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Living by Faith (Vol 18) - God First - Part 1

Sunday English Service - 18 NOV 18


Let's turn to Hebrews chapter 11, let me read to you verse 4. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he been dead still speaks. We’ve been studying about faith from Hebrews chapter 11, which is a famous chapter on faith. The first three verses as we saw teaches what faith is and then teaches also how faith works. Now, from fourth verse onwards, he is citing examples from the Old Testament, various persons as examples that lived by faith and what faith did in and through those people demonstrating

the operation of faith. He is citing these examples. And the first example that he cites is Abel and we started talking about Abel last week. Now, this verse four can be divided into three sections. We saw only the first section last week. The first section was the first few lines, by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. I showed you why Abel's sacrifice was considered more excellent than Cain’s. There are two other sections here. The second section is through which he obtained, that is through that sacrifice, the more excellent sacrifice he obtained. That is, Abel obtained witness that he was righteous. That's the next two lines. Through that sacrifice, he obtained witness from God that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.

Today we're going to talk about the second section, how God testified about the offerings that Abel brought to Him. If God is going to testify about some guy’s offering that he brings to God, then there must be something to listen to. We need to hear what God is saying. I'm going to talk about what God really testified concerning Abel’s offerings, it must have been quite an offering for God to testify and speak about this. And the third section is the last couple of lines where it says, “And through it he being dead still speaks.” We'll talk about it later, the third section. I will talk about why Cain killed Abel and how that he being dead still speaks even today. Why he died and what he speaks even today. Sometimes this has been made out to be a funeral sermon. But really, there is much more than just a funeral sermon in it. And when we come to it, you'll begin to see that. So, we already spoke about the first section that Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice. I showed you why Abel’s sacrifice was a more excellent sacrifice than Cain’s.

I said to you that there are three things that are important to notice here in determining why Abel’s sacrifice was more excellent than Cain’s. The first is, the manner in which the gift was brought, the offering was brought. The manner in which it was brought. What is the manner in which it was brought? Abel brought it by faith, Cain didn't have faith. He brought it as a ritual, as a ceremony. It was just a casual thing for him. He didn't think about it much. Abel seems to have put much thought into it. It was not just a ritual, it was a matter of the heart. He loved God. He had a relationship with God. So, whatever he did, when he offered the sacrifice to God, or whenever he brought the offerings to God, it showed his relationship to God that he had. The second thing I said is the quality of the gifts mattered.

The quality of Abel’s gifts is mentioned in Genesis chapter 4 where we really read the story of the two bringing their offerings. It says that Cain brought offerings from the field, from his farm, the products of his farm, but Abel brought from his flock. And it mentions in detail. More detail is given here because the emphasis is upon the quality of the offering. He brought the firstlings and he brought the fat. The first and the best. The fat is the old word. Fat literally means the best. The first and the best is what he brought, the quality. Cain’s offering, Cain didn't care about the quality. He just wanted to... it's like putting your hand in the pocket and just throwing something in without giving much thought to it. Abel had much thought because he thought, “I'm going to give to God so it must be top class. It must be the first and the best. The quality is important because I am going to honor God by my giving. My giving should honor God. That's the way I should give. Because I'm not giving to an ordinary person, I'm giving to God. Therefore, it must be done in a God-honoring way.” And he cared about it. That's why he brought the first and the best. Finally, the character of the giver.

So, these three things we looked at, and that has to be always kept in mind as we talk even about the second thing because that is always to be in the back of our mind. These three things determine really what it is. The word sacrifice is used here, but later on the word gifts is used in my translation. Some translations would use the word offerings when it says God testified of his offerings. So, is it an offering that they brought, or is it a sacrifice that they brought? If you read Genesis chapter 4 verse 1 to 5, which I read last week, Abel and Cain bringing their offerings, it says. The word offering is mentioned again and again. The word sacrifice is not mentioned there at all. So, what they brought is not a sacrifice, it is an offering. If it was a sacrifice, then whether it was a blood sacrifice or not would be important because sacrifices must foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The shedding of blood through which there is remission of sin, sacrifice must speak of that. Some people say God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice, because it was not a blood sacrifice. I don't think so. Because here it did not matter whether it was a blood sacrifice or not, because it was not a sacrifice they brought, it was an offering. An offering can be anything. The man had a farm so he brought the products of his farm. What's wrong with that? That's all he had. He brought that. And Abel had flock and so he brought the first and the best from the flock. So, whether there was bloodshed or whether the offering reflected bloodshed and whether the offering reflected or foretold the offering of Christ, is not important there. So, you can’t say that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because of that, because he didn't bring a sacrifice, he brought an offering. And Abel also brought an offering. The word offering and sacrifice is used interchangeably in the Old Testament to speak of sacrifice and offering. Sometimes the sacrifices that were brought were called offerings. And so, there's a big confusion. But here it is very clear. The picture is very clear that they both brought offerings. Therefore, whether it was an offering which had bloodshed or not, is not important, whether they did it in faith, what the quality of it was, all of those things were important rather than the other things.

