Tag Archives: Pray

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

Scripture reading – Leviticus 26-27

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

Leviticus 26 – The LORD’s Covenant

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

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

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

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

Promised of Judgment (26:14-39)

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

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

Promise of Mercy (26:40-46)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Leviticus (Leviticus 1)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 1

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Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us to the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the five books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch. Leviticus is as its name implies, a book that directed the Levites in their priestly duties. Worship, offering of sacrifices, festivals, and matters of the Law are all addressed in Leviticus.

The following is a brief outline of the Book of Leviticus: 1) Leviticus 1-7 presents the laws that were to be followed in sacrificial offerings. 2) The consecration, and ministry of the Aaronic priesthood is the topic of Leviticus 8-10. 3) The distinction between animals deemed clean and unclean is the subject of Leviticus 11-15. 4) Leviticus 17-25 serves as a reminder that the holiness of God demanded the same of His people when they approached Him in worship and offering sacrifices. Remember, the sacrifices specified in Leviticus were a prefigure of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He was the perfect, complete, “once, and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The LORD Ordered the Starts and Stops of Israel. (Exodus 40)

The LORD’S glory, whose presence was signified in a cloud that descended, and “covered the tent of the congregation,” had “filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). The cloud was a visible testament to the LORD’S presence in Israel. In the day, the cloud rested upon the Tabernacle. At night, God’s presence was seen as “fire…in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:38). Reminded that the LORD, not man, dictated the starts and stops of His people, “when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: 37But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up” (Exodus 40:36-37).

Leviticus 1 – The Laws and Ordinances for Burnt Offerings

The LORD, having filled the Tabernacle with His glory (Exodus 40:34), “called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock” (Leviticus 1:1-2).

Guidelines Concerning Burnt Offerings (1:1-17)

The first offering required in Leviticus was the “burnt offering,” and it was to be “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). These, the children of Israel were to bring to the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Placing their “hand upon the head” of the sacrifice, the worshipper identified that animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).

The sacrifice was then killed, and processed as described by the law. The priest would then take the blood of the sacrifice, and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11). Flaying, and cutting the animal, the priest would lay the pieces on the fire of the altar (1:12-13).

I conclude today’s study with a word of exhortation.

Many 21st century believers dismiss an Old Testament book like Leviticus, supposing it has no application to their lives. Don’t make that mistake. If believers examined their worship in light of the precepts, and principles derived from the Commandments, Laws, and Ordinances, much of today’s carnality would be eradicated.

Leviticus 26:3-4, 12 – “3If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; 4Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit…12And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jehovahnissi: The LORD My Banner (Exodus 16-17)

Scripture reading: Exodus 16-17

We have considered the faithlessness of the children of Israel who, after the miracle of the Red Sea crossing, turned from celebrating Egypt’s defeat, to murmuring “against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24).

Exodus 16 – Daily Manna

The people had complained about a lack of water in Exodus 15, and in Exodus 16, they complained about a lack of food. In leaving Egypt, they had evidently packed enough food for a month, however, by the fifteenth day of the second month supplies were exhausted. and they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron. The people complained they would have been better off dying in Egypt, rather than to follow Moses into the desert only to starve and die (16:2-3). How soon they had forgotten God’s provision of water!

Moses cried out to the LORD, Who promised He would “rain bread from heaven” (16:4), sufficient for the day that He might “prove [the people], whether they will walk in my law, or no” (16:4). The LORD promised on the sixth day he would provide twice the daily amount, that the people might store enough for the Sabbath (16:5). Moses and Aaron encouraged the people, how the LORD would provide them bread in the morning, and “in the evening flesh to eat” (16:6-8).

Faithful to His promise, each evening quail would cover the camp, providing the people meat, and each morning they would find a small round bread they called “manna” (16:15). Moses instructed the men to gather only enough for their households, “every man according to his eating” (16:18). Moses admonished the people, “Let no man leave of it till the morning” (16:19).

What lesson was the LORD teaching Israel in providing them “daily provisions?”

He was teaching them to look to Him to provide for their daily needs. Nevertheless, there were some who failed to trust the LORD, and hoarded more bread than they could eat, and “it bred worms, and stank [rotted]” (16:20).

Exodus 17

Israel continued her journey in the “wilderness of Sin,” and encamped in Rephidim, where once again “there was no water for the people to drink” (17:1). They questioned, “is the LORD among us, or not?” (17:7), and accused Moses of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them (17:3). The criticism was so vicious, Moses feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).

God heard Moses’ plea, and commanded him take the rod he had carried when the waters of the Red Sea opened, and stand “upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink” (17:5-6).

Once again, Israel had witnessed the LORD’S compassion, and miraculous provision for their needs; however, there was a greater lesson in this moment that would not be revealed until the New Testament. The “rock in Horeb,” from which the water flowed, was a type, a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ who identified Himself as the “well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Israel’s First War (17:8-16)

The children of Israel encountered their first enemy when the Amalekites, descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, came to war against them (17:8).

Moses summoned Joshua, and commanded him to choose men in Israel whom he would lead in battle against Amalek (17:9). While Joshua led the battle in the valley, Moses stood on the “top of the hill with the rod of God in [his] hand” (17:9).

When the arms of Moses were outstretched, Israel prevailed; when his arms grew heavy, the battle would go against the nation. Sitting down on a rock, Moses’ brother steadied one arm, while a man named Hur held the other aloft (17:12). Israel prevailed, and “Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (17:10-12).

This first battle was to serve Israel as a reminder that the LORD was on their side. Moses was commanded to write the victory in a book, and exhort Joshua to remember and rehearse in the ears of the next generation how the LORD had given Israel victory.

Moses then “built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi,” meaning “The LORD is My Banner” (17:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Great Exodus, and a Short-lived Celebration (Exodus 14-15)

Scripture reading: Exodus 14-15

Exodus 14 – Showdown on the Shores of the Red Sea

With the cloud overshadowing Israel by day, and the pillar of fire giving the people light by night, Moses led a nation of more than one million people to freedom. Following the LORD’s instruction, the multitude encamped by the Red Sea (14:2).

In his grief, Pharaoh had sent the children of Israel out of the land; however, the LORD hardened the proud king’s heart (14:3-4), and Moses learned his conflict with Pharaoh was not yet ended. Spies had followed the movement of Israel, and when they saw the encampment by the sea, they sent word to the king who set his army in array to pursue and overtake Moses and the people (14:5-7).

After witnessing how their God had brought Egypt to her knees, the people had departed “with an high hand,” bold, triumphant, rejoicing in their freedom (14:8). Soon, however, the celebration ended when the dust of six hundred chariots, and soldiers was seen approaching in the distance. As Pharoah and his army drew near to Israel’s encampment, “the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and…cried out unto the Lord” (14:10).

With the Red Sea before them, and Egypt’s army behind them, the people derided Moses, saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (14:11)

Is it not amazing how fickle people can be? From going out “with an high hand” (14:8), to moaning in despair, the people complained with a sentiment they would express on many occasions in the future: “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (14:12).

Moses, unshaken by the murmuring of the people, and the approach of Egypt’s army, encouraged the people saying, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (14:13). Moses assured them, 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (14:14).

Moses cried out to the LORD, who then questioned him, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (14:15). For Moses, the time for prayer was over, and it was time to step out on faith and trust the LORD, who commanded Moses, “lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (14:16).

The LORD commanded Moses to be prepared, for when the waters of the sea opened, Pharaoh and his chariots would pursue the people into the midst of the sea (14:17), and all Egypt will know the LORD, when the king and his army are drowned in the sea (14:18).

The cloud that had guided Israel out of Egypt, then moved rearward and became a barrier of darkness between the people and Pharaoh’s army (14:19-20), allowing Israel to pass through the waters of the sea on dry land (14:21-22).  When the Egyptians pursued Israel into the midst of the Red Sea, the LORD brought the waters in upon them, drowning them, and “Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore… and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (14:23-31).

Exodus 15 – A Celebration of Deliverance, and A Crisis of Faith

Standing triumphantly on the far shore of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel broke into a song of praise and rejoicing (15:1-19).  While the men were singing the refrain with Moses leading the song (15:1), Miriam, his sister, “took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (15:20) singing the chorus.

What a great celebration, and surely one that should have continued for days and weeks; however, such was not to be the case. Three days into the wilderness, and the people “found no water” (15:22), and “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24)

This sinful pattern of murmuring will haunt Israel’s journey through the wilderness for the next forty years, and will be a sorrow not only to Moses, but also to the LORD. Moses cried to the LORD (15:25) and the LORD assured him He would heal the bitter waters, and make them pure (15:26), testing and proving the faith of the people.

What was the lesson Israel was to take from the bitter, poisonous waters?

If Israel would hear and obey the Words of the LORD, and walk in righteousness, hear and heed His commandments, the LORD would spare them from the diseases that afflicted the Egyptians, promising Israel, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (15:26).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Christ, Our Passover (Exodus 13)

Scripture reading: Exodus 13

The slaying of the firstborn of Egypt, the tenth and final plague, moved Pharaoh to thrust Israel out of Egypt where they had lived for 430 years (12:40-41).

The Passover was established as a perpetual memorial of the night the firstborn of Egypt were slain, but God spared the households in Israel because the people believed God, and applied the blood of the lamb to the door posts (12:1-28, 43-51).

Seven days of “unleavened bread,” were to be observed, “and in the seventh day shall be a feast (the Passover) to the LORD” (13:6). No leaven was to be in the households those seven days (13:7), serving as a reminder of Israel’s sudden departure from Egypt, but also a memorial to the purging of sin from the midst. Leaven, a symbol of sin in the Scriptures, was to have no place among God’s people in the seven days that concluded with the Passover observance.

Leaven would later serve as a reminder to believers that sin, like leaven in bread during the Passover, is intolerable in the lives of believers (1 Corinthians 5:6). Paul instructed the church in Corinth, “Purge out therefore the old leaven…keep the feast…with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  Like Israel’s intolerance of leaven during the Passover, believers are to be intolerant of sin in our midst (1 Corinthians 5, 9, 13)!

The LORD also commanded Moses to instruct the people that the firstborn of every household, both children and beast, were to be sanctified (set apart and dedicated), to the LORD as a memorial to Him, with the exception of the firstborn of Israel (13:1). Promising He would bring Israel into the “land of the Canaanites” (13:11) as He had vowed, the people were to dedicate the firstborn male of every beast to the LORD (13:11-12). The firstborn of “clean” beasts was to be sacrificed, including lambs, kids of goats, and calves (Exodus 22:30; Numbers 18:17-18).

Because the ass (donkey) was declared unclean, the firstborn of an ass would be redeemed with a lamb (the lamb being a sacrificial substitute). The clean (lambs, calves, or kids of goats) were to be sacrificed in the place of unclean beasts (13:13).

While some heathen nations sacrificed their firstborn sons and daughters to idols, Israel was commanded to redeem her firstborn (13:13b). Considering all humanity is sinful, and therefore universally “unclean” in the sight of God, the price of a firstborn’s redemption in Israel was set as “five sheckles” (Numbers 3:47; 18:16). The people were to instruct their sons concerning the meaning of redemption (13:14-16).

The LORD knew that a nation of slaves would not be ready for the challenge of war against those nations that inhabited the land He had promised His people (13:17). Rather than lead Israel through the land of the Philistines, the LORD directed them into the “wilderness of the Red Sea” (13:18).

Fulfilling the vow their forefathers had made to Joseph, his bones were taken up from Egypt, and would be buried in Canaan (13:19).

Serving as a visible testimony of God’s presence, the LORD had promised to shadow His people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (13:21-22).

A closing thought: To spare Israel the tenth plague, and the death of the firstborn, the LORD required the blood of the lamb be placed upon the door posts. Without the blood, the firstborn of the household would be slain.  So it is for all sinners, for “without shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness; deliverance]” (Hebrews 9:22).

All the lambs that were sacrificed were a type, a picture, of God’s punishment of sin that would be fulfilled in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The author of Hebrews wrote: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). Paul writes in his letter to Corinth, “For He [God] hath made Him [Jesus Christ]to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If you have not, will you confess you are a sinner, and trust Jesus Christ as your Redeemer?

Romans 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of a Hardened Heart (Exodus 8)

Scripture reading: Exodus 8

“And [the LORD] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as [He] had said.” (Exodus 7:13)

Throughout the contest between Pharaoh and Moses, a pattern will emerge in the narrative: Moses will contend with the king of Egypt, and Pharaoh will reject the LORD’s messenger, and the LORD will harden his heart through the natural consequences of refusing God’s Word.

What is the nature of a hardened heart? A hardened heart is a heart that rejects God’s Word, to the point that it is calloused, and insensitive to Truth. It is spiritually cold, and becomes openly rebellious. When calamities come upon a man, they have the potential of either humbling, or hardening his heart.

Proud, stubborn, and defiant; God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (7:13), and turned the fresh waters of Egypt to blood. The fish were killed, and the stench of putrefying flesh filled the land (7:20-22). For seven days, the blood red waters of the Nile were a testimony of the power of Israel’s God.

Frogs filled the land (8:1-15)

We are not sure how much time passed between the first plague (the river being turned to blood), and the second contest between Moses and Pharaoh. The day came when the LORD commanded Moses to go before Pharaoh, and should he fail to let the children of Israel go, the land would be filled with frogs (8:1-4).

Aaron stretched forth his rod as Moses commanded, and frogs came out of the rivers, streams, and ponds, until all the land of Egypt was filled with them (8:5-7). Frogs were in the houses, on their beds, in the ovens, and in flour kneading troughs. Pharaoh begged Moses to appeal to the LORD to take away the frogs, and promised he would “let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord” (8:8b).

Rather than appeal to the LORD to instantly remove the frogs from the land, Moses deferred to Pharaoh, and invited him to name the time when he should ask the LORD to “destroy the frogs” (8:9). Proud and stubborn, rather than seek immediate relief, the king chose the next day for the frogs to be purged from the land (8:10).

The following day, “Moses cried unto the Lord… and the frogs died…14And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank” (8:13-14). Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not allow Israel to go, and offer sacrifices to the LORD (8:15).

Lice Infested the Land (8:16-19)

When Pharaoh failed to keep his word, Moses commanded Aaron to smite the dust of the land, and the LORD sent “lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (8:17). The lice may have been some form of gnat or other biting insect. Unlike other miracles, which the magicians emulated, they failed to turn dust into lice, and counseled Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (8:19a). Yet again, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (8:19b).

Swarms of Flies Plague Egypt (8:20-31)

The class or type of the flies has been a topic of speculation. There is in Egypt today a fly that is identified as a biting “dog fly,” and is similar to the deer flies that inhabits the southeastern United States.

The harassment of the flies moved Pharaoh to suggest a compromise to Moses. The king would allow Israel to offer sacrifices to “God in the land” (8:25), but not permit the people to go beyond the borders of Egypt. Moses, however, refused Pharaoh’s proposal, for fear that Israel’s sacrifices would be seen as an “abomination” to the Egyptians, who would then stone the people (8:26).

Moses demanded the people be allowed to go a three-day’s journey into the desert; however, the king offered a compromise (8:28). Moses promised to pray for the LORD to remove the flies, but only if Pharaoh would not default on his vow to release Israel to go and sacrifice to the LORD (8:29a). When the flies were removed; however, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and would not “let the people go” (8:32).

Pride stood in the way of Pharaoh’s failure to humble himself. The king’s unwillingness to acknowledge Israel’s God as LORD, paved the way to sorrow and death.

Proverbs 16:1818Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is pride and a hardened heart preventing you from humbling yourself, confessing your sin, and turning to the LORD?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Hardening One’s Heart is Not Wise! (Exodus 6-7)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 6-7

We have considered the first clash of wills between Pharaoh, and Moses (Exodus 5). Accosted and accused by the ones he loved and had come to deliver, Moses turned to the LORD and prayed (5:22-23). Pharaoh, however, turned a deaf ear to Moses’ requests, and remained unmoved and unwilling to let the people go.

Exodus 6 – God Heard and Answered Moses’ Prayer

But the LORD is faithful to hear and answer prayer, and responded to Moses’ plea, assuring him, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong [mighty] hand shall he let them go, and with a strong [mighty] hand shall he drive them out of his land” (6:1). The LORD promised to not only deliver Israel from slavery, but assured Moses, when He was finished dealing with Pharaoh, the king would drive Israel out of Egypt!

What was Moses learning about God, and his commission to serve Him? He was learning that Israel’s liberation was not dependent on him, but on whom he served: “God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord [Yahweh; eternal, self-existent]: 3And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by my name JEHOVAH [Yahweh] was I not known to them” (6:2-3). Though Israel had lost faith in God, He had not forgotten His covenant with them (6:4-5), and in a series of “I wills,” the LORD reminded Moses of all he had promised (6:6-8).

When Moses had spoken to the people all the LORD had conveyed to him; “they hearkened not unto [him]” (6:9). The LORD then came to Moses, and instructed him to go to Pharaoh, and command the king, “let the children of Israel go out of his land” (6:11). Moses, however, discouraged from the rejection of the people, wondered aloud, if his people spurned his words, why should Pharaoh hear him, a man “of uncircumcised lips [i.e. poor speech]?” (6:12)

Notice that the dialog between the LORD and Moses was interrupted by the genealogies of three sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (6:14-27). Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, had committed incest with his father’s concubine (6:14; Genesis 35:22). Simeon, the second, and Levi, the third born son, had raged against the Shechemites, and in revenging the rape of their sister Dinah, murdered the men of Shechem (Genesis 34).

The lineage of Levi is of particular interest to our narrative, for Moses and Aaron were sons of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe. The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to represent the people before Him (6:16-27).

Exodus 7

The setting of Exodus 7 is the second confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. There was already a dynamic change in the relationship between Pharaoh and Moses, for the LORD had magnified his standing, and “made [Moses] a god to Pharaoh” (7:1). The LORD instructed Moses to command the king to “send the children of Israel out of his land” (7:2); however, God cautioned his servant that He would “harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply [His] signs and…wonders in the land of Egypt” (7:3).

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh and Egypt would suffer God’s judgment in a series of ten plagues that would not only bring that nation to its knees, but would reveal the God of Israel was the God of Heaven (7:4-5).

Moses and Aaron, with God’s power and His Word as their authority, then stood before Pharaoh, and “Aaron cast down his rod before [the king], and before his servants, and it became a serpent” (7:10). Undeterred, the king’s advisors, displayed the power of evil, and cast down their rods which also became serpents (7:11-12a); however, the rod of Aaron, transformed into a serpent, displayed the supremacy of Israel’s God, and devoured the rods of Pharaoh’s men (7:12).

What was Pharaoh’s response? God “hardened” his heart (7:13), as He had said He would (7:14). The first of a series of judgments then followed (7:14-12:36). The first plague was the waters of the Nile River were turned to blood (7:15-18), the fish died, and the stench of their rotting flesh filled Egypt (7:19-21). Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s magicians seemed to have duplicated the water turning to blood (7:22), and Pharaoh turned away, and his heart was hardened (7:24).

For seven days, the people were plagued with hunger (the fish of the Nile being a major source of food), and thirst (7:24-25). The king, however, refused to humble himself and set Israel free.

Closing thought: The Egyptians idolized the Nile River. When the God of Israel turned the waters of the Nile to blood, He displayed His sovereignty and power over one of Egypt’s gods, and over nature itself. Unable to escape God’s wrath, Egypt and her king continued to defy the LORD. Nine judgments would follow, before Pharaoh humbled himself and acknowledged that Israel’s God is LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Getting Back to Bethel, the House of God (Genesis 35-36)

Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36 

The LORD had commanded Jacob to return to Canaan after an absence of 20 years (Genesis 33). Receiving news his twin brother was coming, Esau came to meet him, and instead of exacting revenge, gave Jacob a loving embrace and they wept for joy. Although he had been received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to enter the land, and traveled instead to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17); a decision that brought great sorrow upon his household (34:1-2, 13-29).

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

Genesis 35 opened with the LORD commanding Jacob to go up to Bethel (“the house of God”), and fulfill the promise he had made to the LORD two decades prior (28:19-22). Knowing he and his family were returning to the place where the LORD had first appeared to him, Jacob commanded his family to make ready to be in the presence of the LORD.

Genesis 35:2-4 records three preparatory steps Jacob commanded his family to observe before going to Bethel.

The first step, was to “put away the strange gods that are among you” (35:2b).

How did these “strange gods” come to be with Jacob’s family? Remember that Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, had accused him of stealing away with his gods (31:30, 34). Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel had taken her father’s idols. There is also a possibility that the people who had been taken captive after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shalem, had taken their gods with them (34:28-29).

The second step in preparing to go to Bethel was to “be clean” (35:2c). Jacob commanded his people to put their lives and households in order, and to purify themselves and be holy according as God had said.

Finally, the people were to “change [their] garments” (35:2d). They were to replace the old robes that would have reminded them of their past, and put on new garments. Such is to be true of believers when Paul observed, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Arriving at Bethel, Jacob built an altar, and most assuredly offered sacrifices, and led his family to worship the LORD there (35:6-7).

Jacob’s return to Bethel, however, was not without its sorrows, and was marked by the deaths of three loved ones.  Deborah, the elderly nurse of his mother Rebekah, and who might have assisted with raising Jacob, was the first to die (35:8). Jacob honored his beloved servant by burying her under an oak tree, and calling the name of the place “Allonbachuth,” “oak of weeping” (35:8).

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son (35:16-18).  Adding to his sorrows was the death of his father Isaac, the longest living patriarch, who died “being old and full of days” when he was 180 years old (35:28-29). Isaac’s death gave occasion for his sons to be reunited, and give him a proper burial (35:29).

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

Genesis 36 is the record of the births of Esau’s five sons, born of his three wives (36:1-5), and the births of his son’s sons (Esau’s grandsons).

Following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), Esau accepted that the birthright and inheritance of Canaan belonged to Jacob, and soon after moved his family to Mount Seir, in the land of Edom (36:6-8).

Genesis 36 gives no more of Esau’s history; however, the title “Duke,” given his grandsons (36:15-19), indicates they were commanders of men, and soldiers who, as was prophesied of Esau, would live by the sword (27:40).

The Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, will play a significant role in our future study of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Guideposts to Knowing God’s Will (Genesis 31), part 2

Scripture reading – Genesis 31

Genesis 31 – Going Home

Jacob’s wealth had provoked jealousy in Laban’s household (31:1),. God had so blessed Jacob, that Laban’s own household was becoming impoverished (31:1b). Jacob had also observed a change in Laban’s countenance, and that his spirit was no longer “toward him” as it had been before (31:2).

The LORD confirmed to Jacob that it was time to depart, and said unto him, “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee” (31:3).

I close today’s devotional by suggesting four principles we find in Jacob’s decision to go home, that are guideposts we might also follow in knowing God’s will.

Desire is the first guidepost to knowing God’s will. Six years prior to Genesis 31, Jacob wanted to leave Laban’s household, and “go unto [his] own place, and to [his] country” (30:25). Though the timing was not right, the desire was there, and would be fulfilled after six years.

Regarding the will of the LORD, and one’s desire, the psalmist wrote, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. {5} Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 47:4-5). Of course, it would be unwise to trust solely in the desires and longings of one’s heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

The second guidepost to knowing God’s will is one’s circumstances (31:1-2). Laban’s sons had become jealous, and his countenance betrayed his spirit toward Jacob had changed (31:1, 7, 41). Laban’s heart had turned against Jacob.

An essential guidepost to knowing God’s will is God’s Word! Jacob had a desire to go home. The circumstances were certainly a motivation to go home. However, it was the LORD who spoke to him, and said, “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee” (31:3). When the LORD spoke to him, Jacob knew it was time to go home. In the words of the psalmist, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The fourth and final guidepost in determining God’s will is counsel. Jacob went to his wives, and shared how their father’s spirit toward him had changed (31:5-12), and that God had commanded him to “arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred” (31:13).

His wives concurred, and said to Jacob, “whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do” (31:16). When making major life changes, wise men seek wise counsel, for “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)

God used four guideposts in Jacob’s life, and He will do the same in your life if you seek His will: Desire; Circumstances; God’s Word; and Wise Counsel.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. {6} In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Twelve Sons, Less One (Genesis 30-31), part 1

Scripture reading – Genesis 30

Today’s devotional will be published in two parts. The first will focus solely on Genesis 30. A second devotional will be published for Genesis 31.

Our study in Genesis 29 concluded with God blessing Leah, the least favored wife of Jacob, and she conceived sons by her husband (29:31-35). The LORD, ever compassionate, “saw that Leah was hated (despised or shamefully treated)”, and “opened [Leah’s] womb: but Rachel was barren” (29:31).

Twelve sons were born of Jacob, and they would become the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, became the mother of Jacob’s first four sons: Reuben (29:32), Simeon (29:33), Levi(29:34), and Judah (29:35).

Genesis 30 – Jacob’s Family: Twelve Sons, Less One

Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, was barren (a cultural stigma in those days), and jealous of her sister who had borne her husband four sons (30:1a). Provoked by jealousy, Rachel had demanded that Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (30:1b). Betraying his frustration of living in a home with two unhappy wives, Jacob answered Rachel in anger and said, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (30:2).

Rather than trusting the LORD to bless her with a son, Rachel followed the cultural norms of her time, and demanded that Jacob give her children through her maid Bilhah. Rather than honor God, and the sanctity of marriage (2:23-24), he complied with Rachel’s insistence, and further complicated the spiritual, and emotional dynamics of his home.  Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, conceived and gave birth to the fifth and sixth sons of Jacob, Dan(30:1-6) and Naphtali (30:7-8).

Fearing she might no longer conceive sons by Jacob (30:9), Leah insisted that he would raise up children by her maid Zilpah. Zilpah, conceived and gave birth to Jacob’s seventh and eighth sons, Gad and Asher (30:9-13).

God once again blessed Leah, and she conceived Jacob’s ninth and tenth sons, Issachar and Zebulun (30:17-20), and a daughter she named Dinah (30:21). Although she was mother of six sons, Leah longed for something she would never have: to be first in her husband’s affections (30:20).

What were the dynamics in a home that had disregarded God’s plan for marriage to be the union of “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, one man, and one woman)?

There was a perpetual spirit of jealousy, disappointment, bitterness, and sorrow. Rachel, rather than calling upon, and waiting on the LORD to hear and answer her longing for a son, turned to bartering for mandrakes (a fruit that purportedly contained fertility properties, 30:14-16). She continued to be barren, until we read, “God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24And she called his name Joseph [Jacob’s eleventh son]; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son” (30:22-24). In a later study, Rachel will die giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, whom he will name Benjamin (35:16-19).

With the birth of Joseph, his eleventh son, Jacob’s obligation of servitude to uncle Laban was fulfilled (fourteen years, for his marriage to Laban’s daughters; 29:20, 30), and he made known his intention to return to his family in Canaan (30:25-26).

Laban, ever the sly one, had become a wealthy man, and realized God’s special blessing rested on Jacob. He was determined to bind Jacob to himself, and continue to profit from his presence and labor (30:27-30a). Jacob, now the father of eleven sons, reasoned, “the Lord hath blessed [Laban] since [his] coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” (30:30)

Nonetheless, Laban constrained Jacob to remain in his household, and asked, “What shall I give thee?” (30:31) Jacob, wise to the ways of a deceiver, was unwilling to be indebted to Laban, and said, “Thou shalt not give me any thing” (30:31b).

Evidencing wisdom and discernment into husbandry and genetics, Jacob suggested that distinctive physical markings on the sheep, goats, and cattle, would providentially mark them as his personal property, and serve as his wages (30:31-32).

Laban agreed, and Jacob continued to care for his flocks, even as God blessed, and made him rich man. We read, he “increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses” (30:43).

In six years, God took Jacob from Laban’s poor hireling shepherd, to a man of great wealth.

This concludes our study in Genesis 30. A second devotional will be published for Genesis 31.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith