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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

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer (Matthew 26; Mark 14)

Scripture reading assignment: Matthew 26; Mark 14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a captivating reading of historical events that took place in the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry. We have considered the LORD’s teachings on “Eschatology,” the Biblical doctrine of “Last Things,” including His revelation of universal occurrences that will precede His Second Coming (Mark 13).

The record in Mark 14 begins with supper at the home of Simon, the leper (Mark 14:3-9), followed by the Passover meal (Mark 14:16-28), prior to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-65), and Peter’s threefold denial of Christ (Mark 14:66-72). Understanding a commentary of those historical events in the confines of a devotional is impossible, I will limit today’s devotional to an examination of the betrayer Judas, and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD and His disciples having dinner at the home of Simon the leper (14:3). Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of the feast was probably a celebration of our Lord healing Simon, and a festive occasion for Lazarus being raised from the dead. The central focus of the feast became a sacrificial gift that was offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary had entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating, and breaking the neck of an alabaster jar (a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard), she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head and feet (14:3b; John 12:3).  John identified “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led a chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions. Judas had suggested the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty, and in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes,  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality, he was a thief, a traitor, and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion. Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, we read that the disciples “murmured against her” (14:5).

Jesus rebuked the disciples, and silenced them saying, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (14:6).  Affirming Mary’s act of sacrificial love, Jesus once again spoke of His imminent death and burial (14:7-8; John 12:7), and revealed Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (14:8-9).

I close on a practical note, challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man, for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!

Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; dispute; quarrel].” 

A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and organization, as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest. An angry, contentious spirit has the potential of destroying everything, and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Beware That Your Possessions Do Not Possess You (Luke 12-13)

Scripture reading – Luke 12-13

The sin of covetousness is the malady of humanity, and is as ancient as sin itself.

When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed that she consider the fruit of the tree that 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 saw that the fruit God had forbidden was “good for food,” appealing, for it was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Coveting what God had prohibited, Eve “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).

Covetousness goes by many names and is evidenced in many ways: Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are a few words and attitudes that define a sin that has driven many a man or woman to self-destruction, and eternal damnation.

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-21) is universally known to many.

In the parable, 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 content. So the rich man determined to build larger barns, boasting 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 God 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 had come 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 discontent, demanding his inheritance out of a heart of greed and gain.

Recalling Jesus knew the hearts of all men, He recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as 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).

Truth: A fool treasures riches, and eventually finds himself a slave of them.

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

Where is your treasure?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Uncommon, Common Sense (Proverbs 22-24)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 22-24

We are continuing our study of the Proverbs of Solomon, chapters 22-24. Today’s devotional commentary, Proverbs 22:1-3, is appropriated from earlier posts at http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Proverbs 22:1 – “A Good Name: Better Than Silver and Gold”

(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is one of my heroes. Born in 1809 on the western frontier of the United States in the state of Indiana, Lincoln’s life story is inspiring. The son of a farmer, Lincoln’s childhood home was a log cabin. He was homeschooled and largely self-educated.

This man of the most common stock would challenge a nation to confront its soul and weigh its fundamental declaration that, “all men are created equal.” Honest AbeThe Rail SplitterThe Great Emancipator was mocked by his enemies; however, even they admired his character and reputation for honesty.

Proverbs 22:1 calls you to consider the reputation associated with your name.

Proverbs 22:1 – “A good name [honorable reputation] is rather to be chosen than great riches [wealth]and loving favour [grace] rather than silver and gold.”

A good name is not something you can purchase with silver and gold. Your reputation is something you earn. Your parents named you when you were born; however, your character and life choices have shaped and colored the hue of your name. What character qualities come to mind when someone hears your name?

Solomon challenged his son that it was better to be an honorable man, than to possess wealth, but be cloaked with dishonor.

Proverbs 22:2 – A man’s worth is not defined by what he owns, but by what or who owns him.

Parable 22:2 – “The rich and poor [destitute] meet together [concur; encounter]: the LORD is the maker [Creator] of them all.”

There is little difference between the rich and the poor; with the exception the rich man has much goods. We are all God’s creatures.  The rich man is no better than the poor man, and a poor man is no less than a rich man.

Whether rich or poor, we are sinners in need of a Savior Redeemer—Jesus Christ. Regardless of the designer label in our clothes, we need God’s mercy and grace. In the end, death is the great equalizer of both the rich and poor.

We read in the Book of James:

James 1:9-10 – “Let the brother [believer] of low degree [poor circumstances] rejoice in that he is exalted [rich in Christ]10  But the rich, in that he is made low [humbled]: because as the flower of the grass he [rich man] shall pass away.”

Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth [demonstrated] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Proverbs 22:3 – A Word to the Wise and a Warning to the Foolish

Proverbs 22:3 – “A prudent [cunning; sensible] man foreseeth [perceive; understands] the evil [sin; wickedness; adversity], and hideth [conceal; hide; shelter] himself: but the simple [foolish; silly] pass on, and are punished [condemn; inflict a penalty].”

We are living in dangerous, uncertain times and Proverbs 22:3 challenges believers to be wise and discerning in a world that is no friend of the spiritually-minded. Consider the contrast between two men who are polar opposites when it comes to discernment—the Prudent and the Simple.

The Prudent man is a learner. He is a student of the Scriptures [the Wisdom of God] and human nature.  His senses are exercised by the Word of God and a lifetime of experiences.  He is wary of the wiles and ways of the world. Prudence dictates that he foresees the ways of the wicked and withdraws himself from the consequences of their sinful ways.

The Simple are not learners.  They are stubborn, and ignore the admonitions of their parents and have disdain for godly counsel. They pursue the pleasures of sin, giving no thought to their tragic end. The Simple rush past moral restraints and headlong down the path of self-destruction. This same proverb is repeated in Proverbs 27:12, thus magnifying the need to read and heed its truth.

Proverbs 27:12 – “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

Truth – Men who are wise will seek and heed godly counsel.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You! (Leviticus 24-25)

Scripture reading assignment – Leviticus 24-25

A beautiful picture of corporate worship is introduced in Leviticus 24 as the children of Israel are invited to bring “pure oil olive beaten for light” to the Tabernacle (24:1-2). The people each had a part keeping the light continually burning in the sanctuary (24:3-4).

A spiritual crisis is recorded when the son of an Israelite woman, a man whose father was Egyptian, is guilty of cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD (24:10-11).  Accused of violating the third commandment and taking the LORD’S name in vain (Exodus 20:7), Moses ordered the man held while he sought the LORD’s will (“the mind of the LORD” – 24:12).

Understanding the weight of their testimony, those who heard the man blaspheme the LORD’S name laid “their hands upon his head” and the people carried out God’s judgment, stoning him to death outside the camp (24:14).

Expanding God’s demand for justice and restitution, we read, “Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” (24:20).

Leviticus 25 instructs the children of Israel in matters concerning the land the LORD promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).

Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubilee” (25:2 -4, 8-13).

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

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13); an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11). The year of Jubilee was also a year of celebration and restoration. Impoverished families who had sold their plots of land had them restored. (25:23-28).

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

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

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

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

Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.   Estate sales and auctions are perpetual reminders…You cannot take it with you!  After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim your possessions.

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 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Muzzle the Ox to Your Own Detriment (Numbers 18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 17-18, Psalm 50, and Luke 6. Our devotional is from Numbers 18.

The challenge to Moses and Aaron’s authority led by Korah, the son of Koath of the tribe of Levi, had tragic consequences (Numbers 16:1).  While the earth opened up and carried to their deaths the small circle of rebels who followed Korah (16:31-33), another “two hundred and fifty princes…men of renown” lost their lives for participating in the uprising (Numbers 16:1-2, 35).

When the congregation of Israel gathered and “murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41-49), the LORD descended visibly in a cloud upon the tabernacle and urged Moses and Aaron to depart from the congregation. The LORD sent a plague among the people and, in spite of Moses and Aaron’s intervention, another 14,700 lives were lost before the plague was stayed (16:41-49).

In Numbers 17 the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other.  The LORD then commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2).  Aaron’s name was inscribed upon the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the twelve rods representing the twelve tribes, the rod of Aaron alone miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone would lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

Numbers 18 records the charge and ordination of Aaron’s household, including the responsibility of the tribe of Levi over the tabernacle, vessels, and sacrifices (Numbers 18:1-7).  Unlike the other tribes whose labor and the fruit of their labors would sustain them, the tribe of Levi would derive a portion of the sacrifices brought to the LORD by the people as the means of providing for their households (Numbers 18:8-19).

Because the provision for the households of the tribe of Levi was a portion of the sacrifices brought to the tabernacle, the tribe of Levi would “have no inheritance in their land” (18:20-24).  The Levites were in turn to give a tithe (literally a “tenth part”) of the portion that fell to them as an inheritance (18:25-26).

I close with a reminder the principle of providing for the priesthood found in today’s scripture does follow over into caring and providing for those who minister in the church. The apostle Paul writes,

1 Timothy 5:17-18– “17  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer isworthy of his reward.”

While all who minister to the church are to be well cared for, those whose lives are especially dedicated to laboring in, preaching and teaching “in the word and doctrine” are to be particularly honored (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Ministry Theme for 2018: “Revive…Renew…Reach…Restore”

Looking ahead to the New Year, it is my heart’s desire that Hillsdale’s ministries will experience a renewed passion for serving the LORD; to that end, I have chosen four words I pray will define our ministry this New Year: “Revive…Renew…Reach…Restore”

REVIVE”…that we would see the LORD stir a flame of spiritual revival in our church (Romans 12:1-2); “RENEW” a passion for holiness and sanctification (2 Corinthians 5:17); “REACH”…the unsaved by sharing the Gospel and showing them the love and compassion of Christ (John 4); and “RESTORE”…ministering the grace of Christ to others (Galatians 6:1).

New Sunday Morning Sermon Series

I am excited to begin a new sermon series this Sunday morning titled, “Compassion and Grace: A Study of the Gospel of John”.  Rather than an exhaustive, verse-by-verse study of this great book, I will be highlighting our LORD’s contact and compassion for sinners in John’s Gospel in 2018.

My sermon title for this Sunday’s 10:30 AM service is, “Quenching A Spiritual Thirst”, based on Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4).  It is my prayer this new sermon series will stir within our church family a spirit of revival and a renewed compassion for lost sinners.

Charitable Giving

A reminder to those who faithfully support Hillsdale through tithes and offerings:  This Sunday, December 31 is the last day you can give and be credited for charitable giving in 2017.  You can also go to Hillsdale’s website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, and give online.

If you are thinking of giving a special year-end gift, allow me to suggest designating to the purchase of new office chairs for our Conference rooms or toward the purchase of vacuum cleaners for our school classrooms ($69\each).

Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

pastorsmith@hillsdalebaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com