Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, “How shall we return?”
Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
Robbing and Returning
The prophet proclaims the faithfulness of the Lord and the waywardness of his children. A call to return to the Lord leaves them asking, “How shall we return?” They then get accused of robbing God.
When I was young, I took something from my piano teacher’s home without asking. It was a few slips of paper from a very pretty notepad. I failed to take it out of my piano book the following week and when she saw them, she confronted me about not asking her if I could have them. From that day on, I felt ashamed and uncomfortable at each lesson. I didn’t want to be around her. I had robbed her and my relationship with her had changed.
I imagine that the people of God felt the same when they failed to bring God their tithes and offering. In the Old Testament, giving tithes and offering wasn’t simply about money. The gifts brought into the temple provided food for the Levites and the poor. When God commanded his people to stop robbing him of tithes and offerings, he is actually inviting them to come and share a meal with others.
Sitting down at a meal together wasn’t automatically going to set everything right, however, it was a simple gesture to begin to restore the relationship between the people, the priests and God. Sharing with the poor also begins to restore justice between those who have enough and those who don’t.
During Advent we await the ultimate Restorer of our relationship with God the Father. Give thanks and praise that we can return to God and our relationship with others can be strengthened through Christ.