Tag Archives: church

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

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

Imagine: The People Gave Too Much! (Exodus 36-38)

Daily reading assignment – Exodus 36-38

Imagine being a part of a congregation in which the hearts of the people are so stirred to give and serve the LORD that the pastor must demand, “Please, stop giving! You have given too much already!”

Such is the spirit of a people when they are “wise hearted…stirred…willing…and willing hearted” (Exodus 35:10-29). The offerings given by the people for the Tabernacle and its furnishings exceeded the need, and Moses “restrained” them from giving any more (36:5-6) for they gave “too much” (36:7).

Because the Tabernacle would serve as a constant reminder of the LORD’S presence in the midst of Israel, God gave Moses precise details for its design and furnishings (review Exodus 26).

Beautiful curtains embroidered with cherubims are described for the interior of the Tabernacle (36:8-13).  “Curtains of goats’ hair” were to be spun and overlay the boards of the Tabernacle’s exterior (36:14-34).

The veil that would serve as a divider between the outer Holy Place and the sacred inner Holy of Holies is also defined (36:25-38). The construction and dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant (37:1-9), representing God’s heavenly throne in the midst of His people, is stated (note – Psalm 80:1; 99:1).

The Ark was to be transported by means of “staves” (i.e. rods) slid into rings when Israel moved during her sojourn in the wilderness (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the whole of the Ark, including the “mercy seat” upon which two cherubims faced one another with wings outstretched (37:7-9). The angels reflected the purity and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

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

Exodus 38:1-20 gives the design of an “altar of burnt offering” and the vessels of brass to be used in offering sacrifices (38:1-8).  The arrangement of the outer court of the Tabernacle (including its construction, curtains, and rings on which they hung) is given in exacting detail (38:9-20).

Exodus 38:21-31 might appear as minor, inconsequential information on first reading; however, the names of men recorded here serve as a lasting memorial and reminder:

The LORD honors those who faithfully employ their talents and skills to serve Him (38:22-23).

Are you using your time and talents to serve the LORD?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is On the LORD’S Side? (Exodus 30-32)

Scripture Reading Assignment – Exodus 30-32

Let’s begin today’s devotional commentary with a spiritual truth found in Exodus 30 and then see it identified in practice.

Lesson: That which is holy is never to be treated as common! (30:35-38)

Continuing our study of Exodus, we find Moses on Mount Sinai communing with the LORD who instructs His servant regarding the preparations for daily worship (Exodus 30:1-10), sacrificial offerings (30:11-16), and the anointing oil and spices exclusive for use in the tabernacle and never to be duplicated for any other use (30:17-37).

In Exodus 31 the LORD chose skilled artisans and laborers to construct the furniture and various utensils to be used in the tabernacle (31:1-11). Think about it: Even what some call “blue collar workers”, were chosen and called by the LORD to serve Him!

Moses was to remind Israel to set aside one day, the Sabbath, to rest and worship Him (31:12-17). Finally, the LORD gave him two tablets, tables of stone, on which He inscribed His covenant with Israel (31:18).

Exodus 32 – Rebellion in the Camp

Moses ascended Mount Sinai in Exodus 24 and had been apart from the people for forty days and nights (Exodus 24:18).

In Moses’ absence, the hearts of the people had turned away from the LORD, His commandments, and covenant with Israel.  The people rebelled and turning to the ways of Egypt, demanded Aaron cast a golden calf for them to worship (Exodus 32:1-6).

Angered by the breach of His covenant, the LORD vowed to judge the nation in His wrath (Exodus 32:7-10).  Moses, however, interceded for the people, reminding the LORD of His covenant promises and testimony among the heathen nations (Exodus 32:11-14).

Descending the mount with the tablets of stone inscribed by the LORD, Moses encountered Joshua who feared the noise below was that of war (32:15-17).  The sight of the golden calf, the frenzy and wickedness of idol worship, and the nakedness of the people so incensed Moses “he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” (32:19).

Confronting his brother Aaron, Moses took up the LORD’s righteous cause and demanded he account for the wickedness of the people. Aaron foolishly defended his failure to face the idolatrous demands of the people and withstand them (32:20-24).  Turning from Aaron, Moses challenged the “sons of Levi,” the priestly tribe, “Who is on the LORD’S side?” (32:26).

Moses charged the faithful, “Put every man his sword by his side…and slay every man his brother…and every man his neighbor…and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men” (32:27-28). Moses then ascended the mount and interceded for Israel (32:30-35).

Permit me to close with an observation: We recognize Aaron’s gross failure as a spiritual leader.  He failed the LORD out of a desire to please and appease the people…and three thousand souls perished.

I wonder how many attend churches whose worship is led by men more concerned with what the people want than they are with what the LORD demands…a Holy People.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Casual, “Come as You Are” Culture and the God They Serve (Exodus 28-29)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 28-29

Exodus 28 describes the clothes Aaron and his sons were to wear as priests. The rich detail and beauty of their priestly garments was to reflect the eminent role of those who minister for the people before the LORD (28:2).  The garments of the high priest were particularly beautiful, well-crafted, and rich in color and detail (28:3-5).

Various stones adorned an ephod worn by the high priest. An ephod being a garment made of linen cloth that crossed the shoulders, the back and breast of the high priest (28:6-14).

The high priest also wore over the ephod a breastplate that was a symbol of judgment.   Embedded in the breastplate were stones on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (28:15-29).

Great attention was given to the robes of the priesthood (28:15-30) down to the bells about the hem of his robe whose sound gave witness to the movement of the high priest within the Tabernacle and his acceptance in the LORD’s presence (28:31-26).

The LORD instructed Moses to perform a formal ceremony consecrating Aaron and his sons to the priesthood in Exodus 29. A ceremonial ritual of washing and adorning priestly garments is described (29:1-7), followed by a ceremony of sacrifices in which Aaron and his sons were commanded to lay their hands on the heads of beasts to be offered, consecrating themselves and the altar of sacrifice (29:8-37).

I close with an observation of a sad irony I see in today’s church.

“Dressing down” has become the style of those who occupy the pulpit and the pew.  A casual demeanor is reflected in the whole atmosphere of 21st century worship.

If ripped jeans, shorts, sandals and t-shirts are appropriate for worship, I am left wondering what became of the God who demanded beautiful robes and dedicated priests who were holy and consecrated to the LORD.

Surely the LORD is no less holy today than He was in Israel’s day!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith