Category Archives: Theology

The LORD is Just (Deuteronomy 19-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 19-20

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

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

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

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

Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks (19:14)

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

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

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

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

Instructions for Going to War (Deuteronomy 20)

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

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

Exemptions from Enlistment (20:5-9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 17 – Justice, and the Character of a King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Blessings or Curses: It’s Your Choice (Deuteronomy 11-12)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 11-12

Moses’ second challenge to Israel began in Deuteronomy 5, and continues in today’s Scripture reading.

Deuteronomy 11 – A Covenant Promising Blessings, or Cursings

Moses reiterated the LORD’S covenant demand, to “love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway” (11:1). Deuteronomy 11:2-7 reminded the people why they should love, and obey the LORD (11:2-7).

The LORD had demonstrated “His greatness, His mighty hand, and His stretched out arm” (11:2), when He brought the plagues upon Pharaoh and Egypt (11:3). When He parted the Red Sea for His people to pass through on dry ground, He sent the waters upon the Egyptians, drowning them, their horses, and chariots (11:4). When Dathan and Abiram rebelled (Numbers 16), the LORD had “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel” (11:6).

Because the people had seen, “all the great acts of the Lord which he did” (11:7), they were compelled to keep His commandments, and know their strength. prosperity, and longevity in Canaan would be directly related to their obedience (11:8). Moses reminded the people the land was all the LORD had promised their forefathers, “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (11:9)

Nevertheless, the promise of God’s blessing was conditional (11:10-17), and should the people turn from Him, and worship idols, His wrath would be kindled against them. He would “shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lordgiveth you” (11:17).

The people were reminded their covenant responsibility was not only to obey the commandments, but to teach them to their children (11:18-19). The LORD’s covenant with Israel was a conditional promise of both “a blessing and a curse” (11:26). Obey the LORD’S commandments, and He would bless them (11:27). Disobey the LORD, and He would curse them (11:28).

Deuteronomy 12 – Prohibitions, and No Exceptions

It might be argued, that Deuteronomy 5-11 was the preface to the “statutes and judgments” that begins with Deuteronomy 12. Having presented to the people the choices, and consequences for obeying or disobeying the LORD, Moses began to reveal the prohibitions.

The first prohibition: Israel must destroy all idols, and every idol place of worship and sacrifice (12:1-3). There were no exceptions! Whereas the heathen sacrificed and served “their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree” (12:2), Israel was not to follow in their ways. Only in “the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation [the Tabernacle] shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come” (12:5).

The Tabernacle was the place God had chosen. There was one place of sacrifice, and that was the altar in the Tabernacle court (12:6). There was one place the tithes, and offerings (above that which was the portion of the Levites) might be eaten, and that was before the Tabernacle (12:7).

The law that had demanded all domestic animals be brought to the Tabernacle for killing (Leviticus 17:3-6), would no longer be observed in the Promised Land (12:10-15). The geographical distance of the tribes in Canaan from the Tabernacle, and altar was “too far” (12:21). All sacrifices were to be offered at the Tabernacle, “the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen” (12:21). However, domestic animals used for household meat could be killed, and eaten “in thy gates” (12:21), as it would be with wild beasts (12:22).

Another prohibition was in the matter of blood, of which was commanded: “ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water” (12:17, 23-25; Leviticus 17:10).

In closing, Moses warned the people they were not to adopt the ways of heathen in their worship, nor enquire, “How did these nations serve their gods?” (12:30b) The worship of the wicked had been an abomination to God, and in their depravity, they had sacrificed “their sons and their daughters…to their gods” (12:31). Moses warned, the LORD would accept nothing less than obedience, and the people were “not [to] add thereto, nor diminish from it” (12:32).

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Behold, the God of Creation, and Heaven Has Revealed Himself” (Deuteronomy 10)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 10

Deuteronomy 10 continues Moses’ second oration, describing how the LORD had shown Israel mercy following the idolatry of the people at Sinai. Moses was reminding the people what they, and we already know. Nevertheless, it was important for the people to recollect all that had befallen their forefathers, and remember the LORD’s Covenant with them as a nation.

Moses recalled how, in anger because of their idolatry, he had broken the first tables of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments. The LORD had then commanded him to hew out two additional tables of stone (10:1). On them, the LORD engraved “the words [the Commandments] that were in the first tables” (10:2). The Commandments were then placed in the Ark, and served as a lasting memorial of God’s covenant with Israel (10:2b-5; Exodus 40:20).

Continuing his remembrance of the events that had brought the nation to the edge of the Promised Land, Moses rehearsed how his brother Aaron, the first high priest, had died short of Canaan, and “Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead” (10:6).

Lest any should forget, the people were reminded that the LORD had chosen, and “separated the tribe of Levi” to serve Him, and “to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (10:8). Unlike the other tribes, the Levites would have no inheritance, no land, assigned to them. Their inheritance was a portion of that which was due the LORD, in the people’s tithes, offerings, and sacrifices (10:8-9).

With the urgency of a father who loves his sons and daughters, Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives (10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear [revere]the LORD thy God, to walk [behave] in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep [keep watch; guard] the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Who is this God who revealed Himself as Creator, and chose Israel, and covenanted with them by giving them His Law, Commandments, and Statutes (10:14-22)?

He is the Creator and Sovereign of “the heaven of heavens…and the earth also, with all that therein is” is the LORD’S (10:14). He is the “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared].” He is just, and “regardeth not persons [not a respecter of persons], nor taketh reward” (10:17). He is merciful, and the protector “of the fatherless and widow [the defenseless]” (10:18a). He is tender, and “loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment” (10:18b).

I close, inviting you to ponder what effect the revelation of God’s nature, and attributes should have had upon Israel?

The answer to that question is found in the closing verses (10:19-22). The children of Israel were to love strangers (10:20), for they could identify with the hardships of being a stranger in Egypt (10:19). They were to fear, serve, and cleave to the LORD (10:20). They were to be a people whose word, was their bond (“swear by His name,” 10:20).

The hearts, thoughts, and affections of Israel were to be solely directed to the LORD (10:21), for He had fulfilled His promises, and they had grown from seventy souls, and “the LORD [had] made [them] as the stars of heaven for multitude” (10:22).

My God is great, and mighty. He is the LORD of the Scriptures, Sovereign of Creation, and King of heaven and earth!

Is He your God?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 8-9

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 9 – God’s Grace Made All the Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Men, the Axe of God’s Judgment Hovers Over Your Head (Numbers 29-30)

Scripture reading – Numbers 29-30

We began a study of instructions regarding the Offerings in Numbers 28, and continue with the same through Numbers 29. Having considered the same sacrifices, and feasts in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 16 and Leviticus 23), I will limit my study of Numbers 29 to a summary of the offerings and feast days.

Numbers 29 – The Law of the Offerings (continued)

The “Feast of Trumpets” marked the beginning of a new year on the Hebrew calendar (29:1-6), and was followed by the holiest of days, the “Day of Atonement” (29:7-11).  Also known as “Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement was the only day the high priest entered the holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 16). Of course, believers no longer need a high priest or the blood of a sacrifice, for Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirement of the sacrificial Passover, or paschal lamb, by His death on the cross (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 7:22-28; 9:11-28; 10:19-22).

The “Feast of Tabernacles” (29:12-34), also known as Sukkot, followed the “Day of Atonement,” and was observed by Israel as a celebration of the harvest. Lasting seven days, the Feast of Tabernacles began with a Sabbath rest (29:12), and ended with a Sabbath of Rest (29:35-38). The sacrifices were presented to the LORD for all the congregation of Israel (29:39-40).

Numbers 30 – The Making, and Breaking of Vows

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the character of our culture move from a time when a man’s word, and a handshake were binding, to today when contracts are breached, even by believers, without as much as an apology.

It may surprise you to learn the LORD’S judgment in the matter of promises and vows (Leviticus 27). King Solomon warned, “4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5)

Vows and covenants were not to be treated lightly, and once a man made a vow, it was binding. There was no exception for men; however, God benevolently allowed for an exception in the matter of daughters, and wives who might have made hasty, ill-advised vows (30:3-8, 10-15).

Spiritual lesson – Fathers and husbands are accountable, and responsible for the protection, and care of the women in their lives.

Sadly, that reality has all but been lost in the 21st century. Consider the matter of vows, pledges, and contracts, and notice God’s compassionate care of the woman (Numbers 30:3-16).

An Unmarried Daughter’s Vow (30:3-5)

A daughter, living in her father’s household, was by law under his protection (30:3-5). Should a daughter bind herself with a vow, and her father learn, and say nothing, she could not be released from her vow (30:4). Should a daughter vow, and the father hear of it, he had authority to recant her vow, and her vow would not be binding (30:5).

A Young Wife’s Vow (30:6-8)

When a woman married, she was no longer under her father, but her husband’s authority. Should she make a vow, and her husband hear of it and say nothing, a wife was bound by her vow (30:6-7). A husband, hearing of a wife’s vow, had authority to cancel her oath, and “the LORD [would] forgive her” (30:8).

The Vow of a Widowed or Divorced Woman (30:9)

Women who were widowed, or divorced, were not under the authority of any man. They were bound by their vows to the LORD, and could not recant them (30:9). They were under obligation to fulfill their pledges.

A Wife’s Vows (30:10-15)

The law concerning the vows of a wife, serve as a reminder that a wife is not only under her husband’s authority, but she is also under his protection. A husband had authority to intervene, and terminate the vow of his wife, or allow it to stand (30:10-16). Once he learned of her vow, he carried the weight of determining whether or not he would intervene. Should the husband cause the wife to break her vow unadvisedly, he would do so bearing the weight of “her iniquity,” and therefore her judgment (30:15).

Summary lesson: A man is bound, and accountable to God for the care of his daughter(s) as long as they are in his household. When making decisions in life, a daughter, and wife should take comfort in this: The weight of the axe of God’s judgment is over the neck of their father, or husband.

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

“God is not a man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23-24)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 23-24

The dynamic conversation between Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam continues in today’s Scripture reading. Hearing Balaam had arrived in Moab, Balak went out to see the seer and was anxious to have him curse Israel (22:26-41). Balaam warned the king, “the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (22:38). Balak, however, was undeterred, and led Balaam to Kirjathhuzoth, and after offering oxen and sheep, invited him to look out on the plain where Israel was encamped (22:40-41).

Numbers 23 – Balaam’s Prophecies, and Balak’s Rage

Balak was willing to do all that Balaam asked, and the king built “seven altars, and…offered on every altar a bullock and a ram” (23:1-2). Balak then stood by his burnt offerings, and waited for the prophet to speak. Instead of cursing, Balaam prophesied saying, “Lo, the people [Israel] shall dwell alone, And shall not be reckoned among the nations [Israel would become a distinct nation, and with its own land]10Who can count the dust of Jacob, And the number of the fourth part of Israel? [Israel would become a great population] (22:9-10a).

Balak was incensed, and rebuked Balaam saying, “What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether” (22:11).

Not yet ready to accept that Balaam could not curse Israel, the king invited him “to the top of Pisgah,” and once again “built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar” (23:14). Balaam withdrew to seek the LORD, and Balak stood by his burnt offerings (23:15-17). When Balaam returned, Balak asked, “What hath the LORD spoken?” (23:17b).

Rather than curse Israel, Balaam’s second prophecy focused on God’s character, and the prophet revealed He is immutable [unchanging]: For “19God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (23:19

God’s promises are sure, for whom the LORD has determined to bless, He will bless (23:20-21a). He is omnipresent, and His presence assures His people victory (23:21b-22). The LORD is also a shield, and Israel would not be harmed (23:23). Balaam prophesied, because the LORD is with Israel, His people would “rise up as a great lion…and drink the blood of the slain” (23:24). 

Balak loathed the blessings Balaam had heaped upon Israel, and he challenged the prophet, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all” (23:25). Balak then commanded Balaam a third time to look upon Israel, and curse the people (23:27-30).

Numbers 24 – Balaam’s Third and Fourth Prophecies

For a third time, Balak built seven altars, and offered seven bulls and seven rams (23:29-30), but Balaam could not curse Israel, for he “saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, [and] he set his face toward the wilderness” (24:1). Lifting up his eyes towards Israel, Balaam “saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him” (24:2). Balaam prophesied (24:5-9), 5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, And thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (24:5).

Balak was furious, and protested, “I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. 11Therefore now flee thou to thy place” (24:10-11a). Before departing, Balaam took up a fourth prophecy (24:15-19), and prophesied, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (24:17). This prophecy was partly fulfilled when Israel was established as a kingdom, and David reigned. However, it was the birth of Jesus Christ that was marked by “a Star out of Jacob” (24:17, 19; Matthew 2:2). 

Balaam concluded his prophecies, and foretold the fall of three kingdoms: The Amalekites (24:20); the Kenites (24:21-22); and the Assyrians (24:23-24). Balaam and Balak went their ways; however, the Scriptures reveal how Balaam will be slain in battle, with several kings of Midian (31:8).

A closing thought: “19God is not a man, that he should lie” (23:19).

I have known many liars, and have seen that the bent of human depravity is for men to believe lies, before they will accept and embrace God’s truth. What a blessed security to know God keeps His promises, and His Word is sure! To quote the apostle Paul, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4a).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

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

Numbers 21:10-16 – A Song of Rejoicing

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

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

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

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

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

Numbers 22 – Balak, King of the Moabites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued….

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith