we follows the teachings of God and offers to him out of a heart of love for the Lord.

Personally I find that a few points being misinterpreted,  and thus requires further clarifications.

1. Abundant Life Refers to Eternal life

Jesus  in Jn 10:7-21, indicated that he is the door of the sheep and if anyone enters through that door, he will be save.

We know that mankind has lost their relationship with God, and they live a life of hopelessness and alienation from God. So they are dead spiritually. Jesus is here to save the soul of the people, so that they can once again receive that life that was dead in the eyes of God.

Therefore, the abundant life here refers to the life of being free from sin and having the status of the son of God once again.

2. The Times Of The Book Haggai

My friend said that the Israelites then were too busy with their own lives after they return from captivity in Babylon and they were not putting God as the centre of their lives.

Which is why they dwell in Panelled houses while the temple of God lies in ruin.

Personally I feel that it is not a fair comment. For let us read what happened to the exiles who return from captivity, from an eye witness account. From the book of Ezra the Priest.

Just a quick summary of Ezra,

Ez 1 : Talks about the order from Cyrus for the Jews to return to Jerusalem to build the temple

Ez 2: Tells us the list of the exiles who return with Zerubbabel.

Ez 3: The exiles started their worship, and started work rebuilding temple on second momths

Ez 4: Opposition to the work started, they wrote a letter to halt the restoration

This is what Ezra said

“Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease. Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” – Ezra The Priest (Ez 4:23-24)

Therefore to say that they were too busy with their lives and not putting God first into their lives, its really unfair, in fact the first things done by the Exiles is to restore worship and to build the temple.

Perhaps they had grown afraid and discouraged so they remarked “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” (Haggai 1:2)

This problems is only resolved after God spoke to the people through Haggai the prophet as remarked by Ezra later

“Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak] rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them” -Ezra The Priest (Ez 5:1-2)

It is fair to say that the Jews had lost heart to build the temple in face of all the oppositions. In fact after the temple was rebuild, the Jews still suffered greatly, as describe in the book of Nehemiah

“The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” – Hanani (Neh 1:3)

In fact, after repenting and turning back and putting God first, physically their lives are still full of difficulties.

The message of Haggai is to encourage the Jews to finish the work of the temple and to give them a promise that their new temple will be more glorious than the old. (Haggai 2:9)

3. Tithing And Blessings

3.1 Purpose Of Tithing

Tithing is a special type of system where people of GOd gave 1/10 of what they have to God. The first person who tithes was Abraham after he finished the battle between the 4 kings and the 5 kings (Gen 14:20)

It is found in the laws of Moses on 4 parts
1. Lev 27:30-32 : It belongs to God but can be redeemed
2. Num 18:21-32 : They are Gods portion to the Levites and priest (to be taken by them)
3. Deut 14:22-29 : Moses Summarised how Tithing works
4. Deut 26:12-13 : They are given to Priest as well as to help the poor

The book of Malachi is a rebuke from God to the people whom failed to keep this law, hence God challenged them to do it and see how he will bless them (Mal 3:10-11 )

This law was still kept by the Pharisees till Jesus time

3.2 Tithing In The New Testament

 There were some comments that Tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament Actually when JEsus rebuke the scribes and Pharisees, he did say that they should emphasis on the more important aspect of the Law while not forgetting the simple rules like tithing

““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” – Jesus (Matt  23:23

Of course, in both the Old and new testament, God is never that particular about what he receives, though he demanded the OT people to pay tithes so as to help the priest maintain their livelihood.

In fact, whatever we can offer to God is only what he had already given us, and we should offer with a willing heart.

3.3 The Heart Of Offerings 

To Illustrate the attitude in offering, I guess I will just quote a few verses for our reference , spoken by the saints of Old

“But who am I, and who are my people,
  That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
  For all things come from You,
  And of Your own we have given You.” – David (1 Chron 29:14)

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
  And bow myself before the High God?
  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
  With calves a year old?
   Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
  Ten thousand rivers of oil?
  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
  The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

   He has shown you, O man, what is good;
  And what does the Lord require of you
  But to do justly,
  To love mercy,
  And to walk humbly with your God?” -  Micah (Mic 6:6-8)

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
  As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
  And to heed than the fat of rams.
   For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
  And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Samuel (1 Sam 15:22-23)

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly
  will also reap sparingly, and he who sows
  bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let 
  each one give as he purposes in his heart,
  not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – Paul (2 Cor 9:6-7)

Let us learn to offer to God in all circumstances, and doing it out of love of God. While it is not wrong for us to hope and anticipate blessing, but let us learn to have the right heart and the right attitude when it comes to offering to God.

Let us learn to do it to God purely out of the love of God.

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