As I was considering the question of tithing I read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek again and I think that this story holds to key to understanding the purpose of tithing.
“After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” – Genesis 14:17-20 (emphasis added)
Bible scholars agree that throughout the bible we are introduced to these mysterious characters referred to by the theologians as Christophanies. According to Wikipedia a Christophany is an appearance, or non-physical manifestation of Christ. Examples include Jesus appearing to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), the fourth man in the furnace with Daniel’s friends who protected them from the fire (Daniel 3), The Angel of the Lord who wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32), and Melchizedek, King of Jerusalem and Priest of God. (Genesis 14). These characters are mentioned and make Christ known to His people in the Old Testament.
Melchizedek is an intersting Christophany to say the least. I would say he’s the most direct representation of who Jesus is:
- Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem (Zion). Jesus is the King of kings and will establish his eternal Kingdom in the New Jerusalem in the end (Revelation 21).
- Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High. Jesus is our Great High Priest. He administered the sacrifice for our sins and intercedes for us (Hebrews 4:14-16).
- Melchizedek blessed Abraham, but before that he brought bread and wine. Likewise, Jesus brought blessing to Abraham’s family (Israel) and to those of us who are grafted in to the family of God (the Church), but first he brought bread and wine (Luke 22:14-23).
Abraham’s response to Melchizedek, I believe, gives us a pattern that we are to follow. He was blessed by this priestly king from a Jerusalem and so he gave a tenth of everything he had, his first fruits as it were. Likewise, we ought to give Jesus, our King and Great High Priest, the first fruits of everything we have and everything we are.