Category Archives: Money

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

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

Old Testament Sacrifices, and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 2-3)

Old Testament Sacrifices, and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 2-3)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 2-3

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s Scripture reading, Leviticus 2-3. The first sacrificial offering described in Leviticus was the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). It consisted of an animal that was sacrificed for sin, “a male without blemish,” and either a bull (1:5), sheep or goat (1:10), or a fowl, either a turtledove or young pigeon” (1:14).

Leviticus 2 – The Law of the Meat Offering

Leviticus 2 introduces the second sacrifice, the “meat offering,” but a better translation would be “meal” or grain offering. “The “meat offering” was a non-blood sacrifice, and consisted of raw grain (“fine flour”), oil, and frankincense (2:1). Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present), it was a voluntary offering of which the priests would take a portion for their families, and the rest was offered as a burnt offering (2:2-3).

There was also a “meat offering” that consisted of bread baked in an oven (2:4), cooked in a pan (2:5-6), or made in a frying pan (2:7). A portion of those offerings were also to be used by the priests for their households (2:8-10).

The meat or meal offerings were never to be offered with leaven (which is a symbol of sin in the Scriptures), or honey, perhaps because flour baked with honey will spoil and sour (2:11).

There was also the “oblation of the firstfruits” (2:12), which was a voluntary offering of faith. Sacrificed to the LORD, the first-fruits of the harvest was a testimony of faith in His continued provision (2:12-16).

Leviticus 3 – The Law of the Peace Offering

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering.  Unlike the “burnt offerings,” the “peace offerings” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish,” applied and the priests would have inspected the offerings to insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).

There was the offering of the herd, either a bull or heifer, or the offering of the flock, a lamb (3:6-7), or a goat (3:12). As with the “burnt offering,” the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2, 8, 13).  The priests would then sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, and burn it on the altar (3:5, 11, 16).

In conclusion, consider the LORD’S standard for sacrifices: “without blemish” (3:1, 6).

Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality.  I am sure the temptation for some was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.  The apostle Paul had the same “without blemish” standard in mind when he wrote:

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.”

The LORD required the best in sacrifices, and He requires no less of believers today.  Our lives are to be “holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). Holy, sanctified, set apart and dedicated to the LORD.  Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God.

Anything less is unacceptable!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Accounts for the Gifts, the Givers and the Builders (Exodus 37-38)

Scripture reading – Exodus 37-38

To Israel, the visible presence of the Tabernacle became a constant reminder of God’s presence in the midst of His people. Because it was His sanctuary, the LORD named not only the principal builder, Bezaleel (37:1), but also gave precise details for its design and furnishings. There was no room left for uncertainty.

Exodus 37 – The design of the Tabernacle, and its furnishings

The construction and dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant are chronicled (37:1-4), and it served as the figure of God’s heavenly throne in the midst of His people (Psalm 80:1; 99:1). The Ark was designed to be portable, and was transported by means of staves (wooden rods overlaid with gold), and was carried by priests during Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the Ark, including the “mercy seat,” upon which two cherubim faced one another with outstretched wings (37:7-9). The gold reminds us of the purity, and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

Other furnishings crafted and employed in the tabernacle are itemized (37:10-28), including a table, dishes, bowls, spoons, an elaborate candlestick, and an “altar of incense” (37:25-29), all overlaid with pure gold.

“Holy anointing oil” (37:29a) was made, and was used to anoint the tabernacle, all of its furnishings, and the priests when they were sanctified to serve the LORD before the people. Incense was made, and was dedicated and used in the Tabernacle (37:29b).

Exodus 38 – Preparation for the Tabernacle Courtyard

Though not named, the personal pronoun “he,” is a reference to Bezaleel who was  the LORD’s chosen builder (Exodus 31:1-5, 35:30-33; 37:1; 38:1).

Bezaleel “made the altar of burnt offering” (38:1), the “laver of brass” (38:8, a large bowl or fount used by priests for washing their hands and feet), and had the oversight of assembling the curtains that enclosed the exterior court around the Tabernacle and the brass altar (38:9-20).

Reminding us that nothing was left to chance, we are given an accounting of the gold, silver, and brass that was used in the preparation of the sanctuary and its furnishings (38:21-31).

Exodus 38:21-31 might appear as unimportant details to some; however, it reminds me that our tithes and offerings are accounted for by God, and should not be taken lightly. We also find the names of the men who used their talents and skills for the LORD; “Bezaleel the son of Uri” a carpenter (38:22) and Aholiab, son of Ahisamach” an “engraver…and an embroiderer” (38:23).

The tally of the gold, silver, and brass revealed the enormous sacrifice of the people, as they gave for the construction, and furnishings of the Tabernacle, the Sanctuary of the LORD on earth.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1-4)

Scripture reading – Philippians 1-4

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” concludes with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians, and was written to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). Though written in particular to believers in Philippi, the epistle has been providentially preserved for the saints of all ages.

Introduction to the City of Philippi

The city of Philippi, located in eastern Macedonia, was on a major traderoute between Asia and Europe and was the gateway between two continents. The city had a large population, was a center for Greek culture, and had become a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day.

Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament. It was in Philippi where we first met the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer in Christ, the Messiah (Acts 16:14-15). Paul and Silas had also been jailed in Philippi, following an uprising led by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed. When God had sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison, Paul bid the jailer to not take his own life; and he and his family became believers and were baptized (Acts 16:30-34).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

Scholars believe the letter was sent by Paul to Philippi sometime between 60 and 65 A.D. The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and humanly speaking appeared to be on the shelf of ministry service. Unable to travel, his future uncertain, and the reality of martyrdom being a very real fate, it would have been an easy step for Paul to despair of life.

Though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord and his heart effused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle conveying gloom and despair, Paul penned a letter expressing love and joy! He was buoyed by a mutual love and affection that he shared with the believers at Philippi. His care and expressions of love fill the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9). Even in the midst of his own bondage, Paul writes, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Following the example of the apostle’s self-sacrificing love and ministry, the believers at Philippi had evidenced their love and affection for Paul in very tangible ways. They were, as many have observed:

Models of JOY: Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last.

Appreciating the abundance of God’s grace bestowed on them through Paul preaching the Gospel, the Philippians gave sacrificially, even out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). They became models of self-sacrificing giving, disregarding their own needs, they gave cheerfully “by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). When Paul was in need, they sent a generous offering to support his ministry (Philippians 4:14-16), even sending Epaphroditus, one of their own to minister to Paul in Rome (2:25-30).

I have merely touched upon the mutual love Paul and the saints at Philippi had for one another. Suffice it to say, their affectionate bond should encourage 21st century believers and their ministers to cultivate the same loving relationship between those who minister, and those who are served.

Philippians 4:1 – Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Does Your Pastor Deserve a Raise? (1 Corinthians 9-11)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 9-11

Today’s Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 9-11) opens with Paul’s defense of not only his apostleship, but also his calling and qualifications as an apostle. Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 9:1– Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

Paul had opened the letter to Corinth, introducing himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (1:1), and now returns to the same, asserting his authority as one having seen Jesus Christ after His resurrection and ascension to heaven (Acts 1:21-22). Whether his enemies might question his apostleship (and there were some who did), it did not matter to Paul, for he looked upon the believers in Corinth as the “seal of [his] apostleship…in the Lord.” (9:2).

Having established his authority as an apostle, Paul then addressed the material obligation of the churches to support all who are pastors (9:3-14).  Paul reasoned that God’s servants have the “power to eat and to drink” (9:4), and to support their families (“to lead about a sister, a wife” (9:5), meaning a spouse).

Continuing his argument that God’s servants should receive compensation for their labor, Paul reasoned that soldiers are compensated when they go to war, farmers eat the fruit of their labor, and shepherds profit from shepherding (9:7). Not only is it rational from a human perspective, but it is also commanded in the Law that servants of God must receive a fair compensation for their labor (9:8-9; Deuteronomy 25:4).

1 Corinthians 9:9 – “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?”

What is the application of 1 Corinthians 9:9?  If God is concerned for the fair treatment of oxen, there can be no doubt He is particularly concerned about the welfare of His servants (9:10).  Taking that truth to its conclusion, Paul admonished believers they are debtors to those who minister to them spiritually, and are under material obligation to meet their physical needs (9:11).

1 Corinthians 9:12 indicates the believers in Corinth had given to meet the needs of others who ministered in the church; however, Paul had not asked the same of the church.  In case some were tempted to continue the same practice towards other ministers, Paul reminded them that priests who ministered in the Temple received a portion of the sacrifices as compensation for their families (9:13; Leviticus 6:14-7:36; 27:6-33).

Principle – In both the Old Testament and New Testament, God has ordained that His servants be supported, and fairly compensated for their labor (9:14). 

Sadly, many church members give little thought to the personal sacrifices, and needs of their ministers.  If you believe “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), you should see to it that your pastor is fairly compensated and financially secure.

Paul would later take that principle a step further and write, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).

How about it, does your pastor deserve a raise?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer (Matthew 26; Mark 14)

Scripture reading assignment: Matthew 26; Mark 14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a captivating reading of historical events that took place in the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry. We have considered the LORD’s teachings on “Eschatology,” the Biblical doctrine of “Last Things,” including His revelation of universal occurrences that will precede His Second Coming (Mark 13).

The record in Mark 14 begins with supper at the home of Simon, the leper (Mark 14:3-9), followed by the Passover meal (Mark 14:16-28), prior to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-65), and Peter’s threefold denial of Christ (Mark 14:66-72). Understanding a commentary of those historical events in the confines of a devotional is impossible, I will limit today’s devotional to an examination of the betrayer Judas, and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD and His disciples having dinner at the home of Simon the leper (14:3). Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of the feast was probably a celebration of our Lord healing Simon, and a festive occasion for Lazarus being raised from the dead. The central focus of the feast became a sacrificial gift that was offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary had entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating, and breaking the neck of an alabaster jar (a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard), she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head and feet (14:3b; John 12:3).  John identified “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led a chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions. Judas had suggested the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty, and in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes,  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality, he was a thief, a traitor, and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion. Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, we read that the disciples “murmured against her” (14:5).

Jesus rebuked the disciples, and silenced them saying, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (14:6).  Affirming Mary’s act of sacrificial love, Jesus once again spoke of His imminent death and burial (14:7-8; John 12:7), and revealed Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (14:8-9).

I close on a practical note, challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man, for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!

Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; dispute; quarrel].” 

A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and organization, as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest. An angry, contentious spirit has the potential of destroying everything, and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Think Life’s Not Fair? Wait to Eternity! (Matthew 20-21)

Scripture reading – Matthew 20-21

Perhaps it is due to my privileged upbringing on a small farm in rural South Carolina, but the story of the farmer who hired day laborers to work in his vineyard is among my favorite of the parables (Matthew 20:1-16).  The contextual timeline is near the beginning of Christ’s final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Background for Matthew 20

The LORD, had traveled south along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, and encountered a man that Luke identified as a “rich young ruler” (Luke 18:18). His identification as a “ruler” was most likely indicative of his role as a leader in his local synagogue. The young man came asking Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)

Boasting he had kept all the Commandments, Jesus asked him to give up the thing he loved most, his possessions: “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…and come follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Sadly, “when the young man heard [i.e. and understood] that saying, he went away sorrowful [grieving; sad]: for he had great possessions [estate; property]” (Matthew 19:22).

As the rich man turned and walked away, Jesus declared to His disciples, “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).   Peter, often the spokesman for the disciples, then inquired of Jesus, “Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:27)

The disciples had left everything and endured three years of sacrifice to follow Jesus.  They had forfeited their homes, families, and friends.  They had endured hardships and suffered mocking, scorn, and persecution.  All this had left Peter wondering; “LORD we have been with you from the beginning, what is our reward?”  That question is the backdrop for the Parable of the Laborers (Matthew 20:1-16) that serves as an illustration of God’s grace and justice.

Matthew 20:1-16 – The Parable of the Laborers

The owner of a vineyard realized his harvest was greater than his family and servants could harvest in a timely manner.  In our parable (Matthew 20:1-16), the farmer goes into the village on five occasions, in the same day, to hire men to work in his vineyard.  The first workers were hired at the 6:00am shift (Matthew 20:1-2) and agreed to work in the vineyard for a “penny a day” (actually one “denarii”, the daily salary of a Roman soldier and a large sum for a day laborer).  Four additional hires would follow that day: 9:00am, 12 Noon, 3:00pm and the final hire at 5:00pm. All were hired without a stated salary, but with the promise the owner of the vineyard would give them “whatsoever is right” (Matthew 20:4, 7).

With 6:00pm marking the end of the workday, the owner’s foreman was directed to pay the laborers beginning with those who were hired at 5:00pm, meaning the last hour (Matthew 20:8).  To their amazement, the one’s who worked only one hour were paid the same wage (a penny or denarii) as those who labored at the 6:00am hour.

Demonstrating the jealousy and covetousness that abides in the heart of sinful man, those who had negotiated a penny wage at 6:00am had “supposed that they should have received more” (Matthew 20:10).  Those jealous workers began murmuring and complaining against the owner of the vineyard, and accusing him of being unjust, protesting they should have received more (Matthew 20:11-12).

Matthew 20:13-16 – A Lesson in Grace and Salvation

The owner of the vineyard had paid the 6:00am workers what they had negotiated and agreed to; however, it was his business how he chose to reward the other laborers (Matthew 20:15).

Application: Whether a sinner comes to Christ as a child or, like the penitent thief on the cross in his last hour, every believer is assured of heaven and eternal life (Matthew 20:16). Why?

Because every sinner is saved by a gift of God’s grace, and no sinner can earn or merit salvation and forgiveness of sin. Whether you have served the LORD since being saved as a child, or you have come to accept Christ as Savior in the latter years of life, all sinners are saved on the same basis: God’s mercy and saving Grace, His favor that no works can merit.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 3:5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Beware That Your Possessions Do Not Possess You (Luke 12-13)

Scripture reading – Luke 12-13

The sin of covetousness is the malady of humanity, and is as ancient as sin itself.

When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed that she consider the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits.

She saw that the fruit God had forbidden was “good for food,” appealing, for it was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Coveting what God had prohibited, Eve “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

Covetousness goes by many names and is evidenced in many ways: Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are a few words and attitudes that define a sin that has driven many a man or woman to self-destruction, and eternal damnation.

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-21) is universally known to many.

In the parable, Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not content. So the rich man determined to build larger barns, boasting within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19). Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by God since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man had come to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontent, demanding his inheritance out of a heart of greed and gain.

Recalling Jesus knew the hearts of all men, He recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Truth: A fool treasures riches, and eventually finds himself a slave of them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“He Knew What Was in Man” (John 2-4)

Scripture Reading – John 2-4

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures continues today with the Gospel of John 2-4. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is John 2.

John 2

Our Scripture reading begins with a statement that connects us with recent events in the previous chapter: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1).

Jesus had arrived in Cana of Galilee and joined His mother Mary. Together they attended a wedding celebration (2:1), one to which Jesus and His disciples were invited (2:2). The wedding feast was the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle when He turned water into wine (2:1-11), and in doing so “manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11). With this first miracle, the faith of the disciples grew from Philip’s confession that Jesus was “the son of Joseph” (1:45), to them seeing His miracle and believing He was the Messiah (2:11).

Jesus had then gone up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed (2:13-23). As He entered the Temple, He was appalled at the sight of the corruption He found there. The Temple had become a house of commercialism and exploitation (2:14) of those who came there to worship.

With righteous indignation, Jesus took in hand a “scourge of small cords” (2:15a), and drove them all out of the Temple, the sheep and oxen, and over turned the tables of the money changers (2:15b). The commotion was so great, that Temple officials demanded, “What sign [i.e. sign of authority] shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18) In other words, what right do you have to take upon yourself the purging of this Temple.

The LORD answered with a sign, but not one that would be recognized until His death, burial, and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). The Jews were incredulous by the absurdity of one who could raise up the Temple in three days, citing the fact the edifice where they worshipped had taken forty-six years to build (2:20).

Interjecting His own explanation, the apostle John confessed that neither He nor the disciples realized Jesus was speaking of His own bodily resurrection, “the Temple of His body” (2:21-22).

Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem and there were “many who believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did” (2:23). Jesus, however, “did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (2:24-25). You see, there were many who believed Jesus, for they had observed His miracles; however, Jesus knew their hearts, and He did not believe in them (2:24-25).

God knows your heart better than you know yourself!

The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD declared to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart, try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

The LORD admonished His prophet Samuel, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is in your heart?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Wednesday Night Bible Institute and LifeSteps Classes

Dear Heart of A Shepherd Followers and Hillsdale Family Members,

You are invited to join Hillsdale’s Wednesday evening Bible studies, beginning with tonight’s Teen Bible Study\Activity at 6:00pm, AWANA Clubs for Preschool-6th Grades at 6:15 PM, and a time of prayer in our Adult Bible classes that also begins at 6:15 pm.

Around 6:35\6:40 pm, Pastor Smith’s Bible Institute Class series titled, Character Studies in Proverbs, will meet in Cox Hall and also be broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Tonight’s study is from Proverbs 6:1-19, and will focus on four topics: Financial Bondage (6:1-5), A Warning to Sluggards (6:6-11), The Character of the Wicked (6:12-15), and Seven Things God Hates (6:16-19).

The following are student notes for tonight’s study in Proverbs 6. 01 – Enemies of a Man’s Soul – Proverbs 6 – September 23, 2020 student blank notes without verses

A copy of Pastor Smith’s student notes with his word studies is available by emailing your request to HeartofAShepherd@gmail.com. 

Although not live streamed, Hillsdale is also offering two additional Wednesday evening classes (6:30pm). Mrs. Sheilah Smith is teaching a Ladies’ class titled, “Ancient Paths.” a study of the Covenants of the Scriptures.

Travis and Tanya Henry are teaching a Family Life Class that covers marriage, family, and parenting.

Don’t forget to sign up or call the church office to enjoy Dinner with our church family each Wednesday ($4.00 ea) in the Friendship Hall (5pm-6pm).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith