Tag Archives: church

New Sermon Series: Persevering in Tribulations (2 Timothy)

I am excited about the opportunity of preaching a new sermon series, beginning this Sunday, April 11, 2021, 10:30 AM at Hillsdale Baptist Church, and also broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Persevering in Tribulations is the title of my new series, and is taken from Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. Written during his second imprisonment in Rome, the letter was not only the apostle’s last will and testament, but also a letter of exhortation to a young man Paul described as his “dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2).

The setting of the letter is pertinent to our day, knowing it was written during a rise of persecution, and a falling away of many who had once professed faith in Christ. You will notice an earnestness in Paul’s letter, as he urges Timothy to not be ashamed of the LORD, or “me His prisoner” (1:8).

This Sunday’s sermon will consider the spiritual requisites, and disciplines for ministry that Paul encouraged in Timothy. We will notice the ministry of Onesiphorous, a man who had sacrificially served Paul at a time in his life and ministry when he desperately needed a friend who would unashamedly minister him in prison.

I pray this study will renew a passion for the LORD in your heart, and a revival for ministry and serving others in trying times.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24

Leviticus 23 – Feast Days on Israel’s Religious Calendar

Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

Leviticus 23:6-41 itemizes the annual feasts Israel was to observe as a nation.

The Passover (23:5), commemorating the LORD sparing the firstborn, and delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. On the following day after the Passover, the people were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering Israel’s departure out of Egypt. Its observance lasted seven days, and was a reminder of how swiftly the people had to leave Egypt.  The first and last days of Unleavened Bread are counted as Sabbaths [High Sabbaths], though these days may not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).

There was the Offering of the First Fruits, also known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat (or meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision, even as we should pray and give thanks at every meal.

Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came upon the LORD’S disciples, whom He told to remain in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 2).

Two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were also offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Pentecost was observed with a burnt offering consisting of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams, “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).

Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).

The Feast of the Trumpets was observed the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17).

The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41), and was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34), the last day of the harvest. Each family would gather “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,” and live in the booths for seven days (23:40). Dwelling in booths commemorated Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness, and living in tents (23:43).

Leviticus 24 – God’s Laws were not suggestions, they were commands.

After rehearsing the laws and guidelines regarding the for the lamps, and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), we are alerted to a judicial crisis that arose in Israel, and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-16).

The son of Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD, a violation of the third command, and one demanding the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17).  Realizing the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender] in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).

After hearing the witnesses, and seeking God’s will, Moses demanded the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s camp, and those who witnessed his sin, lay hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lordcommanded Moses” (24:23).

The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)

I close, reminding you God is merciful, and just. A murderer was to be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed the beast that belonged to another, was to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Injure or maim a man, and the law demanded you should suffer the same: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).

A Closing Thought: Our world has lost its good sense of justice, and our judicial system has become a demoralizing failure. Too often in our society we find criminals are pampered, and their victims are left scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice, no fairness, in society? You need look no further than Proverbs 29:2.

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 18-19

Our study in Leviticus moves on from the subject of clean and unclean meats (Leviticus 17), to the morality and sanctity of the institution of marriage (Leviticus 18).

Leviticus 18 – A Call to Be Holy

The LORD commanded Moses, “speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. 3After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (18:2-3).

Reminding the nation, “I am the LORD your God” (18:2, 4), He commanded Israel to not follow after the ways of the heathen, for He had chosen, and called them out of Egypt. If the people would keep His commandments, and walk in His precepts (18:4-5), He promised He would bless them.

Leviticus 18:6-18 leaves no doubt that the ways of the heathen, were not to be the ways of Israel. While all manner of immorality, and ungodliness was practiced by the Egyptians, and the Canaanites, the LORD would accept nothing less than the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. (Realizing the sad state of morality in both the world and the church, I dare not take lightly the explicit nature of this passage.)

The Abominable Sin of Incest (18:6-18)

The phrase, “uncover their nakedness” (18:6), is a reference to the sexual act reserved for marriage, and is found throughout this passage. The LORD had no tolerance for incest, and its practice was a capital offense, and its subjects would be stoned.

The following sexual relationships were forbidden, and were deemed incestuous. Sex with one’s parent (18:7), stepmother (18:8), sister or half-sister (18:9), grand-daughter (18:10), daughter of a stepmother (18:11), an aunt, both fraternal and maternal (18:12-14), daughter-in-law (18:15), sister-in-law (18:16), sex with a mother and her daughter (18:17), or sisters, unless the first had died (18:18) were forbidden.

Child sacrifice practiced among the heathen, was an abomination to the God of Israel (18:21). The LORD declared homosexuality an abomination (18:22), and God’s judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah because of that sin (Genesis 19). Bestiality, the sin of a man or woman lying with a beast, was described as “confusion” (18:23), and therefore a perversion of God’s natural law and order.

The Wickedness of Man Demands God’s Judgment (18:24-30)

The LORD warned Israel, He would have no tolerance should His people adopt the ways of the heathen. The sin of man not only defiles himself, but also infects the land (18:24). God warned, should His people practice the immoral ways of the wicked, the land would vomit out its inhabitants (18:25-28). Any who refused to “do [His] judgments, and keep [His] ordinances” (18:4), the LORD warned those souls would be excommunicated, “cut off from among their people” (18:29).

Leviticus 19 – A Brief Review of the Commandments and the Law

Leviticus 19 repeats the LORD’s commandments, and explains the practical application of His Law and Precepts for daily life. Charity to the poor (19:9-10), paying an honest, fair wage (19:13), showing sympathy to those less fortunate (19:14), and loving one’s neighbor in word and deed are stressed (19:15-22) as the will of God.

A Concluding Thought: A Crisis of Morality

There was a time when the lives of God’s people were defined by His Word, Law, and Commandments. The lives of believers, and their homes, set the moral high ground for these United States. Sadly, too many homes have an appetite for the world, and look to society, social media, politicians, judges, and a liberal media for their moral judgments and practices.

Warning: Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until our consciences are disciplined by God’s Word, Laws and Commandments (18:30). 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Clean, Unclean, and Kosher Meats (Leviticus 17)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17 continued the LORD’s instructions concerning sacrifices, as the Tabernacle became the central place of worship. The importance of blood offerings for sin was mentioned thirteen times in this chapter, and the LORD gave Moses explicit guidelines he was to teach “Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel” to follow (17:1-2).

Remembering the children of Israel had been slaves for four centuries, we understand how the cultural and religious practices of Egypt would have been adopted by the people. The institution of the Commandments, Laws, and guidelines for worship and sacrifices was not only the will of God, but was necessary for the nation to be distinct in person and practice from the other nations.

The Centrality of Sacrifices Before the Tabernacle (Leviticus 17:1-9)

Israel was to worship only YHWH in His Tabernacle, with its holy place and mercy seat being the only place for sacrifice going forward.  (Although when Israel entered the Promised Land, and the land was divided by tribes, the requirement did change, Deuteronomy 12:20-28).

To prevent sacrifices to other gods, and to acknowledge the supply of their meat was from the LORD, all animals, including those that were for food, were to be slaughtered at the Tabernacle (17:2-7). In this way, the LORD insured He would receive the portion due Him (3:1-17), and the priest would receive his portion for himself and his household (7:11-18).

The Prohibition Concerning Ingesting Blood (Leviticus 17:10-14)

The blood of animals was not to be ingested in any manner (17:10). The explanation for the prohibition of blood was stated clearly: “the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (17:11).

What a powerful lesson in the matter of the blood! Millenniums before modern science, and medicine established the importance of the blood to life, God revealed in His Word, “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11). As of the late 19th century, “bloodletting” (draining blood from someone ill) was practiced by doctors as a supposed cure. If those doctors had read, and believed the Scriptures, they would have spared lives knowing “the life [and the health] of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11).

We considered in an earlier devotion the distinction between “clean” meats, those that were allowed in the Hebrew diet (11:3, Deuteronomy 14:4,5), and “unclean” meats, those animals whose meat was prohibited (11:4-8, 11:11-12, 11:13-19). Leviticus 17:13-14 addresses beast taken in the hunt, and their blood. The blood of beast or fowl taken in the hunt were to be bled out on the ground, and their blood covered with dust, before the meat was consumed (17:13-14).

Beasts that had died of natural causes, or been torn by other beasts, were not to be eaten (17:15). Considering the danger of bacteria in meats, the LORD spared His people from ingesting meats that presented unseen dangers to their health and wellbeing. Should a man come in contact with such beasts, he was to “wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean” (17:15).

The Kosher Diet

I conclude inviting you to consider the dietary label known as “Kosher.” Kosher (the Hebrew word is Kasher), describes a diet that conforms to the dietary laws we have been studying in the Scriptures. When a meat, dairy, or food is labeled Kosher, it describes not only what is eaten, but also how it was prepared.

Kosher meat must not only be a beast with cloven hooves, and chews the cud (examples – cattle, lamb, goat, deer), but also one free of disease or cancers (non-kosher meats mass processed for human consumption are sometimes weak, sickly, and diseased animals).

Kosher also describes the method in which an animal is slaughtered. Far from the method of mass butchering prevalent in today’s meat processing plants, kosher animals are slaughtered humanely.

God is a loving Creator, and His concern is not only for the health of mankind, but also the well-being, and humane treatment of the animals we consume for food.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ceremonial Uncleanness, and The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 15-16)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 15-16

Leviticus 15 – Laws Concerning Ceremonial Uncleanness

Having addressed the dreaded scourge of leprosy in the two chapters prior to today’s Scripture reading, the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron regarding other bodily afflictions that would arise and reckon the worshipper ceremonially unclean, and unable to approach the Tabernacle to worship and offer sacrifices.

Leviticus 15:1-17 addresses men with various physical ailments that would render not only their flesh, but also their clothes and bed linens unclean (15:3-13). Strict guidelines were given to inhibit the spread of disease among the people, as well as to remind men to not lightly approach the LORD without offering sacrifices to Him (15:14-17).

Leviticus 15:18-33 details guidelines that were to be observed regarding the woman who had an issue of blood (15:19). The LORD, for the sake of the woman’s health, gave instructions that were applicable to not only her menstrual cycles (15:20-24), but also irregular issues (15:25-27) that might arise and be deemed unclean. When the woman’s time had passed, on the eighth day she was to present the required sacrifices (15:29-30) and be declared clean.

Why were these guidelines important? The obvious was for hygienic reasons; however, we find they were also a reminder to Israel that God had set them apart from the heathen nations, and called them to be a holy people.

Leviticus 15:3131Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.

Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement, and the Sacrifices Offered

Leviticus 16 is a crossroads in our study of the Book of Leviticus. The text moves us from the descriptions of the various offerings, and the guidelines concerning them, to the commencement of sacrificial offerings by Aaron, the high priest.

We are reminded that the office of the high priest was a holy office, and Aaron’s ministry on behalf of the people was a sacred duty. The LORD instructed Moses, “Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat” (16:2).

The high priest was to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies,” once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29). That day, known as the Day of Atonement, and also known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” was the most holy day on the God’s calendar. Six months after the observance of the Passover, the Day of Atonement was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for his sins, “a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering” (16:3, 6), and the sins of the nation “two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering” (16:5, 8-10, 15a).

Casting lots upon the goats, the one upon which the lot fell would be offered as a “sin offering” (16:9), while the other goat would be the “scapegoat” (16:10). The high priest would first sacrifice the young bull for his sins, taking its blood and sprinkling it upon the mercy seat (16:14). He would then sacrifice the goat that was the sin offering for the nation, and take its blood to sprinkle upon the mercy seat (16:15) as an atonement “because of their transgressions in all their sins” (16:16). The blood of the young bull, and the blood of the goat was then sprinkled upon the altar (16:18).

The live goat, identified as the scapegoat, was brought to Aaron. The Scripture says he was to lay “both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: 22And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (16:21-22).

The “fat of the sin offerings” was to be burned upon the altar, while the skins, and flesh of the bullock and goat were to be taken out of the camp and burned (16:25, 27-28).

The Day of Atonement, like the Passover, were to be observed annually by Israel. The pattern of blood sacrifices was a perpetual reminder that the penalty of sin is death, and there can be no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year, and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, until Christ was sacrificed for our sins. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Leper, and the Portrait of Sin (Leviticus 13-14)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 13-14

Our study of that which the LORD declared as “unclean” continues with the focus upon poor souls who were afflicted with leprosy. The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.

Known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), leprosy is a bacterial, infectious disease, and is treatable, even curable in the 21st century. In ancient times, it was a dreaded disease, that inevitably led its victims to isolation from society, and assigned to leper colonies where they would eventually die.

Leviticus 13 – Laws and Regulations for Leprosy (A symbol of sin in the Scriptures.)

Since ancient times, Egypt has been infested with leprosy, and its traces followed the children of Israel out of that country. The LORD, continuing His commands regarding the “unclean,” required Moses and Aaron to address, diagnose, and exclude lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).

The LORD directed Moses and Aaron in the steps required to protect the people from the spread of leprosy. It was essential that the disease be properly diagnosed.

Often beginning as no more than a rash, or boil, the disease could eventually produce dreadful, open sores, and decaying flesh. The advanced stages of the disease would find the leper with rotting limbs, clothes soiled and rent as an outward sign of mourning. Lepers were to wear a napkin over their mouths, and to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), to any who approached, warning others they were carriers of the disease.

Leviticus 14 – Guidelines for Ceremonial Cleansing of the Leper

Should the leper be miraculously healed of the disease, there were ceremonial steps, and sacrifices prescribed to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rites for purification, the leper was deemed clean by the high priest, and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

Spiritual Application – Leprosy was the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious nature of sin among his people.

Consider the number of times leprosy was described as “unclean” in Leviticus 13 (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy was more than a skin issue of the outward man. Leprosy would inevitably affect the tissues, nerves, and body extremities would rot and decay.  Leprosy could so scar the body that it was an unbearable ugliness.

Leprosy’s effect on the body, served as a spiritual portrait of sin’s effect on a man’s soul.

Modernists would have us believe man is born innocent, and his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) is the cause of his societal deprivations.  The Scriptures, however, declare “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul likened sin to a physical ailment and wrote, 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 15:19-20).

The ancients had no cure for leprosy. The leper in Israel prayed for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention, one that would be verified by the examination of the high priest, and followed by sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

The same is diagnosis is true for man’s plague of sin and wickedness. Humanity has no cure for sin and depravity. In the same way there was no cure for leprosy without the LORD, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin, and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he [the Messiah, Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  But he [the Messiah, Christ] 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 that you are a sinner, a spiritual leper in the eyes of God. Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the perfect, sinless Son of God; and that He died on the Cross for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead.

1 John 5:1313These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading prior to today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of the previous devotional to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will cover Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11)

Leviticus 11 delineates for us the distinction between the meats the LORD deemed clean and unclean for His people to consume. God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat, and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).

Israel was to be distinct from the other nations. While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD deemed clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) included ox (i.e. beef), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD classified as unclean, that did not “chew the cud,” and others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of beasts that were forbidden, included the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to the rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fish and scales were considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word, “fowl” (11:13, 20) describes anything that is winged and flies. We notice there were numerous predatory fowl, and scavengers of carrion (vultures), that were labeled unclean, and forbidden for consumption (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20 describes “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believe to be a reference to winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature, or by violence, were not to be eaten (11:24-25). Horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. In fact, touching them would make one ceremonially unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth,” and were forbidden for human consumption: “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (pots, and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water, and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions?

There are several reasons that could be cited for the LORD’S declaration, and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Long before man could peer through microscopes, and see the prevalence of dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that are harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that would cause illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12 – The Purification of Women

Leviticus 12 moves the focus from unclean beasts, to unclean persons, and instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered ceremonially unclean, and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification had past (12:1-2). A woman who had given birth to a son, was deemed ceremonially “unclean” for seven days, during which time she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eight day, she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she would remain at home (12:4).

A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She would remain at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification, and isolation were fulfilled, she would come to the sanctuary, and depending upon her means, bring either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 10-11

After consecrating Aaron as high priest, and his sons to serve as priests, the LORD affirmed the priests of Israel, with “a fire…and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

Leviticus 10 – Tragedy: The Sin and Deaths of Two Sons of Aaron

Incredibly, the exhilarating moment we considered in Leviticus 9:24, was followed soon after with a great tragedy: “1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (10:1-2).

The exact nature of Nadab and Abihu’s sin was not revealed; however, we understand it was an act of willful disobedience that the LORD would not tolerate. They had “offered strange fire…which [the LORD] commanded them not” (10:1c), and He consumed them with a fire of judgment (10:2).

I am reminded of the principle, “unto whom much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). The sons of Aaron had violated their privilege to serve on behalf of the people, and draw near to the LORD in His sanctuary, thus God rejected them.

Imagine the sorrow that took hold of Aaron’s heart when he learned two of his sons had disobeyed the LORD, and been slain by the fire of His judgment.

Moses warned Aaron, “This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace” (10:3). Aaron, because he represented the people before God, was forbidden to mourn outwardly, lest his sorrow appear to contradict the LORD’s judgment (10:3c).

Moses commanded “Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron” (10:4), and cousins of Aaron’s sons, to remove their bodies from the Tabernacle, and carry them outside the camp. Aaron, and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were cautioned a second time that they were not to show outward signs of mourning, “lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled” (10:6b).

Instead of mourning, Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, were reminded they had been anointed to serve the LORD, and were not to leave their duties in the Tabernacle (10:7).

Perhaps an indication of why Nadab and Abihu had sinned against the LORD (10:1), Leviticus 10:8-11 states a prohibition that the LORD’s priests were not to imbibe wine or strong drink in their ministry. Knowing alcohol can distort a man’s judgment, and compromise him morally, the priests were to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (10:10).

Leviticus 10:12-15, rehearsed the laws that regulated the conduct and duties of priests, and the sacrifices they were to offer to the LORD for the nation.

Leviticus 10:16-20 – A Sin of Omission

We find Moses seeking the “goat of the sin offering” that the LORD had commanded be set aside for the priests (10:16). Moses discovered that Aaron’s surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, had failed to set aside, and eat a portion of the offering the LORD had commanded be eaten by the priests.

Moses confronted Eleazar and Ithamar, demanding, “17Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?” (10:17) They had failed the LORD (10:18), and not treated as holy that which God required. Instead, they had taken the flesh of the sin offering, and burned it outside the camp.

Aaron, assuming responsibility for his sons’ failures (10:19), bemoaned his sorrow for the things that had befallen him and his family (10:19). Moses, when he heard the words of his brother, sympathized with him, and “was content” (10:20).

A Lesson Concerning “Strange Fire”

Some could argue, Nadab and Abihu might have had good intentions for offering incense in the LORD’S sanctuary! However, we must remember, their intent or motivation was not the issue. They had chosen to come to the LORD apart from His command, and offered a “strange fire” that He refused.

I fear there is a lot that is done in churches, and under the guise of worship, that is a “strange fire” to the LORD. Strange doctrine, strange preachers, and strange music abound in churches. When the goal of worship leaders is to be exciting and entertaining, as opposed to hallowed and holy, they become the purveyors of “strange fire.”

You see, when we come to the LORD, we must come not on our merit, but on His terms. We are to be imitators of Christ, not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).

1 Peter 1:15–1615But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sacrifices for Sins of Ignorance (Leviticus 4)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 4

Our study of sacrifices continues today with the sacrifices that were to be offered for a “sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD” (4:1). Such a sin was not a willful violation of the Law and ordinances, but an oversight, unintentional defilement that was nevertheless a sin.

Leviticus 4:1-12 examines the sacrifices a priest was instructed to offer when he was guilty of sinning through ignorance. Leviticus 4:13-21 addresses the sacrifices that were to be offered for the sins of the whole nation. The “elders of the congregation,” acting on behalf of the people, would “lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord: and the bullock [would] be killed before the Lord” (4:15), thus identifying with the animal that was slain, and its sacrifice for their sins.

Should a leader of the people sin, Leviticus 4:22-26 details the ceremony and sacrifice that was to be offered to atone for his sin.

Not to be overlooked were the “common people,” ordinary citizens of Israel who, like the priests and leaders, would find themselves guilty of “sin through ignorance” (4:27). When such a sin would come to one’s knowledge, the “common people” were instructed to “bring his offering, a kid of the goats (or a lamb, 4:32), a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned” (4:28). As with other sacrifices in which the sinner was instructed to identify with the animal that was to be slain for one’s sin, the penitent sinner would “lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering” (4:29).

The priest, acting as the mediator, would take the blood of the sacrifice, put the blood on the “horns” or the corners of the altar, and then “pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar” (4:30). Taking the fat of the sacrifice and burning it upon the altar, it was declared a “peace offering…and atonement” for the sinner, whose sin was forgiven (4:31).

I close today’s brief reading, reminding believers we no longer offer sacrifices for sins, because Jesus Christ is not only our high priest (Hebrews 9:11), but He is also our “once and for all,” substitutionary sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12, 14). While His death on the cross, and shedding of blood, fulfilled the demands of the law for a perfect, sinless sacrifice, yet we are responsible to confess our sins one to another and to a Holy God.

Christ offered Himself as our Mediator, “that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

Hebrews 9:2828So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Copyright 2021– Travis D. Smith

Old Testament Sacrifices, and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 2-3)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 2-3

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s Scripture reading, Leviticus 2-3. The first sacrificial offering described in Leviticus was the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). It consisted of an animal that was sacrificed for sin, “a male without blemish,” and either a bull (1:5), sheep or goat (1:10), or a fowl, either a turtledove or young pigeon” (1:14).

Leviticus 2 – The Law of the Meat Offering

Leviticus 2 introduces the second sacrifice, the “meat offering,” but a better translation would be “meal” or grain offering. “The “meat offering” was a non-blood sacrifice, and consisted of raw grain (“fine flour”), oil, and frankincense (2:1). Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present), it was a voluntary offering of which the priests would take a portion for their families, and the rest was offered as a burnt offering (2:2-3).

There was also a “meat offering” that consisted of bread baked in an oven (2:4), cooked in a pan (2:5-6), or made in a frying pan (2:7). A portion of those offerings were also to be used by the priests for their households (2:8-10).

The meat or meal offerings were never to be offered with leaven (which is a symbol of sin in the Scriptures), or honey, perhaps because flour baked with honey will spoil and sour (2:11).

There was also the “oblation of the firstfruits” (2:12), which was a voluntary offering of faith. Sacrificed to the LORD, the first-fruits of the harvest was a testimony of faith in His continued provision (2:12-16).

Leviticus 3 – The Law of the Peace Offering

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering.  Unlike the “burnt offerings,” the “peace offerings” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish,” applied and the priests would have inspected the offerings to insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).

There was the offering of the herd, either a bull or heifer, or the offering of the flock, a lamb (3:6-7), or a goat (3:12). 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, 8, 13).  The priests would then sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, and burn it on the altar (3:5, 11, 16).

In conclusion, consider the LORD’S standard for sacrifices: “without blemish” (3:1, 6).

Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality.  I am sure the temptation for some was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.  The apostle Paul had the same “without blemish” standard in mind when he wrote:

Romans 12:1-2 – “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.”

The LORD required the best in sacrifices, and He requires no less of believers today.  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 is unacceptable!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith