Immanuel and Tithe
Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Gen 28:10-22)
All of this was the process of God’s covenant with Abraham being fulfilled. And Jacob snatched this promise from his brother Esau. He bought the birth right from his brother for a bowl of soup and deceived his father to receive the blessing. So his brother was furious. He was determined to kill his brother, but when his mother heard about it, she told Jacob to flee, saying, “Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?” Jacob’s longing was to possess that blessing which God had given to Abraham, and what did we say that blessing was? God with us.
God is with me eternally. Jacob longed for God to be with him and his household, but in order for that to be fulfilled, there were three things that first needed to take place. What were those three? For this promise to be fulfilled, there were three things which had to happen first. First of all, God said He will give them land. He promised saying, “I will give you and your descendants the land of Canaan”. So he must first take possession of the land. But he couldn’t take over the land by himself, could he? So he needs to have many children. After he has many descendants, then he must take possession of the land. However, no matter how many descendants you have, you cannot take over somebody’s land just by that. So God first needs to become their God. In other words, he had to see his descendants grow in number, then God becoming their King and leading them, and finally guiding them into the land of Canaan to live there. That is what he needed to see.
That is finally accomplished through Immanuel, meaning, “God with us”. Since Jacob longed and longed for that, he would need to obtain it even if it meant he had to deceive his brother and father. Why? That is the very purpose of why God created mankind, so what else would matter? In the end, he deceived his brother. So his brother was trying to kill him. But if he dies, the promise cannot be fulfilled. Many descendants have to be born to him, but if he dies, how can that happen? Thus he needed to save his life. He had to flee. Where did he flee to? He went to Haran, where Abraham used to live across the Jordan river. But as he fled, he had one concern. If he flees, his brother would continue living in that land while he would be in a distant place. God’s promise was to give him that land though. So he first had to flee in order to save his life and thus be able to have many children. Once he moves away from that land, he is not guaranteed of when he might be able to return. Nobody knows when his brother would die. If he lives in a foreign land for some decades, how can he be sure that he will take possession of this land? It was a serious problem. He’s out of the frying pan and into the fire. He needs to immediately save his life, and yet he can’t leave the land because he needs to take possession of it.
Hence, although he left for the time being, the greatest concern for Jacob was being able to return. He needed to have definitive proof that God will keep all of His promises to him. Will God truly be Immanuel? Will He truly use me? What was the proof? How could he be sure? If he was to return to that land one day, which did seem impossible, that would mean that God was surely with him. So even if he cannot see the future and what will take place, he can believe that the promises will certainly come true. Then he wouldn’t have anything more to wish for, as long as he can return.
On his way, he took a rest on a stone where he had a dream. A stairway leading all the way up to heaven appeared, and angels descended and ascended on it. So on that stairway, Jehovah stood and reaffirmed the promise to Jacob. “This land will be given to you.” However, since it happened in a dream, when he woke up, there was no one. Yet he believed that it was God working in his dream and built an altar there, saying that it was the place where God was. He then made a vow in verse 20, saying, “If God will be with me” – which was what he had been longing for – “and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. That means everything God has promised me will be fulfilled. I will be able to believe everything He said. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Later on, after Jacob had lived many decades in a foreign land where he had four wives and twelve sons, he was returning home. But he felt hopeless because his brother was coming to kill him. When he heard the news that his brother with an army of hundreds of men were madly coming after him, how terrified would he have been? He was as good as dead. Yet he sent off everyone ahead of him and sought for God’s blessing, and finally saw how his brother changed. “My brother is going to kill me”, he thought, “and then everything would be over. God’s promise would have nothing to do with me. However, if I live, that will be the confirmation that all of the promises will surely be fulfilled.” Can you imagine how nervous he would’ve been when he met his brother? Yet when they met, his brother was not mad at him; instead he welcomed Jacob with gladness. That’s when Jacob knew. He knew that God will keep all of His promises to him; that He was surely with him and even if he didn’t see everything happen, he was sure all the promises were going to be fulfilled to him. He even received the name Israel from God so that his descendants were called by the name Israel which means “he who overcame”. To this day, his descendants are Israel. That is the name that Jacob received, and they all belong to him. After he had the confirmation that all the promises will be accomplished, he gave tithes to God.
Hence, what is a tithe? It is the confession – God is with me. A tithe is the way we confess, “God is with me”. Thus anyone who doesn’t believe that cannot give tithes. Although they might go to church and claim to have faith, if they cannot believe that God is with them, they won’t give tithes. Can a person who doesn’t tithe have any relationship with God? Can he be saved? That’s very hard to say. Of course, you don’t receive salvation by tithing. However, if one is saved and he knows God is with him, then he would definitely give tithes. It’s not that you have to be baptised in order to be saved. But if one desires to be saved and receive Jesus’ name within him eternally, he would be baptised. Hence if anybody asks, “Do I have to be baptised to be saved?” he asks that because he doesn’t really want to be baptised. If he is determined not to be baptised, can he be saved? In the same way, anyone who asks, “Do I have to tithe?” is someone that doesn’t want to tithe. If he claims to have received God’s grace, if he claims that God is forever with him and that he will go to heaven, yet is reluctant to give tithes, is he really a person who has been saved? To be quite blunt, we can’t say that he is. You are not saved by giving tithes. However, if a person is saved, God is with him. Such a person would certainly give tithes.
People who are unsure whether they have faith or not should be thankful. All sorts of thoughts go through our minds which is why we can’t trust them. There are my thoughts and the demon’s thoughts. But thankfully, God has made us confess with our lips. God doesn’t examine what’s in our minds but hears the words of our lips and saves us. Regardless of what goes through our minds, when I confess with my lips, “Jesus, You are the Son of God. You are Christ. Thank you, Lord Jesus”, God will hear what I said. If that doesn’t seem enough, He tells us, “Be baptised. Then, no matter what is going on in your mind, you obeyed My words and were baptised”. That is what God considers. He doesn’t consider the thoughts that go through your mind.
Is God with you? Is He with you eternally? Then you would tithe. If you give tithes with such confession, God is not going to consider the passing thoughts in your mind, the unbelief that arises momentarily. Instead, He considers how you gave tithes and will approve your faith by which you believed that God is with you. That is why I am truly thankful that I can give tithes. At times, I may have thoughts like, “Is God pleased with me? Is He with me?” Nevertheless, the fact that I give tithes means I acknowledge this. By giving money which is most valuable, I acknowledge this. And God promised that this is what God will consider. This is why I am so thankful every time I give tithes. Even though I am unworthy and fall short of the standards, I’m thankful that I can at least give tithes because I believe that God is with me. It’s the minimum requirement. God is with me, and He leads me forever.
When I was going to China, the jeonse (housing deposit) we paid for the home we were renting was 30,000,000 won which we had to get back by ending the lease in order to go to China. We had never thought about touching that money because it was what my parents had provided us with when I got married. It wasn’t what I saved up. So I had never given tithes for that money. But after we ended the lease and received the deposit back, I would have to give tithes. I had never given that much as tithe before. Furthermore, this money was not something we earned but what we had already. So there was a bit of conflict within me. We, humans, are so cunning. Tithe would be 300,000 won. And I struggled with the fact that I had to give the tithe. But the struggle was brief. We offered it. So we couldn’t give it on the Lord’s day because we were fighting against the conflicting thoughts within us. So I think we gave it on a weekday at the Singil worship place where there is an offering box. My wife and I put in the tithes there. Because we were getting ready to go to China, every penny counted, and hence 300,000 won was a huge amount. It would’ve been enough to pay for my studies for a whole semester. But as we gave it, what came to my mind was, “Lord, we are Yours. We don’t want to live by our calculations but only obey God’s commands”. With that in my heart, we gave tithes. In that moment, my heart was touched overwhelmingly. I know I often tell you not to say things like, “God spoke to me. God said something to me”. But at that time, that was exactly what I wanted to say. God spoke to me saying, “You are Mine. You are Mine. I will take care of you from now on. Do not worry about what you will eat or how your life will be. You are Mine.” These words were penetrating into my heart. So as we put in the tithes, I was full of tears and we prayed. I was truly thankful. After that we went to China without any worries.
When we finished studying for two years there, we had 10,000,000 won left. If we used that while we travelled to do our ministry, it would’ve been quite enjoyable. Having some spare cash with us would mean we could do some recreational activities and stay at hotels, while other people might be having a hard time. We would be able to afford those things. But the problem with that is we could rely on money rather than trusting in God. We heard testimonies from some people before that when they began God’s work, they dedicated everything they had in order to rely only on God. So for the same reason, we gave the remaining 10,000,000 won we had as offerings. After dedicating it, we had nothing left. And that’s when we began our work as evangelists.
When we go on evangelism trips, we receive small amounts of money from our teacher, which is just enough to pay for the train fare there and back. But afterwards, the people that received grace would give offerings and provide us with money to pay for our travel so that on our return, we have more money than we started with. When we were not in ministry, we spent money. But the more we worked and served in ministry, the more cash we got. So when we returned from our trips, we gave them as offerings and then would receive a small amount to go on another trip. That’s how we lived for about two years. Just because the money was given to us doesn’t mean we spent it all. The offerings we collected we gave when we returned, and then we would only receive money for our fares to go on the next evangelism trips.
Even to this day, we experience God taking care of every part of our lives and how He is with us. So how great is the blessing of tithing? Only those who truly believe that God is with them will be able to tithe. The tithe shouldn’t be burdensome. Instead, it is a great blessing that when I am worn down and weak in faith, I can confess and acknowledge my faith by giving tithes. Let us pray to have the faith for my spirit to truly acknowledge that God is with us.
Our Lord is the source of blessing. He is the blessing. He is the blessed God. And because He is with me, I am full of blessings. That’s what we need to acknowledge. Because He has life, I am full of life. Because He is the truth, I am filled with the truth, not lies. Thus everything unclean, weak and evil must be removed. Let us pray, Lord, since you are within me, help me to be strong and drive away from me everything that is unclean and every weakness.
Thank You God our Father for always being with us. Through Jesus Christ, we received the Holy Spirit and became temples of God’s name. Help us to acknowledge this ourselves, take pride, and be strengthened by Your life and power. Drive out of us every uncleanness and weakness and wickedness. Strengthen all of your workers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center