God’s Call to Holiness (Leviticus 14-15)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 14-15

The infectious nature and potential spread of leprosy in the midst of Israel’s encampment was a serious matter. Fifty-nine verses were devoted to leprosy in Leviticus 13 and today’s scripture reading continues with an additional chapter of fifty-seven verses (Leviticus 14).

Leviticus 13 addressed the examination of the leper and preventive measures should leprosy be present.  Leviticus 14 provides the prescribed procedures and sacrifices should one be deemed healed of the disease (14:1-8). After following the commanded practice for purification, the leper was pronounced clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

Leprosy was the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people. (Leprosy is portrayed as a punishment for sin in Numbers 12:9-10 and 2 Chronicles 26:19).

Sixteen times leprosy is described as “unclean” in Leviticus 13.  Leprosy affected the tissues and nerves; eventually causing the extremities to rot and decay.  It so mutilated the body it was an agonizing ugliness.

Leviticus 15 addresses various physical ailments that would arise among the people.

The LORD imparted to Israel laws that were not only functional, but also insured the health and welfare of the nation. Israel was unaware the guidelines Moses gave to them from the LORD were an evidence of His loving care for them.

Modern science has demonstrated the disease laden nature of bodily fluids (described in Leviticus 15as “a running issue”) and the danger of coming in contact with the bed linens and garments of one who is ill (15:4-7). We do well to continue to observe the procedures Israel was instructed to follow.

Leprosy and disease have been the plague of humanity since the Fall of man; however, there is an even greater pandemic called Sin.

Atheists and liberals would have you believe man is born innocent and his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) is the cause of societal deprivations.

God’s Word reveals at the heart of man’s problem is a problem of the heart.

The Lord declared to Jeremiah, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).   Paul, equating sin to a physical ailment writes, “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…”  (Matthew 15:19-20a).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Reflection on Leprosy and the Curse of Sin (Leviticus 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 11-13

Leviticus 11 might prove challenging in our non-agrarian day; however, the dietary regulations listed are insightful into the LORD’S loving care of His people, that they may better avoid sickness and disease. Like a shepherd guiding his sheep from harmful plants that were not to be ingested, the LORD instructed His people regarding beasts that were clean and others He deemed unclean and forbidden to be eaten (11:1-3). Examples of forbidden meats are the camel (11:4), “the coney…the hare” (11:5-6) and “the swine” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were considered clean and fit to eat (11:9); however, there were water creatures forbidden that include crabs, shrimp, and eels (11:10-12).

Fowl were fit for consumption; however, carrion (flesh-eating) birds were forbidden. Leviticus 11:13-19 lists eagles, vultures, hawks, ravens, owls, storks, and bats among forbidden birds.

Some insects were considered clean (11:21-22); however, those described as “fowls that creep”, meaning flies, wasps, bees, and certain locusts were not to be consumed (11:20).

Leviticus 12 instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.  Known today as Hansen’s Disease; leprosy is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Treatable, even curable in the 21st century; leprosy was a dreaded disease in ancient times, inevitably leading to its victim’s separation from family and society, and consignment to leper colonies.

The LORD communicated specific instructions to address leprosy in Israel including diagnosing the disease and the exclusion of lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).  Lepers were required to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), as a caution to all who approached. Without a cure, a leper’s only hope was for divine intervention, a miraculous healing, that must be verified by examination and followed with sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

Permit me an observation in closing:

We are sinners and our souls bear the blight of spiritual leprosy…sin.

There was no cure for leprosy in ancient times apart from the priest’s intervention, and there is no cure for the leprosy of one’s soul apart from placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he [the Messiah, Jesus Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I invite you to confess the leprosy of your sinful soul and turn to Christ.  Accept Him as your Savior, and be healed.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What Many Call Worship is “Strange Fire” (Leviticus 8-10)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 8-10

The Levitical priesthood was established in Exodus 8. Remembering Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe; the LORD commanded Moses to anoint Aaron and his sons to serve as His priests before the congregation (8:1-3).

The process of ordination was explained, beginning with the ceremonial washing of Aaron and his sons with water (8:6). Aaron, serving as the high priest, was distinguished by his robes (8:7) and his breastplate (referred to as “the breastplate of judgment” in Exodus 28:30) upon which twelve precious stones were mounted, each engraved with the name of a tribe of Israel (Leviticus 8:8; Exodus 28:21).

Housed in a pocket behind the breastplate was “Urim and the Thummim” (8:8), believed to be some form of dice the high priest cast in matters of judgment, asking the LORD to answer as difficult decisions were made for the nation (such as going to war – 1 Samuel 23:2). Urim and Thummim provided a special means for the high priest to offer counsel and the nation to know God’s will specifically.

A word of caution to any tempted to adopt some manner of the same in making decisions (either tossing dice or “putting out a fleece” – Judges 6:36-40).

God has given believers a means of determining His will and making good judgments…His Word!

King David wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Peter declared, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed…” (2 Peter 1:19).  (I fear many believers have so neglected the study and teaching of God’s Word, they lack discernment to make righteous decisions in weighty matters).

Chosen by God and arrayed in priestly robes, nevertheless, Aaron and his sons were sinners and themselves in need of blood atonement. With the congregation looking on, the LORD commanded Aaron and his sons to lay their hands on a bullock that was sacrificed as their sin offering (8:14-17).

Seven days Aaron and his sons remained at the tabernacle while Moses offered sacrifices as their consecration to the LORD as priests (8:31-36).  On the eighth day, Aaron and his sons began ministering and offering sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

Displaying His glory and accepting the sacrifices in the sight of all the people, “there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:23-24).

One would hope the display of God’s favor might encourage the people to maintain a perpetual spirit of humility and obedience before the LORD; however, such was not the case.

Tragedy soon fell on the tribes of Israel when “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1).

Given the infancy of the priestly office and the privilege of the priesthood; the sin of pride may have moved the sons of Aaron to disobey the LORD and exalt themselves before the people. Whatever the motive, the LORD was swift to judge and “there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (10:2).

Aaron, no doubt devastated by the sinful actions of his sons and their deaths, “held his peace” (10:3).The bodies of Nadab and Abihu were removed from the camp (10:4-5) and Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s surviving sons, were warned to make no public display of their sorrow and to remain at the “door of the tabernacle” (10:6-7).

What “strange fire” might be present in your church under the pretense of worship?

Entertaining the masses has become the aim of worship leaders as hallowed, sacred hymns of faith are displaced by beat-driven music emulating society’s contemporary music.

What many call worship is “strange fire.”  What must the LORD see when your “worship” leaders and music teams move an audience to cavort about under the pretense of worship?

God commands His people to be holy, because He is holy (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and we are to be imitators of Christ and not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).

If what you call worship looks, acts, and sounds like the world…it is not holy!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Sinning against another is a sin against God! (Leviticus 5-7)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 5-7

Today’s study in the book of Leviticus continues its exposition and explanation of the sacrifices required for sin; each reminding us sin is an offense against the LORD and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Various sins are identified in Leviticus 5 and the prerequisite sacrifice for each sin. Leviticus 5:1 speaks to the sin of failing to speak truth and thus concealing the sin and crime of another (perhaps in a judicial sense where one is called to testify as a witness).  Similar to our own court system where one is asked to swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Cleanliness is urged and contact with the carcass of a dead beast was forbidden under the Law. Unlike ancient Israel, today we understand the health risks of being defiled (infected) by a dead animal and why the LORD forbade it (5:2-3).

Inconsiderate, thoughtless words and conversation is also condemned and sacrifices were required of all who swore and spoke with haste (5:4-13).

The Trespass Offerings is the subject of Leviticus 5:14-6:7. You will notice a principle of “restitution plus one-fifth.” Why?

Saying “I’m sorry” is not enough in God’s perfect justice system.

The first sin demanding a trespass offering plus “one-fifth” is spiritual misappropriation: A sinner taking that which another dedicated to the Lord.

For instance: A priest might fall prey to embezzling…taking for himself what another had offered as a sacrifice.  Such a sin demanded not only restitution, but also giving one-fifth more above what was taken (5:14-16).

Other sins demanding sacrifice and restitution were lying and dishonesty (6:1-2), finding another’s property, but concealing the fact (6:3), and violently cheating one of his property.  All sins committed with foreknowledge required not only sacrifice, but also restitution above what was pilfered (6:4). Similar to an assessment of loss and damages in the American Judicial System.

Laws concerning burnt offerings are expressed in Leviticus 6:8-13.  Reminding us the believer is to be ever in a spirit of prayer, we read: “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (6:13)

Leviticus 7 – The “trespass offering” and the “peace offering”

The “peace offering” served as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for God’s grace and provision (Leviticus 7:11-21).  The sacrifice of oxen or cattle is prescribed accompanied by offerings of “unleavened cakes…unleavened wafers…and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fired” (Leviticus 7:12).  The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their consumption.

Remembering the blood was a testament to the punishment of sin, the “fat of the beast” and “blood” portions of the offerings were not to be eaten (Leviticus 7:22-27). Blood was not to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).

Consuming the “fat of the beast” or the “blood” necessitated a sinner “be cut off from his people” (7:25, 27); a punishment that could extend so far as death.

What have we learned?

Sinning against someone requires not only sincere confession, but “restitution plus” may be necessary to make them whole and restore fellowship.

Have you sinned against someone and not sought forgiveness?  Without confession and restitution for the harm you have caused, your broken fellowship may follow you to your grave.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Old Testament Sacrifices: What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 1-4

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s scripture reading, Leviticus 1-4.

Leviticus 1-3 states what God required of Israel in voluntary, sacrificial offerings and serves as a lesson for 21st century believers:

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

The first offering in Leviticus is the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). The children of Israel were 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 is the “meat (meal) offering” (Leviticus 2).  Known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present); the “meat offering” 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 (2:10).

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 insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).  As with the “burnt offering”, the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2); the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar.

Unlike the earlier sacrifices that were voluntary, Leviticus 4 introduces us to the “sin offering of ignorance (or error)that was mandated by the Law.  Notice the sin offerings of ignorance descended from the greatest offering, being that of a young bull, to the least costly, a female goat or sheep.

The sin committed by a priest (4:1-12) or the corporate sin of the congregation (4:13-21) demanded the sacrifice of a “young bullock without blemish” (4:3-4, 13-15).  Because it was a sin offering, the priests and their families were not to take a portion of the “young bullock” to be consumed by their households.

A “ruler”, a head of a tribe, was to sacrifice a “kid of the goats, a male without blemish” (4:23). The “common people” were to sacrifice the least valued sacrifice, “a female without blemish”, either a lamb or goat (4:27-35).

I close highlighting the “without blemish” standard the LORD required of sacrifices in His Law.  Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality; however, I am sure the temptation was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.

The apostle Paul had the same standard in mind when he challenged believers to “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 of sacrifices the best and He requires no less of His people today. Holy, sanctified, set apart…Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God is His standard for His people.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Leviticus and Lessons in Worship (Leviticus 1-3)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 1-3

Our “Chronological Read-thru the Bible” scripture reading plan brings us today to the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch of which Moses is believed to be the author under the divine inspiration of the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20-21).

As its name implies, the Book of Leviticus gave guidance to the Levites in their duties as priests in Israel.  Unlike Exodus, which was a historical record, Leviticus is a practical book devoted to worship, offering of sacrifices, festivals, and matters of the Law.

The closing chapters of Exodus gave detailed instructions concerning the construction of the Tabernacle and its implements for sacrifices and worship, Leviticus states the laws that were to be followed in worship. This included sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 1-7), the consecration and ministry of the Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 8-10), and the law of God concerning animals deemed to be clean and unclean (Leviticus 11-15).  Leviticus 17-25 remind us the holiness of God demanded the same of His people who approached Him to worship and offer sacrifices.

A note of caution: Do not follow the example of many 21st century believers and dismiss some books of the Old Testament as irrelevant, having little to no application to your life. While we recognize the Old Testament sacrifices were pre-figures of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we are nevertheless given insight into the person and character of God and His dealings with His people.

Carnality would be eradicated from our homes, churches, and Christian institutions if believers took to heart the spiritual lessons expressed in the commandments, laws, and ordinances (Leviticus 26).

A practical devotional commentary from Leviticus 1-4 will follow.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Loosey-goosey, Half-hearted Worship is Unacceptable! (Exodus 39-40)

Daily reading assignment – Exodus 39-40

The stunning colors of the “holy garments” worn by the high priest as well as the breastplate embedded with twelve precious jewels are defined (39:1-2).  Each jewel was engraved with the name of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (39:8-14). The bindings of the breastplate and other articles of clothing (39:15-31) are given in detail.

The high priest wore a turban bearing a plate of gold engraved with the words, “Holiness to the LORD” (39:30-31).

In Exodus 40, the LORD directed Moses to oversee the assembly of the Tabernacle and its implements,  and dedicate the garments to be worn by the high priest and his sons.  Having insured all was done “as the LORD had commanded” (39:43), “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34)!

As we close our study of Exodus, consider the phrase, “as the LORD commanded Moses.” That phrase is found fifteen times in the Book of Exodus; seven of those times in Exodus 39, and six in Exodus 40.  Is it important to do “as the LORD commands”?

Absolutely! It was important that Moses obey the LORD in everything, and this was especially true in the preparations for the people to worship the LORD.

Worshipping the LORD was not to be treated in some loosey-goosey, half-hearted manner. 

Our God is holy, and our lives and worship should reflect His character!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in 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 2020 – Travis D. Smith