Tag Archives: Flesh

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only 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).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is 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.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. 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.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Commonality of Leprosy and Sin

Monday, July 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 13-15

The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.  Leprosy known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD); is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Leprosy is treatable, even curable in the 21st century; however, in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victims separation from society and assignment to leper colonies.

In Leviticus 13, the LORD directs Moses and Aaron in the steps He required to address leprosy in Israel including diagnosing the disease and the exclusion of lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).   Lepers were required to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), warning any who approached they were carriers of the disease.

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

As a point of application, leprosy is the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people.  Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean” (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy is more than a surface issue of the skin and the outward man; leprosy inevitably effects the tissues, nerves and eventually causes the extremities to rot and decay.  In a real sense, it so scarred the body it was well-nigh an unbearable ugliness.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have us believe man is born innocent and it is man’s environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the cause of man’s societal deprivations.  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul, likening sin to a physical ailment writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

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

Without a human cure for leprosy, lepers hoped for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

In the same way, mankind has no cure for sin.  Twenty-first century society, doctors and judges prescribe counseling, psychiatry and drug-therapy for lawbreakers and prisoners deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, these all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

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 placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  It is for this reason Jesus Christ bore the penalty of our sins on the cross. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The Path And Ways Of A Floozy”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 5-6

Our scripture reading for today is Proverbs 5-6; however, my focus for this devotional commentary is limited to Proverbs 5:3-6.  As a reminder, my www.heartofashepherd.com site is host to my devotional commentary on the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 5 addresses a salacious subject—the strange woman (5:3-6) and is an appropriate subject in a day when some of the leading voices of women boast they are “dirty women”.

 The raunchy nature of our society has not only made women the objects of vulgarity, but has diminished their role as the purveyors of grace and innocence.  As wife and mother, womanhood has served humanity as the bulwark of human civility.   However, the 21st century woman embodied in the likes of Madonna, Ashley Judd and Miley Cyrus, are racing for the extremity of debauchery.   Abdicating the God-given roles that were her strengths, she has diminished her influential virtues—this in the name of liberation!

Ponder Solomon’s warning to his son concerning the “strange woman”.

Proverbs 5:3-5 – “For the lips [conversation] of a strange woman  [adulterous]  drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil [full of flattery]But her end [the end of the adulterous woman] is bitter as wormwood [cursed], sharp as a twoedged sword. Her feet [path] go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [the path to hell].”

 Proverbs 5:6 – “Lest thou shouldest ponder [consider] the path of life, her ways [adulterous woman] are moveable [uncertain; wander], that thou canst not know [understand; discern] them.”

Solomon warns his son, the path of an adulterous floozy is aimless and her ways mesmerizing.  She flatters and her words are sweet as a honeycomb (Proverbs 7:13-20), but they are poison to the fool who believes them.

Fools believe they are the exception to the consequences of sin.  I assure you that breaking God’s commandments regarding the sin of adultery (Exodus 20:14, 17) will lead you down a path of self-destruction.  Indeed, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a) and adultery is no exception—death of a marriage, family, career, reputation and friendship.

What?  You say the pornographic nature of your sin is on your computer in the privacy of your home and no one will get hurt?

Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

 Heed Paul’s exhortation and “Flee also youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 51-53

Our scripture reading today is Psalms 51-53; however, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 51 and the setting of that great psalm.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for restoration following the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation (2 Samuel 12:7-13) with king David because of his secret sins…his adultery with Bathsheba and his foolish attempt to conceal his sin by directing the murder of her husband Uriah.

It is frightening to consider the depth to which a man or woman might descend into sin and wickedness when they attempt to cover sin rather than confess and forsake it.  Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power; and too often unaccountable to any who might mercifully, but bravely like the prophet Nathan warn his superior, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked by personal accountability to others and a holy, omniscient God.

One should ponder how a man like David fell from the innocence of a shepherd boy in his teens, a national hero in his early-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at the age of 50 becomes in fact an adulterer and murderer.

Every reader should awaken to this truth…the potential of so egregious sins is within each of us.   David acknowledges in Psalm 51:5 the nature and curse of sin: “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  The inclination for sin is within the nature and heart of all men and women and, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

It is not the depths of sin to which David descended, but the fact he tolerated the curse and burden of such sins while acting as king and righteous judge in other men’s matters.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if it weren’t for God employing his prophet to confront the king while he sat on his throne.   We also appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself when we remember oriental monarchs like David had absolute power and the power of life and death rested with them.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God:

Psalm 51:1-4a – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…”

Psalm 51:10-12 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

Psalm 51:16-17 – “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Make no mistake; among the hundreds who will read this devotional commentary are some who, like David, are living out a pretense of good works, maintaining appearances, while concealing a sin that will, like cancer, destroy you, your family and witness.  I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women of all ages.

The first, David entertained unbridled passions in his soul that led inevitably to a sinful neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.   Friend, your greatest temptations will arise when you are physically and spiritually indolent.  Nearly 40 years in ministry have taught me when a believer is unfaithful and carries a gunny sack of excuses, Sound the Alarm and shout… “Thou art the man!”

The second failure seen in David’s life was his role as king isolated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone…far from the battlefield and apart from his wives and children.  The same is true of many who have leisure time, are self-employed, and home alone…the temptations of the television and Internet are no more than a mouse-click away.

Finally, in spite of David being a man with a heart for God, he was nevertheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Believer, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned:  You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).   I invite you to, like David, humble yourself before God for He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 13-14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a fascinating reading taking us from the LORD’s discussion of “Eschatology”, the Biblical doctrine of the “Last Things” and His Second Coming (Mark 13) to the dinner at the house of “Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3-9), the institution of “The Lord’s Supper” (Mark 14:16-28), His betrayal and arrest (Mark 14:43-65) and Peter’s threefold denial of the Lord (Mark 14:66-72).  Realizing a thorough commentary on these historical events is impossible; I limit my focus to Judas and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD, His disciples, and dearest friends Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha, having dinner at the home of one “Simon the Leper” (14:3).  Leprosy is a physically disfiguring and was a dreaded disease in Jewish society.  Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of this feast was most likely a celebration of our Lord delivering Simon from leprosy.  Setting aside postulating regarding Simon’s identity, the central focus of the feast becomes the sacrificial gift offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating and, breaking the neck of an alabaster jar, a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard, she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head (14:3b).  John identifies “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led the chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions, suggesting the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty and, in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).  At the time, the disciples did not know that Judas, the trusted treasurer of the Lord and His disciples (i.e. he “had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6b) was a thief.

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality he was a thief, a traitor and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but it was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion.

Offering us insight into the influence and leadership of Judas amongst the disciples, we read they shared his objections.  Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, the disciples “murmured against her” (Mark 14:5).  Jesus rebuked the disciples and silenced them saying, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (Mark 14:6).  Then, affirming Mary’s act of love, Jesus once again spoke of His death and burial (Mark 14:7-8; John 12:7), revealing Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (Mark 14:8-9).

I close by challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!  Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; contest; dispute; quarrel].”

 A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and an organization as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest…it has the potential of destroying everything…and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abominationunto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Christian Leaders are Often No More Than a “Flash in the Pan”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 1-4

As we open our Bibles to 2 Samuel, we find David and the nation of Israel entering into a new era.  King Saul and his son Jonathan are slain in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31) and news of their deaths reach David in Ziklag a Philisitine town where he and his men had found refuge from Saul’s threats.   An Amalekite soldier came to David fabricating a claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy to spare him the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (2 Samuel 1:1-10).  The truth was that Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4).

Three times David lamented the deaths of King Saul and his sons (2 Samuel 1:19, 25, 27).   Rather than rejoicing in the death of Saul, David mourned the death of the king and ordered the man who claimed to have slain him put to death (2 Samuel 1:11-16).

The closing verses of 2 Samuel 1 express in poetic tones the grievous loss of Jonathan, David’s confidant and friend (2:25-27).  There are some who try to paint David’s lament for the loss of his friend as a twisted validation of sodomy…it is not!   The Old and New Testament scriptures condemned homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27) and it was surely not a practice to put to music for people to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual trust; such a friend is rare indeed!

Israel has been a divided nation and David has waited more than a decade to be king. With Saul dead, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, asking, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” (2 Samuel 2:1). With the LORD’s blessing, David went up to Hebron and the men of Judah crowned him king (2:2-4).

David faced opposition immediately from Abner, Saul’s nephew who moved to make Ishbosheth, a surviving son of Saul, king (2:9-10).   Abner’s opposition to David coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character plunged the nation into a civil war (2:10-11) that would last over 7 years.  In spite of the opposition, God blessed David and he “waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1).

Three principles are evident in David’s patience in the midst of conflict. The first, time is always on the side of the righteous. The prophet Isaiah assured God’s people:

Isaiah 54:17 – “No weapon that is formed [fashioned; made] against thee shall prosper [succeed]; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn [show to be in the wrong]. This [triumph of righteousness] is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [vindication; victory; success] is of me, saith the LORD.”

The second principle, truth will triumph!  Men like Abner and Ishbosheth play the fool and when they oppose the will of the LORD are doomed .

A third principle is an admonition: Lust for power, position, and influence is self-destructive…whether it is in politics, business, or religion.

Three manner of men rise to power and position in our world: the weak who, like Ishosheth, have connections; the strong who, like Abner, are driven by greed and manipulate others to promote themselves; the third, God’s anointed who, like David, are called, equipped, and dependent on God for promotion.

It is my experience that churches and Christian institutions fall prey to a fallacy in leadership that bloodlines (a man’s sons) or relationships (a man’s friendship) somehow assure success.  Too often churches and boards of Christian institutions look for flashy, well-spoken, charismatic leaders and learn too late they chose the proverbial “flash in the pan” and failed to choose God’s anointed.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Two Sins That Will Bring a Man to Ruin

Monday, April 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 31-32

Job 31 records the conclusion of Job’s defense against his three “friend’s” accusations that his sufferings are the consequence of unconfessed sin.

The opening verse of Job 31 is one every man should vow before God: I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1)

What a powerful statement for 21st century believers to embrace and commit themselves to…purity in heart, thoughts and emotions!  The violation of moral and marital fidelity is one of the greatest sins of the 21st century church and I doubt there is a pastor who comprehends the degree to which his members have titillated their lusts and emotions with lewd and pornographic images in the privacy of their homes and hearts.

I remind my readers of the following commands and principles regarding adultery; the first, our Lord’s summation on this subject reminding us that to look on another with lust is adultery.

Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: [Exodus 20:14 – 7th Commandment] 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

God’s people are not to tolerate adultery and its punishment under the law was severe:  “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).

Adultery destroys a man’s reputation, scars his life, brings reproach he will carry to his grave and wrecks his marriage, home and family.

Proverbs 6:32-33 – “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding [without moral principle]: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul [life]. 33 A wound and dishonour [disgrace] shall he get; and his reproach [shame] shall not be wiped away.”

Declaring his innocence and integrity, Job asserts, let me suffer the dreadful consequences of my sin if I have lusted after another man’s wife (Job 31:9-12).

Job 31:12 – “For it [adultery] is a fire that consumeth [eats; devours; burns up] to destruction, and would root out [pluck up; uproot] all mine increase [good; income].”

Elihu, a fourth and younger “friend” of Job, joins the others in Job 32, not only condemning Job, but also his “friends” who had failed to convince Job of his sin. It is interesting that the youngest of the five, Elihu, begins a monologue of judgment and condemnation that will continue for six chapters (Job 32-37).

Elihu’s introductory statements to his elders are sadly familiar for they are reflective of the proud, untempered spirit of inexperienced youth (32:1-3, 5).  In his own words, Elihu confesses, “I am full of matter…my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst” (32:18-19).  That statement, dear friend, is the gushing of unrestrained pride.  In the words of Solomon, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).   When the LORD addresses the contention that rose between Job and his “friends”, He will disregard everything Elihu said.

In a parting observation, the sins I have addressed in this devotional commentary are prevalent, not only in our culture, but also in our churches and homes.  Adultery is destroying lives, marriages, and families.  Webroot.com estimates that 40 million Americans visit pornography sites regularly and 2.5 billion emails a day contain pornography.  That same website estimates pornography is a problem in 47% of American homes.  In other words, you, your spouse, your children, or your friends are struggling with the putrid effects of pornography.

The other sin in today’s devotional is the besetting sin of today’s youth…Pride!  Pride has been the curse of man from the fall; however, this Millennial generation is enslaved to it like no other before it.   The pride of this generation is manifest in their self-centered, unteachable, demanding, narcissistic spirit…a sin that will inevitably bring them and our nation to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith