Category Archives: Salvation

The LORD: My Deliverer and Protector (Psalms 124-125)

Scripture reading – Psalm 124; Psalm125

Our study of the Psalms continues with two psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” While Psalm 124 bears the name of David as its the author, the author of Psalm 125 is unknown. Both of the psalms are among those believed to have been sung by the priests as they ascended the steps in the Temple.

Psalms 124 – “A Song of Degrees of David.”

I suggest two major themes for Psalm 124. The first, the dangers from which the LORD had saved David and his men.

The phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side” is repeated in Psalm 124:1, and again in Psalm 124:2. I believe it is possible a song leader could have sung the first verse, ending the verse with, “Now may Israel say” (124:1). The congregation might have echoed the phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” and added, “When men rose up against us” (124:2).

If the LORD had not been on the side of David and his men, the enemy (perhaps King Saul) would have “swallowed us [David, and his men] up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us” (123:3). If the LORD had not been on their side, he and his men would have been overwhelmed by their enemy, and swept away in Saul’s wrath like a violent stream sweeps away its victims (124:4-5).

Deliverance is the second theme of Psalm 124.  Like a prey delivered from the teeth of lion (124:6), and a bird set free from a trapper’s snare (124:7), when David called on the name of the LORD, his deliverer was the Creator of heaven and earth (124:8).

Psalms 125

The reference to Mount Zion (125:1) seems to confirm Psalm 125 was a psalm sung by pilgrims ascending the road to Jerusalem and the Temple. Consider the following as an outline for Psalm 125. I suggest you consider four major ideas for the psalm.

The Proclamation – “1They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. 2As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” (125:1-2)

We live in world where it seems the wicked often have the advantage. Psalm 125, however, exhorts believers to “trust in the LORD,” for He is like Mount Zion: Unmovable, immutable, unwavering, and He “is round about his people” forever (125:1-2).

The Promise – “3For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” (125:3)

The wicked threaten, and even smite the saints of God with their rod (i.e., club). Nevertheless, the LORD restrains the wicked, and the rod will not “rest [stay] upon the lot [person] of the righteous” (125:3).

The Prayer4Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” (125:4)

The LORD is loving, and compassionate, and we can be certain He will bless those who please Him with good.

The Pledge – “5As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, The Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: But peace shall be upon Israel.” (125:5)

The LORD is Just, and those who take the crooked path, will be led along with the “workers of iniquity” and shall perish (125:5). But Israel [the true Israel, those who are the people of God] will enjoy peace (Galatians 6:16; John 14:27).

Closing thoughts: The mountains of Zion afforded Jerusalem a natural, fortified place, secure from her enemies.  Sitting upon the Mount Zion, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.

In the same way Jerusalem enjoyed safety and security on Mount Zion, His people are encouraged to “trust in the LORD,” for He encircles them like the “mountains are round about Jerusalem” (125:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Saving Rahab the Harlot, and God’s Amazing Grace (Joshua 6)

Scripture reading – Joshua 6

Having crossed the Jordan River, Joshua and the nation of Israel faced the challenge of waging war with the inhabitants of the land God had promised Israel for an inheritance. The first fortified city to conquer was ancient Jericho, whose high walls made it a strong fortress, and a city that had to be conquered before the people could take possession of the land.

Israel was two million strong by some estimates, and the news of how Israel’s God had divided the waters of the Jordan, giving way for the people to cross on dry ground, terrified the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites, and their hearts “melted, neither was there spirit in them any more” (5:1). With an assurance the LORD would be with him (6:13-15), Joshua was ready to face the battles that were ahead.

Preparations for the Battle of Jericho (6:1-5)

Fearing an imminent attack upon the city, the king of Jericho shut the gates to the city, and none were allowed to go out or come in (6:1). Israel’s encampment was surely visible from the towers on the wall, and the campfires of that multitude no doubt dotted the hillsides and the plain of Gilgal as far as the eye could see.

The LORD came to Joshua, and assured him the city, and its leaders were already given into his hand (6:2). The marching orders Joshua received were surely unlike any that an army of warriors had ever received. Rather than a prolonged siege of the city, or an assailing of the walls, Joshua was to command an army to march around the walls in silence.

The Silent Procession, and the Walls Fell Down (6:6-21)

The soldiers of Israel went before seven priests, who carried seven “trumpets of rams’ horns,” followed by priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant (6:3-4). Once a day, for six days a silent procession of warriors, was to go before seven priests bearing trumpets, who walked before the priests carrying the Ark.

Joshua had instructed the people as the LORD had commanded. Rising early on the seventh day, the parade of soldiers and priests once again encircled the walls of Jericho seven times in silence (6:5-12). After the seventh time, the silence was shattered by the priests who blew the trumpets (6:16, 20a). Confident the LORD had given Israel the city as He had promised, the people shouted, and “the wall fell down flat,” allowing the people to rush straight into Jericho (6:20b).

Remember the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, save the gold, silver, iron, and brass of the city that the LORD had claimed (6:18-19), and that was to be placed “into the treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24). All the living beings of the city were to be destroyed, “both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (6:21).

Rahab the Harlot: A Testimony of Grace (6:22-25)

Joshua had warned the people that all that was in the city was accursed, with one exception: “only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent” (6:17).

When the walls fell down, the men who had been spies, and found safety in Rahab’s house, were commanded to “Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, [and they] brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel” (6:22-23). The author of Hebrews described that event from the point of faith, writing: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31).

Rahab the harlot was not spared Jericho’s destruction because she merited God’s favor. She was a had been heathen, a prostitute, and would have been numbered among those whom Israel was to destroy.  Why was she spared?

She believed, and confessed the God of Israel was the True God, and Israel was His people (6:9-12). She had welcomed the spies into her home, and when the army of Israel surrounded the city, she tied a scarlet rope around her window as a symbol of her faith that she and her family would be spared.

Rahab, and God’s Amazing Grace

Rahab’s faith was rewarded by God! Not only was she spared the destruction of Jericho, she would become the mother of Boaz, and was the great-great grandmother of David. How amazing is God’s grace? Rahab is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).  What a testimony of saving grace! She was spared death, by the same way all who are saved are spared.

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

“Bold Faith; Wet Feet” (Joshua 2-3)

Scripture reading – Joshua 2-3

Joshua 2 – Two Spies, and a Harlot

With the affirmation and enlistment of the tribes that would settle on the land’s east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 1:12-18), Joshua sent two spies to survey the city of Jericho (2:1).

The city of Jericho, like Egypt, serves as a picture or type of the world in the Scriptures. It was a place of wealth, commerce, idolatry, and all manner of wickedness, including harlotry. The city was also an obstacle to Israel invading the land, and Joshua knew it must be destroyed.

Arriving in Jericho, the spies providentially entered an inn, located on the walls of the city, and one identified as “an harlot’s house, named Rahab” (2:1b). Why the house of a harlot? There are many reasons I might suggest, but the one most important is, the LORD knew Rahab’s heart was moved to faith by all she had heard about Israel, and their God.

Rahab hid the spies, at the risk of her life (2:2-6), and lied when the king’s men came seeking them. Some might argue the moral grounds for her lies, but we must remember she was ignorant of God’s Laws, and Commandments, and her conscience was probably unstirred by her sin. Rahab professed her faith in the LORD, when she appealed to the spies that she, and her family be spared the destruction of Jericho she believed was certain.

Consider the faith of Rahab: “9And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land10For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed (Numbers 21:21-24, 33-35). 11And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt…for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (2:9-12).

The spies gave Rahab a sign, a token of her faith, and instructed her, “bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee” (2:18). The spies returned to Israel’s’ encampment, and assured Joshua, “Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (2:24).

Joshua 3 – Stepping Out by Faith, and Into the Jordan

Wasting no time to muster the people to trust the LORD (3:1), Joshua commanded the nation to relocate to the shores of the Jordan, whose waters they must cross to enter the Promised Land (3:2). For three days, an estimated two million people stood looking at the flood waters, and questioning, “What now?”

Joshua then commanded the priest to carry the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD” before the people, and warned them to stand at a distance from that which represented the LORD’S throne, and His presence in the midst of Israel (3:3-4). One senses the joy, and anticipation of Joshua, as he tells the people, “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (3:5).

For forty years, the people had heard how the LORD had opened the Red Sea for Israel to pass through on dry ground. The LORD now promised He would magnify Joshua’s name. “The Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. 8And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan” (3:7-8).

The dividing of the waters of the Jordan, assured the people “that the living God is among you” (3:10a), and He would drive the heathen nations from the land (3:10). Bearing the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD,” the priests stepped into the flood waters, and as they did, the waters divided “and the people passed over right against Jericho. 17And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (3:16-17).

The “Ark of the Covenant” was a symbol of God’s presence, and power. It served as a testimony that the LORD would go before His people, and Israel passed through the dry bed of the Jordan, confident the LORD who had parted the waters was with them.

Faith, is the Victory!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Law of the LORD is Gracious (Deuteronomy 15)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 15

In today’s world, some suggest the Laws of the Old Testament were cold, oppressive, and lacking in grace. They are wrong! In their historical context, and understanding their application, you will find the Law and Commandments of the LORD not only just, but fair and judicious. For example, consider the guidelines for the borrower and lender (15:1-11).

Debtors, Lenders, and the Sabbatical Year (15:1-6)

The Sabbath Year, occurred every seven years, and was the year the LORD commanded the land to rest. Fields were not worked, seeds were not planted, and any vegetation that volunteered and gave fruit, were committed to poor, and the grazing animals.

What about a man’s debt, in the seventh year when they were not permitted to plant seed, harvest crops, and use a surplus to pay one’s debt? Because there was no harvest in the seventh year, lenders were not to press the poor for payment. The lender, in the Sabbath Year, was to suspend payment of a debt for the year (a non-Hebrew was not released of his obligation to pay his debt in the seventh year, 15:3).

If Hebrew lenders would show grace to their debtors, God promised He would bless the nation (15:4), and Israel would become a lender, not a borrower to other nations (15:5-6).

Lending to the Poor (15:7-11)

The poor are ever among us (15:11), and the LORD required His people to be charitable to them, especially those who were “one of the brethren,” meaning a Hebrew (15:7). God’s people were commanded to open their hand, and their heart when they looked upon those who were poor and needy (15:7). The lender was not to be miserly in giving to those in need, and was to “lend him sufficient for his need” (15:8).

In the matter of lending in the proximity of the Sabbath Year, it was probable some lenders might refuse to lend to the poor, knowing the seventh year might suspend repayment of a debt (15:9). Such reasoning was a sin in the eyes of the LORD (15:9b), and lenders were exhorted to give, and trust “the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (15:10).

Slavery, and the Release of Slaves (15:12-18)

Slavery was a cultural reality in the ancient world, and poverty was often the catalyst for one to become a slave. A Hebrew man or woman, unable to pay their debts, would become slaves to the lender (15:12). Unlike the abuses afflicted by the heathen upon their slaves, the LORD provided that His people would not become perpetual slaves (15:12). A Hebrew might serve six years, but on the seventh year they were to be released of their debt, and “go free” (15:12b).

When a slave was set free, a master was to ensure the slave would not “go away empty” (15:13). It was required that a master honor the one being set free, giving to “him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (15:14).

Some masters were so kind, and gracious, that some slaves would elect to continue as a slave for life, and have a hole pierced through their ear, marking them as such (15:17).

Dedication and Consecration of the Firstborn (15:19-23)

Remembering the tenth plague in Egypt, and how the LORD had spared the firstborn of Israel where the blood had been applied to the doorposts; that deliverance was forever memorialized by dedicating the firstborn male in Israel to the LORD (Exodus 13:2, 15).

The firstborn of cattle, and sheep, were to be unblemished, and offered as a sacrificial meal (15:19-20). Firstborn oxen were not to be worked in the fields, nor were firstborn sheep to be sheared, for they were the LORD’S. Should the firstborn be blemished, it was not a worthy sacrifice, and would therefore be eaten like ordinary meat (15:21-23; 12:15).

I close inviting you to consider how the Law of the LORD was gracious, and it protected the poor from harsh lenders, slaves from cruel taskmasters, and extended seasons of hope, and relief to the people.

Remember, all offerings were a type of God’s final, and perfect offering for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the firstborn of Mary, was the perfect, sinless, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Behold Your God! (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 3-4

The address to Israel, that Moses began in Deuteronomy 1, continues in today’s Scripture reading. It is good to pause in our study, and remember Moses is 120-years-old. He finds himself standing before a new generation, the majority of whom had been born in the wilderness over the course of forty years.

Four-hundred years of slavery in Egypt was a fact of history, but not something that generation had experienced. The consequences of their forefather’s faithlessness, and rebellion had befallen that generation, and it was essential that they not only knew the character of their God, but understood their covenant relationship with Him as a nation.

Deuteronomy 3 – God is Gracious, But Choices Have Consequences

With the urgency of a man who knows his death is imminent, Moses reviewed the LORD’s care, and compassion for Israel. He reminded the people how God had delivered Og, the king of Bashan into their hands. Israel had conquered sixty walled cities (3:4-5), and utterly destroyed the “men, women, and children, of every city” (3:6). The LORD had enriched His people, and given them “all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities” (3:7). Moses reviewed that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had requested the lands on the east side of the Jordan River (3:12-20).

The LORD had chosen Joshua as his successor (3:21a), and Moses recalled that God promised to drive out the inhabitants on the west side of the Jordan (3:21-22), even as He had defeated the two kings on the east side (Sihon, the Amorite, 2:24-36, and Og, the king of Bashan, 3:1-11).

For a second time in the Book of Deuteronomy (1:37), Moses reminisced how He had asked the LORD to permit him to enter Canaan. God had refused his request, and remembered that He had commanded Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water in the desert, but he had disobeyed, and in anger struck the rock.

He had violated the LORD’S command, and His judgment was that Moses would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. The LORD had rebuked him, saying, “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter” (3:26); yet God, in His grace promised, Moses would have opportunity to gaze upon Canaan from the top of Pisgah (3:27; 34:1-5).

Deuteronomy 4 continues Moses’ exhortation, and he reminded the people of Israel’s unique covenant relationship with the LORD.

Unlike any other nation, Israel was chosen by the LORD, and privileged to know Him personally (4:1-6). By His statutes and judgments, He had revealed His person and character to them (4:7-8). The people knew the LORD, like no other people, and they were the custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).  It was their covenant responsibility to not only “heed [and] keep” the statutes and judgment of the LORD, but also “teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (4:8-9).

The new generation was told how their forefathers had gathered at Mount Horeb, and out of the “midst of the fire” they had heard the LORD’s commandments, and accepted His covenant with them as a nation (4:10-13; Exodus 20:1-23:33). Moses warned them to abstain from all forms of idolatry (4:14-40), and not to worship objects of God’s creation, as was the way of the heathen (4:16-19).

Remembering God is sovereign, Moses retold how Israel had been delivered out of Egypt, though that nation was the most dominant, and powerful nation in its day (4:20).

Moses warned, the LORD is a righteous judge, and jealous God (4:23-24). Then, calling upon heaven and earth to be his witness, Moses warned: Should the people corrupt themselves, and turn to idols, many would perish (4:26), and the people would be dispersed, and scattered among the nations (4:27-28).

Who is Israel’s God?

He is the Creator, and the God of heaven (4:21). He is God alone, and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is the Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

He is my God, my LORD, and my Savior! Is He yours?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – Numbers 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

“A tithe of a tithe,” and a Cleansing from Sin (Numbers 18-19)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-19

Numbers 17 addressed the establishing of Aaron, and his sons as the priestly lineage, while Numbers 18 outlines the duties of the priests and Levites, and the care and support of their families.

With the rebellion of Korah, and the men who followed him still fresh (Numbers 16), it was prudent for the LORD to address Aaron regarding the sins of his “father’s house” (remembering that Korah was of the tribe of Levi, 18:1). The honor of the priesthood, and the sins committed by the tribe of Levi, were to weigh upon Aaron, and his sons.

The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to assist the priests in their duties; however, they were not to usurp their authority, nor approach the “vessels of the sanctuary and the altar,” lest they die (18:2-3). None, but the priests, were to “keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar” (18:5-7).

Numbers 18:8-20 – The Care and Support of the Priests

You will notice the mention of “heave offerings,” throughout this passage. What were they? They were a portion of the sacrifices that were brought by the people, and set aside by the LORD for the priests (Exodus 29:27-28). The heave offering was specifically the right shoulder of a cow, ram, or goat that had been sacrificed (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). The first-fruits of the harvest were also designated heave offerings (Numbers 15:20-21). The needs of the priests, and their families were met through the heave offerings (18:9, 11-13), and was to be eaten “in the most holy place,” that being the court of the Tabernacle (Numbers 18:10).

Numbers 18:21-24 – Provision for the Levites

Like the priests, the Levites would not have an inheritance in the Promised Land (18:21). Rather than being engaged in securing land, their focus was to be upon “the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation” (18:21). While the children of Israel were occupied tilling their lands, and caring for their flocks and herds, the Levites were supported by “the tenth (or the tithe) in Israel” (18:21), “given to the Levites to inherit” (18:24).

Numbers 18:25-32 – The Levites were to give a tithe of a tithe.

Lest any should believe those in ministry do not have an obligation to pay their tithe, we find the Levites, after receiving the tithes of the congregation, were to take off the “tenth part of the tithe” (18:26). The tithe of the tithe, was “the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest” (18:28). What did the LORD require to be given as the tithe? “The best thereof” (18:29).

Numbers 19 – Purification Offering for Uncleanness

The offering of a red heifer (a female cow) was to be brought by those deemed unclean by reason of coming in contact with death (19:11). Death, being the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23a), demanded sacrifice, and the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

A man who touched the dead body of a man (which was necessary for those preparing a body for burial), was deemed unclean for seven days (19:11). The LORD knew what men of that day did not know: The pollution by a dead body was not only a spiritual lesson, (“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23), but also a practical one. Even the tent in which a man died was considered unclean seven days (19:14), and any open vessels in that tent were considered unclean (19:15). What an amazing revelation! Long before microscopes revealed the dangers of harmful bacteria, the LORD was protecting His people from contamination.

Because the sacrifice of the heifer was for “uncleanness,” the heifer was led outside the camp of Israel, sacrificed, and burned (19:5). The priest that sacrificed the heifer, and the Levite that burned it, were to wash their clothes and bathe, and were deemed unclean until even (19:7-10).

Lesson: Death is an ever present, inescapable sorrow (Hebrews 9:27). We who have trusted Christ as our Savior have an eternal hope, for He has borne the burden of our sin by His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He Lives!

1 John 1:7b, 9 – “… The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin… 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You are Invited to Worship with Hillsdale Baptist Church as we Celebrate the Resurrection! (10:00 AM – EDT)

“He is not here: for He is risen, as He said.Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matthew 28:6)

* Heart of a Shepherd Devotional followers: Today’s Scripture Reading is Leviticus 20-21. However, because today is Resurrection Sunday, I have devoted today’s devotional post to the Cross, and the Resurrection; the central doctrine of the Scriptures. You are invited to join today’s worship broadcast, 10:00 AM (EDT) at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the greatest event in history. His death, burial, and bodily resurrection is central to all that we believe and preach. The apostle Paul, in his letter to believers in Corinth, declared, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Fulfilling the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures, the resurrection of Christ is the critical doctrine, the linchpin upon which the Christian faith rests, and is foundational to the Gospel we preach.

The resurrection is not only the hope of today’s believers (1 Corinthians 15:19-20), but was the expectation of the saints of ancient times. Job expressed his confidence of life beyond the grave in these words: “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come [renewal; release from the grave] (Job 14:14).

The psalmist expressed his conviction in the resurrection, writing, “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me” (Psalm 49:15). Christ revealed the ancient patriarchs, though dead, were alive: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32b).

The Resurrection of Christ is the blessed hope of every believer. While today is a memorial to our rejoicing in His resurrection, every Sunday we gather as a congregation is a testimony of our faith, “He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

Rejoicing in a risen Savior,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
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