You Are Never Alone! (Numbers 8-10)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 8-10

The early chapters of the Book of Numbers have been spent organizing hundreds of thousands of men and women who had known only slavery for four hundred years.  Moses was tasked by the LORD with the responsibility of giving the Law and bringing discipline to a body of people that would become Israel.

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the sanctuary of the Tabernacle known as the “holy of holies”.  The inner-sanctum was veiled from all but the high priest.  Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand (menorah) bearing seven lamps burning pure olive oil.  Aaron, the high priest, was responsible for lighting the lamps that illuminated the holy place (8:3).

While Aaron and his sons served God as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist them and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).

Rather than the eldest son of each tribal family being dedicated to serve as priest, the sons of the tribe of Levi were chosen (8:14-18). The leaders of the twelve tribes, placing their hands on the Levites, identified with them as serving on their behalf (8:9-11).

Given the charge to serve as the spiritual representatives of the people, the Levites laid their hands on the heads of bullocks to be sacrificed for their sins (8:12) and took upon themselves the role to serve the LORD as His priests (8:13-26).

The Passover was established in Numbers 9 as a perpetual memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).

Assuring the nation He would never abandon them, the tribes of Israel were comforted by a constant reminder of the Lord’s presence: a cloud overshadowing the Tabernacle by day and a fire present at night (9:15-16).  Recognizing the LORD orders the “starts and stops” of His people, theyfollowed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:17-23).

The Journey from Sinai Begins (Numbers 10)

One full year passed at Mount Sinai when silver trumpets sounded the news for exiting the wilderness of Sinai (10:5-6).  The tribes followed the cloud (10:34) as the LORD guided His people into the wilderness of Paran (10:11-13). They were trusting Him to be present among the people (10:35).

Friend, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that, though the LORD no longer leads His people with a cloud by day or a fire by night, He does lead, direct, and guide His people by His Word (Psalm 119:105), the wooing of His Spirit, and wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6).

Understanding the LORD was Israel’s guide during her journey through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, we are comforted in this promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trial; test] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. many others have faced the same]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [permit; allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [i.e. pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Whatever test or trial you may face, be assured, God is faithful and you are never alone!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Moses Listened, and He Heard the Voice of the Lord (Numbers 7)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 7

The dedication of the Tabernacle, instruments and vessels employed in offering sacrifices is recorded in the opening verse of Numbers 7.

We are reminded these implements were not to be treated as common; they were “anointed” and “sanctified” to the LORD (7:1)

Gifts were then brought by the leaders of the tribes (7:2) and dedicated to be used by the Levites in their ministries as it was deemed necessary (7:3-6).  The “sons of Gershon” were allotted “two wagons and four oxen” to transport the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle (4:24-28; 7:2).

The “sons of Merari,” whose ministry it was to transport the heavy timbers and boards of the Tabernacle (4:31-32), were assigned four wagons and eight oxen due to their responsibility to transport (4:31-32; 7:8).

The “sons of Kohath” were assigned the responsibility of transporting the furniture pieces of the Tabernacle by poles on their shoulders (4:4-6) and, therefore, had no need for wagons or oxen (7:9).

Twelve princes, each representing one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, were assigned a day to bring gifts to dedicate the altar (7:10-88). Although a long passage to consider, take heart in this:

The LORD not only took notice of the gifts, but also recorded the names of those who offered them. Be encouraged: Even the small gifts we bring are not overlooked by Him.

After twelve days passed, and the dedication of the tabernacle and altar were complete, Moses entered the tabernacle to speak to the LORD (7:89a).

Numbers 7:8989  And when Moses was gone [entered] into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak [commune] with him [the LORD], then he [Moses] heard the voice [i.e. sound; thunder; proclamation] of one speaking [talking; communing] unto him from off the mercy seat [the sacred cover of the ark] that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he [the LORD] spake [commune] unto him [Moses].

The LORD spoke to Moses, His voice emanating from the mercy seat between two cherubs, representing the heavenly throne of God.

The LORD would later say of His servant Moses, “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently [in vision or in sight], and not in dark speeches [riddles]; and the similitude [form; likeness] of the LORDshall he behold:” (Numbers 12:8). The LORD appeared to some prophets in dreams and in visions to others; however, to Moses He spoke directly.

Do you know the LORD?

Open your heart and hear Him speak through His Word.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Restitution, Adultery, Sacred Vows, and Blessings (Numbers 5-6)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 5-6

While the Commandments of the LORD are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the specifics for addressing disease and sin in the midst of the people is given in Numbers 5.  The LORD required His people to be a clean and holy people. Contagious diseases like leprosy were not tolerated in the camp (Numbers 5:1-4).

Saying, “I’m sorry” was not enough. (Numbers 5:5-10)

Justice was demanded when one’s actions caused another to suffer loss (5:5-6).  The need to “own” the hardships and consequences of one’s sin is illustrated.

Three steps of “making right one’s wrong” are stated.  The first, “confess their sin which they have done” (5:7a). The second, restitution, making the one who suffered loss whole (“recompense his trespass with the principal” – 5:7b). Finally, giving one-fifth more above the loss (5:7c).

Adultery and “the Law of Jealousies” (Numbers 5:11-31)

Knowing marriage is a holy covenant instituted by God between one man and one woman, the nation was intolerant of adultery and an adulterous man and woman might be put to death (Leviticus 20:10).

In Numbers 5, a man suspects his wife of adultery; however, there was no witness to her sin (5:12). Presenting his wife before the priest, the husband would state his suspicions (5:14-15). Because adultery is not only a sin against one’s spouse, but also a sin against the LORD, the priest set the wife accused of adultery “before the LORD” (5:16).

The priest was to take a clay vessel of water, put dust from the tabernacle floor in the water, and demand the accused drink the “bitter water” (5:17-20).  Stating an oath, the priest asked the wife to drink the water, charging her should she be guilty of adultery, the Lord would cause female organs “to rot, and thy belly to swell” (5:21, 27).

Should an accused wife be innocent, she was assured of the Lord’s blessings and her fertility to bear children (5:28).

The Law of the Nazarite (Numbers 6)

Vows to the LORD are sacred; however, the vow of the Nazarite was especially sacred and binding for the man or woman who voluntarily set themselves apart from lawful liberties and dedicated themselves to the LORD for as little as 30 days and as much as a lifetime (6:1-8).

Nazarites denied themselves the pleasures of “wine and strong drink…vinegar…[and] grapes” (6:3).   As an outward sign of devotion to God, a Nazarite male did not cut his hair (6:5).  Nazarites were also forbidden to touch dead bodies (6:6-8).

The Aaronic (Priestly) Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26)

We close today’s devotional with a three-step blessing known as the Aaronic Blessing.  This is my prayer for my family, church, and my “Heart of a Shepherd” family.

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee [guard, protect, and preserve]: 25  The LORD make his face [countenance] shine [be a light] upon thee, and be gracious [favor; i.e. merciful] unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance [face] upon thee, and give thee peace [safe; well; whole].”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Holy”, Dedicated to the LORD (Numbers 3-4)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 3-4

We have noticed that the thirteenth tribe, the tribe of Levi, was not numbered (1:47-54) in the census that was recorded in Leviticus 1-2.

Numbers 3 gives us the generations of Moses and Aaron who were of the priestly tribe Levi.  The census of the Levites is recorded as well as their duties regarding the tabernacle, and caring for the vessels used in sacrifices and worship (3:1-51).

The tribe of Levi was set apart by God to serve Him in lieu of the first born from every tribe and family being dedicated for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  Notice the exact accounting to the LORD regarding the number of Levite males (22,000) and the number of the firstborn males among the twelve tribes (22,273). The difference of 273 might not seem like a big deal to some who discount giving the LORD His tithes and offerings; however, the additional 273 males among the twelve tribes had to be redeemed that the LORD might have His portion (3:40-51).

We will notice later in our study of Numbers that the Levites had no direct portion of land set aside for them in the Promise Land since their needs were ever to be met through the tithes and offerings of the twelve tribes.

Numbers 4 continues with a description of the ministry of the Levites, their age of service (“thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old” – 4:3) and responsibilities when breaking down the tabernacle for moving (4:4-15).

The tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the golden altar, the candlestick, the vessels used in sacrifices and worship were all to be treated as “holy”, sanctified and dedicated to the LORD.  A great reminder that God has called His people and Church to be the same: Be Holy!

1 Peter 1:15-1615  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Brief Note from the Heart of a Shepherd

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Reader,

We are following the Blue Letter Bible Chronological Reading Plan.  Today’s devotion begins our study of the Book of Numbers and is the fifty-fourth Scripture reading of the year.

There are many making this journey with us through the Bible, and I hope you will benefit much through the process.  My target audience is every person who desires to know God more, and grow in wisdom.

Prayerfully penned and intended to enlighten the mind, inspire the heart, and make practical application for life in the 21st century, my eventual goal is to compile these daily devotional commentaries into both a paper and electronic format.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is faithful and His promises never fail. (Numbers 1-2)

Devotional Reading – Numbers 1-2

The author of Numbers is Moses and the opening verse gives us an exact chronological timeline for events found in its pages:  “first day of the second month, in the second year after they [the Twelve Tribes of Israel] were come out of the land of Egypt” (Numbers 1:1).

The Book of Numbers follows the journey of the Twelve Tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham for an inheritance.  The book derives its name from the fact it records three separate census counts conducted during Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness.

Admittedly, one can get lost in the details enumerated in Numbers 1-2; however, there is an important truth concealed in the verses:

God remembers and keeps His promises!

God commanded Moses and Aaron to take a census of the men of Israel, twenty years and older; men who were identified by their tribe, father’s name and own name, and described as “able to go forth to war” (1:1-4).

These are the Twelve Tribes of Israel. They are the progenies of the twelve sons of Jacob, the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. The LORD changed Jacob’s name to Israel, from whom the nation received its name.

The thousands numbered in these verses are a testimony God remembered His covenant with Abraham whom He called out of ancient Ur (modern day Iraq). Commanding Abraham to leave his country and kindred to journey to a land the LORD promised would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12:1-3).  The LORD promised Abraham would not only be father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ as our Savior Redeemer – Genesis 12:3b).

The first census (Numbers 1:2-54) was of males, twenty years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-3).

Thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) are named; however, two of the thirteen tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and ManassehNumbers 1:10, 32-35). The priestly tribe of Levi was excluded from the census because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

We will see that the LORD set the tribe of Levi apart for Himself in lieu of the first born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  The Levites were charged with the responsibility of the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down and erecting the tabernacle (Numbers 1:51, 53).

Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe: Simeon (2:12-13), Gad (2:14-15), Ephraim (2:18-19), Manasseh (2:20-21), Judah (2:3-4), Issachar (2:5-6), Zebulun (2:7-8), Reuben (2:10-11) Benjamin (2:22-23), Dan (2:25-26), Asher (2:27-28), Naphtali (2:29-30), and Levi in the midst encamped around the tabernacle (2:17, 33).

I close today’s devotional reflecting with two observations:

1) The tabernacle was located in the center of the encampment and served as a constant reminder of the LORD’S presence (1:53).

2) “The children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.” (2:34)

Is worshipping and serving the LORD central to your life? 

Do you obey the LORD in both attitude and actions?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: What You Promise the LORD, Is the LORD’S!” (Leviticus 26-27)

Devotional reading assignment – Leviticus 26-27

Inviting the nation to obey His laws and keep His commands (26:3), the Lord promised to bless the land and make it fruitful (26:4-10).  Reminding Israel His promise of blessings was conditioned on their obedience, the LORD warned His judgments for their sin and disobedience will be seven times greater (26:18, 21, 24, 28).

Why “seven times” greater?

Because one dare not trifle with the LORD’S laws and commandments nor despise His grace. Disobey His law and reject His favor, and you not only face the consequences of sin, but the greater judgment for rejecting His grace (26:25-39). Having heard and received the commandments, the people of that generation were warned to not trifle with the LORD, but to obey Him.

The LORD warned Israel and it would come to pass…reject His law and commandments and a host of judgments would befall the nation: Pestilence (26:25), famine (26:26), cannibalism (“eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters” – 26:27-29), cities wasted, places of worship abandoned (26:31), and exile from the land (26:33-39).

Leviticus 27 concludes our study of Leviticus and reminds us the LORD holds sacred the vows we make to Him (27:1-2). Whether young or old, a covenant vow to the LORD is a serious and sacred matter (27:3-8).

A full discussion regarding the LORD’S tithe is found in Leviticus 27:9-34.

The LORD required a tenth of the livestock, both clean and unclean, be brought to the sanctuary (27:9-13).  The clean was dedicated to the LORD while the value of an unclean beast was established and sold to support the sanctuary (27:11-12).

An important lesson is the matter of an owner redeeming or purchasing that which he had dedicated to the LORD but desired to retain.

To purchase what one dedicated to the LORD (examples include beasts, a house, crops of a field) required a priest establish its monetary value. For an owner to claim what he dedicated to the LORD required paying not only its value, but one-fifth part more to redeem (27:13, 15, 19).

The summary of this “value plus one-fifth more” is expressed in this:

Leviticus 27:30-31 – “30  And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD. 31  And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.”

The lesson for Israel was, whatever one dedicates to the LORD is sacred and His alone.

Refuse to give the LORD His part and you forfeit His blessing. If you change your heart and desire to keep what you have dedicated to the LORD, He requires not only its value, but also one-fifth more.

What about you, have you kept your vows to the LORD?

Have you forgotten the vows you made to Him, whether publicly or privately? Do you remember the decision you made to surrender your life to Him? Could your struggles be related to this principle; your failure to fully give all you have vowed to the LORD?

Ecclesiastes 5:4-54  When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Remember, what you vow to the LORD He will not forget!

Romans 12:1-21  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith