Vows, Dedications, Devoted Things, and Tithes

Today, I’d like to look at vows, dedications, devoted things, and tithes mentioned in Leviticus 27 and hopefully, understand some of their spiritual significance. 

Vows are basically promises that can take various forms such as promises of offerings, animals, and monetary amounts based on values assigned to people of various ages. God considers vows to be very important and binding. We must understand that God expects us to keep our vows. Only under certain circumstances can the vows of women be made null and void by their fathers or husbands.

One example of a vow is when Hannah vowed that if God would give her a son, she would literally give her son back to the Lord to live as a Nazirite for his whole life. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah did not interfere with Hannah’s vow and Samuel served God in the temple his entire life.

The first thing we should understand about vows is that they are not considered tithes.  They are above and beyond tithes.

Leviticus 27:1-8 explains how to consecrate someone to the Lord by vowing to pay the value of that person and putting it into the temple treasury. Please understand this has nothing to do with inherent worth or abilities that the person being consecrated possessed.  The value was based only on the age and sex of the person. Females were valued lower than males while the younger the person was, the lower the valuation was set.     

We don’t usually vow to pay the assigned value of a certain person to the church today. It’s a bit of a foreign concept to us. We do make other financial promises or pledges to things like building programs and general funds but these things do not have any eternal worth.  They can be here today and destroyed tomorrow.

As you consider making financial pledges, avoid those that last several years. Pay a lump sum instead or give something each month as you are able without making a commitment to a certain amount. It is better for us not to make a vow at all in the unfortunate case we can’t fulfill it. Do not allow others to force you into a commitment you may not be able to honor. You can never know when you might lose your job or when something else may arise that could cause you to be unable to fulfill a promise.

When you make a vow, you must understand God always expects you to keep it even if others don’t.  This is because all vows are ultimately made to God and not man.  In addition, vows should be voluntary and not coerced.  Do you really think God would be pleased with something someone forced you to give?

Leviticus 27:9-13 explains that whatever you give to the Lord should be holy.  Vowing animals to the Lord would be quite common in a society based on farming and agriculture. Clean animals can be brought as offerings. If an animal that was vowed to the Lord is found to be blemished or unclean, the priest set a value for it and it could be redeemed at the price of its value plus one fifth. 

Notice that the blemished or unclean were not rejected, they could be used as the priests saw fit or they could be redeemed by the original owner.  In the same way, God does not reject those who are physically defective and seeking a relationship with Him.  He uses them for His glory despite their physical shortcomings.  When certain physical requirements were made in the Old Testament in relation to the priesthood or the offerings, it was probably because it represented the spiritual condition of something.

Leviticus 27:14-15 says that if someone dedicated his house to be holy to the Lord, the priest set a price for it.  If the original owner wanted to redeem it later, he had to pay the price it was valued at by the priest plus one fifth.

We don’t see too many houses literally being given to the Lord or the church today.  Occasionally, houses may have been given to a church to use for some kind of ministry, for missionaries on furlough, or as parsonages.  Sometimes we hear of people dedicating their homes to the Lord and His service while the owner still lives on the property, maintains it, makes payments on the property, and is involved in various Christian ministries on and outside the property.

Today, we should open our eyes and see that the ultimate picture of this is the believer who is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Paul explained that we are not our own because we were bought with a price.  We are owned by God.  Therefore, we should glorify God in our bodies and spirits, avoid sexual immorality, and dedicate our lives to God (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

Leviticus 27:16-21 tells us that a person can dedicate a field of his own possession to the Lord. The value is determined by the price of the amount of seed needed to sow the field (50 shekels per omer of seed) minus the fraction of time since the last Jubilee times the value of the field. The field can be redeemed by paying the value of the field plus one fifth. If he chooses not to redeem it or if he sells it to someone else, it will revert to the possession of the priest in the year of Jubilee.

According to Leviticus 27:22-25, a person can dedicate a field which he bought but is not his own possession in a similar fashion. The value is determined by the price of the amount of seed needed to sow the field minus the fraction of time since the last Jubilee times the value of the field. The original owner will take possession of the field in the next year of Jubilee.

Today, we might consider this to be a field of souls where we are casting seeds of the gospel and reaping the harvest before the final Jubilee before Christ’s return.  It could be a small field of our immediate and distant family members or our neighborhoods or as large as our cities, states, countries, and ultimately, the world.  At the same time we should remember that at the beginning of Christ’s millennial reign, land will be dispersed to everyone including a portion of land that is holy and set apart for the Lord and His priests.

Leviticus 27:26-27 explains that firstborn animals can’t be dedicated because they already belong to the Lord. An unclean animal would be used for Temple maintenance or sold if not redeemed.

Notice over and over again, we see the ability of being able to redeem something by paying its value plus one-fifth.  This must be somehow related to Jesus redeeming us and the portion of grace required in the process.

Leviticus 27:28-29 explains devoted offerings. Devoted things/offerings are either banned from human personal use and enjoyment or set apart for destruction. They can’t be sold or redeemed. They are most holy to the Lord.

Recall the story of Achan . The city of Jericho had been doomed by the Lord to destruction [cherem], it and all who were in it. Only Rahab the harlot and all who were with her in the house were allowed to live because she hid the messengers that were sent to spy the land.

Joshua 7:1 recounts what happened there, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things [cherem], for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things [cherem]; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”

As a result of this sin, the children of Israel were defeated by the men of Ai. Joshua mourned before the Lord. In Joshua 7, the Lord explained they couldn’t stand before their enemies until they had taken away the accursed thing from among them.  In addition, the person who took the accursed thing had to be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.

Because Achan stole some of the accursed things, he and his household and their possessions became accursed as well. They could not be redeemed. They became set aside for destruction like the things Achan stole. They were stoned and burned with fire. Note the theme of death and burning. This is the same thing that happens to those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior.

God makes it clear that when a person has committed an offense that required the death penalty, they may not be redeemed. They’ve been set aside for destruction and must be put to death.  Even so, there were times when God obviously showed mercy to some and none to others; however, no mercy will be shown to those who choose to reject Jesus forever.

Leviticus 27:30-34 explains that one tenth of the produce of the land and animals is to be set aside each year as a tithe. The seed of the land is grain and the fruit of the tree is wine and olive oil. Every tenth calf or lamb that passes under a rod or staff is to be marked as the tithe as it comes out of its pen.

Over the centuries, I’ve wondered what the percentage was of those from each generation who accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord and those who didn’t.  We often walk through this world aimlessly yet we encounter circumstances that direct us onto the path of righteousness.  Woe to those who aren’t chosen and to those who refuse to listen to the Shepherd.

The tithe set aside for the Levite, foreigner, orphan, and widows is set aside in the 3rd and 6th year of the seven year sh’mittah cycle according to Deuteronomy 14:27-28. The second tithe is also one tenth of the produce of the land and herd or flock and is the tithe referred to in Leviticus 27:30. It is collected in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the seven year sh’mittah cycle. Deuteronomy 14:22-26 explains that this tithe was consumed at the feasts in Jerusalem by those who set aside the tithe. If the person lived a long distance from Jerusalem and couldn’t transport their tithe, it was acceptable to exchange their tithe for money and buy what they wanted in order to celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem. God doesn’t want us to come empty-handed to His feasts. He wants us to bring plenty of things with which we can enjoy ourselves and fellowship with Him and our families during His feasts.

Scriptural tithes are not what most people consider tithes to be today.  Today, believers pay ten percent of their incomes to cover the cost of church buildings, utilities, and salaries related to the function of the church.  The tithes for and the celebration of the feasts of the Lord are being neglected in favor of Christian holidays which are treated as budgeted items.  The needs of priests, orphans, and widows are often addressed in different ways or not at all.

How can we get back to what God originally commanded us while realizing most of us live in non-agricultural environments?  Ponder this for awhile and make it happen.

As we look at all of these things, a recurring pattern begins to emerge.  God made a marriage covenant with His people at Mount Sinai.  That covenant was eventually voided because of sexual immorality and idolatry so that it could be re-established prior to Jesus’ death.  Jesus’ death redeemed us from the curse of the law which is death and destruction by fire.  This redemption is received by grace through faith.  In response, we are to live a life of dedication to the Lord while the Holy Spirit dwells within us to lead and teach us God’s ways.  Our desire should be to plant seeds that lead to the production of the fruits of the Spirit in our own lives and the harvest of other peoples’ souls.  When it is time for Jesus to return, His people will be gathered from the four corners of the earth.  Jesus is expected to return in a year of Jubilee when we will gather and celebrate the ultimate significance of the feasts of the Lord with those we have brought with us.  Eventually, those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior will be thrown in the Lake of Fire because they have been set aside for destruction.

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