Before we consider these verses, we must first look at verses 22-25. They say, “You shall truly TITHE all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your GRAIN and your new WINE and your OIL, of the firstborn of your HERDS and your FLOCKS, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if your journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the TITHE, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall EXCHANGE IT FOR MONEY, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses” (NKJV).

We see that the subject before us is TITHING, which meant the children of Israel were to give 10% of their crops and livestock to the Lord. In this passage it was a very special kind of tithing which involved sitting down and EATING and DRINKING part of the tithe before the Lord in His sanctuary. As they would enjoy the “fruits of their labors before the Lord,” they would “learn to fear the LORD” (verse 23) and they would realize afresh that “the LORD your God has blessed you” (verse 24). In other words, they would learn, in fellowship with the Lord, that they were truly dependent on the Lord and that every blessing was from Him. We see also in these verses that if their trip to the Sanctuary was TOO LONG or TOO FAR, they could sell their tithes for money and then travel to the Sanctuary.

Now let’s read verses 26-27, “And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for OXEN or SHEEP, for WINE or SIMILAR DRINK, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has not part nor inheritance with you.” Again, this was a special kind of tithing. Some have referred to it as a “FESTIVAL of tithing,” for all the people were involved in this festive occasion where they had fellowship with the Lord over all that He had blessed them with. (There were other times of tithing and eating where only the Levites were involved….see Numbers 18:26-32). Those who had come from long distances took the money they had received and bought FOOD and DRINK and then they would “eat there before the LORD your God” (verse 26). This blessed time of fellowship looks on to the time when all the tribes of Israel will be gathered to the land and enjoy, throughout Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, uninterrupted fellowship with the Lord in perfect peace and prosperity (see Ezekiel chapters 40-48).

Perhaps the inquirer was wondering about the words “wine or similar drink” in verse 26. The NASB translates it like this, “You may spend the money for…WINE or STRONG DRINK.” Many have questioned whether this actually refers to “intoxicating beverages”; in other words, “fermented drinks.” The Hebrew word for WINE here is “yayin” and may or may not refer to an intoxicating drink. It was made from grapes. The Hebrew word for STRONG DRINK is “sekar” and does suggest fermentation. It was alcohol made from grain, but with low alcohol content. I believe both words could indeed be referring to fermented alcohol and thus it teaches us that the Bible does NOT teach total abstinence but rather moderation and self-control.

Before we close, believers today are not called upon to tithe, or to go to a special sanctuary to “eat before the Lord.” But the Lord Jesus did request that we EAT BREAD and DRINK WINE in remembrance of His death on the cross. I would encourage you to read Luke 22:19-20 and 1st Corinthians 11:23-26. And as we do eat the Lord’s Supper, we too remember that EVERY BLESSING COMES FROM HIM. (318.1) (DO)