Concerning the disposal of their tithe the third year we had the law before, Deut. 14:28, 29. The second tithe, which in the other two years was to be spent in extraordinaries at the feasts, was to be spent the third year at home, in entertaining the poor. Now because this was done from under the eye of the priests, and a great confidence was put in the people’s honesty, that they would dispose of it according to the law, to the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless (Deut. 26:12), it is therefore required that when at the next feast after they appeared before the Lord they should there testify (as it were) upon oath, in a religious manner, that they had fully administered, and been true to their trust.
I. They must make a solemn protestation to this purport, Deut. 26:13, 14. 1. That no hallowed things were hoarded up: “I have brought them away out of my house, nothing now remains there but my own part.” 2. That the poor, and particularly poor ministers, poor strangers, and poor widows, had had their part according to the commandment. It is fit that God, who by his providence gives us all we have, should by his law direct the using of it, and, though we are not now under such particular appropriations of our revenue as they then were, yet, in general, we are commanded to give alms of such things as we have; and then, and not otherwise, all things are clean to us. Then we may take the comfort of our enjoyments, when God has thus had his dues out of them. This is a commandment which must not be transgressed, no, not with an excuse of its being forgotten, Deut. 26:13. 3. That none of this tithe had been misapplied to any common use, much less to any ill use. This seems to refer to the tithe of the other two years, which was to be eaten by the owners themselves; they must profess, (1.) That they had not eaten of it in their mourning, when, by their mourning for the dead, they were commonly unclean; or they had not eaten of it grudgingly, as those that all their days eat in darkness. (2.) That they had not sacrilegiously alienated it to any common use, for it was not their own. And, (3.) That they had not given it for the dead, for the honour of their dead gods, or in hope of making it beneficial to their dead friends. Now the obliging of them to make this solemn protestation at the three years’ end would be an obligation upon them to deal faithfully, knowing that they must be called upon thus to purge themselves. It is our wisdom to keep conscience clear at all times, that when we come to give up our account we may lift up our face without spot. The Jews say that this protestation of their integrity was to be made with a low voice, because it looked like a self-commendation, but that the foregoing confession of God’s goodness was to be made with a loud voice to his glory. He that durst not make this protestation must bring his trespass-offering, Lev. 5:15.
II. To this solemn protestation they must add a solemn prayer (Deut. 26:15), not particularly for themselves, but for God’s people Israel; for in the common peace and prosperity every particular person prospers and has peace. We must learn hence to be public-spirited in prayer, and to wrestle with God for blessings for the land and nation, our English Israel, and for the universal church, which we are directed to have an eye to in our prayers, as the Israel of God, Gal. 6:16. In this prayer we are taught, 1. To look up to God as in a holy habitation, and thence to infer that holiness becomes his house, and that he will be sanctified in those that are about him. 2. To depend upon the favour of God, and his gracious cognizance, as sufficient to make us and our people happy. 3. To reckon it wonderful condescension in God to case an eye even upon so great and honourable a body as Israel was. It is looking down. 4. To be earnest with God for a blessing upon his people Israel, and upon the land which he has given us. For how should the earth yield its increase, or, if it does, what comfort can we take in it, unless therewith God, even our own God, gives us his blessing? Ps. 67:6.