Tag Archives: Flesh

The Blessings of Faithfulness and the Curse of Sin and Disobedience (Deuteronomy 28-29)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28-29

Deuteronomy 28 – The Blessing of Faithfulness

Having declared God’s Covenant with Israel as His chosen people (Deuteronomy 5-28), Moses concludes with a challenge for the people to affirm the covenant they entered into at Mt. Horeb 40 years earlier (Exodus 24), and acknowledge their obligation to the LORD to obey His Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

Moses promised Israel, the nation would be blessed above all nations of the earth on the condition they would hear, obey, and follow His commandments (Deuteronomy 28:1-15).  We find fifteen verses enumerating the multitude of God’s blessings should they obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14).

Of course, because the covenant was a binding agreement between the LORD and Israel, Moses warned the nation would bear the curse of God’s judgment should they turn away from the LORD, break His covenant, and live like the heathen people in whose land they were entering (28:15-68).

The promise of God’s blessings on Israel is stunning! Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).  Israel’s enemies would fall before her, and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).

In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobeyed Him. The curses that would befall Israel are listed in a series of judgments that are alarming to read (28:15-68). Should the people disobey the LORD, they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).

The cities, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives, livestock, and fields would all be cursed (28:16-18). Pestilence, physical disease, and drought would follow (28:20-24). The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses! Humiliation before Israel’s enemies (28:25-29), poverty (28:30-31), slavery (28:32, 47-48), and disease (28:35) are all listed.

The siege of Israel’s cities and conditions of her poverty and hunger would become so severe the people would turn to cannibalism (28:49-57). All the diseases that befell Egypt would befall Israel (28:58-61).  The people would know no rest and would be terrified day and night (28:62-68).

Deuteronomy 29

The basis of Israel’s obligation to honor the Covenant with the LORD was not only the sacrifices they had offered to seal the Covenant at Mt. Horeb (Exodus 24), but also the LORD’s loving care of the nation over the course of their forty years wandering in the wilderness (29:2-9).

The nation, its leaders (“captains…elders…officers”), and “all the men of Israel” (29:10), representing every man, woman, boy and girl…even “thy stranger that is in thy camp” (those in the midst of the tribes, but not of the Twelve Tribes), were to affirm the covenant with the LORD (29:11-15).

Moses warned the people (29:16-29), should they turn to idols and follow in the sins of the heathen nations, and fail to obey the LORD’S Laws and Commandments, the nation will be punished with plagues and sickness (29:22), and the ground would be cursed (29:23).

“Choices Have Consequences,” and no nation, people, or family can expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed! 

I close with good news. Although a promise received by king Solomon for Israel, I invite you to covet the same for our nation:

2 Chronicles 7:1414 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Rules of Law, Justice, and War (Deuteronomy 17-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 17-20

Moses challenge to Israel and his rehearsal of the laws and regulations the nation was to follow continues in today’s scripture reading.

Capital Punishment (Deuteronomy 17)

Capital punishment is a God-ordained exercise of human authority (Romans 13:4); however, a sentence of death required two to three witnesses (17:2-7).  When judicial matters were too difficult to be settled, the matter was taken to priests who were instructed to enquire diligently into the accusation (17:9-11). Judgments were binding and when a man refused to accept a sentence the penalty was death (17:12-13).

Israel was not to pattern herself after other nations (17:14).

Should the people demand a king, he was to be a Hebrew whom the LORD would choose (17:15). Unlike heathen kings, Israel’s king was to reflect humility and integrity.

Three rules applied to the king: 1) He was not to seek his strength in a stable of horses (17:16); 2) He was not to practice polygamy (17:17); 3) He was to write with his own hand a copy of the law to read and continually meditate upon its statutes (17:18-19).

Principle – The effect of knowing the law was that the king would “learn to fear the LORD…That his heart be not lifted up” (17:19-20).

The rights of priests, Levites, and prophets is the subject of Deuteronomy 18.

The physical needs of priests, Levites, and their families were to be met through the offerings and sacrifices of the people (18:1-8).

Fearing Israel might be tempted to follow the wicked practices of their neighbors, Moses warned, “thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations” (18:9).

Enumerated among the sins was human sacrifice (18:10a), soothsaying, witchcraft, and other sources of darkness (18:10b-14). False prophets, identified as those who claim to speak in the name of the Lord, but whose prophecies did not come to pass, were to be put to death (18:20-22).

Cities of Refuge is the subject of Deuteronomy 19.

Three cities on the east side of Jordan (Numbers 35:14) and three cities in the Promised Land were established as sanctuaries where a killer might flee until justice would prevail (19:1-8).  Three additional cities (making nine total) were to be established should Israel take possession of all the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance (19:9).

Two types of killing are identified: Unintentional manslaughter (19:3-5) and premeditated murder (19:11-13). The cities of refuge were to be safe cities for those who had accidentally taken the life of another; however, they were not to give refuge to a murderer (19:11-13).

The demand for two to three witnesses is repeated (19:15) and false witnesses are warned they would suffer the judgment of the law for the crime they might falsely accuse another (19:16-21).

Deuteronomy 20 is a continuation of Moses’ instruction to Israel in times of war. 

The Canaanite nations were greater and more powerful than Israel; however, Moses challenged the people to, “be not afraid of them” (20:1). They were not to trust in their own strength, but place their confidence in the LORD.

Three exemptions for enlisting in the army were given: 1) A man who built a new house, but had not dedicated or taken possession of it was exempted (20:5); 2) A man who planted a new vineyard, but had not yet enjoyed its fruit was exempted  (20:6); 3) A man who was betrothed to a woman, but had not taken her to his house was exempted (20:7). According to Deuteronomy 24:5, a newlywed husband was afforded a one-year exemption from military duty.

A city under siege was to be offered peace and servitude (20:10-11); however, when an offer of peace was rejected the males of the city were to be put to death and women, children, and livestock taken as spoil (20:12-15).

Remembering the LORD is a jealous God and He had chosen Israel to be His people, Moses commanded the cities nearby when Israel invaded Canaan were to be annihilated: “That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God” (20:18).

Let us remember the God of Israel is our LORD and He is Holy and Jealous for our affections (Exodus 34:14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Familiarity with Sin Breeds Contempt for God (Numbers 23-25)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 23-25

Our Scripture reading in the Book of Numbers continues the spiritual joust between Balak, the king of Moab, and Balaam the reluctant prophet (Numbers 23-24).

Arriving in the mountain range overlooking the encampment of Israel, Balaam was met by an anxious king who chided the prophet for not coming at his bidding (22:36-37).  Balak, king of Moab, asked the prophet, “Wherefore camest thou not unto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?” (22:37).

Numbers 23 and 24 record a contest between a king who demands Balaam curse Israel and the LORD who was determined to bless His people. Four times Balak demands Balaam curse Israel (22:41; 23:1-2, 7, 13-14, 25, 24:10-11); four times Balaam obeyed the LORD and blessed the nation (23:8-12, 18-24; 24:1-9, 15-25).

Tragedy: Israel Plays the Whore with the World (Numbers 25)

The opening verses of Numbers 25 come as a shock after the three prior chapters where the LORD exhibited His protection and loving care of Israel (Numbers 22-24). We read,

Numbers 25:11  And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.

Shittim was the staging ground for Israel before that nation crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land.  Consider three spiritual lessons on display in Numbers 25.

The first is a tragic lesson concerning the Lure of Sin, in particular, sexual immorality.

Provoking the LORD to wrath, some men in Israel had committed sexual immorality with heathen neighbors (25:1). Having become familiar with the sinful ways of the heathen, some had cast aside all moral restraint. Whoredom, offering sacrifices to idols, eating meat offered to idols, and worshipping Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull, displayed the complete moral degradation of the people (25:1-3).

The apostle Paul warned New Testament believers of the lure of sin, writing: Be not deceived [seduced; led astray]: evil [worthless; wicked; immoral] communications [companions; company] corrupt [defile] good [kind; gracious] manners [morals; character] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

A second lesson is the tragic Consequence of Sin (25:3b-5). 

The sins of the people were so egregious the LORD demanded swift justice (25:3b-4).  Rather than punish the nation, the LORD demanded His judgment fall upon the leaders, described as “the heads of the people.” These men were either party to the wickedness or had knowledge of the sins and failed to address it in the midst.  The leaders were hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:4-5).

A third lesson is the swift justice required when a faithful minister witnesses a man’s contempt for the LORD, His commandments, and the LORD’S congregation (25:6-18).

One sin led to another until one man, a prominent prince of the tribe of Simeon (25:14), openly sinned “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 priest Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the late high priest, rose up and slew the man and the Midianite woman (25:7-8).  Commended by the LORD for his zeal and swift action to stay God’s judgment, Phinehas was promised he and his family would be benefactors of the LORD’s blessings (25:10-13).

Nevertheless, twenty-four thousand “died in the plague” (25:9).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Standing Between the Living and the Dead” (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Korah and his followers, convinced they were equals to Moses, challenged his spiritual authority in their lives. 

Moses warned the young men, “Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi…seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:7, 10).

Undaunted by the question, Moses invited Korah and his company of rebels to take up fire in censers and on the next day approach the LORD to see whom He would choose (16:5-7, 16-18).

Indulging the young men, we read, “Korah gathered all the congregation against” Moses and Aaron (16:19a). Why? How did the people come to turn against Moses and follow their youth?

I suggest proud parents and grandparents saw in their young men the beauty and strength of youth. They foolishly listened as those young men dared to accuse Moses of failing the nation (16:13-14). The next day, those young men and their families stood outside the doors of their dwellings, and the “glory of the LORD appeared” (16:19, 27).

The LORD stated His intention to bring judgment upon the whole congregation; however, Moses, standing with the elders of the tribes against the young men, interceded with the LORD to not “be wroth with all the congregation” (16:22).

Seeing the LORD’s glory, the people withdrew from the rebels (16:25-27), and Moses declared a test:

Should the young men die a common, natural death (perhaps in their old age), then the people would know, “the LORD hath not sent me [Moses]” (16:29).  However, should the earth open up and swallow the rebels, the people would know they had provoked the LORD to wrath (16:30).

Displaying the His wrath and affirming the leadership of Moses and Aaron, we read, “the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their [families]” (16:31-33). As the congregation fled God’s judgment, the LORD sent a fire and “consumed the two hundred and fifty men” who had followed Korah (16:35).

Incredibly, the next day the people, grieving the deaths of their young men, gathered against Moses and Aaron, and accused them of being the cause for their deaths (16:41-42).

Once again, “the glory of the LORD appeared,” and He sent a plague in the congregation that consumed them until Moses interceded and Aaron ran through the midst of the congregation with a censer of burning incense seeking to placate the wrath of God (16:44-49).

In Numbers 17, the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other, in a simple, but visible sign.  The LORD commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2). Aaron’s name was inscribed on the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the thirteen rods that represented the twelve tribes and the tribe of Levi, only the rod of Aaron miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone was chosen to lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD will swiftly judge critics of His ministers.  I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.

The same might be said of some in the church who are all too ready to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.  If your minister is called by the LORD, examined, confirmed by an ordaining assembly, and chosen by a body of believers whom he faithfully serves…his office and role is to be respected.

Pastors are far from perfect, and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.

As purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pastors stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

His Promises Never Fail (Numbers 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 11-13

Three days into their journey from Mt. Sinai, an old pattern of sin returns and the people began to complain (Numbers 11:1). 

We read, the LORD’s “anger was kindled” (11:1) and His wrath was poured out as fire from heaven that began on the outskirts of the encampment. Why the “uttermost parts of the camp” (11:1), meaning the outlying areas, and not the center of the encampment?  I suppose that is where one will find the grumblers—on the fringe and far from the LORD.

The source of the spirit of discontentment is identified as “the mixt multitude” (11:4).

Who were they? They were non-Hebrew, most likely poor Egyptians.  No doubt hoping greater opportunities might be found by casting their lot in with the children of Israel, they had accompanied the people out of Egypt. The sinful, carnal spirit of the “mixt multitude” infected the children of Israel who wept asking, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

Complainers and grumblers are a cancer among God’s people.

Soon the Hebrews began to “remember the fish…cucumbers, and the melons” they did eat in Egypt (11:5).  They became dissatisfied with God’s provisions (11:4-5) and their lusts romanticized memories of Egypt (11:5).

Moses lamented the complaints of the people (11:10) and was overwhelmed.  Rather than seeing the grumbling of the people as an offense to God, Moses accused the LORD of afflicting him saying, “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant” (11:11a).

In his despair, Moses’ questioned the LORD:

Why me? What have I done? Am I the mother of Israel? Do you expect me to carry Israel to the Promise Land like a nurse carries an infant? How am I supposed to make these people happy?”

Moses’ final insult is summed up in this statement: “And if thou dealt thus with me, kill me.” (11:15c)

Stirred to anger, God gave the people the meat they demanded (11:31-32) and they gorged themselves, and became sick (11:33).

What was the root of the people’s complaints?  The core spiritual issue was the people had a rebellious heart toward God and “despised the LORD” (11:20).

A grievous, personal accusation was brought against Moses in Numbers 12.

Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, challenged his leadership and authority as the LORD’s spokesman (12:2). The initial charge was personal and against the wife of Moses (12:1); however, the narrative reveals that criticism was not the real issue. Their dispute with Moses arose from envy and jealousy.

I invite you to consider two observations on this matter of criticisms.

The first, when people are unable to find fault or attack your position, they often criticize a deeply personal area of your life.  For Moses it was the race or nationality of his wife.

The second, personal attacks are often a smoke screen concealing deeper issues in your critic’s life. While we should examine ourselves to see if criticisms are valid; we should also remember that initial criticisms are seldom the real issue (Numbers 12:1).

Numbers 13 brings us to the threshold of Canaan, the Promise Land.

The fate of a nation rests in the hands of twelve leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Chosen by Moses, they were charged with the responsibility of spying out the land (13:4-15) the LORD promised Abraham would be an inheritance for Israel (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-17).

Moses and the nation waited forty days to receive a report of the land. Upon returning, the twelve confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:23-27). The spies’ report, however, did not conclude on a good note when ten of the twelve reported:

“Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28) along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites” (13:29).

Caleb, one of the twelve spies, attempting to quiet the hearts of the people said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).  Ten of the spies, however, urged, “we be not able to go up” (13:31).

What made the difference in the reports?

The report given by Caleb and Joshua was different in two aspects: Focus and Faith.

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Their focus was not on the size of the obstacles and their faith rested in the promises of the LORD (13:27, 30).

Lesson – The LORD never fails to keep His promises.

Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 11-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permit me an observation in closing:

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap” (Numbers 25-26; Galatians 6:7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 25-26, Psalm 52, and Luke 8. Our devotional is from Numbers 25-26.

Today’s reading assignment (Numbers 25-26) sets the stage for the beginning of the end of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.  

Reminding us “evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (morals)” (1 Corinthians 15:33), Numbers 25 opens with a tragic decision made by some in Israel.  We read, “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1).  The influence of the Moabite women did not stop with the lust of the flesh, for we read in the next verse they invited the men of Israel to share in sacrificing, eating, and bowing down to their gods (25:2).

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Bible reading.

The first, familiarity with the ways of the wicked leads inevitably to the Temptation of Sin.  Having cast aside all moral restraint (Numbers 25:1-3), the people provoked the LORD to wrath, worshipping Baalpeor, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull (25:3).

A second lesson is the Tragic Consequences of Sin (25:3b-5, 9).  The sins of the people were so egregious they provoked the LORD to anger and He demanded justice (25:3b-4).   Placing the responsibility for the sins upon the “heads of the people” (25:4), the LORD demanded they be slain and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:5).

One sin led to another until one man was so brazen in his sin he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:6, 14-15).  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and grandson of the late high priest Aaron, was so moved with godly zeal, he rose up and slew the man and the woman, and the LORD stopped the plague leaving 24,000 dead in Israel. (25:10-13).

Numbers 26 opens with a reminder of the plague that had taken 24,000 lives (26:1; 25:9) and closes with a review of an entire generation that perished in the wilderness, save two men, Caleb and Joshua (26:65).

The LORD commanded Moses and Eleazar to take a second census of the males, 20 years and older, by tribe and household, before they crossed the Jordan River.  The census served two purposes: The first, to number men by tribe who were old enough to go to war (25:2).  The second, to use the count of each tribe as the basis for assigning geographical territory in the Promise Land (Numbers 26:52-56).  With the exception of the tribe of Levi, twelve tribes of Israel are named and include a total of 57 families (26:5-50).

The priestly tribe of Levi and its households is also named and numbered (26:57-62).  Unlike the other tribes that will be assigned lands, the Levites were assigned forty-eight cities in the Promise Land (Numbers 35:1-8).

A third lesson from today’s Bible reading is, the LORD is faithful to His Word and promises.

“The LORD had said…They shall surely die in the wilderness” (14:29; 25:65a).  Murmuring, faithlessness, and a love for the sins and idols of Egypt had dominated the affections of the first generation and all had died with the exception of two men, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:65).  I close with a timeless truth:

Galatians 6:7 – 7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith