Category Archives: Attitude

Obedience, Justice, and a Leader of God’s Choosing (Deuteronomy 16-17)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17

With the urgency of a leader who knows his days are waning, Moses continued his challenge to Israel, preparing that nation to go forward without him. Because worship would be central to that nation’s heritage, it was essential for the people to have one place where they would offer sacrifices to the LORD. Unlike the heathen, whose towns and villages had their own deities, and places of worship, Israel’s worship was to be in the place where the LORD had chosen “to place His name in” – the Tabernacle (16:6).

“Three times in a year,” the men of Israel were required to “appear before the LORD” (16:16). The first was the “Feast of the Passover,” which occurred in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, “the month of Abib” (later identified as “Nisan” in the post-captivity era, and occurring during our months of March-April, 16:1). We have considered the Passover in the past, and are reminded this feast day was observed by the sacrifice of a lamb, and commemorating the LORD sparing the Hebrews because they had applied the blood of the lamb to their door posts in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). The Paschal Lamb was a pre-figure of Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Leaven was to be purged from the households, and not eaten (16:3-4; in the entirety of God’s Word, both the Old Testament, and the New Testament, the nature of leaven is used as a type for sin 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9).

The “Feast of Weeks” (also identified as Pentecost), was observed for seven weeks after the Passover (16:9;Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 34:32; Acts 2:1). It marked the time of harvest, and giving the LORD the first-fruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). It was memorialized with freewill offerings.

The third feast to be observed was the “Feast of Tabernacles” (16:13-15; Numbers 29:12). Also described as the “Feast of Ingathering,” it was observed by dwelling in booths (temporary shelters), and marked the end of the harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:42).

Deuteronomy 16 concludes with the focus on the matter of civil order and justice in Israel (16:18-22).

Knowing the tribes would be geographically distant from one another in the new land, it was important for there to be one system of law, and justice that would govern the people (16:18). Prejudice in matters of judgment was condemned, and the bribery of a judge was considered an act of wickedness (16:18-19).

Deuteronomy 17 – Justice, and the Character of a King

Reminding Israel that the LORD would refuse a blemished sacrifice (17:1), the subject of judgment, and justice continued in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. We have noted in earlier devotionals the requirement of two or more witnesses for crimes that necessitated capital punishment (17:4-6). Those who served as witnesses to a capital offense (for instance, idolatry, 17:3-4), were required to bear the gravity of the sentence of death, laying their hands upon one that was condemned (17:7).

In “matters of controversy” (17:8), where there was some uncertainty, judgments would be taken before the priests who would serve as judges (17:8-10). The Law of the LORD, not the law of a king, would serve as Israel’s authority (17:14).

What manner of man would the LORD have to rule Israel? (17:15-20)

Moses, knowing Israel would one day aspire to be like other nations, and have a king rule over them (17:14), established the manner of man whom God would choose (17:15-20). He was to be a man of God’s choosing, and a Hebrew (not a “stranger,” or non-Hebrew, 17:15). He was to be a man of humility, and not set his heart upon many horses, wives, or riches (17:16-17). He was to have a copy of the Law of the LORD, written by his own hand, and kept beside his throne. He was to study “to keep all the words” of the law and statutes (17:18-19).

The Law reminded the king that he was not above the law, nor was he above the people (lest “his heart be lifted up above his brethren,” 17:20). Consider how marvelous was this decree concerning the choosing of a king, and the character the LORD demanded of the man who would rule His people.

How far the nations of the world have strayed from choosing leaders who fear the LORD, and realize no man is above the law! Our 21st century world is following a path to judgment, and destruction. While 2 Chronicles 7:14was a conditional promise, made to Israel, it is my prayer for my country.

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Do Right, and I will bless you!” (Deuteronomy 8-9)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 8-9

Moses’ second challenge to Israel continues in Deuteronomy 8, and is a call to obedience: “1All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers” (8:1). In other words, “Do Right, and I will bless you!”

As though the promises of God’s grace, and faithfulness were not enough, Moses began a recitation of all the LORD had done for them as a nation in the wilderness (8:2-5). Even the adversities of “forty years in the wilderness,” had a righteous purpose, for the LORD had used them to “humble…to prove, [and] to know what was in [Israel’s] heart” (8:2). The LORD, knowing what was in the hearts of His people, employed the trials and testing to lay bare what manner of people they were.

What had the trials proved? The LORD’s loving care of His people! When they were hungry, “He fed them with manna” (8:3). For forty years He preserved them. Even their clothes, “waxed not old,” and their health did not fail them; for even their feet did not “swell, these forty years” (8:4).

The LORD had chastened Israel, like “a man chasteneth his son” (8:5), but He was also bringing them into a fertile land, with water and springs (8:7). The Promised Land was all He had promised, for it gave forth an abundance of grains, and fruit (8:8). There was also a wealth of iron ore, and copper in the land (referred to as “brass,” 8:9).

Moses warned, prosperity in the land would tempt their hearts to be lifted up in pride, and they would forget the LORD, and His covenant with them as a people (8:10-19). Moses admonished, should they boast, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:17), they would go the way of other nations, and “surely perish” (8:19-20).

Deuteronomy 9 – God’s Grace Made All the Difference

Lest the hearts of the people be lifted up with pride, Moses reminded the people, the nations that occupied the land were “greater and mightier…A people great and tall…[for it was said], Who can stand before the children of Anak!” (9:1-2).

They had no cause for pride, or self-reliance, for the LORD had determined to give them the land, not because they were righteous, for they were “a stiffnecked [hard, stubborn] people” (9:6). They had rebelled when Moses had gone up into the mount to receive the Ten Commandments (9:8-14; Exodus 31:18-32:6). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation, Moses had interceded for the people (9:15-19). Even Aaron, the brother of Moses, who would become the first high priest, was mercifully spared, though “the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and [Moses] prayed for Aaron” (9:20).

After citing other examples of Israel’s sins, and rebellion (9:22-24), Moses returned to the uprising at Sinai, and recalled how he had appealed to the LORD to spare Israel, for the sake of the LORD’S testimony before the Egyptians, and other nations (9:25-29).

What lesson might we take from Moses’ memorializing Israel’s sins, and unworthiness?

I suggest it is a good thing to remember that none of us are worthy, nor merit God’s favor (Titus 3:5). We are all lost, and without hope of forgiveness, and salvation, apart from Jesus Christ. Israel was saved as a nation; in the same way any sinner comes to be saved and forgiven of his sin–GRACE.

Ephesians 2:8–98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Fear, and Obey the LORD, and He Will Prosper You (Deuteronomy 6-7)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 6-7

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us to Deuteronomy 6-7, where we find Moses continuing his second oration before the congregation of Israel (which he began in Deuteronomy 5). After stating the Ten Commandments of the LORD to the people (5:7-21), Moses had charged them to keep covenant by “[walking]in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you” (5:33).

Deuteronomy 6 – A Sacred Duty: The Perpetual Responsibility to Instruct Sons and Daughters

The people were not only to obey “the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” which the LORD had given Moses to teach the people (6:1), but they were to “fear the LORD,” and teach their “son, and [their] son’s son, all the days of [their] life; and that [their] days may be prolonged” (6:2). Take a moment and ponder not only that command, but also the promise.

There is a direct correlation between the quality, and length of your life, and whether or not you have faithfully obeyed the LORD’S commands, feared Him, and instructed your children, and grandchildren in His statutes, and commandments. One wonders how many believers die young, broken in health, and heart, because they failed to fear the LORD, obey His commandments, and instruct their children in the same.

Moses appealed to the people, “3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey” (6:3). Once again, prosperity is the reward of fearing and revering the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5, was known as The Shema among Hebrew people, and is prayed twice daily by many Jewish people today, for it summarizes the essence of Who Israel’s God is, and that nation’s unique relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4–5 4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

When a lawyer asked Jesus, “36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). “37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

Without exception, each generation of believers, is not only to obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they are also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be persistently considered in every household. The commands, statutes, and laws were the spiritual guide for every area of life, and were to be taught when sitting down, walking, lying down at night, or rising at dawn. Even the entrance to one’s home was to be graced with the Law of God (6:9).

The people were warned to not forget the LORD, in the midst of their prosperity (6:10-11), and were reminded “the LORD thy God is a jealous God” (6:15), and they were not to “tempt” or test the LORD by failing to obey Him (6:16). The LORD promised, if the people would keep His commandments, He would prosper them (6:17). If they would do “right and good in the sight of the LORD,” it would be well with them (6:18).

Deuteronomy 6:20-23 returned to the privilege, and responsibility the people had for instructing their children. They were to remind their sons and daughters of all the LORD had done for them, and to “do all these statutes, to fear the LORD,” promising He would preserve them as a nation (6:24).

Deuteronomy 7 – Why did the LORD Choose Israel?

After challenging Israel to remember the providences, and promises of the LORD, and to obey His commandments, and teach them to their sons and daughters: Moses challenged Israel to utterly destroy the nations in the land He had promised them for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 7). They were to make no covenant of peace with the heathen, nor allow their sons and daughters to intermarry with them (7:2-4). Every idol, and every place of idolatry was to be cut down (7:5).

Moses reminded the people how Israel had been chosen by the LORD to be a “holy people” (7:6), but not because they were great in number, and a powerful people (7:7). He chose Israel because “the LORD loved [them], and because He would keep the oath [covenant] which He had sworn unto [their] fathers [Abraham, Issac, and Jacob]”. (7:8)

Deuteronomy 7 reveals so much more we might consider regarding the nature of God, and His relationship with Israel; however, time and space do not permit me to continue. I encourage you to read, study, and meditate on God’s grace, longsuffering, and holiness that is revealed in the balance of this chapter. The LORD is “immutable,” and He has not changed!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You will not be the exception! (Deuteronomy 5)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 5

Moses’ first oration to Israel concluded in Deuteronomy 4:29, and Deuteronomy 5:1 marks the beginning of his second oration.

We read:  “Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (5:1). Moses reminded the generation that stood before him, how they were bound to the LORD by a Covenant (5:2), one they had as a congregation agreed to “in Horeb” (Horeb being the same as Mount Sinai).

For any who might object, and suppose they were not bound by the covenant established at Horeb, Moses stated the principle of “corporate solidarity,” saying, “3The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” (5:3). How did the LORD establish His covenant with Israel as a nation? “[He] talked with [them] face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire” (5:4). Moses then related how he had served as Israel’s mediator, and received the Law and Commandments from the LORD (5:5).

God’s covenant with Israel began with a preamble: 6I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (5:6). Having stated the preamble, Moses began to rehearse the Decalogue (ten words or statements), and restated the Ten Commandments that were recorded in Exodus 20(5:7-21).

I will suspend a repetition of an earlier study of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), but I encourage you to review the devotional commentary of the same. The spiritual, and historical significance of the Law and Commandments cannot be exaggerated.

After reviewing the Commandments, Moses shared the means by which they were imparted to Israel (5:22-27).

The LORD’s Spirit had descended upon Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), and He spoke “unto all [the]assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me” (5:22).

The people had been terrified at the sight, “for the mountain did burn with fire” (5:25), and the voice of the LORD was heard like the rumble of thunder (5:26). Fearing the LORD, the people intreated Moses to serve as their mediator saying, “27Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it” (5:27).

The LORD agreed to the people’s request (5:28), and commended them saying, “29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (5:28).

What a wonderful aspiration! The God of Israel, whose presence and voice had terrified them, longed for His people to always fear [revere] Him, and keep His commandments (5:28a). The LORD’S passion was, that it would be “well with them, and with their children for ever” (5:28b).

Did you know the LORD wants no less for you, and your family?

He longs to bless you, but such a blessing goes only to those who, in the words of Moses, “observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (5:32). Too many choose to take detours from the way and path of righteousness, and wonder why things go so badly for them and their loved ones.

God longed for His people to revere Him, and keep His commandments, and yearned “that it [would] be well with [them]” (5:33).

Closing thoughts: God’s blessings are upon the man, and his family, who choose to walk in the way of righteousness. “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15), but the man who is blessed is one who “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).

What path are you taking, and where are you leading your family?

Remember, “the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: But the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

You will not be the exception!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Shedding the Blood of An Innocent Life, Defiles the Land, and Demands God’s Judgment (Numbers 34-35)

Scripture reading – Numbers 34-35

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land the LORD had promised Abraham, and his seed as their inheritance (Genesis 15:18-21; 26:4; 28:13-14). Although the land would not be formally divided by tribe until Joshua 15-19, we are given the southern boundaries (34:3-5), with the western boundary being the “great sea” (the Mediterranean Sea, 34:6). The northern most boundary of Israel was to be Mount Hor (34:7-9), and the eastern boundary was the Jordan River (34:10-13). Per their request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had “received their inheritance on [the east] side Jordan [River] near Jericho” (34:14-15).

With the assistance of “Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun” (34:17), the LORD chose a man from each of the tribes, to represent his tribe when the land would be divided (34:18-29).

Numbers 35 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Levi, and the Laws Governing Murder

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land. Their inheritance would be forty-eight cities, and suburbs that would be allotted to the Levites. These cities and suburbs were to be located in the midst of the lands apportioned to the Twelve Tribes, both on the east and west sides of the Jordan River (35:1-5,7).

Of the forty-eight Levite cities, six were to be designated “cities for refuge,” to which men would flee in the event they had taken the life of another (35:6-8). Three cities of refuge were to be located on the east side of the Jordan, and three on the west side (35:9-14).

The cities of refuge offered haven to a man killer (“man slayer”), until he was tried by the congregation, and a determination was made whether or not he was guilty of murder (35:15-29). The cities of refuge could not serve as a safe haven for a man guilty of murder.

Taking the life of another was a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), and the judgment of God was: “The murderer shall surely be put to death” (35:16). A blood kinsman had the right to avenge the death of his loved one, and to him fell the responsibility of slaying the murderer (35:17-21).

Should a man slay another “unawares,” an unintentional, accidental killing, he could seek sanctuary in a city of refuge, and so long as he stayed within the city, he was safe. Should a man guilty of manslaughter depart from the protection of his city of refuge, a blood kinsman could avenge the death of his loved one (35:25-28). Only the death of the high priest would release a manslaughterer from the borders of the city of refuge (35:28).

In cases of capital punishment, it was required that more than one witness would give testimony before a man could be convicted of murder, and killed (35:30). Ransom or bribes that were intended to spare the life of a murderer were forbidden (35:31-32).

Numbers 35 closes with a dire, sober warning:

Numbers 35:33–3433So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 34Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.

Take a moment, and weigh the seriousness of taking the life of another. When there is no justice for the slain, and the murderer goes unpunished, the innocent blood “defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood” (35:33b). The only means of cleansing a land of innocent blood, and a nation of its guilt, was by exacting justice, and taking the life of the murderer.

When justice for the innocent fails, a nation is cursed, and its people live under the shadow of God’s judgment.

What hope is there for a people, and nation that is guilty of injustice, and the slaying of the innocent, and unborn?

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Obey the LORD, and He Will Bless You (Numbers 33)

Scripture reading – Numbers 33

It is fitting that Numbers 33 begins with a look back at the providences of the LORD, and His compassion on the children of Israel during their forty years in the wilderness. Admittedly, the names of the places where Israel encamped seems belaboring; however, each place reminds me that God is sovereign, and He orders the stops and the starts of His people.

He had been with His chosen people from their exodus out of Egypt (33:3-7), and passage through the midst of the Red Sea (33:8), to their return to “the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho” (33:50). The LORD had miraculously provided water and food along the way, and proved He was a compassionate, and loving God (33:9-37).

Nearing their journey’s end, we are suddenly, and unceremoniously reminded: “Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt…[he] was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor” (33:38).

Aaron’s death serves as a reminder that a whole generation had perished because they refused to trust the LORD, and enter into the land. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all who left Egypt, twenty years and older, had died short of their destination.

Now, the LORD had promised His people a fertile and fruitful land; however, it was inhabited by the Canaanites. To take possession of their inheritance, Israel would have to drive the inhabitants out of the land (33:52a). Israel was commanded to destroy all the ways of the Canaanites, including their idols, and the high places where they worshipped (33:52-53).

The land was to be divided by casting lots, and each family would receive their inheritance by the size of their families (33:54).

Numbers 33 closes with a warning: Should Israel not drive the Canaanites out of the land, they would become “pricks in [their] eyes, and thorns in [their] sides, and [the Canaanites would vex them] in the land wherein ye dwell” (33:55).

The LORD warned: If Israel failed to fulfill His command, and drive the Canaanites out of the land, He would do to them what He would have done to their enemies (33:56).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Safe, and Satisfied is a Dangerous Place to Live (Numbers 31-32)

Scripture reading – Numbers 31-32

We are closing in the final chapters of the Book of Numbers, and though our study has been historical in context, it is foundational to a broader, and deeper understanding of the Scriptures! Don’t get weary, for the journey is worth it, and enriching.

Numbers 31 – A War of Revenge Against the Midianites

The LORD spoke to Moses, and as one of his last acts as Israel’s leader (31:1-2), he was commanded to raise up an army of twelve thousand men, to war against Midian (31:1-4). Strategically, it was important for Israel to eliminate all nations on the east side of Jordan that might threaten their campaign in Canaan. The LORD had determined to avenge Israel against Midian, because the kings of Midian had employed Balaam, the seer to curse Israel, and their women had enticed the men of Israel to sin (Numbers 25:6).

Thus, the LORD ordered Moses to wage war against the Midianites (31:1-10, 16). The LORD gave Israel’s army of twelve thousand a glorious victory, and not one soldier was lost in the battle (31:49b). Israel slew all the men of Midian, including five kings, and Balaam, whom “they slew with the sword” (31:8).

The spoils of war were the women and children of Midian, their cattle, flocks of sheep, and possessions (31:9). Israel burnt all the cities, and fortresses to the ground (31:10-11). Returning from battle, the soldiers were met outside the camp by Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the chief leaders of the tribes (31:12-13). Moses, seeing the women of Midian in the midst of the spoils, was furious, for he remembered they had wreaked havoc by luring the men of Israel (31:14-16). With the exception of virgins, Moses ordered all the women of Midian be slain, and “every male among the little ones” (31:17-18). Before they were reunited with their families, the soldiers were commanded to remain outside the camp for seven days, purify themselves, their clothes, and all their goods (31:19-24).

The balance of Numbers 31 addresses the large sum of people, livestock, and goods that had been taken in the victory over Midian (31:25-35), and the distribution of the spoils of the war with Midian. A half-portion of the spoils was awarded to the soldiers (31:36-40), the other half was divided up among the congregation (31:42-47), and the tribute or tithe was then given to the priests (31:41, 48-54).

Numbers 32 – The Division of the Land on the East Side of the Jordan River

Two and a half tribes of Israel, Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, petitioned Moses to assign them land on the east side of the Jordan, reasoning the land was fertile, and could support their livestock (32:1-5). Moses’ first reaction to the request was swift, for he feared those tribes were deserting the nation, and shirking their obligation to assist in conquering the Promised Land (32:6-15).

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh responded to Moses’ concerns, and assured him they were ready to go to war. They desired, after Canaan would be conquered, to return to the grassy fields on the east side of the Jordan (32:16-42).

The compromise reached between Moses, and the tribes appeared to be, “all’s well that ends well.” Such, however, would not be the case. While the leaders of those tribes kept their vows, and fought beside their brethren in Canaan; their decision to build their homes, and raise their children short of Canaan proved disastrous.

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were not only geographically distant from the other tribes, but they also became spiritually distant from the LORD in the generations that followed.  We will later read of those tribes: They transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land” (1 Chronicles 5:25).

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were convinced the land “just short” of the Promised Land was good enough. That decision, however, would become a great sorrow for their children. Those tribes were the first to turn from the LORD, and were taken captive by Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:26).

Lesson – No half-way, half-hearted service for the LORD will ever be acceptable!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Men, the Axe of God’s Judgment Hovers Over Your Head (Numbers 29-30)

Scripture reading – Numbers 29-30

We began a study of instructions regarding the Offerings in Numbers 28, and continue with the same through Numbers 29. Having considered the same sacrifices, and feasts in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 16 and Leviticus 23), I will limit my study of Numbers 29 to a summary of the offerings and feast days.

Numbers 29 – The Law of the Offerings (continued)

The “Feast of Trumpets” marked the beginning of a new year on the Hebrew calendar (29:1-6), and was followed by the holiest of days, the “Day of Atonement” (29:7-11).  Also known as “Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement was the only day the high priest entered the holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 16). Of course, believers no longer need a high priest or the blood of a sacrifice, for Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirement of the sacrificial Passover, or paschal lamb, by His death on the cross (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 7:22-28; 9:11-28; 10:19-22).

The “Feast of Tabernacles” (29:12-34), also known as Sukkot, followed the “Day of Atonement,” and was observed by Israel as a celebration of the harvest. Lasting seven days, the Feast of Tabernacles began with a Sabbath rest (29:12), and ended with a Sabbath of Rest (29:35-38). The sacrifices were presented to the LORD for all the congregation of Israel (29:39-40).

Numbers 30 – The Making, and Breaking of Vows

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the character of our culture move from a time when a man’s word, and a handshake were binding, to today when contracts are breached, even by believers, without as much as an apology.

It may surprise you to learn the LORD’S judgment in the matter of promises and vows (Leviticus 27). King Solomon warned, “4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5)

Vows and covenants were not to be treated lightly, and once a man made a vow, it was binding. There was no exception for men; however, God benevolently allowed for an exception in the matter of daughters, and wives who might have made hasty, ill-advised vows (30:3-8, 10-15).

Spiritual lesson – Fathers and husbands are accountable, and responsible for the protection, and care of the women in their lives.

Sadly, that reality has all but been lost in the 21st century. Consider the matter of vows, pledges, and contracts, and notice God’s compassionate care of the woman (Numbers 30:3-16).

An Unmarried Daughter’s Vow (30:3-5)

A daughter, living in her father’s household, was by law under his protection (30:3-5). Should a daughter bind herself with a vow, and her father learn, and say nothing, she could not be released from her vow (30:4). Should a daughter vow, and the father hear of it, he had authority to recant her vow, and her vow would not be binding (30:5).

A Young Wife’s Vow (30:6-8)

When a woman married, she was no longer under her father, but her husband’s authority. Should she make a vow, and her husband hear of it and say nothing, a wife was bound by her vow (30:6-7). A husband, hearing of a wife’s vow, had authority to cancel her oath, and “the LORD [would] forgive her” (30:8).

The Vow of a Widowed or Divorced Woman (30:9)

Women who were widowed, or divorced, were not under the authority of any man. They were bound by their vows to the LORD, and could not recant them (30:9). They were under obligation to fulfill their pledges.

A Wife’s Vows (30:10-15)

The law concerning the vows of a wife, serve as a reminder that a wife is not only under her husband’s authority, but she is also under his protection. A husband had authority to intervene, and terminate the vow of his wife, or allow it to stand (30:10-16). Once he learned of her vow, he carried the weight of determining whether or not he would intervene. Should the husband cause the wife to break her vow unadvisedly, he would do so bearing the weight of “her iniquity,” and therefore her judgment (30:15).

Summary lesson: A man is bound, and accountable to God for the care of his daughter(s) as long as they are in his household. When making decisions in life, a daughter, and wife should take comfort in this: The weight of the axe of God’s judgment is over the neck of their father, or husband.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard (Numbers 26-27)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27

The gross adultery, and idolatry recorded in Numbers 25 had provoked God to send a plague in Israel that occasioned the deaths of twenty-four thousand people (25:9). With the plague past, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing over the Jordan River, “from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel” (26:2).

Numbers 26 – The Final Census, Before the Promised Land

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had first been taken in Numbers 1-4. A comparison of that census, with this later one reveals a slight decrease in the Twelve Tribes overall (the first totaling 603,500 men, and the second 601,730 men, who were twenty years or older). Some tribes had experienced a decline (Simeon declining from 59,300 men, to 22,200 men, twenty years and older). Other tribes had experienced a large growth in population (the men of the tribe of Manasseh had increased from 32,200, to 52,700 men, twenty years and older). The names and the numbering of the Twelve Tribes is recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

The census was important, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe their own territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe chosen by the LORD to serve Him, did not receive an inheritance of land in Canaan (26:62).

Numbers 26 concludes with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation of people who had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him, had all perished in the wilderness, save two men: “65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65).

Numbers 27 – Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard

The Scriptures prove the LORD’s judgments are just in the matter of women’s rights. Numbers 27:1-11 is a wonderful case study regarding the rights of women, and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men would follow the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize the ways of the LORD are wise, benevolent, and compassionate.

Five daughters, of one man of the tribe of Manasseh, came to Moses, and Eleazar the high priest (27:1-2). Their father had died, with no son, and leaving no male heir. The daughters were permitted to plead their case regarding their late father’s right-of-inheritance in the Promised Land (27:1-4). According to the law, a man’s inheritance was to pass to his son; however, without a son, what was to become of a man’s possessions?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) Arguing they, and their father had been slighted, the women petitioned, “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (27:4).

Rather than make a hasty, ill-advised decision, or trust men’s opinions, Moses withdrew, and “brought [the] cause [of the daughters] before the LORD” (27:5). The LORD, affirmed the sisters assertion (27:6), and answered Moses: “Thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (27:7). Ensuring a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, should a man die and have neither a son or daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

Numbers 27:12-23 – End of an Era

The LORD commanded Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

Moses was reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13), and accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Like a true shepherd leader, Moses requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Moses desired to ensure his successor would be a man of God’s choosing, and a man with a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit [of God]” (27:18).  Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was God’s choice (27:18), the LORD directed Moses to confirm him before “all the congregation” (27:19-20). Moses obeyed the LORD, and took Joshua, and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

A closing thought: Although he was one of the greatest men to ever live, Moses did inevitably go the way of all flesh, and was “gathered unto [his] people, as Aaron [his] brother was gathered” (27:13).  Miriam was dead; Aaron was dead; and because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without crossing into the Promised Land (27:14).

The author of Hebrews writes, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Companions Corrupt Good Morals (Numbers 25)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 25

“Times have changed,” is an oft repeated adage; however, read the Scriptures and you will be reminded mankind has not changed! The sinful depravity of our world today is not to be outdone by ancient civilizations. When a people, and a nation reject God’s Law and Commandments, they inevitably unleash the abhorrent lusts of the flesh, and a precipitous moral decline follows. Few nations turn back from the brink of destruction, and escape the suffering and humiliation of God’s judgment.

Numbers 25 brings us to Shittim, the staging ground for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land (25:1).

Shittim became the setting of a tragic event, for it was here that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). After the suffering, and toil of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, how could Israel, break her covenant with the LORD, and not only commit adultery with the heathen, but also worship and offer sacrifices to their gods? (25:1-3)

We read, “3And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). Baal-peor was the place where Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility was worshipped. The Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites all worshipped Baal (closely identified with Moloch). Portrayed as a bull, the Canaanites sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal, and committed all manner of sexual deviancy in worshipping the idol.

God’s wrath was “kindled against Israel” (25:3), and He commanded Moses, “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel” (25:4).

The sins of the people was egregious, and God’s judgment was swift (25:4-5) as He placed the responsibility of the sins upon the “heads [leaders] of the people,” and demanded they be slain, and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the people (25:5).

One Israelite was so brazen, that he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman (the daughter of a Midianite tribal chief) in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).  Phinehas, the son of the high priest Eleazar, rose up and slew the man, and the Midianite woman, thrusting them both through with a javelin (25:6-8). God’s judgment fell upon Israel, and 24,000 perished (25:9).

Reminded that nothing escapes the notice of God, the LORD acknowledged Phinehas’ zeal for righteousness, and established a perpetual, binding covenant of the priesthood with him and his lineage (25:10-13).

So tragic was the sin committed at Shittim, that the names of the couple slain by Phinehas were recorded (25:14-15), and the LORD commanded Moses, “Vex the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17).

A closing thought: I could draw out several spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture reading; however, I limit myself to one: Be not deceived [led astray; drawn away]: evil communications [companions; associations] corrupt [ruins; destroys] good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The Scriptures do not reveal how the men of Israel came to worship the god of Baal, and to commit whoredom. We can be certain, however, that the proximity of the “daughters of Moab” (25:1), provided the Israelites not only a familiarity with them, but also a tolerance of their wicked ways (25:1-3).

Today’s church is in desperate need for young men like Phinehas; men who have a love for God, and a zeal for godliness.

Will you commit yourself, and be a 21st century Phinehas?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith