Tag Archives: Ministry

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 2-3

Before she conceived, Hannah promised the LORD she would give Him her first born son. Her prayers were answered, and she gave birth to a son, “and called his name Samuel” (1:20). Hannah did not forget her vow, and when Samuel was no longer nursing (1:22-23), she took him to Shiloh, and presented him to the high priest (1:24-27). There she confessed, “I have lent [given, offered] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28).

1 Samuel 2  – Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise (2:1-11)

After dedicating her only son to the LORD, Hannah prayed with a overflowing joy and thanksgiving. Her prayer was full of imagery, revealing a knowledge of the LORD that was both personal, and perceptive. The LORD had answered her prayers, and she exulted that He was her strength (“mine horn”), and salvation (2:1). She declared, the LORD is holy, and there is none like Him; He is a Rock, strong and mighty (2:2).

Though she had been mocked, and scorned by Elkanah’s other wife, she took comfort knowing the LORD was wise, and sovereign (2:3). He is to be praised, for by Him strong men are made weak, and the weak are made strong (2:4). He is sovereign over death, and life, and chooses whom He will bless, and who will be abased (2:6-8a). The LORD is the Creator, and Sustainer, and “the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them” (2:8).

When Hannah’s prayer of praise concluded, Elkanah, and his family went home to Ramah, leaving Samuel at Shiloh where he “did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest” (2:11). He had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he could speak (Deuteronomy 6), and though a child, he exhibited his parent’s love, and passion for the LORD.

Year after year, Hannah returned to Shiloh, and there she found Samuel ministering “before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod” (2:18). As his loving mother, she “made [Samuel] a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” (2:19). Eli prayed Hannah would be blessed, for her sacrifice, and rewarded for giving her son to the LORD.  “The Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord” (2:21), “and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (2:26),

The Wickedness of Eli’s Sons (2:12-17)

Amid the backdrop of Samuel’s innocence, and service to the LORD, we are introduced to the sons of Eli the high priest, and read of them: “12Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (2:12).

How could this be? They were not only the sons of the high priest; they were by birth of the priestly order. Tragically, they were illustrative of “the sons of Belial,” godless, wicked, and immoral (2:12), and “they knew not the LORD” (2:12).

It has been observed that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and surely it did for the sons of Eli. They grew up in the cloistered life of the priesthood, and did not fear, and obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments. They profaned the sacrifices and demanded for themselves, the choice portions of burnt offerings. They lacked restraint, taking portions of fat, which was forbidden in the Law (2:13-16). Their disdain for the LORD, and the sacrifices gave cause for men to abhor “the offering of the LORD” (2:17).

A Father’s Failure, and a Tragic Prophecy (2:22-36)

The Scriptures do not reveal how many years passed from the time Samuel began service in the Tabernacle, and the blatant wickedness perpetuated by the sons of Eli in the priesthood. Old and weakened, Eli heard of the wicked, immoral acts committed by his sons, but he did nothing to restrain them (2:22-24). His feeble attempt to reason with his sons fell woefully short (2:25), for they demonstrated calloused hearts with no respect for him as father, nor fear of the LORD. So great was their wickedness, the LORD determined He “would slay them” (2:25).

The LORD sent “a man of God,” a prophet to Eli, who foretold the imminent judgment that would befall his sons (2:27-28). The LORD rebuked Eli, admonishing him for putting his sons above His God (2:29). Eli’s lineage would be cut off, and die in their youth (2:31-33). “Hophni and Phinehas [Eli’s sons]; [would] in one day die both of them” (2:34).

1 Samuel 3 – The LORD Calls Samuel

The LORD never leaves His people without His Word, and though Eli’s sons had disgraced the priesthood, and caused the people to abhor the offerings of the LORD (2:17), He was preparing Samuel to be His servant, and prophet (1 Samuel 3).

It was a tragic time in Israel, for “the word of the Lord was precious [rare] in those days; there was no open vision [no prophet]” (3:1), and the “lamp of God” in the Tabernacle was neglected, and “went out…where the ark of God was” (3:3).

Although he was a child, the LORD was ready to speak directly to Samuel (3:2-6, 3:7). Three times the LORD called to Samuel while he slept, but Samuel did not know it was the voice of the LORD. Eli comprehended the LORD was calling upon the young boy, and instructed him, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (3:9).

When the LORD called upon Samuel the fourth time, he answered as he had been instructed, and the LORD revealed the tragedy that would soon befall the house of Eli, and his sons (3:11-14). Samuel was stunned by the revelation the LORD had given him, and “feared to show Eli the vision” (3:15). Eli, however, demanded he reveal all the LORD had shown him, and Samuel told him everything, “and hid nothing from him” (3:18a).

Samuel’s reputation grew throughout Israel, and the people realized there was a prophet among them, and “the LORD was with him… all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:19-20).

Though Eli, and his sons had failed the LORD, Israel knew there was a prophet in the land, for “the Lordappeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (3:21).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moses, the Man Whom the Lord Knew Face to Face, is Dead (Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91

The psalmist writes in Psalm 116, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (116:15), and certainly the death of Moses would be numbered among the most splendid of believers. Having finished his parting blessing to the congregation of Israel, Moses “went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo” (34:1a). From Pisgah, one of the peaks of Mount Nebo, “the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan” (34:1). Gilead encompassed the land on the east side of Jordan, which Moses had promised the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, would be their inheritance (the “Dan” that is mentioned is not the Dan that was located on the west side of the Jordan River).

Standing on the peak of Pisgah, Moses beheld all the land the LORD had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their inheritance (34:2-4). There was the land of Naphtali in the north, and “the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh” in the central region of Canaan (34:2a). To the west, he could see “all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea [the Mediterranean Sea],” and to the south, the Jordan Valley, that reached “the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar” (34:3), the region that laid near to Sodom and Gomorrah.

How might Moses have scanned so great a vista from Mount Nebo? The LORD revealed that miracle in these words: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes” (34:4). Additionally, the LORD had preserved Moses’ eyesight, for though he was one hundred and twenty years old, “his eye was not dim” (34:7).

“Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the Land of Moab.” (34:5)

Moses had been described as, “the man of God” (33:1) in the preceding devotional. In this final devotional, this giant of the faith is lovingly remembered as, “the servant of the LORD” (34:5). Moses died, but not because he was old, frail, or suffering failing health. He died “in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord” (34:5). He was “an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7). Moses was dead, because it was “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (34:5).

The LORD had permitted Moses to see the land, but he was not allowed to “go over thither” (34:4). With humility and meekness “the servant of the LORD,” accepted the consequences of his failure to obey the LORD at Meribah-Kadesh (32:51-52; Numbers 20). He died, and the LORD “buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (34:6).

Israel mourned the death of Moses, “in the plains of Moab thirty days” (34:8). When the days of mourning were past, Joshua, “full [filled] of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), became the man whom “the children of Israel hearkened” (34:9).

Now, there was no man like Moses, “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12), and Joshua did not need to be like his predecessor. He was the man for the hour, and the one whom God had chosen to lead Israel, and claim the Promised Land.

Psalm 91

Ancient scholars attribute Psalm 91 to Moses, and I believe there is much about the psalm that would arguably be the work of Moses; for his fellowship with the LORD was intimate, and he was one “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Simple, beautiful, and inspiring; rather than give commentary, I encourage you to read Psalm 91, and meditate on its promises, and truths.

* Thank you for following me on this journey through the Scriptures, Today’s devotional marks the completion of my study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. I invite you to become a subscriber to www.HeartofAShepehrd.com, by entering your email address in the right column of this website.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Fear, and Obey the LORD, and He Will Prosper You (Deuteronomy 6-7)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 6-7

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us to Deuteronomy 6-7, where we find Moses continuing his second oration before the congregation of Israel (which he began in Deuteronomy 5). After stating the Ten Commandments of the LORD to the people (5:7-21), Moses had charged them to keep covenant by “[walking]in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you” (5:33).

Deuteronomy 6 – A Sacred Duty: The Perpetual Responsibility to Instruct Sons and Daughters

The people were not only to obey “the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” which the LORD had given Moses to teach the people (6:1), but they were to “fear the LORD,” and teach their “son, and [their] son’s son, all the days of [their] life; and that [their] days may be prolonged” (6:2). Take a moment and ponder not only that command, but also the promise.

There is a direct correlation between the quality, and length of your life, and whether or not you have faithfully obeyed the LORD’S commands, feared Him, and instructed your children, and grandchildren in His statutes, and commandments. One wonders how many believers die young, broken in health, and heart, because they failed to fear the LORD, obey His commandments, and instruct their children in the same.

Moses appealed to the people, “3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey” (6:3). Once again, prosperity is the reward of fearing and revering the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5, was known as The Shema among Hebrew people, and is prayed twice daily by many Jewish people today, for it summarizes the essence of Who Israel’s God is, and that nation’s unique relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4–5 4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

When a lawyer asked Jesus, “36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). “37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

Without exception, each generation of believers, is not only to obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they are also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be persistently considered in every household. The commands, statutes, and laws were the spiritual guide for every area of life, and were to be taught when sitting down, walking, lying down at night, or rising at dawn. Even the entrance to one’s home was to be graced with the Law of God (6:9).

The people were warned to not forget the LORD, in the midst of their prosperity (6:10-11), and were reminded “the LORD thy God is a jealous God” (6:15), and they were not to “tempt” or test the LORD by failing to obey Him (6:16). The LORD promised, if the people would keep His commandments, He would prosper them (6:17). If they would do “right and good in the sight of the LORD,” it would be well with them (6:18).

Deuteronomy 6:20-23 returned to the privilege, and responsibility the people had for instructing their children. They were to remind their sons and daughters of all the LORD had done for them, and to “do all these statutes, to fear the LORD,” promising He would preserve them as a nation (6:24).

Deuteronomy 7 – Why did the LORD Choose Israel?

After challenging Israel to remember the providences, and promises of the LORD, and to obey His commandments, and teach them to their sons and daughters: Moses challenged Israel to utterly destroy the nations in the land He had promised them for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 7). They were to make no covenant of peace with the heathen, nor allow their sons and daughters to intermarry with them (7:2-4). Every idol, and every place of idolatry was to be cut down (7:5).

Moses reminded the people how Israel had been chosen by the LORD to be a “holy people” (7:6), but not because they were great in number, and a powerful people (7:7). He chose Israel because “the LORD loved [them], and because He would keep the oath [covenant] which He had sworn unto [their] fathers [Abraham, Issac, and Jacob]”. (7:8)

Deuteronomy 7 reveals so much more we might consider regarding the nature of God, and His relationship with Israel; however, time and space do not permit me to continue. I encourage you to read, study, and meditate on God’s grace, longsuffering, and holiness that is revealed in the balance of this chapter. The LORD is “immutable,” and He has not changed!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Companions Corrupt Good Morals (Numbers 25)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 25

“Times have changed,” is an oft repeated adage; however, read the Scriptures and you will be reminded mankind has not changed! The sinful depravity of our world today is not to be outdone by ancient civilizations. When a people, and a nation reject God’s Law and Commandments, they inevitably unleash the abhorrent lusts of the flesh, and a precipitous moral decline follows. Few nations turn back from the brink of destruction, and escape the suffering and humiliation of God’s judgment.

Numbers 25 brings us to Shittim, the staging ground for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land (25:1).

Shittim became the setting of a tragic event, for it was here that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). After the suffering, and toil of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, how could Israel, break her covenant with the LORD, and not only commit adultery with the heathen, but also worship and offer sacrifices to their gods? (25:1-3)

We read, “3And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). Baal-peor was the place where Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility was worshipped. The Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites all worshipped Baal (closely identified with Moloch). Portrayed as a bull, the Canaanites sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal, and committed all manner of sexual deviancy in worshipping the idol.

God’s wrath was “kindled against Israel” (25:3), and He commanded Moses, “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel” (25:4).

The sins of the people was egregious, and God’s judgment was swift (25:4-5) as He placed the responsibility of the sins upon the “heads [leaders] of the people,” and demanded they be slain, and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the people (25:5).

One Israelite was so brazen, that he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman (the daughter of a Midianite tribal chief) 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 high priest Eleazar, rose up and slew the man, and the Midianite woman, thrusting them both through with a javelin (25:6-8). God’s judgment fell upon Israel, and 24,000 perished (25:9).

Reminded that nothing escapes the notice of God, the LORD acknowledged Phinehas’ zeal for righteousness, and established a perpetual, binding covenant of the priesthood with him and his lineage (25:10-13).

So tragic was the sin committed at Shittim, that the names of the couple slain by Phinehas were recorded (25:14-15), and the LORD commanded Moses, “Vex the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17).

A closing thought: I could draw out several spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture reading; however, I limit myself to one: Be not deceived [led astray; drawn away]: evil communications [companions; associations] corrupt [ruins; destroys] good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The Scriptures do not reveal how the men of Israel came to worship the god of Baal, and to commit whoredom. We can be certain, however, that the proximity of the “daughters of Moab” (25:1), provided the Israelites not only a familiarity with them, but also a tolerance of their wicked ways (25:1-3).

Today’s church is in desperate need for young men like Phinehas; men who have a love for God, and a zeal for godliness.

Will you commit yourself, and be a 21st century Phinehas?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God is not a man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23-24)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 23-24

The dynamic conversation between Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam continues in today’s Scripture reading. Hearing Balaam had arrived in Moab, Balak went out to see the seer and was anxious to have him curse Israel (22:26-41). Balaam warned the king, “the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (22:38). Balak, however, was undeterred, and led Balaam to Kirjathhuzoth, and after offering oxen and sheep, invited him to look out on the plain where Israel was encamped (22:40-41).

Numbers 23 – Balaam’s Prophecies, and Balak’s Rage

Balak was willing to do all that Balaam asked, and the king built “seven altars, and…offered on every altar a bullock and a ram” (23:1-2). Balak then stood by his burnt offerings, and waited for the prophet to speak. Instead of cursing, Balaam prophesied saying, “Lo, the people [Israel] shall dwell alone, And shall not be reckoned among the nations [Israel would become a distinct nation, and with its own land]10Who can count the dust of Jacob, And the number of the fourth part of Israel? [Israel would become a great population] (22:9-10a).

Balak was incensed, and rebuked Balaam saying, “What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether” (22:11).

Not yet ready to accept that Balaam could not curse Israel, the king invited him “to the top of Pisgah,” and once again “built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar” (23:14). Balaam withdrew to seek the LORD, and Balak stood by his burnt offerings (23:15-17). When Balaam returned, Balak asked, “What hath the LORD spoken?” (23:17b).

Rather than curse Israel, Balaam’s second prophecy focused on God’s character, and the prophet revealed He is immutable [unchanging]: For “19God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (23:19

God’s promises are sure, for whom the LORD has determined to bless, He will bless (23:20-21a). He is omnipresent, and His presence assures His people victory (23:21b-22). The LORD is also a shield, and Israel would not be harmed (23:23). Balaam prophesied, because the LORD is with Israel, His people would “rise up as a great lion…and drink the blood of the slain” (23:24). 

Balak loathed the blessings Balaam had heaped upon Israel, and he challenged the prophet, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all” (23:25). Balak then commanded Balaam a third time to look upon Israel, and curse the people (23:27-30).

Numbers 24 – Balaam’s Third and Fourth Prophecies

For a third time, Balak built seven altars, and offered seven bulls and seven rams (23:29-30), but Balaam could not curse Israel, for he “saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, [and] he set his face toward the wilderness” (24:1). Lifting up his eyes towards Israel, Balaam “saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him” (24:2). Balaam prophesied (24:5-9), 5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, And thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (24:5).

Balak was furious, and protested, “I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. 11Therefore now flee thou to thy place” (24:10-11a). Before departing, Balaam took up a fourth prophecy (24:15-19), and prophesied, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (24:17). This prophecy was partly fulfilled when Israel was established as a kingdom, and David reigned. However, it was the birth of Jesus Christ that was marked by “a Star out of Jacob” (24:17, 19; Matthew 2:2). 

Balaam concluded his prophecies, and foretold the fall of three kingdoms: The Amalekites (24:20); the Kenites (24:21-22); and the Assyrians (24:23-24). Balaam and Balak went their ways; however, the Scriptures reveal how Balaam will be slain in battle, with several kings of Midian (31:8).

A closing thought: “19God is not a man, that he should lie” (23:19).

I have known many liars, and have seen that the bent of human depravity is for men to believe lies, before they will accept and embrace God’s truth. What a blessed security to know God keeps His promises, and His Word is sure! To quote the apostle Paul, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4a).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Deaths of Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 20)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 20

Though not stated in the Scriptures, the events recorded in Numbers 20 marked the fortieth year of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness since the people departed Egypt. Fulfilling God’s judgment, the desert had become a graveyard for the children of Israel who were twenty years old, and older when they refused to cross over into the Promised Land. Entering upon the fortieth year, a whole generation had perished, and with the exception of a few, only two of that generation (Joshua and Caleb) would enter the land God had promised His people.

I have experienced times of sorrow and disappointments in life that washed over me like the waves of a storm, testing my heart, soul, and strength. Numbers 20 was certainly a time like that for Moses. That great servant of the LORD, one with whom He spoke “face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10), experienced in this chapter the deaths of his sister Miriam (20:1), and his brother Aaron (20:25-29; 33:38).

Miriam’s Death (20:1)

The death of Miriam, the oldest of three siblings (her brothers being Aaron and Moses), garnered little more than a passing mention. We read in the Scriptures, “1Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there” (20:1).

Israel had been at Kadesh before (13:26), for this was the place where they had made the fateful decision to turn back thirty-eight years earlier. It was at Kadesh where we read, “Miriam died there, and was buried” (20:1). There is no mention of a season of mourning, or a memorial service. Simply, and abruptly, Miriam died and was buried (20:1).

Rebellion Arose in the Hearts of a New Generation (20:2-13)

An old adage goes, “Like father, like son,” and so it was seen once again at Kadesh. Their fathers before them had rebelled, and the new generation encamped on the border of Canaan, took up the same pattern of sin, and “chode [quarreled] with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!” (20:3)

Did the people wish to die? Of course not! Their quarrel with Moses evidenced not only their lack of respect for him as the leader of the nation, but a spirit of rebellion that was expressed in their murmuring, and complaining about a lack of water. It was indeed, a place that was destitute (20:4-5); however, it was not their destination! They must need pass through this desert place, to make their journey to the Promised Land!

Moses and Aaron left the congregation, went to the door of the Tabernacle, and “fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them” (20:6). The LORD then directed Moses to take the rod in hand, assemble the people, and speak to the rock with the people watching. He promised, “it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink” (20:8).

Moses obeyed the LORD, but he had become exasperated with the people and their sins, and rebuked them in anger. Rather than speak to the rock as he had been commanded (for he had many years before struck the rock once), he “lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also” (20:11).

Some might observe, “all is well that ends well”; however, that was not the case. You see, God is not only interested in the outcome, He is also invested in the process. He had directed Moses to speak to the rock, but he had chosen to strike the rock, not once, but twice in anger. Why is that an important lesson? Because the rock was a type, a representation of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

The judgment of God seems severe, but God is jealous of His testimony, and His servants had failed to obey Him. The LORD had not received the glory for the water that burst forth from the rock (20;12). Moses and Aaron had sinned against the LORD in the sight of all the people, and their lack of faith (“ye believed me not,” 20:12), was the catalyst for God’s determination: “ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (20:12).

The Edomites Refused Israel’s Passage Through Their Lands (20:14-21)

I will address the Edomites refusing Israel safe passage through their territory at a later date. Remembering the Edomites are descendants of Esau’s lineage; he was the brother Jacob, and the son of Isaac. There was a familial connection between that nation and Israel. Edom, however, refused Israel’s request, and forced that nation to take another route.

Aaron’s Death (20:22-29)

Unlike Miriam’s death, the passing of Aaron, the High Priest, and brother of Moses, was attended by both ceremony, and mourning. We read, “Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount. 29And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel” (20:28-29).

Aaron, like the best of men, was far from perfect; however, he was the man God had chosen as the first High Priest of Israel. When Eleazar came down from the mount wearing the garments of the High Priest, and Aaron was not with Moses, the people mourned his death for thirty days. So it is with every generation, and with all men and women. Your days, like my days, are numbered.

Psalm 90:12 – 12So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A tithe of a tithe,” and a Cleansing from Sin (Numbers 18-19)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-19

Numbers 17 addressed the establishing of Aaron, and his sons as the priestly lineage, while Numbers 18 outlines the duties of the priests and Levites, and the care and support of their families.

With the rebellion of Korah, and the men who followed him still fresh (Numbers 16), it was prudent for the LORD to address Aaron regarding the sins of his “father’s house” (remembering that Korah was of the tribe of Levi, 18:1). The honor of the priesthood, and the sins committed by the tribe of Levi, were to weigh upon Aaron, and his sons.

The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to assist the priests in their duties; however, they were not to usurp their authority, nor approach the “vessels of the sanctuary and the altar,” lest they die (18:2-3). None, but the priests, were to “keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar” (18:5-7).

Numbers 18:8-20 – The Care and Support of the Priests

You will notice the mention of “heave offerings,” throughout this passage. What were they? They were a portion of the sacrifices that were brought by the people, and set aside by the LORD for the priests (Exodus 29:27-28). The heave offering was specifically the right shoulder of a cow, ram, or goat that had been sacrificed (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). The first-fruits of the harvest were also designated heave offerings (Numbers 15:20-21). The needs of the priests, and their families were met through the heave offerings (18:9, 11-13), and was to be eaten “in the most holy place,” that being the court of the Tabernacle (Numbers 18:10).

Numbers 18:21-24 – Provision for the Levites

Like the priests, the Levites would not have an inheritance in the Promised Land (18:21). Rather than being engaged in securing land, their focus was to be upon “the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation” (18:21). While the children of Israel were occupied tilling their lands, and caring for their flocks and herds, the Levites were supported by “the tenth (or the tithe) in Israel” (18:21), “given to the Levites to inherit” (18:24).

Numbers 18:25-32 – The Levites were to give a tithe of a tithe.

Lest any should believe those in ministry do not have an obligation to pay their tithe, we find the Levites, after receiving the tithes of the congregation, were to take off the “tenth part of the tithe” (18:26). The tithe of the tithe, was “the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest” (18:28). What did the LORD require to be given as the tithe? “The best thereof” (18:29).

Numbers 19 – Purification Offering for Uncleanness

The offering of a red heifer (a female cow) was to be brought by those deemed unclean by reason of coming in contact with death (19:11). Death, being the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23a), demanded sacrifice, and the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

A man who touched the dead body of a man (which was necessary for those preparing a body for burial), was deemed unclean for seven days (19:11). The LORD knew what men of that day did not know: The pollution by a dead body was not only a spiritual lesson, (“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23), but also a practical one. Even the tent in which a man died was considered unclean seven days (19:14), and any open vessels in that tent were considered unclean (19:15). What an amazing revelation! Long before microscopes revealed the dangers of harmful bacteria, the LORD was protecting His people from contamination.

Because the sacrifice of the heifer was for “uncleanness,” the heifer was led outside the camp of Israel, sacrificed, and burned (19:5). The priest that sacrificed the heifer, and the Levite that burned it, were to wash their clothes and bathe, and were deemed unclean until even (19:7-10).

Lesson: Death is an ever present, inescapable sorrow (Hebrews 9:27). We who have trusted Christ as our Savior have an eternal hope, for He has borne the burden of our sin by His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He Lives!

1 John 1:7b, 9 – “… The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin… 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Scripture reading – Psalm 90

We depart from the Book of Numbers, to consider Psalm 90 for today’s Scripture reading. Psalm 90 is a prayer of intercession, and a song of praise that was authored by Moses, and is therefore the oldest of the Psalms. Certainly, it would have been one of the psalms heard in the Temple, and sung by the people when they assembled in the wilderness before the Tabernacle.

Scholars generally place Psalm 90 about the time Israel rebelled, and turned back from the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). The context is most likely when the people began murmuring against the LORD, and He threatened to “smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them” (Numbers 14:11-12). Moses implored the LORD to spare the congregation (Numbers 14:13-19), and I believe Psalm 90 memorialized that occasion.

Psalm 90 – Great is the LORD!

The Lord had proven He was the refuge for Israel (90:1), the Creator (90:2a) who set the foundations of the mountains, and “formed the earth and the world” (90:2). He is the God of eternity (90:2b), and the absolute Sovereign of Creation (90:2). What is man? He is temporal, and dust (90:3).

When I was young, I could not fully grasp the meaning of Psalm 90:4. Moses wrote, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (90:4). I have come to know all to well the fleeting of time, and life itself. A lifetime, or even a generation passes, and it seems “as a watch in the night” (90:4), and our lives are “soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10).

Lest one be tempted to wallow in self-pity, and sorrow for the years that are past and cannot be reclaimed, Moses states a principle that should guide believers: So teach us to number our days [to make them count], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom (90:12).

How different your life would be, if you knew the year, day, the hour, God has appointed for your death (Hebrews 9:27)! Many things that consume your thoughts, and your time would suddenly prove trivial. Moments to which you give little thought, and opportunities that seem routine, might suddenly be savored, if not treasured. Every day is a gift of God’s loving grace, and should be numbered and treasured.

Set aside pettiness, and be grateful for the day God has given you. Pray with Moses: “Let the beauty [grace, and favor] of the Lord our God be upon us: And establish thou [LORD] the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (90:17)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15

The children of Israel were discouraged, and afraid after hearing the “evil report” of the ten spies. They had reported the land of Canaan was all God promised it would be, but was also “a land that eateth up the inhabitants…33And there we saw the giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:32-33).

What happens when believers turn back from the challenge of stepping out in faith, and trusting God?

The tragic answer to that question is found in Numbers 14. The congregation of Israel, after rejecting Caleb’s desperate call for faith (13:30), returned to their tents and “lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night” (14:1).

Fear turned to rebellion, and “the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (14:2). Their murmuring against the LORD and His leader, soon turned to an accusation that God had meant them evil, and brought Israel out of Egypt only to allow them to “fall by the sword,” and that their wives and children “should be a prey” (14:3).

Fear and murmuring suddenly turned to a plan of insurrection, and the people determined to choose a leader, and “return into Egypt” (14:4). Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in an act of humiliation (14:5), and Joshua and Caleb, the spies who had faith to trust God, “rent their clothes” (14:6). Joshua and Caleb pleaded saying, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for …the Lord is with us: fear them not” (14:7-9).

The people had intended to stone Joshua and Caleb, but the “glory of the LORD appeared in the Tabernacle” (14:10). He would have afflicted the people in His wrath, and disinherit them as His people (14:11-12). Moses reasoned, and pleaded with the LORD to not give Israel’s enemies cause to say He had had slain them because He was not able to bring them into the Promised Land (14:13-16).

Moses appealed to the LORD, and reviewing His attributes, said, “18The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (14:18). On the basis of His divine character, Moses prayed to the LORD, “19Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (14:19).

The LORD heard, and heeded Moses’ prayer, but God is also just, and would not allow Israel’s rebellion and faithlessness to go unpunished (14:20-23). The faithless spies were slain for the “evil report” they had brought against the LORD (14:22-23, 36-37). God determined the whole congregation would be turned away from Canaan, and the people would “be wasted in the wilderness” (14:23, 25, 32-34). All of Israel, twenty years and older (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua), would die in the wilderness because they had murmured against the LORD (14:24-32, 38).

Moses then announced God’s judgment, “and the people mourned greatly” (14:39). With remorse, the people rose early the next day and were determined to go up, and to cross over into the Promised Land (14:40). Moses warned they would “not prosper…for the LORD is not among you” (14:41-42).

Without the LORD presence, power, and protection, Israel’s presumption was doomed, and many of Israel were slain (14:44-45).

Numbers 15 – The Difference in God’s Judgment for Sins Committed Out of Ignorance, and Deliberate Sins

Numbers 15 marks the beginning of Israel’s tragic forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 15-21). The sacrifices were instituted as not only Israel’s obligation, but also that of the “strangers” that journeyed with Israel.  The “strangers,” people not of the lineage of Abraham, were to do as Israel, for there was “one law and one manner” (15:15-16).

There were sacrifices for sins “committed by [out of] ignorance” (15:24-29), meaning unknowingly. There was the question of willful, or presumptuous sins. The punishment for those sins was “that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (15:30-31).

Soon after that law was instituted, a man willfully broke the law, and gathered sticks on the Sabbath (15:32-33) for his own purposes and as an act of public rebellion. Given the seriousness of his actions, the man was taken “in ward” (custody), and Moses and Aaron sought the mind of the LORD. The LORD directed that all the congregation would put the sinner out of the camp, and stone him (15:34-36).

To serve as a lasting reminder, the LORD decreed the children of Israel were to wear about the fringes of their garments a blue ribbon, bearing tassels. The tassels were to serve as a visual reminder to “remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and…40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God” (15:39-41).

Believer, choose to be faithful, trusting, and obedient to the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Blessed is the Man that Trusteth in the Lord” (Numbers 13)

“Blessed is the Man that Trusteth in the Lord” (Numbers 13)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 13

Absolved of her sin, and cured of leprosy, Miriam, the sister of Moses, was reunited with the children of Israel. The nation continued its journey, and “pitched [their tents] in the wilderness of Paran” (12:16). The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading are among the most dynamic in Israel’s forty years of wanderings in the wilderness.

The LORD commanded Moses, “2Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel” (13:2a). Let us pause, and reflect on God’s directive to Moses, and those whom He would have spy out the land and its inhabitants. They were men (not women, children, or novices). They were men, chosen out of each tribe, “every one a ruler… [and] heads of the children of Israel” (13:2-3). They were respected leaders, and men of influence. The Scripture records the names of the men, and the tribes of origin from which they came (13:4-16).

Following the LORD’s commands, Moses gave the twelve men their marching orders: “Spy out the land of Canaansee the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many…[and] the land…whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds” (13:17-19). Moses challenged the spies to come back, report on the land, and “be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes” (13:20).

The spies departed, and were gone for forty days (13:25). When they returned, they brought with them “a branch with one cluster of grapes” that was so laden with fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs” (13:23).

Two reports were given, and the first confirmed the land was all that the LORD had promised Israel: “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it” (13:27).

The second report, was an aspersion, a slander, a defaming of God’s promises, and stirred the hearts of the people with fear. The spies reported: “28Nevertheless 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).

Moses had challenged the men to “be ye of good courage,” but the sight of the enemy had dispelled their faith, and filled the void in their hearts with fear. Here is a great lesson:

Fear is not only a sign of weak faith, but it is also given to exaggeration. The fear of the spies eclipsed their faith!

Caleb, a leader of the tribe of Judah, spoke up, and “stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30). In Numbers 14, Joshua added his own voice to Caleb’s challenge and urged the people, “8If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey” (14:8).

Ten of the spies sowed doubt among the people saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Where Caleb and Joshua saw opportunity, the other ten spies saw insurmountable, frightening obstacles. What made the difference in their observations?

I suggest the difference was twofold: Focus and Faith. Caleb and Joshua did not focus on the size of the obstacles, but on the size [greatness, and faithfulness] of their God. Their faith was not in their abilities, but in the Person and promises of the LORD. Israel’s enemy was not giants, or the nations that were living in the land (13:28-29, 32-33).  Israel’s enemy was her lack of faith in God.

Are you facing giants?  Have you allowed fear and faithlessness to take hold of your heart and thoughts?

Believer, God has the solution to every problem you face, and the resources to help you achieve every goal in His will!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. [8] For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith