Even from the days of your fathers you are gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you…
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, etc. In these words we have two things - a Divine complaint and a Divine invitation; and both are addressed to sinners. Notice -
I. A DIVINE COMPLAINT AGAINST SINNERS. The complaint involves three charges.
1. The charge of apostasy. "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances." Your fathers who brought on themselves the Babylonian captivity departed from my ordinances, and you are doing what they did. All sin is an apostasy, a departure from God's "ordinances" both moral and positive. "My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). Like the prodigal son, we have all gone away from our Father into the "far country" of practical atheism and sin.
2. The charge of dishonesty. "Will a man rob God? Yet he have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings." Their dishonesty consisted in withholding from him his claims. Thus they robbed or defrauded him. "Ye have robbed me." "Ye have done so to me in respect to the tithes due to me; viz. the tenth of all the remainder after the firstfruits were paid, which tenth was paid to the Levites for their support (Leviticus 27:30-33), a tenth paid by the Levites to the priests (Numbers 18:26-28), a second tenth paid by the people for the entertainment of the Levites and their own families at the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 12:18); another tithe every third year for the poor, etc. (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29). 'Offerings. Not less than one-sixth part of corn, wine, and oil (Deuteronomy 18:4). The priests had this perquisite; also the tenth of the tithes which were the Levites' perquisite. But they appropriated all the tithes, robbing the Levites of their due nine-tenths; as they did also, according to Josephus, before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Thus doubtless was God defrauded - the priests not discharging aright their sacrificial duties, and robbing God of the services of the Levites who were driven away by destitution" (Fausset). Thus men rob God now; they keep back what belongs to him. They cannot take anything from him, and thus make him poorer, as in the case of man robbing man, but they can rob him by appropriating to their own use that which he demands, by acting like Ananias and Sapphira.
3. The charge of insensibility. "Ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?" They had lost all sense of their obligation in relation to these tithes, and become utterly indifferent to the Divine claims. "Wherein have we robbed thee?" As if they did not know their fraud on God. Thus men go on keeping from God what is his due without any sense of wrong. Sinful habits blind and deaden a man's conscience to his momentous duties.
II. A DIVINE INVITATION TO SINNERS. Here is an invitation to return:
1. To Divine friendship. "Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts." Return to me by rendering to me my dues, and working lovingly and loyally in my service. "Return to me" - this has been God's voice to sinners in all ages; this was the invitation of Christ: "Come unto me," etc. The return is in a sense mutual. God says, "I will return unto you." This does not, of course, mean that God compromises, changes; but it expresses his readiness to receive them, as the father of the prodigal was ready to receive his lost son. He waits to be gracious.
2. To honest service. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house; Nehemiah calls the "storehouse" (Nehemiah 13:5) a great chamber where they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels. To put this to its proper use is what Jehovah would have them to do, and he promises, if they accede:
(1) To give them good in abundance. "Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." From heaven all good comes. Sometimes the windows seem so closed up that blessings descend not to some men. When God says, "I will open you the windows," it means good shall come pouring down, in abundance.
(2) To give them good in connection with the produce of the earth. "And I will rebuke the devourer [perhaps the locusts] for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field." Their vines should produce fruit in the season.
(3) To give them good in the affections of men. "And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts;" "Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the Shield of thy help, and who is the Sword of thy excellency? And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places" (Deuteronomy 33:29).
1. That a man is a bad man who withholds from God his due. What are God's dues? All we have and are. "All souls are his." And if we render not up to him our souls - our all - we are bad.
2. A bad man becomes good by surrendering his all to God. By bringing his all into the storehouse of God, devoting all to the Divine service.
3. The more good a man has in himself, the more good he has from the universe. If his whole soul is filled with supreme love and reverence for right and God, all the heavens outside of him will "open their windows" and rain blessings on him. Religious liberality is of all profitable investments the most profitable. And the converse. The niggard is "cursed with a curse." The man who robs and defrauds God robs and defrauds himself. As the fabled eagle who robbed the altar set fire to her nest with the burning coals that adhered to the stolen flesh she bore away, so the soul that defrauds God of his claims will set itself in flames. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
WEB: From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says Yahweh of Armies. "But you say, 'How shall we return?'