Category Archives: Prayer

Made a Vow? You Better Keep It! (Leviticus 26-27)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 26-27

Today’s devotional marks the end of our journey through the Book of Leviticus. Our study has considered the laws for various sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 1-7), and the consecration and ordination of the Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 8-10). We have identified animals the LORD declared clean, and unclean (Leviticus 11-15), and been reminded that He would only accept sacrifices that were without blemish. We remember that the sacrifices the priests offered on behalf of Israel were a prefigure of the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, “once, and for all” sacrificed for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

Leviticus 26 – The LORD’s Covenant

The LORD reminded Israel that He would not tolerate idols (26:1; Exodus 20:4-6), and the Sabbath was to be kept holy (26:2; Exodus 20:8-11).

Promise of Blessings for Faithfulness to the Law (26:3-13)

Memorializing His covenant with Israel, the LORD repeated His conditional promise to make the land fruitful, if the people would “walk in [His] statutes, and keep [His] commandments, and do them” (26:3). He promised peace (26:6), military successes (26:6-7), an increase in population (26:9), that they would never go wanting (26:10), and to dwell in the midst of His people, saying:

“I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. 13I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright” (26:11-13).

Promised of Judgment (26:14-39)

There was also the conditional promise of God’s judgment should the nation disobey His Law and Commandments (26:14-39). If the people showed contempt for the Law, God promised the nation would be punished with sickness (26:16-17), increasing suffering (26:18), famines (26:19), and barrenness in the land (26:20), all as a natural occurrence of straying from righteousness.    If the people continued in their rebellion, the LORD warned they would suffer plagues, childlessness, a dying population, and the land would become desolate (26:21-22).

Leviticus 26:23-26 states three punishments that would come upon a disobedient people: Wars (26:23-25), Plagues (26:25), and Famine (26:26). Should the people continue to disobey the LORD, four devastating punishments would mark the severest stage of God’s judgment: Famine would drive the people to cannibalize their children (26:29; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Lamentations 2:20; 4:10); towns and holy places would be destroyed (26:31), the land would be left desolate (26L32), and the people would be dispersed among the heathen (26:33).

Promise of Mercy (26:40-46)

God promised mercy to those who would confess their sin (26:40). Confessing sin opened the pathway for God to remember His covenant with Israel (26:44-46).

Leviticus 27 – Laws Concerning What Is Vowed, and Sanctified to the LORD

Vows were holy, and that which a man sanctified, and dedicated to the LORD was to be fulfilled (27:1-8).  Should a vow be made of a person to serve in the Tabernacle, but not needed, the priest was instructed to place a value upon that which had been committed to the LORD, and assess its value in shekels of silver (27:3-8).

A distinction was made in the value of clean and unclean beasts vowed to the LORD (27:9-13). Remembering the LORD will only accept that which is perfect, and clean, an unclean beast that failed to meet God’s standard was assessed a value by the priests, redeemed for its value, and an additional “fifth part” given (27:11-13).

Should houses and lands be dedicated to the LORD, that which was vowed was to be fulfilled, and sanctified unto Him, or redeemed for the value assessed by the priest (27:14-25). Everything devoted to the LORD was to be treated as “holy unto the LORD” (27:28-29). The tithe, and that which is the LORD’S could not be changed (27:30-33).

Leviticus 27:34 concludes the book, reminding us that all that has been written in the book “are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai.”

Closing thought: Making a vow, a promise, a commitment to the LORD is not something to be made lightly. What you have vowed to the LORD, you can be assured He will remember, and will hold you to account in the day of judgment.

Ecclesiastes 5:55Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

You Might Be Talented, But Do You Have the Character God Desires? (Exodus 31)

Daily reading assignment – Exodus 31

As we return to our study of the Book of Exodus, we find Moses concluding his appointment with the LORD on Mount Sinai. He has received the design and dimensions of the Tabernacle, its various pieces of furniture that were to be constructed and used in Israel’s daily worship, and the design of the garments to be stitched and embroidered for the high priest.

The Tabernacle, its furniture, the holy place with the Ark of the Covenant, and the brass altar with its various implements would be central to Israel’s worship, and the daily sacrifices. Because they were to be sanctified, and dedicated to the LORD as holy, great care had to be taken not only in their workmanship, but also in the selection of the craftsmen. Two men are named who were to serve as lead artisans in the manufacture of the Tabernacle and its furnishings (31:1-11).

After dictating the design and creation of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the LORD ordained by name the workers He had chosen to labor in producing them (31:1-6).

There was “Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,” known not only for his skill as an artisan, but also his spiritual nature. The LORD said of Bezaleel, “I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (31:3). A second craftsman was appointed to assist Bezaleel: “Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan,” was named among those “that are wise hearted” (31:5).

The LORD tasked Moses with the responsibility of employing craftsmen, and artisans for making the items that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices (31:7-11); however, he also commanded Moses to teach Israel to keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be “a sign between [the LORD] and [Israel] throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify [set apart] you” (31:13).

The LORD, knowing the temptation to be zealous in the work He had given His chosen workers, instructed Moses was to remind them: “15Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death” (31:15).

As promised, the LORD then gave Moses, two tablets of stone, engraved with the Commandments (31:18; 24:12).

I conclude today’s commentary inviting you to consider a spiritual lesson to be learned from the craftsmen the LORD chose to produce the Tabernacle, its furniture, and the garments He had appointed for the high priest (31:7-11).

Lesson – God was not only interested in “getting the job done,” but in the character of the men who served Him. (31:1-6)

The LORD stated five qualities found in Bezaleel that qualified him to serve as His master artisan (31:3). He was a talented craftsman “in all manner of workmanship” (31:5), but he was chosen by God because he possessed spiritual qualities that made him supremely qualified to use his skill to produce those articles the LORD deemed holy and sanctified.

Bezaleel was a man filled “with the Spirit of God” (31:3), and thereby inspired by the LORD, and sensitive to His will and leading. He was a man blessed “in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge” (31:3). He not only possessed the talents and aptitude for the task to which he was called, but he had dedicated his skills to the LORD and would obey Him in His design, even in what some might describe as the minor details.

Bezaleel’s assistant, Aholiab, was named among the men of whom the LORD said, “in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee” (31:6).

It has been said, “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That is especially true of the LORD. He knew the talents and skills of Bezaleel and Aholiab; however, it was their spiritual character that made them supremely qualified to serve Him.

What about you? You may have valuable talents, and skills, and might even be considered gifted. Do you have a heart for the LORD? Are you filled, and sensitive to His Spirit? That is the kind of man or woman God chooses to serve Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Consecrated and Ordained to Serve (Exodus 29-30)

Scripture reading – Exodus 29-30

We are continuing our study in the Book of Exodus. Today’s Scripture reading, Exodus 29-30, finds Moses and Joshua on Mount Sinai, where they would continue “forty days and forty nights” (24:18). The LORD instructed Moses, so that he might teach the people, and give to them “tables of stone, and a law, and commandments” (24:12).

The LORD had commanded Moses to receive offerings from the people (25:1-3) that were to be used in constructing, and furnishing the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle would serve as the LORD’s sanctuary (25:8); a dwelling that was a visible testimony of God’s presence in their midst.

The LORD gave Moses the designs, and dimensions for the Tabernacle (25:9), the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat (25:10-22), the table, and the candlestick. All were to be overlaid with gold (25:23-40). The interior and exterior of the Tabernacle were described in detail (26:1-30), including a room that was divided by a veil (26:31-33), and served as the “holy place” in which the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat were to be placed (26:33-34).

Central to Israel’s worship was the brass altar (27:1-8) that would be located in a courtyard that formed an enclosure for the Tabernacle (27:9-19). Aaron, the brother of Moses, would be appointed to serve as Israel’s first high priest, and his sons would serve their father as common priests (28:1). God also gave Moses a detailed description of the holy garments the high priest would wear when he ministered before the LORD as Israel’s mediator (28:2-43).

Exodus 29 – The Priesthood: Ordination and Consecration

The Aaronic priesthood having been established in Exodus 28, the LORD instructed Moses in the ritual he was to follow when he ordained his brother Aaron to serve as his high priest (29:1-9). One young bull, and “two rams without blemish” (29:1), were to be sacrificed in an ordination ceremony that consecrated Aaron as the high priest.

Aaron was to wash himself, and put on the garments of the high priest (29:4-9). Moses then directed Aaron and his sons to put their hands on the bull, identifying with the sacrifice of the bull as their sin offering (29:10-14). Placing their hands on one ram that was without blemish, Moses was to slay the ram as a burnt offering to the LORD (29:15-18). A second ram was then sacrificed, and it served as a “blood ordination,” for its blood was put on “the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and his sons (29:19-21), thus dedicating them to the priesthood. The best parts of the second ram were offered to the LORD, and then Aaron and his sons were to consume the ram at the door of the Tabernacle (29:22-34). For each of the seven days, young bulls were to be offered for the sins of the priests, and as a testimony of God’s grace in providing a substitute (29:35-37).

Twice-daily, lambs were to be sacrificed and offered as a meat offering by fire, one in the morning, and one in the evening. These were perpetual offerings to the LORD (29:38-42), and a reminder to the people that, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin (Hebrews 9:22). Thus, the LORD promised to “dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. 46And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God” (29:45-46).

Exodus 30 – Altar of Incense, Tabernacle Tax, and Holy Oils and Fragrances

Moses was instructed to have “an altar to burn incense,” made with wood, and overlaid “with pure gold” (30:1-5). The altar of incense was to be located outside the Holy Place, and before the veil, and there the LORD promised to meet with Moses, and Aaron, and the generations that would follow him, were to insure the incense was burning night and day (30:6-8).

Every year a special tribute, a “ransom,” or Tabernacle\Temple tax (30:11-13) was required of every Hebrew that was twenty years old or older (30:14) The rich and the poor paid the same amount, “half a shekel,” reminding us that every soul is of equal value in the sight of God (30:15). This tax or tribute, paid for “the service [expenses] of the Tabernacle” (30:16), that would have included purchasing sacrifices, flour, wine, oil, priestly garments, and other expenses that would occur.

A large brass laver, or fount, was to be made and filled with water where the priest would wash their hands and feet (30:17-21).

A special anointing oil with ingredients and fragrances designed by the LORD, were to be made, and used for anointing the Tabernacles, its furniture, the altar, and the priests (30:22-31). It was a sacred oil, and it was forbidden for use for any other purpose. (30:32-33).

The LORD also required a special blend of incense and perfume, that was to be made, and used before the tabernacle. The fragrance was unique to the Tabernacle, and it was not to be used for any other purpose (30:34-38).

What lesson should we consider from the details that have been preserved for us?

I suggest the knowledge that we should prepare our hearts for worshipping the LORD. Worship is not to be careless and incidental, but purposeful, and done in a manner that reflects, and speaks of the holiness of the LORD.

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jehovahnissi: The LORD My Banner (Exodus 16-17)

Scripture reading: Exodus 16-17

We have considered the faithlessness of the children of Israel who, after the miracle of the Red Sea crossing, turned from celebrating Egypt’s defeat, to murmuring “against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24).

Exodus 16 – Daily Manna

The people had complained about a lack of water in Exodus 15, and in Exodus 16, they complained about a lack of food. In leaving Egypt, they had evidently packed enough food for a month, however, by the fifteenth day of the second month supplies were exhausted. and they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron. The people complained they would have been better off dying in Egypt, rather than to follow Moses into the desert only to starve and die (16:2-3). How soon they had forgotten God’s provision of water!

Moses cried out to the LORD, Who promised He would “rain bread from heaven” (16:4), sufficient for the day that He might “prove [the people], whether they will walk in my law, or no” (16:4). The LORD promised on the sixth day he would provide twice the daily amount, that the people might store enough for the Sabbath (16:5). Moses and Aaron encouraged the people, how the LORD would provide them bread in the morning, and “in the evening flesh to eat” (16:6-8).

Faithful to His promise, each evening quail would cover the camp, providing the people meat, and each morning they would find a small round bread they called “manna” (16:15). Moses instructed the men to gather only enough for their households, “every man according to his eating” (16:18). Moses admonished the people, “Let no man leave of it till the morning” (16:19).

What lesson was the LORD teaching Israel in providing them “daily provisions?”

He was teaching them to look to Him to provide for their daily needs. Nevertheless, there were some who failed to trust the LORD, and hoarded more bread than they could eat, and “it bred worms, and stank [rotted]” (16:20).

Exodus 17

Israel continued her journey in the “wilderness of Sin,” and encamped in Rephidim, where once again “there was no water for the people to drink” (17:1). They questioned, “is the LORD among us, or not?” (17:7), and accused Moses of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them (17:3). The criticism was so vicious, Moses feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).

God heard Moses’ plea, and commanded him take the rod he had carried when the waters of the Red Sea opened, and stand “upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink” (17:5-6).

Once again, Israel had witnessed the LORD’S compassion, and miraculous provision for their needs; however, there was a greater lesson in this moment that would not be revealed until the New Testament. The “rock in Horeb,” from which the water flowed, was a type, a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ who identified Himself as the “well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Israel’s First War (17:8-16)

The children of Israel encountered their first enemy when the Amalekites, descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, came to war against them (17:8).

Moses summoned Joshua, and commanded him to choose men in Israel whom he would lead in battle against Amalek (17:9). While Joshua led the battle in the valley, Moses stood on the “top of the hill with the rod of God in [his] hand” (17:9).

When the arms of Moses were outstretched, Israel prevailed; when his arms grew heavy, the battle would go against the nation. Sitting down on a rock, Moses’ brother steadied one arm, while a man named Hur held the other aloft (17:12). Israel prevailed, and “Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (17:10-12).

This first battle was to serve Israel as a reminder that the LORD was on their side. Moses was commanded to write the victory in a book, and exhort Joshua to remember and rehearse in the ears of the next generation how the LORD had given Israel victory.

Moses then “built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi,” meaning “The LORD is My Banner” (17:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Great Exodus, and a Short-lived Celebration (Exodus 14-15)

Scripture reading: Exodus 14-15

Exodus 14 – Showdown on the Shores of the Red Sea

With the cloud overshadowing Israel by day, and the pillar of fire giving the people light by night, Moses led a nation of more than one million people to freedom. Following the LORD’s instruction, the multitude encamped by the Red Sea (14:2).

In his grief, Pharaoh had sent the children of Israel out of the land; however, the LORD hardened the proud king’s heart (14:3-4), and Moses learned his conflict with Pharaoh was not yet ended. Spies had followed the movement of Israel, and when they saw the encampment by the sea, they sent word to the king who set his army in array to pursue and overtake Moses and the people (14:5-7).

After witnessing how their God had brought Egypt to her knees, the people had departed “with an high hand,” bold, triumphant, rejoicing in their freedom (14:8). Soon, however, the celebration ended when the dust of six hundred chariots, and soldiers was seen approaching in the distance. As Pharoah and his army drew near to Israel’s encampment, “the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and…cried out unto the Lord” (14:10).

With the Red Sea before them, and Egypt’s army behind them, the people derided Moses, saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (14:11)

Is it not amazing how fickle people can be? From going out “with an high hand” (14:8), to moaning in despair, the people complained with a sentiment they would express on many occasions in the future: “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (14:12).

Moses, unshaken by the murmuring of the people, and the approach of Egypt’s army, encouraged the people saying, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (14:13). Moses assured them, 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (14:14).

Moses cried out to the LORD, who then questioned him, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (14:15). For Moses, the time for prayer was over, and it was time to step out on faith and trust the LORD, who commanded Moses, “lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (14:16).

The LORD commanded Moses to be prepared, for when the waters of the sea opened, Pharaoh and his chariots would pursue the people into the midst of the sea (14:17), and all Egypt will know the LORD, when the king and his army are drowned in the sea (14:18).

The cloud that had guided Israel out of Egypt, then moved rearward and became a barrier of darkness between the people and Pharaoh’s army (14:19-20), allowing Israel to pass through the waters of the sea on dry land (14:21-22).  When the Egyptians pursued Israel into the midst of the Red Sea, the LORD brought the waters in upon them, drowning them, and “Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore… and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (14:23-31).

Exodus 15 – A Celebration of Deliverance, and A Crisis of Faith

Standing triumphantly on the far shore of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel broke into a song of praise and rejoicing (15:1-19).  While the men were singing the refrain with Moses leading the song (15:1), Miriam, his sister, “took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (15:20) singing the chorus.

What a great celebration, and surely one that should have continued for days and weeks; however, such was not to be the case. Three days into the wilderness, and the people “found no water” (15:22), and “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24)

This sinful pattern of murmuring will haunt Israel’s journey through the wilderness for the next forty years, and will be a sorrow not only to Moses, but also to the LORD. Moses cried to the LORD (15:25) and the LORD assured him He would heal the bitter waters, and make them pure (15:26), testing and proving the faith of the people.

What was the lesson Israel was to take from the bitter, poisonous waters?

If Israel would hear and obey the Words of the LORD, and walk in righteousness, hear and heed His commandments, the LORD would spare them from the diseases that afflicted the Egyptians, promising Israel, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (15:26).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Christ, Our Passover (Exodus 13)

Scripture reading: Exodus 13

The slaying of the firstborn of Egypt, the tenth and final plague, moved Pharaoh to thrust Israel out of Egypt where they had lived for 430 years (12:40-41).

The Passover was established as a perpetual memorial of the night the firstborn of Egypt were slain, but God spared the households in Israel because the people believed God, and applied the blood of the lamb to the door posts (12:1-28, 43-51).

Seven days of “unleavened bread,” were to be observed, “and in the seventh day shall be a feast (the Passover) to the LORD” (13:6). No leaven was to be in the households those seven days (13:7), serving as a reminder of Israel’s sudden departure from Egypt, but also a memorial to the purging of sin from the midst. Leaven, a symbol of sin in the Scriptures, was to have no place among God’s people in the seven days that concluded with the Passover observance.

Leaven would later serve as a reminder to believers that sin, like leaven in bread during the Passover, is intolerable in the lives of believers (1 Corinthians 5:6). Paul instructed the church in Corinth, “Purge out therefore the old leaven…keep the feast…with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  Like Israel’s intolerance of leaven during the Passover, believers are to be intolerant of sin in our midst (1 Corinthians 5, 9, 13)!

The LORD also commanded Moses to instruct the people that the firstborn of every household, both children and beast, were to be sanctified (set apart and dedicated), to the LORD as a memorial to Him, with the exception of the firstborn of Israel (13:1). Promising He would bring Israel into the “land of the Canaanites” (13:11) as He had vowed, the people were to dedicate the firstborn male of every beast to the LORD (13:11-12). The firstborn of “clean” beasts was to be sacrificed, including lambs, kids of goats, and calves (Exodus 22:30; Numbers 18:17-18).

Because the ass (donkey) was declared unclean, the firstborn of an ass would be redeemed with a lamb (the lamb being a sacrificial substitute). The clean (lambs, calves, or kids of goats) were to be sacrificed in the place of unclean beasts (13:13).

While some heathen nations sacrificed their firstborn sons and daughters to idols, Israel was commanded to redeem her firstborn (13:13b). Considering all humanity is sinful, and therefore universally “unclean” in the sight of God, the price of a firstborn’s redemption in Israel was set as “five sheckles” (Numbers 3:47; 18:16). The people were to instruct their sons concerning the meaning of redemption (13:14-16).

The LORD knew that a nation of slaves would not be ready for the challenge of war against those nations that inhabited the land He had promised His people (13:17). Rather than lead Israel through the land of the Philistines, the LORD directed them into the “wilderness of the Red Sea” (13:18).

Fulfilling the vow their forefathers had made to Joseph, his bones were taken up from Egypt, and would be buried in Canaan (13:19).

Serving as a visible testimony of God’s presence, the LORD had promised to shadow His people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (13:21-22).

A closing thought: To spare Israel the tenth plague, and the death of the firstborn, the LORD required the blood of the lamb be placed upon the door posts. Without the blood, the firstborn of the household would be slain.  So it is for all sinners, for “without shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness; deliverance]” (Hebrews 9:22).

All the lambs that were sacrificed were a type, a picture, of God’s punishment of sin that would be fulfilled in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The author of Hebrews wrote: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). Paul writes in his letter to Corinth, “For He [God] hath made Him [Jesus Christ]to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If you have not, will you confess you are a sinner, and trust Jesus Christ as your Redeemer?

Romans 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“That ye may know…I Am the LORD” (Exodus 9-10)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 9-10

Our study in the Book of Exodus continues with the contest between Moses, God’s messenger, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Four judgments have befallen the nation, and each has been followed by Pharaoh hardening his heart and refusing to let the children of Israel go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.

Exodus 9 – The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Plagues

The fifth plague that befell Egypt afflicted the “cattle which [was] in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep” (9:3). The disease was “a very grievous murrain,” an epidemic so severe that “all the cattle of Egypt died.” As a testimony of God’s sovereignty and love of His people, none of the livestock of Israel perished (9:4-7). Yet, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go” (9:7b).

The sixth plague began when Moses gathered “handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and [sprinkled] it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh” (9:8), and boils broke out on man and beast (9:8-11). The affliction of the boils was so painful, that even Pharaoh’s magicians “could not stand before Moses” (9:11). And yet, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses” (9:12).

The seventh plague destroyed all the crops of Egypt when the LORD rained down hail upon the crops (9:13-35). This time, however, some of Pharaoh’s servants believed the warnings of Moses, and made their servants and livestock take shelter in their houses (9:20). Pharaoh confessed, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked (9:27). He promised to let Israel go and sacrifice to their God; however, when the hail ceased, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses” (9:35).

Exodus 10 – The Eighth and Ninth Plague

Egypt’s losses in crops, and livestock brought upon the nation the suffering of hunger and famine. Perhaps you wonder, why the LORD did not simply deliver Israel from bondage, rather than judge Egypt with ten plagues? The answer is found in Exodus 10.

Exodus 10:2 – “And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

More than delivering His people from slavery, the LORD wanted Israel to know, and remember through successive generations all He had done in Egypt.  His dealings with Pharaoh were to serve as a lasting testimony of God’s person, power, and presence among His chosen people.  Israel was a nation of slaves, but their God was the Creator, and Sovereign of nature. He would bring the greatest ruler, and the most powerful nation in the ancient world to her knees.

The eighth plague of locusts devastated Egypt, and devoured what was left of the nation’s vegetation (10:3-20).  A heavy darkness was the ninth plague that befell Pharaoh and Egypt (10:21-29). The Egyptians were oppressed and frightened by the darkness, but Israel was spared, and God’s people enjoyed the warmth of light in their dwellings.

Pharaoh sought a compromise with Moses, and would have allowed the people to depart, but not with their livestock (10:24-25). Moses, however, refused (10:26), and “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go” (10:27).

Furious with Moses, Pharaoh warned, “take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die” (10:28).

Moses, strong, and confident in the LORD, answered the king truthfully, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (10:29). The stage is set for the final judgment, and the humiliation of Pharaoh.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of a Hardened Heart (Exodus 8)

Scripture reading: Exodus 8

“And [the LORD] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as [He] had said.” (Exodus 7:13)

Throughout the contest between Pharaoh and Moses, a pattern will emerge in the narrative: Moses will contend with the king of Egypt, and Pharaoh will reject the LORD’s messenger, and the LORD will harden his heart through the natural consequences of refusing God’s Word.

What is the nature of a hardened heart? A hardened heart is a heart that rejects God’s Word, to the point that it is calloused, and insensitive to Truth. It is spiritually cold, and becomes openly rebellious. When calamities come upon a man, they have the potential of either humbling, or hardening his heart.

Proud, stubborn, and defiant; God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (7:13), and turned the fresh waters of Egypt to blood. The fish were killed, and the stench of putrefying flesh filled the land (7:20-22). For seven days, the blood red waters of the Nile were a testimony of the power of Israel’s God.

Frogs filled the land (8:1-15)

We are not sure how much time passed between the first plague (the river being turned to blood), and the second contest between Moses and Pharaoh. The day came when the LORD commanded Moses to go before Pharaoh, and should he fail to let the children of Israel go, the land would be filled with frogs (8:1-4).

Aaron stretched forth his rod as Moses commanded, and frogs came out of the rivers, streams, and ponds, until all the land of Egypt was filled with them (8:5-7). Frogs were in the houses, on their beds, in the ovens, and in flour kneading troughs. Pharaoh begged Moses to appeal to the LORD to take away the frogs, and promised he would “let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord” (8:8b).

Rather than appeal to the LORD to instantly remove the frogs from the land, Moses deferred to Pharaoh, and invited him to name the time when he should ask the LORD to “destroy the frogs” (8:9). Proud and stubborn, rather than seek immediate relief, the king chose the next day for the frogs to be purged from the land (8:10).

The following day, “Moses cried unto the Lord… and the frogs died…14And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank” (8:13-14). Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not allow Israel to go, and offer sacrifices to the LORD (8:15).

Lice Infested the Land (8:16-19)

When Pharaoh failed to keep his word, Moses commanded Aaron to smite the dust of the land, and the LORD sent “lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (8:17). The lice may have been some form of gnat or other biting insect. Unlike other miracles, which the magicians emulated, they failed to turn dust into lice, and counseled Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (8:19a). Yet again, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (8:19b).

Swarms of Flies Plague Egypt (8:20-31)

The class or type of the flies has been a topic of speculation. There is in Egypt today a fly that is identified as a biting “dog fly,” and is similar to the deer flies that inhabits the southeastern United States.

The harassment of the flies moved Pharaoh to suggest a compromise to Moses. The king would allow Israel to offer sacrifices to “God in the land” (8:25), but not permit the people to go beyond the borders of Egypt. Moses, however, refused Pharaoh’s proposal, for fear that Israel’s sacrifices would be seen as an “abomination” to the Egyptians, who would then stone the people (8:26).

Moses demanded the people be allowed to go a three-day’s journey into the desert; however, the king offered a compromise (8:28). Moses promised to pray for the LORD to remove the flies, but only if Pharaoh would not default on his vow to release Israel to go and sacrifice to the LORD (8:29a). When the flies were removed; however, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and would not “let the people go” (8:32).

Pride stood in the way of Pharaoh’s failure to humble himself. The king’s unwillingness to acknowledge Israel’s God as LORD, paved the way to sorrow and death.

Proverbs 16:1818Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is pride and a hardened heart preventing you from humbling yourself, confessing your sin, and turning to the LORD?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith