Category Archives: Theology

At the Heart of the Problem is a Problem of the Heart (Leviticus 13-14)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 13-14, Psalm 38, and Mark 10. Our devotional is from Leviticus 13-14.

I confess, it is easy to read Leviticus 13-14 and feel overwhelmed with the text, its application, and the issue of leprosy addressed in its verses.  Before you dismiss the passage, give this pastor an opportunity to make its meaning plainer.

Leprosy, known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Treatable, even curable in the 21st century; in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victim’s isolation from society and assignment to miserable leper colonies.

In addressing the scourge of leprosy, the LORD directed Moses and Aaron in steps required to not only diagnose the disease, but also isolate its carriers from the people of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).  “Unclean, unclean” (13:45) was the leper’s warning to any who approached.

Should the leper be deemed healed of the disease, steps and sacrifices were prescribed in Leviticus 14 to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rituals, the leper would be deemed clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and the nation (14:9-32).

Leprosy is the disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people. Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean”.  Leprosy is more than a skin issue; it inevitably infects the tissues, nerves and eventually the extremities of the body.  Leprosy so scars the body it is a well-nigh unbearable ugliness of rotting, putrid flesh.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have you believe man is born innocent and it is his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the origin of man’s societal deprivations.

God’s diagnosis is that man’s sin is a problem of the heart!  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul likened sin to a physical ailment writing, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

Jesus taught His disciples,For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man”  (Matthew 15:19-20).

Without a cure for leprosy, lepers prayed for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).  In the same vein, man has no cure for sin apart from divine intervention.  21stcentury doctors and judges prescribe psychiatric evaluations, counseling, and drug-therapy for lawbreakers deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

There was no cure for leprosy without the LORD; in the same way, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin and placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  9But he waswounded for our transgressions, he wasbruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace wasupon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy When Children Are Left to Themselves (Psalm 36)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 9-10, Psalm 36, and Mark 8. Our Bible devotional is from Psalm 36.

A rising tide of lawlessness, violence and moral depravity is afflicting our society.  Fatherless homes, perpetual generations of welfare mothers and grandmothers, and children left to their own wicked devices (Proverbs 29:15) has become a scourge for our nation.

The writer of Hebrews employs the term “bastard” to describe those who profess to be believers, but whose lives continue in a pattern of sin contrary to the Word of God, showing no evidence of the chastening hand of God.  Drawing a parallel with a loving father who chastens his children to bend their will to a path of obedience and righteous living (Hebrews 12:7), the author of Hebrews states: “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”(Hebrews 12:8).

In other words, in the same manner a loving father bears the responsibility of teaching and chastening his children, a professing believer who continues in sin without chastening is a “bastard” and not a spiritual child of God.

Consider David’s description of the wicked in his day and how it parallels the youth of our day.  David writes,

Psalm 36:1 – “The transgression [sin; trespass; rebellion] of the wicked [immoral; lawbreakers] saith [declares] within my [his] heart, that there is no fear [dread] of God before his eyes [sight; note Romans 3:18 ].”

The sins of the wicked prove they have no fear of God.  Like the fool of Psalm 14:1, they say in their ways, “There is no God(Psalm 14:1).  Their ways are “corrupt” and their works an abomination before a holy God.

Psalm 36:2  – “For he [the wicked] flattereth [favors] himself in his own eyes [opinion; sight; note Romans 3:18], until his iniquity [sin; punishment; guilt] be found [i.e. found out] to be hateful [detest; despised].”

The wicked convince themselves their sin is not bad.

If ever there has been a generation that has an inflated sense of self-worth it is this generation.  People are full of themselves and social media has afforded them a platform to boast over sins an earlier generation would have blushed.  Rather than discipline, the parents of this generation fawn over their youth and fail to address the flaws in their character.  

They are blind to the truth that every sin bears consequences.  In the words of one of my heroes of the faith, “Every dissipation of youth must be paid for with a draft on old age” (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.).

Psalm 36:3 – “The words of his mouth are iniquity [sin; wickedness] and deceit [fraud; treachery]: he hath left off [failed; lacked] to be wise [act wisely], and to do good [well; be pleasing].”

The wicked place no value on civility, nor speak with discretion. They have no interest in godly wisdom or righteousness.

Psalm 36:4  – “He [wicked] deviseth [imagine; fabricate; plot] mischief [sin; wickedness] upon his bed; he setteth [stand; presents; places] himself in a way [road; path; course of life] that is not good [best; right]; he abhorreth [spurns; despises] not evil [sin; wickedness].”

Finally, we note the wicked are slaves and sin is their master. Their waking thoughts plot all manner of evil. They purpose to do evil because it is their nature.

Believer, don’t allow the ways of darkness and the amusements of the wicked beguile you.  Turn to the LORD and remember,

Psalm 36:9 – 9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Have a blessed day!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Calling of the Pastor\Shepherd (Leviticus 7-8)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional are from Leviticus 7-8.

The institution of sacrifices began in Leviticus 1 and continues today through the ordination of the Levitical priesthood (Leviticus 8).  Our study of the sacrifices continues with the “law of the trespass offering”, a sacrifice identified with an individual’s sin (7:1).  A “peace offering” served as an acknowledgment of God’s grace and an offering of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:11-21).  The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their households.

Some portions of the sacrifices were forbidden to be eaten including the “fat of the beast” and the “blood” (Leviticus 7:22-27).  Blood was never to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11).

Leviticus 8 establishes the Levitical priesthood, publicly ordaining and consecrating Aaron and his sons to serve as priests before the LORD on behalf of the nation (8:1-5).  Each step of the ordination is described beginning with the ceremonial washing of Aaron and his sons with water (8:6).

Aaron, the first high priest, is distinguished by his garments (8:7).  The high priest would wear a breastplate (8:8), referred to as “the breastplate of judgment” (Exodus 28:30), upon which was mounted twelve precious stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  “Urim and the Thummim” (8:8) are believed to be so form of dice that were cast by the priests in matters of judgment, trusting the LORD to determine the outcome.

As a word of caution for some tempted to adopt a manner of the same in making judgments, either tossing dice or “putting out a fleece” (Judges 6:36-40); God has given us a superior means of determining His will and making good judgments…His Word!

Moses continued to offer sacrifices for seven days while Aaron and his sons remained at the tabernacle as they consecrated themselves to the LORD as priests (8:31-36).  On the eighth day Aaron and his sons began ministering before the LORD and offering sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

I close today’s devotional, reminded of the great responsibility borne by those who minister for the LORD before God’s people.

An offering of sacrifices is no longer necessary because Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, is our sacrifice and high priest ever making intercession for us before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25-28).  Nonetheless, God has called and ordained men He has set apart for the purpose of shepherding His church.  The apostle Peter challenged pastors,

1 Peter 5:2-3 – “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

Such is the great calling of the pastor…teacher, shepherd and spiritual leader.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Old Testament Sacrifices and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 1-3)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 1-2, Psalm 34, and Mark 6. Our devotional is from Leviticus 1-3.

Leviticus 1-3 states what God required of Israel in sacrificial offerings and it serves as a lesson for the 21stcentury believer: God demands His people be a holy, sanctified people.

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe writes in his “Be Series” on the Book of Leviticus: “Leviticus tells New Testament Christians how to appreciate holiness and appropriate it into their everyday lives. The word holy is used 91 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”  [BE Series – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch]

The sacrifices offered in the Old Testament were a pre-figure of which Jesus Christ was the perfect, complete, “once and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The first offering required in Leviticus is the “burnt offering” (1:1-17).  The head of each household was to bring to the Tabernacle “a male without blemish”(1:3); placing “his hand upon the head” of the bull, sheep or goat, the worshipper identified with the animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).   The sacrifice was then killed and the priest would take the blood and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11).

The second sacrifice noted in Leviticus is the “meat offering” (a better translation would be “meal” or food offering) (Leviticus 2).  Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present); it was a non-blood offering that consisted of grain (“fine flour”), oil and frankincense (2:1).  The priests were to take a portion of the “meal offering” for their families and the rest was to be offered as a burnt offering (2:2).

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering (Leviticus 3).  Unlike the “burnt offering”, the “peace offering” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish”, applied and the priests inspected the offerings to ensure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).  As with the “burnt offering”, the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2), and the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar.  We will continue our examination of sacrifices in our next devotional commentary from Leviticus.

I close highlighting the “without blemish” standard the LORD required of sacrifices under the Law.  Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality; however, I am sure the temptation for many was to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.

The apostle Paul had in mind the same “without blemish” standard for believers when he wrote:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

The LORD required the best and He requires no less of His people today.  Our bodies and our lives are to be “holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).   Holy, sanctified, set apart and dedicated to the LORD.  Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God.

Anything less than our best is unacceptable to a holy God!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hipster, Skinny-jean Worship Leaders are the Trend, But Who is Their God? (Exodus 37-40)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 39-40, Psalm 33, and Mark 5. Our Bible devotional is from Exodus 37-40.

Because the Tabernacle was a constant reminder of the LORD’s presence in the midst of His people, He gave precise details of its design and furnishings; including the construction and exact dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant that represented God’s heavenly throne on earth (37:1-9; note – Psalm 80:1; 99:1).

The Ark would be transported by means of “staves” (i.e. rods) overlaid with gold (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the entirety of the Ark, including the “mercy seat” upon which two cherubim faced with their wings outstretched toward one another (37:7-9), reflecting the purity and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

Exodus 37:10-28 itemizes other furnishings employed in the tabernacle including a table overlaid with gold, and dishes, bowls, spoons, an elaborate candlestick and “altar of incense” (37:25-29), all of pure gold.

Exodus 38:1-20 gives the design of an “altar of burnt offering” and the vessels of brass used in offering sacrifices (38:1-8).  The outer court of the Tabernacle, including its construction, curtains, and rings on which they were to hang is given in exacting detail (38:9-20).  The enormous sacrifice of the people reflected in the vast amount of gold, silver and brass they gave for the furnishings of the Tabernacle is recorded (38:24-26).

The stunning colors of the “holy garments” worn by the high priest is described (39:1-2) as well as the breastplate embedded with twelve precious jewels, each engraved with the names of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (39:8-14).  The bindings of the breastplate worn by the high priest is given as well as other articles of clothing worn by him (39:15-31).  Fastened to a turban worn by the high priest was a plate of gold engraved with the words, “Holiness to the LORD” (39:30-31).

Moses directed the construction of the Tabernacle, the forging of its implements, and the dedication of the high priest, his sons and the garments worn by them (Exodus 40).  Insuring all was done “as the LORD had commanded” (39:43), Moses dedicated the work (40:33) and the outward manifestation of God’s approval was “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34)!

I close drawing your attention to the phrase, “as the LORD commanded Moses”.  That phrase, repeated thirteen times in Exodus 39 and 40, reminds us that worship was not treated in some loosey-goosey, half-hearted manner. There was a preciseness in the preparations of the place of worship and the order and conduct of the spiritual leaders was to reflect God’s holy character.

Compare that to what most American churches call worship today where the bold declaration of God’s Word has decayed into an entertainment venue of strobe lights,  deafening music and tight-jeaned, tattooed spiritual leaders who are more concerned with reflecting the carnal culture of the masses than the holy character of the God they portend to serve!

Let’s remember what God requires of His servants!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which isin you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm” (Mark 4)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 37-38, Psalm 32, and Mark 4. Our devotional is from Mark 4.

Jesus had taught parables throughout the day with crowds so large He was forced to launch out from the lakeshore where he sat in a boat while He taught.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other shore, and lying down in the boat He slept.

The Sea of Galilee (14 miles long and 7 miles wide) is notorious for violent storms.  Its surface 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round (much like our own Tampa Bay).  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  Cold winds from snow-covered mountain peaks to the north often push down through the hillsides that act as a funnel sending cold air colliding with the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.

We read of this occasion in the Gospel of Matthew: “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

At least four of the disciples were fisherman; however, even those veteran sailors were unable to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.   With cold winds whipping at the sailors and waves crashing into the ship, the exhausted disciples finally cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Friend, like the stormy sea in today’s Bible reading, trials will arise in your life and put your faith and trust in God’s will to the test. 

Before the disciples launched their ship out into the sea, Jesus knew an approaching storm would soon test their faith and whether or not they would put their trust in Him.  By the way, notice Jesus did not lead them where He was not going and when the storm came He was with them!

A second observation: The disciples’ response to the storm revealed they did not know fully Who Jesus was!  After Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to cease, we read: “they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41).

The storm was an opportunity for the disciples to see Jesus as more than a mere mortal.  Struck with fear, awe, and respect they ask, “What manner of man is this?”

Someone reading today’s devotion is in the midst of a storm of personal trials.  Fear of the future has laid hold on your spirit and loneliness oppresses your soul.  Take heart; the LORD is with you in the midst of the storm of uncertainty… “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).

Psalm 89:8-9– “8O Lord God of hosts….9Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.”

Take a few minutes and listen to a wonderful song titled, What Manner of This?, written and performed by my evangelist friend Ben Everson.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook, will you take time to pray? (Psalm 31)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 35-36, Psalm 31, and Mark 3. Our devotional reading is from Psalm 31.

Where do you turn when circumstances seem hopeless (Psalm 31:1, 6, 14, 19)?  Where do you flee for comfort? How do you respond when enemies attack your character and friends betray you (31:8, 13, 15, 18, 20)?

I fear many believers turn to peers for counsel, rather than to the LORD and His Word.  Some vent their anxieties on social media platforms and a host of sympathies, sad faces, and praying hands follow.  Some turn to secular counselors who lack spiritual discernment and their counsel promotes the temptation to blame shift and magnify one’s “right” to be angry and bitter.

While we might find temporal relief with friends who commiserate with our struggles, often because they are themselves caught up in the same, we nevertheless miss a faith lesson opportunity to lean on the LORD and find Him a sure support.

Take a lesson from David and his example. The king writes,

Psalm 31:1 – “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust [confidence]; let me never be ashamed [confounded; confused]: deliver me in thy righteousness [justice; virtue].”

David did not reason that he merited the LORD coming to his defense; instead, he appealed to the LORD on the basis of the LORD’s “righteousness”—knowing He is holy, just, gracious and merciful. David continues,

Psalm 31:2 – “Bow down [incline; turn] thine ear to me; deliver [rescue; save] me speedily [with haste]: be thou my strong [fortress] rock [refuge], for an house of defence [fortress; castle] to save [deliver; rescue] me.”

David was confident the LORD hears and answers prayer. I sympathize with the king’s request for the LORD to not only hear his prayer, but also hasten to save him!  The LORD, however, answers prayer in His time and His answer to prayer is never too late!

Psalm 31:14-15a – “But I trusted [hoped] in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God [Elohim; Mighty God]. 15 My times [i.e. seasons and appointed times] are in thy hand [directed; i.e. in the power of]…”

All “my times” are directed by the hand of God who is sovereign, faithful and ever-present.  The good times and the bad times; times of joy and times of sorrow.  Times of strength and health and the times of sickness and death. “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15).

Do you believe God is at the helm and you can trust Him to direct all things according to His benevolent will? (Romans 8:28-29)

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook and garner a rush of sympathies, would it not glorify God more for you to simply pray, “I trust in thee, O LORD…My times are in thy hand”.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith