Category Archives: Hope

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

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

The Great Exodus, and a Short-lived Celebration (Exodus 14-15)

Scripture reading: Exodus 14-15

Exodus 14 – Showdown on the Shores of the Red Sea

With the cloud overshadowing Israel by day, and the pillar of fire giving the people light by night, Moses led a nation of more than one million people to freedom. Following the LORD’s instruction, the multitude encamped by the Red Sea (14:2).

In his grief, Pharaoh had sent the children of Israel out of the land; however, the LORD hardened the proud king’s heart (14:3-4), and Moses learned his conflict with Pharaoh was not yet ended. Spies had followed the movement of Israel, and when they saw the encampment by the sea, they sent word to the king who set his army in array to pursue and overtake Moses and the people (14:5-7).

After witnessing how their God had brought Egypt to her knees, the people had departed “with an high hand,” bold, triumphant, rejoicing in their freedom (14:8). Soon, however, the celebration ended when the dust of six hundred chariots, and soldiers was seen approaching in the distance. As Pharoah and his army drew near to Israel’s encampment, “the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and…cried out unto the Lord” (14:10).

With the Red Sea before them, and Egypt’s army behind them, the people derided Moses, saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (14:11)

Is it not amazing how fickle people can be? From going out “with an high hand” (14:8), to moaning in despair, the people complained with a sentiment they would express on many occasions in the future: “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (14:12).

Moses, unshaken by the murmuring of the people, and the approach of Egypt’s army, encouraged the people saying, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (14:13). Moses assured them, 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (14:14).

Moses cried out to the LORD, who then questioned him, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (14:15). For Moses, the time for prayer was over, and it was time to step out on faith and trust the LORD, who commanded Moses, “lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (14:16).

The LORD commanded Moses to be prepared, for when the waters of the sea opened, Pharaoh and his chariots would pursue the people into the midst of the sea (14:17), and all Egypt will know the LORD, when the king and his army are drowned in the sea (14:18).

The cloud that had guided Israel out of Egypt, then moved rearward and became a barrier of darkness between the people and Pharaoh’s army (14:19-20), allowing Israel to pass through the waters of the sea on dry land (14:21-22).  When the Egyptians pursued Israel into the midst of the Red Sea, the LORD brought the waters in upon them, drowning them, and “Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore… and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (14:23-31).

Exodus 15 – A Celebration of Deliverance, and A Crisis of Faith

Standing triumphantly on the far shore of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel broke into a song of praise and rejoicing (15:1-19).  While the men were singing the refrain with Moses leading the song (15:1), Miriam, his sister, “took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (15:20) singing the chorus.

What a great celebration, and surely one that should have continued for days and weeks; however, such was not to be the case. Three days into the wilderness, and the people “found no water” (15:22), and “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24)

This sinful pattern of murmuring will haunt Israel’s journey through the wilderness for the next forty years, and will be a sorrow not only to Moses, but also to the LORD. Moses cried to the LORD (15:25) and the LORD assured him He would heal the bitter waters, and make them pure (15:26), testing and proving the faith of the people.

What was the lesson Israel was to take from the bitter, poisonous waters?

If Israel would hear and obey the Words of the LORD, and walk in righteousness, hear and heed His commandments, the LORD would spare them from the diseases that afflicted the Egyptians, promising Israel, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (15:26).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Behold the Lamb” – The Institution and Significance of the Passover (Exodus 11-12, part 2)

Scripture reading: Exodus 11-12

The Passover was instituted in Exodus 12, and took its name from the LORD sparing His people the plague that struck the firstborn of Egypt (12:1-14, 27-28). The LORD had instructed Moses and Aaron to speak to the people saying, “2This month shall be unto you the beginning of months…3In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb…5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (12:2-6).

The blood of the sacrifice was to be put on the side posts and lintel [top of the door facing] of the houses (12:7), and the LORD promised, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (12:12-13).

Specific instructions were given for the sacrificial lambs (12:8-11, 14-19). They were to serve as a reminder that the lambs were a “type,” a picture, of the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, the Messiah, whose name they did not know, and who would come in the Father’s time. They would have to trust in the substitutionary blood on their doorposts, and know by faith, that it represented God’s provision, His sacrifice, and His covenant with Abraham. The lamb was to be roasted whole (12:8-9), and the bones were not to be broken. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled that condition (John 19:31-37; Psalm 34:20). He was the perfect, sinless, spotless “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Another element of the Passover was “unleavened bread” (12:15, 17-20). Leaven, the equivalent of yeast today, was not to be used in bread during the Passover season. The leaven that was used in ancient times was from dough that had fermented, and was left over from the previous day. Taking a pinch of fermented dough, and kneading it into a fresh batch of flour, would in time permeate the whole of the dough and cause the bread to rise.

It is the permeating nature of leaven that is a symbol in the Scriptures of the nature of sin. In actuality, sin in our lives functions the same as leaven in dough; and “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). In the same way that leaven was not to be in Passover bread, we are not to tolerate even a “little sin” in our lives.

Exodus 12:29-34 – The Night of the Passover

The night of the Passover came, and “at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh… [to] the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle” (12:29).

Pharaoh and all Egypt cried in anguish, “for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (12:30). The king sent for Moses and Aaron, and charged them, “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. 32Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also” (12:31-32).

That same urgency took hold among the Egyptians, and they urged Israel to depart “out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men” (12:33). As God had commanded, the children of Israel required “of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (12:35-36).

Exodus 12:37-51 – Delivered Israel Out of Egypt

Israel was thrust out of Egypt, and the people who began the exodus numbered 600,000 men, not including women and children (12:37). There was also a “mixed multitude” who went out with them, who were not of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (12:38). Those non-Hebrew people would become a curse to Israel in her wilderness journey (Numbers 11:4).

The years of Israel’s stay in Egypt had been “four hundred and thirty years” (12:40), and “at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (12:41). The exodus from Egypt, and the sparing of the firstborn were to be memorialized in a perpetual observance of the Passover (12:43). The circumcision of males would continue as a sign of that nation’s consecration to the LORD (12:44-48). Whether Hebrew, or of the mixed multitude, there would be “One Law” that would serve the people (12:49).

Today’s devotional concludes with a reminder that God is intolerant of sin among His people. As the leaven was put out, and forbidden in the households during the Passover (12:15, 19-20), so should sin be addressed, and confessed in our lives, homes, and churches.

1 Corinthians 5:6b–8 – “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Hardening One’s Heart is Not Wise! (Exodus 6-7)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 6-7

We have considered the first clash of wills between Pharaoh, and Moses (Exodus 5). Accosted and accused by the ones he loved and had come to deliver, Moses turned to the LORD and prayed (5:22-23). Pharaoh, however, turned a deaf ear to Moses’ requests, and remained unmoved and unwilling to let the people go.

Exodus 6 – God Heard and Answered Moses’ Prayer

But the LORD is faithful to hear and answer prayer, and responded to Moses’ plea, assuring him, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong [mighty] hand shall he let them go, and with a strong [mighty] hand shall he drive them out of his land” (6:1). The LORD promised to not only deliver Israel from slavery, but assured Moses, when He was finished dealing with Pharaoh, the king would drive Israel out of Egypt!

What was Moses learning about God, and his commission to serve Him? He was learning that Israel’s liberation was not dependent on him, but on whom he served: “God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord [Yahweh; eternal, self-existent]: 3And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by my name JEHOVAH [Yahweh] was I not known to them” (6:2-3). Though Israel had lost faith in God, He had not forgotten His covenant with them (6:4-5), and in a series of “I wills,” the LORD reminded Moses of all he had promised (6:6-8).

When Moses had spoken to the people all the LORD had conveyed to him; “they hearkened not unto [him]” (6:9). The LORD then came to Moses, and instructed him to go to Pharaoh, and command the king, “let the children of Israel go out of his land” (6:11). Moses, however, discouraged from the rejection of the people, wondered aloud, if his people spurned his words, why should Pharaoh hear him, a man “of uncircumcised lips [i.e. poor speech]?” (6:12)

Notice that the dialog between the LORD and Moses was interrupted by the genealogies of three sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (6:14-27). Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, had committed incest with his father’s concubine (6:14; Genesis 35:22). Simeon, the second, and Levi, the third born son, had raged against the Shechemites, and in revenging the rape of their sister Dinah, murdered the men of Shechem (Genesis 34).

The lineage of Levi is of particular interest to our narrative, for Moses and Aaron were sons of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe. The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to represent the people before Him (6:16-27).

Exodus 7

The setting of Exodus 7 is the second confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. There was already a dynamic change in the relationship between Pharaoh and Moses, for the LORD had magnified his standing, and “made [Moses] a god to Pharaoh” (7:1). The LORD instructed Moses to command the king to “send the children of Israel out of his land” (7:2); however, God cautioned his servant that He would “harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply [His] signs and…wonders in the land of Egypt” (7:3).

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh and Egypt would suffer God’s judgment in a series of ten plagues that would not only bring that nation to its knees, but would reveal the God of Israel was the God of Heaven (7:4-5).

Moses and Aaron, with God’s power and His Word as their authority, then stood before Pharaoh, and “Aaron cast down his rod before [the king], and before his servants, and it became a serpent” (7:10). Undeterred, the king’s advisors, displayed the power of evil, and cast down their rods which also became serpents (7:11-12a); however, the rod of Aaron, transformed into a serpent, displayed the supremacy of Israel’s God, and devoured the rods of Pharaoh’s men (7:12).

What was Pharaoh’s response? God “hardened” his heart (7:13), as He had said He would (7:14). The first of a series of judgments then followed (7:14-12:36). The first plague was the waters of the Nile River were turned to blood (7:15-18), the fish died, and the stench of their rotting flesh filled Egypt (7:19-21). Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s magicians seemed to have duplicated the water turning to blood (7:22), and Pharaoh turned away, and his heart was hardened (7:24).

For seven days, the people were plagued with hunger (the fish of the Nile being a major source of food), and thirst (7:24-25). The king, however, refused to humble himself and set Israel free.

Closing thought: The Egyptians idolized the Nile River. When the God of Israel turned the waters of the Nile to blood, He displayed His sovereignty and power over one of Egypt’s gods, and over nature itself. Unable to escape God’s wrath, Egypt and her king continued to defy the LORD. Nine judgments would follow, before Pharaoh humbled himself and acknowledged that Israel’s God is LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Discouraged? Take it to the LORD! (Exodus 5)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 5

Our study in the Book of Exodus picks up after Moses and Aaron met with the “elders of the children of Israel” (4:30). Aaron, spoke to the leaders on Moses’ behalf, as the LORD had promised he would (4:15-16), and Moses “did the signs in the sight of the people” (4:30; note 4:2-3, 6-7, 9). Convinced by Aaron’s report, and the miracles performed by Moses, the people “believed” God had heard their cry and sent Moses as their deliverer (4:31).

Exodus 5 – Confrontation with Pharaoh

Moses and Aaron, confident the LORD was with them, initiated their first audience with Pharaoh. Standing before the king of Egypt, God’s servants boldly declared, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness” (5:1).

Pharaoh answered defiantly, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (5:2)

Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword” (5:3).

Take a moment and consider Pharaoh’s position. He had asked, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?” (5:2) The answer to his question was, “The God of the Hebrews” (5:3a). The God of slaves? The God who appears to have forsaken Israel four hundred years? That is the God you threaten will “fall upon us with pestilence, or with sword?” (5:3b)

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh accused Moses and Aaron of attempting to lighten the burden of the children of Israel, and then double down on the slaves (5:4-5). Rather than lighten their burdens, he ordered his taskmasters to oppress the slaves and increase their workload (5:6-9). Those taskmasters then cruelly beat those officers who supervised the people (5:10-14).

Beaten and discouraged, the officers of Israel cried out to Pharaoh. The king, however, made a point of blaming their hardships on the request Moses and Aaron had made for the people to be allowed to “go and do sacrifice to the LORD” (5:17).

The officers of Israel went out from Pharaoh, and meeting Moses and Aaron along the way, accused them of adding to their troubles (5:20-21b). Failing to humble themselves and turn to the LORD, the leaders reproached them (5:21b)

The criticisms pierced the heart of Moses, and he prayed, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? 23For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all” (5:22-23).

The last thing Moses wanted, or expected, was that his commission to deliver Israel from bondage, would first require the people suffer greater afflictions. He asked, why had the LORD allowed His people to be so ill-treated (5:22). Moses was discouraged, not only questioning God, but his own leadership. He was unable to rationalize God’s promises with his calling.

I close inviting you to ponder, how you respond to discouragement? When you find yourself the object of unjust criticism, where do you turn?

Take a lesson from the life of Moses: He turned to the LORD and prayed!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3-4)

Scripture reading: Exodus 3-4

Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt into the wilderness (2:11), and he spent the next forty years of his tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He had been safe from the reign of Pharaoh, and lived far from the travail of the children of Israel. In fact, he might have contentedly lived out his days with his wife Zipporah (2:21), and his sons, Gershom (2:22) and Elizer (18:4).

Though the children of Israel were far from the thoughts of Moses, they were never beyond God’s loving compassion. When the “king of Egypt died” (2:23), and the people found no relief from their sorrows, they “cried, and their cry rose up to God by reason of the bondage [slavery; forced labor]” (2:23b).

“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect [acknowledged] unto them” (2:24-25).

Exodus 3 – Called and Commissioned (3:1-14).

God found Moses tending his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert (3:1). He had providentially made his way to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (3:1). [This same mount, also named Sinai, would become the base camp for Israel when Moses received the Ten Commandments, Exodus 19:10-11.]

At Horeb, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush… and the bush was not consumed” (3:2).

The sight of a burning bush in the desert was not unusual; however, when it was not consumed–that’s when God got Moses’ attention. He turned aside to see the sight (3:3), and God called him by name from the burning bush (fire being a symbol of God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18).

Instructing Moses to remove his shoes, the voice said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6a).

What did Moses, a prince of Egypt, know about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? His knowledge of the God of Israel was not acquired in the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter, but instead, he was taught from the loving arms of his Hebrew mother, Jochebed (2:2, 8-10; 6:20).

God awakened in Moses a memory of the sufferings of the children of Israel (3:7), and He announced He would deliver His people out of bondage (3:8). God then commanded Moses, “10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10).

Moses asked, “Who am I?” (3:11). No longer the proud prince of Egypt, his question evidenced a humility that had been born in the solitude of the desert. No doubt the LORD had prepared Moses; however, the matter of his calling was not who he was, but who had called and commissioned him. God assured him, “I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Moses wondered aloud, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (3:13)

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (3:14).

God promised, not only would the children of Israel heed his voice (3:15-18a), but the king of Egypt would bow to his will. The LORD promised He would smite Egypt until that great nation bowed to His will (3:18b-22).

Exodus 4 – God Overcame Moses’ Objections

Overwhelmed by the task he had been given, God provided Moses with three miraculous signs to prove the LORD was with him. The first sign, his shepherd’s staff became a serpent (4:2-5). The second sign showed his skin turning leprous, and then completely healed (4:6-8). Turning water into blood was the third miraculous sign (4:8-9).

When Moses objected that he lacked the eloquence or language needed to stand in Pharaoh’s court (after being exiled from Egypt forty years, 4:10), God rebuked him saying, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?” (4:11) The LORD overcame Moses’ objection, promising to send Aaron on his behalf (4:12-16).

Moses departed for Egypt, but along the way became deathly ill (4:18-24). He might have died, but his wife Zipporah, intervened by circumcising their son (4:24-25). She then returned to her father’s house (4:24-26), and did not reunite with Moses until Israel encamped at Sinai (18:2-3).

Arriving in Egypt, Aaron gathered the elders of Israel, and Moses demonstrated the power of God was upon him (4:30). When the people witnessed the signs of God’s power, they believed, and worshipped the LORD (4:31).

The stage is set for the contest between the most powerful king on the earth, and a shepherd whom God had anointed to lead His people to the Promised Land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Promises Made; Promises Kept (Genesis 47 – Part 2)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Genesis 47:1-10 – Pharaoh’s Provision, and His Meeting with Jacob

With his family established in Goshen, a place known for its lush grazing land, Joseph chose five of his brothers, “and presented them unto Pharaoh” (47:2). As he had expected, Pharaoh questioned the men concerning their occupation, and they answered, saying, “Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers” (47:3).

Jacob’s sons made it clear that their business in Egypt was temporal, for they were there “to sojourn in the land…for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan” (47:4a). Showing themselves men of humility, they asked, “let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen” (47:4b).

When his interview with Joseph’s brothers concluded, Pharaoh granted Joseph and his father Jacob a private audience (an indication of Pharaoh’s respect for Joseph). Pharaoh questioned Jacob, and asked, “How old art thou?” (47:8).

Jacob answered the king’s inquiry, giving not only his age, but his testimony: “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (47:9).

One hundred thirty years was a long life; however, not nearly as long as his grandfather Abraham, who lived to be one hundred seventy-five, or his father Isaac who lived to one hundred eighty years old (47:9). When his meeting concluded, Jacob parted with a blessing before he “went out from before Pharaoh” (47:10). The form of that blessing is not known; however, I believe it was a verbal one, and perhaps a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for Pharaoh’s kindness.

Genesis 47:11-12 – Joseph’s Loving Care for His Family

Exercising the privilege of his office, Joseph insured his family would enjoy “the best of the land…as Pharaoh had commanded” (47:11). While all Egypt suffered famine, he “nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families” (47:12).

Genesis 47:13-26 – Famine Enslaved the Egyptians to Pharaoh

The famine continued seven years, and inevitably caused the people to become impoverished. With no crops to harvest, the people spent all their money to purchase grain (47:13-15). When the famine continued, the Egyptians were forced to part with their livestock, and sold their cattle to Pharaoh (47:16-17). When the second year of famine was finished, the people came to Joseph, offered their lands, and finally themselves as Pharaoh’s servants (47:18-20, 23-26b).

There were two exceptions to the ravages of famine. The priests, a politically powerful presence in Egypt, were given grain by Pharaoh, and exempted from selling their lands (47:22, 26b). The second was Joseph’s family, his father, brothers, and their households, “had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly” (47:27).

Genesis 47:28-31 – Israel’s Longing for Home

God blessed Jacob, and he enjoyed the company of his son Joseph another seventeen years after moving to Egypt (47:28). When he was an hundred forty and seven years old, and knowing his death was imminent, Jacob summoned Joseph to his beside. The private conversation that passed between them is recorded. Though he was Joseph’s senior in age, Israel’s (Jacob) manner deferred to his son’s office, and he made his parting request.

Genesis 47:29b–31 – “If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
30But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he [Joseph] said, I will do as thou hast said.
31And he [Jacob] said, Swear unto me. And he [Joseph] sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.

Joseph would honor his father’s request, and vowed he would return Jacob’s body to Canaan where he would be buried with his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. (47:31).

Genesis 48 records Jacob’s parting words, and his caution and counsel to his sons and their families. I am reminded that wise men and women plan for death, and the inevitability of God’s judgment.

James 4:14 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

How about you, are you ready? “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith