Tag Archives: Evil

Only a Nation of Fools Eradicates Its History (Numbers 36; Deuteronomy 1)

Scripture reading – Numbers 36; Deuteronomy 1

Numbers 36 – Women’s Rights, and a Question of Inheritance

The Book of Numbers ended on an interesting note, as a concern regarding inheritance was raised once again. We considered in an earlier devotional the matter of a man’s inheritance, should he die without a son as heir (Numbers 27:7-11). A Hebrew man named Zelophehad had died without a son, and his five daughters had petitioned that they were their father’s heirs, and rightful heirs of his possession in the Promised Land (27:4-5). The LORD had directed Moses that Zelophehad’s daughters would be given their father’s inheritance (27:6-11).

Because the lands were assigned by tribes, and families, there was concern for what would become of tribal lands should a man’s heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4), and marry outside their tribe. It was contended that the lands would be lost to a tribe, should the daughters marry outside their tribe. The quandary was resolved, by the daughters being required to take a husband from their father’s tribe (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad,” submitting to the LORD’s will, and marrying men within their tribe. Thus, the land was secured for future generations of their tribal family (36:10-13).

An Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book, of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness, and gave us a record of God’s Law and Commandments.

The Book of Deuteronomy begins at the conclusion of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, with that nation encamped at the threshold of the Promised Land. With the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that had departed Egypt, and were twenty years old and older at that time, was dead.

Deuteronomy 1 – The Final Words and Exhortation of Moses to Israel

Deuteronomy records the final words, and exhortations of a man that had shepherded Israel forty years.  We read: “And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them” (1:3).

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation. Moses challenged the people, “8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).

Much as a man might research his ancestral family tree to know the history of his lineage, Moses sought to pass to the new generation a knowledge of not only their physical ancestry, but more importantly, their spiritualheritage as God’s chosen people.

The balance of the first chapter of Deuteronomy served as a recap of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, and the previous generation’s refusal to trust the LORD. For any who might question why the generation before them had perished in the wilderness, Moses reminded them as a nation:

Deuteronomy 1:32–3832Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God,
33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
34And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
35Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
36Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.
37Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
38But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

History is important, and only a doomed society dare deny its history, and fail to learn from its past. Eradicating the history, and symbols of a nation might pacify a few, but it will invariably destine its people to repeat its failures.

In the words of the British statesman, Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Companions Corrupt Good Morals (Numbers 25)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 25

“Times have changed,” is an oft repeated adage; however, read the Scriptures and you will be reminded mankind has not changed! The sinful depravity of our world today is not to be outdone by ancient civilizations. When a people, and a nation reject God’s Law and Commandments, they inevitably unleash the abhorrent lusts of the flesh, and a precipitous moral decline follows. Few nations turn back from the brink of destruction, and escape the suffering and humiliation of God’s judgment.

Numbers 25 brings us to Shittim, the staging ground for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land (25:1).

Shittim became the setting of a tragic event, for it was here that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). After the suffering, and toil of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, how could Israel, break her covenant with the LORD, and not only commit adultery with the heathen, but also worship and offer sacrifices to their gods? (25:1-3)

We read, “3And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). Baal-peor was the place where Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility was worshipped. The Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites all worshipped Baal (closely identified with Moloch). Portrayed as a bull, the Canaanites sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal, and committed all manner of sexual deviancy in worshipping the idol.

God’s wrath was “kindled against Israel” (25:3), and He commanded Moses, “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel” (25:4).

The sins of the people was egregious, and God’s judgment was swift (25:4-5) as He placed the responsibility of the sins upon the “heads [leaders] of the people,” and demanded they be slain, and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the people (25:5).

One Israelite was so brazen, that he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman (the daughter of a Midianite tribal chief) in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).  Phinehas, the son of the high priest Eleazar, rose up and slew the man, and the Midianite woman, thrusting them both through with a javelin (25:6-8). God’s judgment fell upon Israel, and 24,000 perished (25:9).

Reminded that nothing escapes the notice of God, the LORD acknowledged Phinehas’ zeal for righteousness, and established a perpetual, binding covenant of the priesthood with him and his lineage (25:10-13).

So tragic was the sin committed at Shittim, that the names of the couple slain by Phinehas were recorded (25:14-15), and the LORD commanded Moses, “Vex the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17).

A closing thought: I could draw out several spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture reading; however, I limit myself to one: Be not deceived [led astray; drawn away]: evil communications [companions; associations] corrupt [ruins; destroys] good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The Scriptures do not reveal how the men of Israel came to worship the god of Baal, and to commit whoredom. We can be certain, however, that the proximity of the “daughters of Moab” (25:1), provided the Israelites not only a familiarity with them, but also a tolerance of their wicked ways (25:1-3).

Today’s church is in desperate need for young men like Phinehas; men who have a love for God, and a zeal for godliness.

Will you commit yourself, and be a 21st century Phinehas?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

He Stood Between the Living and the Dead (Numbers 16-17)

He Stood Between the Living and the Dead (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Today’s Scripture reading continues a succession of rebellions that followed Israel since the people refused to trust God, and enter the Promised Land. Incredibly, the rebellion recorded in Numbers 16 arose from the Levites, the tribe the LORD had chosen to serve Him, and assist the priests with worship and sacrifices.

Numbers 16 – A Rebellion in the Tribe of Levi

Three men, and two hundred fifty princes, renown leaders of the people, conspired to challenge the priestly leadership of Aaron, and his sons. “Korah…and Dathan and Abiram…took men: 2And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown” (16:1-2). Emboldened, after having colluded in secret, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “gathered themselves against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3a), and railed against them, saying “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (16:3).

Ponder the assertion made by the rebels. Their words were a direct attack upon the leadership the LORD had ordained for Israel. Their flattery of the people, saying “all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them,” was either delusional, or a lie intended to court the favor of the people.

Moses’ response to the rebels, proved he was a “meek man,” for he “fell upon his face” (16:4), and determined to put the matter of the rebellion before the LORD (16:5). Remembering the rebellion was led by men who were Levites, Moses directed Korah, the principal rebel, and his cohorts to bring censers the next day to the Tabernacle, and the LORD would make known whom He had chosen to serve Him (16:6-9). Numbers 16:10-11 reveals the seed of the rebellion was a resentment of Aaron and his sons, for Moses questioned Korah, “Would you seek the priesthood also?” (16:10)

How did the rebels respond? Rather than receive the rebuke, and humble themselves, they scorned Moses. Dathan and Abiram, when summoned to appear before Moses to answer for their part in the rebellion, refused, and mocked him as though he had failed the people as a leader (16:12-14). Provoked by their rebellion, Moses cried to the LORD, “Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them”(16:15). (What pastor, after serving a congregation faithfully, has not felt the same sorrow when some he served murmured against him?) Moses summoned Korah and his company to appear before the LORD with their censers the next day (16:16-17).

The next day, “Korah gathered all the congregation against [Moses and Aaron] in the door of the Tabernacle…and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation” (16:18-19). When the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, “separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them” (16:21), those men “fell upon their faces” and cried out to the LORD, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” (16:22).

Guided by the LORD, Moses, with the “elders of Israel” following, sought out Dathan and Abiram, and implored the congregation, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men [Korah, Dathan, and Abiram], and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins” (12:26).

The people removed themselves from the usupers, as the rebels stood in the doors of their tents with their families (16:27). Raising his voice to the congregation, Moses let it be known that should “the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up” (16:30), the people would know those rebels had “provoked the LORD” (16:30). Suddenly, even as the words fell from the lips of Moses, “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up…and they perished from among the congregation” (16:32-33). The people, also fearing the earth might swallow them up, fled as the LORD sent fire upon the two hundred and fifty men who had joined in the rebellion (16:34-36).

Rather than brokenness, and remorse, the next day some of the congregation came together and accused Moses and Aaron saying, “Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41). Suddenly, the presence of the LORD descended on the Tabernacle, and He commanded Moses to separate from the people, that He might “consume them as in a moment” (16:45).

Fearing the wrath of the LORD, Moses commanded Aaron to take a censor and go quickly among the people, “and [make] an atonement for the people” (16:47). The drama of that moment was captured in this: [Aaron] stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed (16:48).

Fourteen thousand and seven hundred perished, not counting the two hundred and fifty who had perished with Korah (16:48-50), but the LORD in His mercy spared the congregation.

Numbers 17 – Aaron’s Role Confirmed by an Almond Blossomed Rod

Numbers 17 addresses the challenge to Aaron, and his son’s role as priests. The matter was solved in a manner that forever answered the question of spiritual leadership in Israel, and confirmed the priesthood would be that of the lineage of Aaron and his sons.

I close with two verses that should serve as a sobering reminder to all believers.

Hebrews 10:30–3130For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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)

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

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

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)

“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

Grace, and More Grace (Exodus 34-35)

Scripture reading – Exodus 34-35

The judgment had passed (32:25-32), and the LORD had granted a reprieve to the people in response to the intercessory prayer of Moses. Moses returned to the mount, and entered into the presence of the LORD (33:1), where He repeated His promise of the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No longer, however, would the people be comforted by the LORD leading them; instead, His Angel would go before them (33:2-3).

Moses was commanded to take “the tabernacle,” and pitch it outside the camp (33:7). Because the “Tabernacle” the LORD had commanded Moses to make was not yet constructed. I believe this “tabernacle” was Moses’ personal tent. Moving his “tabernacle” would have meant that the nation’s leader was outside the encampment (33:7-8). It was outside the camp, where the people witnessed the LORD’s presence descending as a cloudy pillar, and knew He “talked with Moses…face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend” (33:9-11a).

Moses beseeched the LORD to restore His favor to Israel, and the LORD promised, “I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name” (33:17).

Moses also requested the LORD show him His glory. In response, the LORD promised, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee” (33:19-20).

Exodus 34 – The Glory of the LORD, and Its Reflection on the Face of Moses

The LORD reviewed His covenant with Israel, and summoned Moses to cut out two tables of stone upon which He engraved His Commandments (34:1-4). Moses ascended Mount Sinai, as “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there” (34:5).

Keeping His promise to give Moses a glimpse of His glory (33:21-23), “the Lord passed by before him, and introduced Himself to Moses by name: “The LORD [YAHWEH; Jehovah], The LORD [YAHWEH] God [El],” the Eternal, Self-existent God (34:6).

Revealing His nature to Moses, the LORD named seven attributes (34:6-7). He is “merciful,” meaning compassionate. He is “gracious,” kind, good, showing favor without merit. He is “longsuffering,” slow to anger. He is rich in “goodness and truth,” faithful and true. He keeps “mercy for thousands,” and His mercy is sufficient for all. He is forgiving, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” He is just, and “by no means [clearing] the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (34:7).

Finding himself in the presence of the LORD in all His majesty, Moses hastily “bowed his head…and worshipped” the LORD (34:8), and interceded for Israel (34:9-10). For “forty days and forty nights” (34:28) he went without food or water, as the LORD instructed him, and renewed His covenant with Israel (34:10-28).

Moses was commanded to, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (34:27). Moses did as he was commanded, and “wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (34:28). Taking up the stone tables of the Law, Moses descended the mount and “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw [him], behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (34:30).

Although Moses had only been exposed to the back of the LORD (33:22-23), the glory of the LORD so reflected on him that he veiled his face when he stood before the people (34:32-33). However, when he was in the presence of the LORD, he removed the veil (34:34).

Exodus 35 – Giving for God’s Work

Exodus 35 reviews in detail the instructions Moses was given for fabricating the Tabernacle and altars, creating the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, and preparing the garments of the high priest. As the LORD had commanded him, Moses called for the people to bring “an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart” (35:4-5). The response of the people was universal, and “every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work” (35:29).

We are once again introduced to Bezaleel and Aholiab. They were artisans, chosen by God not only for their workmanship, but also because of their godly character (35:30-35).

I close today’s devotional, reflecting on God’s forgiving grace. Though He judged Israel guilty for that nation’s sins, the LORD heard the intercessory prayer of His servant, and showed mercy. It is the same mercy and grace by which we who believe are saved.

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Holiness Contends with Wickedness (Exodus 32-33)

Scripture reading– Exodus 32-33

For “forty days and forty nights” (24:18), Moses and Joshua had been on Mount Sinai, with the LORD. Their appointment with the LORD being ended, the LORD had given to Moses “two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (31:18).

Moses was unaware of events that were transpiring in Israel’s camp, but the LORD knew. He had heard the wicked demands of the people (32:1), and observed Aaron’s failure to hold the people to the covenant Israel had vowed to the LORD (32:2-3).

Aaron had cast in gold “a molten calf” for the people to worship (32:4), and the people blasphemed the LORD, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (32:4). Aaron accommodated their wickedness, and “built an altar before [the calf]; and [proclaimed]… To morrow is a feast to the Lord” (32:5).

Disavowing their covenant with the LORD, the people gave themselves to a worship that was like the idolatry they had witnessed in Egypt, and “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (32:6). The implication is that their conduct was not only idolatrous, but morally depraved.

Angered by the sins of the people, God vowed to judge them in His wrath (32:7-10), to cut off the nation, and covenant with Moses to “make of [him] a great nation” (32:10). Moses, however, humbly interceded for the people, and was jealous for the LORD’s testimony with Egypt, and other nations. He implored the LORD to remember His covenant with “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel” (32:13).

The LORD heard the prayer of Moses, and He “repented [lit. had a change of mind or heart] of the evil [judgment; destruction] which he thought to do unto his people” (32:14).

Moses descended the mount, and the “two tables of the testimony were in [his] hand: the tables [The Ten Commandments] were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. 16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (32:15-16).

When Joshua heard the clammer of voices in the camp, he wondered if it was the “noise of war” (32:17). Moses, however, knew it was the sound of frolicsome singing, and when “he saw the calf, and the dancing…[his] anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” (32:19).

Words fail to describe this tragic moment in Israel’s history. How soon the nation had turned from their covenant with the LORD, and had given themselves to wickedness and idolatry!

Incensed by their wickedness, Moses “took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it” (32:19b-20).

Turning to Aaron, Moses rebuked him, and questioned, “What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?” (32:21)

Aaron’s retort was sadly, much like many in spiritual leadership; he put on the people the responsibility for his own failure and said, “thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief” (32:22).

The full conversation that passed between those brothers is not recorded, but the Scriptures indicate that Aaron not only failed to resist the people, but implicated him as a willing participant, for we read: “Aaron had made [the people] naked unto their shame among their enemies” (32:25).

The time to stand for the LORD had come, and “Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi [the priestly tribe; the tribe of Moses and Aaron]gathered themselves together unto him” (32:26). Three thousand men were slain for their wickedness (32:28), and Moses rebuked the people saying, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin” (32:30).

The LORD, in answer to the intercessory prayer of Moses (32:31-32), and in act of mercy and grace, gave Israel a reprieve from utter destruction. Tragic consequences owing to the sins of the people followed; however, the Lord did not destroy the nation altogether (32:12-35).

I will review some of the effects of Israel’s sin in a later devotional (Exodus 33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Justice for All, and A Whole Lot of Separation (Exodus 23)

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

The instructions that gave practical applications of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to Israel’s daily life continues in Exodus 23.

Exodus 23:1-9 addressed the demand for Judicial integrity – Justice for All.  The ninth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16).

Exodus 23:1-9 emphasized God’s mandate for Israel’s judges to be above reproach, and intolerant of any who might pervert justice. A witness must not bring a false accusation against an innocent man in a judicial matter, nor lie to spare the guilty their due punishment (23:1-2). There was one law, and one standard, and not even the poor were granted a charitable judgment nor spared the weight of the law (23:3).

There are some 21st century leaders in the broader latitude of “American Christianity” that are guilty of teaching that the Old Testament is all Law, and no grace. Those who express such a sentiment are either ignorant of the Word of God, or purposefully, and intentionally misleading believers. For example, Exodus 23:4-5 commanded Israel to be ready to show kindness to an enemy should he suffer harm (23:4; Proverbs 25:21-22), and be ready to express sympathy and assistance to even one who hates you (23:5).

Exodus 23:6-9 returns to judicial matters, and the demand for impartial judgment in legal matters. Under God’s Law, the poor were not to be denied representation or justice (23:6), and judges were to see that righteous judgment prevailed for all (23:7). Judges were not to be bribed (23:8), and non-Hebrews (“strangers”), were to be judged fairly (23:9).

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

Emphasizing the significance of “Sabbath Rest” (20:8-11), Israel was commanded to observe a “Sabbath Year.” The land would not be plowed, and crops would not be planted (23:10). The land was to rest, and if seeds volunteered and grew to bear fruit, the poor and the “beast of the field” were given liberty to eat (23:11).

Three Festivals to be Observed by Israel (23:14-19)

The men of Israel were commanded to observe three annual festivals (23:14-19). There was the “feast of unleavened bread” and the Passover (23:15, 18), that commemorated the Passover in Egypt when the LORD spared the firstborn of Israel. The “feast of the harvest,” known as the Firstfruits, and later celebrated as Pentecost, was observed at the beginning of harvest (23:16a). The first fruits of the harvest were to be offered to the LORD (23:19a). There was also the “feast of the ingathering,” observed at the end of the harvest season (23:16b), and was a time of thanksgiving.

Three Promises (23:20-28)

The LORD made three promises to Israel, whose fulfillment was conditioned upon the people hearing and obeying His Law and Commandments (23:20-28).

He promised to “send an Angel” before the nation. The LORD’S Angel was sent to “keep” Israel in the way, and bring them into the Promised Land (23:20), if the people obeyed the “voice” of the Angel (23:22; I am of the opinion this “Angel” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ).

The LORD also  His “Angel” would “go before” the nation, and cut off those nations that occupied the land of Canaan (23:23). The Angel would give Israel protection (23:23), provisions (23:25), and posterity (i.e. future generations; 23:26).  Unlike other nations that adopted and sacrificed to the gods of the land they conquered; Israel was to destroy the idols of the people (23:24).

God promised to set the boundaries of the land He had covenanted with Abraham (23:31), and He warned that His people were not to befriend or make any covenant with the people they conquered, nor worship their gods. God warned Israel that, the conquered people “shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee (23:33).

This principle of radical separation is found throughout the Scriptures, though it is rarely preached in the pulpit, nor practiced the pew.

Israel was admonished: Fail to drive the ungodly out of the land, and the people would invariably adopt the sins of the heathen (23:33). That same principle is true for today’s believers. We are commanded, 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, “33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are commanded, “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 12:2).

As Israel was called to separate from the wicked nations they conquered, and to destroy their gods, believers are to separate, and put a distance between themselves and the ungodly, lest we become like them!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith