Category Archives: Prayer

Hannah: A Testimony of Faith, Love, and Sacrifice (1 Samuel 1)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

Our chronological devotional schedule brings us to 1 Samuel; one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  In this volume we will find a rich history that marks the beginning of a monarchy in Israel.

1 Samuel 1 concludes an era when judges ruled Israel, and introduces an age when kings reign. Let us recall, it was God’s desire to rule His people through His Law and Commandments. The role of the judges had been to instruct the people, by communicating the Word of the LORD, through the Law that was given in the Covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20). It will be the failure of the priesthood, that will provoke the people to demand a king. Tragically, Eli, the high priest, and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1:3; 2:12-17; 4:10-18), will disgrace the priest’s office. Their sins would stir up the people to demand “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5-6).

Several notable names come to the forefront in today’s study: Elkanah (1:1), who was of the tribe of Levi, descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. He was a godly man, and observed the law, going up “yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh” (1:3), where the Tabernacle was located.

Elkanah had two wives, “the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah” (1:2). “Peninnah had children,” and had borne to her husband sons and daughters (1:2, 4). “Hannah had no children” (1:2), and though her husband loved her (1:5), she carried the shame, and sorrow of a barren woman, and was treated spitefully by Elkanah’s other wife (1:5-7).

Year after year, Hannah went up to Shiloh with her family, and wept and fasted before the LORD, praying He would open her womb (1:5), and give her a son (1:7). She vowed, if the LORD would give her a son, she would dedicate him to serve at the Tabernacle, and promised he would be a Nazarite, and “there shall no razor come upon his head” (1:10-11).

Hannah prayed to the LORD, speaking to Him from her heart; “only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1:13). Eli, the high priest, rebuked her, judging she had too much wine, and commanded her to “put away thy wine from thee” (1:14). Hannah, replying to the high priest, said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial [worthless, immoral, wicked]: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” (1:15-16).

Judging the sincerity of Hannah’s confession, Eli assured her the LORD had heard, and would answer her prayer (1:17). Hannah went from the Tabernacle, no longer despondent, but believing the LORD would show her grace, and grant her a son (1:18). Elkanah and his family returned to their house in Ramah, and the LORD remembered Hannah’s prayer. In God’s perfect time, she conceived a son “and called his name Samuel [lit. “heard of God], saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1:19-20).

The next year, Elkanah prepared to go up to Shiloh on his annual pilgrimage (1:21); however, Hannah requested she be allowed to remain at her home, and not go up to the Tabernacle, until her son was no longer nursing, for she knew the day would come when she would leave Samuel to minister at Shiloh with Eli, the high priest (1:22-23).

A woman of faith, and one who honored her vow to the LORD, Hannah “weaned” her son (probably around three years old). The day came when she took her son and went up with Elkanah to present offerings and sacrifices, at the Tabernacle. Hannah “brought [Samuel] unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young” (1:24). After sacrificing a bullock, Elkanah and Hannah brought their son to Eli, and she reminded the high priest, “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1:26-27).

In an act of faith, and sacrificial love, Hannah confessed, “I have lent [given; claimed] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28a). Elkanah and Hannah’s example of faith, prayer, and sacrifice has inspired the saints of the LORD down through the centuries. Before Samuel was conceived, Hannah offered him to the LORD, and the LORD heard, and answered her prayer.

Perhaps only mothers can imagine the pull of the heart strings when Hannah left her son at Shiloh (especially knowing the wickedness of Eli’s sons). Hannah fulfilled her vow to the LORD, and He honored her faith and sacrifice, blessing her with three sons, and two daughters, in addition to Samuel (2:21).

I invite parents and grandparents to take a moment, pray and dedicate your children, and grandchildren to the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience, Justice, and a Leader of God’s Choosing (Deuteronomy 16-17)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17

With the urgency of a leader who knows his days are waning, Moses continued his challenge to Israel, preparing that nation to go forward without him. Because worship would be central to that nation’s heritage, it was essential for the people to have one place where they would offer sacrifices to the LORD. Unlike the heathen, whose towns and villages had their own deities, and places of worship, Israel’s worship was to be in the place where the LORD had chosen “to place His name in” – the Tabernacle (16:6).

“Three times in a year,” the men of Israel were required to “appear before the LORD” (16:16). The first was the “Feast of the Passover,” which occurred in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, “the month of Abib” (later identified as “Nisan” in the post-captivity era, and occurring during our months of March-April, 16:1). We have considered the Passover in the past, and are reminded this feast day was observed by the sacrifice of a lamb, and commemorating the LORD sparing the Hebrews because they had applied the blood of the lamb to their door posts in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). The Paschal Lamb was a pre-figure of Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Leaven was to be purged from the households, and not eaten (16:3-4; in the entirety of God’s Word, both the Old Testament, and the New Testament, the nature of leaven is used as a type for sin 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9).

The “Feast of Weeks” (also identified as Pentecost), was observed for seven weeks after the Passover (16:9;Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 34:32; Acts 2:1). It marked the time of harvest, and giving the LORD the first-fruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). It was memorialized with freewill offerings.

The third feast to be observed was the “Feast of Tabernacles” (16:13-15; Numbers 29:12). Also described as the “Feast of Ingathering,” it was observed by dwelling in booths (temporary shelters), and marked the end of the harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:42).

Deuteronomy 16 concludes with the focus on the matter of civil order and justice in Israel (16:18-22).

Knowing the tribes would be geographically distant from one another in the new land, it was important for there to be one system of law, and justice that would govern the people (16:18). Prejudice in matters of judgment was condemned, and the bribery of a judge was considered an act of wickedness (16:18-19).

Deuteronomy 17 – Justice, and the Character of a King

Reminding Israel that the LORD would refuse a blemished sacrifice (17:1), the subject of judgment, and justice continued in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. We have noted in earlier devotionals the requirement of two or more witnesses for crimes that necessitated capital punishment (17:4-6). Those who served as witnesses to a capital offense (for instance, idolatry, 17:3-4), were required to bear the gravity of the sentence of death, laying their hands upon one that was condemned (17:7).

In “matters of controversy” (17:8), where there was some uncertainty, judgments would be taken before the priests who would serve as judges (17:8-10). The Law of the LORD, not the law of a king, would serve as Israel’s authority (17:14).

What manner of man would the LORD have to rule Israel? (17:15-20)

Moses, knowing Israel would one day aspire to be like other nations, and have a king rule over them (17:14), established the manner of man whom God would choose (17:15-20). He was to be a man of God’s choosing, and a Hebrew (not a “stranger,” or non-Hebrew, 17:15). He was to be a man of humility, and not set his heart upon many horses, wives, or riches (17:16-17). He was to have a copy of the Law of the LORD, written by his own hand, and kept beside his throne. He was to study “to keep all the words” of the law and statutes (17:18-19).

The Law reminded the king that he was not above the law, nor was he above the people (lest “his heart be lifted up above his brethren,” 17:20). Consider how marvelous was this decree concerning the choosing of a king, and the character the LORD demanded of the man who would rule His people.

How far the nations of the world have strayed from choosing leaders who fear the LORD, and realize no man is above the law! Our 21st century world is following a path to judgment, and destruction. While 2 Chronicles 7:14was a conditional promise, made to Israel, it is my prayer for my country.

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God’s People are a Treasure (Deuteronomy 13-14)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 13-14

Deuteronomy 13 – The Intolerance, and Punishment of Idolatry

Deuteronomy 12 concluded with Moses cautioning the people, “32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (12:32). That admonition brings to mind a similar warning to believers that is found in the closing words of the New Testament: “18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life…” (Revelation 22:18–19). Today, believers tolerate all manner of versions, and perversions of the Scriptures; however, such was not to be the case for Israel, and should not be the case for us.

Concerning the laws of idolatry, if a man deemed himself a prophet, and even performed signs and wonders, he was to be rejected, if his prophecy departed from the revelations of the LORD (13:1-2). If he should say, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” (13:2), he was to “be put to death” (13:4-5).

Not even the bonds of love, and familial ties were to obstruct the judgment of the LORD concerning the worship of idols (13:6-7). Should a loved one entice a man, and say, “Let us go and serve other gods” (13:6), that man was guilty of a capital offense, and his sin must not be concealed (13:7-8). Understanding the grievous sin of idolatry, and its judgment, the witness of the offense was to be the first to cast a stone (13:9). The congregation would then “stone him with stones, that he die” (13:10), and thereby sharing in his condemnation.

Should a city be turned to idolatry, the inhabitants of the city were to be killed, their flocks and herds destroyed, and the spoils of the city burned with fire (13:12-16). If all was destroyed, Moses promised the “Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers” (13:17).

Deuteronomy 14 – A Chosen People for the LORD

Moses begins Deuteronomy 14 with a wonderful declaration concerning Israel:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God…an holy people [sanctified, set apart] unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people [His treasure] unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (14:1a, 2).

That affirmation is likened to two others we read in the New Testament concerning all believers. Paul penned concerning the saints: Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [His own possession], zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Peter exhorted believers, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

What was the application of Israel’s unique relationship with the LORD?

“Ye shall not cut yourselves, not make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1b). You may be thinking, what a strange statement! Let me explain.

The heathen people were known to cut their flesh, and shave their heads as outward signs of mourning at funerals. Israel, however, was forbidden to do the same. The heathen mutilated their bodies as a sign of grief, but the people who were chosen by the God of heaven were not to mourn as those without hope! Paul exhorted believers concerning the same hope, writing to believers in Thessalonica: “13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14).

Clean and unclean meats is the subject of Deuteronomy 14:3-21, and one we have studied in depth in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 11). The differences between clean beasts, and unclean beasts (14:3-8), clean and unclean fish (14:9-10), clean and unclean birds (14:11-19), are all addressed once again. The people are also reminded that they are not to eat diseased animals (14:21a), nor cook or boil a “kid” (a baby goat), in its mother’s milk (such would be cruel to the sensitivity of nature, 14:21b).

The geographical locations of some tribes in Canaan would put them at great distances from the Tabernacle (14:22-24), and making it impossible to tithe of the first fruits of the harvest, and the first born (“firstlings of thy herds”). The matter was resolved, by permitting the people to “turn it [the tithe and the firstlings] into money.” Then taking the money, and going to the Tabernacle, a man could purchase whatever, he desired in the meat, meal, and wine as his tithe to the LORD (14:26). Though the distance would prevent the practice of tithing as it had been observed in the wilderness, the people were warned to honor the LORD with their tithe, and not forsake the Levite (14:27).

Every three years, one’s tithe would not be taken to the Tabernacle (14:28-29), but would instead be laid “up within thy gates” (14:28), and used in one’s town and village to feed the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (14:29). For their faithfulness with the tithes, the LORD promised to bless the labor of his people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sacrificial Offerings and Feast Days to the LORD (Numbers 28)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 28

Today’s Scripture reading is the first of two chapters that reviews the Law of Offerings (Numbers 29 being the other chapter). Given the Scriptural context, a review of sacrifices seems out of place; after all, with the census of the tribes complete (not only numbering the men of war, but serving as the basis for assigning the tribal lands), one would think it is time to go to war! Instead, lest the people forget to honor the LORD with offerings, a review of the sacrifices begins, and the people are reminded they are commanded by the LORD.

The four types of sacrificial offerings are prescribed in Numbers 28.

The first is the daily offerings, also known as the burnt offering (28:1-8). The daily offerings consisted of two lambs that were to be “of the first year without spot” (28:3). The first lamb was to be offered and sacrificed in the morning, and the second was offered in the evening (28:4). The lamb offered in the evening was accompanied by a drink offering of the best wine (described as “strong wine”), and flour or grain (defined as a meat, or meal offering, 28:4-6). The morning and evening offerings were sacrifices offered by the priests on behalf of the nation, and were a daily reminder of Israel’s dependence of God’s grace.

Sabbath day offerings, described in Numbers 28:9-10, were weekly offerings, in addition to the daily offerings. They were observed by Israel on the Sabbath, and were a reflection on the Creator resting on the seventh day.

There was also the New Moon Offering (28:11-15), and it was observed “in the beginnings of your months” (28:11), and was a “burnt offering unto the Lord; [and consisted of] two young bullocks, and one ram, seven lambs of the first year without spot” (28:11). The New Moon Offering sanctified the month that was ahead, and was a reminder that the LORD is both the Creator and Sustainer of His creation.

Israel was to observe several festivals, referred to as the Feasts of the LORD (28:16-29:40). The Passover was observed on “the fourteenth day of the first month” (28:16). The week following the Passover meal was identified as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (28:17-25). Lasting for seven days, in addition to the daily offerings, the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread required an additional sabbath of rest (28:18), and the same sacrifices as the New Moon Offering on each of the seven days (28:19-22).

Pentecost, identified as the fiftieth day after the Passover, was known as the Feast of Weeks, or the Harvest Feast (28:26-31), and was the day the “firstfruits” were offered to the LORD (the first-fruits were the first to ripen). Burnt offerings also accompanied the “firstfruits” (28:27-31).

A closing thought: The sacrifices required, and the number of sacrifices commanded by the LORD, may surprise young believers, and those unfamiliar with the Old Testament Scriptures. All the sacrifices served as a constant reminder to Israel of that nation’s dependence on God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

We who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, are not required to offer those types of sacrifices, because they were all types of the ultimate, and final sacrifice – Jesus Christ. Instead, we are to offer sacrifices of prayer, and praise to the LORD, and our “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).

Hebrews 7:27 – “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he [Jesus Christ] did once, when he offered up himself.”

1 Peter 3:18, 20 – “18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Knowing the “wages of sin is death,” we who trust Christ as Savior, have the promise of eternal life, for “the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our LORD” (Romans 6:23).

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Scripture reading – Psalm 90

We depart from the Book of Numbers, to consider Psalm 90 for today’s Scripture reading. Psalm 90 is a prayer of intercession, and a song of praise that was authored by Moses, and is therefore the oldest of the Psalms. Certainly, it would have been one of the psalms heard in the Temple, and sung by the people when they assembled in the wilderness before the Tabernacle.

Scholars generally place Psalm 90 about the time Israel rebelled, and turned back from the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). The context is most likely when the people began murmuring against the LORD, and He threatened to “smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them” (Numbers 14:11-12). Moses implored the LORD to spare the congregation (Numbers 14:13-19), and I believe Psalm 90 memorialized that occasion.

Psalm 90 – Great is the LORD!

The Lord had proven He was the refuge for Israel (90:1), the Creator (90:2a) who set the foundations of the mountains, and “formed the earth and the world” (90:2). He is the God of eternity (90:2b), and the absolute Sovereign of Creation (90:2). What is man? He is temporal, and dust (90:3).

When I was young, I could not fully grasp the meaning of Psalm 90:4. Moses wrote, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (90:4). I have come to know all to well the fleeting of time, and life itself. A lifetime, or even a generation passes, and it seems “as a watch in the night” (90:4), and our lives are “soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10).

Lest one be tempted to wallow in self-pity, and sorrow for the years that are past and cannot be reclaimed, Moses states a principle that should guide believers: So teach us to number our days [to make them count], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom (90:12).

How different your life would be, if you knew the year, day, the hour, God has appointed for your death (Hebrews 9:27)! Many things that consume your thoughts, and your time would suddenly prove trivial. Moments to which you give little thought, and opportunities that seem routine, might suddenly be savored, if not treasured. Every day is a gift of God’s loving grace, and should be numbered and treasured.

Set aside pettiness, and be grateful for the day God has given you. Pray with Moses: “Let the beauty [grace, and favor] of the Lord our God be upon us: And establish thou [LORD] the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (90:17)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Blessed is the Man that Trusteth in the Lord” (Numbers 13)

“Blessed is the Man that Trusteth in the Lord” (Numbers 13)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 13

Absolved of her sin, and cured of leprosy, Miriam, the sister of Moses, was reunited with the children of Israel. The nation continued its journey, and “pitched [their tents] in the wilderness of Paran” (12:16). The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading are among the most dynamic in Israel’s forty years of wanderings in the wilderness.

The LORD commanded Moses, “2Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel” (13:2a). Let us pause, and reflect on God’s directive to Moses, and those whom He would have spy out the land and its inhabitants. They were men (not women, children, or novices). They were men, chosen out of each tribe, “every one a ruler… [and] heads of the children of Israel” (13:2-3). They were respected leaders, and men of influence. The Scripture records the names of the men, and the tribes of origin from which they came (13:4-16).

Following the LORD’s commands, Moses gave the twelve men their marching orders: “Spy out the land of Canaansee the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many…[and] the land…whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds” (13:17-19). Moses challenged the spies to come back, report on the land, and “be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes” (13:20).

The spies departed, and were gone for forty days (13:25). When they returned, they brought with them “a branch with one cluster of grapes” that was so laden with fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs” (13:23).

Two reports were given, and the first confirmed the land was all that the LORD had promised Israel: “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it” (13:27).

The second report, was an aspersion, a slander, a defaming of God’s promises, and stirred the hearts of the people with fear. The spies reported: “28Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28).

Moses had challenged the men to “be ye of good courage,” but the sight of the enemy had dispelled their faith, and filled the void in their hearts with fear. Here is a great lesson:

Fear is not only a sign of weak faith, but it is also given to exaggeration. The fear of the spies eclipsed their faith!

Caleb, a leader of the tribe of Judah, spoke up, and “stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30). In Numbers 14, Joshua added his own voice to Caleb’s challenge and urged the people, “8If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey” (14:8).

Ten of the spies sowed doubt among the people saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Where Caleb and Joshua saw opportunity, the other ten spies saw insurmountable, frightening obstacles. What made the difference in their observations?

I suggest the difference was twofold: Focus and Faith. Caleb and Joshua did not focus on the size of the obstacles, but on the size [greatness, and faithfulness] of their God. Their faith was not in their abilities, but in the Person and promises of the LORD. Israel’s enemy was not giants, or the nations that were living in the land (13:28-29, 32-33).  Israel’s enemy was her lack of faith in God.

Are you facing giants?  Have you allowed fear and faithlessness to take hold of your heart and thoughts?

Believer, God has the solution to every problem you face, and the resources to help you achieve every goal in His will!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. [8] For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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)

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)

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