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Spiritual Principles for Employees and Employers in an Entitlement Age (1 Timothy 6)

Click on this link for translations of this devotion,

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 6

Our brief study of Paul’s 1st Epistle to Timothy concludes with today’s Scripture reading. Readers will notice Paul continues a broad sweep of issues that have confronted believers since the 1st century. Arguably, times have changed, but the prevailing sins and spiritual challenges of mankind are the same. Today’s devotional will consider 1 Timothy 6:1-6.

The Culture of the 1st Century Church (6:1-2)

Paul’s letter was addressed to a culture where slaves and masters were members of the church. In fact, the membership of the 1st century church had some slaves who found themselves serving “believing masters” (6:2). Paul did not tackle the moral or ethical nature of slavery, as slavery was a common way of life in the first century. Nor did he urge Timothy to lead an uprising against slavery. Instead, the apostle addressed the dynamics of believing slaves and their masters (whether unbelieving or believing).

Author’s note – Before I consider an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, I hope you might give me liberty for a personal observation.

Mirroring the attitude of the 21st century world, I have observed the growing presence and influence of a rebellious spirit of entitlement even among believers. Sadly, our families, churches, and Christian institutions have embraced entitlement as a right, of which few are willing to challenge. Entitlement arises from a self-focused heart, in essence, from those who would espouse employees’ rights and privileges above all else. I believe the pendulum has swung so far in favor of employees, that they now abuse their employers thus driving corporations to the edge of fiscal insanity, if not bankruptcy.

What is the Believer’s Duty to An Unbelieving Employer? (6:1)

Paul challenged Timothy to teach slaves and servants to be characterized by the same attitude of which he wrote, namely – Respect. Whether a slave served a master who was an unbeliever or a believer, the requirement was the same: Servants were to treat their masters with honor and respect, knowing their actions and attitudes reflected on their faith and profession in Christ. Paul wrote, “1Let as many servants as are under the yoke [the yoke of bondage or slavery] count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (6:1).

In his epistle to believers in Ephesus, Paul challenged servants and slaves to obey their masters, and fear and honor them out of a sincere heart, “as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Peter commanded, “18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Peter 2:18). The heart attitude of a believer is to serve, honor, and obey an employer to the end they will give them no cause to have an ill opinion of God and the Scriptures (6:1).

What is the Believer’s Duty to a Believing Employer? (6:2)

Today, many believers bring a spirit of entitlement when they are employed by believers or a ministry. Some believers become so offensive in their expectations, they become a sorrow to fellow believers that employ them.

There were some in the congregation Timothy pastored who were masters (6:2). Surely, salvation so transformed the lives of some that they evidenced love and Biblical virtues toward their slaves (2 Corinthians 5:17). Perhaps, some believing masters even divested themselves of slavery entirely.

Nevertheless, slavery was a component within the culture of the 1st century church. Therefore, Paul commanded Timothy teach and exhort believers regarding the relationship of the servants and their masters (6:2). What was Timothy to “teach and exhort” servants? (6:2) Paul wrote: “they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit” (6:2).

While the servants and some masters were believers, the believing servants were to remember their place and role, and treat their masters with respect (“not despise them,” 6:2b). A believing servant was to “do them service,” meaning serve them with a right heart attitude and spirit (6:c). Because the master was a believer, the believing slave was to value the privilege of serving a fellow believer, knowing both were “partakers of the benefit,” meaning the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ (6:2d).

Closing thoughts (6:3-6) – I close today’s devotion, exhorting you to not entertain any other spirit or attitude that arises and hinders your testimony in the world. There are believers who justify a belligerent, divisive spirit toward their employers. If believers were to exercise an honest self-examination, some would find a spirit of entitlement contrary to the Spirit of God, and the teachings of the Scripture.

If believing slaves were commanded to honor and obey their masters, surely no less can be expected of us.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Blessed Grace of Giving (2 Corinthians 8; 2 Corinthians 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 8; 2 Corinthians 9

Click on this link for translations of this devotional.

Today’s Scripture reading is well known to believers as a passage where Paul taught and encouraged what I like to refer to as “Grace Giving.” Grace, essentially the favor of God, is not only the basis, but also the motivation for all we do in serving the Lord, and as we will see in today’s devotional…giving.

Remember, Paul’s first letter to Corinth presented the afflictions and sufferings of the brethren in Judea, and in particular, Jerusalem. Hearing of the physical want of those believers, Paul urged the churches throughout Macedonia to give, and share in the relief of their fellow believers. The believers in Corinth set an example of compassion and willingness to give, and pledged themselves to be gracious. Unfortunately, a year later, the apostle was concerned they had failed to fulfill what was promised (though he had boasted of them to other congregations).

2 Corinthians 8

Among the many truths we glean from Paul’s letter are four spiritual truths in regard to “Grace Giving.” The first, “Grace Giving” evidences the grace of God when a believer gives liberally out of God’s blessings (8:1). An unregenerate heart is naturally selfish, and not inclined to give. In fact, sinners tend to evidence two extremes: Some are hoarders, and give little to nothing, while others are narcissists, and waste their material blessings and possessions on self-centered pursuits and pleasures. A second characteristic of “Grace Giving” is joy (8:2). The believers of Macedonia, though suffering afflictions, and poverty, were described as expressing “the abundance of joy,” and abounding “unto the riches of their liberality” (8:2).

Another trait of “Grace Giving” is personal consecration. We read, the Macedonian believers “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (8:5). Having dedicated their all to the Lord, they kept back nothing. Lastly, the sincerity of a believer’s love for others is demonstrated in a willingness to deny oneself for the welfare of others (8:9). In other words, the Macedonian believers proved the sincerity of their love for Christ in their sacrificial giving (8:8). Paul summed up that principle in these words: “24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf” (8:24).

Closing thoughts (9:1-15) – I invite you to read 2 Corinthians 9 and search out seven additional qualities of “Grace Giving” that are found in that chapter. I close with a quote of Amy Carmichael, who served as a missionary to India for 55 years without a furlough:

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Gifts of the Rich Paled in Comparison to the Widow’s Offering (Mark 12; Matthew 23)

Scripture reading – Mark 12; Matthew 23

The Synoptic Gospels

Continuing our chronological Scripture reading in the Gospels, we notice again the beauty of the Synoptic Gospels. Each writer complemented the others with his own remembrance or understanding of Christ’s miracles, teachings and conversations. Matthew, also known as Levi (who may have been of the tribe of Levi), wrote to the Jews of his day who had a knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.

Mark’s gospel seems to have been written to a non-Jewish audience, as he puts forth effort to explain biblical practices and traditions. Most likely Mark was writing to a Roman audience. Luke, thought to be a Gentile by birth, addressed his gospel to a man whom he addressed as “most excellent Theophilus” (1:3). Scholars are generally in agreement that Luke’s audience was Greek-speaking. Finally, John’s Gospel, not one of the synoptics, was written to all men and women, and declared Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16). Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give what might be described as a three-dimensional portrait of Christ’s life and ministry.

Our Scripture reading in Mark chapter 12, is parallel to what we have read in Matthew 21-22 and Luke 20. For instance, Mark recorded the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12), which we have considered in Matthew 21:33-36 and Luke 20:9-19. The question posed by the Pharisees and Herodians regarding civil and religious authority is found in the synoptic gospels (Mark 12:13-17; Matthew 22:15-22; and Luke 20:20-26). There is also the challenge of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection in Mark 12:18-27 (as it was in Matthew 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-38. Even the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” is reiterated in Mark 12:28-34 (Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-37).

For our devotional, I invite you to direct your attention to a story known widely as “The Widow’s Mite,” but one I will subtitle: “A Portrait of Consecration” (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). Remember, we are in the midst of Christ’s final week before the Cross.

Mark 12 – A Portrait of Giving

Mark wrote, “Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much” (12:41). The treasury of the Temple is believed to have been located in a large room known as the “Court of the Women.” Jesus sat and observed the rich bringing their offerings, and making a great fanfare of the size or amount of their gifts (Matthew 6:1-2). As He looked on, a poor widow came to the Temple to worship the LORD with her offering that was no more than “two mites, which make a farthing” (12:42).

Who was this widow? Why did one who gave so little, become an object lesson for giving one’s offering?

There are several items we might note concerning the widow. The obvious, she was alone, and described as a “poor widow” (12:42). Vulnerable, perhaps childless (or at least without one who cared to accompany her to the Temple), and lowly. Assuming the literal meaning of what it meant to be “poor,” she lived in an impoverished state. Perhaps with a haggard countenance, and in tattered robes she came to the Temple to cast into the treasury “two mites” (the smallest Jewish coin), which together was equal to a small brass coin known as a farthing(12:42).

Closing thoughts – You might wonder, “So what?” Herein is a wonderful truth: The widow’s offering was a great sacrifice in proportion to her means, and Christ looked upon her gift with admiration. She had given what she could not spare, while the rich gave out of their abundance (12:43-44). She “cast in all that she had, even all her living” (12:44). Giving up her right to use her two mites for her needs, she chose to trust God to provide. Think about it: For all eternity, the poor widow will be commended, not for the size of her gift, but for her faith and sincere devotion.

Lesson – When we give as the LORD would have us give, God’s heart is moved with compassion.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Where is your treasure? (Luke 12)

Scripture reading – Luke 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. Once again, we are considering a passage that has been treasured by believers for two millennia, and one that provokes conviction in the hearts of sinners. Christ cautioned His disciples regarding things men ought to fear (12:1-12). We are to fear hypocrisy (12:1-3), but not fear those who persecute or threaten our life (12:4). We are to fear the LORD, for He has the authority “to cast into hell” (12:5), and He knows all things; “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7).

Beginning with Luke 12:13, the LORD addressed a sin that has been the malady of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve—the sin of covetousness. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed she consider the fruit of the tree God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits. She observed the fruit God forbade was “good for food,” was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Tragically, she coveted what God had forbidden, and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

The sin of covetousness goes by many names and is expressed in many evil ways. Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are but a few words that define a sin that has driven men to self-destruction, and eternal damnation. Consider a parable Jesus told that aptly defined the enslaving, damnable nature of covetousness. The appeal of a man at odds with his brother concerning an inheritance prompted the story of the rich fool. In the Jewish culture, the eldest brother had the right of inheritance, and the man who came to Jesus was most likely a young brother seeking a portion of his father’s estate (12:13-15).

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (12:16-21)

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed, and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not satisfied. So, the rich man determined to build greater barns, and boasted within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19).

Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by the LORD since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”(12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man came to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontented, and demanded his inheritance out of a heart of greed.

Jesus knew the heart of that man, and recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as a judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Closing lesson: A fool sets his affections on riches, and eventually finds himself a slave to them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Cry of the Oppressed (Nehemiah 5)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 5

The task of rebuilding the walls and setting the gates had been an all-consuming mission for Nehemiah. Unfortunately, his effort to restore the walls of Jerusalem invited immense opposition from enemies who used it as an opportunity to openly mock, ridicule, and oppose him (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:1, 7-8).

In today’s Scripture, Nehemiah encountered a crisis caused by unprincipled men who abused their privilege – men who failed to show compassion, and failed to observe the laws God initiated regarding the poor.

Nehemiah 5

Poverty was prevalent in the land, and many borrowed to make ends meet (5:1-2). It came to Nehemiah’s attention that many had mortgaged their houses and fields to feed their families. Adding to their financial hardships was a tax assessment that was due the king on their lands and vineyards (5:4). Wealthy lenders, giving no regard to their brethren, began to foreclose on their debtors’ properties. Those unscrupulous men went so far as to enslave the sons and daughters of those who could not pay their debts (5:1-5).

Learning of the abuses, Nehemiah became indignant that the wealthy oppressed the poor and were breaking God’s Law (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Leviticus 25:35-37). He publicly rebuked those men, and charged them with exacting “usury” (5:7-13). (The rich had charged exorbitant rates of interest, making it impossible for debtors to repay their creditors.)

Nehemiah reminded the wealthy he had authority to “exact of them money and corn,” yet, he had not exercised his right. He charged them, “leave off this usury” (5:10), and warned God would judge them harshly for oppressing the people. Fortunately, the crisis ended when the elders agreed to release the people of their debts, and restore all they had taken unlawfully (5:11-13).

Closing thoughts (5:14-19) – The concluding verses of today’s Scripture reading record that 12 years were passed since Nehemiah became governor of Judah, and began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (5:14). Unlike the governors before him, Nehemiah had not taken advantage of his office. He refused to burden the people with the needs of his household, lest he sacrifice God’s blessings (5:15). Though he had authority to require the people provide food for his table (5:17), he had not done so “because of the fear of God” (5:15).

Nehemiah knew what it meant to fear, revere, and please God. He was confident the LORD honors those who faithfully labor and do His will. So, Nehemiah prayed, “Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people” (5:19).

Nehemiah is as a great model of servant leadership for all believers. In a world dominated by self-serving leaders, we would do well to remember God is judge, and we should fear and revere Him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

You Can’t Take It With You (Psalm 45, 49)

Scripture reading – Psalm 45; Psalm 49

Psalm 45 – Here Comes the Bride

Psalm 45 is a fascinating and beautiful psalm, and is in my opinion a Messianic psalm. The central subject of the psalm is the king, whom I believe is the LORD Jesus Christ, the Messiah King.

Psalm 45:2-9 is a description of the Messiah King who is fair and beautiful (45:2), a warrior with sword, and arrows (45:3-5), a throne that represents a perpetual reign, and who is altogether righteous, and hates wickedness.

Psalm 45:10-14 describes the Messiah King’s bride, whom I believe is the congregation of believers, the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-8; 21:2, 9). To be the bride of the king, the bride must leave her father’s house, and be devoted to her husband (45:10-11), even as believers are to separate themselves from the world, and be wholly dedicated, and a “living sacrifice” to the LORD (Romans 12:1-2).

Like gold that is pure, believers are to be to the LORD like a bride whose “clothing is of wrought gold” (45:13). As the bride comes to the king “in raiment of needlework” (45:14), the bride of Christ comes clothed in His righteousness (Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5).

Psalm 49Money Will Not Buy You Happiness

Psalm 49 reflects the ponderings of a man who faces the reality many of us put off…his own mortality.  Regardless of what we amass in possessions, or how rich or poor we become, everyone will “leave their wealth to others” (49:10).

Some, by acts of charity, and others by calling “their lands after their own names” (49:11), go to their graves hoping their legacy will live on after they are gone. Yet, no man or woman can escape the final reality–death (49:12, 14).

After nearly 44 years of ministry, I have yet to see a U-Haul truck or trailer following a hearse to a cemetery.  A similar reality was noted by the psalmist: “For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him” (49:17). The apostle Paul reminded Timothy of those same truths when he wrote, and warned:

1 Timothy 6:7-10 – “7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Old Testament Sacrifices, and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 2-3)

Old Testament Sacrifices, and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 2-3)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 2-3

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s Scripture reading, Leviticus 2-3. The first sacrificial offering described in Leviticus was the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). It consisted of an animal that was sacrificed for sin, “a male without blemish,” and either a bull (1:5), sheep or goat (1:10), or a fowl, either a turtledove or young pigeon” (1:14).

Leviticus 2 – The Law of the Meat Offering

Leviticus 2 introduces the second sacrifice, the “meat offering,” but a better translation would be “meal” or grain offering. “The “meat offering” was a non-blood sacrifice, and consisted of raw grain (“fine flour”), oil, and frankincense (2:1). Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present), it was a voluntary offering of which the priests would take a portion for their families, and the rest was offered as a burnt offering (2:2-3).

There was also a “meat offering” that consisted of bread baked in an oven (2:4), cooked in a pan (2:5-6), or made in a frying pan (2:7). A portion of those offerings were also to be used by the priests for their households (2:8-10).

The meat or meal offerings were never to be offered with leaven (which is a symbol of sin in the Scriptures), or honey, perhaps because flour baked with honey will spoil and sour (2:11).

There was also the “oblation of the firstfruits” (2:12), which was a voluntary offering of faith. Sacrificed to the LORD, the first-fruits of the harvest was a testimony of faith in His continued provision (2:12-16).

Leviticus 3 – The Law of the Peace Offering

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering.  Unlike the “burnt offerings,” the “peace offerings” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish,” applied and the priests would have inspected the offerings to insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).

There was the offering of the herd, either a bull or heifer, or the offering of the flock, a lamb (3:6-7), or a goat (3:12). As with the “burnt offering,” the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2, 8, 13).  The priests would then sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, and burn it on the altar (3:5, 11, 16).

In conclusion, consider the LORD’S standard for sacrifices: “without blemish” (3:1, 6).

Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality.  I am sure the temptation for some was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.  The apostle Paul had the same “without blemish” standard in mind when he wrote:

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.”

The LORD required the best in sacrifices, and He requires no less of believers today.  Our lives are to be “holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). Holy, sanctified, set apart and dedicated to the LORD.  Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God.

Anything less is unacceptable!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Stirred Up Workers, and People with a Heart to Give (Exodus 36)

Scripture reading – Exodus 36

Exodus 36 records the start of work on the Tabernacle. Two familiar names arise, Bezaleel and Aholiab, whom the LORD had chosen (31:2-6; 35:30-35) to lead the labor on His sanctuary. We are reminded once again that they were chosen, because they were “wise-hearted.” (36:1a). It is not surprising that Bezaleel and Aholiab worked with other men like themselves; men “in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded” (36:1b).

Moses summoned the most gifted men in Israel to work on the LORD’s sanctuary, and one trait was most prominent. Each man’s heart had “stirred him up to come unto the work to do it” (36:2). God chooses not only talented workers, but He desires that their hearts are stirred up to labor in the ministry.

Another lesson regards how the people gave for the work on the Tabernacle. Moses received “free offerings every morning” from the children of Israel who were giving “for the work of the service of the sanctuary” (36:3). So much was given, the workers encouraged Moses to command the people to bring no more offerings! (36:4-7)

Exodus 36 gives us a record of the process, and materials used in constructing the Tabernacle (36:8-38). It had a wood frame (36:20-34). The boards of the interior were overlaid with gold, and beautiful, embroidered curtains with taches of gold covered the interior walls (36:8-13).

The exterior of the Tabernacle was covered with “curtains of goats hair” (36:14-18), and over them were laid “a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers’ skins above that” (36:19).

The interior of the Tabernacle was divided by “a vail [veil] of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: with cherubims,” forming the “most holy place” where the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat would be located (36:35-36). The door to the entrance of the Tabernacle was a curtain “of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, of needlework” (36:37).

I conclude today’s devotional inviting you to consider the veil that partitioned the outer court of the Tabernacle where only priests served, from the inner court into which the high priest could enter only once a year, and then to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat as a sacrifice to God for his sins, and the sin of the nation (Hebrews 9:7).

Why the partition? Because it reminds us that sin separates man from God who is holy, and without sin. Believers have access to God, not through any merit of their own, but through the blood of Jesus Christ who is our High Priest.

Hebrews 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Hebrews 9:27–2827And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1-4)

Scripture reading – Philippians 1-4

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” concludes with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians, and was written to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). Though written in particular to believers in Philippi, the epistle has been providentially preserved for the saints of all ages.

Introduction to the City of Philippi

The city of Philippi, located in eastern Macedonia, was on a major traderoute between Asia and Europe and was the gateway between two continents. The city had a large population, was a center for Greek culture, and had become a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day.

Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament. It was in Philippi where we first met the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer in Christ, the Messiah (Acts 16:14-15). Paul and Silas had also been jailed in Philippi, following an uprising led by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed. When God had sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison, Paul bid the jailer to not take his own life; and he and his family became believers and were baptized (Acts 16:30-34).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

Scholars believe the letter was sent by Paul to Philippi sometime between 60 and 65 A.D. The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and humanly speaking appeared to be on the shelf of ministry service. Unable to travel, his future uncertain, and the reality of martyrdom being a very real fate, it would have been an easy step for Paul to despair of life.

Though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord and his heart effused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle conveying gloom and despair, Paul penned a letter expressing love and joy! He was buoyed by a mutual love and affection that he shared with the believers at Philippi. His care and expressions of love fill the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9). Even in the midst of his own bondage, Paul writes, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Following the example of the apostle’s self-sacrificing love and ministry, the believers at Philippi had evidenced their love and affection for Paul in very tangible ways. They were, as many have observed:

Models of JOY: Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last.

Appreciating the abundance of God’s grace bestowed on them through Paul preaching the Gospel, the Philippians gave sacrificially, even out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). They became models of self-sacrificing giving, disregarding their own needs, they gave cheerfully “by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). When Paul was in need, they sent a generous offering to support his ministry (Philippians 4:14-16), even sending Epaphroditus, one of their own to minister to Paul in Rome (2:25-30).

I have merely touched upon the mutual love Paul and the saints at Philippi had for one another. Suffice it to say, their affectionate bond should encourage 21st century believers and their ministers to cultivate the same loving relationship between those who minister, and those who are served.

Philippians 4:1 – Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith