So, not quite sure how this is going to come together, but there’s a couple of thoughts racing around my head as I sit back after my readings and reflect. A couple of thoughts that I’m thinking might actually tie together and explain to some degree the exhaustion, and emotional and spiritual bankruptcy, so many are feeling. A relationship between a tenth and too many gods.
First observation? The connection between worship and a tenth.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that You give me I will give a full tenth to You.”
(Genesis 28:20-22 ESV)
Jacob’s just fled from angry, murderous brother Esau. Something to do with a sold out birthright and a stolen blessing. And he has a dream and a vision of a ladder between heaven and earth. And the promise God made to his dad, and his dad’s dad — a promise of land, offspring, and blessing — is given to him as well. And Jacob’s response? If the LORD’s promise is true, then “the LORD shall be my God.”
And what would be the evidence of God being his God? “I will give a full tenth to You.” It would cost. There would be a sacrifice, a giving up of something as an act of acknowledging God as everything. Isn’t that the essence of worship? Worship is giving of something to God. Worship is sacrifice. That’s why praise is called “a sacrifice to God, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” (Heb. 13:15). It’s why Paul would say that a believers “spiritual worship” is to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1 ESV). Worship, one could say, is a tenth.
Fast forward to my reading in Acts and my second observation. The connection between worship and spiritual bankruptcy.
Context? Stephen’s speech before the high priest and council. A recap of their history and a pointed reminder of their father’s propensity to rebel against God’s deliverers. Just as the men who accused Stephen of blasphemy had rejected Jesus, Stephen connects the dots to the patriarch’s jealousy and rejection of Joseph (7:9) and their father’s refusal to obey and follow Moses (7:39). And when you reject God’s provision, you end up looking for it somewhere else.
“And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven . . . “
(Acts 7:41-42 ESV)
God’s judgment for their determination to sacrifice to one idol? He releases them to their heart’s insatiable appetite for many idols, “to worship the host of heaven.”
Okay, a “host” is a lot! More than just one or two more idols. Literally, it’s an army or a troop of fake, man-made gods. That’s a lot of idols to worship.
And if worship costs, if it takes a tenth, then it’s gotta become pretty exhausting to service all those gods. Ultimately, you only have so many tenths to give. Eventually the well’s gonna run dry. The cupboards are gonna be bare. And the decision to sacrifice to the works of our own hands, and not worship the one true God, and Him alone, has to eventually lead to worship fatigue and ultimately to spiritual bankruptcy. Doesn’t it?
What started with refusing to the give our tenth to the one true God, the only God worthy of our tenth; what begins with investing our tenth in things made by men, gives way to the quenchless quest to give away our tenths to a host of counterfeit gods with the futile hope that we’ll receive something that satisfies in return. And people, we only have so many tenths to give. Eventually we run out. Eventually our gods fail to provide any meaningful, lasting return. They can’t satisfy. And we end up done.
Our tenth is for God and God alone. Let us have no gods before Him. May we allow no idol to supplant Him. For He alone is worthy of sacrificial worship.
And, should we realize that we been investing more tenths than we really have in worship of that which has no real benefit, let us find our way again to Calvary. The blood of Christ sufficient to pay idolatry’s exorbitant price. The finished work of the cross able to break the flesh’s desire for that made by its own hands. The risen Jesus able to again abundantly source fresh treasures from which we can offer the Father alone our tenth — by the Son, through the Spirit.
All because of grace. All for His glory.