Tag Archives: Promises

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

No Such Thing as a Secret Sin! (Leviticus 5-6)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 5-6

Leviticus 5:1-13 – Trespass Offerings

Continuing our study of the various sacrificial offerings, we come today to a study of “Trespass Offerings” for particular offences. Referred to by some as “Purification” offerings, we consider three sins which required “trespass offerings.”

The first offense that required a trespass offering was for a sin of omission. When a man was tried for failing to keep an oath, it was required of one who was witness to his failure to come forward and bear witness. Failure to come forward and bear witness was a sin, and a sacrifice was required to atone (5:1).

Touching the lifeless carcass of a beast was an unclean act, and an offense (5:2), and even if done in error, a man was guilty until he offered a trespass offering for his sin (5:3).

The third offence was to swear an oath, and fail to keep it. Such was a sin and required a trespass offering (5:4-5).

Three different trespass, or purification offerings, might be offered to atone for a sinner’s guilt (5:6-13). The economic means of one guilty of a trespass dictated the amount of that which was offered. A man of wealth that had committed a trespass would be required to bring “a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin” (5:6).

A man who did not have the financial means to offer a lamb or goat, might bring “two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the Lord; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering” (5:7). The blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled on the altar, and declared a “sin offering” (5:9).

Should a man be so poor he was unable to bring the lesser trespass offering (“two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD”), he could “bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering” (5:11).

Leviticus 5:14-6:7 – Reparation Offering

Unlike the trespass offerings, a reparation offering was required when a man failed to give of that which the LORD required. An example would have been the failure to give a tithe, or an offering of first-fruits. To make amends to the LORD, the sinner was required to not only offer “a ram without blemish out of the flocks” (5:14-15), but an additional sacrifice described as “the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest” (5:16).

Giving a “fifth part” more meant that the reparations sacrifice was equal to 120% more than what the Law required.

Much more might be discussed in the matter of trespass offerings and reparations; however, this I will leave for another time (Leviticus 6).

What was the LORD teaching His people?

He was teaching the need of having a sensitive conscience, and an appreciation of one’s responsibility to the LORD. After all, there is no such thing as a secret sin!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Grace, and More Grace (Exodus 34-35)

Scripture reading – Exodus 34-35

The judgment had passed (32:25-32), and the LORD had granted a reprieve to the people in response to the intercessory prayer of Moses. Moses returned to the mount, and entered into the presence of the LORD (33:1), where He repeated His promise of the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No longer, however, would the people be comforted by the LORD leading them; instead, His Angel would go before them (33:2-3).

Moses was commanded to take “the tabernacle,” and pitch it outside the camp (33:7). Because the “Tabernacle” the LORD had commanded Moses to make was not yet constructed. I believe this “tabernacle” was Moses’ personal tent. Moving his “tabernacle” would have meant that the nation’s leader was outside the encampment (33:7-8). It was outside the camp, where the people witnessed the LORD’s presence descending as a cloudy pillar, and knew He “talked with Moses…face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend” (33:9-11a).

Moses beseeched the LORD to restore His favor to Israel, and the LORD promised, “I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name” (33:17).

Moses also requested the LORD show him His glory. In response, the LORD promised, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee” (33:19-20).

Exodus 34 – The Glory of the LORD, and Its Reflection on the Face of Moses

The LORD reviewed His covenant with Israel, and summoned Moses to cut out two tables of stone upon which He engraved His Commandments (34:1-4). Moses ascended Mount Sinai, as “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there” (34:5).

Keeping His promise to give Moses a glimpse of His glory (33:21-23), “the Lord passed by before him, and introduced Himself to Moses by name: “The LORD [YAHWEH; Jehovah], The LORD [YAHWEH] God [El],” the Eternal, Self-existent God (34:6).

Revealing His nature to Moses, the LORD named seven attributes (34:6-7). He is “merciful,” meaning compassionate. He is “gracious,” kind, good, showing favor without merit. He is “longsuffering,” slow to anger. He is rich in “goodness and truth,” faithful and true. He keeps “mercy for thousands,” and His mercy is sufficient for all. He is forgiving, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” He is just, and “by no means [clearing] the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (34:7).

Finding himself in the presence of the LORD in all His majesty, Moses hastily “bowed his head…and worshipped” the LORD (34:8), and interceded for Israel (34:9-10). For “forty days and forty nights” (34:28) he went without food or water, as the LORD instructed him, and renewed His covenant with Israel (34:10-28).

Moses was commanded to, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (34:27). Moses did as he was commanded, and “wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (34:28). Taking up the stone tables of the Law, Moses descended the mount and “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw [him], behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (34:30).

Although Moses had only been exposed to the back of the LORD (33:22-23), the glory of the LORD so reflected on him that he veiled his face when he stood before the people (34:32-33). However, when he was in the presence of the LORD, he removed the veil (34:34).

Exodus 35 – Giving for God’s Work

Exodus 35 reviews in detail the instructions Moses was given for fabricating the Tabernacle and altars, creating the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, and preparing the garments of the high priest. As the LORD had commanded him, Moses called for the people to bring “an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart” (35:4-5). The response of the people was universal, and “every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work” (35:29).

We are once again introduced to Bezaleel and Aholiab. They were artisans, chosen by God not only for their workmanship, but also because of their godly character (35:30-35).

I close today’s devotional, reflecting on God’s forgiving grace. Though He judged Israel guilty for that nation’s sins, the LORD heard the intercessory prayer of His servant, and showed mercy. It is the same mercy and grace by which we who believe are saved.

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Commandments Written in Stone, And a Place of Worship (Exodus 24-25)

Scripture reading – Exodus 24-25

Exodus 24 – The Covenant was Established, and Sealed with the Blood of Sacrifices

The LORD, having given His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20-23), summoned Moses, Aaron his brother, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, and “seventy of the elders of Israel…to worship” (24:1). Moses was invited to come near the LORD; however, the others were instructed to “not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him” (24:2).

Moses told the people all the LORD had set forth in his covenant, “and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do” (24:3).

After writing, and memorializing “all the words of the LORD,” Moses built an altar, with twelve pillars representing the “twelve tribes of Israel” (24:4).  Upon the altar he “offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord” (24:5), sealing the Covenant with a testimony of blood (24:6-9).

God then gave “Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,” a marvelous vision of Himself, and “they saw God, and did eat and drink” (24:10-11) that which had been sacrificed unto the LORD upon the altar.

The LORD then commanded Moses, “Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them” (24:12). Moses, with Joshua accompanying him as his servant, “went up into the mount of God” (24:13). Departing, Moses instructed the elders of the people to bring to Aaron and Hur, any matters that might arise in his absence (24:14)

Ascending the mount, Moses and Joshua disappeared into the cloud that covered it. Six days passed, as the “glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai” (24:16a), but on the seventh day, the LORD “called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (24:16b). Imagine the wonder of the “children of Israel,” as they gazed toward the mount, and saw “the glory of the Lord…like [a] devouring fire on the top of the mount” (24:17). Moses was “in the mount forty days and forty nights” (24:18).

Exodus 25 – Instructions Concerning the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant

With the Covenant established, and sealed with sacrificial offerings, the Lord instructed Moses: “2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (25:2). Gold, silver, and bronze were necessary for decorating the tabernacle, and fashioning instruments that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices.

The tabernacle was to be constructed with materials that were freely given by the people: “6Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense were required, as were “onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate” for the high priest (25:4-7).

One might ask, when did former slaves of Egypt acquire gold, silver, and precious stones? The answer to that question is found in Exodus 12:35-36, where we read: “35And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed [requested; demanded] of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (12:35-36).

Why were the Tabernacle and Ark important? They would serve Israel as an outward symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people (Exodus 25:8). The construction and appearance of the Ark, including its precise dimensions are recorded (25:10-11), as well as the means by which it would be transported–rings and “staves” or rods (25:12-15). The Ark was to be overlaid with gold, and upon its top, described as the Mercy Seat, were placed two cherubim facing one another. The space between the cherubim represented the presence, and throne of God (25:17-22). In the Scriptures, the “Ark” is designated with various names, among them The Ark of the Covenant, The Ark of the LORD, The Ark of God, and The Ark of the Testimony.

To be fashioned and placed within the Tabernacle was a table, implements of gold (25:23-30), and a golden lampstand with seven lamps (25:31-40).

I conclude asking you to notice the spirit of giving God required of His people: “2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (25:2). Every man (every head of a home and family), was commanded to give an offering to the LORD, not out of coercion, or strong arm demands, but “willingly with his heart” (25:2).

Did you know that same spirit of giving is commanded of 21st century believers, and comes with a promise?

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 – “6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Ten Commandments – Part 2 (Exodus 19-20)

Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

The sound of the trumpet, and the smoke and fire that engulfed Mount Sinai, reflected an outward manifestation of God’s heavenly glory, and no man, woman, or beast dared approach the mount and live (19:12-13). Out of the midst of the thunder, lightning, and the fire and smoke, the LORD spoke, saying,

“I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (20:2).

Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments were part of the LORD’S covenant with Israel, and the people were to hear, heed, and obey them (20:1-17).

The first commandment: “3Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (20:3). Unlike the neighboring nations who worshipped innumerable gods, Israel was to worship one God—Yahweh, Elohim, the True, Eternal, Self-existent One.

The second commandment: “4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (20:4-6). Unlike their neighbors, Israel was not to worship idols, or images, of Israel’s God. The guilt for violating the second commandment would be borne by the family, and invoke God’s judgment “upon the children” (20:5).

The third commandment: “7Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (20:7). God’s name was to be honored, and not spoken of lightly or in vain. The name and meaning of Israel’s God was hallowed, and identified with His character.

The fourth commandment: “8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (20:8-11). The Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, was dedicated to the LORD as a day of worship, and rest (31:16-17).

The fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (20:12). Because fathers and mothers represented God’s authority, sons and daughters of Israel were to honor and revere their parents. The elderly were to be honored, and revered; any who failed were condemned (Deuteronomy 27:16). To honor one’s parents carried a special promise—long life (20:12b; Ephesians 6:1-3).

The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13). Because Adam was created in God’s image, the life of man and woman were to be thought as sacred (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-22).

The seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (20:14). God established marriage as a covenant between Himself, and the man and woman (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is a picture between Christ’s love for the church, and the husbands bond, and union with his wife (Ephesians 5:30-32; Matthew 5:27-29).

The eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (20:15). This commandment established the right of property ownership, and to take that which belonged to another (whether by theft, or deceit), was a sin (Ephesians 4:28).

The ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16). God’s people were to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29), and libel, slander, or bearing false witness was a grievous sin.

The tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (20:17). Covetousness is a sin that desires what belongs to another. It is only perceived outwardly, after it has taken root in the heart.

Exodus 20:18-26 – The Manner of Worship Required By a Holy God

The LORD not only forbad idols or images of Himself (20:4-6; 23-25), He was also concerned about the manner of those who approached His altar to worship and offer sacrifices. To preserve a modest, respectful decorum, steps were forbidden at the altar, lest those who worshipped be perceived as immodest (20:26).

A closing thought: The LORD’S expectations for Israel’s altar, and the demand for modesty, should be instructive. The priests were to conduct themselves according the instructions given, in a manner befitting the holiness of God, and never allow any “nakedness” to distract those who worshipped the LORD (20:26). I fear 21st century worship has degenerated into “anything goes,” and little thought is given regarding the manner or style of worshiping God who is holy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Display of God’s Majesty on Sinai, Part 1 (Exodus 19-20)

Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

Timeline – Three Months Out of Egypt (19:1)

Much had happened since Moses shepherded Israel out Egypt. The challenge of leading a people who had suffered the oppression of slavery for four centuries was daunting, as well as, exhausting.  Three months had passed (19:1), and the tribes of Israel had experienced both the joys of victories, and the despair of hardships that included thirst, and hunger. However, above and beyond the physical distresses of the journey, Moses faced the threat of an insurrection, to the point that he feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).

Following the suggestion of his father-in-law, Moses had chosen, taught, and delegated to capable men the task of judging the people in “small matters” (18:20-25), and freeing him to judge “the hard causes” (18:26).

Exodus 19

1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai…[and] were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount [Mount Sinai]” (19:1-2). Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) had been the place God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (3:1-6). Here the LORD promised Moses, “When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Israel would encamp at Mount Sinai for eleven months, during which time they would be given the Law and Commandments, and be transformed from twelve tribes of slaves, to a mighty nation with one God, and one Law.

While the people pitched their tents at the base of Sinai, “Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain” (19:3). Acting as Israel’s mediator, the LORD charged Moses with the task of reminding the people all that the He had done for them, and how He had thrust the people out of Egypt, and carried them with tenderness, and the speed of an eagle that shadows her eaglets (19:4).

Moses was to remind the people, that if they would obey God’s voice, and keep His covenant, the LORD would “treasure” the people “above all people” (19:5), and they would be as a nation, “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (19:5-6). God would later ordain Aaron, and his sons to serve Israel as His priests; however, it was the LORD’s desire that Israel would be a holy nation to serve humanity as His priests, and “a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).

As the mediator, Moses was to call “the elders of the people” together, and present the LORD’s proposition (19:7). With one voice, “all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord” (19:8).

To fulfill the institution of the covenant, Moses commanded the people to personally, and ceremonially “sanctify” themselves, and “wash their clothes” (19:10). On the third day God would descend upon Mount Sinai, and make His voice and presence known to the nation (19:11). Warning any who approached the mount while the LORD was present would be put to death, Moses was commanded to set a boundary around the base of the mountain (19:12-3).

On the third day, the presence of God was seen in the “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (19:16). Moses led the nation to the base of Mount Sinai (19:17), and the whole mount was engulfed in smoke, as “the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (19:18). The sound of a trumpet, a shofar, grew louder and louder, and “Moses spake [in the hearing of the people], and “God answered him by a voice” (19:19).

Imagine the visual presence of Mount Sinai engulfed in fire and smoke, the piercing sound of a trumpet, and the voice of God shaking the very foundation of the mountain. What a dreadful, frightening display of God’s power and presence!

God’s covenant with Israel required that the people were to be sanctified, holy, and set apart unto Him (19:10). The LORD required of His people, what was true of Himself – “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (19:10; Leviticus 11:44-45). What was true of Israel, is true for all believers:

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Family Reunion, and Essential Qualities of a Spiritual Leader (Exodus 18)

Scripture reading: Exodus 18

With the defeat of the Amalekites (17:13-16), the LORD magnified the standing of Moses and Joshua, and news reached the nations of “all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (18:1). Soon after, Jethro, “the priest of Midian,” and the father-in-law of Moses, journeyed to Israel’s encampment (18:1), reuniting him with his wife and sons (18:1-5).

Although he had proved himself to be a great leader, when Moses learned his father-in-law had come, he honored him and “went out to meet [him]… and did obeisance [bowed before him], and kissed him” (18:7a).

What a great reunion, as Jethro and Moses “asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent” of Moses (18:7b). We do not know the number of hours that passed as Moses rehearsed “all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake” (18:8a). Remembering the timidity of Moses when the LORD had first called to him from the midst of the burning bush, I am sure Jethro took pride in the man who was his son by marriage.

Moses shared not only the victories, but the trials “that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lorddelivered them” (18:8) from thirst, and hunger, and given Israel success over the Amalekites (17:8-16).

Jethro rejoiced in the LORD’S goodness, and how He had delivered the nation out of slavery (18:9-10). He testified, “11Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them” (18:11). Though he was a Midianite, and not numbered among the children of Israel, he was a man of faith in the God of Israel, and “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God” (18:12), and invited Moses, his brother Aaron, “and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread…before God” (18:12).

The celebration was short lived, for the next day Moses did what he did every day, with the exception of the Sabbath: He “sat to judge the people” (18:13). Jethro looked on, as the people gathered “from the morning unto the evening” (18:13), waiting for Moses to weigh their concerns, and pass judgment. He enquired of Moses, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” (18:14)

Moses explained that his role was not to make laws, but to make “the statutes of God, and His laws” known (18:15-16).

Jethro suggested there was a better way to judge the people, and that was to “teach [the people] ordinances and laws, and [show] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (18:20). He suggested that Moses should choose “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…22And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee” (18:21-22).

I close inviting you to notice how Moses heeded his father-in-law’s counsel (18:21-22), and “chose able [capable] men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people…and they judged the people at all seasons [as the need arose]: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves (18:25-26). They were men who feared God; pious, godly men (18:21). “Men of truth,” who were worthy of trust, and did “hate covetousness;” they were men of integrity and were above reproach (18:21).

What about you? Would you have the spiritual qualities God seeks in a man or woman who serves Him?

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