Tag Archives: Integrity

New Sermon Series: Persevering in Tribulations (2 Timothy)

I am excited about the opportunity of preaching a new sermon series, beginning this Sunday, April 11, 2021, 10:30 AM at Hillsdale Baptist Church, and also broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Persevering in Tribulations is the title of my new series, and is taken from Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. Written during his second imprisonment in Rome, the letter was not only the apostle’s last will and testament, but also a letter of exhortation to a young man Paul described as his “dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2).

The setting of the letter is pertinent to our day, knowing it was written during a rise of persecution, and a falling away of many who had once professed faith in Christ. You will notice an earnestness in Paul’s letter, as he urges Timothy to not be ashamed of the LORD, or “me His prisoner” (1:8).

This Sunday’s sermon will consider the spiritual requisites, and disciplines for ministry that Paul encouraged in Timothy. We will notice the ministry of Onesiphorous, a man who had sacrificially served Paul at a time in his life and ministry when he desperately needed a friend who would unashamedly minister him in prison.

I pray this study will renew a passion for the LORD in your heart, and a revival for ministry and serving others in trying times.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Made a Vow? You Better Keep It! (Leviticus 26-27)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 26-27

Today’s devotional marks the end of our journey through the Book of Leviticus. Our study has considered the laws for various sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 1-7), and the consecration and ordination of the Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 8-10). We have identified animals the LORD declared clean, and unclean (Leviticus 11-15), and been reminded that He would only accept sacrifices that were without blemish. We remember that the sacrifices the priests offered on behalf of Israel were a prefigure of the ultimate sacrifice—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, “once, and for all” sacrificed for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

Leviticus 26 – The LORD’s Covenant

The LORD reminded Israel that He would not tolerate idols (26:1; Exodus 20:4-6), and the Sabbath was to be kept holy (26:2; Exodus 20:8-11).

Promise of Blessings for Faithfulness to the Law (26:3-13)

Memorializing His covenant with Israel, the LORD repeated His conditional promise to make the land fruitful, if the people would “walk in [His] statutes, and keep [His] commandments, and do them” (26:3). He promised peace (26:6), military successes (26:6-7), an increase in population (26:9), that they would never go wanting (26:10), and to dwell in the midst of His people, saying:

“I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. 13I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright” (26:11-13).

Promised of Judgment (26:14-39)

There was also the conditional promise of God’s judgment should the nation disobey His Law and Commandments (26:14-39). If the people showed contempt for the Law, God promised the nation would be punished with sickness (26:16-17), increasing suffering (26:18), famines (26:19), and barrenness in the land (26:20), all as a natural occurrence of straying from righteousness.    If the people continued in their rebellion, the LORD warned they would suffer plagues, childlessness, a dying population, and the land would become desolate (26:21-22).

Leviticus 26:23-26 states three punishments that would come upon a disobedient people: Wars (26:23-25), Plagues (26:25), and Famine (26:26). Should the people continue to disobey the LORD, four devastating punishments would mark the severest stage of God’s judgment: Famine would drive the people to cannibalize their children (26:29; 2 Kings 6:28-29; Lamentations 2:20; 4:10); towns and holy places would be destroyed (26:31), the land would be left desolate (26L32), and the people would be dispersed among the heathen (26:33).

Promise of Mercy (26:40-46)

God promised mercy to those who would confess their sin (26:40). Confessing sin opened the pathway for God to remember His covenant with Israel (26:44-46).

Leviticus 27 – Laws Concerning What Is Vowed, and Sanctified to the LORD

Vows were holy, and that which a man sanctified, and dedicated to the LORD was to be fulfilled (27:1-8).  Should a vow be made of a person to serve in the Tabernacle, but not needed, the priest was instructed to place a value upon that which had been committed to the LORD, and assess its value in shekels of silver (27:3-8).

A distinction was made in the value of clean and unclean beasts vowed to the LORD (27:9-13). Remembering the LORD will only accept that which is perfect, and clean, an unclean beast that failed to meet God’s standard was assessed a value by the priests, redeemed for its value, and an additional “fifth part” given (27:11-13).

Should houses and lands be dedicated to the LORD, that which was vowed was to be fulfilled, and sanctified unto Him, or redeemed for the value assessed by the priest (27:14-25). Everything devoted to the LORD was to be treated as “holy unto the LORD” (27:28-29). The tithe, and that which is the LORD’S could not be changed (27:30-33).

Leviticus 27:34 concludes the book, reminding us that all that has been written in the book “are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai.”

Closing thought: Making a vow, a promise, a commitment to the LORD is not something to be made lightly. What you have vowed to the LORD, you can be assured He will remember, and will hold you to account in the day of judgment.

Ecclesiastes 5:55Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You Think You Own It? Think Again! (Leviticus 25)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25 is the close of the Lord giving Moses His Law and Commandments on Mount Sinai (25:1). This chapter is a fascinating study in God requiring Israel to obey His Law, have faith in His promises, and His promise to bless His people, conditioned upon their obedience.

The Sabbath Year (25:1-7)

We have considered the commandment to keep the Sabbath in earlier devotionals (Exodus 20:8-10; Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath of the LORD being a day of rest, and worship that would follow six days of labor. Leviticus 25 introduces the “Sabbath Year,” which was to be observed every seventh year (25:2-7).

The Sabbath Year was to be a year of rest, not only for the farmers, but also their lands. The people were instructed to labor in the fields six years, and on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that volunteered, and “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7). The farmer was forbidden to harvest the fruit that volunteered the seventh year; however, the poor, servants, laborers, and strangers were allowed to harvest that which grew “of its own accord” (25:5).

The Jubilee Year (25:8-17) occurred on the Hebraic calendar every fifty years, and followed “seven sabbaths of years” or forty-nine years (25:8). It was to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13), a year of freedom, and an additional Sabbath. The effect was that the lands and vineyards remained idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11).

The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement (25:9) and its beginning was marked by the sound of the trumpet. The Year of Jubilee signaled the redemption of a man’s debts, especially for those who may have owed monies for the sake of providing for their families. Every man’s possession was restored to his family in the Year of Jubilee (25:10).

To ensure justice was satisfied, and neither insurer or the debtor was “oppressed,” the value of a man’s land was determined by the balance of years before the next jubilee, when the lands would be returned to the debtor (25:13-16). To ensure justice and fairness in transactions, the LORD commanded, “17Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (25:17).

The failure to sow seed on the Sabbath Year meant there would be no harvest at the end of the seventh year, and no harvest the eighth year until seed was planted, and there was fruit from their labor (25:18-22). The Jubilee Year, which followed a Sabbath Year, meant that Israelites would not plant or harvest crops the forty-ninth, and the fiftieth year.

What was the LORD’S answer for this dilemma? He promised the Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee Year would be abundantly blessed, if the people would “do [His] statutes, and keep [His] judgments…[they would] dwell in the land in safety. 19And the land [would] yield [its] fruit” and they would be filled, “and dwell therein in safety” (25:18-19).

Laws Concerning Real Estate (25:23-34)

Poverty or illness would sometimes force a family to sell their lands. God, however, made provision to recover the lands that were sold in three ways:

A brother or next of kin could buy back the land that had been sold (25:25). The original owner could redeem his land (25:26-27). The land would be restored to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (25:28).

There was provision for selling a house, and stipulations if the house was located in a walled city, or in a village where the lands were also considered part of the house (25:29-31). The Levites, because they were the priestly tribe, had protections from the loss of lands, for their lands were not to be sold (25:32-35).

Laws Against Usury (25:35-38)

The poor were to be helped, and God prohibited charging them interest (some will argue high interest). God demanded that the poor be treated fairly. As He had extended grace to Israel, and delivered them out of slavery, the LORD commanded His people extend grace to one another.

Laws Concerning Servitude (25:39-55)

An Israelite might fall on hard times, and to pay his debt, become a bondslave (25:39). No Israelite, however, was to be left without hope. On the Year of Jubilee, all debtors, and Israelite slaves were set free (25:39-43). Strangers (non-Israelites); however, would not be released from their debts (25:44-46). Furthermore, an Israelite could be redeemed from slavery at any time (25:48-49). Once again, insuring justice and fairness, the “price of a [man’s] redemption was based upon the number of years to the Year of Jubilee (25:50-55).

The Sabbath and Jubilee years are foreign to our culture; however, there are principles found in Leviticus 25 that should not be ignored.

The Sabbath year was “a Sabbath unto the LORD” (25:2) and an acknowledgement that the LORD blesses and prospers His people. The Sabbath year served as an opportunity to reflect on the LORD’S goodness and provision for His people. We are reminded that we are sojourners in this world, and temporal owners of the things we possess. The LORD instructed His people, The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (25:23).

We are sojourners in the world, and the wise keep their affections focused on the eternal, and not the temporal.

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.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24

Leviticus 23 – Feast Days on Israel’s Religious Calendar

Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

Leviticus 23:6-41 itemizes the annual feasts Israel was to observe as a nation.

The Passover (23:5), commemorating the LORD sparing the firstborn, and delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. On the following day after the Passover, the people were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering Israel’s departure out of Egypt. Its observance lasted seven days, and was a reminder of how swiftly the people had to leave Egypt.  The first and last days of Unleavened Bread are counted as Sabbaths [High Sabbaths], though these days may not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).

There was the Offering of the First Fruits, also known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat (or meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision, even as we should pray and give thanks at every meal.

Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came upon the LORD’S disciples, whom He told to remain in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 2).

Two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were also offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Pentecost was observed with a burnt offering consisting of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams, “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).

Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).

The Feast of the Trumpets was observed the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17).

The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41), and was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34), the last day of the harvest. Each family would gather “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,” and live in the booths for seven days (23:40). Dwelling in booths commemorated Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness, and living in tents (23:43).

Leviticus 24 – God’s Laws were not suggestions, they were commands.

After rehearsing the laws and guidelines regarding the for the lamps, and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), we are alerted to a judicial crisis that arose in Israel, and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-16).

The son of Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD, a violation of the third command, and one demanding the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17).  Realizing the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender] in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).

After hearing the witnesses, and seeking God’s will, Moses demanded the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s camp, and those who witnessed his sin, lay hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lordcommanded Moses” (24:23).

The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)

I close, reminding you God is merciful, and just. A murderer was to be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed the beast that belonged to another, was to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Injure or maim a man, and the law demanded you should suffer the same: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).

A Closing Thought: Our world has lost its good sense of justice, and our judicial system has become a demoralizing failure. Too often in our society we find criminals are pampered, and their victims are left scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice, no fairness, in society? You need look no further than Proverbs 29:2.

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading prior to today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of the previous devotional to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will cover Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11)

Leviticus 11 delineates for us the distinction between the meats the LORD deemed clean and unclean for His people to consume. God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat, and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).

Israel was to be distinct from the other nations. While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD deemed clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) included ox (i.e. beef), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD classified as unclean, that did not “chew the cud,” and others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of beasts that were forbidden, included the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to the rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fish and scales were considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word, “fowl” (11:13, 20) describes anything that is winged and flies. We notice there were numerous predatory fowl, and scavengers of carrion (vultures), that were labeled unclean, and forbidden for consumption (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20 describes “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believe to be a reference to winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature, or by violence, were not to be eaten (11:24-25). Horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. In fact, touching them would make one ceremonially unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth,” and were forbidden for human consumption: “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (pots, and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water, and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions?

There are several reasons that could be cited for the LORD’S declaration, and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Long before man could peer through microscopes, and see the prevalence of dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that are harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that would cause illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12 – The Purification of Women

Leviticus 12 moves the focus from unclean beasts, to unclean persons, and instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered ceremonially unclean, and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification had past (12:1-2). A woman who had given birth to a son, was deemed ceremonially “unclean” for seven days, during which time she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eight day, she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she would remain at home (12:4).

A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She would remain at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification, and isolation were fulfilled, she would come to the sanctuary, and depending upon her means, bring either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You Might Be Talented, But Do You Have the Character God Desires? (Exodus 31)

Daily reading assignment – Exodus 31

As we return to our study of the Book of Exodus, we find Moses concluding his appointment with the LORD on Mount Sinai. He has received the design and dimensions of the Tabernacle, its various pieces of furniture that were to be constructed and used in Israel’s daily worship, and the design of the garments to be stitched and embroidered for the high priest.

The Tabernacle, its furniture, the holy place with the Ark of the Covenant, and the brass altar with its various implements would be central to Israel’s worship, and the daily sacrifices. Because they were to be sanctified, and dedicated to the LORD as holy, great care had to be taken not only in their workmanship, but also in the selection of the craftsmen. Two men are named who were to serve as lead artisans in the manufacture of the Tabernacle and its furnishings (31:1-11).

After dictating the design and creation of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the LORD ordained by name the workers He had chosen to labor in producing them (31:1-6).

There was “Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,” known not only for his skill as an artisan, but also his spiritual nature. The LORD said of Bezaleel, “I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (31:3). A second craftsman was appointed to assist Bezaleel: “Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan,” was named among those “that are wise hearted” (31:5).

The LORD tasked Moses with the responsibility of employing craftsmen, and artisans for making the items that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices (31:7-11); however, he also commanded Moses to teach Israel to keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be “a sign between [the LORD] and [Israel] throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify [set apart] you” (31:13).

The LORD, knowing the temptation to be zealous in the work He had given His chosen workers, instructed Moses was to remind them: “15Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death” (31:15).

As promised, the LORD then gave Moses, two tablets of stone, engraved with the Commandments (31:18; 24:12).

I conclude today’s commentary inviting you to consider a spiritual lesson to be learned from the craftsmen the LORD chose to produce the Tabernacle, its furniture, and the garments He had appointed for the high priest (31:7-11).

Lesson – God was not only interested in “getting the job done,” but in the character of the men who served Him. (31:1-6)

The LORD stated five qualities found in Bezaleel that qualified him to serve as His master artisan (31:3). He was a talented craftsman “in all manner of workmanship” (31:5), but he was chosen by God because he possessed spiritual qualities that made him supremely qualified to use his skill to produce those articles the LORD deemed holy and sanctified.

Bezaleel was a man filled “with the Spirit of God” (31:3), and thereby inspired by the LORD, and sensitive to His will and leading. He was a man blessed “in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge” (31:3). He not only possessed the talents and aptitude for the task to which he was called, but he had dedicated his skills to the LORD and would obey Him in His design, even in what some might describe as the minor details.

Bezaleel’s assistant, Aholiab, was named among the men of whom the LORD said, “in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee” (31:6).

It has been said, “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That is especially true of the LORD. He knew the talents and skills of Bezaleel and Aholiab; however, it was their spiritual character that made them supremely qualified to serve Him.

What about you? You may have valuable talents, and skills, and might even be considered gifted. Do you have a heart for the LORD? Are you filled, and sensitive to His Spirit? That is the kind of man or woman God chooses to serve Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

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

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

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

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

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

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

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

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

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

Three Promises (23:20-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, “33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are commanded, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sometimes Saying, “I’m sorry,” is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Scripture reading: Exodus 21-22

Moving forward with the Ten Commandments as the basis of God’s Law for Israel, believers should identify the Commandments, and the precepts that follow in today’s Scripture reading, as the foundation of democratic law, and our sense of justice and fairness.

Exodus 21 – Precepts for Slavery, Manslaughter, Rebellion, and Injury

In ancient times, there was the practice of slavery, and indentured servitude (21:1-11). Some might object to the inclusion of this institution in the Bible; however, it was a common, and accepted practice and the LORD instituted principles that were prudent, forbidding the injustices that have been a shameful practice of slavery down through the centuries.

For example, a Hebrew man reduced to slavery, was only to serve seven years; after the seventh year was accomplished, he would be freed from his indebtedness (21:1-2). Should a man become a slave, and was married at that time he was enslaved, he, his wife, and children would be freed after the seventh year.

Should a man marry during his servitude, only he would be set at liberty after the seventh year (21:3-4). Though freed from obligation, should he love his wife, children, and master, and not want to depart alone, a Hebrew was permitted to choose to continue voluntarily as a slave (21:5). Such a man would have his ear bored through (21:6), and would serve either till the death of his master, or be set free with his family in the year of jubilee (every 50 years).

Parents who found themselves in poverty, and lacked the means to provide for a daughter, might sell her as a young maiden (21:7), hoping the man who purchased her might take her as his wife when she was of age. Should the man or his son refuse to marry her, they were under obligation to provide food, and clothing for her (21:8-11).

The sixth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13); however, the law recognized a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent, 21:12-14).

The fifth commandment demanded, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (20:12). Cursing one’s parents was a capital offense and death was mandated (21:17).

In the matter of accidental injuries that did not result in death, but left the victim unable to provide for himself or his family, the innocent victim was to be fairly, and properly compensated (21:18-32). The law demanded, “24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (21:24). Losses that were caused by one’s negligence, were to be compensated (21:28-36).

Exodus 22 – Theft, and endangerment of one’s likelihood, were not tolerated.

In an agricultural society where a man’s livelihood, and his family’s well-being, were dependent on farming and husbandry, the theft of ox, or sheep was a serious offense (22:1-4), as was the damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6). 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).

Exodus 22:14-15 stated the obligation a borrower assumed when borrowing another man’s property.  For the sake of illustration, if a farmer borrowed another man’s ox to plow his field, and the ox was injured or died, the borrower was under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace the ox.  The exception was when the owner of the ox was plowing another man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

Exodus 22 concludes with various laws that address moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).  The matter of borrowing, and indebtedness were addressed, and charging excessive interest that imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor was condemned (22:25-27).

The Law, and its application to daily life, demanded honesty and integrity.

A borrower was under obligation to make right any damage, and loss. We need to restore this principle of justice, and fairness. If we want our children to have integrity, then we need to teach them to be responsible, and make another whole when their actions have cause loss or injury.

Lesson – Saying, “I’m sorry,” is just not enough!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Display of God’s Majesty on Sinai, Part 1 (Exodus 19-20)

Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

Timeline – Three Months Out of Egypt (19:1)

Much had happened since Moses shepherded Israel out Egypt. The challenge of leading a people who had suffered the oppression of slavery for four centuries was daunting, as well as, exhausting.  Three months had passed (19:1), and the tribes of Israel had experienced both the joys of victories, and the despair of hardships that included thirst, and hunger. However, above and beyond the physical distresses of the journey, Moses faced the threat of an insurrection, to the point that he feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).

Following the suggestion of his father-in-law, Moses had chosen, taught, and delegated to capable men the task of judging the people in “small matters” (18:20-25), and freeing him to judge “the hard causes” (18:26).

Exodus 19

1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai…[and] were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount [Mount Sinai]” (19:1-2). Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) had been the place God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (3:1-6). Here the LORD promised Moses, “When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Israel would encamp at Mount Sinai for eleven months, during which time they would be given the Law and Commandments, and be transformed from twelve tribes of slaves, to a mighty nation with one God, and one Law.

While the people pitched their tents at the base of Sinai, “Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain” (19:3). Acting as Israel’s mediator, the LORD charged Moses with the task of reminding the people all that the He had done for them, and how He had thrust the people out of Egypt, and carried them with tenderness, and the speed of an eagle that shadows her eaglets (19:4).

Moses was to remind the people, that if they would obey God’s voice, and keep His covenant, the LORD would “treasure” the people “above all people” (19:5), and they would be as a nation, “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (19:5-6). God would later ordain Aaron, and his sons to serve Israel as His priests; however, it was the LORD’s desire that Israel would be a holy nation to serve humanity as His priests, and “a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).

As the mediator, Moses was to call “the elders of the people” together, and present the LORD’s proposition (19:7). With one voice, “all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord” (19:8).

To fulfill the institution of the covenant, Moses commanded the people to personally, and ceremonially “sanctify” themselves, and “wash their clothes” (19:10). On the third day God would descend upon Mount Sinai, and make His voice and presence known to the nation (19:11). Warning any who approached the mount while the LORD was present would be put to death, Moses was commanded to set a boundary around the base of the mountain (19:12-3).

On the third day, the presence of God was seen in the “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (19:16). Moses led the nation to the base of Mount Sinai (19:17), and the whole mount was engulfed in smoke, as “the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (19:18). The sound of a trumpet, a shofar, grew louder and louder, and “Moses spake [in the hearing of the people], and “God answered him by a voice” (19:19).

Imagine the visual presence of Mount Sinai engulfed in fire and smoke, the piercing sound of a trumpet, and the voice of God shaking the very foundation of the mountain. What a dreadful, frightening display of God’s power and presence!

God’s covenant with Israel required that the people were to be sanctified, holy, and set apart unto Him (19:10). The LORD required of His people, what was true of Himself – “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (19:10; Leviticus 11:44-45). What was true of Israel, is true for all believers:

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Family Reunion, and Essential Qualities of a Spiritual Leader (Exodus 18)

Scripture reading: Exodus 18

With the defeat of the Amalekites (17:13-16), the LORD magnified the standing of Moses and Joshua, and news reached the nations of “all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (18:1). Soon after, Jethro, “the priest of Midian,” and the father-in-law of Moses, journeyed to Israel’s encampment (18:1), reuniting him with his wife and sons (18:1-5).

Although he had proved himself to be a great leader, when Moses learned his father-in-law had come, he honored him and “went out to meet [him]… and did obeisance [bowed before him], and kissed him” (18:7a).

What a great reunion, as Jethro and Moses “asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent” of Moses (18:7b). We do not know the number of hours that passed as Moses rehearsed “all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake” (18:8a). Remembering the timidity of Moses when the LORD had first called to him from the midst of the burning bush, I am sure Jethro took pride in the man who was his son by marriage.

Moses shared not only the victories, but the trials “that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lorddelivered them” (18:8) from thirst, and hunger, and given Israel success over the Amalekites (17:8-16).

Jethro rejoiced in the LORD’S goodness, and how He had delivered the nation out of slavery (18:9-10). He testified, “11Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them” (18:11). Though he was a Midianite, and not numbered among the children of Israel, he was a man of faith in the God of Israel, and “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God” (18:12), and invited Moses, his brother Aaron, “and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread…before God” (18:12).

The celebration was short lived, for the next day Moses did what he did every day, with the exception of the Sabbath: He “sat to judge the people” (18:13). Jethro looked on, as the people gathered “from the morning unto the evening” (18:13), waiting for Moses to weigh their concerns, and pass judgment. He enquired of Moses, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” (18:14)

Moses explained that his role was not to make laws, but to make “the statutes of God, and His laws” known (18:15-16).

Jethro suggested there was a better way to judge the people, and that was to “teach [the people] ordinances and laws, and [show] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (18:20). He suggested that Moses should choose “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…22And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee” (18:21-22).

I close inviting you to notice how Moses heeded his father-in-law’s counsel (18:21-22), and “chose able [capable] men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people…and they judged the people at all seasons [as the need arose]: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves (18:25-26). They were men who feared God; pious, godly men (18:21). “Men of truth,” who were worthy of trust, and did “hate covetousness;” they were men of integrity and were above reproach (18:21).

What about you? Would you have the spiritual qualities God seeks in a man or woman who serves Him?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith