Category Archives: Divorce

Sin in the Camp? Put it Out! (Numbers 4-5)

Sin in the Camp? Put it Out! (Numbers 4-5)

Scripture reading– Numbers 4-5

Our study in the Book of Numbers continues with another census in today’s Scripture reading. The number of men in three Levite families, and their responsibilities regarding the Tabernacle and its vessels are considered.

Numbers 4 – The Levites, Their Number, and Responsibilities

The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to take the sum of the males, thirty to fifty years old (4:2-3), who were of three Levite families, and charge them with responsibilities relating to their ministries as assistants of Aaron and his sons.

The Kohathites (4:2-20), whose males numbered 2,750 men between thirty and fifty years old (4:34-35), were assigned the most honorable duty of the Levite tribes.  It was their duty to transport the most holy items associated with the sacrifices and worship of the God of Israel. Before the Kohathites were allowed to carry vessels that were holy, and sanctified, the priests were to cover and protect them from being looked upon, or treated in an irreverent manner (4:5-6).

The Kohathites were charged with the care and transport of the veil of the Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant (4:5), the table of shewbread (4:7) with its instruments and vessels (4:7-8), the golden lampstand, and its instruments (4:9-10), and the golden altar, its instruments, and vessels (4:11-15). Because those items represented the most holy tasks of the priests, none but Aaron and his sons could look upon them, and not die (4:20).

The males of Gershon, thirty to fifty years old, numbered 2.630 (4:38-41). Though their tasks were essential, their service to the Tabernacle was less honorable. They were charged with the care and transport of the draperies, hangings, and badger skins that covered the Tabernacle (4:21-28).

The males of the Merarites numbered 3,200 men, between thirty and fifty years old (4:42-45). Their duty was to transport the wood that made up the frame of the sanctuary, the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets (4:29-33).

The earlier census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Numbers 1-2) counted able-bodied men, twenty years old and older. In Numbers 4, Levite males, thirty to fifty years old were numbered. The difference in the census age of the Twelve Tribes, and the Levites is not explained.  I suppose it was because the LORD required both wisdom of years, and physical strength of those who served Him, and assisted the priests in their duties.

Numbers 5 – Disease, Restitution, and Adultery

The Commandments of the LORD were given and recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Numbers 5focuses on specific steps for addressing leprosy, disease, restitution when one had been harmed, and the sin of adultery (Exodus 20:14).

Leprosy and Disease (5:1-4)

God desired His people to be clean, holy, and free from disease. Leprosy, oozing skin issues, and touching a dead body were deemed unclean, and were put out of the camp until healing and cleansing occurred (5:1-4). This method of handling communicable skin sores, or being contaminated by disease from a dead body, kept disease from spreading through their families.

Fraud and Restitution (5:5-10)

Should a man or woman defraud another, restitution, and an additional “fifth part” (20%) of the loss that was suffered would be added (5:5-7). No sacrifice was acceptable to the LORD, without first confessing one’s sin, restoring the damage the other had suffered, and only then could a man bring an offering to the altar (5:8). In the case where a man had been harmed and died, and with no next of kin, the offender was to present the restitution of his wrong to the priest, and it would be his to keep (5:9-10).

The Sin of Adultery (5:11-31)

Because marriage was instituted by God, and is a holy covenant between a man and woman, God’s people were to be intolerant of adultery in their midst (5:11-13). Should a woman be suspected of adultery, and there be no witnesses (5:13), a jealous husband was compelled to bring his wife to the priest, along with a jealousy offering (5:14-15).

The priest was charged with the responsibility of setting the accused woman “before the LORD” (5:16), and he would question her guiltiness or innocence of adultery (5:17-21). Should the woman protest her innocence, the priest would warn her with “an oath of cursing,” which was, in essence, reminding her that she would bring a curse upon herself, should she be guilty. The priest would call for the LORD to “make [her] thigh to rot, and [her] belly to swell” (5:21b). The outward manifestation of abdominal distention was an evident sign she was guilty.  Likewise, if she was not guilty, she could drink the water and it would not affect her. Should the LORD allow her belly to swell from its impurities, she would be “a curse among her people” (5:27), “and the priest [would] execute upon her all this law” (5:30b).

How jealous was the LORD concerning marriage between one man and one woman?

Leviticus 20:10 – “10And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional (Job 29) found Job remembering the way life used to be. He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, and had been esteemed by his family, friends, and fellow citizens. Young men had shied from his company, and elders stood in his presence (29:8). He had been valued for his counsel (29:7-17), and had believed he would enjoy God’s favor forever (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before he had experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30 – The Reality of Present Sorrows

Job’s situation had changed, and he found himself mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). Young men, whose lineage Job would not have entrusted the care of sheep dogs, held him in disdain (30:1). They were the sons of a line of men who were like wild dogs. They were slothful, and he loathed their company (30:2-4). They were the “children of fools” (30:8), and sang ballads mocking his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and the sorrows God had permitted in his life (30:11) had given them cause to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Job’s body was wrecked by disease (30:16-18).

Grief had taken hold deep within (30:16), and the toll of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”), and open sores had caused his clothes to cling to his flesh (30:17b-18). Job had come to feel that God was opposed to him, and refused to hear his cry for pity or compassion (30:19-20). He had accused God of being cruel (30:21); he felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained that all the good he had done had been forgotten, and he had been rewarded evil for good (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, he began to sing “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Final Response, and His Defense

Job’s concluding deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence has been recorded in Job 31. Consider briefly eleven virtues he claimed in his summary defense.

Personal chastity was the first virtue Job claimed. Declaring he was not guilty of lust, he stated, “1I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e. lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1) Though accused of lies and deceit by his friends, Job declared that he was innocent, and desired to be “weighed in an even balance,” for he was certain that God knew he was a man of integrity (31:5-6). Thirdly, Job asserted he had committed himself to purity and uprightness; his hands were clean of wrongdoing, and there was no stain on his life and character (31:7-8).

The fourth virtue Job claimed was marital fidelity. He declared he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12). He had been a “one woman kind of man” throughout his life. He had also been a faithful master, and a kind employer, to those who served him. He believed himself no better than his servants, for he understood God was Creator of them both (31:13-15).

Though he had been accused of abusing those less fortunate, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). He wished his arm would fall off, if he had taken advantage of others (31:21-22).

Though he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his trust and faith were in God alone (31:23-28). He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortune (31:29-30). Job had been a man given to hospitality, and had been generous to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam who sinned, and then sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37).

Lastly, Job declared he had been honest in business (31:38-40). For example, he had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay what was owed when harvest time came.

Job 31:40 concludes Job’s longest speech. Sadly, what is true of us was also true of Job. Though he could boast of many great virtues, he was blinded by pride, and was unwilling to see his flaws.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“The Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage” (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the ages, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees had approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), wanting to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and desiring to diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?”

There were two schools of thought (Hillel and Shammai) on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

The School of Hillel held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and it was adhered to by the Pharisees and a majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason; however, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. The School of Shammai represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Followers of Shammai argued that divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce had become a widespread practice among some Jewish people, and many Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces, often for the most absurd reasons. Of course, such oligarchy would never permit a wife to divorce her husband for any cause! Jesus answered the Pharisees question on divorce, directing them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce was, and is, a violation of several Biblical principles.

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is also a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships, although two individuals, husband and wife are to be one, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage (19:6b). It was God’s plan, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

Disregarding Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce, the Pharisees asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7)

Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense of their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly:

Matthew 19:99And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a).

Jesus’ conclusion may come as a shock to some as it did to His disciples (19:10); but remember God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, for “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). They were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Warning: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is witness of the covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith