“When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly” (Genesis 17:1-2, ESV).
Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth, God again appeared to Abram, whom He renamed as Abraham during this appearance. In these verses God calls Himself “El Shaddai,” for which the meaning is unknown, but its translation as “God Almighty” is based on a tradition going back more than two thousand years.
“Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. ‘Test Me in this way,’ says the Lord of Hosts. See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven for you and pour out a blessing for you without measure” (Malachi 3:10, HCSB).
The prophet Malachi accuses the people of Israel of robbing God (vs. 8) because they did not pay their tithes. The tithes were used to support the priests and Levites, whose ministry was essential if Israel was to be faithful to God in its calling as His chosen people. Because their land was cursed by drought and pestilence (vs. 9,11), they felt justified not giving their tithes.
“They said, Please pray to the Lord your God for us. As you can see, we are only a tiny remnant compared to what we were before. Pray that the Lord your God will show us what to do and where to go…Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us… And today I have told you exactly what he said, but you will not obey the Lord your God any better now than you have in the past” (Jeremiah 42:2,3,6,21, NLT).
Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, King Nebuchadnezzar appointed a governor over Judah. The new governor encouraged the people of Judah who had fled to neighboring countries to return to Judah and farm the land.
There is a quality of life that Christians enjoy that results from being a believer and follower of Jesus. Jesus referred to it as abundant life: “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10, HCSB).
The Apostle Paul expounds on the spiritual blessings that God supplies His people in the opening chapter and verses of the book of Ephesians.
“For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people! And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5:9-11, NLT).
In this story that is the first call of disciples recorded in Luke’s gospel, Peter, James and John had just fished all night with no results.
“When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you are to consider the fruit forbidden. It will be forbidden to you for three years; it is not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way its yield will increase for you; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25, HCSB).
The prohibition from eating the fruit of a newly planted fruit tree may have had to do with the fact that the fruit of a young tree was not well formed and did not taste good in the early stages of its life.
Since the firstfruits belonged to God (see Numbers 18:12-17), the fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God as a praise offering to indicate that the Israelites recognized that God was the One who gave them the good things the earth produced and blessed them with increased production.
“For You, God, tested us; You refined us as silver is refined. You lured us into a trap; you placed burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but You brought us out to abundance” (Psalm 66:10-12, HCSB).
The Psalmist indicates that refining is a process meant to purify God’s people.
And if these verses allude to God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the Psalmist seems to apply Israel’s experience personally to us.