So, now let's talk about how Abel obtained witness, that he was righteous and how God testified concerning his offering. Because that's what it says. God testified about Abel’s offering. What kind of an offering was this? In order to understand this let's look at this history of how this whole idea of bringing offerings to God started. Do you know how the idea of giving offerings to God started? Sometimes you don't even think about it. Sometimes we just think in present terms, because some preacher or somebody told us, “Well, the church needs some money, we need to pay the electricity bill, we need to pay for this and that, we need to pay some people salaries, and to run the place. Therefore, we need some offerings.” That is a very poor view of what the offering is all about. Because that's what we have heard and that's what was told to us we thought we need to help out some, therefore, we give offerings. This is the way we thought about it. But you're not thinking biblically if you thought that. You need to think about it biblically. What is the offering all about? Why would God care about an offering? Why would God be interested in looking at somebody's offering and then testifying about somebody's offering? Why is offering such a big thing to God? Where did this idea of bringing offerings to God start? Does God need our offerings? Does God make a living out of our offerings? Where did it start and why did it start? What is the origin of this idea of offerings? So, let's look at it.

Cain and Abel were sons of the first couple, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve lived in the garden that God had prepared for them, that beautiful and wonderful place where everything was provided for them. When God placed them there, he only gave them one restriction. He put a tree, a tree of the knowledge of good and evil right in the midst of the garden, it says. And one restriction only, they can eat of all the fruit, of all the trees of the garden, but of this tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they should not eat and God said specifically, the day that you eat thereof, you will surely die. Why did God say that? What is wrong with the tree? Is that fruit poisonous? Was there something in that fruit? No, there was nothing wrong with the fruit. It is not that if they ate the fruit, something will happen. The thing is in the saying. When God said, “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The day that you eat you will die.” It was a command from God. It's a word from God. It's an order from God.

And that indicated that though man is made as a lord over all creation, to rule over all creation, to enjoy all the God has made, he is under God, and God rules over him and he should never forget it. That is why this restriction. As he lives in the garden and enjoys all that God has made for him, and prepared for him, he must every day remember, as he sees the tree in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he must every day remember, “That though I am the lord over all of creation, that God has made me as a master over all creation, I’m a special creation, made in the likeness and image of God. I have a Lord. God is my Lord.” How is he reminded that God is his Lord? That command, “Don't eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” As long as he refrained from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was declaring without saying in so many words, “That God is my Lord. I'm answerable to Him. I live under Him. He is my Lord.” He is acknowledging the Lordship of God over him. The day he decided to listen to the devil's words and eat of that forbidden tree, he was declaring without saying it in so many words that, “I am my own Lord. There is no God above me. I do not live under anybody's authority. I decide what I should do, and I do whatever I am pleased to do. I'll just do whatever I...” That's man’s sin.

What other sin did man commit there? What can he commit? Can he commit adultery? Can he commit robbery there? Did he drink? Did he do anything that's bad? No, there is no chance of doing all of those things. Just two of them were there. What sin can he do? And the Bible says he sinned. Sin came into the world through that man in the Garden of Eden. How did he sin? His sin was that he had disobeyed God's word and he chose to reject God's lordship over his life and established himself as the lord over his life. That's what happened. And as a result, they were thrown out of the garden. But God was very compassionate. You see God there coming and finding him naked, ashamed, hiding and brings him out, and with great care He makes coat of skin by killing an animal. Clothes him, covers his nakedness, covers his shame. What a compassionate God we have. Even after he's fallen, God is concerned about the man because He made him. So, He covers his nakedness and shame and sends him out. He cannot live in God's presence, because he's chosen to live like that. He’s chosen without God's lordship over him. And he sends him out of the garden. Now man has to live out in the wild. He's got to go. And now he's got to cultivate that garden God Himself planted for him, and everything was already ready-made there. Now he's got to go, live out in the wild, and he knows he has to cultivate therefore, he has to live by the sweat of his brow and eat out of the sweat of his brow. His labor became very important.

Curse became a part of his life. Even though he worked and labored with the seeds that God has given to plant so that it will grow, there was thorns and thistles growing. Just to cut down the thorns and thistles so that what he has sown can grow, was such a difficult task because the curse was everywhere. So, he's struggling there. Now to that man and his family his sons, Cain and Abel, just imagine every day they would have talked about the Garden of Eden. The splendor of the Garden of Eden. How everything was provided there, how beautiful life was there, how they ruined everything, how they spoiled everything by sin, how they lost all the blessings. But there was hope. God has already given the promise of the coming Messiah in chapter 3 verse 15 when He said, “I'll put enmity between your seed and her Seed and He will bruise your head and you will bruise His heel,” he told Satan, the serpent. So, the promise of the coming Messiah was there, that is one hope.

Also, as Adam and his family lived in this fallen world, God has taught them something about how they can return to the life that they had in the garden. They could not come back into the garden but they can return to a blessed life. Now they are under curse how they can now again choose God as their Lord and Savior. He taught them, I believe, that day. How did he teach them? He taught them through this idea of bringing offerings to God. How does the offerings teach that? That they can use the offerings to show that God is their Lord? You see, when they brought their offerings, obviously they've been taught to bring the offerings ,otherwise which church taught them, which preacher taught them, where did they learn this practice? They’re sons of Adam and Eve. In the earliest days where did they learn this idea of bringing offerings to God? How do they know how to bring the right kind of offering? How did they know that they need to bring the firstlings and how did Abel know that he needs to bring the first and the best? Something must have been taught. God must have taught this, “That if you want Me in your life, you need to choose now. You need to show now. You need to believe in Me. Put your faith in Me. And when you believe in Me, that faith that you place in Me must be exhibited through your works.”

Faith shown through works. That's what James chapter 2 is all about. Faith without works is no faith at all. It's a dead faith. Some people say, “I have faith.” James says, “Show me your works. Show me that you have faith. By your works you show me your faith,” he says. So, faith cannot exist alone and without works. Faith results in works, has corresponding action. So, God says, “Now you can come back to that kind of life, you can come back to Me. You can seek My provision, you can seek My care, you can seek Me, and have Me as your Lord of your life. You can have the provisions again, you can have My mercy and My compassion minister to you again. But you need to trust in Me. You need to put your faith in Me. And when you put your faith in Me, that faith must be shown in action.” What is the action? The giving. Why giving is the action through which faith is shown? Why giving is the greatest action through which faith is shown? Because sin makes all men not givers but takers. Hello. People by nature are into grabbing, not naturally givers. To be giver it takes a divine quality, it takes a change of heart because it is against the fallen nature.

Therefore, God says, “If you really put your faith in Me, if you put your trust in Me, then you will show it in your action by your giving. And not just by your casual giving but by your giving in such a way that the manner of your giving is important. The quality of your gift is important. The character of the giver is important.” All of these things will change when faith comes into the heart. Now that is what God found in Abel. Here is a man who coming from the family of Adam and Eve, who have violated God's laws and rejected God and pushed God out of their lives and chosen to live by themselves but out of the two sons one of them elects and chooses to serve God, to believe in God, to trust in God, to fear God and walk in His ways and do what is right. He knows that what his father and mother have done is wrong. He wants to come back to God. He wants to put his faith in God. He wants to honor God. He wants to invite God back in. He wants to open the door of his life to God and say, “God, I want You. I need You.” His offering reflected that. His offering spoke of that.

Cain had that sinful nature, that independent nature that did not care about God. I don't know how he brought the offering, but there was something wrong in the way he brought it. He probably brought it without giving much thought to it. He probably brought it despising the very idea of offerings. Probably he’s been told that, “You better give some offerings to God otherwise something bad is going to happen to you.” Even today you hear things like that. “If you don't give anything to God, then you may end up in the hospital. You may be paying it there.” So, some people bring it like that, some people bring offerings like they're paying electricity bill. Have you ever stood in line to pay electricity bill in our city? That's one of the worst lines you can stand. People are already mad and angry about everything going up, they’re fighting with one another standing in line, the hate to pay it because they got to pay so much and somebody is cutting in the line all the time trying to pay it. While they're standing in there taking cards from some other guy from inside. All of these things I've been there. And you just hate the fact that you got to pay it. Nowadays you pay online, it’s so much better. I think everybody can pay online. Forget about these lines.

Sometimes I think I envision Christians like electricity city bill payers standing in line, all uptight, how the costs have gone up. They’re talking about what it was 20 years ago and how it's gone up and all that. They have to pay it otherwise they'll cut it off so they pay it. Or you could end up giving offerings to God in that way. And Cain probably had that kind of attitude, something like that, that kind of attitude. So, this is what the Bible teaches about the origin of the offerings. The idea of offerings was established by God as He taught them the way to come back to Him, to come back to a blessed life, to escape the curse and to be blessed again to rely on God, to trust in God, to put their faith in God and return back to God's will for their lives. He taught them that. And how they can show that they have faith in God is through the offerings. Why offering? Why not anything else? This is the question that a lot of people ask. Why giving? Why is it not something else? Some religious requirement. Go to church, do this, do that. Some other requirement.

Why is it giving that is the best demonstration of our faith in God in our hearts? In giving you are parting with something that is very precious to you. The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Money is considered as a very important commodity for people. It's very important in the eyes of the people. If it's important to you, God says, “That's what I want. I don't want what is not important to you. I want what is important to you.” Like I said, back in the old days people used to clear out their house. They'll figure out things that they don't want, that's not worth anything, they can’t even send it to the junkyard. They won't get any money for it. It will cost them money to take it there. So, they’ll all put it to one side and they say, “Call up the church and see if they want this. Maybe they can use this,” because they think of church like that in those days. “Let's give it to the church. We don't need it. So, whatever we don't need let's give it to the church.” God says, “I don't want that because you don't think it's very important. I want what you think is very important. What is very precious to you that is what I want. When you give that that is what shows that you want Me in your life, that you have me as your Lord and God, that you obey Me, and that you reverence Me and all of that.”

So, that is why God established that. Now, this thing that was started back there, God must have taught them these things. That is why they started bringing offerings. That is why one offering was better than the other, it can be decided that way. Because all those principles were already established, it seems like. That is why God could say, “I will accept this, I don't accept that.” They very well knew what kind of offering they must bring. And that is why one was accepted; the other was rejected. Now, this thing started right there. It was a knowledge that was established in the earliest days and later on taught throughout the Bible. Let me quickly show you some scriptures. Let's look at some scriptures. Turn with me to Proverbs chapter 3. Let me read to you verse 9 and 10. Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

Notice the word, the first fruits. I want you to notice as I read a few other verses also. The terms like first fruits, the terms like best and so on. And the terms like tithe. Tithe is also another term that is used for first and the best. These are all referring to the same. Sometimes tithe is referred to as the first and the best therefore it's all having to do with the same idea. Look at what is told here. Honor the Lord with your possessions. Once again, we never connect honoring God with possessions. We think of honoring God some other way. Some people would simply give a couple of doctorates to God and honor him. They think that is enough. God says, “No, I don't want doctorates. You don't have to honor me like that.” Some people will just salute God. Bow before God and all that. God said, “No, no. I don't want your salute, I don't want to bow.” In India we salute and we bow when the person is in front of us, when he goes that way we say, “Get out of here.” It's all fake thing. It’s a fake salute. God knew all that. He says, “I don't want all that business. I don't want your salute, I don't want your religious stuff, I don't want you to come and say, ‘I did this, that and I bowed all the way down and worshipped You,’ and all that. I don't want all that.”

“Then what do You want? How do we honor?” He says, “Honor Me with your possessions because all other things are easy. The possessions is the hard.” When a man can give out of his possessions that really shows his heart has changed. His heart has now turned towards God. Mainly that he acknowledges that God is the source of all of his possessions, that everything comes from God. His breath of life comes from God. His knowledge comes from God. The power to get wealth comes from God. The power to make money comes from God. His food comes from God. His field is growing, whatever is sown in there, because God is blessing it. The trees are giving fruit because God's blessing is there. So, when a man gives it meant all of these. He's acknowledging that, “I am not doing it by my own strength. It's not my strength. It's not my power.”

This is taught throughout the scriptures. The very same words are used in Deuteronomy chapter 30. “When you go there and live in the promised land and drink milk and honey and enjoy beautiful houses and live well, don't think it is your power that brought you all these things,” God says, “and your intelligence, and your ability that brought you all these things. It is my grace. It is what I have done. Acknowledge Me as the provider.” That's the whole point about this idea of offering. So, God establishes that in the beginning and teaches it in great detail as the days went by. So, in Proverbs we read, honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of your of all your increase. And what will happen when you do that? When you do that you will enter into the Eden kind of life. You will enter into the blessed life. You will break the curse, you will break the lack. You’ll break the wants, you will break the shortages. You will break all that financial insufficiency. He says “Your barns will be filled with plenty; your vats shall overflow.” He says, “Honor me with the material possessions then you will find material blessings.” Because one of the worst things that happened in the Garden of Eden... See, the thing is, they've got cut out from God. But as a result, one of the worst things that happened is, is a shortage of everything lack and want and insufficiency came into man's life which was never the will of God. And God says, “You do this and you will never see it again. Your barns will be filled with plenty, your vats will overflow.”

There is a New Testament equivalent of this. And you know it very well. It’s Matthew chapter 6 verse 33. Seek first the kingdom of God. See the word first again. See, a lot of times you don't notice those verses. Sometimes people glibly quote, “Seek the kingdom of God.” No, no, no. Not seek the kingdom of God, seek first the kingdom of God. Put God first. God first is what I'm talking about now. Put God first, seek first the kingdom of God. Whoever has God first in their lives, whoever thinks that God is number one priority of his life and shows it by his actions, his faith is evident in his works, that person will be blessed. That is a principle of God. That is a law of God. That is a law of increase. A law means it's something that works for everybody, young and old, rich and poor, tall and short, fat and thin. Doesn't matter who you are, the law will work for you. The law works the same for everybody. If you jump from 10-story building fat person will fall, thin person also will fall, he won't fly just because he’s thin. It’s a law, law of gravity. It's working. God has established this principle that he taught in the beginning as a law. He says, “If you do this, your barns will be filled with plenty, your vats shall overflow.” This is a law of God, the law of blessing that will come into operation and into work.

But many Christians don't realize that. For many Christians they don't think about where this idea of offering came from. Originally who established it why the Bible teaches it so much. I just showed you one verse or two verses but I'll show you some more verses. They don't think about it biblically, they think about it in a common-sense way. That is why offering is a side thing for them. They don't think about offerings in the way that Bible teaches it, they think of it as a side thing. For them, “first is rent. First this car deal. First is bike deal. First is paying the fees. First is taking care of myself. First is taking care of all my family, my everything. First is me, me, me. And if anything is left out, let's see. Whatever maybe I have left out,” and usually nothing, “and then I will give something to God because we need to give something to God also because we are Christians.” So, a lot of you say, “If I have, I'll give brother, but usually when I get through, I don't have anything.” I can bet on it you will have nothing. You're starting the wrong way. Therefore, before you start itself you can know that you won't have anything in the end. I can tell you in the beginning itself. Because the Bible says it, it’s not my policy or my principle. It is God's principle. He says, “If you do this, honor the Lord with your substance, your barns will be filled with plenty, your vats shall overflow.” That is God's principle, God says that. I'll show you like that today. If you start like that, then the rest of the day is going to go well.

Let me show you some more verses. Quickly let's read a few verses just to show you that this is taught throughout the scriptures beginning from Adam and Eve and his sons. It began to be taught and taught extensively throughout the Bible because it's an important matter. Exodus chapter 23 verse 19. The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. Okay, that's enough. The first of the first fruits. Look at the expression – the first of the first. God is interested in the first. He doesn't want the second, He doesn't want your later on stuff, He wants the first. He wants to be the number one. That's the idea there. Deuteronomy chapter 14 verse 22. “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year.” The tithe and the first fruits all referring to the same thing basically, you will see that as we read some more because it's all the same. Deuteronomy chapter 26, just like 1 Corinthians 13 is a love chapter, and Hebrews 11 is a faith chapter, Deuteronomy 26 is a tithe chapter.

Deuteronomy 26 verse 2. That you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. Here, elaborate details are given about how to bring your offerings and tithes. He says, “When you go to the promised land and you start growing stuff in the land that God gives you, bring the first of all the produce. Not just any produce. Don't bring whatever you don't like. If you don't like brinjal don't decide, “Well, let's give it to the Lord. I think the Lord will like it. After all, I don’t eat it.” “No,” He says, “none of that business. I don't want it like that.” He says, “Bring the first of all the produce of the ground which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God has given you.” The issue is honor of God. Is your giving reflecting the honor that you have towards God? Is it honorable? Giving second best and giving what you don't need and what you don't like and what you don't want any way to God, does not honor God. Giving the best, giving the thing that you like the most, giving the thing that is very precious to you, that you consider as great, that is what is honoring God. That’s the way the Bible teaches it.

So, when you produce bring the first of all the produce of the ground which you shall bring from your land, that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. Now, by this time, they've got a place now. They've got a place now where they can take it. A place where they worship, the place where they gather in the name of the Lord, to offer sacrifices to God, to bring offerings to God, to do all of these things in worship of God. “You go to that place,” He says, “Take it. Put it in a basket.” It was an agricultural society. So, they were not taking checks and cards and all that, they were putting in basket and they were taking it to the place which the Lord God has put His name there. It has been chosen as a place of worship. “Go there,” He says. Look at verse 11 in the same chapter. It says, “So, you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house, and you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.” “When you take the offerings and tithes and go and give it, rejoice over it,” He says. That is why we have the habit of everybody clapping as we give and all that. Every time we... it's difficult to explain because it takes time, we want to get to preaching and don't want to waste so much time so we don't have even time to stop and talk about it. But we do it and some people think, “What is this? Something new.” When they say, “Offering time,” everybody claps, they don't understand it but we do that because the Bible says when you bring it, bring rejoicing. Don't bring like electricity bill payment. I got to pay. Bring it rejoicing. Rejoicing about what? About all the good things that the Lord has done for you. Think about all the grace of God, the goodness of God, the blessing of God, the kindness of God, everything that God has done for you, rejoice over it. Be glad over it. Thank God for it. Amen. All right.

Leviticus 23. Let's quickly go on. Verse 10 and then verse 14. “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest...’” See, all this spoken to them before they enter the promised land, in the wilderness it is said. ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap the harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.’ When you reap the harvest, bring a sheaf of the first fruits. Everybody say, first fruits. Again. I hope you're noticing the first and the first fruits, and the best will be coming in a few verses later. “Bring the first fruits

of your harvest of the priest. Then verse 14. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. Now let me read both the verses from NIV because NIV makes it very clear what the point is here. “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.’” Now verse 14. You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. You know what He’s saying? He says, “When you go into the land and you start reaping your harvest, you bring a sheaf of the first grain that grows. Bring that to the priest.” And then He says in verse 14, “You must not eat any bread or roasted or new grain until the very day you bring this offering to your God.” You know what that means? It means, “I told you to bring it to the priest when you have a harvest, bringing the first fruit, that bunch. And before you bring it and offer it to the Lord, don't you ever touch what came from that harvest and make your food and eat already and then bring it. First you make sure you come and give the offering to God of the first sheaf and then you can go and eat. Don't roast it, don't cook it. Don't boil it. Don't eat it. Don't do anything with it. Before you make it God’s. Before you present it to God do not touch it,” He says.

Why should they teach this so strongly? Leviticus chapter 27 verse 30. And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's. It is holy to the Lord. That means it belongs to God. All the title of the land. Tithe means 10%. 10% of everything belongs to God, He says. Numbers 18. And this is the last verse. I just wanted you to see how this whole idea of bringing offerings to the Lord is taught here that then only you will understand how God began to testify about his offerings. Verse 12. And “All the best of the oil... Now notice the word best. “All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and the grain, their firstfruits which they offer to the Lord, I have given them to you.” He is telling the priests that He has given it to them. Whatever first ripe fruit is in their land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours. So, the first, the best, the tithe notice all these words.

But now come to the New Testament. Now, in the New Testament a lot of people say, “Well, that is all Old Testament stuff, the tithe and everything is Old Testament,” is a popular idea now. Nowadays a lot of people talk about this. That this is Old Testament stuff. It should not be a factor at all in the New Testament. But let's read in the words of Jesus Himself. Luke chapter 11 verse 42, talking to the Pharisees, Jesus says, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God.” Know what He's saying? He says, “You even tithe your salt and pepper.” These guys are very meticulous, very legalistic about their giving about their tithes. They follow it meticulously. They’ll tithe their salt and pepper also, very careful. But they do not care about justice and the love of God. See, that is why I told you those three things: manner in which the gift is brought, the quality of the gift, the character of the giver. God says, “No, that will be rejected because you're not the right kind of person. You reject the love of God, you reject justice, and you bring your tithe so correctly, meticulously.”

Now after He said that, you expect Him to say kind of, “Well, tithing is useless because I'm going to do away with all these things. I've come to cancel the idea of tithes. Forget about tithe.” That's what you expect Him to say next. But He doesn't say that. He says, “These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” These you ought to have done means you should show justice and the love of God without leaving the others undone. In Tamil, the leaving is mentioned very beautifully in a Tamil word that means without kind of relegating it to something that was of the past, that's over now. It's no more a factor. Tithe is Old Testament. No, no, no, not like that. He said, “You ought to have done this without leaving the others undone.” That means without leaving or rejecting the idea of tithes and bringing offerings to God. Without rejecting that idea, you ought to give your tithes and offerings. But you need to show justice and love of God, both must be maintained. That is how He says.

So, all of these tithes, first fruits, best and all of that, first best, all of these are things that are taught from the very beginning. And the idea is the honor of the Lord. Honoring God. Now, in our minds honoring does not have anything to do with honoring with possession. We honor in other ways. We don't think that we can honor God with our possessions, but the Bible talks about honoring God with our possessions. Not only is it taught as faith in demonstration, faith revealing itself, faith in action. “If you have faith, then this is how you lacked,” God is saying. If you have faith that you can see this in action. That you will bring the first and the best. The very offerings will show whether you have true faith or not. That is exactly what He's saying. By his offerings, the way he brought the offerings and the quality of the offering, and the kind of person that he was, Abel showed his love for God, his fear of God, his reverence for God, that God is his Lord, that he honors God, and God is testifying of that.

Now, later on, the principle that if you do this, that you will be blessed, your barns will be filled with plenty, your vats shall overflow, was openly taught. In the beginning itself it was like that because God was trying to take Adam back into the old kind of life that He established for them in the beginning. Take them back into the blessing. So, He wants them to believe and showed in action. Later on, it was taught very clearly that if you do this, your barns will be filled with plenty, your vats will overflow. Now, one guy was saying, “Well, you're preaching this. But do you know how many people give and don't have anything? Gave and didn't get anything?” Now, in places like America they do a lot of studies on how many people give tithes and all of that. So, American society is known at least when about 30 years ago it was a society known as great givers. They were known for their giving generous gifts. And they made a study of how many people give tithes among churchgoers. They found out only 25% of the people gave tithes. I'm saying this in answer to this person's objection that if you tithe you will be blessed. So, according to that statistics in America, only 25% gave. So, only 25% have the possibility of being blessed according to God's principles. And among the 25% that gave I don't know how many gave like paying electricity bills, and how many gave truly out of faith in their heart and love for God, and truly gave their first and the best.

Now, if you calculate that, the percentage will be much lower, first and the best givers. That is where the real blessing is. That is how the Bible teaches it. There's no use criticizing, “So, many people gave they got nothing.” No, no, there's only very small percentage of people gave and among them only a very small percent of the people ever even realizes that there are truths like this that I'm talking about now. Many people don't even know there is this idea of first and the best in the Bible at all. That when you give, you must think about the quality of our gifts. How many Christians do you think know? When I was growing up, I never heard of it. That my gift must be first and the best. Usually how they took up the offerings was, “Well, we have arranged this meeting, but look how many chairs we’ve put up, and how many tube lights are on and we need to pay this much and we need so much by this day. So, let’s all try to come up with that.” I heard that and I said, “Well, that's a reasonable request. So, I'll try to give as much as possible and I try to do my best.” That's the way I approached it because that's the way I was told. It was only later on I learned that when I bring a gift to God, if I'm a child of God, that I love God and God is number one in my life, I must demonstrate it in my giving. I must give Him nothing less than the first and the best. And that is what, that the promise in Proverbs, that vats will overflow and barns shall be filled with plenty, is for those that give the first and the best. So, tithing is about honoring God.

Let me just give you a couple of examples and close. Wonderful examples of putting God first. And when you put God first in your giving, you'll always end up blessed. Turning your situation around, taking victory in your situation because the world is full of the curse. If you don't do anything, if you militantly don't act against it and exercise your faith and stand in faith and resist the curse and put that curse away, plenty and abundance you will never see. If you just keep quiet, you don't do anything, just go to church and come then curse will automatically work. It's like the thorns and thistles. You don’t need to water it, you don't need to plant anything, you don't need to work on it, you just leave your house, come back three months later, you won't be able even to enter your compound. It'll all be grown. Once it rains you will have a forest around your house. But if you want tomatoes you can’t say, “I’ll leave my house and come back three months later and God will give me tomatoes.” God won't give you tomatoes, you got to go buy tomato seed, you got to prepare the land, you got to plant it, you got to water it, you got to do it, you got to do something in order to produce tomatoes. That's the way it works. So, if you just stay without doing anything what is going to happen is curse is going to engulf you. But if you act against it by faith and if you act on the principles of God, then you're going to dispel the curse and bring the blessings of God. That's the way the Bible teaches it.

Let me give you a couple of examples. I don't want to even turn to it and read it because it's easier to just quote it. The story of the widow of Zarephath during the days of Elijah. It was time of famine, it has not rained in three years. People are dying of famine. There's no food anywhere in the land. And God sends the prophet Elijah to the house of a widow. And as he approaches the house the lady is coming, picking sticks to cook the last meal for her and for her son. And he looks at her and he says, “Go and make me a cake first out of that little dough and little oil that you have. First make me one.” Now, I can imagine what will happen if the media caught it today. People who call themselves prophets snatched food out of the widow’s boy. The poor boy was left without food because prophet came to town claiming to prophesy and took the food out of his mouth. Thank God there was no media like that. These guys will never understand what was happening. Even Christians don't understand. When he asked her to go and make him a cake, he uses the word first in that passage. “First, make me one.” Now, some Christians will say, “If he’s a good prophet, brother, he should have said, ‘Don't worry, lady. I brought some money with me. We'll get some food. I'll come and stay with you. I'll pay for everything. Don't you worry. Here, you go and make some food for you and your son. Don't die because I'm going to be with you. And then after you get through, if there is anything left over, the man of God will eat, you bring it.’ That's a good prophet,” they'll say. No, that's not a good prophet. That's an ignorant prophet. This prophet says, “Make me one first.”

And she blinks. She says, “I just have a little bit of dough and little bit of oil, we want to eat and die and you're asking for a first.” He said, “I'm telling you, woman, if you do this, I say to you by the name of the Lord God of Israel, that the flour and the oil will never run out as long as there is famine. If you do this.” He’s putting a challenge before her. “If you do this. This is God's principle. You put God first. I'm not telling you to go make something for yourself and your son and eat first and then if it is leftover, if God provides, if there is something leftover. No, I'm saying first you bring and if you do this, I'm saying to you by the Lord God of Israel, your flour and your oil will never run out.” And that woman amazes me. No wonder Jesus referred to the story in His times. He went to Nazareth and nobody received Him. They rejected Him. His own people, His own town rejected Him because the familiarity breeds contempt. You know what He said? During the days of Elijah there were many widows in Israel but God never sent His prophet to any of those widows’ house. But He sent the prophet to a foreign lady's house, a Gentile woman's house, the widow of Zarephath. Why? His own people didn't believe the prophet. They won't receive him. So, he sent the prophet to a foreign lady's house, Zarephath, Gentile woman.

And He tells another story also. During the days of Naaman, there were many lepers in Syria but there is only one leper that was healed. And that was Naaman. Why? He had faith. Why God sent this prophet of God to this woman's house? Because she had faith. That faith of that woman amazes me. When the prophet said, “The flour and oil will never run out as long as there is famine.” She went and made a cake for the prophet and brought it and went back to see if she can manage to make one for her son. And she made one for her son because it was still there. There was still some left. By the time she made one for her son and gave, I'm sure the prophet asked for one more because I don't know of any prophet that eats just one chapati and finishes. So, she makes one more for the prophet and comes back to see if there is anything left for herself. She comes back and there is still the flour and the oil. She makes one for herself. And by the time the son is asking for another one, she made another one, then the prophet is asking for another one. The flour never reduced and the oil never reduced. Not just that day when the prophet was visiting, throughout the days of the famine. As long as the famine was there, there was never a lack. The prophet’s words came true.

How did the prophet say that? How could the prophet simply open his mouth and say, “This is what God said”? Sometimes people ask me, “How do you say that? How do you say that brother?” Because that's God's principle. The prophet knew that this will happen because that's God's principle. He said, “You put God first then you see that God will supply everything that you need.” He told her that and it worked. Another example is the amazing example of the city of Jericho. Jericho was the first city that the Israelites captured as they entered the promised land and you know the story. And before they captured the first city because it is the first city that they would capture, God said, “All the spoils that you get out of this city will be Mine. No one should touch it. No one should take it.” See God always wants the first. What God was saying was, “I'm going to give you many victories. This is not the only city.” You’d read the book of Joshua, how many cities they took. The story after story of Israelites going and defeating army after army, taking cities and taking their spoils, the gold and silver, everything comes to them.

The Bible says, the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. The Canaanites were the worst wicked people of the earth at that time. Their punishment was long pending. God was very gracious, very patient. They were the worst of the kind. Totally against God. Rebellious, worst people. And now God is bringing His people, their wealth that is stored up is going to be given to these people, God's people now. So, God is saying, “Just give Me the first.” By giving the first city's wealth into God's hands and dedicating it to God and separating it and keeping it for God, you are declaring that God is the one that enabled me to come into the promised land. God is the one that delivered me from the slavery of Egypt, brought me all this way, made me come into the promised land. No matter how big the enemy is, God will give me victory. You’ve declared that by giving God the spoils of the first city. So, they went there and sure enough Jericho’s walls fell simply by them walking around, and then finally shouting. Unbelievable. Such a big wall just fell like that. They went in, and they have chariots and horses and armies and weapons, nothing worked. Those fellows fled for life, and they were killed and destroyed completely, taken over by the people of God. They took the spoils.

There is one fellow named Achan, and he looked around and he saw a gold bar. He said, “What's wrong with just taking one bar of gold?” So, he slipped one bar of gold in his pants, I guess. And then he saw some silver. So, he took some silver and packed it up. Then he saw some nice piece of clothing that must have been very special in those days. So, he took that piece of clothing and packed it out also and took it to his tent and hid it. And then they went to fight the next city, the city of Ai. You find it in the story in Joshua chapter 7. Chapter 6 is Jericho, chapter 7 is Ai. They go in there and the spies of Israel go in there and they see that’s only few people. They come back and report to Joshua saying, “There's only a few. So, let's just send a few.” So, they sent 3000 people thinking that is an easy job. It's not like Jericho, it’s nothing like Jericho. They went in there thinking it's easy and lo and behold those fellas chased these guys. They had to run for their life. Totally defeated, put to shame. Their hearts became like water, the Bible says. You read the story. Their hearts melted became like water out of fear.

And Joshua went before God and cried before God and said, “God, what is this? We won such a big victory in Jericho. The walls fell, the army was beaten, their chariots and horses couldn’t stand before us. What are these small group of people? We fell against them. We had to run for our lives. Why?” God said, “Because things are not right with you guys. I told you, not one should touch anything from Jericho. That everything must be dedicated to me. But one of your men have taken this.” So, God showed how to find him also. And they identify him and find him and bring him out. It’s amazing. Sometimes Old Testament will upset people. Until you understand the Old Testament. They bring him out and they stone him and kill him and burn him. And when you read this, you say, “My God, what kind of God? How can this happen?” For example, in the Old Testament, God says, “Honor your father and mother.” And then He says, “If any man will lift up his hand and beat his father and mother, kill him,” He says. Why? Because these fellows are like barbarians. These guys lived such a life that beating the father and mother is nothing, and if you allow that to go on in every house it will happen and society will completely disintegrate. Family is God's idea. Respect given to the father and mother is God's idea. If that breaks down, society will break down, you will not have a society or a city or a country. You will not have civilization at all if you cannot maintain order within the family, if there is no respect by the children to the parents. If that breaks down, everything breaks down.

So, how to make sure that it continues? God had to take some drastic measures. So, He said, “If any man raises his hands and beats his father or mother, kill him.” Why? Because then only they'll understand. So, once you kill one person, everybody else will hear they say, “Did they really kill him? Oh, they killed him.” Next time they'll keep their hand to themselves. They will not use it to beat their father and mother. That is how they brought discipline because that's how the nature was. So, God had to make some drastic decisions. So, this guy took the gold and silver and if you just let him go like that, a lot of other people will get the idea. Steal now get forgiveness later. There is a forgiveness plan. God said, “Nothing doing.” So, after they dealt with that guy in that way then they go to the city of Ai and fight and totally take it over. And thereafter, victory after victory after victory after victory, dozens of victories for the people of Israel. All the spoils, all the gold and silver were theirs. They can freely take it and enjoy.

God said, “The first is Mine.” Why the first? Is God going to take this gold and play streets in heaven? He's got streets of gold. Gold is like tar in heaven. They put streets with gold because that's the cheapest material there. Why would God want our gold and our silver? It is worth nothing to him. It doesn't matter to Him. “Why does He want it?” People say. I say, He wants it because you want it. He wants it because it's a matter of honor. When you don't honor God with your giving that brings a question of whether you know God, whether you truly believe in God, whether you truly have faith in God, because faith will always result in action. If there is no work that goes with faith, then it is doubtful whether true faith is there or not. That is how the Bible teaches us.

That is why it is said that God testifies of his gift. What did He testify? He testified saying, “This man has a relationship with Me. It's a real genuine relationship. He believes in Me. He trusts in Me. I am his Lord. I am his Master. He honors Me. He shows that through his gifts.” Bible scholars say that in those days God would have sent His fire down from heaven supernaturally consumed Abel’s gift so that dramatic something happened there. That Abel knew that his was accepted and Cain’s gift is laying there, no fire came down. God is saying, “I don't want yours because I don't like your heart. You are just a religious person bringing something. You don't have your heart in it. You don't have true faith. Your faith is not genuine. You don't trust in Me. Therefore, you don’t honor Me.” God testified of Abel’s gifts because Abel understood God's principle of bringing his gifts before God in the right way.

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