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Be Careful: “Evil Communications Corrupt Good Manners” (Numbers 11-12; 1 Corinthians 15:33)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 11-12, Psalm 47, and Luke 3. Our devotional is from Numbers 11-12.

Three days into their journey from Mt. Sinai, an old pattern of sin returned and the people of Israel began to complain (Numbers 11:1).  The LORD’s “anger was kindled” (11:1) and His wrath poured out as fire from heaven beginning with 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 always find the grumblers—on the fringe, far from the LORD and neglecting His service.

There arose a spirit of discontentment, a covetous spirit and its source was “the mixt multitude” (11:4).  Who were they? They were non-Hebrew, most likely poor Egyptians who departed with Israel hoping greater opportunities might be found by casting their lot in with the children of Israel. The sinful attitudes 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 and 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 provision (11:4-5) and their lusts romanticized their unrealistic memories of Egypt (11:5).

Lamenting the complaints of the people (11:10), Moses felt overwhelmed.  Rather than seeing the complaints 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 (11:11-15).

God was angry and gave the people the meat they demanded (11:31-32) and the people gorged themselves until they became sick (11:33).  The root issue of the people’s complaints was not that they were hungry.  The core issue was they had rebellious hearts and “despised the LORD” (11:20).

The sorrow Moses suffered in Numbers 11 was great; however, Numbers 12 brought a more grievous wound when his sister and brother, Miriam and Aaron, challenged his leadership and authority as God’s spokesman (12:2).  Notice the initial complaint was against the wife of Moses (12:1); however, the narrative reveals that criticism was not the real issue.  The heart issue was the envy and jealousy they held against Moses and his leadership before the LORD and the people. 

Moses’ response to criticism is instructive.  We read, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (11:3).

It is probable Moses was aware of Miriam and Aaron’s contentious spirit and, being “very meek”, would have overlooked their transgressions; however, the LORD determined to confront and punish them while commending Moses’ unique relationship with the LORD (12:6-8).

I close with two observations based on my life experiences.

1) I have found when adversaries are unable to 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.

2) Criticisms are often a smoke screen concealing deeper issues.  While complaints should drive us to search out our hearts for faults, we should remember initial criticisms are seldom the real issue. (Numbers 12:1)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Never Alone! (Numbers 9-10)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 9-10, Psalm 46, and Luke 2. Our devotional is from Numbers 9-10.

The first chapters in Numbers are a record of Moses leading the tribes of Israel out of Egypt, instructing and organizing them into a nation dedicated to the God of heaven.

Numbers 1-4 chronicles a census of the tribes of Israel. Numbers 5-6 state the specifics for addressing disease and sin among the people.  Because worship and sacrifices were central to Israel’s life as a nation, the Tabernacle of the LORD was located in the heart of the encampment (Numbers 7).

Numbers 9 establishes the Passover as an observance of the nation, serving as a perpetual memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).  

Assuring His people, He would never abandon them, the tribes of Israel were comforted by a reminder of the Lord’s presence in their midst; a cloud overshadowed the Tabernacle in the day and a fire was present at night (9:15-16).  Making it clear the LORD alone dictates the “starts and stops” of His people, the people followed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:17-23).

Friend, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that, though the LORD no longer leads His people with a cloud or fire, He does lead, direct and guide His people by His Word and the wooing of His Spirit.

Paul challenged New Testament believers that we should derive spiritual lessons from our study of His dealings with Israel.  Paul writes, “Now all these things happened unto them [Israel in the wilderness] for ensamples [a pattern]: and they are written for our admonition [warning]…”

Understanding the LORD was Israel’s guide during her journey through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, we find comfort in this promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13“There hath no temptation [trial; test] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. many others have faced the same]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [permit; allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [i.e. pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

What a blessed promise!  While the cloud by day and fire by night served Israel as a reminder of God’s presence, He has given us His Word and promise that He will tenderly care, protect, strengthen and be with us.

Whatever test or trial you may face, be assured, God is faithful and you are never alone!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride!

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 3-4, Psalm 45, and Luke 1. Our devotional is from Psalm 45.

The heading of Psalm 45 identifies this psalm as “A Song of Loves” that was sent to the chief musician and set to a tune for worship. The tune is identified in the setting as “Shoshannim”, meaning “Lilies”.

Psalm 45 appears in the first reading as a love song composed by a king for his bride; however, the fact verse 6 states, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre” (45:6) and the song was used in worship means its application rises above that of a love song composed for a bride.

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45:6-7, identifying the “Son” as Jesus Christ; therefore the bride of Psalm 45 is the Church, the bride of Christ.  What a wonderful thought!  As a groom loves his bride, even so does Christ the King love His bride, the Church.

Notice the idyllic description of the Church and the manner of people her members ought to be: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness” (Psalm 45:7).

As a godly groom anticipates his bride to save herself, a virgin and morally innocent; so it is the duty of believers to be pure and holy in the sight of the King of kings and Lord of lords (Psalm 45:10-17).

Romans 12:1-2 –“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye 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.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is ever faithful and His promises never fail. (Numbers 1-2)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 1-2, Psalm 44, and Mark 16. Our devotional is from Numbers 1-2.

Our Bible Reading Plan, this 1st day of March 2019, bring us to the Book of Numbers.  The author of Numbers is Moses and the opening verse (Numbers 1:1) gives us the exact chronological timeline for events found in its pages:  “first day of the second month, in the second year after they [the Twelve Tribes of Israel] were come out of the land of Egypt” (1:1).

The Book of Numbers traces the journey of the Twelve Tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham for an inheritance.  The book derives its name from the fact it records three separate census counts of Israel during her sojourn in the wilderness.  Admittedly, one can get lost in the details enumerated in Numbers 1-2; however, there is an important truth concealed in the verses:  God is faithful and remembers and keeps His promises!

God charged Moses and Aaron to take a census of the men of Israel, twenty years and older; men who are identified by their tribe, father’s name and own name, and described as “able to go forth to war” (1:1-4).  These are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob the Old Testament patriarch whose name God changed to Israel, who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham.

The thousands numbered in these verses are a testimony God remembered His covenant with Abraham whom He called out of ancient Ur (modern-day Iraq), commanding him to leave his country and kindred and journey to a land God promised would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12:1-3).  God promised Abraham would not only be father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ as our Savior Redeemer – Genesis 12:3b).

Thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) are named; however, two tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh – Numbers 1:10, 32-35) and the priestly tribe of Levi was excluded from the census because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

The LORD had set the tribe of Levi apart for Himself in lieu of the first-born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  The Levites were charged with the responsibility of the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down the tabernacle and erecting it (Numbers 1:51, 53).  Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe.

I close today’s devotional reflecting on two lessons. The first, the tabernacle was located in the center of the encampment serving as a constant reminder of not only God’s presence, but also the privilege of access the people enjoyed in worshipping, sacrificing, and serving the LORD (1:53).

The second lesson is how the people obeyed the LORD’s commands:  “And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers” (2:34).

Friend, is worshipping and serving the LORD central to your life or have you relegated Him to Sundays only?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27, Psalm 43, and Mark 15. Our devotional is from Psalm 43.

Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are terms men employ to define what the Scriptures describe as a “weary” soul (Job 10:1) and a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22). 

While words defining depression have evolved, no one denies it afflicts men’s souls.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: “If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy [of] man’s heart.”

Let’s take a page out of King David’s life and learn how he not only identified the loneliness of depression, but also the one place he could turn for deliverance. David writes.

Psalm 43:1-2– “1Judge [vindicate] me, O God, and plead [argue] my cause against an ungodly [unmerciful] nation: O deliver [preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; unrighteous] man.  2For thou art the God of my strength [place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake]? why go I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy were the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”(43:2); literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  David struggled that his knowledge of the LORD and His promises was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4– “O send out [stretch forth] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [place representing the presence of God]4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to the LORD and singing His praises (43:4).

Psalm 43:5– “Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul [life; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; trust ] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5a): Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?

Realizing the error of his fear, David counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)! 

Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion of self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise Him [the LORD], who is the health of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble by turning your thoughts from self-pity to trust in the LORD!

1 Corinthians 10:13 –   “There hath no temptation [trial] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. your trouble is not unique]: but God is faithful [true], who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [lit. to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You! (Leviticus 25)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 25-26, Psalm 42, and Mark 14. Our devotional is from Leviticus 25.

Leviticus 25 instructs the children of Israel in matters concerning the land the LORD promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).  Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubilee” (25:2 -4, 8-13).

The “Sabbath year” occurred every seven years and was, as its name implies, a year of ceasing from labor for the farmers and their lands.  The people were instructed to labor in their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7).

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13).  The year of Jubilee was an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11) [although some scholars argue the “Jubilee” was actually the 49th year].   The year of Jubilee was also a year of celebration and restoration. Families who, due to poverty, sold their plots of land had them restored to their original owners (25:23-28).

The year of Jubilee was also a year of liberty for those who, because of poverty, had become indentured servants (25:39-43).  The children of Israel were not to enslave their brethren, but treat them as hired servants; however, all indentured servants were set at liberty and restored to their families in the year of Jubilee.

The Sabbath years and years of Jubilee are foreign concepts to us in our 21st century economy; however, there are some principles in Leviticus 25 we should not pass by lightly.

The Sabbath year (25:2) was more than a year of rest from labor in the fields; it was also an acknowledgement that blessings and prosperity come from the LORD.  The Sabbath year served as an opportunity for the people to reflect on the goodness and provision of the LORD (25:20-22).

Reminding us we are temporal owners of the things we possess, the LORD instructed the people, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).  While we do not follow the pattern of Sabbath years or the year of Jubilee, the principle found in Leviticus 25:23 is nonetheless true!

Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.   Estate sales and auctions are perpetual reminders…You cannot take it with you!  After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim your possessions.  As someone has observed, you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer to the cemetery.

Matthew 6:20-21 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

* A fitting reminder given this devotional is my 2,000th blog post to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalm 41)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 41, and Mark 13. Our devotional is from Psalm 41.

Psalm 41 challenges believers to consider their relationship with others and how they respond to them who disappoint and betray.

King David was at a low point in his life, physically and emotionally, when he composed this psalm. Rehearsing the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1), David remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2).  David writes,

Psalm 41:1-4 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]. 2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].  4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David tossed and turned upon his bed; as sorrow and disappointment washed over his soul.  He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD (41:3).  Searching his soul, David confessed his sin and believed God would show Him favor and restore him (41:4).

Psalm 41:5-6 – “Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.”

Every saint who strives to serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face the bitter distress of betrayal.   When you feel the sorrow of duplicity, remember the LORD felt the caress of Judas’ kiss upon His own cheek.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt.8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

It is a terrible way when embittered souls wait the day they can take satisfaction in the fall of a pastor or a fellow believer (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the betrayal that befell David.

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor (2 Samuel 16:23).

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life and remember betrayal and sorrow is the affliction of saints who walk with integrity and minister to others with abandon.

Be watchful you do not become embittered when you suffer injustices and betrayals; after all, the LORD suffered the same and He will never abandon you (Psalm 41:10-13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith