Category Archives: Sin

Unmasking Hypocrites (Mark 7)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 3-4, Psalm 35, and Mark 7. Our devotional is from Mark 7.

An oft criticism of churches and one of the primary excuses given by non-believers for not attending church is, “There are too many hypocrites in the church!” After 40 years in the ministry, I have to agree:  “There are too many hypocrites in the church!”

Hypocrisy, however, is not limited to the church or Christianity. Indeed, I am certain all religions and belief systems have their hypocrites, including non-religious institutions and associations.

The word “Hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for a stage actor – someone who plays a part or role in a play.  Actors in ancient plays would portray more than one character by wearing masks that identified a character’s role.  When playing a comedic character, an actor would wear a mask with a silly smile.  For a sad character the actor would wear a large frowning mask and quote tragic lines inducing sorrow and weeping from the audience.

In effect; a hypocrite is an actor who wears a mask playing one part while in reality being another.

Mark 7 records one of Christ’s most stinging rebukes of the Pharisees, the religious legalists of the day whom He exposed as hypocrites. I invite you to join me in an honest and transparent study of Mark 7.

Jesus’ growing popularity incited a backlash among his enemies. Thousands were following Him in Galilee and the situation for the scribes and Pharisees was intolerable. While the scribes were experts in the Law of God; the Pharisees were its enforcers and the most influential religious group in Israel (Mark 7:1).  Outwardly zealous in matters of the Law, the Pharisees instituted hundreds of man-made laws in an attempt to interpret the Laws and Commandments.

The Pharisees came to Jesus criticizing His disciples’ failure to “wash their hands” before eating (Mark 7:2-3).  The issue was not that the disciples were eating with dirty hands, but they had failed to practice “the tradition of the elders” in ceremonial cleansing (7:4).

Jesus answered His critics quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13) and accusing the Pharisees of being hypocrites (7:7-9).  While professing to be teachers of God’s commandments, they were in fact, advocates of man-made rituals and traditions (7:7-9).

Exposing their hypocrisy, Jesus addressed the Pharisees’ violation of the fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12).  Allowing a man to pronounce an oath, It is Corban”, meaning it is an offering, the Pharisees applauded men who dedicated their wealth to the Temple at the neglect of their parent’s material and financial welfare.  Such an oath, they argued, freed a son from honoring and caring for his parents.

What hypocrites!  To enrich the Temple treasury, they applauded men violating the fifth commandment, but judged the disciples harshly for failing to conform to petty traditions. They supplanted God’s Law, hiding behind their traditions.

Friend, are you hiding behind a mask of religion? Are you judging others by your self-imposed standards, while failing to keep the precepts and principles of God’s Word?

Don’t forget “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Face to Face (Exodus 33-34)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional is Exodus 33-34.

God called Moses to go up to the Mount and gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), His governing Laws (Exodus 22:22-24:8), and His assurance He would be with His chosen people when they went up to the land He had promised them for an inheritance (Exodus 23:20-33).

God also gave instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, the Ark and the altar for sacrifices (Exodus 25-27).  The Aaronic priesthood was established (Exodus 28:6-30), the robes and ornaments of the priests defined, and Aaron and his sons consecrated for the priesthood in Exodus 29:1-37; 30:22-33.

While Moses was in the mount with the LORD for forty days, in his absence the people rebelled and returned to the idolatrous ways of Egypt (Exodus 32). Angered by the sin of the people, God vowed to judge them in His wrath (Exodus 32:7-8), but Moses interceded for them (Exodus 32:9-14).   God answered Moses’ prayer and, while there would be consequences, nevertheless, the Lord did not destroy the people altogether (Exodus 32:12-34:28).

We see several principles regarding the character of God and His divine attributes in today’s reading. The LORD’s holiness and unwillingness to tolerate sin.  While the LORD kept His promise, He also contended “I will not go up in the midst of thee” (Exodus 33:3).

Moses dreaded the thought of proceeding in Israel’s journey without the LORD.  Moses pled with the LORD, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 13:15). Oh that all God’s leaders were so sensitive and dependent on the LORD.

To know the manner of man Moses was, he was not satisfied only with the LORD’s presence; he prayed to the LORD, “shew me thy glory”(Exodus 33:18). God graciously replied to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).

So we learn no man can see God in all His unveiled, heavenly glory; however, the LORD blessed Moses with a glimpse of His glory while He sheltered him in the cleft of the rock (33:21-22).

Exodus 34 records Moses’ second ascent to the mount and into God’s presence. Once again, he abode in the presence of the LORD for forty days where he received God’s instructions in His Law and Commandments (34:1-28).

When Moses descended the mount all Israel gathered at Sinai and the people looked upon his face realizing it shone with the brightness of God’s glory (34:28-30).  So bright was the reflection of God’s glory upon Moses’ face, he wore a vail (34:31-35) among the people; however, when he entered into God’s presence he removed the vail reminding us no matter of the heart is hidden from the LORD.

Friend, while I have never seen the brightness of God’s glory reflected in the face of a believer, I have seen the radiance of godliness reflected on the face of saints who spent their lives in the presence of God.  In the words of Fanny Crosby, someday the saints will “see Him face to face, And tell the story—Saved by grace.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

An Antidote for Enslaving Fear (Psalm 27)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 23-24, Psalm 27, and Matthew 27. Our daily devotional is from Psalm 27.

Some things warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  For instance, it is good to fear and revere authority empowered to guard us against and even punish foolish, unlawful choices.  We should also fear the deadly potential of a lightning strike, the fast approach of a train at a railroad crossing, and the penalty for failing to study for an exam.

Some fears are enslaving and harmful to the soul.  The fear of failure can paralyze and hinder prudent decisions.   Fear rejection and you will retreat from friendship and relationships.  Fear criticism and you might be tempted to quit!  In the words of king Solomon, “The fear of man bringeth a snare…”(Proverbs 29:25).

Can we overcome negative, enslaving fears?  Absolutely! Let’s take some spiritual lessons from king David’s life experiences (Psalm 27:1-3).

 Psalm 27:1– “The LORD is my light and my salvation [Deliverer]; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength [fortress; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

Notice three assertions concerning David’s courage and faith in contrast with fear in verse 1.  The first, “The Lord is my Light:  David’s confidence was not in human thought or philosophy; his courage arose from his conviction that the LORD Who is Jehovah, Eternal God, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5).

David’s second assertion is, “The LORD…is my Salvation”; not only his guiding light, but also the One Who is able to save his soul from the curse of sin. Having declared the LORD is his light and salvation, David asks, Whom shall I fear?” 

Is anyone too big for God?  Is anyone stronger than the LORD?  Is any circumstance greater than the LORD?

David’s third assertion is, The LORD is the Strength of my life; his Rock, Fortress and Refuge! Why be afraid of mortal man if the Lord is your Protector?

Having stated the LORD is the object of his faith; David pondered God’s providences and protection in the past (27:2).

Psalm 27:2 – “When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes [hostile], came upon me to eat up [devour; consume] my flesh [body], they stumbled and fell.”

Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, David confidently declared he would not be overcome with fear!

Psalm 27:3 – “Though an host [great company] should encamp [lay siege] against me, my heart [mind] shall not fear [tremble]: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident [trust; secure].”

Take heart believer!  The LORD is your Light, Salvation, and Refuge; cast aside your fears and affirm with David:

I will not allow fear to overcome me or the threat of the unknown rob me of my joy; have faith and confidence in God!  

In the apostle Paul’s words, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Saying, “I’m Sorry”, is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 21-22, Psalm 26, and Matthew 26. Our devotional is from Exodus 21-22.

Moving beyond the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) that are the foundation of God’s Law, we find specific applications of God’s judgment and the bases of democratic law and order in Exodus 21:1-23:19.

In matters of servitude, Exodus 21:1-11 states God’s Laws for masters, slaves, and indentured servants.  Regarding the sanctity of human life, Exodus 21:12-17 draws a distinction between murder (21:14-16), a violation of the sixth commandment (20:13), and manslaughter (taking a human life without intent).

Violating the commandment to honor one’s parents (the fifth commandment, 20:12) was such a grave offense that to curse a parent was a capital crime mandating death of a son or daughter (21:17).

In case of accidental injury, the law mandates proper compensation and punishment (Exodus 21:18-32).  Should a beast cause injury or death and the owner be proved negligent, the beast and its owner could be put to death.

The agricultural nature of ancient societies meant one’s livestock were an essential part of a man’s livelihood and the well-being of his family (21:33-36). The negligent injury or theft of oxen or sheep was a serious crime requiring compensation (22:1-4) as was damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6).  Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people and He demanded fair compensation (22:7-15).

The closing verses of Exodus 22 address other moral and societal issues including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).

In the matter of borrowing, the law condemned “usury” (charging excessive interest) because it imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor (22:25-27).

I close stating an important principle in the matter of personal integrity;  Saying, “I’m Sorry”, is not enough when someone has suffered loss or personal injury (22:14-15).

An illustration: A farmer borrows another man’s ox and the beast is injured or dies.  Under such circumstance the borrower is debtor to the lender and under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace.

In summary: God’s law requires honesty and integrity. Borrow or rent another’s property or goods, you are under obligation to make whole any damages or loss suffered by the lender.

In other words,“I’m sorry” is not enough!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

One Rotten Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch (Exodus 13-14)

The Bible reading for today is Exodus 13-14, Psalm 24, and Matthew 24. Our devotional is from Exodus 13-14.

The slaying of the firstborn of Egypt was the tenth and final plague and moved Pharaoh to thrust the children of Israel out of Egypt where they had lived for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41). The observance of the Passover having been established (12:1-28, 43-51), the LORD directed Moses to instruct the people to sanctify the firstborn male of their households, both children and beasts, and dedicate them to the LORD as a memorial to Him for saving the firstborn of Israel from death (13:1-2, 11-16).

As a sign of the haste with which Pharaoh sent Israel out of Egypt, the people were to observe a new feast, the seven-day celebration known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13:3-10).  Unleavened bread, bread without yeast, would serve as a memorial to succeeding generations reminding them of the haste with which Pharaoh sent Israel out of Egypt.

As a point of application, leaven or yeast, is a symbol of sin and false teaching in the New Testament.  Like yeast permeates dough, so does sin and false teaching in the church.  As “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9), so does sin eventually become a cancer in the soul and church (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Christian friend, what about your sin?  “Little sins” invariably grow and when excused rather than repented of, they will corrupt and eventually destroy.  The Jews were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread by purging or removing leaven from their homes (1 Corinthians 5:7).  That is the only way you can be free of the corrupting influence of sin in your soul…confess it and turn from it.

1 John 1:9-10 – 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us oursins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith