Category Archives: Law

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

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

You Think You Own It? Think Again! (Leviticus 25)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25 is the close of the Lord giving Moses His Law and Commandments on Mount Sinai (25:1). This chapter is a fascinating study in God requiring Israel to obey His Law, have faith in His promises, and His promise to bless His people, conditioned upon their obedience.

The Sabbath Year (25:1-7)

We have considered the commandment to keep the Sabbath in earlier devotionals (Exodus 20:8-10; Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath of the LORD being a day of rest, and worship that would follow six days of labor. Leviticus 25 introduces the “Sabbath Year,” which was to be observed every seventh year (25:2-7).

The Sabbath Year was to be a year of rest, not only for the farmers, but also their lands. The people were instructed to labor in the fields six years, and on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that volunteered, and “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7). The farmer was forbidden to harvest the fruit that volunteered the seventh year; however, the poor, servants, laborers, and strangers were allowed to harvest that which grew “of its own accord” (25:5).

The Jubilee Year (25:8-17) occurred on the Hebraic calendar every fifty years, and followed “seven sabbaths of years” or forty-nine years (25:8). It was to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13), a year of freedom, and an additional Sabbath. The effect was that the lands and vineyards remained idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11).

The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement (25:9) and its beginning was marked by the sound of the trumpet. The Year of Jubilee signaled the redemption of a man’s debts, especially for those who may have owed monies for the sake of providing for their families. Every man’s possession was restored to his family in the Year of Jubilee (25:10).

To ensure justice was satisfied, and neither insurer or the debtor was “oppressed,” the value of a man’s land was determined by the balance of years before the next jubilee, when the lands would be returned to the debtor (25:13-16). To ensure justice and fairness in transactions, the LORD commanded, “17Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (25:17).

The failure to sow seed on the Sabbath Year meant there would be no harvest at the end of the seventh year, and no harvest the eighth year until seed was planted, and there was fruit from their labor (25:18-22). The Jubilee Year, which followed a Sabbath Year, meant that Israelites would not plant or harvest crops the forty-ninth, and the fiftieth year.

What was the LORD’S answer for this dilemma? He promised the Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee Year would be abundantly blessed, if the people would “do [His] statutes, and keep [His] judgments…[they would] dwell in the land in safety. 19And the land [would] yield [its] fruit” and they would be filled, “and dwell therein in safety” (25:18-19).

Laws Concerning Real Estate (25:23-34)

Poverty or illness would sometimes force a family to sell their lands. God, however, made provision to recover the lands that were sold in three ways:

A brother or next of kin could buy back the land that had been sold (25:25). The original owner could redeem his land (25:26-27). The land would be restored to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (25:28).

There was provision for selling a house, and stipulations if the house was located in a walled city, or in a village where the lands were also considered part of the house (25:29-31). The Levites, because they were the priestly tribe, had protections from the loss of lands, for their lands were not to be sold (25:32-35).

Laws Against Usury (25:35-38)

The poor were to be helped, and God prohibited charging them interest (some will argue high interest). God demanded that the poor be treated fairly. As He had extended grace to Israel, and delivered them out of slavery, the LORD commanded His people extend grace to one another.

Laws Concerning Servitude (25:39-55)

An Israelite might fall on hard times, and to pay his debt, become a bondslave (25:39). No Israelite, however, was to be left without hope. On the Year of Jubilee, all debtors, and Israelite slaves were set free (25:39-43). Strangers (non-Israelites); however, would not be released from their debts (25:44-46). Furthermore, an Israelite could be redeemed from slavery at any time (25:48-49). Once again, insuring justice and fairness, the “price of a [man’s] redemption was based upon the number of years to the Year of Jubilee (25:50-55).

The Sabbath and Jubilee years are foreign to our culture; however, there are principles found in Leviticus 25 that should not be ignored.

The Sabbath year was “a Sabbath unto the LORD” (25:2) and an acknowledgement that the LORD blesses and prospers His people. The Sabbath year served as an opportunity to reflect on the LORD’S goodness and provision for His people. We are reminded that we are sojourners in this world, and temporal owners of the things we possess. The LORD instructed His people, The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (25:23).

We are sojourners in the world, and the wise keep their affections focused on the eternal, and not the temporal.

Matthew 6:20-21  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24

Leviticus 23 – Feast Days on Israel’s Religious Calendar

Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

Leviticus 23:6-41 itemizes the annual feasts Israel was to observe as a nation.

The Passover (23:5), commemorating the LORD sparing the firstborn, and delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. On the following day after the Passover, the people were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering Israel’s departure out of Egypt. Its observance lasted seven days, and was a reminder of how swiftly the people had to leave Egypt.  The first and last days of Unleavened Bread are counted as Sabbaths [High Sabbaths], though these days may not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).

There was the Offering of the First Fruits, also known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat (or meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision, even as we should pray and give thanks at every meal.

Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came upon the LORD’S disciples, whom He told to remain in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 2).

Two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were also offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Pentecost was observed with a burnt offering consisting of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams, “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).

Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).

The Feast of the Trumpets was observed the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17).

The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41), and was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34), the last day of the harvest. Each family would gather “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,” and live in the booths for seven days (23:40). Dwelling in booths commemorated Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness, and living in tents (23:43).

Leviticus 24 – God’s Laws were not suggestions, they were commands.

After rehearsing the laws and guidelines regarding the for the lamps, and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), we are alerted to a judicial crisis that arose in Israel, and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-16).

The son of Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD, a violation of the third command, and one demanding the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17).  Realizing the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender] in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).

After hearing the witnesses, and seeking God’s will, Moses demanded the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s camp, and those who witnessed his sin, lay hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lordcommanded Moses” (24:23).

The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)

I close, reminding you God is merciful, and just. A murderer was to be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed the beast that belonged to another, was to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Injure or maim a man, and the law demanded you should suffer the same: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).

A Closing Thought: Our world has lost its good sense of justice, and our judicial system has become a demoralizing failure. Too often in our society we find criminals are pampered, and their victims are left scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice, no fairness, in society? You need look no further than Proverbs 29:2.

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

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

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 18-19

Our study in Leviticus moves on from the subject of clean and unclean meats (Leviticus 17), to the morality and sanctity of the institution of marriage (Leviticus 18).

Leviticus 18 – A Call to Be Holy

The LORD commanded Moses, “speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. 3After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (18:2-3).

Reminding the nation, “I am the LORD your God” (18:2, 4), He commanded Israel to not follow after the ways of the heathen, for He had chosen, and called them out of Egypt. If the people would keep His commandments, and walk in His precepts (18:4-5), He promised He would bless them.

Leviticus 18:6-18 leaves no doubt that the ways of the heathen, were not to be the ways of Israel. While all manner of immorality, and ungodliness was practiced by the Egyptians, and the Canaanites, the LORD would accept nothing less than the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. (Realizing the sad state of morality in both the world and the church, I dare not take lightly the explicit nature of this passage.)

The Abominable Sin of Incest (18:6-18)

The phrase, “uncover their nakedness” (18:6), is a reference to the sexual act reserved for marriage, and is found throughout this passage. The LORD had no tolerance for incest, and its practice was a capital offense, and its subjects would be stoned.

The following sexual relationships were forbidden, and were deemed incestuous. Sex with one’s parent (18:7), stepmother (18:8), sister or half-sister (18:9), grand-daughter (18:10), daughter of a stepmother (18:11), an aunt, both fraternal and maternal (18:12-14), daughter-in-law (18:15), sister-in-law (18:16), sex with a mother and her daughter (18:17), or sisters, unless the first had died (18:18) were forbidden.

Child sacrifice practiced among the heathen, was an abomination to the God of Israel (18:21). The LORD declared homosexuality an abomination (18:22), and God’s judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah because of that sin (Genesis 19). Bestiality, the sin of a man or woman lying with a beast, was described as “confusion” (18:23), and therefore a perversion of God’s natural law and order.

The Wickedness of Man Demands God’s Judgment (18:24-30)

The LORD warned Israel, He would have no tolerance should His people adopt the ways of the heathen. The sin of man not only defiles himself, but also infects the land (18:24). God warned, should His people practice the immoral ways of the wicked, the land would vomit out its inhabitants (18:25-28). Any who refused to “do [His] judgments, and keep [His] ordinances” (18:4), the LORD warned those souls would be excommunicated, “cut off from among their people” (18:29).

Leviticus 19 – A Brief Review of the Commandments and the Law

Leviticus 19 repeats the LORD’s commandments, and explains the practical application of His Law and Precepts for daily life. Charity to the poor (19:9-10), paying an honest, fair wage (19:13), showing sympathy to those less fortunate (19:14), and loving one’s neighbor in word and deed are stressed (19:15-22) as the will of God.

A Concluding Thought: A Crisis of Morality

There was a time when the lives of God’s people were defined by His Word, Law, and Commandments. The lives of believers, and their homes, set the moral high ground for these United States. Sadly, too many homes have an appetite for the world, and look to society, social media, politicians, judges, and a liberal media for their moral judgments and practices.

Warning: Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until our consciences are disciplined by God’s Word, Laws and Commandments (18:30). 

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

Ceremonial Uncleanness, and The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 15-16)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 15-16

Leviticus 15 – Laws Concerning Ceremonial Uncleanness

Having addressed the dreaded scourge of leprosy in the two chapters prior to today’s Scripture reading, the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron regarding other bodily afflictions that would arise and reckon the worshipper ceremonially unclean, and unable to approach the Tabernacle to worship and offer sacrifices.

Leviticus 15:1-17 addresses men with various physical ailments that would render not only their flesh, but also their clothes and bed linens unclean (15:3-13). Strict guidelines were given to inhibit the spread of disease among the people, as well as to remind men to not lightly approach the LORD without offering sacrifices to Him (15:14-17).

Leviticus 15:18-33 details guidelines that were to be observed regarding the woman who had an issue of blood (15:19). The LORD, for the sake of the woman’s health, gave instructions that were applicable to not only her menstrual cycles (15:20-24), but also irregular issues (15:25-27) that might arise and be deemed unclean. When the woman’s time had passed, on the eighth day she was to present the required sacrifices (15:29-30) and be declared clean.

Why were these guidelines important? The obvious was for hygienic reasons; however, we find they were also a reminder to Israel that God had set them apart from the heathen nations, and called them to be a holy people.

Leviticus 15:3131Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.

Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement, and the Sacrifices Offered

Leviticus 16 is a crossroads in our study of the Book of Leviticus. The text moves us from the descriptions of the various offerings, and the guidelines concerning them, to the commencement of sacrificial offerings by Aaron, the high priest.

We are reminded that the office of the high priest was a holy office, and Aaron’s ministry on behalf of the people was a sacred duty. The LORD instructed Moses, “Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat” (16:2).

The high priest was to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies,” once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29). That day, known as the Day of Atonement, and also known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” was the most holy day on the God’s calendar. Six months after the observance of the Passover, the Day of Atonement was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for his sins, “a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering” (16:3, 6), and the sins of the nation “two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering” (16:5, 8-10, 15a).

Casting lots upon the goats, the one upon which the lot fell would be offered as a “sin offering” (16:9), while the other goat would be the “scapegoat” (16:10). The high priest would first sacrifice the young bull for his sins, taking its blood and sprinkling it upon the mercy seat (16:14). He would then sacrifice the goat that was the sin offering for the nation, and take its blood to sprinkle upon the mercy seat (16:15) as an atonement “because of their transgressions in all their sins” (16:16). The blood of the young bull, and the blood of the goat was then sprinkled upon the altar (16:18).

The live goat, identified as the scapegoat, was brought to Aaron. The Scripture says he was to lay “both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (16:21-22).

The “fat of the sin offerings” was to be burned upon the altar, while the skins, and flesh of the bullock and goat were to be taken out of the camp and burned (16:25, 27-28).

The Day of Atonement, like the Passover, were to be observed annually by Israel. The pattern of blood sacrifices was a perpetual reminder that the penalty of sin is death, and there can be no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year, and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, until Christ was sacrificed for our sins. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So 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

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