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The Sabbath, Circumcision and Tithing: the Sacred Principles to Living

The Sabbath, Circumcision and Tithing: the Sacred Principles to Living

| On 22, Apr 2018

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:1-3; Genesis 17:7-11; Genesis 14: 17-20

Genesis 2:1-3 says, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Genesis 17:7-11, ‘And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.’

“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”

Before we dwell on the topics on the Sabbath, Circumcision and Tithing; the sacred principles to living, we need to have two basic beliefs without which the message this morning is irrelevant or useless to us. We begin with two basic beliefs that firstly Christians should obey God, and secondly the Bible is a reliable guide to the way we should obey. Christians who don’t accept these beliefs probably aren’t interested in the bible anyway. They don’t care which laws apply today, because they don’t consider any of them very authoritative.

When I mentioned the Mosaic Law, I am referring to the Law introduced by Moses in the book of Exodus and Leviticus. The Mosaic Law includes not just the 10 commandments but also the Decalogue which contains 613 commandments, all given in the book of Exodus and Leviticus. We thank God that we are not living in the Old Testament times. Imagine having to obey 613 commandments. Anyway when I say Pre Mosaic, I am referring to the times before the introduction of the Law. You must understand that there is a gap period of at least 400 years between Genesis and Exodus. The reason for this sharing is there is a common argument in the church that we are no more under the Law but under Grace and therefore; for instance, since tithing is part of the Law of the Old Testament, thus we are not obligated to follow the practice. But the truth of the matter is that tithing was already in existence before the introduction of the Law. Tithing was in existence at least 400 years before Moses gave the Law. Then I made at discovery that there are also two more practices that are found in Genesis even before the Law was introduced. They are the Sabbath and Circumcision. Sabbath and Circumcision are also found in the Law of Moses but are preexisting even before the Mosaic Law. I felt that Sabbath, Circumcision and Tithing are not just practices but principles of life that a Christian should understand and obey. Even before the introduction of the Mosaic Law these are three important observant that are followed when one says he worships YAHWEH. Also notice that God deals these 3 principles with a family, not a nation; specifically the family of Abraham. Likewise when God deals with us, it is with us as individuals and a family. God brings truths and essential principles into our lives for practical use in our daily living. I like to call the Sabbath, Circumcision and Tithing the Universal principles for life or the Sacred Principles to Living.

Let’s study them.

1. Sabbath

Genesis 2:1-3 says, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

The Principle of the Sabbath was observed by God even in the beginning of history.

Many today say, ‘Oh, the Sabbath was an Old Testament Law. The Seventh Day does not apply to Christians. We Christians follow the Lord’s Day. But even that we failed to observe the Lord’s Day. We fail to understand that the Sabbath is not a practice but a principle of life. The Sabbath was embedded in the very laws of creation. God commanded the Sabbath at creation. If so, it would seem to apply to all the descendants of Adam and Eve, to all humanity. If God wanted the first humans to keep the Sabbath, then it is more likely that he wants us to keep the Sabbath today. What do the Scriptures say? Genesis 2 tells us:

God created the world in six days.
By the seventh day, creation was complete.
God rested. The word rested is repeated twice for emphasis.
‘Rest’ here, is the same Hebrew root as ‘Sabbath’. So God took a Sabbath. The term ‘rest’ is also a common element which refers to temple life and worship. So for us rest is not simply rest but it involves temple life and worship. Today is a day of temple life and worship.
He blessed the seventh day and made it holy.

The Sabbath began during the creation and was sanctified by none other than God himself. If there is any law that should sustain its place in the church, the Sabbath should be it. God sanctified the Sabbath; make it holy. Today seemingly Christians play golf on Sunday, the Lord’s Day and goes to church on a Saturday. They broke the principle of the Sabbath. The word ‘Sabbath’ comes from a Hebrew root that means ‘to rest, cease, desist, and leave off’. On the pain of death, the Israelites were not to do any work on the Sabbath – not even cooking, lighting a fire, gathering firewood, or travelling. While the Sabbath was a day of worship, sacred assembly, and special sacrifices in the Tabernacles and Temple; a holy convocation, for the average person, when you go home after worship, it was primarily a day of rest at home; a Sabbath of rest in all your dwellings.

I was able to have dinner with my two daughters and my son-in-law while transiting from Phnom Penh to Philippines. I have a night of stopover in Singapore. Joy has not been very nice to me lately probably because I always refused to go out with her for a meal trying to understand that she is a busy person. But she says that she also need to eat and so why don’t eat together during dinner time. Anyway I did have a meal with her but she was quite spiky in her words during meal time. I was telling her that I am trying to share to my congregation on 3 observant that was already in existence even before the Law of Moses was given. I was excited but in the midst of the excitement I was only able to remember Sabbath and Circumcision and I forgot the third observant. Joy being a smart girl while I was trying to remember what it was, says, ‘is it tithing? I said yes. Then sarcastically she said how I could preach on this topic when I can’t even remember one of the observant and it would be better if she is the one that is sharing since she can remember. That is how naughty she is. Anyway the reason I brought out this sermon to her was on the Sabbath. I told her that she needs to rest at least a day (which is Sunday for her). She has 5 days work but being a typical Singaporean she goes to work on Saturday and even Sunday. Her habit on Sunday is that she will go to church and thereafter return back to office instead of resting at home. She argues that she really has a lot of things to catch up and isn’t it alright to just go back to work for one hour on a Sunday. I told her that God rested a day and who is she being a frail human not to rest. Many CEOs, military personnel and company executives are workaholic and they would just collapse and die at very young age. I believe it has to do with their work habits. They never rest at all and I believe they work on Sunday. The scary part is that they love to work (including joy and Ben) and if they are not working, they felt that they are lazy. I believe God created our body in such a way that it needs at least a day’s rest to recuperate. So the Sabbath is a principle, a truth that has to be observed. The Sabbath provided a weekly day of rest from all work. It was instituted later in the Mosaic Law for people’s physical, mental and spiritual well being, not being the day itself was sacred. In Mark 2:27 Jesus said, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’. The provision of rest was especially significant to the Israelites, for the Sabbath was a constant, vivid reminder that God had delivered them from slavery and entered into a covenant relationship with them.

Also the Sabbath served to sanctify the Nation of Israel, that is, to set it apart or separate it from all other nations, for no other nation observed the Sabbath. When you observed the Lord’s Day you are sanctified, set apart from other people. It distinguished you from everyone else and identified you physically as YAHWEH’s chosen people. The Sabbath seems to establish itself as a principle we should continue.

Also it is a shadow of God’s rest. Hebrew 4:3-11 says, ‘For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

This speaks of the rest of faith that we enter into through Jesus Christ. This shadow of the rest of God is available to God’s people now, for the writer of Hebrews says, “we who have believed do enter into rest,” and “he who has entered into God’s rest has ceased from his own works.” I have learned a beautiful principle lately. Personally we all have fights, struggles and labors in our lives; fights against the demonic attacks, struggles with people, labors in the ministry, and even in the family. We face struggles at work, in relationship and even pursuing our dreams. I learned that when I have tried my best and when it is not working, I rest in God; I just trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. I enter into God’s rest and ceased from my own works.

Jan was trying to make sure that her relationship with her boyfriend will work this time. She spends a lot of time in it, being proactive, going out with him, introducing him to her auntie and making sure that he has Christian core values. Recently the relationship has become rocky and she was very tired and drained. Then I told her. You have done what you have done. You are so tired. Why don’t you just rest in God concerning your future husband? It is a rest of faith. The word ‘rest’ in Genesis 2:2 means security, care, orderliness and productivity. I believe God will do exactly that for Jan. I believe if Jan just rested in God, YAHWEH will bring order, security for Jan. He will care for her and actually what she has wished for will even be more productive. The Sabbath rest is the sacred principle for living.

Resting in the finished work of our Lord is the basis of all spiritual life and work. Only those who rest in God’s promises and cease from their own efforts can receive God’s righteousness, peace, and joy. Only those who rely on God’s Spirit by faith, not depending on their own strength, can please the Lord. That is the principle of the true Sabbath, resting (trusting) in God’s work for us (our struggles, labors fights). I know some of you have become tired by the thorn and thistles of life. But you are a child of God. Why don’t you rest, cease and desist, trusting in God to work it out for you.


2. Circumcision

Genesis 17:7-11, ‘And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.’

Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis. This rite of circumcision is one of the most ancient practices of Judaism. The commandment to circumcise male children was given to Abraham in Genesis 17:7-11. It is again a Pre Mosaic Law. Today circumcision is recommended for hygienic reasons and to prevent infections and diseases. It is said that those who are circumcised has less chances of contracting AIDS than those who are not circumcised. But it is more than that.

Circumcision is a covenant. Circumcision was long understood as ‘completing’ the male and as essential for male entrance into the covenant. In everyday life everyone understands the concept of contracts/covenants. We have contracts with various people to purchase (house, car, and computer software) and services (telephone, electricity, and internet). A covenant includes conditions, terms, or requirement to be fulfilled by the parties who participate in it. Here we see God entering into a covenant relationship with Abraham. Our relationship with God today is a covenant relationship. God wants to be our God and he wants to give us lands which signify blessings or our promised inheritance on earth.

When Pastor Mike Picone was here he gave a spiritual download for Pastor Lily. He says that he saw Pastor Lily with a shield and a sword; the shield representing truth and the sword representing faithfulness and when the devil wants to come to destroy her, the devil would see the shield of truth and sword of faithfulness and he will withdraw quickly. I can affirm that this is a characteristic of Pastor Lily and the download is real. Pastor Mike Picone also gave me a spiritual download while praying for me. He says he saw God giving me a pot of Gold. It is not a pot of silver or a pot of bronze but a pot of gold. When I was sharing this with my children; joy would be sarcastic again and say the spiritual download for Pastor Lily is accurate whereas for mine it is not accurate. Jan would continue and say that most probably the pot of God would mean purity of life. I shot back and said I don’t want purity (God forgive me0, I want literal Gold. I said God would literally give me gold, inheritances, wealth for the ministry. And we all started laughing. Anyway my purpose in sharing these spiritual download is that YAHWEH wants to enter into a covenant relationship with us and he wants to bless us with all spiritual and earthly blessings.

Just as blood was involved in circumcision, the blood of Jesus Christ sealed our covenant relationship with God. They said the book of Genesis is actually a book of Covenants; the Noahic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant, Many of us human has always failed to understand that God has always wanted to enter into a covenant relationship with us and to bless us. That is the second sacred principle for living.

The importance of circumcision is further evident from the repeated contemptuous references to the Philistines as uncircumcised. When we are angry with a Gentile and we always declare, ‘you uncircumcised philistines’, who are you to touch a child of God. In the time of the Prophets, the term ‘uncircumcised’ was applied allegorically to the rebellious heart or to the obdurate (obstinate, unyielding, stubborn) ear. It is suggested that the Hebrew word for uncircumcised ‘arel’ means properly ‘obstructed’. And the word for foreskin is ‘orlah’ in Hebrew (the foreskin needs to be cut off) means it is a certain kind of taboo because the lips of that uncircumcised person is not fluent or the heart of a person will not listen to reason.

Today if you are not in a covenant relationship you are uncircumcised. Sorry, but I look at the terrorism that is around today. If you look at the terrorists, If you study them properly aren’t they really uncircumcised; rebellious, obstinate, obstructive, not refined in their speech and will not listen to reason. I also want to tell you, if you are uncircumcised you are likewise the same.

As the Sabbath is embedded in the very fabric of the Universe, circumcision represents the principle of a covenant relationship between God and man and God as the initiator. If you want to start life anew, start with a covenant relationship with God.

If you read exodus 12:48, which says, ‘And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof’; you will notice that strangers that were brought into the household, and wanted to be a native of the land had to be circumcised. My point is that even Gentiles can be included in the circumcision pointing to the evangelistic mindset of God. Today it is not too late. Anyone can enter into a covenant relationship with God.

3. Tithing

I want to share with you my family. Since the day we came to know the Lord, and especially after we were married and have children, we have always practiced the principles of tithing. When we receive the percentage share from the government from our salary, Pastor Lily will tithe the government share that is put into the pension fund. When we receive our insurance maturity, we will tithe. My two children since young have been tithing and they will never cheat God in tithing. My son-in-law tithe too. Tithing is a sacred principle in my family. When they get bonuses they tithe. If they sell their house they tithe. It has been these way for the near 40 years of my pilgrimage with God and the near 30 years of my children’s life since the day they were born. When my children were just babies, they received monetary gifts. We tithe the gifts.

We know that tithe is embedded in the Mosaic Law; which clearly commands the practice of tithing for all Israel (the people of God) as a combined act of spiritual service and economic obligations for the advancement of the Nation of Israel. This has always been one of the most sensitive topics. The common argument is that the church is no more under the Law but under grace and therefore since tithing is part of the law of the OT; thus we are not obligated to follow the practice.

Well, the truth of the matter is that tithing is even before the giving of the Law. Tithe predates the mosaic legislation. It is practiced in the book of Genesis and the giving of the Law was in the book of Exodus.

The Payment of tithes has been for centuries performed by both biblical figures (Abraham, Jacob) and pagans alike since the very earliest of cultures; Romans, Greek, Babylonian, Chinese etc. Therefore we need to consider the origin of tithe: was the tithe a divinely conceived custom, original with Yahweh and unique in its expression, or was the tithe a divine adaptation of an originally pagan custom.

Some scholar contends that the Leviticus institution was borrowed heathen practices. However the more accurate Scholars contend that the universality of the tithe, point to an ancient practice, was instituted by God at the very dawn of human history. Just as the Sabbath, Tithing was embedded in the dawn of the human history. To make this claim one has to look into the book of Genesis, at the first borns of Adam and Eve even before humans starts to populate. We are using the earliest of human history for records. Tithing was established as early as genesis 4.
Firstly let’s study the sacrificial practices of Abel and Cain
Genesis 4:3 says, ‘“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.”
When understanding Genesis 4:3 we need to be familiar with the Hebrew language. We need to understand the Hebrew term that is used for offering. I know that many have concluded that the offerings of Cain and Abel were intended as atoning, expiatory sacrifices, based on the assumption that God’s displeasure with Cain’s offering stemmed from his failure to give a blood sacrifice. However the Hebrew term used for offering is that of a bloodless sacrifice and is the standard term used in Levitical code for meal offering. There is nothing wrong with giving a meal offering in Moses’ law. Moses who wrote the book of Genesis actually in this passage of scripture avoids using terms that denotes blood sacrifice.

God’s displeasure of Cain’s offering was his failure to meet some divinely revealed requirement. In Genesis 4:7 it says, ‘“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

The English translation of verse 7, identifies Cain’s failure to ‘divide rightly’. And if we read Hebrew 11:4; namely Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain’ it actually means that Cain’s sin was specifically a failure to give an adequate percentage of his income to God. We know that tithe is 10 percent. This percentage must be none other than a tithe. The Hebrew term used in Cain and Abel’s gifts is also frequently associated with payment of a tribute or taxes. For this reason it was suggested that Cain and Abel’s gifts were mandatory. Although mandatory it also is employed as an expression of respect, thanksgiving, homage, friendship, dependence. So your tithe is not only mandatory but it implies you respect God, pay homage to God and you are in a friendship with God and you are dependent on God.

They show humanity’s need to be in fellowship with God. These gifts were a way to show God’s sovereignty over us, His immanence (his diety), and the need for regular worship.
When Pastor Lily and I go to a friend’s house, just say church members, we don’t go empty handled; we bring a gift because he or she is our Friend.
God’s displeasure with Cain’s offering is not because it is not a blood sacrifice but rather Cain failed to meet some divinely revealed requirement.
Secondly the unprecedented payment of tithes by Abram to the priest of the most high God, Melchizedek
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭14:17-20‬ ‭KJV‬‬
The Hebrew term for “tithe” is simply the adjectival form of the number ten. The tithe is an exact tenth, and is not used in a generic sense to refer to multiple types of offerings of varying amounts. The Mosaic legal practice is the tithe was paid to Yahweh through the hand of the priest, and presumably dispensed by the same.

Mechizedek merits special study
Rising suddenly to prestige in verse 18 and vanishing just as suddenly a scant two verses later, Melchizedek’s function raises many questions
Melchizedek was a king
Melchizedek’s realm was the city of Salem. This inexplicable shortening of “Jerusalem” His supply of bread and wine would have made him a wealthy and hence a powerful king.
In addition, Melchizedek is labeled by Moses as a priest. This is the first mention of a priest in the OT. A priest is someone who stands in the gap between God and man, representing man to God and God to man. Drawing from the Psalms 110 and Hebrew 5:6, 10 there is no question that is Most High God whom Melchizedek is serving is Abram’s God, the God of Israel, our God; thus the reason why Abram paid tithe to Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:7, in discussing Abram and Melchizedek, insists that, “without any dispute, the lesser is blessed by the greater,” thus implying that Melchizedek was in some sense greater than Abram when he blesses Abram, and, presumably, when he received tithes from Abram.

Melchizedek is a type of Christ. Jesus is King and he owns the Universe, thus a wealthy and hence a powerful King. Christ is also priest; standing in between God and man, representing God to man and man to God. We are Abraham and when we tithes, we declare God’s sovereignty over us, His Kingship and Priesthood. We acknowledge we are the subject and He is our master.

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