Category Archives: Pride

The LORD is Just (Deuteronomy 19-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 19-20

Moses’ challenge to Israel returned to the subject of cities designated as cities of refuge (19:1-13). After defining the boundaries of the tribes, Israel was to designate three cities of refuge on each side of the Jordan, “that every slayer may flee thither” (19:3).

There would be a total of six cities of refuge in Israel. (19:2-13)

The law recognized a distinction between an accidental killing, described as one who “killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past” (19:4), and murder, an intentional killing provoked by hate, and committed by lying in wait (19:11).

An example of an accidental killing was given (19:5), and proved the necessity for the cities of refuge to be at a distance from one another in the land. The elders of the cities of refuge were to give opportunity to a slayer to prove a killing was an accident, and he was innocent of murder (19:6, 10). A city of refuge was not to give sanctuary to a murderer (19:11-13).

Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks (19:14)

Once the ownership of land was established, its borders were marked, either by natural boundaries, or by a column of rock and stone. Because a man’s land was the means by which he supported his family, it was a serious offense for a thief to move a landmark, and thereby encroach upon the land of another.

Two or Three Witnesses Were Required to Convict (19:15-19)

The LORD required Israel to take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and no man might be convicted of an offense without his sin being established by “two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses” (19:15). It was a serious matter when a man brought a “false witness” against another (19:16). The priests and the judges would weigh the testimony, and after diligently inquiring, should a man be guilty of bearing a false witness, he would suffer the punishment of the crime for which he had “testified falsely against his brother” (19:18-19).

The law was summed up in this: “life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (19:21).

Instructions for Going to War (Deuteronomy 20)

Israel’s invasion into Canaan would necessitate years of battles; however, they were not to be afraid of their enemies (20:1a). The men of Israel were to go to war, finding their courage from the LORD, and believing the God who “brought [them] up out of the land of Egypt” would be with them (20:1). When they prepared themselves for battle, the priest was to speak to the people, and remind them:

“Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (20:3-4).

Exemptions from Enlistment (20:5-9)

To go to battle required a man to be fully committed to the cause, and distractions in the heat of battle could be disastrous to the man, and his fellow soldiers. Four groups of men were exempted from military service in Israel: A man who had “built a new house, but not dedicated it,” was allowed to return to his house (20:5). A man who had “planted a vineyard,” but “not yet eaten of it,” would return home (20:6). Should a man be “bethrothed,” but not yet taken her to wife, he could return to his house (20:7). Recognizing the disastrous influence of fear in the midst of battle, a man who was “fearful and fainthearted,” would be allowed to “go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart” (20:8).

Laying Siege to a City (20:10-20)

If the people of a city “were very far off,” and willing to pay tribute, Israel was to offer terms of peace (20:11). Should terms for peace be rejected, every man of the city was to be slain, “but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,” and all other spoil would be taken by Israel (20:14).

Those nations that dwelled in Canaan, the land the LORD had promised Israel for an inheritance, were to be destroyed. “The Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites,” were to be destroyed, lest the heathen teach God’s people “to do after all their abominations” (20:18).

The land was the inheritance of God’s people, therefore the LORD required the army spare the fruit trees when laying siege to a city. The trees that were not fruit bearing, Israel was to “build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued” (20:20).

I close, inviting you to again notice the LORD’s grace and favor when He gave His Law and Commandments. His judicial system for Israel, was just, and no one was to rush to judgment. Desiring truth, any witness that dared distort law and justice with a false testimony, would find himself facing the punishment of the crime for which they had falsely accused another.

Micah 6:8b…What doth the Lord require of thee, But to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God?”

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

“Do Right, and I will bless you!” (Deuteronomy 8-9)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 8-9

Moses’ second challenge to Israel continues in Deuteronomy 8, and is a call to obedience: “1All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers” (8:1). In other words, “Do Right, and I will bless you!”

As though the promises of God’s grace, and faithfulness were not enough, Moses began a recitation of all the LORD had done for them as a nation in the wilderness (8:2-5). Even the adversities of “forty years in the wilderness,” had a righteous purpose, for the LORD had used them to “humble…to prove, [and] to know what was in [Israel’s] heart” (8:2). The LORD, knowing what was in the hearts of His people, employed the trials and testing to lay bare what manner of people they were.

What had the trials proved? The LORD’s loving care of His people! When they were hungry, “He fed them with manna” (8:3). For forty years He preserved them. Even their clothes, “waxed not old,” and their health did not fail them; for even their feet did not “swell, these forty years” (8:4).

The LORD had chastened Israel, like “a man chasteneth his son” (8:5), but He was also bringing them into a fertile land, with water and springs (8:7). The Promised Land was all He had promised, for it gave forth an abundance of grains, and fruit (8:8). There was also a wealth of iron ore, and copper in the land (referred to as “brass,” 8:9).

Moses warned, prosperity in the land would tempt their hearts to be lifted up in pride, and they would forget the LORD, and His covenant with them as a people (8:10-19). Moses admonished, should they boast, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:17), they would go the way of other nations, and “surely perish” (8:19-20).

Deuteronomy 9 – God’s Grace Made All the Difference

Lest the hearts of the people be lifted up with pride, Moses reminded the people, the nations that occupied the land were “greater and mightier…A people great and tall…[for it was said], Who can stand before the children of Anak!” (9:1-2).

They had no cause for pride, or self-reliance, for the LORD had determined to give them the land, not because they were righteous, for they were “a stiffnecked [hard, stubborn] people” (9:6). They had rebelled when Moses had gone up into the mount to receive the Ten Commandments (9:8-14; Exodus 31:18-32:6). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation, Moses had interceded for the people (9:15-19). Even Aaron, the brother of Moses, who would become the first high priest, was mercifully spared, though “the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and [Moses] prayed for Aaron” (9:20).

After citing other examples of Israel’s sins, and rebellion (9:22-24), Moses returned to the uprising at Sinai, and recalled how he had appealed to the LORD to spare Israel, for the sake of the LORD’S testimony before the Egyptians, and other nations (9:25-29).

What lesson might we take from Moses’ memorializing Israel’s sins, and unworthiness?

I suggest it is a good thing to remember that none of us are worthy, nor merit God’s favor (Titus 3:5). We are all lost, and without hope of forgiveness, and salvation, apart from Jesus Christ. Israel was saved as a nation; in the same way any sinner comes to be saved and forgiven of his sin–GRACE.

Ephesians 2:8–98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Foolish Prophet, and His Chattering Donkey (Numbers 21-22) (part 2 of 2)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

This devotional commentary continues our summary review of Numbers 21, and will also consider Numbers 22. The LORD had spared Israel from greater judgment, by directing Moses to make, and lift up a brass serpent on a pole, that served as the object God provided for the people to look to look for their healing (21:1-9). 

Numbers 21:10-16 – A Song of Rejoicing

The nation continued on their journey to the Promised Land, skirting the border of Edom (Deuteronomy 2:4, 5), and coming to the “border of Moab” (21:13). There the people rejoiced for the water the LORD provided (21:14-18).

Numbers 21:10-31 – Victory over Sihon, King of the Amorites

Desiring to pass through the territory of the Amorites, “Israel sent messengers unto Sihon, king of the Amorites” (21:21), and requested safe passage through their land. The leaders of Israel vowed to not harm their crops, vineyards, or drink water from their wells (21:22). King Sihon, however, refused Israel’s request, and gathered his people and attacked the congregation (21:22). Israel rose up against the Amorites, and God gave them victory (21:24-25). Memorializing their victory over Sihon, king of the Amorites, Israel celebrated with a song (21:27-31).

Numbers 21:32-35 – The Defeat of Og, the King of Bashan

Building upon Israel’s defeat of the Amorites, the nation faced Og, king of Bashan. He attacked Israel, but the LORD assured Moses and Israel that He would give them victory. King Og was then defeated so soundly that “there was none left him alive: and they [Israel] possessed his land” (21:35).

Numbers 22 – Balak, King of the Moabites

The next several chapters, Numbers 22-24, introduces us to Balaam, whom we might describe as an unfaithful seer (a seer being a prophet, or fortune-teller), and a king of Moab named Balak.

Balak had heard how Israel defeated Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, and his heart failed at the thought of facing this formidable foe that was marching through his land (22:1-4). Lacking confidence that his soldiers could defeat Israel, Balak turned to Balaam, and sent ambassadors to summon the prophet to come, and curse Israel (22:5-6). The king was confident “that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed” (22:6).

Coming with the promise his services would be well rewarded, the Moabite delegation insisted that Balaam come and curse Israel (22:7). The foolish prophet, rather than reject the Moabites invitation outright, and send them away, invited them, “Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me” (22:8a).

The LORD came to Balaam, and warned, “Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed” (22:12). The next morning, Balaam sent the Moabites away, saying, “the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you” (22:13).

Receiving Balaam’s refusal, and desperate for help, Balak sent a second delegation more powerful and influential than the first (22:15). Those men came to Balaam promising to enrich, and “promote [him] unto very great honour,” if he would come and “curse…this people” (22:17).

Balaam knew he could not curse a people whom God blessed, nevertheless, he invited the Moabites to spend the night, and he would bring the matter before the LORD (22:19). That night, the LORD came to Balaam, and gave him liberty to go with the delegation (22:20-21).

Balaam rose the next day, saddled his donkey, and began his journey with the Moabites. As Balaam set out on his journey to Moab, “God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him” (22:22).

The next verses (22:22-41), relate a humorous interaction between Balaam, his donkey, and the angel of the LORD, that has captivated mankind’s imagination for thousands of years. Balaam, spiritually blinded by the thought of the honors, rewards, and riches that were promised him, did not see what his donkey saw: the angel of the LORD had become Balaam’s adversary (22:22), and was “standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand” (22:23).

Fearing the angel, the donkey rushed off the road, running Balaam into a wall, and crushing his foot (22:25). Hobbled, and humiliated, Balaam struck his donkey. Still blind to the presence of the angel, Balaam attempted to continue his journey, but his donkey “fell down under [him]: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff” (22:27). The LORD then gave the donkey voice, and the beast asked him, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (22:28).

Balaam, filled with rage, answered his donkey’s rebuke, saying, “thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee” (22:29). The dialog between the foolish prophet and his donkey continued (22:30), until “the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and [Balaam] bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face” (22:31). The angel revealed how Balaam’s donkey had saved his life (22:32-33), for surely he would have been slain for going with the Moabites.

Balaam confessed his sin, and spiritual blindness, and promised to turn back (22:34). The angel, however, directed Balaam to continue his journey to see Balak, the Moabite king, and there he would be directed by the LORD what things he should say (22:25-38).

To be continued….

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15

The children of Israel were discouraged, and afraid after hearing the “evil report” of the ten spies. They had reported the land of Canaan was all God promised it would be, but was also “a land that eateth up the inhabitants…33And there we saw the giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:32-33).

What happens when believers turn back from the challenge of stepping out in faith, and trusting God?

The tragic answer to that question is found in Numbers 14. The congregation of Israel, after rejecting Caleb’s desperate call for faith (13:30), returned to their tents and “lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night” (14:1).

Fear turned to rebellion, and “the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (14:2). Their murmuring against the LORD and His leader, soon turned to an accusation that God had meant them evil, and brought Israel out of Egypt only to allow them to “fall by the sword,” and that their wives and children “should be a prey” (14:3).

Fear and murmuring suddenly turned to a plan of insurrection, and the people determined to choose a leader, and “return into Egypt” (14:4). Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in an act of humiliation (14:5), and Joshua and Caleb, the spies who had faith to trust God, “rent their clothes” (14:6). Joshua and Caleb pleaded saying, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 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. 9Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for …the Lord is with us: fear them not” (14:7-9).

The people had intended to stone Joshua and Caleb, but the “glory of the LORD appeared in the Tabernacle” (14:10). He would have afflicted the people in His wrath, and disinherit them as His people (14:11-12). Moses reasoned, and pleaded with the LORD to not give Israel’s enemies cause to say He had had slain them because He was not able to bring them into the Promised Land (14:13-16).

Moses appealed to the LORD, and reviewing His attributes, said, “18The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (14:18). On the basis of His divine character, Moses prayed to the LORD, “19Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (14:19).

The LORD heard, and heeded Moses’ prayer, but God is also just, and would not allow Israel’s rebellion and faithlessness to go unpunished (14:20-23). The faithless spies were slain for the “evil report” they had brought against the LORD (14:22-23, 36-37). God determined the whole congregation would be turned away from Canaan, and the people would “be wasted in the wilderness” (14:23, 25, 32-34). All of Israel, twenty years and older (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua), would die in the wilderness because they had murmured against the LORD (14:24-32, 38).

Moses then announced God’s judgment, “and the people mourned greatly” (14:39). With remorse, the people rose early the next day and were determined to go up, and to cross over into the Promised Land (14:40). Moses warned they would “not prosper…for the LORD is not among you” (14:41-42).

Without the LORD presence, power, and protection, Israel’s presumption was doomed, and many of Israel were slain (14:44-45).

Numbers 15 – The Difference in God’s Judgment for Sins Committed Out of Ignorance, and Deliberate Sins

Numbers 15 marks the beginning of Israel’s tragic forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 15-21). The sacrifices were instituted as not only Israel’s obligation, but also that of the “strangers” that journeyed with Israel.  The “strangers,” people not of the lineage of Abraham, were to do as Israel, for there was “one law and one manner” (15:15-16).

There were sacrifices for sins “committed by [out of] ignorance” (15:24-29), meaning unknowingly. There was the question of willful, or presumptuous sins. The punishment for those sins was “that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (15:30-31).

Soon after that law was instituted, a man willfully broke the law, and gathered sticks on the Sabbath (15:32-33) for his own purposes and as an act of public rebellion. Given the seriousness of his actions, the man was taken “in ward” (custody), and Moses and Aaron sought the mind of the LORD. The LORD directed that all the congregation would put the sinner out of the camp, and stone him (15:34-36).

To serve as a lasting reminder, the LORD decreed the children of Israel were to wear about the fringes of their garments a blue ribbon, bearing tassels. The tassels were to serve as a visual reminder to “remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and…40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God” (15:39-41).

Believer, choose to be faithful, trusting, and obedient to the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 18-19

Our study in Leviticus moves on from the subject of clean and unclean meats (Leviticus 17), to the morality and sanctity of the institution of marriage (Leviticus 18).

Leviticus 18 – A Call to Be Holy

The LORD commanded Moses, “speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. 3After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (18:2-3).

Reminding the nation, “I am the LORD your God” (18:2, 4), He commanded Israel to not follow after the ways of the heathen, for He had chosen, and called them out of Egypt. If the people would keep His commandments, and walk in His precepts (18:4-5), He promised He would bless them.

Leviticus 18:6-18 leaves no doubt that the ways of the heathen, were not to be the ways of Israel. While all manner of immorality, and ungodliness was practiced by the Egyptians, and the Canaanites, the LORD would accept nothing less than the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. (Realizing the sad state of morality in both the world and the church, I dare not take lightly the explicit nature of this passage.)

The Abominable Sin of Incest (18:6-18)

The phrase, “uncover their nakedness” (18:6), is a reference to the sexual act reserved for marriage, and is found throughout this passage. The LORD had no tolerance for incest, and its practice was a capital offense, and its subjects would be stoned.

The following sexual relationships were forbidden, and were deemed incestuous. Sex with one’s parent (18:7), stepmother (18:8), sister or half-sister (18:9), grand-daughter (18:10), daughter of a stepmother (18:11), an aunt, both fraternal and maternal (18:12-14), daughter-in-law (18:15), sister-in-law (18:16), sex with a mother and her daughter (18:17), or sisters, unless the first had died (18:18) were forbidden.

Child sacrifice practiced among the heathen, was an abomination to the God of Israel (18:21). The LORD declared homosexuality an abomination (18:22), and God’s judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah because of that sin (Genesis 19). Bestiality, the sin of a man or woman lying with a beast, was described as “confusion” (18:23), and therefore a perversion of God’s natural law and order.

The Wickedness of Man Demands God’s Judgment (18:24-30)

The LORD warned Israel, He would have no tolerance should His people adopt the ways of the heathen. The sin of man not only defiles himself, but also infects the land (18:24). God warned, should His people practice the immoral ways of the wicked, the land would vomit out its inhabitants (18:25-28). Any who refused to “do [His] judgments, and keep [His] ordinances” (18:4), the LORD warned those souls would be excommunicated, “cut off from among their people” (18:29).

Leviticus 19 – A Brief Review of the Commandments and the Law

Leviticus 19 repeats the LORD’s commandments, and explains the practical application of His Law and Precepts for daily life. Charity to the poor (19:9-10), paying an honest, fair wage (19:13), showing sympathy to those less fortunate (19:14), and loving one’s neighbor in word and deed are stressed (19:15-22) as the will of God.

A Concluding Thought: A Crisis of Morality

There was a time when the lives of God’s people were defined by His Word, Law, and Commandments. The lives of believers, and their homes, set the moral high ground for these United States. Sadly, too many homes have an appetite for the world, and look to society, social media, politicians, judges, and a liberal media for their moral judgments and practices.

Warning: Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until our consciences are disciplined by God’s Word, Laws and Commandments (18:30). 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 10-11

After consecrating Aaron as high priest, and his sons to serve as priests, the LORD affirmed the priests of Israel, with “a fire…and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

Leviticus 10 – Tragedy: The Sin and Deaths of Two Sons of Aaron

Incredibly, the exhilarating moment we considered in Leviticus 9:24, was followed soon after with a great tragedy: “1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (10:1-2).

The exact nature of Nadab and Abihu’s sin was not revealed; however, we understand it was an act of willful disobedience that the LORD would not tolerate. They had “offered strange fire…which [the LORD] commanded them not” (10:1c), and He consumed them with a fire of judgment (10:2).

I am reminded of the principle, “unto whom much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). The sons of Aaron had violated their privilege to serve on behalf of the people, and draw near to the LORD in His sanctuary, thus God rejected them.

Imagine the sorrow that took hold of Aaron’s heart when he learned two of his sons had disobeyed the LORD, and been slain by the fire of His judgment.

Moses warned Aaron, “This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace” (10:3). Aaron, because he represented the people before God, was forbidden to mourn outwardly, lest his sorrow appear to contradict the LORD’s judgment (10:3c).

Moses commanded “Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron” (10:4), and cousins of Aaron’s sons, to remove their bodies from the Tabernacle, and carry them outside the camp. Aaron, and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were cautioned a second time that they were not to show outward signs of mourning, “lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled” (10:6b).

Instead of mourning, Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, were reminded they had been anointed to serve the LORD, and were not to leave their duties in the Tabernacle (10:7).

Perhaps an indication of why Nadab and Abihu had sinned against the LORD (10:1), Leviticus 10:8-11 states a prohibition that the LORD’s priests were not to imbibe wine or strong drink in their ministry. Knowing alcohol can distort a man’s judgment, and compromise him morally, the priests were to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (10:10).

Leviticus 10:12-15, rehearsed the laws that regulated the conduct and duties of priests, and the sacrifices they were to offer to the LORD for the nation.

Leviticus 10:16-20 – A Sin of Omission

We find Moses seeking the “goat of the sin offering” that the LORD had commanded be set aside for the priests (10:16). Moses discovered that Aaron’s surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, had failed to set aside, and eat a portion of the offering the LORD had commanded be eaten by the priests.

Moses confronted Eleazar and Ithamar, demanding, “17Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?” (10:17) They had failed the LORD (10:18), and not treated as holy that which God required. Instead, they had taken the flesh of the sin offering, and burned it outside the camp.

Aaron, assuming responsibility for his sons’ failures (10:19), bemoaned his sorrow for the things that had befallen him and his family (10:19). Moses, when he heard the words of his brother, sympathized with him, and “was content” (10:20).

A Lesson Concerning “Strange Fire”

Some could argue, Nadab and Abihu might have had good intentions for offering incense in the LORD’S sanctuary! However, we must remember, their intent or motivation was not the issue. They had chosen to come to the LORD apart from His command, and offered a “strange fire” that He refused.

I fear there is a lot that is done in churches, and under the guise of worship, that is a “strange fire” to the LORD. Strange doctrine, strange preachers, and strange music abound in churches. When the goal of worship leaders is to be exciting and entertaining, as opposed to hallowed and holy, they become the purveyors of “strange fire.”

You see, when we come to the LORD, we must come not on our merit, but on His terms. We are to be imitators of Christ, not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Humility: The Forgotten Principle When Choosing Leaders (Exodus 11-12, part 1)

Scripture reading: Exodus 11-12

Exodus 11 – The Man (or Woman) God Calls

Before the LORD sent the tenth, and final plague, He instructed Moses to communicate to the people that they would “borrow [to request or demand] of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold” (11:2).

This seems a strange request for a people preparing to sojourn in the desert; however, I suggest two motives for the demand. The first, God’s people had served the Egyptians as slaves for four centuries, and the value of what they demanded in precious metals would scarcely be regarded as full payment for their toil. A second purpose, the “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold” would be required to decorate the tabernacle, and fabricate vessels that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices.

Before we address the tenth plague, consider what the LORD had done in this contest between Pharaoh and His servant Moses.

The LORD had magnified Moses in Egypt, and the fears he had entertained in returning to Egypt were overcome by God giving him “favour in the sight of the Egyptians” (11:3a). Forty years of herding his father-in-law’s sheep had humbled this once proud prince of Egypt, and the LORD had so magnified him that he had become “very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people” (11:3).

Author and leadership guru, John Maxwell has observed, “A leader must give up to go up,” and that principle is seen clearly in the life of Moses. He had given up everything that gave him rank and privilege as a prince in Egypt. He had left behind the pastoral life of a shepherd. For all that, God blessed him, and he was elevated above the king of Egypt in the eyes of the people.

It is rare to find a man or woman of great talents and abilities who is humble enough to serve the LORD!

Our era of “selfies” and self-promotion is the antithesis of humility. The men whom God calls and promotes are as rare today as they have ever been: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

The tenth and final plague would be a blow to the proud, obstinate king of Egypt, and that nation’s dedication of its firstborn to a god.

Moses prophesied to the children of Israel, “Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more” (11:4-6).

The LORD would spare Israel’s firstborn, and would “put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (11:7), only if Israel would follow the Word of the LORD as Moses gave instruction. If they did not obey His Word, they would be no different than Egypt. Israel, however, was spared God’s judgment because of the blood of the Passover (12:13). Our next devotional (Exodus 12) will establish the central meaning of the Passover, and its significance.

As we conclude, I invite you to reflect on the attribute of humility, a quality that should be required of all leaders. There is a desperate need for men who are humble enough for God to use (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and bold enough to unapologetically declare the Word of the LORD!

* A part 2 of today’s devotional will focus on Exodus 12.

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