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Under the Old Covenant, these are commandments, telling our flesh what to do to conform to the mind of God. Under the New Covenant, these are ten promises of what God will do in us so that we can be conformed to His image. This is a basic study on the divine law, the basis of government for the Kingdom of God.
Category - Long Book
Deuteronomy 5:19 gives us the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal.” As with all the Commandments, this is a simple statement of principle that is explained by many other laws defining theft and the judgments for each.
Exodus 22 is the most basic chapter that reveals the mind of God in regard to theft. The first four verses read,
1 If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. 2 If the thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. 3 But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4 If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
One who is found guilty of theft is to repay his victim double restitution (Ex. 22:4). That is, he is to return what is stolen and then pay his victim a second item (or its monetary equivalent). Hence, what he intended to steal from his victim comes back upon his own head, as if his victim had stolen the same item from him.
In a way, it is a reverse Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The victim, in essence, does to the thief what the thief did to him. That is how God measures justice. The greater the crime, the greater the restitution payment. The judgment always fits the crime.
If, however, a thief cannot return what has been stolen, either because he has already sold it or killed it, then the thief must repay fourfold (Ex. 22:1). The law is revealed in terms of sheep, because that was easily understood in those days.
The law also says that if a man steals an ox (and cannot return it alive), he was to restore fivefold (Ex. 22:1). This was because an ox represented the tools of a man's trade. In those days the ox was a man's tractor, and without it he was unable to perform his field work. Therefore, to steal a man's ox did more damage than to steal a sheep, so the penalty was greater.
In case of burglary, a householder was not held liable if he killed a thief at night (Ex. 22:2, 3). This was because it was likely that he could not see if the thief was armed and dangerous. Furthermore, it was more difficult to identify the thief, even if he may have encountered him in the act. But if the thief was encountered during the day time, it was not lawful to kill him—unless, of course, he posed a direct threat, in which case he could be killed in self-defense.
These are the basic laws of restitution found in Scripture and in the mind of God.
In the New Testament, we read that a tax collector named Zaccheus repented of his sin of collecting more tax than was owed. Luke 19:8 says,
8 And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”
Zaccheus understood the law in Ex. 22:1, and knew that this was how a man should repent of his sin of theft. In today's lawless church world, we have come to expect grace without repentance or repentance without restitution. But Jesus recognized the faith in Zaccheus' heart by his willingness to pay restitution:
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house; because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”
This statement had a double meaning, because Jesus’ name was Yeshua, which means “salvation.” Hence, he was saying that Yeshua has come to this house on account of Zaccheus’ faith. Faith made him a “son of Abraham,” who was the father of faith, as we read in Galatians 3:7,
7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
Being a “father” or “son” was a common Hebrew metaphor. In Mark 3:17 James and John were known as “sons of thunder.” Jesus also talked about the “children of light” (Luke 16:8), children of wisdom (Matt. 11:19), and the children of the devil (John 8:44). In accordance with that Hebrew metaphor, the children of Abraham were those who showed characteristics of Abraham—his faith in particular.
If a thief refused to pay restitution as demanded by the law, the thief was liable to be put to death for his lack of repentance (Deut. 17:9-13). Such a man was not put to death for the original theft but for contempt of court, which is refusing to repent. Of course, it is not likely that a man would persist in his refusal to pay restitution if he truly understood that the consequence would be the death penalty. That is why Deut. 17:13 says,
13 Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.
If a man is convicted of sin but is convinced of his innocence, the proper procedure would be to submit to the court's decision, but appeal the case to the Divine Court and let God investigate and render a verdict from His Throne. Jesus did this when He submitted like a lamb to the slaughter, knowing that the Father would justify Him. The proof would be found in His resurrection and ascension to the throne.
Most cases of theft are obvious to people today, but there are some cases that are more obscure unless we study the law. For example, what if a campfire gets out of control and burns property owned by others? This is not exactly theft (unless it is done deliberately, of course), so Exodus 22: 6 tells us that in case of such accidents, the one who started the fire is liable only to replace or pay for the damage.
6 If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.
Specifically, he who lights the fire is responsible for it as long as the fire is alive. As its owner (by creating the fire), he is liable for all damage to other men's property.
There are other cases where ownership brings liability. In Exodus 21:33 and 34, we read,
33 And if a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his.
In other words, one cannot simply blame the ox or donkey for falling into the pit through stupidity or carelessness. The death of the animal is its own judgment, but the owner of the pit is held liable, even as the one who lights a fire is responsible for any damage that the fire may do to other men’s property.
Another case that is similar is found in Exodus 22:5,
5 If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
It is unclear if the intent of this law deals with an intentional or unintentional act. Either way, however, the owner is held liable and must pay restitution for the actions of his animal. He may claim ignorance, but he is still liable as the owner of the ox.
Another case is where a man might entrust his neighbor with his goods while going out of town. If a thief came and stole that entrusted property, should the neighbor be held liable? Ex. 22:7-9 says,
7 If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him, and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, “This is it,” the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.
Cases like this are often difficult to know if a neighbor has indeed stolen the entrusted property, or if a thief stole it from his house without his knowledge. If there is evidence, then the judges were to judge according to the evidence. However, if there was a lack of evidence, then the case was to be referred to the Supreme Court of Heaven by means of an oath, as the next verses say:
10 If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep for him, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, 11 an oath before the Lord shall be made by the two of them, that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution.
As Hebrews 6:16 says, “an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.” If the neighbor takes an oath of innocence but is actually guilty, he violates the Third Commandment, and God Himself will adjudicate the case in His own way and time.
Another case is if a man borrows his neighbor's equipment, and that equipment then breaks while he is using it. Who is liable to fix the equipment? Exodus 22:14, 15 says,
14 And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If its owner is with it, he shall not make restitution; if it is hired, it came for its hire.
So if someone borrows equipment and it breaks, the borrower must fix it before returning it, unless the owner was also hired to work with the equipment.
It is important to have God’s revelation about this in order to avoid disputes about liability.
Exodus 22:25 tells us that usury is theft.
25 If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.
The law of usury distinguishes between loans to foreigners and loans to citizens who live according the laws of the Kingdom. Deuteronomy 23:19, 20 says,
19 You shall not charge interest to your countryman: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20 You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countryman you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.
The “foreigner” in this case is one living outside of the Kingdom. The presumption is that such a person lives by a different set of laws. In those days under Babylonian law, the interest rate was about 30%. Babylon did not outlaw interest on money. A Kingdom citizen was not obliged to loan money to a foreigner who, in turn, saw nothing wrong with charging others interest on money. He could be treated according to his own standard of measure (Matt. 7:2).
On the other hand, if a foreigner living in the Kingdom and abiding by the law of the land should become impoverished, he was to be treated by the same standard of measure that any other citizen was to be treated. Even foreigners were required to abide by the law of the land while they were guests. Lev. 25:35-37 says,
35 Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. 37 You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.
In other words, a countryman (citizen) was to be treated in love, even as one was to treat a stranger or a sojourner with love. “Do not take usurious interest from him.” The Hebrew text uses two separate words that both mean “interest, usury.” The words are Tarbiyth, “percentage,” and neshek, “sting or bite from a serpent, implying oppression.” Hence, usury is thought of as a bite from a serpent.
This biblical ban on usury was recognized in 529 A.D., when the Emperor Justinian completely overhauled the legal system of the Roman Empire and changed it, as best he understood, to conform to biblical law. The law of Justinian became the basis of European law for over a thousand years. However, the papacy allowed Jews to loan money at interest, and even the Church regularly borrowed money from them over the centuries. Occasionally, the Church would then use the law banning usury to justify the cancellation of debts.
The church ought to have had one standard of measure for all men, including Jews, but this was not done. This weakness and inconsistency eventually gave way to the legalization of usury in the church itself. This occurred after the Lateran Treaty in 1929.
Pope Pius XI made a treaty with Mussolini that established Vatican City as a City State. Mussolini paid the Vatican $90 million to compensate the Church for its loss of the Papal States in 1870. The investments from the “donation of Mussolini” had increased to $2 billion by 1939. The money was used to create the Institute for Religious Agencies (the Vatican Bank) on June 27, 1942. The Vatican then began to engage in the regular practice of usury. Usury was quietly dropped from its list of sins.
By means of usury, the bankers have gained enormous power over governments, enslaving the people without their knowledge. Such is the result of decriminalizing sin. The nations have come under the curse of the law found in Deuteronomy 28:43-45,
43 The alien who is among you shall rise above you higher and higher, but you shall go down lower and lower. 44 He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. 45 So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.
It should be mentioned, too, that if we set up an interest-bearing account in a bank or some other financial institution in this present Babylonian system, it is not a violation of biblical law. The financial system today is an entity of Babylon. Thus, if you are given some interest on your loan to a bank, it is like loaning money to a foreigner that does not subscribe to the laws of God. They are foreigners in the biblical sense, so obtaining interest is not prohibited on such bank accounts or annuities.
In Ex. 22:29, 30 we read,
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
God lays claim to all the firstborn male offspring of man or beast. They are to be given to God on the eighth day. If men fail to do so, it is a crime of theft against God. Few follow this law today, because they have not heard this law. But if one hears the voice of God and obeys the command, then we can say with Paul, “faith comes by hearing,” (Rom. 10:17). The word for hearing is the same as the word for obeying.
This is part of the law of first fruits, where God lays claim to the first fruits of the harvest, the flocks and herds, and of our firstborn sons. This also prophesies of the sons of God, the overcomers, who are to be presented to God at the time of the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6. The first fruits offering sanctifies the harvest and is the signal that the harvest may begin.
So also we see that when the first resurrection presents the sons of God to the Father, the largest and most productive harvest of souls will then begin. Revelation 20:6 indicates that this harvest will last a thousand years, during which time the Kingdom of God will grow until it fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).
The historic conflict has centered around the firstborn at least since the days of Moses, when Pharaoh gave orders that all the male children of Israel should be cast into the Nile River (Ex. 1:22). It was an attempt to kill the deliverer who was to come.
Years later, at the time of Jesus’ birth, King Herod, inspired by the same evil spirit, tried to kill the children of Bethlehem. Once again, innocent babies were killed in the attempt to steal the Son of God and prevent Him from receiving the throne of His inheritance.
In more recent years we see the same attempt being made by the legalization of abortion in 1973. The attempt is futile, of course, but by 2013 over 55 million babies have been killed by the same spirit that motivated Pharaoh and Herod. One might label this as an attempted theft of the firstborn. At any rate, it is part of a larger conflict over the Throne and the Birthright, which I described in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
The Third Commandment provides a way to appeal for God’s justice in cases where justice on earth is not possible. If a man steals from his neighbor and there is no witness to prove his guilt, the victim has the right to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Heaven and expect God to administer justice in His own way and in His own time.
But what if a thief repents and confesses his sin, even though there were no witnesses to convict him? Normally, a thief would be required to pay at least double restitution to his victim. As we have already shown, some restitution was fourfold and even fivefold. However, a repentant thief is required to pay only one-fifth restitution (along with the return of the stolen items, of course). We read this in Num. 5:6, 7,
6 Speak to the sons of Israel, “When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the Lord, and that person is guilty, 7 then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution [return the stolen item] in full for his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to whom he has wronged.”
This passage is found just a few verses before the law of jealousy. These laws are grouped together to show examples of sin without witnesses. In each case a person is asked to self-confess if he is guilty, but since there is insufficient evidence to establish guilt in an earthly court, such cases must be handled differently. If he does not confess his sin, then any suspect could be asked to swear an oath of innocence in the Divine Court. But if a sinner repents and confesses his sin, he pays only one-fifth the value of the stolen item as restitution.
The prophet Malachi poses a question in Mal. 3:8-10, saying,
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me? But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows.”
Men rob God by not paying Him for His labor, for the tithe is God’s earned income for creating all things in the beginning.
The tithe was the primary Kingdom tax by which God’s earthly government was to be supported. God defines righteous taxes in the law, and any deviation from His standard is theft. If the rulers demand tithe that is not owed, they are stealing from the people. If the people pay less than they owe, they steal from God.
So it is important that we understand the biblical standard, for as we will see, most people do not know the law of tithing, and many preachers and teachers teach it incorrectly. Deuteronomy 14:22-29 speaks of the tithe that the Israelites were supposed to pay in order to support their government.
22 You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.
The tithe is the ten percent tax on all that man produces from nature. God requires a ten percent return on His labor, which is to be used in support of divine government. Not every source of income is taxable, of course, but only that which is derived from God’s labor. Leviticus 27:30 says also,
30 Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.
When God labored for six days to create the heavens and the earth, He was the Owner of that which He created. As its owner, He has contracted with man to bring forth fruit, and part of the agreement was that man would render to God a tenth of that which is produced from His labor. Giving Him a tithe, then, recognizes that God is the Creator and Owner of the land from which we derive our subsistence.
Hebrews 7 speaks of the tithes that Abraham gave to Melchizedek in Gen. 14:20. His point was that Melchizedek was “greater” than Abraham, for we read in Heb. 7:6 and 7,
6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them [i.e., from Levi] collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater.
In other words, Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek because he recognized Melchizedek’s authority over him. Melchizedek was actually Shem, the builder of Jerusalem, the “City of Salem,” and he held the Birthright which had been passed down from Adam. Shem was thus the true King-Priest of the earth, the one holding the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:26. At that time Nimrod had already usurped most of the dominion of Shem by setting up his kingdom in Babylon. But Abraham recognized Shem as the rightful heir of divine government and paid him tithe.
The point is that tithing gives recognition that this person (or institution) is an heir of the Melchizedek Order and functions as the legitimate divine government in the earth. Hebrews 7 shows that the alternative Order of Levi was temporary and was to function until the Melchizedek Order returned to its rightful claim under the New Covenant.
The problem today is that existing Babylonian governments have claimed the tithe (and more) for the establishment of their own kingdoms, without recognizing the right of Jesus Christ to rule as the high priest of the Order of Melchizedek. Yet at the same time, we must recognize that God gave His people into the hands of those rebellious governments, on account of the sin of Israel and Judah. Meanwhile, it is our duty before God to remember His law and to study the mechanisms of divine government, so that when Babylon’s governments are brought into judgment, there will be people on earth who know how to replace these usurpers with true government under Jesus Christ.
It is ironic that so many churches put away the law, but retain the law of the tithe. Their hypocrisy is exceeded only by their self-interest, for not only do they demand tithe, but they demand that all income be tithed. In this way they turn voluntary offerings into mandatory tithes, as we will soon show.
To understand what sort of income is taxable, we must know why the tithe is just. Man is given land as an inheritance, but God claims eminent domain over all the land, saying in Lev. 25:23,
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.
Many years later, God removed Judah from the land because they broke their covenant with God and used His land for unlawful purposes. In Jeremiah 27:5 God says,
5 I have made the earth… and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant…
Because the people of Judah, like Israel, had refused to be God’s servants in the way they used God’s land, God removed them and gave His land to Babylon. After Babylon, the land was given to Medo-Persia, then Greece, Rome, and its prophetic extensions. We are now living at the end of the final extension, and we expect to see the Stone Kingdom established shortly.
Because God owns the land—and the whole earth—we are responsible to use it in a lawful manner. The rules are written in Scripture, beginning with Moses.
Tithe is due to God on all production from agriculture and ranching, as well as mining, lumbering, fishing, electrical power, solar power and any other source of wealth that is derived from God’s labor at creation. This is not an unjust tax, for it is merely a return on His invested labor. He provides the land, the sun, the rain, the air, electro-magnetism, and all the things necessary to bring forth fruit. He thus expects a return on His labor.
In Medieval times, a lord required thirty percent of the produce from the peasants. God’s standard in the law shows that such a requirement was very unjust. The high taxes today that the Babylonian nations impose upon the people are likewise unjust, but this injustice ought to be viewed in light of the divine judgment upon us for the rebellion and lawlessness of our fathers. The Israelites thought that God’s law was too harsh, so they desired the laws of men instead. So God gave them their desire, in order to show them how unjust the laws of men were. If we will not be governed by the righteous laws of God, we will be ruled by the unjust laws of men.
The unjust laws of modern nations are generally based upon the principle of the value-added tax. A lumberman cuts down trees and sells them. He makes some money on the sale and is taxed on his profits. The lumber mill shapes the lumber into boards and sells them to carpenters and contractors, adding value to the lumber and selling it for a profit. The government then taxes the profits of the mill.
The carpenters build furniture, adding more value to the wood. They sell it to a broker at a higher price that reflects the value of their labor, and their profits are again taxed. The broker provides a distribution service to various stores, and the profit that he receives from his labor is taxed. The store sells to the public at a retail price, and their labor is again taxed.
When the customer finally purchases the furniture, then he is usually required to pay a sales tax on top of all the previous taxes. Each new tax along the way is added to the final cost paid by the consumer, inflating the cost of everything produced in the nation.
This is how Babylonian governments require people to pay far more than the mere ten percent that God’s law requires. Under God’s system, the original lumberman must give God’s government one tree out of ten that he cuts down. There is no further tax as the lumber goes to market, for any further labor is their own. God does not tax men’s labor; He requires only a return on His own labor as the Creator.
The only caveat here is that if a lumberman wants to keep the tenth tree, he may do so by paying an extra fifth of its value (Lev. 27:31). That is, he pays in cash twelve percent tithe, instead of ten percent. The same is true if he wishes to redeem the tenth animal from his flock (Lev. 27:32).
We should also point out that God’s system is land-based, while Babylon’s system is city-based. In God’s system, every family has a land inheritance. Under Babylon’s system, people can be disenfranchised from the land. This creates a tendency to gravitate toward larger and larger cities. City life brings about a certain culture that is more easily corrupted, and hence we see how big cities become more and more violent as people are uprooted and separated from their God-given land inheritance.
When God brought the Israelites into their inheritance in Canaan, He gave each family a portion of land (Joshua 14-19). The prophet Isaiah said that God planted a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7). The people were supposed to be like trees or grape vines, having roots in the land and producing fruit that God could enjoy.
While not everyone is called to farm the land, every family should include some farmers, according to their calling. Everyone should have a house and property in the land allotted to his family. No one should be disenfranchised. No one should be homeless. Every citizen of the Kingdom ought to have a refuge among his family, even if he has decided to travel or to work in another location.
The Babylonian system does not provide for this. It refuses to recognize God’s ownership of the land, and so land is bought and sold by those who can afford it, while homelessness remains an increasing problem.
The law of the tithe will not be sufficient to support government unless the rest of the law is followed. The tithe is based upon the laws of land and inheritance. God’s inexpensive government depends upon the people being rooted in the land and the emphasis upon the family relationship that it supports. This is also the key to maintaining low crime rates and an inexpensive judicial system.
The tithe is God’s main way of supporting His Kingdom government. Because such government is small, due to the low crime rate, the tax burden on the citizens is very light. Most of the tithe in Israel was used to finance trips to the tabernacle or temple when the people observed the feast days (Deut. 14:22-26).
They were also to remember the Levite (Deut. 14:27) by giving part of their tithe to those who ministered in local government, because Levites had no land inheritance among them. The entire tithe in the third year was specifically dedicated to the Levites and the poor of the land (Deut. 14:28).
A tenth of the tithe was sent to the national government. Numbers 18:26-28 says,
26 Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, “When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your offering shall be reckoned to you as the grain from the threshing floor or the full produce from the wine vat. 28 So you shall also present an offering to the Lord from your tithes, which you receive from the sons of Israel; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest.
God’s government has two distinct branches that are subject to the divine law—priestly and political. Aaron was the high priest, Moses was the civil leader. During the time of the judges, the priestly government functioned continuously, while the judges themselves were raised up temporarily as national political leaders when they were needed to deliver the nation from captivity.
When Israel’s government reached its apex, they were given a king. Although they demanded a king too soon and received Saul, it was always part of the divine plan that they would have a king (Deut. 17:15). At that point they had a king and a high priest.
These offices were distinct, each having its own area of authority. The ultimate government, of course, merges the office of high priest with the king. This is known as the Melchizedek Order, whose members included David (Psalm 110:4), though he did not actually replace the Levitical high priest at that time. It remained for Jesus to take the priestly government from the high priest of the Levitical Order and ultimately to merge it with the throne of David.
This is the government to which Abraham’s seed (the household of faith) owes the biblical tithe today. While we do not yet see this government established in the political realm on earth, we can now only fulfill the law of the tithe in a partial manner. Yet we study the word so that when Babylon falls, we will understand the law and know how to rebuild the Kingdom of God that is prophesied in Scripture.
In Deut. 22:1-3 if a man loses something, and another man finds it, the finder cannot lay claim to what he has found. He must return it to the rightful owner. If the rightful owner cannot be located, he is to take care of the property until the owner comes to find it. This law is given in terms of oxen, sheep, donkeys, and even items of clothing.
We are fortunate to have this law, because God Himself has many “lost sheep” (Ezekiel 34:16). When we find them, we are to care for them until God comes to seek and find them. Churches or denominations who lay claim to God's sheep as if they were their own are guilty of theft. They are to consider themselves to be stewards and not owners of the lost sheep. Ezekiel 34 speaks of the shepherds who fleece and eat those sheep as if they owned them.
We gain much insight into a serious church problem by understanding the laws of lost sheep and the laws of theft. Those who refuse to study the law usually find themselves lacking in wisdom and understanding that is offered to us in the law and in the Eighth Commandment.