2 Chronicles 31:6-10
6 And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep; also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated to the LORD their God they laid in heaps.
7 In the third month they began laying them in heaps, and they finished in the seventh month.
8 And when Hezekiah and the leaders came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and His people Israel.
9 Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.
10 And Azariah the chief priest, from the house of Zadok, answered him and said, "Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty left, for the LORD has blessed His people; and what is left is this great abundance."
Revival has consequences for everyone involved. When the Holy Spirit starts moving in people's lives, when God pours out His wisdom and His grace on the faithful, when people stop living by the world's standards and start living by God's holy Word, then things change. Miracles happen, signs and wonders occur, people are healed of physical, emotional and spiritual ailments, and there is abundance. Now this is not abundance in the way you or I might think of it--say, with billions of dollars coming to every believer--but a change in attitude and providence such that people get more but are willing and able to get by on less, which leaves more for God's work and His workers.
23 "But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
24 "For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.'"
God has called and set aside some people to do His work--and ONLY His work--for His kingdom, and so He expected those workers to receive their support from the people they served. And lest anyone think that this is just an "Old Testament thing":
9 "Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts,
10 "nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food."
It is an interesting equation. The more people allow the Spirit to reign in their lives, then they will be blessed with bounty. And--in theory, of course--the more that people receive in blessing, then the more they will be able to give to those who do God's work. I say "in theory" because here in America--the wealthiest nation in the world--we give less than TWO PERCENT of our income to charities and churches. We horde and hold back what we think is rightfully ours, and we begrudgingly share with others. We LOAN money to friends, and we give our time and expertise to various causes, and so we think we are helping others. We spend time cleaning the church before services, or we pick up the bill when we take our pastor to lunch, and we consider that part of our offering to the Lord. But that's not what God called on the Israelites to do, is it?
Now, it is literally true that we are no longer under the law of Moses, that the statutes and commandments of the Israelites no longer literally apply to us. After all, as Paul explains in his letter to the Romans, keeping the law doesn't get us salvation, it only teaches us about our sinfulness and our inability to be holy as our God is holy. (Romans 7:1-8:11) But Jesus told us that "all the law and the prophets" hang on the commandments to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love others as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) So, if we love the Lord, then we will--through the power of the Spirit, not through our own flesh--keep His laws and ordinances, and we will obey His commands, and then we will experience the abundance He promises. (Deuteronomy 30:11-16)
During the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah, the revival that he called for brought abundance and a giving heart to the people. The people of Judah were thrilled to be getting back to the worship of the Lord, and so after their first Passover in four generations, the people went out and tore down the idols and the pagan altars, purging the land of unholy worship. (2 Chronicles 31:1) Then, when Hezekiah put out the word to support the Levites, it took the people FOUR MONTHS to bring in their offerings for those who served the Lord. There were huge heaps of grain and wine, oil and honey, and pens filled with sheep and oxen. There was much more than the priests and Levites could ever use. Now THAT is a proper tithe!
Keep in mind that there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that the people experienced a sudden bounty, that their crops suddenly produced more grain or fruit. In fact, if you read verse 7, you'll see that they started bringing their tithes during the third month--i.e. BEFORE any harvest. They brought their portion from what they already had, from what they had kept from the previous year to support themselves until that year's summer and fall harvests. The people didn't wait until they had plenty to give, they gave with the expectation that God would work it all out for them in the end. They gave willingly and plentifully, without reservation.
We say that we live now under the grace of God, not under the law. We claim to allow the Spirit to reign in our lives. But when the Spirit truly flourishes in God's people, then God's shepherds and missionaries will want for nothing. When God's people truly become cheerful givers, then the charities that work in God's name will never need a dime from any government or secular source. When the Spirit reigns in a congregation, then the money that comes in will not be needed for building new offices or classrooms or adding to existing facilities. Rather, as I heard it put recently, "the economy of God" will kick in to help the community, to make our churches more like those churches in the book of Acts, to take abundance and pour it back out to the needy.
The goal of spiritual revival is not to get more people into churches, but to get the people in churches out among the people. The goal of spiritual revival is not to raise up a whole generation of "holier-than-thou" church-goers but to raise up a new generation of movers and shakers, a generation that seeks God's kingdom right here and now and ALLOWS themselves to experience God in whole new ways. The goal of spiritual revival is not simply to avoid the wrath of God nor even to bring blessings upon ourselves, but to bring ourselves closer to God and to give Him all glory and honor and praise.
This abundance in the house of God during Hezekiah's reign was not the end result, it was only the beginning. God didn't just pour out wealth, He also gave His Spirit to bring unity and peace. And this happened because Hezekiah and the people of Judah sought God.
2 Chronicles 31:20-21
20 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God.
21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.
God is calling us to serve like Hezekiah did. Hezekiah was just twenty-five years old when he became king, but he didn't let his apparent youth sway him from calling on the people to repent and seek the Lord. Within a year, Hezekiah turned Judah around and helped them return to God, and God's Spirit then moved in the hearts of the people to give back to those who served the Lord. Through the prophet Malachi, God said this:
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,"
Says the LORD of hosts,
"If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it."
That is exactly what happened during Hezekiah's reign. The Spirit of God moved so powerfully through Judah that they brought more to God's house than there was even room to hold.
The surest physical sign of spiritual revival is when the people give back to God. God is ready once again to pour out His Spirit and His bounty upon the people. And we are not just talking here about finances and material goods, but about spiritual plenty as well. When God's Spirit lives in us and is allowed free reign, then God's power overflows from His people into the world around us. His healing comes, His wonders come, His joy comes. When we embrace the Spirit of God and turn Him loose in our lives, then the kingdom of God truly IS come, His will IS done on earth as it is in heaven. The blessings of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) come to pass all around us, because God rules our lives. Today, let it be said of us that we sought God with all our heart and soul, and that He was found by us, and that this great abundance--of Spirit and love and power--has come from the one true and living God.
Lord God, You are exalted above all other gods, higher than the heavens we see, greater than any measure we may devise. Great is Your faithfulness to Your people. Father, we seek now Your Holy Spirit to be loosed in our lives, that Your great abundance should pour out upon our homes and our communities, that people would see the great works of Your kingdom and give you praise and honor. Holy One of heaven, rain down. Bring us Your mercy and grace, and stir up in us a heart of giving and renewal, a heart to drop our last penny in the offering because we know You shall provide more. Allow us to empty ourselves of our petty spirits and accept Your Spirit, to be filled to overflowing with Your presence so that only Your will be done. Amen.