Category Archives: Faith

The LORD Demands Our Best (Numbers 3)

Scripture reading– Numbers 3

The numbering of the children of Israel continues in today’s Scripture reading, with Numbers 3 giving us the census that was taken of the Tribe of Levi. The Levites were not numbered in the earlier census, which concentrated on counting the number of “able-bodied,” men of war in Israel twenty years and older. The census of the Levites was one that focused on “every male from a month old and upward” (3:15).

Because Moses and Aaron were Levites, the focus of the first verses is upon them: “1These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lord spake with Moses in mount Sinai” (3:1). We are reminded that Aaron was the father of four sons, all who had been anointed and consecrated for serving as priests (3:2-3). Soon after they became priests, Nadab and Abihu, disobeyed the LORD, and offered “strange fire before the Lord” (3:4) and died. Sealing the fate of their lasting judgment was that “they had no children” (3:4). The service of the priesthood was his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar,” who “ministered in the priests office in the sight of Aaron their father” (3:4).

The Tribe of Levi had been adopted by the LORD to serve Him, in the place of the firstborn sons of the other tribes (3:11-13). It was their duty to serve the LORD, and minister to Aaron, and his sons as they carried out their charge as priests (3:6-9). We are reminded that no “stranger,” only Aaron and his sons were to approach the LORD by entering into His sanctuary (3:10).

Numbers 3:14-39 gives us an accounting of the census, and the assignments of the Levite families to the four sides of the Tabernacle where they were to encamp. The Gershonites were charged with the coverings of the Tabernacle, the curtain that was its door, and were to encamp on west side of the Tabernacle (3:18-26)The Kohathlites, were to encamp on the south side of the Tabernacle, and were charged with the Ark, the table, the candlestick, the altars, and vessels of the sanctuary (3:27-32). The Merarites encamped on the north side of the Tabernacle, and were charged with the boards of the Tabernacle, and the bolts, sockets, plugs, and cords (3:33-37).

Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons were to encamp on the east side of the Tabernacle, at the entrance to the Tabernacle compound. They were charged with the worship and sacrifices, and responsible to see that no “stranger” would come near the sanctuary (3:38-39).

With the census complete, the number of Levite males that were one month old and upward was 22,000 (3:40-43). The number of firstborn males in the other tribes totaled 22,273 males. Because the LORD had adopted the tribe of Levi, in the place of the firstborn males of the other tribes, the difference of 273 was compensated by fathers in Israel paying a ransom, a payment for their firstborn sons (3:46-50). The ransom, or redemption money, was given to Aaron and to his sons for the expenses of the Tabernacle (3:51).

Closing thoughts:

I realize it would be easy to dismiss the details in Numbers 3; however, there is, a lesson found here.  Consider the organization, and specificity of details that God outlined for His people to follow in the Tabernacle and its worship.

While the Twelve Tribes supported the Tabernacle with their sacrifices, the priests and their families were dependent on their faithfulness to give. I fear there are many ministries, and pastors, who struggle financially because believers are failing to give what the LORD requires.

What about you? Have you purposed to give the LORD His part? Remember, He demands our best!

2 Corinthians 9:7 – “7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

New Sermon Series: Persevering in Tribulations (2 Timothy)

I am excited about the opportunity of preaching a new sermon series, beginning this Sunday, April 11, 2021, 10:30 AM at Hillsdale Baptist Church, and also broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Persevering in Tribulations is the title of my new series, and is taken from Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. Written during his second imprisonment in Rome, the letter was not only the apostle’s last will and testament, but also a letter of exhortation to a young man Paul described as his “dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2).

The setting of the letter is pertinent to our day, knowing it was written during a rise of persecution, and a falling away of many who had once professed faith in Christ. You will notice an earnestness in Paul’s letter, as he urges Timothy to not be ashamed of the LORD, or “me His prisoner” (1:8).

This Sunday’s sermon will consider the spiritual requisites, and disciplines for ministry that Paul encouraged in Timothy. We will notice the ministry of Onesiphorous, a man who had sacrificially served Paul at a time in his life and ministry when he desperately needed a friend who would unashamedly minister him in prison.

I pray this study will renew a passion for the LORD in your heart, and a revival for ministry and serving others in trying times.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Who Orders the Stops and Starts in Your Life? (Numbers 1-2)

Scripture reading – Numbers 1-2

An Introduction to the Book of Numbers

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Numbers, the fourth of the five books known as the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The author of Numbers is Moses, and the timeline setting is stated as the “first day of the second month, in the second year” following Israel’s exodus out of Egypt (Numbers 1:1).

Those new to a study of the Old Testament Scriptures might inquire why events that took place thousands of years ago have significance to 21st century believers.

Paul spoke to that question in his letter to believers in Corinth, writing, 11Now all these things [historical events of the Old Testament Scriptures] happened unto them for ensamples [pattern; model]: and they are written for our admonition [warning]…” (1 Corinthians 10:11). It is important to have knowledge of the Old Testament, because the Scriptures are instructive in the providences and judgments of God. The more you study the Bible, the more understanding you have into the ways, and the will of God.

A Background of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

The Twelve Tribes of Israel were descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch whose name God changed to Israel.  Jacob (Israel) was the son of Isaac, and the grandson of Abraham, of whom two sons were born. Ishmael was the firstborn son of Abraham, born to Hagar, an Egyptian, whose lineage we identify as a branch of the Arabic people. God, however, rejected Ishmael as Abraham’s heir. In his old age, his wife Sarah conceived, and gave birth to Isaac, whom God had chosen to be his father’s heir. The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) would pass through his son Jacob, and to his twelve sons who fathered the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Numbers 1 – The First Census

The Twelve Tribes of Israel are named, and numbered in Numbers 1-2. The census revealed the number of Israel’s men of war by tribe, excluding the priestly tribe of Levite (1:47-50). Taking its name from the census, the Book of Numbers is the record of two head counts (Numbers 1-4, and Numbers 26-27). It documents the number of able-bodied men of war, totaled by tribe and household, “from twenty years old and upward” (1:3).

Able-bodied Males, Twenty Years and Older, and Fit For War (1:17-43)

The LORD charged Moses and Aaron with the responsibility of numbering the men of Israel; however, the census excluded the priestly tribe of Levi, whose duty was to serve the LORD as Israel’s spiritual guardians (1:47-54; 2:33). The Twelve Tribes included the lineages of the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh (1:32-35), who were adopted by Jacob, replacing his sons Reuben and Simeon (Genesis 48:5).

The census total of fighting men in Israel, not including men of Levi, numbered 603,500.

Numbers 2 – The Arrangement of Israel’s Encampment by Tribe

Numbers 2 gives the organization of Israel’s encampment. The Twelve Tribes were organized by four divisions (east, south, west and north). With the Tabernacle as the central object, each division, consisting of three tribes, was assigned a standard (banner).

On the east side of the Tabernacle was the Tribe of Judah, and assigned to its banner was Issachar, and Zebulun (2:3-9). Under the banner of Reuben, on the south side of the Tabernacle, were assigned Simeon and Gad (2:10-16). West of the Tabernacle was the standard of Ephraim, and under its banner were Manasseh and Benjamin (2:18-24). On the north side of the Tabernacle was the banner of Dan, and under its banner were Asher and Naphtali (2:25-31). The Tribe of Levi was within the encampment of the other tribes, and its tents were pitched around the Tabernacle (1:53; 2:17).

God’s presence, represented by the Tabernacle, was the Dominant Focus of Israel.

Because worshipping and serving the LORD was central to Israel, the Tabernacle, representing God’s presence in the midst of His people, was located in the center of the encampment with the tribe of Levi encamped around it (1:53). The Levites were charged with the responsibility of the Tabernacle, and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).

Reminding us the LORD was Shepherd of Israel, He alone ordered the starts and the stops of His people. When it was time to move, the Levites were charged with taking down the Tabernacle. When it was time to stop, the Levites erected the Tabernacle in the midst of the tribes (Numbers 1:51, 53).

Who orders the starts and stops in your life? Who is central to your heart, and focus?

Remember, the LORD accepts no place, but first place in your heart, thoughts, and affections!

Romans 12:11I 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.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Made a Vow? You Better Keep It! (Leviticus 26-27)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 26-27

Today’s devotional marks the end of our journey through the Book of Leviticus. Our study has considered the laws for various sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 1-7), and the consecration and ordination of the Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 8-10). We have identified animals the LORD declared clean, and unclean (Leviticus 11-15), and been reminded that He would only accept sacrifices that were without blemish. We remember that the sacrifices the priests offered on behalf of Israel were a prefigure of the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, “once, and for all” sacrificed for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

Leviticus 26 – The LORD’s Covenant

The LORD reminded Israel that He would not tolerate idols (26:1; Exodus 20:4-6), and the Sabbath was to be kept holy (26:2; Exodus 20:8-11).

Promise of Blessings for Faithfulness to the Law (26:3-13)

Memorializing His covenant with Israel, the LORD repeated His conditional promise to make the land fruitful, if the people would “walk in [His] statutes, and keep [His] commandments, and do them” (26:3). He promised peace (26:6), military successes (26:6-7), an increase in population (26:9), that they would never go wanting (26:10), and to dwell in the midst of His people, saying:

“I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. 13I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright” (26:11-13).

Promised of Judgment (26:14-39)

There was also the conditional promise of God’s judgment should the nation disobey His Law and Commandments (26:14-39). If the people showed contempt for the Law, God promised the nation would be punished with sickness (26:16-17), increasing suffering (26:18), famines (26:19), and barrenness in the land (26:20), all as a natural occurrence of straying from righteousness.    If the people continued in their rebellion, the LORD warned they would suffer plagues, childlessness, a dying population, and the land would become desolate (26:21-22).

Leviticus 26:23-26 states three punishments that would come upon a disobedient people: Wars (26:23-25), Plagues (26:25), and Famine (26:26). Should the people continue to disobey the LORD, four devastating punishments would mark the severest stage of God’s judgment: Famine would drive the people to cannibalize their children (26:29; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Lamentations 2:20; 4:10); towns and holy places would be destroyed (26:31), the land would be left desolate (26L32), and the people would be dispersed among the heathen (26:33).

Promise of Mercy (26:40-46)

God promised mercy to those who would confess their sin (26:40). Confessing sin opened the pathway for God to remember His covenant with Israel (26:44-46).

Leviticus 27 – Laws Concerning What Is Vowed, and Sanctified to the LORD

Vows were holy, and that which a man sanctified, and dedicated to the LORD was to be fulfilled (27:1-8).  Should a vow be made of a person to serve in the Tabernacle, but not needed, the priest was instructed to place a value upon that which had been committed to the LORD, and assess its value in shekels of silver (27:3-8).

A distinction was made in the value of clean and unclean beasts vowed to the LORD (27:9-13). Remembering the LORD will only accept that which is perfect, and clean, an unclean beast that failed to meet God’s standard was assessed a value by the priests, redeemed for its value, and an additional “fifth part” given (27:11-13).

Should houses and lands be dedicated to the LORD, that which was vowed was to be fulfilled, and sanctified unto Him, or redeemed for the value assessed by the priest (27:14-25). Everything devoted to the LORD was to be treated as “holy unto the LORD” (27:28-29). The tithe, and that which is the LORD’S could not be changed (27:30-33).

Leviticus 27:34 concludes the book, reminding us that all that has been written in the book “are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai.”

Closing thought: Making a vow, a promise, a commitment to the LORD is not something to be made lightly. What you have vowed to the LORD, you can be assured He will remember, and will hold you to account in the day of judgment.

Ecclesiastes 5:55Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Demands Holiness for His Ministers, and His People! (Leviticus 22)

Scripture reading– Leviticus 22

Leviticus 22:1-9 addresses the conduct of God’s ministers, and reminds us that the LORD requires those who serve Him to be holy in person and in practice (22:1-2). It has been said that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and there was a danger that the ministry of offering sacrifices could become routine for priests. Rather than a sacred trust, offerings might be mishandled, and treated as less than holy.

Discerning Between the Clean, and the Unclean (22:1-9)

Unclean priests were not allowed to touch, nor to eat anything that was dedicated to the LORD (22:3). Several matters could render a priest unclean, and not only unfit for service, but also prohibited to partake of sacrifices reserved for their consumption (22:4-9). A priest with leprosy, or an open sore (“running issue”), was unclean, and could not “eat of the holy things, until he [became] clean” (22:4). Touching a dead animal, or an unclean animal, would render a priest unclean (22:5).

To be clean, a priest was to bathe with water, and wait until the even, “when the sun is down” (22:6-7). When declared clean, the priest could eat the portion “of the holy things; because it is his food” (22:7).

We are reminded that an animal that had died of natural causes (whether sickness or disease), or was torn and maimed, must not be eaten (22:8). Failure to keep God’s ordinances was a capital offence (22:9).

Eligibility to Eat the Priest’s Portion of the Sacrifices (22:10-16)

The “stranger,” one who was not of the priest’s family or household, was not to eat a portion of the sacrifice reserved for the priest and his family (22:10). Slaves, and servants of the priest, were allowed to “eat of [the priest’s] meat” (22:11).

While the daughter of a priest could eat a portion of the sacrifice reserved for her father, a daughter married to a man who was not a priest, was excluded from his table (22:12). Should the daughter of a priest return to his home, she would be allowed to partake at her father’s table (22:12-13).

In the case one unknowingly ate a portion of the priest’s sacrifice, he was required to restore the portion he had taken, and give an additional “fifth part” (20%) to the priest (22:14-16).

Acceptable Sacrifices (22:17-33)

Sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-25).  There was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured; however, God’s standard for an acceptable sacrifice was “a male without blemish” (22:19-20). “Peace offerings,” whether cow or oxen, sheep or goat, were to “be perfect to be accepted” and with “no blemish” (22:21).  The LORD accepted only the best (22:22-25).

To remind us that God is compassionate, no firstborn bull, sheep, or goat, was to be taken from its mother and sacrificed until it was at least eight days old (22:27). Furthermore, it was never acceptable to sacrifice a cow or sheep on the same day her young would be sacrificed (22:28). No explanation is given for the law, but the very thought of killing two generations in one day would seem callous, and even barbaric (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6,7).

Freewill offerings of thanksgiving were to be sacrificed, and then eaten “on the same day” (22:30).

The chapter closes reminding us that the LORD is holy, and He commands His people to keep His “commandments, and do them” (22:31). God had saved Israel from slavery, and He demanded they remember He had chosen to be their God, for He is the LORD” (22:33).

A Closing Application – Because Christ is the believer’s sacrifice, Savior, and Redeemer (Hebrews 9:14, 28), we no longer offer blood sacrifices.

So, what does God require of the believer?

Romans 12:1–21I 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. 2And 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 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Clean, Unclean, and Kosher Meats (Leviticus 17)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17 continued the LORD’s instructions concerning sacrifices, as the Tabernacle became the central place of worship. The importance of blood offerings for sin was mentioned thirteen times in this chapter, and the LORD gave Moses explicit guidelines he was to teach “Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel” to follow (17:1-2).

Remembering the children of Israel had been slaves for four centuries, we understand how the cultural and religious practices of Egypt would have been adopted by the people. The institution of the Commandments, Laws, and guidelines for worship and sacrifices was not only the will of God, but was necessary for the nation to be distinct in person and practice from the other nations.

The Centrality of Sacrifices Before the Tabernacle (Leviticus 17:1-9)

Israel was to worship only YHWH in His Tabernacle, with its holy place and mercy seat being the only place for sacrifice going forward.  (Although when Israel entered the Promised Land, and the land was divided by tribes, the requirement did change, Deuteronomy 12:20-28).

To prevent sacrifices to other gods, and to acknowledge the supply of their meat was from the LORD, all animals, including those that were for food, were to be slaughtered at the Tabernacle (17:2-7). In this way, the LORD insured He would receive the portion due Him (3:1-17), and the priest would receive his portion for himself and his household (7:11-18).

The Prohibition Concerning Ingesting Blood (Leviticus 17:10-14)

The blood of animals was not to be ingested in any manner (17:10). The explanation for the prohibition of blood was stated clearly: “the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (17:11).

What a powerful lesson in the matter of the blood! Millenniums before modern science, and medicine established the importance of the blood to life, God revealed in His Word, “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11). As of the late 19th century, “bloodletting” (draining blood from someone ill) was practiced by doctors as a supposed cure. If those doctors had read, and believed the Scriptures, they would have spared lives knowing “the life [and the health] of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11).

We considered in an earlier devotion the distinction between “clean” meats, those that were allowed in the Hebrew diet (11:3, Deuteronomy 14:4,5), and “unclean” meats, those animals whose meat was prohibited (11:4-8, 11:11-12, 11:13-19). Leviticus 17:13-14 addresses beast taken in the hunt, and their blood. The blood of beast or fowl taken in the hunt were to be bled out on the ground, and their blood covered with dust, before the meat was consumed (17:13-14).

Beasts that had died of natural causes, or been torn by other beasts, were not to be eaten (17:15). Considering the danger of bacteria in meats, the LORD spared His people from ingesting meats that presented unseen dangers to their health and wellbeing. Should a man come in contact with such beasts, he was to “wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean” (17:15).

The Kosher Diet

I conclude inviting you to consider the dietary label known as “Kosher.” Kosher (the Hebrew word is Kasher), describes a diet that conforms to the dietary laws we have been studying in the Scriptures. When a meat, dairy, or food is labeled Kosher, it describes not only what is eaten, but also how it was prepared.

Kosher meat must not only be a beast with cloven hooves, and chews the cud (examples – cattle, lamb, goat, deer), but also one free of disease or cancers (non-kosher meats mass processed for human consumption are sometimes weak, sickly, and diseased animals).

Kosher also describes the method in which an animal is slaughtered. Far from the method of mass butchering prevalent in today’s meat processing plants, kosher animals are slaughtered humanely.

God is a loving Creator, and His concern is not only for the health of mankind, but also the well-being, and humane treatment of the animals we consume for food.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Leper, and the Portrait of Sin (Leviticus 13-14)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 13-14

Our study of that which the LORD declared as “unclean” continues with the focus upon poor souls who were afflicted with leprosy. The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.

Known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), leprosy is a bacterial, infectious disease, and is treatable, even curable in the 21st century. In ancient times, it was a dreaded disease, that inevitably led its victims to isolation from society, and assigned to leper colonies where they would eventually die.

Leviticus 13 – Laws and Regulations for Leprosy (A symbol of sin in the Scriptures.)

Since ancient times, Egypt has been infested with leprosy, and its traces followed the children of Israel out of that country. The LORD, continuing His commands regarding the “unclean,” required Moses and Aaron to address, diagnose, and exclude lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).

The LORD directed Moses and Aaron in the steps required to protect the people from the spread of leprosy. It was essential that the disease be properly diagnosed.

Often beginning as no more than a rash, or boil, the disease could eventually produce dreadful, open sores, and decaying flesh. The advanced stages of the disease would find the leper with rotting limbs, clothes soiled and rent as an outward sign of mourning. Lepers were to wear a napkin over their mouths, and to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), to any who approached, warning others they were carriers of the disease.

Leviticus 14 – Guidelines for Ceremonial Cleansing of the Leper

Should the leper be miraculously healed of the disease, there were ceremonial steps, and sacrifices prescribed to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rites for purification, the leper was deemed clean by the high priest, and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

Spiritual Application – Leprosy was the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious nature of sin among his people.

Consider the number of times leprosy was described as “unclean” in Leviticus 13 (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy was more than a skin issue of the outward man. Leprosy would inevitably affect the tissues, nerves, and body extremities would rot and decay.  Leprosy could so scar the body that it was an unbearable ugliness.

Leprosy’s effect on the body, served as a spiritual portrait of sin’s effect on a man’s soul.

Modernists would have us believe man is born innocent, and his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) is the cause of his societal deprivations.  The Scriptures, however, declare “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul likened sin to a physical ailment and wrote, For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

Jesus taught His disciples, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20  These are the things which defile a man”  (Matthew 15:19-20).

The ancients had no cure for leprosy. The leper in Israel prayed for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention, one that would be verified by the examination of the high priest, and followed by sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

The same is diagnosis is true for man’s plague of sin and wickedness. Humanity has no cure for sin and depravity. In the same way there was no cure for leprosy without the LORD, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin, and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he [the Messiah, Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  But he [the Messiah, Christ] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I invite you to confess that you are a sinner, a spiritual leper in the eyes of God. Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the perfect, sinless Son of God; and that He died on the Cross for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead.

1 John 5:1313These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading prior to today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of the previous devotional to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will cover Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11)

Leviticus 11 delineates for us the distinction between the meats the LORD deemed clean and unclean for His people to consume. God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat, and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).

Israel was to be distinct from the other nations. While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD deemed clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) included ox (i.e. beef), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD classified as unclean, that did not “chew the cud,” and others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of beasts that were forbidden, included the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to the rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fish and scales were considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word, “fowl” (11:13, 20) describes anything that is winged and flies. We notice there were numerous predatory fowl, and scavengers of carrion (vultures), that were labeled unclean, and forbidden for consumption (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20 describes “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believe to be a reference to winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature, or by violence, were not to be eaten (11:24-25). Horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. In fact, touching them would make one ceremonially unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth,” and were forbidden for human consumption: “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (pots, and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water, and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions?

There are several reasons that could be cited for the LORD’S declaration, and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Long before man could peer through microscopes, and see the prevalence of dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that are harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that would cause illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12 – The Purification of Women

Leviticus 12 moves the focus from unclean beasts, to unclean persons, and instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered ceremonially unclean, and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification had past (12:1-2). A woman who had given birth to a son, was deemed ceremonially “unclean” for seven days, during which time she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eight day, she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she would remain at home (12:4).

A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She would remain at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification, and isolation were fulfilled, she would come to the sanctuary, and depending upon her means, bring either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 10-11

After consecrating Aaron as high priest, and his sons to serve as priests, the LORD affirmed the priests of Israel, with “a fire…and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

Leviticus 10 – Tragedy: The Sin and Deaths of Two Sons of Aaron

Incredibly, the exhilarating moment we considered in Leviticus 9:24, was followed soon after with a great tragedy: “1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (10:1-2).

The exact nature of Nadab and Abihu’s sin was not revealed; however, we understand it was an act of willful disobedience that the LORD would not tolerate. They had “offered strange fire…which [the LORD] commanded them not” (10:1c), and He consumed them with a fire of judgment (10:2).

I am reminded of the principle, “unto whom much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). The sons of Aaron had violated their privilege to serve on behalf of the people, and draw near to the LORD in His sanctuary, thus God rejected them.

Imagine the sorrow that took hold of Aaron’s heart when he learned two of his sons had disobeyed the LORD, and been slain by the fire of His judgment.

Moses warned Aaron, “This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace” (10:3). Aaron, because he represented the people before God, was forbidden to mourn outwardly, lest his sorrow appear to contradict the LORD’s judgment (10:3c).

Moses commanded “Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron” (10:4), and cousins of Aaron’s sons, to remove their bodies from the Tabernacle, and carry them outside the camp. Aaron, and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were cautioned a second time that they were not to show outward signs of mourning, “lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled” (10:6b).

Instead of mourning, Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, were reminded they had been anointed to serve the LORD, and were not to leave their duties in the Tabernacle (10:7).

Perhaps an indication of why Nadab and Abihu had sinned against the LORD (10:1), Leviticus 10:8-11 states a prohibition that the LORD’s priests were not to imbibe wine or strong drink in their ministry. Knowing alcohol can distort a man’s judgment, and compromise him morally, the priests were to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (10:10).

Leviticus 10:12-15, rehearsed the laws that regulated the conduct and duties of priests, and the sacrifices they were to offer to the LORD for the nation.

Leviticus 10:16-20 – A Sin of Omission

We find Moses seeking the “goat of the sin offering” that the LORD had commanded be set aside for the priests (10:16). Moses discovered that Aaron’s surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, had failed to set aside, and eat a portion of the offering the LORD had commanded be eaten by the priests.

Moses confronted Eleazar and Ithamar, demanding, “17Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?” (10:17) They had failed the LORD (10:18), and not treated as holy that which God required. Instead, they had taken the flesh of the sin offering, and burned it outside the camp.

Aaron, assuming responsibility for his sons’ failures (10:19), bemoaned his sorrow for the things that had befallen him and his family (10:19). Moses, when he heard the words of his brother, sympathized with him, and “was content” (10:20).

A Lesson Concerning “Strange Fire”

Some could argue, Nadab and Abihu might have had good intentions for offering incense in the LORD’S sanctuary! However, we must remember, their intent or motivation was not the issue. They had chosen to come to the LORD apart from His command, and offered a “strange fire” that He refused.

I fear there is a lot that is done in churches, and under the guise of worship, that is a “strange fire” to the LORD. Strange doctrine, strange preachers, and strange music abound in churches. When the goal of worship leaders is to be exciting and entertaining, as opposed to hallowed and holy, they become the purveyors of “strange fire.”

You see, when we come to the LORD, we must come not on our merit, but on His terms. We are to be imitators of Christ, not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Aaronic Priesthood: Consecration and Dedication (Leviticus 9)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 9

With seven days of consecration completed (Leviticus 8:33-36); on the eighth day, Moses summoned “Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel” (9:2). Aaron, chosen by the LORD to be Israel’s high priest, was commanded by Moses to prepare to offer sacrifices for himself and his sons.

The first sacrifice Aaron would offer was “a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish” (9:2). Before offering the LORD sacrifices for himself and his sons, Aaron was instructed to command “the children of Israel” to take “a kid of the goats for a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering; 4Also a bullock and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the Lord; and a meat offering mingled with oil” (9:3-4).

The sacrifices were the condition required for Aaron, his sons, and the people to be in the LORD’s presence (9:4b, 6b). The people, having brought what the LORD required, gathered “before the tabernacle of the congregation: and all the congregation drew near and stood before the Lord” (9:5).

Moses then commanded Aaron, “Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make an atonement for thyself, and for the people: and offer the offering of the people, and make an atonement for them; as the Lord commanded” (9:7).

Take a moment, and reflect on why Aaron was commanded to offer sacrifices for himself and his sons.

With the congregation looking on, Aaron “slew the calf of the sin offering” for himself and his sons who would serve as priests. The “sin offering” left no doubt that Aaron was himself a sinner, and the congregation witnessed him slaying the calf as a substitutionary sacrifice for his sin.

Aaron’s sons then brought the blood of the calf to him, “and he dipped his finger in the blood, and put it upon the horns [corners] of the altar, and poured out the blood at the bottom of the altar” (9:11). The choice parts of the calf, “the fat, and the kidneys, and the caul above the liver of the sin offering,” were “burnt upon the altar; as the Lord commanded Moses” (9:9-10).” As commanded in Leviticus 4:11-12, the flesh and the hide of the “sin offering,” was burned outside Israel’s encampment. Aaron also slew, and offered “a ram for a burnt offering, without blemish” (9:2b, 12-14).

As God’s High Priest, Aaron Offered Sacrifices as Israel’s Mediator (9:15-21)

Having fulfilled the command to offer sacrifices for himself and his sons (9:1-14), Aaron then offered up four sacrifices for the children of Israel.

He took and slew “the goat, which was the sin offering…and offered it for [the sins]” of the people (9:15). He then offered “the burnt offering” that was “a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish” (9:3b, 16). The third offering was “the meat [lit. meal or grain] offering,” and it was burned on the altar as a sacrifice of praise and gratitude (9:17) on behalf of the nation.

Finally, as a symbol of communion with the LORD, Aaron “slew also the bullock and the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings, which was for the people” (9:18a). As with the other sacrifices, “Aaron’s sons presented unto him the blood [of the peace offerings], which he sprinkled upon the altar round about” (9:18b).

As Israel’s high priest, Aaron invoked God’s blessings on the nation, and “lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings” (9:22).

I believe Leviticus 9:23 chronicles the duties of the spiritual leader of Israel were transferred from Moses, to Aaron as the high priest. Moses and Aaron entered the Tabernacle, and when they “came out, and blessed the people…the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people” (9:23). His accepting the sacrifices, was powerfully manifested when “there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

Moved with fear, joy, and thanksgiving, the people humbled themselves, fell to the ground, and worshipped the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith