Tag Archives: Ministry

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

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

Scripture reading – Numbers 11-12

Israel’s journey to the Promised Land began, and the people “departed from the mount of the Lord [Mount Sinai where they had received the Law and Commandments] three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord [a symbol of God’s throne] went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.” (10:33-34)

Numbers 11 – The Complainers, and God’s Judgment

Israel, having accepted the terms of their covenant with God, had observed the Passover, and set out on their journey in the manner the LORD had ordained. After only three days, the people began to complain, and “it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1).

How swift the judgment of the LORD fell upon the people! Why? What did their complaints reveal that the LORD’S “anger was kindled?” (11:1) Their complaints revealed their disloyalty to the LORD, and ingratitude for all He had provided (Psalm 106:6-14). The people cried out to Moses, and he “prayed unto the Lord, [and] the fire was quenched” (11:2).

Notice where the fire of God’s judgment began: “in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1). Those people were as far away from the Tabernacle, and the Ark as possible. Numbers 11:4 reveals the nature and character of those upon whom the fire fell: “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

This “mixt multitude” were those who left Egypt with Israel, but they were not numbered or named among the Hebrews (11:4). They had taken opportunity to escape Egypt, but they had no inheritance with God’s people.

They had introduced a contentious spirit in the camp. They asked, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4), and lusted for the foods of Egypt (11:5). They had come to despise the manna God provided, and in so doing rejected not only the provision, but the provider Himself (11:7-9, 20).

Hearing the complaints, and the people weeping (11:10), Moses moaned to the LORD in a series of self-focused questions (11:11-13). Exasperated, overwhelmed, and despairing, he cried to the LORD, 14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (11:14).

With loving compassion, the LORD directed Moses to choose seventy leaders from among the Twelve Tribes who would share his burdens (11:16). The LORD “came down in a cloud, and spake unto [Moses], and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders” (11:25a).

Provoked by bitter complaints, the LORD determined to give the people the meat they demanded (11:18-23). On the next day, He took away the manna, and for thirty days they had nothing but meat to eat (11:18-21). In their lust for meat, they gorged themselves and became sick, and “the LORD smote [them] with a very great plague” (11:31-33).

Numbers 12A Leader’s Response to Criticism

While the complaints in Numbers 11 caused Moses to despair of life (11:11-15), the criticism in Numbers 12was the most grievous of all. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ own sister and brother, spoke against their brother (12:1). Miriam was the eldest, and she appeared to be the principal antagonist, since she bore the consequences of murmuring against God’s leader (12:10).

I have learned that minor disputes are often the cover for deeper sins, and this was especially true with Miriam and Aaron. The initial challenge was concerning an Ethiopian woman whom Moses married (12:1). We do not know why they objected to the Ethiopian woman [although it was a violation of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, Genesis 2:24].

In the next verse we discover the core issue of their reproach of Moses when they ask, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” (12:2). They were jealous of their brother’s position, and challenged his authority, but “the Lord heard it” (12:2c).

Moses was “very meek [not weak, but a strength under control], above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (12:3); however, the LORD did not allow their complaint to go unchecked. Suddenly the LORD spoke “unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation” (12:4).

Imagine that moment! Summoned by the voice of the LORD who “came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth” (12:5). Leaving no doubt who His prophet was, the LORD fortified Moses (12:7), and His anger “was kindled against them” (12:9). As the LORD departed, He struck Miriam with leprosy (12:10) as a visible sign of His displeasure, and she “became leprous, white as snow” (12:10). Aaron cried out to Moses for his sister (12:11), and Moses “cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (12:13).

The LORD heard Moses’ plea, but He reasoned that Miriam’s sin was a cause for shame, and she would bear the reproach of leprosy for seven days, outside the camp (12:14). Seven days passed, “and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again” and was restored to the fellowship (12:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Listen to the Sound of the Trumpet (Numbers 9-10)

Listen to the Sound of the Trumpet (Numbers 9-10)

Scripture reading – Numbers 9-10

Numbers 9 – The Passover Memorial

Numbers 9 marks the beginning of the second year that Israel was encamped at the base of Mount Sinai. It was “the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt” (9:1). The LORD then commanded Moses to speak to “the children of Israel [to] keep the passover” (9:2).

The Passover had been instituted by the LORD to serve as a perpetual memorial of the night He spared the firstborn of Israel from death (Exodus 12:1-14). That night, the angel of death passed over the households where the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the door posts (Exodus 12:21-30). The day after, the LORD liberated the children of Israel from slavery (Exodus 12:31-36).

We find an occasion where some men of Israel had been defiled by handling a dead body, and were ceremonially unclean, and unable to observe the Passover (9:6-10). The LORD, in an exercise of divine grace, provided those men an opportunity to observe the Passover the next month (9:11-14).

The LORD Commanded the Starts, and Stops for His People (9:15-22)

Having promised the Tabernacle would serve as a visual reminder of His presence in the midst of Israel, when the sanctuary was raised, the LORD in a “cloud [that] covered the tabernacle…and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night” (9:15-16).

Because the LORD was the Shepherd of Israel, the people journeyed as He led them through the wilderness. When “the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle” (9:17a), the people journeyed. When the cloud was stayed, and “the children of Israel pitched their tents” (9:17b). The LORD decreed the “starts and stops” of His people, and they followed the movements of the cloud and the pillar of fire throughout their journey (9:21-23).

Numbers 10 – Silver Trumpets Heralded the Movements of the Tribes of Israel

Israel was a theocracy, a nation whose government was under the Law of God, and was led by spiritual leaders. Aaron and his sons were tasked with the responsibility of sounding the trumpets (10:8), for the LORD had given the priests the responsibility of communicating His direction to the people.

The silver trumpets sounded four messages (10:3-10). There was a sound to assemble (10:3-4). There was a sound for journeying (10:5-6). Another sound for a call to arms (10:9). There was also a sound that heralded festivals, and sacrifices (10:10). Of necessity, the sounds of the trumpets had to be clear and distinct, for the people to understand the message (10:3-4, 7).

The departure from Mount Sinai was recorded in Numbers 10, and the nation of Israel set out on her journey for the Promised Land (10:11-13, 33-36). The leaders of the tribes are named (10:14-28); however, the cloud was a reminder of the Lord’s presence and protection. The God of Israel was the Commander and Chief of Israel.

A Closing Appeal

In his letter to Corinth, Paul warned believers that they should make certain that the teaching, and preaching they sit under is a message that leaves no uncertainty. Those who preach, and teach the Word of God should not be like a trumpet that gives an “uncertain sound” (1 Corinthians 14:8). Make sure the teaching you sit under is like the silver trumpets- the Word and the will of the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Employment Opportunity: Ready to Start Over? Hillsdale Christian Academy Is Growing, and Needs You!

Employment Opportunity

With World War I looming on the horizon, the United States faced a need to recruit men willing to serve in the army. To help with the recruitment effort, an artist by the name of Montgomery Flagg, conceived a recruitment poster that featured an iconic patriotic figure known as Uncle Sam. With a ribbon of blue and white stars encircling his white top hat, and clothes boasting red, white, and blue, Uncle Sam was portrayed with an intense stare, and the words, “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army.”

I am not Uncle Sam; however, I am the pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church, and I Want You, if you are an instructor who is a sincere believer, and looking for an opportunity to be a part of a ministry like Hillsdale Christian Academy (HCA).

Founded in 2005, HCA is a ministry outreach of Hillsdale Baptist Church, and is located in a beautiful, modern facility in north Hillsborough County, Tampa, FL. We have a reputation in our community as a traditional institution of the highest academic standards.

We are philosophically Bible-based, and devoted to a loving, nurturing environment, that pursues educational disciplines in the classroom.

With a Biblical world-view as our foundation, HCA is growing and we are hiring passionate, experienced instructors of our conviction – teachers who are willing to relocate to beautiful Tampa Bay, join Hillsdale Baptist Church and our team of Christian professionals, and grow with our ministry.

We are expanding our middle school, and want to fill elementary and middle school openings this fall. We are also looking to hire an administrative assistant for the school.

To inquire, or apply, please contact HCA’s Principal, Mrs. Tanya Henry, or administrator Pastor Eric Peterman, by calling 813-884-8250, ext. 235, or emailing thenry@hcatampa.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

What Does the Lord Require of His Servants? (Numbers 8)

What Does the Lord Require of His Servants? (Numbers 8)

Scripture reading – Numbers 8

We have followed Israel’s journey from Egypt (Exodus), through the wilderness, to a year-long encampment at the base of Mount Sinai. Leviticus chronicled the LORD establishing His Covenant with the children of Israel, and their accepting the terms of that Covenant represented in His Law and Commandments. The Book of Leviticus also established the nature of Israel’s worship and sacrifices, and the design of the Tabernacle, its “holy place” that included the Ark, and other furnishings within and without the sanctuary.

The Book of Numbers was the census record of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Numbers 1-2). Because the firstborn of every Hebrew household was to be dedicated to the LORD, He adopted the tribe of Levi, as a substitute for the firstborn of Israel (Numbers 3:12-13). While Aaron and his sons were to serve the LORD as His priests, the Levites were chosen to assist them with the daily sacrifices, and the care of the Tabernacle during Israel’s journey in the wilderness (Numbers 3-4, 7).

Illuminating the Tabernacle Sanctuary (Numbers 8:1-4)

With the Tabernacle erected, and the instruments dedicated, the LORD commanded Moses to tell Aaron to illuminate the interior of the Tabernacle, lighting the lamps on the “candlestick” (8:2). The lampstand, termed as a “candlestick,” is described in Numbers 8:4 as “of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the Lord had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick” (8:4).

The Levites Ordained, and Consecrated to the Ministry (Numbers 8:5-22)

While Aaron and his sons served the LORD as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist them, and serve the people when they came to worship (8:5-26).  Because they were to serve as ministers of the people, the Levites were commanded to go through a purification process that included shaving “all their flesh,” washing their clothes, and making themselves ceremonially clean by the priests sprinkling water on them (8:5-7). After the rite of purification, the Levites were to bring two young bulls, one to serve as a meat-offering, and the other a sin-offering (8:8).

Moses then brought the Levites “before the Tabernacle” (8:9), and gathered all the people of Israel, who placed “their hands upon the Levites” (8:10), and identified their serving on their behalf. The Levites placed their hands on the young bulls, and identified with their sacrifice as their substitute (8:9-13).

Thus, before the LORD, and in the sight of all the people, the Levites were separated unto Him (8:13), dedicated to “the service of the Tabernacle” (8:14), and identified by the children of Israel as the replacement for their firstborn (8:16-18).

Numbers 8:19-20 reminds us the task of the Levites was as assistants to Aaron and his sons. Aaron fulfilled the purification rite of the Levites (8:6-8), and they began to assist him and his sons in the daily sacrifices (8:21-22). The age of service for the Levites was between twenty-five and fifty years old (8:23-25).

Though the rite of ceremony for the Levites was outward (8:6-8), the desire of the LORD was that his ministers would be separated from the world, consecrated to Him (8:14), cleansed, and dedicated to serving Him (8:15).

Though not perfect, those who serve the LORD, and minister to His people should aspire to a holy standard in life and practice, knowing the LORD requires no less of those who serve Him.

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 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“The LORD Bless Thee, and Keep Thee” (Numbers 6-7)

“May the LORD Bless You, and Keep You” (Numbers 6-7)

Scripture reading – Numbers 6-7

Numbers 6 – The Nazarite Vow, and the Aaronic Priestly Blessing

The law of the Nazarite, a voluntary vow, was instituted in Numbers 6. Considered a vow of consecration, a man or woman could “vow a vow of a Nazarite” (6:2), and it was a vow of abstinence, and separation unto the LORD.

A Nazarite vow consisted of three personal disavowals. Abstaining from wine and strong drink (6:3-4) was the first. The second, as an outward sign of devotion, a Nazarite was not to cut his or her hair for the time of the vow (6:5). Thirdly, Nazarites were forbidden to touch a dead body, even that of a loved one (6:6-7). Should one fail to keep the Nazarite vow, and become unclean, there were prescribed steps for remediation and purification, including sacrifices that were to be offered to the LORD (6:9-12).

When the days of the Nazarite were fulfilled, he or she was to bring offerings to the Tabernacle before the LORD as a release from their vows (6:13). A burnt offering, sin offering, peace offering, meat or meal offering, and a drink offering were required (6:13-17). After offering sacrifices to be released from the vow, the head was to be shaven (6:19), a wave offering of thanksgiving given (6:20), and the Nazarite was then allowed to drink wine (6:20). (The matter of drinking wine is one I will take up in the future; however, be assured the wine mentioned here was not the distilled, strong drink of our day.)

Numbers 7 – The Dedication of the Tabernacle, the Altar, the Vessels, and Instruments Used in the Offerings

After much planning, and following the detail guidelines set forth by the LORD in preparing a sanctuary, the Tabernacle was set up, anointed, and sanctified (7:1). The altar, vessels, and instruments that would be used for offerings were consecrated to the LORD.

The princes of the Twelve Tribes, and the heads of households, “brought their offering before the Lord, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle” (7:3).

What was the purpose of the wagons, and the oxen? They were presented for the “service” (7:5), or ministry of the Tabernacle, and employed by the Levites when transporting the Tabernacle during Israel’s sojourn (7:4-10). The Gershonites, were allotted two wagons, and four oxen, “according to their service” (7:7). The ministry of the Gershonites was the care of the draperies, curtains, and coverings of the Tabernacle (4:24-28).

The Merarites were assigned four wagons, and eight oxen, “according unto their service” (7:8). They required more wagons and oxen because they were charged with the greater weight (i.e. the boards, and pillars that made up the frame of the Tabernacle, 4:31-32).

The Kohathites were not given wagons or oxen “because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders” (7:9). The Kohathites were responsible for transporting the Ark, the table, the lampstand, and the altar (4:5-20). Those objects, central to Israel’s worship and sacrifices, were to be carried upon the shoulders of the Kohathites with staves or rods.

The balance of Numbers 7 records the offerings, and sacrifices brought by each tribe on its assigned day, for the purpose of dedicating the Tabernacle, and its vessels (7:10-88). You will notice the offerings brought by each of the tribes were identical.

Why the repetition? I believe the twelve days of dedication, and the naming of the sacrifices that were brought, added to the solemnity of the dedication, and gave each tribe its own sense of standing with the LORD.

Numbers 7 concludes with the sum of the offerings being accounted (7:84-88), and Moses, though not a priest, given a special audience with the LORD in His sanctuary (7:89).

I conclude today’s devotion with the beautiful prayer, the priestly blessing, that was spoken by Aaron and his priestly sons to bless the children of Israel (6:24-26).

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep [watch, guard] thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine [illuminate] upon thee, and be gracious [grant favor] unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace [shalom].”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith