Category Archives: Ministry

A Sacred Trust: Standing Between the Dead and the Living (Numbers 16)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 15-16, Psalm 49, and Luke 5. Our devotional is from Numbers 16 .

The drama in Numbers 16 serves as a warning to any who sow discord and usurp the spiritual leadership of a congregation.

We are not told the reason for the rebellion, but given the assertions made against Moses and Aaron, we can venture pride leading to discontentment was the root issue.  Three men are named as leaders of the rebellion with the ringleader one named Korah, a Levite, but not a priest (Numbers 16:1). Incredibly, these three men were able to engage two hundred and fifty others, “princes…men of renown”, to join their band (16:2).

While the criticism of the rebels appeared sincere in motive and spiritual in nature, (“Ye take too much upon you”), their object was not for “they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3).  Notice how the rebel’s veiled criticism of Moses and Aaron grew to open derision (16:3).  The object of the rebels was not to relieve Moses and Aaron; instead, they aspired to the dignity and duties of the priesthood (Numbers 16:10).

When Moses heard the criticism of the rebels and saw the crowd gathered against him, “he fell upon his face” (16:4); a visible sign of humility.  Rather than a hasty diatribe against his critics, Moses deferred to seek the LORD saying, “Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy” (16:5).

On the next day, Moses called an assembly of the rebels and warned, “ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi” (16:7).  Two of the rebels refused to come before Moses (16:12) and sent an accusation that he had failed the nation in not leading them into “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (16:14).  The charge against Moses was a lie and stoked his anger (16:15) for it was the people, not Moses, who rebelled and turned away from the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance.

The LORD’s judgment against the rebels fell swiftly when “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed [the rebels] and their houses…[who] went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation” (16:31-33).  As the congregation fled from the LORD’s judgment, “there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (16:35). Unfortunately, the LORD’s judgment against the rebels did not quench their influence and on the next day another 14,700 were slain (16:41-50).

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 must always swiftly judge the 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 eager to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.

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.  After all, as purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Be Careful: “Evil Communications Corrupt Good Manners” (Numbers 11-12; 1 Corinthians 15:33)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 11-12, Psalm 47, and Luke 3. Our devotional is from Numbers 11-12.

Three days into their journey from Mt. Sinai, an old pattern of sin returned and the people of Israel began to complain (Numbers 11:1).  The LORD’s “anger was kindled” (11:1) and His wrath poured out as fire from heaven beginning with 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 always find the grumblers—on the fringe, far from the LORD and neglecting His service.

There arose a spirit of discontentment, a covetous spirit and its source was “the mixt multitude” (11:4).  Who were they? They were non-Hebrew, most likely poor Egyptians who departed with Israel hoping greater opportunities might be found by casting their lot in with the children of Israel. The sinful attitudes 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 and 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 provision (11:4-5) and their lusts romanticized their unrealistic memories of Egypt (11:5).

Lamenting the complaints of the people (11:10), Moses felt overwhelmed.  Rather than seeing the complaints 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 (11:11-15).

God was angry and gave the people the meat they demanded (11:31-32) and the people gorged themselves until they became sick (11:33).  The root issue of the people’s complaints was not that they were hungry.  The core issue was they had rebellious hearts and “despised the LORD” (11:20).

The sorrow Moses suffered in Numbers 11 was great; however, Numbers 12 brought a more grievous wound when his sister and brother, Miriam and Aaron, challenged his leadership and authority as God’s spokesman (12:2).  Notice the initial complaint was against the wife of Moses (12:1); however, the narrative reveals that criticism was not the real issue.  The heart issue was the envy and jealousy they held against Moses and his leadership before the LORD and the people. 

Moses’ response to criticism is instructive.  We read, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (11:3).

It is probable Moses was aware of Miriam and Aaron’s contentious spirit and, being “very meek”, would have overlooked their transgressions; however, the LORD determined to confront and punish them while commending Moses’ unique relationship with the LORD (12:6-8).

I close with two observations based on my life experiences.

1) I have found when adversaries are unable to 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.

2) Criticisms are often a smoke screen concealing deeper issues.  While complaints should drive us to search out our hearts for faults, we should remember initial criticisms are seldom the real issue. (Numbers 12:1)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Never Alone! (Numbers 9-10)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 9-10, Psalm 46, and Luke 2. Our devotional is from Numbers 9-10.

The first chapters in Numbers are a record of Moses leading the tribes of Israel out of Egypt, instructing and organizing them into a nation dedicated to the God of heaven.

Numbers 1-4 chronicles a census of the tribes of Israel. Numbers 5-6 state the specifics for addressing disease and sin among the people.  Because worship and sacrifices were central to Israel’s life as a nation, the Tabernacle of the LORD was located in the heart of the encampment (Numbers 7).

Numbers 9 establishes the Passover as an observance of the nation, serving as a perpetual memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).  

Assuring His people, He would never abandon them, the tribes of Israel were comforted by a reminder of the Lord’s presence in their midst; a cloud overshadowed the Tabernacle in the day and a fire was present at night (9:15-16).  Making it clear the LORD alone dictates the “starts and stops” of His people, the people followed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:17-23).

Friend, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that, though the LORD no longer leads His people with a cloud or fire, He does lead, direct and guide His people by His Word and the wooing of His Spirit.

Paul challenged New Testament believers that we should derive spiritual lessons from our study of His dealings with Israel.  Paul writes, “Now all these things happened unto them [Israel in the wilderness] for ensamples [a pattern]: and they are written for our admonition [warning]…”

Understanding the LORD was Israel’s guide during her journey through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, we find comfort 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].”

What a blessed promise!  While the cloud by day and fire by night served Israel as a reminder of God’s presence, He has given us His Word and promise that He will tenderly care, protect, strengthen and be with us.

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Calling and Dedication of Ministers (Numbers 7-8)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional is Numbers 7-8.

The early chapters of Numbers are a record of God, through the faithful leadership of His servant Moses, transforming a people who had known slavery for 400 years and disciplining and organizing them into a body that will become a nation.

Numbers 7 records the dedication of the Tabernacle, the altar, instruments and vessels employed in sacrifices, and the sacrifices brought by the tribal leaders (Numbers 7:1-89).

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the inter-sanctum of the Tabernacle that was veiled from all but the high priest and known as the “holy of holies”. Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand with seven candles.

While Aaron and his sons were dedicated to serve as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist the priests and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).  The leaders of the tribes put their hands on the Levites identifying them as the substitute who would serve the LORD on their behalf (8:9-18).

Consider the spiritual lessons we might take from today’s scripture reading.

1) The LORD requires those who minister before His people to be a holy, consecrated people.  Although none are perfect or sinless, the church should hold its ministers, pastors and teachers to the highest standard knowing God would not require less (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

2) Whether a Nazarite or a Levite, the privilege of serving the LORD required consecration and sacrifice.  God requires no less of those who serve Him today.

Romans 12:1-2 – “I 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. 2  And 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.”

I close today’s devotional with a prayer for the LORD to bless you, a prayer know as the Aaronic Blessing:

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalm 41)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 41, and Mark 13. Our devotional is from Psalm 41.

Psalm 41 challenges believers to consider their relationship with others and how they respond to them who disappoint and betray.

King David was at a low point in his life, physically and emotionally, when he composed this psalm. Rehearsing the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1), David remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2).  David writes,

Psalm 41:1-4 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]. 2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].  4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David tossed and turned upon his bed; as sorrow and disappointment washed over his soul.  He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD (41:3).  Searching his soul, David confessed his sin and believed God would show Him favor and restore him (41:4).

Psalm 41:5-6 – “Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.”

Every saint who strives to serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face the bitter distress of betrayal.   When you feel the sorrow of duplicity, remember the LORD felt the caress of Judas’ kiss upon His own cheek.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt.8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

It is a terrible way when embittered souls wait the day they can take satisfaction in the fall of a pastor or a fellow believer (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the betrayal that befell David.

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor (2 Samuel 16:23).

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life and remember betrayal and sorrow is the affliction of saints who walk with integrity and minister to others with abandon.

Be watchful you do not become embittered when you suffer injustices and betrayals; after all, the LORD suffered the same and He will never abandon you (Psalm 41:10-13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hey Millennial Pastors: God has not called you to be “real”; He has called you to be “holy”! (Leviticus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 21-22. Our devotional is from Leviticus 22.

Leviticus 21 reminds us God’s calling to ministry is a sacred calling.  Whatever laws God commanded His people, the priests ordained to minister sacrifices and offerings were to strictly observe in their homes, marriages, and families (21:5-15).  Indicating God’s demands for his ministers to be holy and unblemished, no sons of the Aaronic priesthood could serve as priests if there was a physical blemish (21:16-24).

The opening verses of Leviticus 22 remind 21st century ministers and believers that God sets forth the highest ideals for those who minister before Him on behalf of His people.  I understand the context of Leviticus 22 is in its immediate application guidelines for the priesthood; however, we find enduring principles for those who serve the LORD.

The first, priests were to treat as sacred the sacrifices brought to them by the people (22:2).   The work of continually offering sacrifices might have easily become routine for priests and, rather than treat their duties as a sacred responsibility, a sense of doldrums and lethargy might set in that would treat the offerings as less than holy.

There is also a danger of failing to take account of one’s spiritual standing before the LORD (22:3).  Samuel’s rebuke of king Saul’s pretentiousness in offering sacrifices echoes this same principle when we read, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The people bringing sacrifices might not have known the priest ministering before them was merely going through the motions; however, the LORD knows the hearts of those who serve Him and requires holiness.

A third example of treating the priesthood with less than the holiness God demanded was a laxness in who might share the portions set aside for the priest and his immediate family (22:10-16).  In other words, the heart of a priestly father might be to give a portion of meat to family members and guests who did not qualify to partake of the portions God set aside for priests and their families.

Finally, sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-32).  Like those who offer the LORD less than a tithe, there was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured.  God’s standard was “there shall be no blemish therein”(22:21).

Pastors who fail to live above reproach and take the high road when it comes to so-called “gray areas” in life are a leprosy in the 21st century church.  Projecting an ideology of being “real” and approachable, our pulpits are sacrificing holiness, embracing carnality, and our church members are following the same (1 John 2:15-17).

I close reminding pastors and believers, God’s call for holiness is for us all.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – 15  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 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Really #1? (Mark 9)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 11-12, Psalm 37, and Mark 9. Our devotional is from Mark 9.

Mark 9:1-13 records the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ; an event when Jesus permits His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, to witness the unveiled brilliance of His heavenly glory.  Luke writes the disciples fell asleep after ascending the mountain with Jesus (Luke 9:32), but were suddenly awakened and witnessed Jesus, “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller [launderer] on earth can white them (Mark 9:3).

Two heavenly visitors, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:4), visited Jesus and Peter suggested the event be memorialized with three “tabernacles” (temporal earthly structures) dedicated to Jesus, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:5).  Peter was, in effect, giving no more honor to Jesus than he was His heavenly visitors. From a cloud that overshadowed the scene, the disciples heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him” (Mark 9:7).

Descending the mount, Jesus commanded the three to “tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).  Arriving at the base of the mount, Jesus was immersed in a great crowd gathered to witness the disciples’ failed attempt to cast a demon out of a man’s son (Mark 9:14-18).

Imparting a lesson on the power of faith and prayer, Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).  Embarrassed by their failure, the disciples questioned Jesus privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” (Mark 9:28).  Jesus’ answered, “…This kind [i.e. of spirit] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Passing through Galilee, Jesus prophesied His arrest, death, and resurrection a second time in the chapter (Mark 9:31); however, the disciples “understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32).

A spiritual lesson on servant leadership (Mark 9:33-35) emerges as we learn along the way the disciples “disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest”(Mark 9:34).

The words “servant” and “humility” are foreign to our American ideas of success.  Striving for #1, climbing the “ladder of success”, counting the number of people who serve your beckoning call has become the essence of success. Such is not the case in our LORD’s definition of success Who taught His disciples, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Two lessons we take from that principle

The first, self-centered ambition blinds one to spiritual truth.  Jesus spoke plainly of His death, but the disciples’ ambition for thrones in Christ’s kingdom blinded them (Matthew 20:21, 24).  So it is, a heart with the wrong focus is blind to spiritual truths and struggles with fear and anxieties (Mark 9:32; 1 John 4:18).

A second lesson: Greatness in God’s kingdom is defined, not by how many serve you, but by how many you serve (Mark 9:35).  

Someone has observed, “the mark of spiritual maturity is when a believer takes off a bib and dons a servant’s apron.”

Friend, who and how many are you serving?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith