Category Archives: Rebellion

You will not be the exception! (Deuteronomy 5)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 5

Moses’ first oration to Israel concluded in Deuteronomy 4:29, and Deuteronomy 5:1 marks the beginning of his second oration.

We read:  “Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (5:1). Moses reminded the generation that stood before him, how they were bound to the LORD by a Covenant (5:2), one they had as a congregation agreed to “in Horeb” (Horeb being the same as Mount Sinai).

For any who might object, and suppose they were not bound by the covenant established at Horeb, Moses stated the principle of “corporate solidarity,” saying, “3The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” (5:3). How did the LORD establish His covenant with Israel as a nation? “[He] talked with [them] face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire” (5:4). Moses then related how he had served as Israel’s mediator, and received the Law and Commandments from the LORD (5:5).

God’s covenant with Israel began with a preamble: 6I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (5:6). Having stated the preamble, Moses began to rehearse the Decalogue (ten words or statements), and restated the Ten Commandments that were recorded in Exodus 20(5:7-21).

I will suspend a repetition of an earlier study of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), but I encourage you to review the devotional commentary of the same. The spiritual, and historical significance of the Law and Commandments cannot be exaggerated.

After reviewing the Commandments, Moses shared the means by which they were imparted to Israel (5:22-27).

The LORD’s Spirit had descended upon Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), and He spoke “unto all [the]assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me” (5:22).

The people had been terrified at the sight, “for the mountain did burn with fire” (5:25), and the voice of the LORD was heard like the rumble of thunder (5:26). Fearing the LORD, the people intreated Moses to serve as their mediator saying, “27Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it” (5:27).

The LORD agreed to the people’s request (5:28), and commended them saying, “29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (5:28).

What a wonderful aspiration! The God of Israel, whose presence and voice had terrified them, longed for His people to always fear [revere] Him, and keep His commandments (5:28a). The LORD’S passion was, that it would be “well with them, and with their children for ever” (5:28b).

Did you know the LORD wants no less for you, and your family?

He longs to bless you, but such a blessing goes only to those who, in the words of Moses, “observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (5:32). Too many choose to take detours from the way and path of righteousness, and wonder why things go so badly for them and their loved ones.

God longed for His people to revere Him, and keep His commandments, and yearned “that it [would] be well with [them]” (5:33).

Closing thoughts: God’s blessings are upon the man, and his family, who choose to walk in the way of righteousness. “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15), but the man who is blessed is one who “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).

What path are you taking, and where are you leading your family?

Remember, “the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: But the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

You will not be the exception!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Look, and Live! (Numbers 21-22) (part 1 of 2)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

Numbers 21 finds Israel near the end of that nation’s forty-year sojourn in the wilderness. The vastness of Israel’s population was such that neighboring nations feared the congregation. One king, Arad the Canaanite, fought against Israel, taking some of the people as prisoners. The people called on the LORD, and vowed, “If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities” (21:2). The LORD heard Israel’s promise, and gave them a great victory over the Canaanites, and the people “utterly destroyed them and their cities” (21:3).

In spite of their great victory over the Canaanites, Edom’s refusal to allow Israel to pass through their land soon found the people discouraged (21:4). Like their parents before them, they began speaking against God, and Moses, saying, “Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread” (21:5).

The LORD’S judgment was swift, and “fiery [poisonous] serpents” bit the people, and many died (21:6). Moses, evidencing the humility and meekness of a leader who had borne much, prayed for the people when they confessed, “we have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee” (21:7). The LORD heard Moses’ prayer, and commanded him, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (21:8).

Moses obeyed the LORD, and fashioned “a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (21:9). The significance of this event was identified by Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3). The LORD revealed the “brass serpent” was a type, a pre-incarnate symbol, of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16).

The brass serpent, suspended on a pole, was the object God provided for Israel to look to and live. Some 2,000 years later, Christ would be suspended on the Cross, and all who look to Him find healing – the answer for the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). The invitation to Israel to look, and live, is an invitation for all sinners: Look to the Cross, and with eyes of faith, believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead. Look, and Live!

1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

He Stood Between the Living and the Dead (Numbers 16-17)

He Stood Between the Living and the Dead (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Today’s Scripture reading continues a succession of rebellions that followed Israel since the people refused to trust God, and enter the Promised Land. Incredibly, the rebellion recorded in Numbers 16 arose from the Levites, the tribe the LORD had chosen to serve Him, and assist the priests with worship and sacrifices.

Numbers 16 – A Rebellion in the Tribe of Levi

Three men, and two hundred fifty princes, renown leaders of the people, conspired to challenge the priestly leadership of Aaron, and his sons. “Korah…and Dathan and Abiram…took men: 2And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown” (16:1-2). Emboldened, after having colluded in secret, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “gathered themselves against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3a), and railed against them, saying “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (16:3).

Ponder the assertion made by the rebels. Their words were a direct attack upon the leadership the LORD had ordained for Israel. Their flattery of the people, saying “all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them,” was either delusional, or a lie intended to court the favor of the people.

Moses’ response to the rebels, proved he was a “meek man,” for he “fell upon his face” (16:4), and determined to put the matter of the rebellion before the LORD (16:5). Remembering the rebellion was led by men who were Levites, Moses directed Korah, the principal rebel, and his cohorts to bring censers the next day to the Tabernacle, and the LORD would make known whom He had chosen to serve Him (16:6-9). Numbers 16:10-11 reveals the seed of the rebellion was a resentment of Aaron and his sons, for Moses questioned Korah, “Would you seek the priesthood also?” (16:10)

How did the rebels respond? Rather than receive the rebuke, and humble themselves, they scorned Moses. Dathan and Abiram, when summoned to appear before Moses to answer for their part in the rebellion, refused, and mocked him as though he had failed the people as a leader (16:12-14). Provoked by their rebellion, Moses cried to the LORD, “Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them”(16:15). (What pastor, after serving a congregation faithfully, has not felt the same sorrow when some he served murmured against him?) Moses summoned Korah and his company to appear before the LORD with their censers the next day (16:16-17).

The next day, “Korah gathered all the congregation against [Moses and Aaron] in the door of the Tabernacle…and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation” (16:18-19). When the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, “separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them” (16:21), those men “fell upon their faces” and cried out to the LORD, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” (16:22).

Guided by the LORD, Moses, with the “elders of Israel” following, sought out Dathan and Abiram, and implored the congregation, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men [Korah, Dathan, and Abiram], and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins” (12:26).

The people removed themselves from the usupers, as the rebels stood in the doors of their tents with their families (16:27). Raising his voice to the congregation, Moses let it be known that should “the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up” (16:30), the people would know those rebels had “provoked the LORD” (16:30). Suddenly, even as the words fell from the lips of Moses, “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up…and they perished from among the congregation” (16:32-33). The people, also fearing the earth might swallow them up, fled as the LORD sent fire upon the two hundred and fifty men who had joined in the rebellion (16:34-36).

Rather than brokenness, and remorse, the next day some of the congregation came together and accused Moses and Aaron saying, “Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41). Suddenly, the presence of the LORD descended on the Tabernacle, and He commanded Moses to separate from the people, that He might “consume them as in a moment” (16:45).

Fearing the wrath of the LORD, Moses commanded Aaron to take a censor and go quickly among the people, “and [make] an atonement for the people” (16:47). The drama of that moment was captured in this: [Aaron] stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed (16:48).

Fourteen thousand and seven hundred perished, not counting the two hundred and fifty who had perished with Korah (16:48-50), but the LORD in His mercy spared the congregation.

Numbers 17 – Aaron’s Role Confirmed by an Almond Blossomed Rod

Numbers 17 addresses the challenge to Aaron, and his son’s role as priests. The matter was solved in a manner that forever answered the question of spiritual leadership in Israel, and confirmed the priesthood would be that of the lineage of Aaron and his sons.

I close with two verses that should serve as a sobering reminder to all believers.

Hebrews 10:30–3130For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

Scripture reading – Numbers 11-12

Israel’s journey to the Promised Land began, and the people “departed from the mount of the Lord [Mount Sinai where they had received the Law and Commandments] three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord [a symbol of God’s throne] went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.” (10:33-34)

Numbers 11 – The Complainers, and God’s Judgment

Israel, having accepted the terms of their covenant with God, had observed the Passover, and set out on their journey in the manner the LORD had ordained. After only three days, the people began to complain, and “it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1).

How swift the judgment of the LORD fell upon the people! Why? What did their complaints reveal that the LORD’S “anger was kindled?” (11:1) Their complaints revealed their disloyalty to the LORD, and ingratitude for all He had provided (Psalm 106:6-14). The people cried out to Moses, and he “prayed unto the Lord, [and] the fire was quenched” (11:2).

Notice where the fire of God’s judgment began: “in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1). Those people were as far away from the Tabernacle, and the Ark as possible. Numbers 11:4 reveals the nature and character of those upon whom the fire fell: “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

This “mixt multitude” were those who left Egypt with Israel, but they were not numbered or named among the Hebrews (11:4). They had taken opportunity to escape Egypt, but they had no inheritance with God’s people.

They had introduced a contentious spirit in the camp. They asked, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4), and lusted for the foods of Egypt (11:5). They had come to despise the manna God provided, and in so doing rejected not only the provision, but the provider Himself (11:7-9, 20).

Hearing the complaints, and the people weeping (11:10), Moses moaned to the LORD in a series of self-focused questions (11:11-13). Exasperated, overwhelmed, and despairing, he cried to the LORD, 14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (11:14).

With loving compassion, the LORD directed Moses to choose seventy leaders from among the Twelve Tribes who would share his burdens (11:16). The LORD “came down in a cloud, and spake unto [Moses], and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders” (11:25a).

Provoked by bitter complaints, the LORD determined to give the people the meat they demanded (11:18-23). On the next day, He took away the manna, and for thirty days they had nothing but meat to eat (11:18-21). In their lust for meat, they gorged themselves and became sick, and “the LORD smote [them] with a very great plague” (11:31-33).

Numbers 12A Leader’s Response to Criticism

While the complaints in Numbers 11 caused Moses to despair of life (11:11-15), the criticism in Numbers 12was the most grievous of all. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ own sister and brother, spoke against their brother (12:1). Miriam was the eldest, and she appeared to be the principal antagonist, since she bore the consequences of murmuring against God’s leader (12:10).

I have learned that minor disputes are often the cover for deeper sins, and this was especially true with Miriam and Aaron. The initial challenge was concerning an Ethiopian woman whom Moses married (12:1). We do not know why they objected to the Ethiopian woman [although it was a violation of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, Genesis 2:24].

In the next verse we discover the core issue of their reproach of Moses when they ask, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” (12:2). They were jealous of their brother’s position, and challenged his authority, but “the Lord heard it” (12:2c).

Moses was “very meek [not weak, but a strength under control], above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (12:3); however, the LORD did not allow their complaint to go unchecked. Suddenly the LORD spoke “unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation” (12:4).

Imagine that moment! Summoned by the voice of the LORD who “came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth” (12:5). Leaving no doubt who His prophet was, the LORD fortified Moses (12:7), and His anger “was kindled against them” (12:9). As the LORD departed, He struck Miriam with leprosy (12:10) as a visible sign of His displeasure, and she “became leprous, white as snow” (12:10). Aaron cried out to Moses for his sister (12:11), and Moses “cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (12:13).

The LORD heard Moses’ plea, but He reasoned that Miriam’s sin was a cause for shame, and she would bear the reproach of leprosy for seven days, outside the camp (12:14). Seven days passed, “and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again” and was restored to the fellowship (12:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24

Leviticus 23 – Feast Days on Israel’s Religious Calendar

Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

Leviticus 23:6-41 itemizes the annual feasts Israel was to observe as a nation.

The Passover (23:5), commemorating the LORD sparing the firstborn, and delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. On the following day after the Passover, the people were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering Israel’s departure out of Egypt. Its observance lasted seven days, and was a reminder of how swiftly the people had to leave Egypt.  The first and last days of Unleavened Bread are counted as Sabbaths [High Sabbaths], though these days may not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).

There was the Offering of the First Fruits, also known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat (or meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision, even as we should pray and give thanks at every meal.

Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came upon the LORD’S disciples, whom He told to remain in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 2).

Two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were also offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Pentecost was observed with a burnt offering consisting of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams, “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).

Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).

The Feast of the Trumpets was observed the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17).

The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41), and was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34), the last day of the harvest. Each family would gather “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,” and live in the booths for seven days (23:40). Dwelling in booths commemorated Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness, and living in tents (23:43).

Leviticus 24 – God’s Laws were not suggestions, they were commands.

After rehearsing the laws and guidelines regarding the for the lamps, and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), we are alerted to a judicial crisis that arose in Israel, and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-16).

The son of Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD, a violation of the third command, and one demanding the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17).  Realizing the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender] in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).

After hearing the witnesses, and seeking God’s will, Moses demanded the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s camp, and those who witnessed his sin, lay hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lordcommanded Moses” (24:23).

The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)

I close, reminding you God is merciful, and just. A murderer was to be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed the beast that belonged to another, was to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Injure or maim a man, and the law demanded you should suffer the same: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).

A Closing Thought: Our world has lost its good sense of justice, and our judicial system has become a demoralizing failure. Too often in our society we find criminals are pampered, and their victims are left scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice, no fairness, in society? You need look no further than Proverbs 29:2.

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

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

Grace, and More Grace (Exodus 34-35)

Scripture reading – Exodus 34-35

The judgment had passed (32:25-32), and the LORD had granted a reprieve to the people in response to the intercessory prayer of Moses. Moses returned to the mount, and entered into the presence of the LORD (33:1), where He repeated His promise of the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No longer, however, would the people be comforted by the LORD leading them; instead, His Angel would go before them (33:2-3).

Moses was commanded to take “the tabernacle,” and pitch it outside the camp (33:7). Because the “Tabernacle” the LORD had commanded Moses to make was not yet constructed. I believe this “tabernacle” was Moses’ personal tent. Moving his “tabernacle” would have meant that the nation’s leader was outside the encampment (33:7-8). It was outside the camp, where the people witnessed the LORD’s presence descending as a cloudy pillar, and knew He “talked with Moses…face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend” (33:9-11a).

Moses beseeched the LORD to restore His favor to Israel, and the LORD promised, “I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name” (33:17).

Moses also requested the LORD show him His glory. In response, the LORD promised, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee” (33:19-20).

Exodus 34 – The Glory of the LORD, and Its Reflection on the Face of Moses

The LORD reviewed His covenant with Israel, and summoned Moses to cut out two tables of stone upon which He engraved His Commandments (34:1-4). Moses ascended Mount Sinai, as “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there” (34:5).

Keeping His promise to give Moses a glimpse of His glory (33:21-23), “the Lord passed by before him, and introduced Himself to Moses by name: “The LORD [YAHWEH; Jehovah], The LORD [YAHWEH] God [El],” the Eternal, Self-existent God (34:6).

Revealing His nature to Moses, the LORD named seven attributes (34:6-7). He is “merciful,” meaning compassionate. He is “gracious,” kind, good, showing favor without merit. He is “longsuffering,” slow to anger. He is rich in “goodness and truth,” faithful and true. He keeps “mercy for thousands,” and His mercy is sufficient for all. He is forgiving, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” He is just, and “by no means [clearing] the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (34:7).

Finding himself in the presence of the LORD in all His majesty, Moses hastily “bowed his head…and worshipped” the LORD (34:8), and interceded for Israel (34:9-10). For “forty days and forty nights” (34:28) he went without food or water, as the LORD instructed him, and renewed His covenant with Israel (34:10-28).

Moses was commanded to, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (34:27). Moses did as he was commanded, and “wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (34:28). Taking up the stone tables of the Law, Moses descended the mount and “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw [him], behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (34:30).

Although Moses had only been exposed to the back of the LORD (33:22-23), the glory of the LORD so reflected on him that he veiled his face when he stood before the people (34:32-33). However, when he was in the presence of the LORD, he removed the veil (34:34).

Exodus 35 – Giving for God’s Work

Exodus 35 reviews in detail the instructions Moses was given for fabricating the Tabernacle and altars, creating the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, and preparing the garments of the high priest. As the LORD had commanded him, Moses called for the people to bring “an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart” (35:4-5). The response of the people was universal, and “every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work” (35:29).

We are once again introduced to Bezaleel and Aholiab. They were artisans, chosen by God not only for their workmanship, but also because of their godly character (35:30-35).

I close today’s devotional, reflecting on God’s forgiving grace. Though He judged Israel guilty for that nation’s sins, the LORD heard the intercessory prayer of His servant, and showed mercy. It is the same mercy and grace by which we who believe are saved.

Ephesians 2:8–108For 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. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Holiness Contends with Wickedness (Exodus 32-33)

Scripture reading– Exodus 32-33

For “forty days and forty nights” (24:18), Moses and Joshua had been on Mount Sinai, with the LORD. Their appointment with the LORD being ended, the LORD had given to Moses “two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (31:18).

Moses was unaware of events that were transpiring in Israel’s camp, but the LORD knew. He had heard the wicked demands of the people (32:1), and observed Aaron’s failure to hold the people to the covenant Israel had vowed to the LORD (32:2-3).

Aaron had cast in gold “a molten calf” for the people to worship (32:4), and the people blasphemed the LORD, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (32:4). Aaron accommodated their wickedness, and “built an altar before [the calf]; and [proclaimed]… To morrow is a feast to the Lord” (32:5).

Disavowing their covenant with the LORD, the people gave themselves to a worship that was like the idolatry they had witnessed in Egypt, and “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (32:6). The implication is that their conduct was not only idolatrous, but morally depraved.

Angered by the sins of the people, God vowed to judge them in His wrath (32:7-10), to cut off the nation, and covenant with Moses to “make of [him] a great nation” (32:10). Moses, however, humbly interceded for the people, and was jealous for the LORD’s testimony with Egypt, and other nations. He implored the LORD to remember His covenant with “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel” (32:13).

The LORD heard the prayer of Moses, and He “repented [lit. had a change of mind or heart] of the evil [judgment; destruction] which he thought to do unto his people” (32:14).

Moses descended the mount, and the “two tables of the testimony were in [his] hand: the tables [The Ten Commandments] were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. 16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (32:15-16).

When Joshua heard the clammer of voices in the camp, he wondered if it was the “noise of war” (32:17). Moses, however, knew it was the sound of frolicsome singing, and when “he saw the calf, and the dancing…[his] anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” (32:19).

Words fail to describe this tragic moment in Israel’s history. How soon the nation had turned from their covenant with the LORD, and had given themselves to wickedness and idolatry!

Incensed by their wickedness, Moses “took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it” (32:19b-20).

Turning to Aaron, Moses rebuked him, and questioned, “What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?” (32:21)

Aaron’s retort was sadly, much like many in spiritual leadership; he put on the people the responsibility for his own failure and said, “thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief” (32:22).

The full conversation that passed between those brothers is not recorded, but the Scriptures indicate that Aaron not only failed to resist the people, but implicated him as a willing participant, for we read: “Aaron had made [the people] naked unto their shame among their enemies” (32:25).

The time to stand for the LORD had come, and “Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi [the priestly tribe; the tribe of Moses and Aaron]gathered themselves together unto him” (32:26). Three thousand men were slain for their wickedness (32:28), and Moses rebuked the people saying, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin” (32:30).

The LORD, in answer to the intercessory prayer of Moses (32:31-32), and in act of mercy and grace, gave Israel a reprieve from utter destruction. Tragic consequences owing to the sins of the people followed; however, the Lord did not destroy the nation altogether (32:12-35).

I will review some of the effects of Israel’s sin in a later devotional (Exodus 33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith