Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Deborah: Prophetess and Judge (Judges 4-5)

Scripture reading – Judges 4-5

A personal note from the author of a Heart of a Shepherd: Passages with difficult, unfamiliar, and hard to pronounce names may be taxing, but I challenge you to persevere, and allow the ancient names of men, and places to serve as a reminder that God has preserved every word for His purposes. The names, though forgotten by man, are not forgotten by the LORD. The geographical locations may be unknown, but are real places, nonetheless, where historical events occurred. Agnostics, and atheists have scoffed at historical events found only in the Scriptures, but archaeological excavations in the past two centuries have unearthed evidences that support the Bible narrative as an accurate rendering of history.

Judges 4 – The Spiritual Cycle Continues: Sin, Servitude, Sorrow, and Salvation

With the death of Ehud, the second judge of Israel (Judges 3:12-30), “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (4:1), continuing the cycle of sin, servitude, sorrow, and salvation. Because Israel had sinned against the LORD, He “sold them [children of Israel] into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor” (4:2). For twenty years, Israel suffered under the military rule of Sisera, captain of Jabin’s army, who commanded nine hundred chariots, not including foot soldiers (4:2-3).

When the LORD heard Israel’s cry, He moved on the heart of “Deborah, a prophetess…[who] judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She “sent and called Barak…and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?” (4:6).

Deborah prophesied that God had commanded Barak to muster ten thousand soldiers, promising to draw Sisera and his chariots “to the river Kishon,” where they would be defeated by Barak (4:6-7). Barak, however, was a reluctant leader, and he would not rally Israel’s men of war without Deborah’s promise to go with him (4:8). Deborah agreed to Barak’s terms, but she warned he was sacrificing his honor, “for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9).

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on the battle between Barak’s ten thousand men who came out of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali (4:10), against Sisera’s army of nine hundred chariots (4:13). The LORD was with Israel, and Sisera’s army was thoroughly defeated (4:14-16). When he realized the battle was lost, Sisera fled the battlefield on foot, and sought shelter in the “tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace [a covenant or treaty of peace] between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite [the Kenites were a nomadic people]” (4:17).

“Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle” (4:18).

The events that follow are graphic, and fulfill Deborah’s warning that “the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9). Realizing Sisera, and his army were defeated, Jael took advantage of his exhaustion, and while he slept, she took a hammer, and drove a tent stake through his temple, killing him (4:19-21).

Barak, in pursuit of Sisera, came to Jael’s tent, and learned his enemy was dead (4:22). On that day, “God subdued…the king of Canaan…and the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed…until they had destroyed Jabin, the king of Canaan” (4:23-24).

Judges 5 – A Song of Victory

Israel’s victory over Jabin, and the defeat of his captain Sisera, was celebrated in a song that praised the LORD for avenging Israel, and memorialized how He had heard, and answered the cry of His people (5:1-3).

Deborah’s song recalled Israel’s distresses (5:8-11), and how the people had turned from the LORD to idols. Israel’s enemies had disarmed the people (5:8), and they could not draw water from a well, without fearing archers (5:11). There was no justice found at the gates of the city (where judges held court).

The balance of the song recalls how the LORD stirred Deborah to call upon Barak to rally the men of Israel (5:12-13). Some of the tribes responded to the call to arms (5:14-15a, 18). There were other tribes whose shameless failure was memorialized, for they had failed to go to war with their brethren (5:15b-17, 23).

The song concludes with a testament of praise to Jael, for how she had driven a stake through the temples of Sisera (5:24-26a), and how “she smote off his head” (5:26b). The LORD blessed Israel during Deborah’s rule as judge, “and the land had rest forty years” (5:31).

We have seen a spiritual cycle in Israel: Sin leads to Servitude (slavery), bearing the bitter fruit of Sorrow, until the people call upon the LORD for Salvation. That cycle is seen in the lives of individuals, families, churches, schools, and nations.

When a people, and nation embrace moral depravity, it will inevitably become the servant, and slave of its enemies.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Just (Deuteronomy 19-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 19-20

Moses’ challenge to Israel returned to the subject of cities designated as cities of refuge (19:1-13). After defining the boundaries of the tribes, Israel was to designate three cities of refuge on each side of the Jordan, “that every slayer may flee thither” (19:3).

There would be a total of six cities of refuge in Israel. (19:2-13)

The law recognized a distinction between an accidental killing, described as one who “killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past” (19:4), and murder, an intentional killing provoked by hate, and committed by lying in wait (19:11).

An example of an accidental killing was given (19:5), and proved the necessity for the cities of refuge to be at a distance from one another in the land. The elders of the cities of refuge were to give opportunity to a slayer to prove a killing was an accident, and he was innocent of murder (19:6, 10). A city of refuge was not to give sanctuary to a murderer (19:11-13).

Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks (19:14)

Once the ownership of land was established, its borders were marked, either by natural boundaries, or by a column of rock and stone. Because a man’s land was the means by which he supported his family, it was a serious offense for a thief to move a landmark, and thereby encroach upon the land of another.

Two or Three Witnesses Were Required to Convict (19:15-19)

The LORD required Israel to take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and no man might be convicted of an offense without his sin being established by “two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses” (19:15). It was a serious matter when a man brought a “false witness” against another (19:16). The priests and the judges would weigh the testimony, and after diligently inquiring, should a man be guilty of bearing a false witness, he would suffer the punishment of the crime for which he had “testified falsely against his brother” (19:18-19).

The law was summed up in this: “life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (19:21).

Instructions for Going to War (Deuteronomy 20)

Israel’s invasion into Canaan would necessitate years of battles; however, they were not to be afraid of their enemies (20:1a). The men of Israel were to go to war, finding their courage from the LORD, and believing the God who “brought [them] up out of the land of Egypt” would be with them (20:1). When they prepared themselves for battle, the priest was to speak to the people, and remind them:

“Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (20:3-4).

Exemptions from Enlistment (20:5-9)

To go to battle required a man to be fully committed to the cause, and distractions in the heat of battle could be disastrous to the man, and his fellow soldiers. Four groups of men were exempted from military service in Israel: A man who had “built a new house, but not dedicated it,” was allowed to return to his house (20:5). A man who had “planted a vineyard,” but “not yet eaten of it,” would return home (20:6). Should a man be “bethrothed,” but not yet taken her to wife, he could return to his house (20:7). Recognizing the disastrous influence of fear in the midst of battle, a man who was “fearful and fainthearted,” would be allowed to “go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart” (20:8).

Laying Siege to a City (20:10-20)

If the people of a city “were very far off,” and willing to pay tribute, Israel was to offer terms of peace (20:11). Should terms for peace be rejected, every man of the city was to be slain, “but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,” and all other spoil would be taken by Israel (20:14).

Those nations that dwelled in Canaan, the land the LORD had promised Israel for an inheritance, were to be destroyed. “The Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites,” were to be destroyed, lest the heathen teach God’s people “to do after all their abominations” (20:18).

The land was the inheritance of God’s people, therefore the LORD required the army spare the fruit trees when laying siege to a city. The trees that were not fruit bearing, Israel was to “build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued” (20:20).

I close, inviting you to again notice the LORD’s grace and favor when He gave His Law and Commandments. His judicial system for Israel, was just, and no one was to rush to judgment. Desiring truth, any witness that dared distort law and justice with a false testimony, would find himself facing the punishment of the crime for which they had falsely accused another.

Micah 6:8b…What doth the Lord require of thee, But to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God?”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Listen to the Sound of the Trumpet (Numbers 9-10)

Listen to the Sound of the Trumpet (Numbers 9-10)

Scripture reading – Numbers 9-10

Numbers 9 – The Passover Memorial

Numbers 9 marks the beginning of the second year that Israel was encamped at the base of Mount Sinai. It was “the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt” (9:1). The LORD then commanded Moses to speak to “the children of Israel [to] keep the passover” (9:2).

The Passover had been instituted by the LORD to serve as a perpetual memorial of the night He spared the firstborn of Israel from death (Exodus 12:1-14). That night, the angel of death passed over the households where the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the door posts (Exodus 12:21-30). The day after, the LORD liberated the children of Israel from slavery (Exodus 12:31-36).

We find an occasion where some men of Israel had been defiled by handling a dead body, and were ceremonially unclean, and unable to observe the Passover (9:6-10). The LORD, in an exercise of divine grace, provided those men an opportunity to observe the Passover the next month (9:11-14).

The LORD Commanded the Starts, and Stops for His People (9:15-22)

Having promised the Tabernacle would serve as a visual reminder of His presence in the midst of Israel, when the sanctuary was raised, the LORD in a “cloud [that] covered the tabernacle…and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night” (9:15-16).

Because the LORD was the Shepherd of Israel, the people journeyed as He led them through the wilderness. When “the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle” (9:17a), the people journeyed. When the cloud was stayed, and “the children of Israel pitched their tents” (9:17b). The LORD decreed the “starts and stops” of His people, and they followed the movements of the cloud and the pillar of fire throughout their journey (9:21-23).

Numbers 10 – Silver Trumpets Heralded the Movements of the Tribes of Israel

Israel was a theocracy, a nation whose government was under the Law of God, and was led by spiritual leaders. Aaron and his sons were tasked with the responsibility of sounding the trumpets (10:8), for the LORD had given the priests the responsibility of communicating His direction to the people.

The silver trumpets sounded four messages (10:3-10). There was a sound to assemble (10:3-4). There was a sound for journeying (10:5-6). Another sound for a call to arms (10:9). There was also a sound that heralded festivals, and sacrifices (10:10). Of necessity, the sounds of the trumpets had to be clear and distinct, for the people to understand the message (10:3-4, 7).

The departure from Mount Sinai was recorded in Numbers 10, and the nation of Israel set out on her journey for the Promised Land (10:11-13, 33-36). The leaders of the tribes are named (10:14-28); however, the cloud was a reminder of the Lord’s presence and protection. The God of Israel was the Commander and Chief of Israel.

A Closing Appeal

In his letter to Corinth, Paul warned believers that they should make certain that the teaching, and preaching they sit under is a message that leaves no uncertainty. Those who preach, and teach the Word of God should not be like a trumpet that gives an “uncertain sound” (1 Corinthians 14:8). Make sure the teaching you sit under is like the silver trumpets- the Word and the will of the LORD!

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

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

“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

Half-hearted Worship is Unacceptable to the LORD! (Exodus 39-40)

Scripture reading – Exodus 39-40

As we conclude our study of the Book of Exodus, one fact on which we should reflect is the LORD’s detailed descriptions that were part of planning a place for worship and sacrifice to Israel’s God.

Several recent chapters in our study (Exodus 25-40) were almost entirely devoted to the features of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, the Lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Table for the bread, and various implements within and without the Tabernacle. The LORD also provided Moses specific details for the Courtyard, its Brazen Altar, and the fount that would serve the priests as a washing station for their hands and feet.

Exodus 39 – The “Holy Garments” of the High Priest

An earlier chapter (Exodus 28) gave us the design of the “holy garments” that were to be made, and worn by Aaron, the brother of Moses, and the man whom God had chosen as His high priest. Exodus 39 records the design of the priests’ garments becoming a reality when we read, “1And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the Lord commanded Moses” (39:1).

The stunning colors of the high priest’s “holy garments” are given (39:1-2), as well as the breastplate embedded with twelve precious jewels, each engraved with the names of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (39:8-14).  A description of the bindings of the breastplate is given, as well as, other articles of clothing that were worn by the high priest (39:15-31).  Fastened to his turban was a plate of gold engraved with the words, “Holiness to the LORD” (39:30-31).

Exodus 40 – “The End,” is Only The Beginning!

The LORD commanded, “2On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation” (40:1). Moses was to oversee the assembly of the Tabernacle, its implements, and to dedicate the high priest, his sons, and the garments they were to wear in the priests’ office.

After insuring all was done “as the LORD had commanded” (39:43), Moses dedicated the work (40:33), and the outward manifestation of God’s approval was “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34)!

I conclude inviting you to consider not only was the place of worship important in every detail, but so was the preparation, and dedication of those who served as the LORD’s ministers. Moses, Aaron, and his sons were commanded to ceremonially wash their hands and feet “when they came near unto the altar,” and served as the intercessors for God’s people (40:30-32).

Thirteen times we read the phrase, “as the LORD commanded Moses” in Exodus 39 and Exodus 40.

That phrase reminds me that half-hearted preparation for worship is unacceptable to the LORD. Our God is holy, and those who serve Him should reflect His character in their lives, service, and worship.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which isin you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Place, and the Holy One (Exodus 26)

Scripture reading – Exodus 26

The LORD had given Moses instructions to speak to “every man” to “bring an offering…willingly with his heart” (25:1-2). Leaving no detail unstated, God required specific materials for the Tabernacle and Ark (25:3-7), and gave the pattern and design for their construction (25:8-28). The Scriptures also provide for us a description of the instruments that were to be fashioned (25:29), and the furniture that would be required for the interior of the Tabernacle, including “a candlestick of pure gold” (25:30-40).

Exodus 26 – The Tabernacle’s Design (26:1-30)

There were four coverings for the Tabernacle.  The first covering was made with ten curtains “of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work” (26:1) woven into the fabric. This beautiful fabric served as the ceiling inside the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1-6).

Eleven curtains of goats’ hair (26:7-14) were to be made, and used as a covering of the boards used in constructing the Tabernacle. Over the boards was to be placed a “covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins” (26:14). A description was given for the boards that would form the Tabernacle, and the riggings that would adhere them (26:15-30).

The Interior Design of the Tabernacle (26:31-34)

A beautiful veil served as the interior covering for the walls of the Tabernacle: “a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made” (26:31). The veil would divide the interior of the Tabernacle, and provide a space called the “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33), and therein would be placed the Ark, described as, “the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place” (26:34).

Without the “holy place” would be set a table, and the candlestick. A curtain served as “the door of the tent, [made] of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework” (26:36). The curtain would be hung upon “five pillars of shittim wood,” overlaid with gold (26:37).

Consider with me the innermost room of the Tabernacle, the holy place that laid beyond the veil where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. This room, described as “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33), represented heaven, and God’s presence in the midst of His people. The Mercy Seat of the Ark, represented God’s throne, and the veil that separated the outer room of the Tabernacle from the holy place, was a reminder of the great divide between sinners and the LORD who is holy (26:34). No man, but the high priest, dared enter or look into the holy place, and he would only do so once a year. As the mediator of Israel, the high priest would bear the blood of a lamb that had been sacrificed for the sins of the people, and He would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat.

There no Tabernacle, no Holy Place, no Ark today.

The Tabernacle, the Holy Place, and the Ark were temporary symbols, testimonies for their day (Hebrews 9:8-9). They were reminders of the sinner’s need of a mediator between himself and God, who is holy and cannot tolerate sin in His presence.

Christ’s death on the Cross, His atoning blood, and resurrection from the dead removed the need of those temporary symbols. When Christ died on the Cross, the veil of the temple was rent in two (Matthew 27:51). The need of atoning blood was fulfilled by Christ shedding His blood. His death, burial, and resurrection is a lasting testimony of the sufficiency of His sacrifice for our sins (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Jesus Christ became the believer’s “High Priest” (Hebrews 9:11), his Mediator, and “[Christ has] entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). “He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that…[we] might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

Is Jesus Christ your Savior, Redeemer, and High Priest? His death, burial, and resurrection provided all that is needed for your salvation. Will you turn from your sin, and trust Him as Savior?

Hebrews 9:2828So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Justice for All, and A Whole Lot of Separation (Exodus 23)

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

The instructions that gave practical applications of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to Israel’s daily life continues in Exodus 23.

Exodus 23:1-9 addressed the demand for Judicial integrity – Justice for All.  The ninth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16).

Exodus 23:1-9 emphasized God’s mandate for Israel’s judges to be above reproach, and intolerant of any who might pervert justice. A witness must not bring a false accusation against an innocent man in a judicial matter, nor lie to spare the guilty their due punishment (23:1-2). There was one law, and one standard, and not even the poor were granted a charitable judgment nor spared the weight of the law (23:3).

There are some 21st century leaders in the broader latitude of “American Christianity” that are guilty of teaching that the Old Testament is all Law, and no grace. Those who express such a sentiment are either ignorant of the Word of God, or purposefully, and intentionally misleading believers. For example, Exodus 23:4-5 commanded Israel to be ready to show kindness to an enemy should he suffer harm (23:4; Proverbs 25:21-22), and be ready to express sympathy and assistance to even one who hates you (23:5).

Exodus 23:6-9 returns to judicial matters, and the demand for impartial judgment in legal matters. Under God’s Law, the poor were not to be denied representation or justice (23:6), and judges were to see that righteous judgment prevailed for all (23:7). Judges were not to be bribed (23:8), and non-Hebrews (“strangers”), were to be judged fairly (23:9).

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

Emphasizing the significance of “Sabbath Rest” (20:8-11), Israel was commanded to observe a “Sabbath Year.” The land would not be plowed, and crops would not be planted (23:10). The land was to rest, and if seeds volunteered and grew to bear fruit, the poor and the “beast of the field” were given liberty to eat (23:11).

Three Festivals to be Observed by Israel (23:14-19)

The men of Israel were commanded to observe three annual festivals (23:14-19). There was the “feast of unleavened bread” and the Passover (23:15, 18), that commemorated the Passover in Egypt when the LORD spared the firstborn of Israel. The “feast of the harvest,” known as the Firstfruits, and later celebrated as Pentecost, was observed at the beginning of harvest (23:16a). The first fruits of the harvest were to be offered to the LORD (23:19a). There was also the “feast of the ingathering,” observed at the end of the harvest season (23:16b), and was a time of thanksgiving.

Three Promises (23:20-28)

The LORD made three promises to Israel, whose fulfillment was conditioned upon the people hearing and obeying His Law and Commandments (23:20-28).

He promised to “send an Angel” before the nation. The LORD’S Angel was sent to “keep” Israel in the way, and bring them into the Promised Land (23:20), if the people obeyed the “voice” of the Angel (23:22; I am of the opinion this “Angel” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ).

The LORD also  His “Angel” would “go before” the nation, and cut off those nations that occupied the land of Canaan (23:23). The Angel would give Israel protection (23:23), provisions (23:25), and posterity (i.e. future generations; 23:26).  Unlike other nations that adopted and sacrificed to the gods of the land they conquered; Israel was to destroy the idols of the people (23:24).

God promised to set the boundaries of the land He had covenanted with Abraham (23:31), and He warned that His people were not to befriend or make any covenant with the people they conquered, nor worship their gods. God warned Israel that, the conquered people “shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee (23:33).

This principle of radical separation is found throughout the Scriptures, though it is rarely preached in the pulpit, nor practiced the pew.

Israel was admonished: Fail to drive the ungodly out of the land, and the people would invariably adopt the sins of the heathen (23:33). That same principle is true for today’s believers. We are commanded, 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, “33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are commanded, “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” (Romans 12:2).

As Israel was called to separate from the wicked nations they conquered, and to destroy their gods, believers are to separate, and put a distance between themselves and the ungodly, lest we become like them!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Ten Commandments – Part 2 (Exodus 19-20)

Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

The sound of the trumpet, and the smoke and fire that engulfed Mount Sinai, reflected an outward manifestation of God’s heavenly glory, and no man, woman, or beast dared approach the mount and live (19:12-13). Out of the midst of the thunder, lightning, and the fire and smoke, the LORD spoke, saying,

“I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (20:2).

Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments were part of the LORD’S covenant with Israel, and the people were to hear, heed, and obey them (20:1-17).

The first commandment: “3Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (20:3). Unlike the neighboring nations who worshipped innumerable gods, Israel was to worship one God—Yahweh, Elohim, the True, Eternal, Self-existent One.

The second commandment: “4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (20:4-6). Unlike their neighbors, Israel was not to worship idols, or images, of Israel’s God. The guilt for violating the second commandment would be borne by the family, and invoke God’s judgment “upon the children” (20:5).

The third commandment: “7Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (20:7). God’s name was to be honored, and not spoken of lightly or in vain. The name and meaning of Israel’s God was hallowed, and identified with His character.

The fourth commandment: “8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (20:8-11). The Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, was dedicated to the LORD as a day of worship, and rest (31:16-17).

The fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (20:12). Because fathers and mothers represented God’s authority, sons and daughters of Israel were to honor and revere their parents. The elderly were to be honored, and revered; any who failed were condemned (Deuteronomy 27:16). To honor one’s parents carried a special promise—long life (20:12b; Ephesians 6:1-3).

The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13). Because Adam was created in God’s image, the life of man and woman were to be thought as sacred (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-22).

The seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (20:14). God established marriage as a covenant between Himself, and the man and woman (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is a picture between Christ’s love for the church, and the husbands bond, and union with his wife (Ephesians 5:30-32; Matthew 5:27-29).

The eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (20:15). This commandment established the right of property ownership, and to take that which belonged to another (whether by theft, or deceit), was a sin (Ephesians 4:28).

The ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16). God’s people were to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29), and libel, slander, or bearing false witness was a grievous sin.

The tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (20:17). Covetousness is a sin that desires what belongs to another. It is only perceived outwardly, after it has taken root in the heart.

Exodus 20:18-26 – The Manner of Worship Required By a Holy God

The LORD not only forbad idols or images of Himself (20:4-6; 23-25), He was also concerned about the manner of those who approached His altar to worship and offer sacrifices. To preserve a modest, respectful decorum, steps were forbidden at the altar, lest those who worshipped be perceived as immodest (20:26).

A closing thought: The LORD’S expectations for Israel’s altar, and the demand for modesty, should be instructive. The priests were to conduct themselves according the instructions given, in a manner befitting the holiness of God, and never allow any “nakedness” to distract those who worshipped the LORD (20:26). I fear 21st century worship has degenerated into “anything goes,” and little thought is given regarding the manner or style of worshiping God who is holy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Humility: The Forgotten Principle When Choosing Leaders (Exodus 11-12, part 1)

Scripture reading: Exodus 11-12

Exodus 11 – The Man (or Woman) God Calls

Before the LORD sent the tenth, and final plague, He instructed Moses to communicate to the people that they would “borrow [to request or demand] of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold” (11:2).

This seems a strange request for a people preparing to sojourn in the desert; however, I suggest two motives for the demand. The first, God’s people had served the Egyptians as slaves for four centuries, and the value of what they demanded in precious metals would scarcely be regarded as full payment for their toil. A second purpose, the “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold” would be required to decorate the tabernacle, and fabricate vessels that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices.

Before we address the tenth plague, consider what the LORD had done in this contest between Pharaoh and His servant Moses.

The LORD had magnified Moses in Egypt, and the fears he had entertained in returning to Egypt were overcome by God giving him “favour in the sight of the Egyptians” (11:3a). Forty years of herding his father-in-law’s sheep had humbled this once proud prince of Egypt, and the LORD had so magnified him that he had become “very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people” (11:3).

Author and leadership guru, John Maxwell has observed, “A leader must give up to go up,” and that principle is seen clearly in the life of Moses. He had given up everything that gave him rank and privilege as a prince in Egypt. He had left behind the pastoral life of a shepherd. For all that, God blessed him, and he was elevated above the king of Egypt in the eyes of the people.

It is rare to find a man or woman of great talents and abilities who is humble enough to serve the LORD!

Our era of “selfies” and self-promotion is the antithesis of humility. The men whom God calls and promotes are as rare today as they have ever been: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

The tenth and final plague would be a blow to the proud, obstinate king of Egypt, and that nation’s dedication of its firstborn to a god.

Moses prophesied to the children of Israel, “Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more” (11:4-6).

The LORD would spare Israel’s firstborn, and would “put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (11:7), only if Israel would follow the Word of the LORD as Moses gave instruction. If they did not obey His Word, they would be no different than Egypt. Israel, however, was spared God’s judgment because of the blood of the Passover (12:13). Our next devotional (Exodus 12) will establish the central meaning of the Passover, and its significance.

As we conclude, I invite you to reflect on the attribute of humility, a quality that should be required of all leaders. There is a desperate need for men who are humble enough for God to use (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and bold enough to unapologetically declare the Word of the LORD!

* A part 2 of today’s devotional will focus on Exodus 12.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith