Category Archives: Ministry

Hype, Hysteria, and Hope (in the midst of uncertainty)

March 16, 2020

Dear Heart of A Shepherd readers,

I have been away from Tampa for only one week, however, the world and our nation have dramatically changed in that short span of time.

While I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, I believe there is a dark purpose behind what is happening in our nation. I think there are unseen, dark figures driving the present crisis and I wonder if this is a “dry run” for something diabolical and more malicious. Knowing the spiritual character of this generation is far different than the faith of our nation a century ago, I fear the potential of violent societal conflict.

The hype around the Coronavirus is a potential catalyst for an overreach of government that is, in my opinion, the perfect stage for a socialist agenda. The draconian measures that are being suggested and taken by federal and state governments (closing schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses; threatening curfews and outlawing gatherings of more than 50) threatens to ruin the economy and plunge our nation and world into an economic depression. Unless sanity prevails, businesses, ministries, and families will soon be forced into bankruptcy. (I do not write that sentence lightly).

No one could have foreseen the events of the past two weeks, nor can we predict the future ripple effect across our lives, families, and ministries. I have many concerns that I am sure are shared across our nation.

What impact will current events have on employers and employment?  What is the economic impact on businesses and families who survive paycheck to paycheck?  With hoarding on a scale never witnessed in my lifetime, how secure are our food supplies and staple goods?

In the immediate, I offer you counsel and encouragement:

Pray – Someone has said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Mark 11:22-24 – “22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Plan – The distance between a panic attack and confidence is a plan.

Definition of “Plan” – “Since God knows exactly what would happen in every situation, He plans for the best thing to happen. God takes counsel, puts all things under advisement, and chooses the best way.” – Practical Word Studies in The New Testament.

Purpose – Put your trust in the LORD and hope in Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Men Went Up, But Only Two Came Down (Numbers 18-20)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-20

What difference does it make?

You may be wondering if Old Testament passages that state laws and guidelines for sacrifices have any relevance for New Testament believers.  Unfortunately, there are some preachers who foolishly assert the Old Testament scriptures have no application for the Church.  They could not be further from the Truth!

Christ “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12), His death satisfying the penalty of our sins, we no longer observe the laws and guidelines for sacrifices. However, the Old Testament scriptures give us eternal principles that we find reflected in New Testament doctrine.

For example, unlike the other tribes that would be assigned an inheritance in the Promised Land, the tribe of Levi would have no inheritance of land (18:20-21).  The LORD’S will was for His ministers to be wholly dedicated to the LORD. Provision for the priests, Levites, and their families came from the tithes and sacrifices offered to the LORD by the people (Numbers 18:8-19, 23-24).

The laws directing the people to support the high priest, priests, and Levites through their sacrifices is reflected in the New Testament principle that a faithful minister of the Gospel is to honored and rewarded for his labor (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

Numbers 19 gives us ceremonial laws for cleansing should a priest come in contact with a corpse, whether beast or man. Modern science has revealed what ancient Israel may not have known…the ever-present danger of disease and contamination.

The Deaths of Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 20)

Several events are recorded in Numbers 20 that give us pause to consider the ever-present consequence of sin…Death.  Miriam, the sister of Moses dies (20:1) and near the close of the chapter Aaron, Moses’ brother dies (20:28).

Returning to a sin that has been their pattern, the people began to chide Moses and Aaron when there was no water (20:2-5). The LORD mercifully commanded Moses to take up his rod, speak before all the people, and water would come forth from the rock (20:7-8).

Frustrated and angry, Moses disobeyed the LORD and spoke harshly to the people. Striking the rock with his rod, water came gushing forth, supplying water for the people and their beasts (20:9-11).

Moses’ actions met the desires and needs of the people; however, the consequence of his sin was tragic for himself and his brother Aaron. We read, Numbers 20:12 – 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Our devotional ends with a dramatic ceremony that took place at Mount Hor. Remembering Aaron would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land (20:23-24), Moses was told to strip his brother of his priestly robes and place them on his son and heir, Eleazar (20:25-26).

Moses, Aaron, and his son Eleazar ascended Mount Hor; however, only Moses and Eleazar “came down from the mount (20:28).

Numbers 20:29 – 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

“Standing Between the Living and the Dead” (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Korah and his followers, convinced they were equals to Moses, challenged his spiritual authority in their lives. 

Moses warned the young men, “Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi…seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:7, 10).

Undaunted by the question, Moses invited Korah and his company of rebels to take up fire in censers and on the next day approach the LORD to see whom He would choose (16:5-7, 16-18).

Indulging the young men, we read, “Korah gathered all the congregation against” Moses and Aaron (16:19a). Why? How did the people come to turn against Moses and follow their youth?

I suggest proud parents and grandparents saw in their young men the beauty and strength of youth. They foolishly listened as those young men dared to accuse Moses of failing the nation (16:13-14). The next day, those young men and their families stood outside the doors of their dwellings, and the “glory of the LORD appeared” (16:19, 27).

The LORD stated His intention to bring judgment upon the whole congregation; however, Moses, standing with the elders of the tribes against the young men, interceded with the LORD to not “be wroth with all the congregation” (16:22).

Seeing the LORD’s glory, the people withdrew from the rebels (16:25-27), and Moses declared a test:

Should the young men die a common, natural death (perhaps in their old age), then the people would know, “the LORD hath not sent me [Moses]” (16:29).  However, should the earth open up and swallow the rebels, the people would know they had provoked the LORD to wrath (16:30).

Displaying the His wrath and affirming the leadership of Moses and Aaron, we read, “the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their [families]” (16:31-33). As the congregation fled God’s judgment, the LORD sent a fire and “consumed the two hundred and fifty men” who had followed Korah (16:35).

Incredibly, the next day the people, grieving the deaths of their young men, gathered against Moses and Aaron, and accused them of being the cause for their deaths (16:41-42).

Once again, “the glory of the LORD appeared,” and He sent a plague in the congregation that consumed them until Moses interceded and Aaron ran through the midst of the congregation with a censer of burning incense seeking to placate the wrath of God (16:44-49).

In Numbers 17, the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other, in a simple, but visible sign.  The LORD commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2). Aaron’s name was inscribed on the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the thirteen rods that represented the twelve tribes and the tribe of Levi, only the rod of Aaron miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone was chosen to lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD will swiftly judge critics of His ministers.  I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.

The same might be said of some in the church who are all too ready to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.  If your minister is called by the LORD, examined, confirmed by an ordaining assembly, and chosen by a body of believers whom he faithfully serves…his office and role is to be respected.

Pastors are far from perfect, and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.

As purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pastors stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

His Promises Never Fail (Numbers 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 11-13

Three days into their journey from Mt. Sinai, an old pattern of sin returns and the people began to complain (Numbers 11:1). 

We read, the LORD’s “anger was kindled” (11:1) and His wrath was poured out as fire from heaven that began on the outskirts of the encampment. Why the “uttermost parts of the camp” (11:1), meaning the outlying areas, and not the center of the encampment?  I suppose that is where one will find the grumblers—on the fringe and far from the LORD.

The source of the spirit of discontentment is identified as “the mixt multitude” (11:4).

Who were they? They were non-Hebrew, most likely poor Egyptians.  No doubt hoping greater opportunities might be found by casting their lot in with the children of Israel, they had accompanied the people out of Egypt. The sinful, carnal spirit of the “mixt multitude” infected the children of Israel who wept asking, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

Complainers and grumblers are a cancer among God’s people.

Soon the Hebrews began to “remember the fish…cucumbers, and the melons” they did eat in Egypt (11:5).  They became dissatisfied with God’s provisions (11:4-5) and their lusts romanticized memories of Egypt (11:5).

Moses lamented the complaints of the people (11:10) and was overwhelmed.  Rather than seeing the grumbling of the people as an offense to God, Moses accused the LORD of afflicting him saying, “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant” (11:11a).

In his despair, Moses’ questioned the LORD:

Why me? What have I done? Am I the mother of Israel? Do you expect me to carry Israel to the Promise Land like a nurse carries an infant? How am I supposed to make these people happy?”

Moses’ final insult is summed up in this statement: “And if thou dealt thus with me, kill me.” (11:15c)

Stirred to anger, God gave the people the meat they demanded (11:31-32) and they gorged themselves, and became sick (11:33).

What was the root of the people’s complaints?  The core spiritual issue was the people had a rebellious heart toward God and “despised the LORD” (11:20).

A grievous, personal accusation was brought against Moses in Numbers 12.

Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, challenged his leadership and authority as the LORD’s spokesman (12:2). The initial charge was personal and against the wife of Moses (12:1); however, the narrative reveals that criticism was not the real issue. Their dispute with Moses arose from envy and jealousy.

I invite you to consider two observations on this matter of criticisms.

The first, when people are unable to find fault or attack your position, they often criticize a deeply personal area of your life.  For Moses it was the race or nationality of his wife.

The second, personal attacks are often a smoke screen concealing deeper issues in your critic’s life. While we should examine ourselves to see if criticisms are valid; we should also remember that initial criticisms are seldom the real issue (Numbers 12:1).

Numbers 13 brings us to the threshold of Canaan, the Promise Land.

The fate of a nation rests in the hands of twelve leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Chosen by Moses, they were charged with the responsibility of spying out the land (13:4-15) the LORD promised Abraham would be an inheritance for Israel (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-17).

Moses and the nation waited forty days to receive a report of the land. Upon returning, the twelve confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:23-27). The spies’ report, however, did not conclude on a good note when ten of the twelve reported:

“Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28) along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites” (13:29).

Caleb, one of the twelve spies, attempting to quiet the hearts of the people said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).  Ten of the spies, however, urged, “we be not able to go up” (13:31).

What made the difference in the reports?

The report given by Caleb and Joshua was different in two aspects: Focus and Faith.

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Their focus was not on the size of the obstacles and their faith rested in the promises of the LORD (13:27, 30).

Lesson – The LORD never fails to keep His promises.

Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Never Alone! (Numbers 8-10)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 8-10

The early chapters of the Book of Numbers have been spent organizing hundreds of thousands of men and women who had known only slavery for four hundred years.  Moses was tasked by the LORD with the responsibility of giving the Law and bringing discipline to a body of people that would become Israel.

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the sanctuary of the Tabernacle known as the “holy of holies”.  The inner-sanctum was veiled from all but the high priest.  Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand (menorah) bearing seven lamps burning pure olive oil.  Aaron, the high priest, was responsible for lighting the lamps that illuminated the holy place (8:3).

While Aaron and his sons served God as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist them and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).

Rather than the eldest son of each tribal family being dedicated to serve as priest, the sons of the tribe of Levi were chosen (8:14-18). The leaders of the twelve tribes, placing their hands on the Levites, identified with them as serving on their behalf (8:9-11).

Given the charge to serve as the spiritual representatives of the people, the Levites laid their hands on the heads of bullocks to be sacrificed for their sins (8:12) and took upon themselves the role to serve the LORD as His priests (8:13-26).

The Passover was established in Numbers 9 as a perpetual memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).

Assuring the nation He would never abandon them, the tribes of Israel were comforted by a constant reminder of the Lord’s presence: a cloud overshadowing the Tabernacle by day and a fire present at night (9:15-16).  Recognizing the LORD orders the “starts and stops” of His people, theyfollowed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:17-23).

The Journey from Sinai Begins (Numbers 10)

One full year passed at Mount Sinai when silver trumpets sounded the news for exiting the wilderness of Sinai (10:5-6).  The tribes followed the cloud (10:34) as the LORD guided His people into the wilderness of Paran (10:11-13). They were trusting Him to be present among the people (10:35).

Friend, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that, though the LORD no longer leads His people with a cloud by day or a fire by night, He does lead, direct, and guide His people by His Word (Psalm 119:105), the wooing of His Spirit, and wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6).

Understanding the LORD was Israel’s guide during her journey through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, we are comforted in this promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trial; test] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. many others have faced the same]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [permit; allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [i.e. pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Whatever test or trial you may face, be assured, God is faithful and you are never alone!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Restitution, Adultery, Sacred Vows, and Blessings (Numbers 5-6)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 5-6

While the Commandments of the LORD are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the specifics for addressing disease and sin in the midst of the people is given in Numbers 5.  The LORD required His people to be a clean and holy people. Contagious diseases like leprosy were not tolerated in the camp (Numbers 5:1-4).

Saying, “I’m sorry” was not enough. (Numbers 5:5-10)

Justice was demanded when one’s actions caused another to suffer loss (5:5-6).  The need to “own” the hardships and consequences of one’s sin is illustrated.

Three steps of “making right one’s wrong” are stated.  The first, “confess their sin which they have done” (5:7a). The second, restitution, making the one who suffered loss whole (“recompense his trespass with the principal” – 5:7b). Finally, giving one-fifth more above the loss (5:7c).

Adultery and “the Law of Jealousies” (Numbers 5:11-31)

Knowing marriage is a holy covenant instituted by God between one man and one woman, the nation was intolerant of adultery and an adulterous man and woman might be put to death (Leviticus 20:10).

In Numbers 5, a man suspects his wife of adultery; however, there was no witness to her sin (5:12). Presenting his wife before the priest, the husband would state his suspicions (5:14-15). Because adultery is not only a sin against one’s spouse, but also a sin against the LORD, the priest set the wife accused of adultery “before the LORD” (5:16).

The priest was to take a clay vessel of water, put dust from the tabernacle floor in the water, and demand the accused drink the “bitter water” (5:17-20).  Stating an oath, the priest asked the wife to drink the water, charging her should she be guilty of adultery, the Lord would cause female organs “to rot, and thy belly to swell” (5:21, 27).

Should an accused wife be innocent, she was assured of the Lord’s blessings and her fertility to bear children (5:28).

The Law of the Nazarite (Numbers 6)

Vows to the LORD are sacred; however, the vow of the Nazarite was especially sacred and binding for the man or woman who voluntarily set themselves apart from lawful liberties and dedicated themselves to the LORD for as little as 30 days and as much as a lifetime (6:1-8).

Nazarites denied themselves the pleasures of “wine and strong drink…vinegar…[and] grapes” (6:3).   As an outward sign of devotion to God, a Nazarite male did not cut his hair (6:5).  Nazarites were also forbidden to touch dead bodies (6:6-8).

The Aaronic (Priestly) Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26)

We close today’s devotional with a three-step blessing known as the Aaronic Blessing.  This is my prayer for my family, church, and my “Heart of a Shepherd” family.

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee [guard, protect, and preserve]: 25  The LORD make his face [countenance] shine [be a light] upon thee, and be gracious [favor; i.e. merciful] unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance [face] upon thee, and give thee peace [safe; well; whole].”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Holy”, Dedicated to the LORD (Numbers 3-4)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 3-4

We have noticed that the thirteenth tribe, the tribe of Levi, was not numbered (1:47-54) in the census that was recorded in Leviticus 1-2.

Numbers 3 gives us the generations of Moses and Aaron who were of the priestly tribe Levi.  The census of the Levites is recorded as well as their duties regarding the tabernacle, and caring for the vessels used in sacrifices and worship (3:1-51).

The tribe of Levi was set apart by God to serve Him in lieu of the first born from every tribe and family being dedicated for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  Notice the exact accounting to the LORD regarding the number of Levite males (22,000) and the number of the firstborn males among the twelve tribes (22,273). The difference of 273 might not seem like a big deal to some who discount giving the LORD His tithes and offerings; however, the additional 273 males among the twelve tribes had to be redeemed that the LORD might have His portion (3:40-51).

We will notice later in our study of Numbers that the Levites had no direct portion of land set aside for them in the Promise Land since their needs were ever to be met through the tithes and offerings of the twelve tribes.

Numbers 4 continues with a description of the ministry of the Levites, their age of service (“thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old” – 4:3) and responsibilities when breaking down the tabernacle for moving (4:4-15).

The tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the golden altar, the candlestick, the vessels used in sacrifices and worship were all to be treated as “holy”, sanctified and dedicated to the LORD.  A great reminder that God has called His people and Church to be the same: Be Holy!

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith