Category Archives: Leadership

The LORD Demands Our Best (Numbers 3)

Scripture reading– Numbers 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

New Sermon Series: Persevering in Tribulations (2 Timothy)

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

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

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

Scripture reading – Numbers 1-2

An Introduction to the Book of Numbers

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

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

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

A Background of the Twelve Tribes of Israel

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

Numbers 1 – The First Census

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 10-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 10:16-20 – A Sin of Omission

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

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

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

A Lesson Concerning “Strange Fire”

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Aaronic Priesthood: Consecration and Dedication (Leviticus 9)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Calling of the Pastor\Shepherd (Leviticus 7-8)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 7-8

Leviticus 7 introduces us to the “trespass offering,” a sacrifice that was identified with an individual’s sin. 

In his Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) on the Pentateuch, pastor and author Warren Wiersbe writes concerning the trespass offering:

“The sin [burnt] offering and the guilt [trespass] offering were very much alike and were even governed by the same law (7:1-10). Generally speaking, the guilt offering was for individual sins that affected people and property and for which restitution could be made, while the sin [burnt] offering focused on some violation of the law that was done without deliberate intent. The trespass offering emphasized the damage done to others by the offender, while the sin offering emphasized the offender’s guilt before God. The priest would examine the offender and determine which sacrifice was needed.”

The peace offering, an offering for the purpose of acknowledging God’s grace and giving Him thanks, is described in Leviticus 7:11-21.  The sacrifice of oxen is prescribed, and accompanied by offerings of “unleavened cakes…unleavened wafers…and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fired” (7:12).  The portions of the peace offering not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their consumption.

The “fat of the beast,” and “blood” portions of the offerings were not to be eaten (7:22-27). The specific portions of the “fat of the beast” that were forbidden was described in Leviticus 3:3-4, 9.  The blood of sacrifices was not to be consumed, because it was the means of atonement (17:11). The penalty for consuming the “fat of the beast,” or the “blood” was to “be cut off from” the congregation (7:25, 27).

Leviticus 8 – The Priesthood

Leviticus 8 established the Levitical priesthood, and consecrated Aaron and his sons to serve as priests before the LORD on behalf of the nation (8:1-5).  Each step of the ordination was detailed, beginning with a ceremonial washing of Aaron and his sons with water (8:6).

Aaron, as the high priest, was distinguished by his clothes (8:7-9). Exodus 28, and Exodus 39, already gave us a detailed description of the garments of the high priest, including his breastplate (8:8), upon which was mounted twelve precious stones, referred to as “the breastplate of judgment” (Exodus 28:30), and upon which were engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

As an act of dedication and consecration to the LORD, anointing oil was sprinkled upon the Tabernacle, its implements, the altar, and the laver (where the priests washed their hands and feet). As the high priest, anointing oil was poured out upon Aaron’s head, serving as an outward testimony of his sanctification (8:10-12).

Remembering that the high priest, and his sons who served as priests, were sinners, Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon a “bullock (or Ox) for the sin offering,” and thus identified with the young bull’s death as an offering for their sins (8:14-17).  A ram was then brought as a “burnt offering,” and its blood was applied to Aaron and his sons, “upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet” (8:23-24).

For seven days, Aaron and his sons remained at the tabernacle as Moses offered sacrifices, and consecrated them to the LORD as priests (8:31-36). On the eighth day, Aaron and his sons began to minister before the LORD, and offered sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

I close today’s devotional, reminded of the great duty borne by those who minister for the LORD to God’s people.  While the offering of sacrifices is no longer required, Jesus Christ being our substitutionary sacrifice and high priest (Hebrews 7:25-28); God has nevertheless called, and ordained men who are set apart to spiritually shepherd His people. The work of the pastor as the shepherd of the church is described in 1 Peter 5:2-4.

1 Peter 5:2-4 – Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Such is the great calling of the pastor. He is to be a teacher, shepherd, and spiritual leader, in word and example.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith