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“Infanticide and Five Other Capital Punishment Sins” (Leviticus 20-21)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 19-21

* This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

The LORD’s command for His people to be a holy people continues in Leviticus 20 listing six sins that were punishable by death.

The first sin demanding capital punishment was the sacrifice of children to a pagan god identified as Molech (20:2).

Scottish born minister of the 19th century, Andrew Bonar, writes in A Commentary on the Book of Leviticus, “Molech was worshipped by revolting cruelties, the cries of the sufferers being drowned in loud noise. An image of red-hot glowing brass was the form in which he was adored, and his arms received the children offered to him, forthwith consuming them by their red-hot touch. The child was put (“εἰς τὸ χάσμα πλῆρες τυρός”) “into a gaping hole, full of fire,” says a historian. Everything was savage and demoniacal; fiendish tyranny and hellish hate.”

Five additional sins demanding capital punishment were:

1) Consulting with witches (20:6)

2) Cursing and abusing one’s parents (20:9)

3) Committing adultery (20:10)

4) Committing incest (20:11-12, 14, 17, 19-21)

5) Sodomy (20:13)

5) Bestiality (20:15-16)

Leviticus 21 gives us additional guidelines God required of the High Priest and others who served in the priesthood.  The paramount demand for all priests was for them to be holy (21:6), consecrated (21:8), and without physical blemish before the LORD (21:16-23).

I close being reminded you might be surprised by the horror of parents sacrificing their children to Molech (20:2-5) in ancient times.  

I suggest, however, that abortion in our day is no less barbaric! 

Over sixty million children have been aborted since the United States Supreme Court upheld abortion in the 1973 case, Roe vs. Wade. Abortion procedures have the same end as sacrificing sons and daughters to Molech…terminating a child’s life.

The barbarity of abortion defies vindication. In many cases a powerful vacuum suctions the infant from its mother’s womb limb by limb.  In other instances, a doctor uses forceps to pull the baby from the birth canal piece by piece. In addition, there are others who advocate leaving the infant to die after birth.

Surely a silent scream is heard in heaven when a mother sacrifices her baby.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

CONGREGATIONAL SINGING, if not dead, is dying. 

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Follower,

Across America are churches that were once bastions of Bible preaching, but have become mere shadows of their past. Churches where great songs and hymns of the Christian faith once resonated, are host to congregations mumbling their way through “7-11 choruses” (seven word choruses repeated eleven times).

Usually led by a “Vocal Team” and backed by a band pounding out a deafening beat, CONGREGATIONAL SINGING, if not dead, is dying. How did we get here?

I am writing to commend to you an excellent article on Hymnody authored by Dr. Theodore Martens.

Dr. Martens is a man whom I respect for his love of the LORD and his many years of faithful ministry.  He is a scholar of the Scriptures and a great communicator. A retired Pastor, College Professor, Seminary Teacher, and Writer; Dr. Martens is a member of Hillsdale Baptist Church, a regular teacher in Hillsdale’s Wednesday night Bible Institute, and my revered friend.

On the subject of song, hymn, music, and context, Dr Marten’s writes in his article:

“A song brings one back to the context, the days it was first heard, learned, loved, memorized, and FELT.”

“One cannot divorce the lyrics & musical score from the context in which it was first and foremost heard, repeated, learned, and felt without losing the richness which that “song” / “hymn” carries to its listeners and/or singers..Lyrics and “music” cannot be unhinged from each other and accomplish the same ends.”

Rhetoric & Homiletics: All Communication Is Contextual

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Old Testament Sacrifices: What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 1-4

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s scripture reading, Leviticus 1-4.

Leviticus 1-3 states what God required of Israel in voluntary, sacrificial offerings and serves as a lesson for 21st century believers:

God demands His people be a holy, sanctified people.

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe writes in his “Be Series” on the Book of Leviticus:  “Leviticus tells New Testament Christians how to appreciate holiness and appropriate it into their everyday lives. The word holy is used 91 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”  [BE Series – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch]

The Old Testament sacrifices were a figure, a type of which Jesus Christ was the perfect, complete, “once and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The first offering in Leviticus is the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). The children of Israel were to bring to the Tabernacle “a male without blemish” (1:3); placing “his hand upon the head” of the bull, sheep or goat, the worshipper identified with the animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).   The sacrifice was then killed and the priest would take the blood and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11).

The second sacrifice is the “meat (meal) offering” (Leviticus 2).  Known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present); the “meat offering” was a non-blood offering that consisted of grain (“fine flour”), oil and frankincense (2:1).  The priests were to take a portion of the “meal offering” for their families and the rest was to be offered as a burnt offering (2:10).

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering (Leviticus 3).  Unlike the “burnt offering”, the “peace offering” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish”, applied and the priests inspected the offerings to insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).  As with the “burnt offering”, the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2); the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar.

Unlike the earlier sacrifices that were voluntary, Leviticus 4 introduces us to the “sin offering of ignorance (or error)that was mandated by the Law.  Notice the sin offerings of ignorance descended from the greatest offering, being that of a young bull, to the least costly, a female goat or sheep.

The sin committed by a priest (4:1-12) or the corporate sin of the congregation (4:13-21) demanded the sacrifice of a “young bullock without blemish” (4:3-4, 13-15).  Because it was a sin offering, the priests and their families were not to take a portion of the “young bullock” to be consumed by their households.

A “ruler”, a head of a tribe, was to sacrifice a “kid of the goats, a male without blemish” (4:23). The “common people” were to sacrifice the least valued sacrifice, “a female without blemish”, either a lamb or goat (4:27-35).

I close highlighting the “without blemish” standard the LORD required of sacrifices in His Law.  Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality; however, I am sure the temptation was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.

The apostle Paul had the same standard in mind when he challenged believers to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

The LORD required of sacrifices the best and He requires no less of His people today. Holy, sanctified, set apart…Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God is His standard for His people.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading Assignment – Exodus 30-32

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 32 – Rebellion in the Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What Does God Require? – Honesty, Integrity, Fairness, Truth, and Holiness (Exodus 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 22-24

The agricultural nature of ancient societies meant one’s livestock were an essential part of a man’s livelihood and the well-being of his family (21:33-36). The negligent injury or theft of oxen or sheep was a serious crime requiring compensation (22:1-4), as was damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6).

God’s law requires honesty and integrity.

Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people and fair compensation for losses, whether by theft or neglect, was mandated (22:7-15).

As an illustration, consider a farmer who borrows another man’s ox to work his field; however, while in his care the ox is injured or dies.  Under such a circumstance, the borrower was debtor to the lender and under obligation to “make it good” (22:14). In other words, repay or replace.  The exception is when the owner of the ox is plowing a man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

Borrow or rent another’s property or goods, you were under obligation to make whole any damages or loss suffered by the lender. 

Other moral and societal issues addressed in Exodus 22 include rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).  In the matter of borrowing and lending, the LORD demanded fairness. Charging excessive interest was condemned knowing it imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor (22:25-27).

Exodus 23 – God’s Law Concerning Slander and False Witnesses

Acknowledging God is Just, it follows He demands His people be fair (23:1-2), good neighbors (23:3-5), and just in matters of law making no occasion for lies and distortions of the truth (23:6-8).

In a culture that is given to the drive for success at all costs, the thought of a Sabbath Day of rest, let alone a Sabbath Year dedicated to the LORD, is foreign (23:10-12).  For Israel, the Sabbaths, feasts, and offerings of the first and the best fruits of one’s labor to the LORD were a constant reminder that all a man had was an exercise of God’s grace and loving benevolence (23:13-19).  Exodus 23 concludes with God’s promise to protect and bless Israel as they journey through the wilderness (23:20-33).

Exodus 24 – Moses Enters Into the Presence of the LORD

Concluding today’s devotional commentary, you and I are privy to a glorious moment as Moses, his immediate leadership, and seventy elders are invited by the LORD to draw near to the mountain (24:1-4). After reviewing God’s covenant with Israel, the people pledged to obey the Lord’s law and commandments, sealing their vows with the blood of sacrifices (24:5-8).

As the “glory of the LORD” shrouded Mount Sinai, Moses was invited to ascend the mount and “come near the LORD” (24:2) where he received the law and commandments he was to teach the people (24:9-15).  Moses was alone on the mount for six days and on the seventh day we read, The LORD “called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (24:16). Forty days and nights would pass before Moses descended the mount (24:18).

What was Israel doing in Moses’ absence while the “glory of the LORD” appeared to be a “devouring fire” on the mount?

We will take up that question in Exodus 32.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Timeless Commandments (Exodus 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 19-21

Three months after their exodus out of Egypt, Moses and the children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) where the LORD directs His servant to instruct the people to hear His Word and keep His covenant.  Confirming His covenant with the people, the LORD promised Israel would be “a peculiar treasure…above all people” (19:5-6).

Calling “for the elders of the people”, Moses rehearsed all the LORD had commanded him (19:7) and the people affirmed they would keep the LORD’s covenant (19:8).  In preparation for establishing His covenant with Israel, the LORD directed Moses to “sanctify” the people and command they wash their clothes (19:9-15).

On the third day, the LORD made Himself known to the people by “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud” (19:16).  Then the LORD “descended upon it [the mount] in fire: and the smoke ascended” (19:18) and the “trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder” (19:19).  Witnessing the power and majesty of the LORD, “all the people that was in the camp trembled” (19:16b).

Then the LORD introduced Himself saying, “I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”(Exodus 20:2).

The LORD stated Ten Commandments as part of His covenant and Israel was commanded to hear, heed and obey them (20:1-17).

Exodus 20:3-17 – “3  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image7  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain8  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy… 12  Honour thy father and thy mother13  Thou shalt not kill. 14  Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15  Thou shalt not steal. 16  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17  Thou shalt not covet…”

Exodus 20:22-26 instructs the people regarding worship and the LORD’s intolerance of idols among His people (20:22-23).   The construction and sanctity of altars for sacrifices is addressed (Exodus 20:24-25) as is a principle for modesty: “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon” (Exodus 20:26).

In our day when “anything goes” and the church calls it worship, it might surprise some the extent to which God regarded not only the construction of places of worship (i.e. altars), but also the dress of those who led the people (i.e. priests).  Contrary to the casual brashness of the majority of 21st century American churches, those who led Israel in worshipping the LORD were to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the holiness of God and never allow for any “nakedness” that would be a distraction for those who worship the LORD (Exodus 20:26).

Moving beyond the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) we find specific applications of God’s judgment and the bases of democratic law and order in Exodus 21:1-23:19. Principles for masters (employers), indentured servants (employees), and the sanctity of human life are stated (Exodus 21:1-17). [Exodus 21:12-17 draws a distinction between murder (21:14-16), a violation of the sixth commandment (20:13), and manslaughter (taking a human life without intent).]

Finally, in the event of accidental injuries or death, personal liability is addressed and explained: Should a beast cause injury or death and the owner prove negligent, the beast would be put to death and its owner possibly forfeit his own life should gross negligence be proved (21:18-32).

Believer, our God is Just, Holy, and Merciful!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Keys to Effective Leadership: Objectivity, Wise Counsel and Delegation (Exodus 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 16-18

The people began to murmur in the Wilderness of Sin, a desert area along the east shore of the Red Sea that we know today as the Arabian Peninsula. Here they accused Moses of leading them into the wilderness to starve (Exodus 16:1-3).  Murmuring hearts and wagging tongues would be Israel’s nature throughout their wilderness years.

The LORD promised He would provide the people sufficient bread each morning for the day. On the sixth day, the day before the Sabbath; He promised bread for two days so the people would have no need of laboring and gathering food on the Sabbath (16:4-5).  The LORD also promised to send the people meat to eat in the evening (16:8, 12).

In spite of the LORD’s provisions and promises of bread and meat, the people hoarded more than their daily bread and it spoiled in their tents (16:19-21).  Only when they gathered two days provisions on the sixth day, sufficient for the Sabbath, did the bread and meat not spoiled (16:25-30).

Continuing their journey through the Wilderness of Sin, Israel came to Rephidim and finding “no water”, the people began murmuring against Moses (Exodus17:1-3).  Moses cried out to the LORD who commanded him to strike a rock with his staff “and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink” (17:4-7).

The nation of slaves soon faced their first enemy in the wilderness when the Amalekites (descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob) came against Israel at Rephidim (17:8-16).  A dramatic scene unfolds as Moses stands on a hill overlooking the battlefield (17:9).  Two men stood with Moses, Aaron and Hur, and they steadied the arms of Moses as he held high in his hands “the rod of God” (17:10-12).  Joshua, Moses’ aid and successor, emerges as the commander who led Israel to her first battlefield victory.

Exodus 18 records Moses’ reunion with his wife, two sons, and father-in-law Jethro (18:1-6).  What an incredible reunion it must have been as Moses rehearsed all the LORD had done in Egypt (18:7-12).

I close today’s devotional with lessons for all, but especially Christian leaders. Jethro, Moses father-in-law, observed him serving as judge in the people’s matters “from the morning unto the evening” (18:13). Jethro asked Moses, “Why sittest thou thyself alone…from morning unto even?” (18:14).  Jethro warned, Moses, you will wear yourself out; this is too much for one man (18:17-18).

Jethro suggested Moses teach the people the “ordinances and laws” (18:19-20) and delegate the responsibility of judging the simple, miniscule matters to others (18:21).  Wisely, Moses judged the “hard causes”, the weightier matters that rose among the tribes (18:22-25).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith