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Robert Morris — The Principle of First


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I want you to turn your Bibles to one passage of scripture. We'll go through some others. But, we'll just look at one. Exodus 13. We'll just go to one. Exodus 13, and as you're getting to Exodus 13, let me just say this. This is in my opinion the most important message in the series. We're in this series called "The Blessed Life," and this is probably the most important message in the series. The title of this message is "The Principal of First". "The Principal of First".

I want to make this statement. If God is first in your life, then everything will come into order. I'm not saying you won't have difficulties or problems or go through struggles. Jesus said in this world, you'll have tribulation. But would you rather go through tribulation with everything in order, or everything out of order? And hear me, if Jesus is first, if God's first, everything will come into order in your life. If He is not first, then nothing will come into order in your life. God has to be first for there to be order in your life.

So I want to show you this principal, because this principal is a principal that runs all through scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Here, so let's start, Exodus 13:1. It says, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, it is mine.'" It is mine. It belongs to me. I wish that I could adequately explain to you how emphatic the language is in the Hebrew here, this phrase it is mine. It is my property, it belongs to me, I'm the owner. It's extremely emphatic. It's very important to understand that, when you talk about the Principal of Firsts. The firstborn, he says, belongs to me.

Okay now, look at verse 12. "That you shall set apart to the Lord all that opens the womb". That is every firstborn that comes from an animal, which you have, "males shall be the Lord's". Very similar language in the Hebrew shall belong to God. They'll be the Lord's. "But every firstborn" now, we'll talk about this, "of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb," very important. A donkey will be redeemed with a lamb. Now watch this phrase. And "if you will not redeem it then you shall break its neck". It's very important to understand that if you don't redeem it, you're going to lose it anyway.

I want you to apply that as we talk about the first of our finances, the first ten percent. He says, you're, if you don't bring it to me, you're going to lose it. You're still going to lose it. It's going out of your account. Watch this. "And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem". All right, so I have three points. If you're taking notes, I want you to write these down, the firstborn must be sacrificed or redeemed. That's the principal here in the Old Testament that is referring to a principal that goes all through the Bible. The firstborn must be sacrificed or redeemed.

Okay, but how do you know which to do? How do you know whether you sacrifice it or redeem it? Well, he gives two animals which are exemplary of categories of animals. He gives us the donkey and the lamb, okay? The donkey represents unclean animals, and the lamb represents clean animals. So how do you know which to do? Well, if it's a clean animal, it has to be sacrificed, the firstborn. If it's an unclean animal, it has to be redeemed with the sacrifice of a clean. All right, let me say that one more time. If it's clean, firstborn. I'm hoping you kind of get ahead of me on this, and understand what this represents. If it's a clean, and it's firstborn, it has to be sacrificed. If it's unclean, it has to be redeemed with the sacrifice of a clean.

Okay. How in the world does this relate to us today? Well let me ask you two questions, alright? First of all, were you and I spiritually born clean or unclean? In other words, when we were born in the natural, our spiritual state before God, were we born into this world, were we clean or unclean? Unclean. We are all born in sin, right? I can prove it by simply asking the experts here, the parents, did you have to teach your children to be bad? Or did that come naturally for them? See, we have to teach them to be good is that right? Because we're all born with a sin nature. That's what the Bible says, alright. So we were all born unclean. Was Jesus born unclean or clean? Clean, okay. Listen to me, listen very carefully. The clean, Jesus, the clean had to be sacrificed, so that the unclean could be redeemed.

That's what we just read. That's how important this principal is. And we're going to see that this principal refers to tithing, but I want to say something to you that maybe you've never thought of. Jesus is God's tithe. Because you see, you give tithe first. You don't pay your bills and see if you have enough left over to tithe. You give the tithe first. It's the first ten percent. It's not just ten percent, it's the first ten percent. Because, it takes faith to give the first see, God said, "When your sheep has a lamb, give me the first one. It takes faith to give the first one before you have anymore. You don't know if the sheep's going to produce anymore. That takes faith. God didn't say, "Wait until your sheep has ten and then give me one of them and you can give me the one that keeps getting in your garden that you don't like". No, He said, "You give me the first one before you have any others".

See, so many people think it's not the ten percent that enacts the blessing. It's the faith that enacts the blessing. It's giving the first ten percent. And the reason I say that, Jesus is God's tithe is because God gave Jesus first. He didn't wait to see if we would clean up or straighten up to give His son. God gave Jesus when we were mocking him and spitting on him and nailing him to a cross. Romans says it this way, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". And Romans also said it this way, that God gave Jesus in hope. And that word, the root of that word is faith. In faith, we give our tithe in faith. So, it's the first ten percent.

Think about this. When the children of Israel went into the promised land, God said bring all of the silver and gold from Jericho into the house of God. It's always into the house of God. That's always where the tithe goes. But, why didn't he say ten percent of Jericho? It's very simple. Because Jericho was the first city. It's simple. He said, "Bring the first into the house of the Lord, and the rest are redeemed". They're out from under the curse. They're blessed. See, the first portion has the redemptive, is the redemptive portion. So, the firstborn must be sacrificed or redeemed.

Here's the second point. The first fruits must be offered. You can stay there in Exodus 13, look at Proverbs 3:9-10, "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase". Bonuses, everything, "So your barns will be filled with plenty,and your vats will overflow with wine". Okay. That says to honor the Lord with the first of our increase. I just want to just make a note here. This is in Proverbs. This is not the law. This is not under the law. This is hundreds of years after the law. This is a principal that runs all through scripture.

Let me show you another scripture. Exodus 23:19, "The first of the first fruits". I kind of like that phrase, because it's like God is saying, "Listen closely if you don't know what first means". "The first of the first fruits of your land," now watch these words, "you shall bring," that's the important word, "bring into the house of the Lord your God". Now we saw last weekend about Malachi, he said, "Bring the tithes into the storehouse". The tithe always comes to the church. You don't, you can't divide your tithe. You can't designate your tithe, you can't give it to somewhere else.

But I want you to notice the word bring. The reason God uses the word "bring" instead of the word "give" when he talks about tithing, is because you can't give what doesn't belong to you. You have two choices according to scripture. And I know this is strong, but I've studied this for over 30 years now. You have two choices when it comes to the tithe according to scripture. You can bring it, or you can steal it. Those are the only two choices. There's no other choice according to scripture. They either brought it, or they stole it.

Remember when God said, bring all the silver and gold from Jericho that Achan kept some? And of course, the next city, then they lost the battle until they brought it to the house of God. But here was the point. In Joshua 6, God calls the tithe "consecrated" or set apart, same thing he called the first born. But in Joshua 7, once Achan took it, he said, "Israel has stolen from me, and they're cursed".

They're cursed. It's consecrated when you bring it to the house of God. It's cursed if you leave it in your bank account. Here's a real simple, straightforward question, why would you want something cursed in your bank account? I mean, it has enough problems. Why wouldn't you want your bank account blessed? See, it takes faith to give the first. It takes faith to believe that 90% redeemed and blessed will go farther than 100% cursed.

Watch. Genesis 4:3-5, "And in process of time," now those words are very important, "in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground unto the Lord". Notice it specifically does not say that he brought first fruits. He just brought an offering in the process of time. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected," or this word could be received, "Abel and his offering". Notice the person's received too, not just the offering. "But he did not respect" or receive, "Cain and his offering". It's simple, isn't it? Cain was a farmer. He didn't bring first fruits. Abel was a rancher, he brought first born. God says, "I'll accept that, I will not accept that". Didn't accept it.

Now I'm going to take it a little farther in this, and that is, it's not just that God wouldn't accept it, it's that God couldn't accept it. God can't be second. He can't be second. This is called the preeminence of God. You know, you've heard of eminence. But God is preeminent. That means He's not only first of all, He's before all. He's higher than all, He's above all, He's first, He's before all. So, God is first. Now we, when our lives, we talk about putting God first. And that's good, because we do need to put God first in our lives. But I just want you to know something. Even if God's not first in your life, He's still first. You didn't rearrange His order in the universe. He's still preeminent.

So, God can never be second. So, this is why I'm telling you the reason God couldn't accept Cain's offering, is because God's always first, and Cain did not bring a first offering. And God says, "I'm sorry, I can't accept a second place offering, because I'm always in first place. I can't accept it". Now, we need to think about that, when it comes to the tithe. You remember I said Jesus is God's tithe. And I said to you last weekend, because we talked about giving to the bride of Christ. And I said that tithing is probably more personal to Jesus than what we think. Okay, I want you to think about this.

If Jesus is God's tithe, tithing might be a little more personal to the Father also than what we think. See, it represents who's first in your life. You can, and again, I know these, some of the things I'm saying are strong, but you can tell me all day God's first in your life, but let me see your bank account, and I'll tell you who's first. It might be Nordstrom's. Okay, ladies, let me hit the guys. It might Bass Pro Shops. Where does the first ten percent go? That's who's first. Alright, so, the first born must be sacrificed or redeemed. The first fruits must be offered. Here's point three. The tithe must be first. The tithe must be first.

Leviticus 27:30, it says, "And all," I want you to notice the word all, "and all the tithe of the land," all of it, "whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's:" there's the emphatic phrase again, belongs to God. God set it apart for himself. And that's what the next phrase says, "it is holy," that word is the word that simply means set apart, it is set apart unto the Lord". That's why it's stealing. Because He set it apart to Himself. And that's why it has to be first, because God's first and he owns it. So in order, in other words, if we're going to return it, we have to return it first.

Okay, so I'm going to give you an illustration, and it's a math illustration, okay? I'm warning you, so half of you can take a nap, alright? Let's say that you're a landscaper and you come to our home and pastor Robert, I'm, you know, I call you and I say, "Listen, I'd like to add some plants, and some trees, and some flowers, and things, you know". And so, you give me an estimate. And you say, "Now, this is how much my materials will be. This is how my labor will be, and my profit will be $1.000. You need to know, the tithe is on profit. It's not on all of this, it's on the increase. Your personal increase, personal income, that's what we tithe on, okay.

So, you say, "Are you agreeable to this whole price"? I say, "Yes I am". So after you do the job, I pay for all of your materials, all of your labors, and then for your profit, let's say that I give you ten $100 bills. So, you have $1.000 in your hand, okay. This is the math part, alright. So you have $1.000. Let me ask you two questions, alright. A thousand dollars, remember the word tithe means ten percent. So, how much is the tithe? $100, alright. I know some of you still carry the... okay. That's alright, that's okay.

Alright so, it's $100 that's right. But you have ten hundred dollar bills in your hand, so which one is the tithe? The first one, yeah, okay. The one on top is what we said, alright. Let me say it to you a different way, alright. It's the first one that leaves your hand. That's the tithe. In other words, if you go home, and you say, "Let me set aside some for the mortgage, some for the car, some for utilities, some for clothes, and here's God's part". No, that's not God's part. You gave God's part to the mortgage company. Because, here's what a lot of people do. Okay, let me set aside some for this and this and this, and oh, there's not enough leftover for God. Can I say something nicely to you, but firmly? He wouldn't accept it anyway. Because our God does not accept leftovers.

As a matter of fact, he says it in Malachi. He says, "You bring me the blind and the lame animals, and I do not accept them. I accept the first. That's all I accept". Okay, so, how does this work out in my own life? I get paid on the 15th and 30th, or the last day of the month, 30th, 31st, and it's directly deposited. So, it's like it magically appears, you know, on my account. So what I do on the 15th and the last day of the month, is while I'm having my quiet time in the morning, before I do anything else, I go online and that's the way now, I think it's just easiest to give online. I go online and I send the tithe to Gateway Church.

So what happens though, if I have an early morning meeting and I kind of rush out, I don't have my quiet time that day, and I get home that night, and I think, "Oh, it's the 15th, I forgot to do the tithe". And I go in and I notice that Debbie has been to the grocery store that day. Okay, what I do, I don't say, "Well that's great, sugar, we're cursed. That's great. I mean, you gave the tithe to Krogers and so we're cursed now". No, because I'm not legalistic about it. Now listen to me. God's not legalistic either. I'm not trying to give you a legalistic principal today. I'm trying to give you your principal that's about your heart. Where's your heart? God knows my heart, and He knows your heart. Where's your heart? So the first ten percent goes to the house of God.

Now, Exodus 13, let me show you one more scripture, and then we're finished, alright? We stopped awhile ago at verse 13, so let's pick it up at verse 14. "So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' Okay, in other words, he's saying one day your son's going to ask you, why are you killing these animals. "That you shall say to him, 'By strength of hand,'" by a mighty hand, "the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; and it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beasts. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, being males; but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem'".

He said, "One day your son's going to ask you". And He said, "When he asks you, you say to your son, "Son, I need to tell you something about our family that you don't know. But we weren't always in the ranching business. We did not own animals. We didn't own land. Son, we were slaves. We were in bondage. But God, with a mighty hand redeemed us, and gave us everything we have now. Therefore, we gladly give to God the firstborn of all of our increase. Now, this was written 4.000 years ago, and this principal happened to me.

When Josh was kind of getting old enough to understand numbers and all, and he has this mathematical mind like I do and like his grandfather. And so one day I was paying the bills. Now, we didn't have online back then. And so, what I would do is, I would write the check first. And then I would set the check, the tithe check, and then I would set it over aside, and then I would pay the bills. But I would always write the tithe check first and set it over to the side, and then take it with me to church. By the way, for you young people, we used to have pieces of paper called checks. Alright, so I'd set it over aside. So I'm paying the bills, and Josh came in, and I'm watching him out of the corner of my eye.

And he's reading this tithe check, and he sees the amount, which to a young boy looks like a lot of money. And he says, "Dad, why are you giving so much to the church"? And I remember this scripture when your son asks you, this is what you tell them. And I took Josh, and I actually set him on my lap, and I said to him, "I need to tell you something about daddy that you don't know. But daddy wasn't always a Christian, son, and daddy was a very bad man. And daddy was in bondage. But God with a mighty hand redeemed your daddy and gave us everything we have now. Therefore, I gladly give to God the first of all of my increase". This is a principal that's all through scripture. It's called the Principal of First. Is God first in your life?

Is God really first in your life? You know, I really believe deep in your heart, He is. So, I want to encourage you to put God first in your finances as well. Tithe to your local church. God set it up, and God did it so He could actually bless us and remind us that He's the one that set us free from the bondage of sin. Thanks so much for watching. I want to encourage you to get the series and the book so you can go deeper in this subject. See you next time.
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